Categories
bicycle touring Photography Uncategorized

SLOSS FURNACES Redux

I decided to go back and take advantage of a few new photoshop tools and re-edit a bunch of pictures from a few years ago. These are all from the Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most amazing places that we visited while on our bicycle tour in 2008/2009. If you like you can go back and read about the site HERE, along with a decidedly less, perhaps, over-processed set of photos. The main reason I’m posting them is that I am thinking about having a few ‘Archival Prints’ done of some of these (which is kinda expensive) and I just want to have them in an easily accessible place so that I can continue to hem and haw about the prospect of doing so without having to open them all individually. In any case, if you are ever anywhere near this place you should make it your mission to visit. I wish that I could go again tomorrow!



















































Categories
Photography Portland Uncategorized

Saturday with Lucia

Before we left the house I managed to give her a nice big bottle which knocked her out for a little while. She was getting a kind of fussy as I was preparing for us to leave, but then she fell asleep on my shoulder. When she’s asleep is the best time to sneak a bottle in. Otherwise, she rejects it outright.







After we hit the bank and the post office we walked past a cool mural at FAB PDX down on Distillery Row. I tried to talk her into a few distillery tours, but she told me she only likes tequila, and none of those guys are making that yet.







So we headed down to the water front and checked out the Hawthorne Bridge. You can get right down on the water via these little mini-piers they have set up. They are pretty cool spots, pleasantly undulating in the currents of the water. There were two other guys down there. One was reading and the other was fishing and enjoying a cold one.







After that we headed over to Pioneer Courthouse Square to check out this protest the Radical Left was having this afternoon. The theme was ‘How is the War Economy Working for You?’ Lucia thought it was a bore, and decided to sleep through it. But, you can’t expect a little noodle to understand these kinds of things yet. Her dad wanted to go down because he has a few strong feelings and opinions about what is going on in this country. Unfortunately, I was turned off by the scene. There is a reason these folks are on the fringe. Stoned, disheveled, and crazy isn’t a good look for anybody (except maybe really hot babes, of which there was decidedly none here), let alone folks who are trying to save the world. It just comes off as amateurish, and basically laughable, which is how most people I overheard passing by on the street read the event.







I’m sure this could sway a few minds, though:







After that we headed over to Powell’s to pick up a few books. Bringing a stroller into that place is not advisable, but we stopped giving a damn about people’s opinions of stroller pushers a few months ago. People melt when they see this baby, anyway, lol! She slept through this particular nightmare shopping experience. We bought the Ottolenghi cookbook Plenty. We love Ottolenghi around here these days. Fabulous, fresh and and easy seasonal recipes abound! Highly recommended!! We also got a copy of the latest GRANTA, this quarters theme being ALIENS (the illegal or otherwise immigrant kind, mainly) then got the hell out of there, and back down to the water-front. Lucia was getting antsy for a bottle by this point, but she has a pretty sophisticated palette, and scoffed when I offered her a bottle of cold milk. We were lamping in front of the Steel Bridge as she rejected my meager offering.







On our way back to the house Daddy decided to check this bombed-out warehouse in the SE Industrial District.







Lucia thought it would be funny to re-enact the scene from Tropic Thunder where Tugg Speedman gets riddled with bullets running back to the helicopter. Not really sure what brought that on, but we went with it. She’s a funny bird.







Speaking of funny, Lucia couldn’t get enough of the Sunshine Room, even after I told her that this is where heroin-chic junkies ascend to the outer-realms. I made her promise she’d never wear neon-orange lipstick, unless she grew up to be eccentric and rich.







This is when it finally dawned on her where daddy had taken her:



Categories
abandoned bicycle touring

The Sloss Furnaces

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We couldn’t leave Birmingham, AL without visiting one of the main reasons for its growth and early years of prosperity: Sloss Furnaces. Located on the east side of the city, after producing much of the country’s steel for nearly 90 years, this monument to industrialism was nearly lost in 1971, when it was argued that maintaining the facility would not be feasable, and therefore it was recommended the furnaces be dismantled. Luckily, a dedicated group of citizens known as the Sloss Furnace Association fought for its preservation with the help of a number of other organizations, and 12 years later, on Labor day in 1983 the site was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark.



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Making iron requires three components that are found in abundance in the Birmingham area: iron ore, limestone, and coke, a derivative of coal. The process of making iron goes something like this: the aforementioned raw materials are brought to the furnace by rail car, where they are unloaded into a stock bin located close to the blast furnace (the structure in the first photo that looks like it has a platform on top). Next a skip car, attached to a conveyor hoist, is loaded from the stock bins and and the raw materials are transported up and into the mouth of the furnace. Upon entering the furnace, the raw materials are blasted with extremely hot air that is blasted from the bottom of the furnace. The hot air blasts burns the coke which produces a chemical reaction with the iron ore, and the limestone acts as a cleansing agent which removes impurities from the ore. This reaction creates molten iron which would collect at the bottom of the furnace, along with the impurities, a stony waste matter known as slag. The slag was lighter than the iron, and would sit on top of it in molten form, where it would then be drawn off the top at the bottom of the furnace through a higher notch, while the iron would be drawn out through a lower one.



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The remainder of the facility was dedicated to producing the hot air, which needed to reach 1400ºF in order to be effective. Among the essential components of this network is the Boilers, the Blower Building, and the Hot Blast Stoves. Water was boiled in the Boilers, which run alongside the Blower House, in order to create steam which was probably the most important element in the running of the furnaces. Steam produced the power to run the skip car hoist, the generator producing electricity for the furnace, and the steam engines/turboblowers which produced the air that ran to the Hot Blast Stoves. The Blower Building housed the enormous engines that produce the air. Eight engines standing at more than thirty feet each turned flywheels (giant cogs) at speeds of 70MPH. One of the more gruesome sounding deaths at Sloss (of which there were 20) was of a man that was eating lunch in the Blower House with a co-worker. He was leaning close to one of the flywheels, and the story goes his co-worker looked at him, looked away for a second, and looked back and he was gone, sucked into the flywheel. By the time they could stopped the engine, nothing remained of him. It’s stories like this that lead many to believe that Sloss is haunted.



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Pictured above is a couple of the Hot Blast Stoves which were responsible for heating the air before it was sent into the furnace. Constructed of steel shells, lined with a layer of heat-resistant bricks, and a lattice of bricks called checkers. The waste gases from the furnace were burned in order to heat the checkers, which in turn heated the air before it was carried to the furnace through a series of large pipes.



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One of the coolest things that I learned about Sloss Furnaces is that they turn it into a Haunted House for Halloween. This place is perfect for it. While the self-guided tour is a lot of fun, be sure and try to make time for the guided tour, which is led by a Sloss historian who clearly loves the place, and has many interesting stories to relate. I encourage everyone to visit if they ever happen to be in Alabama, especially around October 31st!



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