• Keystone Ordnance Works

  • A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads
A general discussion about shortlines, industrials, and military railroads

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by RailVet
I'm looking for a map of the rail network inside Keystone Ordnance Works, PA, active only during the WW II years. It was located south of Meadville, PA, and was not far from the smaller town of Geneva, PA. Does anyone know where to locate such a map?
  by Aa3rt
I was able to find one mention in the records of the War Assets Administration, Appraisal Valuation Reports, 1945-1947:

http://www.archives.gov/great-lakes/chi ... ports.html

The site in question is listed in Box 2, the tenth site on the list.

I also tried the Crawford County, PA Historical Society website, http://www.crawfordhistorical.org without much success, although there is some good railroad information here.
  by RailVet
I found this article online and contacted the author, who provided me with both a map of the base railway as well as a photo of two of its locomotives.

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com ... ewsno3.htm

VJ Day 60 years later: Peace shut down area's biggest manufacturing plant

Meadville Tribune Friday, August, 2005 by Jim Brown

"Remember the crime and the time - TNT to blow the Axis to hell."

That quote was named the best defense slogan on a float by the Hayes Receiving Depot of the Keystone Ordnance Works in a 1942 parade in Meadville.

In addition to the slogan on the side of the float, there was a large clock that pointed to 7:55 a.m., the time that Pearl Harbor was struck. Speaking of time, let's now look back to 60 years ago.

Victory over Japan, or VJ Day, Aug. 14, 1945, heralded the end of the war in Japan and the end of World War II. This momentous event also caused the permanent shutdown of TNT production at the largest manufacturing complex ever built in Crawford County: the sprawling, 22-square-mile industrial reserve known as the Keystone Ordnance Works in Greenwood Township near the borough of Geneva.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of both the end of WWII and the shutdown of the KOW.

Many area manufacturers retooled their industries to make goods required by the war department. At the end of WWII, most industries reverted to their former product lines. Local employment at these plants was largely unaffected by the surrender of the Axis powers. But the KOW's product line was inextricably linked to a product that is only in great demand during a time of war: trinitrotoluene, better known by the acronym TNT.

The KOW was a government "war baby." It was conceived because of the war. It had served its intended purpose of supplying the U.S. war machine's insatiable need for TNT, and now that the war was over, the KOW - like many other "war babies" around the country - was almost immediately shut down upon hearing the news of the final victory, VJ Day.

On Aug. 15, 1945, the day after VJ Day, TNT production was halted at the KOW.

At the time of the plant closing, the KOW employed about 1,650 workers, the majority of whom would soon be laid off. Some administrative staff and maintenance workers were kept to "wind things down."

Over the post-war years, the plant virtually faded into obscurity. Shortly after its shutdown, many buildings were sold to the public, and these buildings were moved off site. Edinboro University bought a barracks building that was formerly used to house workers at the plant, and the building was used as a classroom until it burned in 1990. The Cochranton Library is housed in the former cafeteria building of the KOW's administration area.

Area school districts, and even the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, purchased buildings from the site. Some machinery and equipment was sold to the public and some was transferred to other government facilities.

The government put the KOW up for sale in the late 1940s, but after a while it was apparent that no one had the need for a $53 million explosives plant. The government then took the plant off the market and placed it into a "mothball status" in which it remained throughout the '50s.

In 1954, the KOW was made a satellite facility of the Ravenna Arsenal in Ohio.

A Meadville Tribune article in 1956 stated that the plant could be brought up to full operation in 90 days, once it received a government reactivation notice. In 1956, the plant had a payroll of 70 workers, most of whom were in the maintenance department.

In the early '60s, the plant was once again turned over to the General Services Administration for liquidation. Local businessman Paul Kebert bought the facility manufacturing area of the KOW in the mid-1960s, and his family still owns the majority of this area today. The rest of the land had been sold previously to the public, and the U.S. Army kept 500 acres of the site, which it uses as a training and reserve center.

The administration area of the plant is now occupied by PPG Industries, the factory being built in 1967. Arro Forge now occupies buildings in lines 11 and 12 of the former KOW's TNT manufacturing area. J&M Pipe Co. has recently built a new factory in the area where the KOW fire department was located, among other buildings.

Many of the oleum plant buildings as well as some of the acid and power area buildings still stand today, though most buildings are gutted and in dilapidated condition.

The same is true for the buildings in the TNT area. All 12 lines are still visible, although only two structures, the brick mono houses and the steel-framed tower houses, are all that remain of the building complex that made up each individual TNT line.

Presently, some of the 100 powder magazines or "igloos" are used as housing or storage. The former staff houses of the KOW are still being used and all are now privately owned homes. Most of the original perimeter fencing still encloses the former TNT area.

PPG still uses a former KOW rail line. Though the Keystone Ordnance Works is largely gone, it is not forgotten. We may all give thanks today to U.S. war-time industries, along with the WWII military veterans, who helped keep this country, and the world, free from tyranny by achieving the ultimate victory of WWII - VJ Day - 60 years ago Sunday.

Brown is a Saegertown resident and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania student, where he is conducting Keystone Ordnance Works research as a major academic project while working toward his master's degree.


Persons with any information, photos or memorabilia about the former Keystone Ordnance Works, or copies of the Keystone Blast, are asked to contact Jim Brown, who is working on a history project of the KOW. Brown may be contacted by phone at 763-5857; by mail at PO Box 154, Edinboro, PA 16412; or by e-mail at [email protected].