Event will showcase new steel museum
By Jamison Cocklin
A local nonprofit organization will showcase a forthcoming steel museum in a preview event to take place Saturday.
For the last 16 years, the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation has been busy collecting equipment and other artifacts from former steel mills throughout the Mahoning Valley.
To date, the foundation has collected more than 5,000 tons of historic steelmaking equipment. Rick Rowlands, foundation president and founder, says that within the next two years, The Tod Engine Heritage Park will open as the area’s second steel museum.
“Our eventual goal is to be able to show people the size and scale of the steelmaking process,” Rowlands said. “We want to showcase some of this larger equipment and demonstrate the manufacturing ability of the Mahoning Valley.”
All the foundation’s pieces have been donated. It raises money to transport and set the equipment at 2261 Hubbard Road, site of the future museum and the preview event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is free.
The foundation also restores equipment, and in some cases, it plans on returning some pieces to working condition.
Rowlands said the museum’s centerpiece will be the historic Tod Engine, a 260-ton, 4,000 horsepower stationary steam engine which drove rolling mills at the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.’s Brier Hill Works.
“Tod Engine turns 100 years old in 2014,” he said. “We want to have it operational by then so we can demonstrate how it worked on the 100-year anniversary.”
The foundation already has spent about $200,000 restoring and transporting some of its equipment. Rowlands said the tentative opening date for the museum is 2014.
A building, mimicking the look and feel of a steel mill, was constructed at the site in 2009. The Tod engine is housed there.
Plans for a second building and possibly a visitor’s center are in the works, Rowlands said.
He estimates the foundation will need to spend another $100,000 to open the facility.
Outside, there will be a locomotive and hot metal car. An overhead crane, like those found in almost all former steel mills, hangs over the Tod Engine inside the building.
Rowlands said the museum will serve as a complement to exhibits at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor at 151 W. Wood St. in downtown Youngstown.
“We work closely with the center of industry and labor,” he said. “We’re not in competition. They simply don’t have the space over there to display this kind of equipment.”
Rowlands added that the foundation has not yet determined if its museum will charge for admission.
The Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation was established in 1993 to preserve the Valley’s steelmaking past and collect the salvage pieces of equipment that otherwise would have been scrapped in the demolition process of former area steel mills.
The foundation has several open house events planned at its Hubbard Road site next summer.