2022 SIA Fall Tour - Northwest Pennsylvania

2022 SIA Fall Tour – Northwest Pennsylvania

Franklin, Pennsylvania


The City of Franklin, Pennsylvania is the host community for the 2022 Fall Tour of the Society for Industrial Archeology. 

Franklin is the county seat of Venango County and lies twenty miles southwest of Titusville, the site of the first commercially successful oil well, brought in by “Colonel” Edwin Drake in August 1859. The succession of oil booms that grew out of Drake’s 70-foot deep well spurred Venango County and the surrounding region to become, for a few brief decades, the chief oil producing region of the world. Yet even after it had been eclipsed at the turn of the twentieth century, the Oil Region of Northwestern Pennsylvania supported a striking mix of industries tied to oil production—machine shops and foundries that supplied gas engines and equipment for drilling and pumping oil, railroads eager to tap into the region, and the earliest pipeline companies that were equally eager to outmaneuver the railroads. Today, oil production continues in the region but on a much-reduced scale as compared to its peak decades of the nineteenth century. The 2022 Fall Tour will focus first on the work of machine shops in making and finishing products in Franklin and the nearby Meadville area, followed by motive power and legacy of oil production as witnessed at the Coolspring Power Museum, historic Pithole City, and lastly, at the Drake Well Museum and Park, the setting for our Saturday evening banquet.

Cost for the Fall Tour is $575 per person. THIS REGISTRATION FEE IS ALL INCLUSIVE. It covers a full day of tours on Friday and a full day of tours on Saturday along with breakfast, lunch and dinner for both Friday and Saturday. The only extra-cost item on the Fall Tour itinerary is the optional Thursday walking tour of Franklin ($20).


Distances, with estimated drive times, to Franklin, Pennsylvania from cities from the airports in Erie, PA and Pittsburgh, PA and from major Eastern US cities:

  • Erie, PA: 65 miles, est. drive time 1:15
  • Pittsburgh: 85 miles, est. drive time 1:20
  • Cleveland, OH: 130 miles, est. drive time 2:00
  • Buffalo, NY: 150 miles, est. drive time 3:00
  • New York City: 350 miles, est. drive time 6:15
  • Washington, DC: 325 miles, est. drive time 5:45

For those who want to fly closer and then rent a car, Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) has numerous of flights a day from more than a dozen major airlines, while Erie International Airport (ERI) is closer and served United, Delta, and American. Despite recent rental car disruptions, a quick survey of rental car prices in early August showed prices as low as $30 a day (plus taxes and fees) at Pittsburgh, with Erie showing a bit over $50.


The conference hotel is the Quality Inn & Conference Center in Franklin, PA. Located on Liberty Street, the hotel is a convenient walking distance to restaurants, shops, and several historic homes and businesses that make up the City of Franklin Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The Liberty Street Ale House is also located within the hotel.

Hotel information:
Quality Inn & Conference Center
1411 Liberty Street
Franklin, PA 16323

The SIA group rate cost per night is $114.99 for a single queen bed and $124.99 for two queen beds. The earliest day to check in under the group rate is after 2 pm (eastern) on Wednesday, September 14, with check out, Sunday, September 18. The cost includes a hot breakfast bar and there is no charge for parking at the hotel.

Please be sure to register by August 24, 2022 to secure the SIA group rate. To make reservations and take advantage of the group rate, please call 814-437-3031 and press “0” to speak with the reservationist at the hotel—and be sure to mention that you are attending the SIA Fall Tour.


Online registration opens on Monday, August 15

Registrants must be current members of the Society for Industrial Archeology. If you have not renewed for 2022, you do so using the enclosed registration form or online at www.sia-web.org.


All participants will be required to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including booster shot(s) if eligible. Participants must prove their vaccination status by sending an image of their vaccination card to SIA headquarters at sia@siahq.org. If you are not able to submit the image digitally, contact SIA headquarters by phone at (906) 487-1889 as soon as possible after registering to make alternate arrangements. The SIA COVID Policy can be found https://www.sia-web.org/sia-covid-policy/. Due to the continually changing nature of the pandemic, all Fall Tour participants should be prepared to wear masks on tour buses, at tour sites, and at other indoor event venues.


Thursday, September 19

Optional Walking tour of Franklin, starting from the hotel at 1 p.m. ($20)

Evening Reception, Quality Inn & Conference Center

Friday, September 16 – Machine Shops and Machine Shop Work Tour

  • Franklin Industries – Franklin, PA
  • Highpoint Tool and Machine – Saegertown, PA
  • Sippy Historic Machine Shop – Saegertown, PA
  • Acutec Precision Aerospace – Meadville, PA
  • Dinner and excursion aboard the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad, leaving from Titusville

Saturday, September 17 –Motive Power and Legacies of Oil Tour

  • Extended visit to Coolspring Power Museum – Coolspring, PA
  • Lunch at Coolspring Power Museum
  • Visit to Historic Pithole City – Pleasantville, PA
  • Saturday evening banquet at Drake Well Museum and Historic Site – Titusville, PA


Thursday, September 15

Walking tour of sites in Franklin, including visits to the Venango Area Industrial Complex, DeBence Antique Music World, and St. John’s Episcopal Church that features a rare complete set of Tiffany stained glass windows. Cost: $20 per person.

Evening Reception, Quality Inn & Conference Center

Friday, September 16 – Machine Shops and Machine Shop Work

Friday’s process tours will start at Highpoint Tool & Machine in Saegertown. Highpoint provides precision machining for the aerospace and oil and gas Industries, using the latest CNC equipment and high technology tooling. 

The day’s second stop is at the next door Sippy Historic Machine Shop (SMHP). Originally the McNair Tool Co. that made wrenches in the late 1800s, SHMP became Davenport’s Machine Shop in the early twentieth century when it was purchased by Fred Davenport ca. 1910. In 1962, the machine shop cam eunder the name of Foriska’s Machine Shop and remained so until 2012 when the owner’s son retired.  The machine tools in Foriska’s Machine Shop have been in continuous service since they were bought in 1906.  In 2020, Mr. Lon Sippy purchased the shop and restored the machine tools to working condition. 

Following lunch, Friday’s tour continues at Acutec Precision Aerospace in Meadville. Acutec has over 225 state of the art, computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools for the precision manufacture of customer components. Please note that photography is prohibited within Acutec.

The day’s final process tour stop is at Franklin Industries, located in Franklin. Founded as the Franklin Rolling Mill & Foundry Company in 1901, today Franklin Industries uses recycled railroad rail to create T- and U-cross section posts by heating up rails in a Salem furnace to a welding heat of 2300°F.  Then the rail is rolled through a series of mill stands that reduce the thickness of the bar while increasing its length.  The bars are finally discharged onto a cooling bed, where the bars cool to around 400 °F before being cut to their desired lengths. The overall process makes the steel stronger than when it was in service as railroad rail.

Following the final tour stop of the day and a brief rest at the conference hotel, tour participants are invited to join a rail excursion on the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad. We will arrive at the rail depot in Titusville between 4:30 and 5:00 PM, with the train departing at 6:00 PM for a three-hour tour of the Oil Creek valley and the Oil Creek State Park that surrounds it. The excursion will return to Titusville at 9:00 PM. 

Bus transport to and from Titusville will be provided and the cost of the rail excursion is included in the total Fall Tour price.

Saturday, September 17 –Motive Power and Legacies of Oil 

Saturday’s site and process tours will start with an extended three-hour visit to the Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring, PA. Familiar to many SIA members, the Coolspring Power Museum first opened in 1985 and features one of the broadest arrays of working oil field gas engines and other stationary engines open to the public. Coolspring Power Museum relies on a dedicated corps of volunteers who have a passion for preserving and maintaining the motive power featured in the museum. In 2001, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) recognized the Coolspring Power Museum as an ASME Mechanical Engineering Landmark (#215) for its outstanding and unique collection of internal combustion engines. We will also have lunch at the museum. 

Following our visit to the Coolspring Power Museum and lunch, we will travel to Historic Pithole City near Pleasantville, PA. Remarkable today as a protected archaeological resource, Pithole City was an early oil boom town that sprang up after news of the Frazier Well gusher along Pithole Creek in January of 1865. Between 1865 and 1866, the town grew from no residents to 15,000 as drillers and land speculators moved in to the town. But by the close of 1866, the town only had 2,000 residents as wells elsewhere drew drillers and developers elsewhere. Acquiring 90 acres of the vacant town in 1963 and developing a visitor center in 1975, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission took measures to protect and interpret the archaeology of Pithole City as a way to tell the stories of boom and bust in the Oil Region of Pennsylvania.

We are also working to include an additional process tour for Saturday afternoon, such as Brookville Equipment Corporation in Brookville, PA or Electralloy in Oil City, PA. 

Following the final tour stop of the day and a brief rest at the conference hotel, we will travel to the Saturday evening banquet site at the Drake Well Museum and Historic Site in Titusville, PA.

Closing Banquet at Drake Well Museum and Historic Site, Titusville, PA

The closing banquet will be held at the Drake Well Museum and Historic Site near Titusville, PA. The museum and historic site, owned and administered by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, was established to protect and interpret the site of Edwin Drake’s oil strike in 1859. The museum includes a reconstruction of Drake’s well (the original burned in October 1859), outdoor exhibits on early methods to drill for oil derived from salt well drilling, and the transport of oil by wagon, Dinsmore tank car, and pipeline. Docents will be on hand to discuss the outdoor and indoor exhibits before the banquet meal is served.


Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry – Oil City, PA: 15 minutes’ drive time northwest of Franklin, PA via U.S. Route 62. Separate charge for admission.

Kinzua Bridge State Park – Mt. Jewett, PA: 2:00 hours drive time northeast of Franklin, PA via PA State Route 66. No charge for admission to the state park.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum – Ulysses Township, PA: 2:45 hours northeast of Franklin, PA via PA State Route 66 and U.S. Route 6. Separate charge for admission.

Straub Brewery – St. Mary’s, PA: 1:45 hours drive east of Franklin, PA via PA State Route 66.

Lumber Heritage Region – Railroads to Oil Fields driving tour – A tour itinerary developed to showcase the heritage of central and northwestern Pennsylvania. The tour itinerary includes stops at the Allegheny Portage Railroad, Kinzua Bridge State Park, and Penn-Brad Oil Museum located near Bradford, PA. Separate admission charges may apply.

You can also explore the Pennsylvania Wilds website for other places of interest to visit in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Fall is a wonderful time of the year to experience the region!

Caption for image above: Bird’s-eye view of Franklin, Pa., 1901, by T.M. Fowler.