SIA Lehigh Valley 2021 – Tours & Events


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All 49th Annual Conference registrants must read the SIA Covid Statement and agree to abide by the terms and conditions stated therein in order to participate in the conference.

PLEASE NOTE: The Wednesday tours that are part of Member Registration and Student Registration are at capacity. Registration rates have been discounted to account for this fact, and you will have the opportunity to sign up for Wednesday Tour waiting lists when you register.


MONDAY, August 23, 2021

  • Non-conference rail excursion sponsored by National Museum of Industrial History*
  • SIA Board Meeting, 7-10pm

TUESDAY, August 24, 2021

  • Pre-conference tours*
  • Welcome Reception for New Members
  • Evening Reception at Historic Hotel Bethlehem

WEDNESDAY, August 25, 2021

  • Choose one of three all-day bus tours
  • Dinner on your own
  • SIA Industrial Film Festival??

THURSDAY, August 26, 2021

  • Full day of research presentations & exhibits – These sessions will be in-person only. The costs of a hybrid conference would have placed the SIA at substantial financial risk.
  • Annual Business Meeting & Luncheon
  • SIA Banquet at the National Museum of Industrial History*

FRIDAY, August 27, 2021

  • Post-conference tours*           

*Additional fees apply


Anthracite Railroad Ramble Not affiliated with the SIA conference but SIA members get preferential ticket access. Participants MUST provide their own transportation to Reading.

SIA member price is $112.50.  (Public price is $125). Here is the link for tickets: “SIA2021” (case sensitive) is the code for the discount.

Reading Outer Station
3501 Pottsville Pike, Reading, PA 19605
8/23/21 from 9am to approximately 6pm

The National Museum of Industrial History is proud to work with the Reading & Northern Railroad to host this special train ride one day before the start of the Society for Industrial Archeology’s 49th Annual Conference. The day-long trip will depart Outer Station in Reading with guests riding aboard a pair of open window Budd RDCs (self-propelled rail diesel cars).

The train will make its first stop at a facility rarely seen by the public, the Reading & Northern Railroad steam shop in Port Clinton. Attendees will get an up-close look at the operational restoration currently underway on steam locomotive 2102. This 4-8-4 type locomotive weighs 441,300 pounds and was built to operate in the anthracite region served by the Reading Company.

Further north, passengers will disembark in Tamaqua to see a variety of sites including the Tamaqua Tunnel Railway, a privately owned two-foot gauge railroad with approximately 250 feet of track. Inspired by the Chicago Tunnel Company freight tunnels, the operation features two electric mine locomotives and several cars which lead from a back yard to a short stretch of track under the owner’s home.  Additional guided tours will showcase the Tamaqua Historical Society, Hegarty Blacksmith Shop, and the railroad equipment displayed outside the 1874 train station,

Back on board, the trip will diverge from the main line and travel rare mileage through the 3,411 foot-long, 159-year-old Buck Mountain Tunnel where coal seams pierced by the tunnel will be seen with bright lights shined through the open train windows. A photo run-by will occur at the ventilating fan houses at the east end of the tunnel. The train will continue past Reading Anthracite coal mining operations before stopping at Girardville. A ten-minute walk will bring visitors to the Hibernian House where Joe Wayne will show visitors artifacts related to his great-grandfather and former owner of the tavern, Jack Kehoe. Wayne helped clear Kehoe’s name a century after he was hanged for being the alleged ringleader of the Molly Maguires, a secret society that used murder, explosions, and assaults to fight against coal companies for Irish American mine workers.

Guests can bring their own lunch or purchase a box lunch to eat on the train. Light snacks and drinks will also be available for sale on the train. Seating is limited and expected to sell out. Guests must arrange their own transportation to and from Outer Station, Reading, PA.

All tickets must be purchased in advance on a first come – first served basis. Seating is limited. No sales day of the trip. Sales end one week before the trip.  The railroad reserves the right to substitute motive power as conditions require. Itinerary subject to change.

TUESDAY August 24, 2021 – PRE-CONFERENCE TOURS (Extra fees apply)

T1 An Embarrassment of Bridges (8:00am – 5:00pm) – $75 – Patrick Harshbarger, tour leader. The Lehigh Valley has a rich heritage of bridge building. Early German settlers brought impressive skills in stone masonry and timber framing, reflected in the region’s stone arches and covered bridges. The local iron and concrete industries made the valley an early proving ground for bridges made of both materials. This tour will highlight some of the prime examples, from the unique combination of concrete arches and steel Hudson trusses of the Hill to Hill Bridge in Bethlehem to the unusual pin-connected cantilever trusses of the Northampton Street Bridge between Easton, PA, and Philipsburg, NJ. The tour will travel a 60-mile loop and visit more than a dozen bridges dating from the 1850s to the 1930s. It will include the high-level Central Railroad of New Jersey and   bridges over the Delaware River, as well as a covered bridge, stone arch, a suspension bridge, and several metal trusses, including the rare cast- and wrought-iron Walnut Street Bridge of 1860, one of the oldest of its kind in the United States. Knowledgeable guides will interpret historic bridge technologies and provide insights into projects to preserve and rehabilitate the bridges. The tour will start the day at the ATLSS Engineering Research Center at Lehigh University. Faculty will provide a guided tour of the structural testing facility, known for its work on historic and modern materials, and the equipment used to study these materials and large-scale structural assemblies under static, dynamic and cyclic loading. Participants on this tour should be physically able of walking approximately 1 mile and climbing steps. NB – At present, the ATLSS tour will be limited to the first 30 registrants.

T2 – An Embarrassment of Slate (8:30am-5:00pm) – $65 – Mike Piersa, tour leader. The northern edge of the Lehigh Valley was long recognized as the top producing slate region in the United States. Today, two full-time open pit slate quarries remain in operation. This tour will visit both of those quarries as well as historical sites related to the industry. The first stop will be the Blue Mountain Antique Gas & Steam Engine Association in Bangor, where the only surviving stationary steam engine to have powered a slate mill will be seen along with the only locally preserved slate quarry locomotive, a gasoline powered “dinkey” engine. Next will be a stop at the Bangor Quarry Hoist pavilion to see a 121-year-old, 28,500 pound, Bangor-built mine hoist in operation and tour the adjacent Slate Belt Heritage Center. The surface operations at the Dally Division quarry of the Penn Big Bed Slate Company in Pen Argyl and the firm’s sister quarry in Slatedale will both be featured. Visitors will get to see a working aerial cableway system and watch as slate blocks, easily weighing a few tons or more, are sawed and then split by hand into products ranging from stair treads to roofing. Who knew a grey rock could be so interesting?

T3 Walking Tour of Moravian Industrial Quarter (9:00am – 11:00am) – $30 – Join members of Historic Bethlehem to find answers to the question of how the early Moravians established the largest concentration of crafts, trades, and industries in the American Colonies and how the Moravian settlers used trade skills to become self-sufficient. Explore the Colonial Industrial Quarter with our guides and learn how it has changed throughout the centuries, beginning as America’s earliest industrial park, developing into an automotive junk yard, then transforming into the bucolic site it is today!

T4 An Embarrassment of Museums (12:30pm – 5:00pm) – $30 – Kara Mohsinger, tour leader. Take an afternoon visit to three important museums and historic sites in the Valley. The afternoon begins at the Sigal Museum in Easton, home to broad exhibits on the history of the region. From there we will visit the historic bank of blast furnaces along the Hoover Mason Trestle, a well-preserved artifact of the Bethlehem Steel South Works interpreted for us by former steelworkers. Next will be a preview of the National Museum of Industrial History, one of our co-hosts for the conference. The museum houses over 200 artifacts from across the world, telling the tale of America’s industrial might and the evolution of industry over time including the 115-ton Corliss steam engine, 20 foot-tall steam hammer, and exhibits on factory life. Participants must provide own transportation to museum, 1.5 miles from the conference hotel.


Included in full conference registration

6:00pm – 6:30pm New Members Opening Reception (held at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem)

6:30pm – 9:00pm Tuesday’s Opening Reception will be held at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem, our conference hotel downtown Bethlehem.

Speakers include Martha Capwell Fox, historian at the National Canal Museum of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and author of the very recently published Geography, Geology, and Genius (2019). Martha will talk about the growth and impact of industry in the Lehigh Valley. Our second speaker will be Charlene Donchez Mowers, President of Historic Bethlehem. Ms. Donchez Mowers will talk about the growth of the city of Bethlehem, the significance of the industrial quarter, and the effort to include of the Moravian district in the UNESCO world heritage designation for Christianfeld Moravian Church Settlement. After hours options include several great restaurants and bars along Bethlehem’s Main Street and at the hotel bar.

WEDNESDAY, August 25, 2020 – PROCESS TOURS (Included in full conference registration)

Choose one of the following all-day tours (lunch and transportation included). Note: All Friday tour sites will require hard hats, eye and ear protection, and appropriate footwear. Not all sites will have enough hard hats. If you have one, please bring it with you.

W1 – Anthracite-Anthracite-Anthracite (7:45am-5:00pm) Bode Morin, tour leader. Anthracite coal was America’s first mass produced fuel and 90% of the world’s deposits were found in northeast Pennsylvania. First used by blacksmiths in the mid-18th century, its purity and durability saw it replace charcoal in Pennsylvania’s iron furnaces in the 19th century, spawn an extensive network of distribution canals and railroads, and become a significant home-heating fuel. The industry also saw major strikes and accidents leading to thousands of deaths and injuries. The expansive growth of the industry ultimately witnessed the formation of a vibrant heritage community supported by over 100 groups. The W1 Tour will visit a variety of remains of these legacies including the 90-acre Eckley Miners’ Village, a restored company mining town and movie set for the Molly Maguires, operated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The tour will then prowl into the Panther Valley to visit the very active 12-mile long operations of Lehigh Anthracite Coal where we will see open pit mining activities, drive by historic shafts and portals, and tour the current coal breaker, a once dominant structure type in the region. From there we will visit the Number 9 mine and museum which will include a below ground experience in one of the longest-operated mines in the area and tour their significant collection of mining equipment housed in the former wash shanty. The W1 Tour will finish the day at KME a manufacturer of a vast array of fire and rescue trucks and equipment. Note: The Lehigh Anthracite Region can be muddy.

W2 – Go East Tour: (8:00am to 6:00pm) Don Young, tour leader. Visitors can experience the industrial culture of the Lehigh Valley in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The day will begin with a driving tour of the former Bethlehem Steel properties in Bethlehem, PA.  It will then cross the Delaware River to Phillipsburg on the New Jersey side. Here tourgoers will have the opportunity to see a steam locomotive under restoration by the New York, Susquehanna, and Western Railway Technical & Historical Society.  A stop at the nearby Phillipsburg Railroad Historians will showcase a rare Mack Railbus and the miniature (1/6 size) Centerville & Southwestern Railroad.  The tour will conclude at the former People’s Water Company pump house to see the 51-foot tall triple expansion steam powered pumping engine.

W3A Day Set in Cement (8:30am-4:00pm) Most of this field trip will focus on the past and present of the cement industry, which had its American birthplace in the Lehigh Valley. First, a brief stop at the Saylor Kilns Park in Coplay, site of the first portland cement mill in the US. Eight Shoefer kilns, the last ones in the world, still stand in the park. Then we will head to Cementon for a full tour of the LaFarge Holcim plant, which began as Whitehall Cement in 1899. From there we will cross the Lehigh River to Northampton for a tour of the Atlas Memorial Cement Museum, the only such museum in the US. We will stop for lunch in the park across the street and then proceed to drive through Catasauqua, past the site of the Crane Iron Works, where the first anthracite-fired iron furnace in the US was built in 1840. In Fullerton, the group will be divided for half-hour visits to the Swope and Bartholomew fabricating shop and the Bridesburg Foundry, each of which can accommodate only ten to twelve people at a time. The afternoon will conclude with tours of the Tilghman Street and Eighth Street bridges, two large, century-old, open-spandrel concrete arch bridges in Allentown, which will be led by PennDOT’s Kris Thompson. The Tilghman Street Bridge rehabilitation is in its late stages, which will allow the group to see some of the techniques used to fortify these historic viaducts that are still essential parts of Allentown’s infrastructure. The Eighth Street Bridge, aka the Alburtus L. Meyers Bridge, was rehabilitated in 2014-2016. Note: This tour is limited to 20 people. Photography is limited to the Cement Museum and Shoefer Kilns. Steel toed shoes, hard hats, high-vis vests, ear and eye protection required for most sites.

WEDNESDAY EVENING, August 25, 2021
7:30pm – 9:30pm Annual SIA Industrial Film Festival

THURSDAY, August 26, 2021

8:00am – 11:30am Morning Presentation Sessions (Coffee and soft drinks will be served. A draft program will be posted to the SIA website)

11:45am – 1:45pm Annual Business Meeting and Luncheon (included in the cost of registration) 2:00pm – 5:30pm Afternoon Presentation Sessions

ALL DAY – Exhibits, Posters & Book Sales

THURSDAY EVENING, August 26, 2021

TB – Thursday Banquet Dinner (6:30pm – 9:30pm) – $80 – Thursday’s Banquet is being held at the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, PA. Just a short 5-minute shuttle ride or a 20-minute walk from the hotel to the vibrant Steel Stacks arts and cultural campus. NMIH is housed in the restored 1913 Electric Repair Shop of the Bethlehem Steel plant.  While enjoying dinner and drinks, explore the Museum’s 18,000 square foot exhibit space dedicated to industry past, present and future. Noted anthracite mining musician, Van Wagner will perform a variety of mining and Americana songs from the region. After dinner there will also be opportunities to explore the Beth Steel blast furnaces along the Hoover Mason Trestle.

FRIDAY, August 27, 2021  –  POST CONFERENCE TOURS (Extra fees apply)

F1An Embarrassment of Canals (9:00am – 3:00pm) – $95 – Martha Capwell Fox, tour leader & Daphne Mayer, wrangler. We will start the day by crossing into New Jersey to visit Port Warren Park along the Morris Canal and the Jim and Mary Lee Museum and Plane 9 West – one of the best preserved inclined planes on the Morris.  Our next stop will be Bread Lock Park and Museum at Lock 7 West of the Morris Canal.  Returning to Pennsylvania, we will venture next to the National Canal Museum, a program of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and one of the conference sponsors, where tour goers will have lunch and embark on a 45-minute ride on the Josiah White II, Pennsylvania’s only mule-drawn canal boat and one of the last in the country. Our last stop on the return to Bethlehem will be at the Freemansburg Canal Education Center at Lock 44 of the Lehigh Canal.

F2 – An Embarrassment of Iron Furnaces (8:00am – 5:00pm) – $85 – Brian Schmult tour leader. This tour will visit four blast furnace sites representing the earlier part of Pennsylvania’s extensive history in iron smelting. Southeastern Pennsylvania was a prominent region for four generations of iron smelting technology over three centuries and one of the significant earlier producers of iron in North America. We will visit three eighteenth century cold-blast charcoal furnace sites that were built in the and survived into the nineteenth century (Warwick, Hopewell and Joanna Furnaces), and one anthracite site, Lock Ridge Furnace. The furnaces span the range from ruins to the fully restored furnace group at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, and from the early “iron plantation” rural charcoal furnace setting to the urban placement and later technology of the anthracite furnaces. These are a combination of self-guided and guided tours, with some walking required.

F3Historic Bethlehem Walking Tour (9:00am – 11:00pm) – $20 (pay fees and tip on your own at Bethlehem Visitors Center or online ( – Led by certified guides from Historic Bethlehem in period dress, you will learn the story of Bethlehem’s unique beginnings in 1741. The walk will cover 275 years of Bethlehem history and visit the 1741 Gemein Haus, 1762 Waterworks, 1758 Nain-Schober House, and the 1752 Apothecary.

Book Option (available for purchase during online registration or separately at conference)

Geography, Geology, and Genius: How Coal and Canals Ignited the American Industrial Revolution (Martha Capwell Fox, Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, 2019) $22.45 (10% discount available for purchase with your registration). This recently published book tells the story of the growth and development of the regional industries of eastern Pennsylvania and how they became the cradle of the American Industrial Revolution. With maps, illustrations, and historic photographs, this book traces the development of the innovative companies that were founded in the Corridor as a result of this confluence of waterways, minerals, and minds – industries that became dominant in the nation and even the world during the past 200 years.  Ms. Fox was a co-coordinator of the conference and will be a featured speaker at the Thursday reception.