As a minor bit of background, I have as a railroad modeler and (at best) an amateur historian pursued the history of the steel industry locally and beyond. The thing is, I'm not sure where my interest started. I remember as a youngster occasionally seeing trainloads of coal making their way into the Mon Valley as we descended into Turtle Creek or followed Thompson Run to Monroeville. I remember the strange noises carrying in the occasional heavy night air from the Edgar Thomson works to the nearby hill where I lived. But none of this cemented it.
Instead, around 1990 something clicked. Those of you who've spent any decent amount of time in Pittsburgh have no doubt seen the steel mill at the Miniature Railroad and Village at the Carnegie Science Center (and Buhl before it). I'd like to say it was that. I would. But I don't remember. The thing which does stick out in my mind is my friend Love asking what Pittsburgh was known for, and when being told "steel", asking for a mill or museum tour. Then, and effectively to date, we have none. But in the intervening time I have toured mills, current and former, in Rankin, Braddock, West Mifflin, Bethlehem, Birmingham, Riverdale (IL) and Gary. For those opportunities, I can only be thankful.