Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Rayon Mill in PA

On Sunday I got up at 4:30am as I was meeting Urbexia for a trip to PA. It was a very slippery ride down the hill but I guessed most of it would be gone when I got back home since the day was supposed to warm up. We all bundled in to 2 cars after meeting up and headed north. We were meeting one of Richard's friends who was going to take us around an abandoned viscose factory.
Viscose or Rayon was the first man made fiber, a cheap fabric which had the look of silk. Rayon was made by chemically treating cellulose from wood or cotton to create a thick liquid called viscose, which was extruded through small holes into an acid bath that solidified the fiber. The building at the site in which this process had been used has already disappeared; residue of the acid had eaten its way into the wooden floors and walls causing the building to collapse, so it was demolished completely.
Our guide, John, also mentioned that another lady had been going to join us but had to drop out as she'd become ill. Apparently her father had worked here until the late 70's when it had closed down and he had lost his job. His marriage had also disintegrated and overcome with depression he had climbed the smoke tower and jumped in. She had asked John to show her the place where he had worked.
We walked in pulling out tripods and flashlights. There was silence except for the clicking of tripod legs along with a few hushed whispers, then it was down to serious work. 
Sure wish a 50c breakfast was still available these days...
Records going back to the 50's. It was wonderful how unblemished the place was, no graffiti anywhere and no senseless breakages, just the damage of time, where plaster had fallen from the ceilings, walls had crumbled and rust had textured the metal.
I didn't realize this at the time, but they're standing in front of a HUGE cigarette!
Looking directly up at the ceiling and lamp.
Looking through office cubicles.
I so badly wanted this pretty shade, amazing how it had remained pristine after all these years.
We found a sad bunny downstairs, looking as though he was sobbing from being abandoned.
Upstairs, looms and other machinery stood silently with bobbins and yarns scattered about the wooden floor.
Icicles hung on the walls and from the ceiling, and a cold wind blew in through a broken window.
It was great to get a some group shots, these came out really well, one from Huguette and two others from John.
Many rayon factories created men's socks, women's stockings, lingerie and dresses, then tire cords, particularly during WWII. After the war, the demand decreased and there was strong competition with other synthetic fabrics, such as acrylic and polyester, so many of the factories produced cellophane instead which was manufactured in a similar way to rayon, both being made from cellulose. Ultimately a combination of environmental pollution from this kind of manufacturing and the production of cheaper artificial materials that had a much shorter production time led to the closure of many plants. Today scientists believe that cellulose molecule can be obtained directly from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide meaning a cleaner method of production, so rayon may make a comeback in the U.S. It is currently still made the old way in India, Canada, Laos and China.
An interesting article on rayon.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant photo documentary. Came across your post as I was doing research for some OPA stockings I have. Fascinating to see the equipment. My Grandmother was also a 'topper' I think she called it for applying the welts to stockings in Philly. How nice that the building has not been destroyed.

Debby Karalee said...

Thanks so much for your kind comment, and for enlightening me on a job title I didn't know existed!