Yesterday’s Heroes #14040

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The Story

Large steel mills often had their own fire departments for safety reasons and these retired Mack fire trucks from the fifties belonged to Bethlehem Steel. They were used at their main plant in Bethlehem PA. When this steel mill closed in 1995, the trucks were run into one of the giant buildings on the site along with other industrial leftovers and left there in storage.

I was fortunate to get special permission through a local historical group to go onto the property to shoot in restricted areas. Access was limited, but access nonetheless. There was a lot of disarray and dirt in that very large cavernous building full of industrial relics. The other junk included a small railroad locomotive, wooden sand molds, forklifts, large metal cabinets stuffed full of blueprints, various electrical apparatus, and even stacks of old metal hard hats. This haphazard collection was the leftover rump of what was once the second largest corporation in the world. Once a giant in steel production and shipbuilding, Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt in 2001 due to mismanagement and a host of other variables. It went totally defunct in 2003 and sold off.

Mack Trucks built fire apparatus from 1911 all the way until 1990 in many variations including ladder units, pumper tankers, rescue, and more. Many times the fire vehicles were made in conjunction with Amerian LaFrance and others. These Mack fire trucks are from the late fifties or early sixties and were most likely built at the nearby Mack plant that still makes heavy trucks in Allentown.

Lately, I heard a local heritage group has been trying to get these fire trucks out of storage and put on display nearby. The idea is for a cosmetic restoration in order to honor the service of thousands of local people who worked in big steel here over generations.

The old mill has shifted far, far away from an intense place of hard work, smoke, and large scale industrial production that employed thousands. Today, the steel mill property has been made into a casino with a vibrant music and arts center. The four original blast furnaces are still standing as a huge backdrop and lit dramatically at night by washes of colored lights. A long elevated walkway has recently been built to safely view the furnaces. For more information about the entertainment venue it has oddly become, see  For more about the general history of Bethlehem Steel, look over this Wikipedia article here.

I’ve also been in the defunct US Steel Carrie Furnace site to walk among the two remaining blast furnaces there. You can see those images in the Abandoned Industrial section of the Places gallery. There are more Mack truck photos and other makes in the Junkyards gallery under Heavy Trucks too.

Location: Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks

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