PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I first began noticing hooks at Farrel Works. Even before I got permission to shoot inside in 2011 I was shooting through the chain link fence trying to photograph a vine-covered hook the size of a gorilla that once spanned Farrel's sunken courtyard beside Main Street. It seemed to say everything that needed to be said about heavy industry in the valley, though it resisted becoming a photograph.
I’ve been noticing cranes ever since. Like silos on old farms, lingering long after the barns have blown away, cranes are often the last hint of the scale of what went on in a place after the looting is done. The large bridge cranes are frequently tucked up at each end, rusted in place. The big ones may have more than one trolley and more than one hook. And along each aisle, at every station, jib cranes mark the size and sometimes the nature of the work done there. Even in the most ruined sheds, one can still usually read, painted on the side, the load for which each crane and hook was built. From what still exists, 3 to 5 tons seems to have handled much of what had to be hefted up and down Brass Valley, even in big sheds.
Inside the abandoned basilicas of Farrel Works there are probably twenty to thirty traveling, bridge cranes. The smallest is rated at 5 tons. Many are rated at over 40 tons. This is part of one of two bridge cranes that span the main foundry aisle and travel the length of the nave, a space in which half a dozen football teams might practice simultaneously. The large hook is rated at sixty tons. The bridge is rated for carrying ninety tons of load. Whatever it lifted had to be passed through the factory to reach the siding where it could be loaded onto a railroad car. The hooks here at the south end are shy, hiding up in a shadowy corner, hard to photograph, but they are the largest I’ve found.
In a dark attic byway threaded through the roof trusses of two abutting sheds, in a space which happened to have its own crane, I came upon a spare hook. The space was high and narrow, and I had to point my flashlight into the shadows to be sure the massive shape wasn’t the carcass of a beast, but it was another 60 ton hook, lying on its side at the base of an attic crane-way, an inert remnant in a place once well prepared and humming. These are among corridors to be visited on a magical mystery tour of Farrel Works.