The Cloud Factory

Several weeks ago my husband and I went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a weekend.  While there we got to see the Cloud Factory first hand. 

I don’t know who came up with the term “Cloud Factory” but Michael Chabon uses it in his book The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.  At one point in time I was reading so many books that I couldn’t remember what I read and would need to look at the cover to refresh my memory.  The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was one such book.  The phrase Cloud Factory stuck with me.  Other than the Cloud Factory, all I can remember about the book is that I liked it and looked forward to reading more of Michael Chabon’s books.  After seeing the Cloud Factory firsthand I couldn’t think of a better description.

Here’s the conversation between Art Bechstein and Arthur Lecomte when Arthur explains the Cloud Factory.

“The Cloud Factory?”

He laughed, looking down at his hands, then looked back up again, avoiding my eyes, as usual, and blushing slightly. I’d never met a man who blushed so frequently, although he was to begin with a rather pink person.

“Yes, the Cloud Factory. Haven’t you ever noticed it? When you walk across the Schenley Park bridge, there, from the park into Oakland, you pass above the Cloud Factory. What does it do? we used to wonder. Why do these great clouds, perfectly white and clean, white as new baseballs, come out of that building by the tracks? Cleveland and I would be all stoned and and out of school and we’d loosen our neckties, and there would be the Cloud Factory, turning out a fresh batch of these virgin clouds.”

Do you have any memoriable phrases from books to share?  Or have you ever visited the site where a book takes place?


  1. hi amber,
    MOP is my all-time favorite book. for years i dreamed of visiting pittsburgh and seeing the cloud factory first hand. finally, i got a chance when i went to carnegie mellon for grad school from 2004-2006.

    i’m not sure if the picture you’ve posted is the right cloud factory. the REAL cloud factory is between CMU and the carnegie museum (i think). rarely does it make “clouds.”

    i’ll send a pic to you via email…

  2. Hi Frank!
    If it’s not the right Cloud Factory it’s very close. The picture was taken from one of the levels of the Carnegie Museum’s parking garage. The two huge pipes in your picture would be to the right of my clouds. 🙂

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