In a series of single image posts, I would like to share the beauty of the Juniata River Valley, which plays host to the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s famed Middle Division, a four track water level raceway between Harrisburg and Altoona Pennsylvania. The Juniata, who’s name is thought derive from Iroquoian word Onayutta, meaning "Standing Stone" is roughly 104 miles long, and encompassing 3400 square miles of watershed was the original course North of Harrisburg that the Mainline Department of Public Works and later the PRR would build along to push West to Pittsburgh. At the confluence of the Susquehanna River in Duncannon Pennsylvania, the Railroad follows the broad shallow path of the River as far West as Huntingdon Pennsylvania. In the small town of Duncannon Pennsylvania, is the confluence of the beautiful Susquehanna and the Juniata Rivers. Though I have discussed Duncannon in relation to the railroad, the River deserves a special notice. In a broad sweeping view we see the wide rivers coming together, looking upstream toward the confluence. To the left is the waters of the Juniata, and right, the Susquehanna. In the distance one can see the Route 322/22 bridge spanning the Susquehanna (the bridge of the Juniata is partially obscured). This area is well known by PRR fans as the Mainline swept around a long curve right against the River and provided a beautiful backdrop on any given day.
Photographs & History
In a series of single image posts, I would like to share the beauty of the Juniata River Valley, which plays host to the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s famed Middle Division, a four track water level raceway between Harrisburg and Altoona Pennsylvania. The Juniata, who’s name is thought derive from Iroquoian word Onayutta, meaning "Standing Stone" is roughly 104 miles long, and encompassing 3400 square miles of watershed was the original course North of Harrisburg that the Mainline Department of Public Works and later the PRR would build along to push West to Pittsburgh. At the confluence of the Susquehanna River in Duncannon Pennsylvania, the Railroad follows the broad shallow path of the River as far West as Huntingdon Pennsylvania. In the area West of Newton-Hamilton Pennsylvania, the Juniata River Winds South in an oxbow with the PRR Middle Division bypassing the River altogether North of the Valley. Here in the Fall of 2007 we see the Wide and shallow Juniata River looking East with early signs of Fall leaves on the mountain side. This area is accessible by Rt 103 between Mt Union and Lewistown Pennsylvania and is a nice scenic alternative to Rt 22/522 to the North.
In a series of single image posts, I would like to share the beauty of the Juniata River Valley, which plays host to the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s famed Middle Division, a four track water level raceway between Harrisburg and Altoona Pennsylvania. The Juniata, who’s name is thought derive from Iroquoian word Onayutta, meaning "Standing Stone" is roughly 104 miles long, and encompassing 3400 square miles of watershed was the original course North of Harrisburg that the Mainline of Public Works and later the PRR would build along to push West to Pittsburgh. At the confluence of the Susquehanna River in Duncannon Pennsylvania, the Railroad follows the broad shallow path of the River as far West as Huntingdon Pennsylvania. View looking West in Mill Creek Pennsylvania. The image was actually made from Trough Creek Valley Pike, the Mainline of the PRR runs on the North Bank (right hand side) in the tree line.
In a series of single image posts, I would like to share the beauty of the Juniata River Valley, which plays host to the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s famed Middle Division, a four track water level raceway between Harrisburg and Altoona Pennsylvania. The Juniata, who’s name is thought derive from Iroquoian word Onayutta, meaning "Standing Stone" is roughly 104 miles long, and encompassing 3400 square miles of watershed was the original course North of Harrisburg that the Mainline Department of Public Works and later the PRR would build along to push West to Pittsburgh. At the confluence of the Susquehanna River in Duncannon Pennsylvania, the Railroad follows the broad shallow path of the River as far West as Huntingdon Pennsylvania. There are several crossings over the River by the PRR, many utilizing Cheif Engineer, William H Brown's trademark masonry stone arch bridges of various sizes, certainly a series of posts to be discussed in due time! Here we see the the broad course of the Juniata River looking East of Huntingdon Pennsylvania, with the PRR mainline running on the Northern Bank in this location. In the distance to the East are the upheavals of rock, known as Jacks Narrows covered a few posts back on Photographs and History. Though the mainline has been reduced to two tracks, it still sees a variety of traffic, playing host to over 40-50 trains a day.
Situated roughly 98 miles west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania the Borough of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania sits along the beautiful Juniata River and the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline. A county seat for it’s namesake Huntingdon County, the town was situated among rich agricultural areas, healthy deposits of iron, coal and clay, and hosted manufacturing including stationary, furniture, lumber and machinery. Originally laid out by Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, Rev. William Smith in 1777 the town was dedicated as the county seat in 1789 and incorporated in 1796. The Borough was once a port on the Mainline of Public Works, and later the junction of the PRR and the Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad and Coal Company. Today the town is better known for its quaint layout, beautiful landscape and Juniata College which plays host to approximately 1500 students.
The Pennsylvania Railroad gained its presence in the Borough in June of 1850 with the completion of a line from Harrisburg, originally entering town along Allegheny Street. Modernization and relocation of the mainline later took place in several stages; first in 1891 and then 1894-1900 constructing the standard four track system, using the original Mainline of Public Works canal as a new right of way. The project eliminated several curves, grades, and street crossings while providing the citizens of Huntingdon connections with points east and west.
Built during the second phase of the modernization Hunt Interlocking, a brick and frame structure housed a Union Switch and Signal machine to control a revised interlocking and interchange with the Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad and Coal Company (Reporting marks HBTM). The HBTM was a coal hauler chartered in the 1850′s to tap the rich semi-bituminous coal deposits and provide shippers in the Cumberland, Maryland area providing an alternative to the B&O’s monopoly on train service. Over time the railroad suffered major setbacks including the diversion of traffic off the line by the PRR to its own line between Bedford and Cumberland which led to eventual bankruptcy in the early 1950s.
The Huntingdon train station provided riders a cross platform transfer to HBTM trains which ceased operation in November of 1953. Little is left of the interchange and station tracks except for an overgrown branch diverging just west of the interlocking plant through Portstown Park, crossing on a deck girder bridge over the Juniata and running a short distance along State Road 3035. In addition to the interchange and passenger facilities, the PRR maintained a freight station and mainline icing facility west of the station area for trains of refrigerated meats and produce prior to mechanical refrigeration.
Today, while the mainline has been reduced to two tracks, the railroad is still very busy, though no interchange takes place with the HBTM, intermodal, merchandise and mineral traffic rolls though at speed along a mainline refined in the late 1890′s to efficiently expedite traffic to points east and west. The Huntingdon County Chamber of Commerce has taken residence in former Hunt Tower, and the landmark 1872 train station has been renovated and is being used for commercial space.
As most of you have seen, this blog centers around all things Pennsylvania Railroad for the most part. Even though the Railroad is what brought me to create this work, and using the blog to further it with research about location specific notes, history, etc, the landscape itself along the former PRR (and all other railroads for that matter) is an open book for interpreting how the railroad helped develop our Country. Over time, the relationship between the community and the railroads has changed, industry has gone away and the visual clues are left behind for young people that care, to piece together what once was. As a photographer, my goal to is to consider the "big picture" looking at the whole package and where the railroad fits in, hence the title, "From the Mainline". Its sort of a cultural/ historical/ industrial archeology project that is brought together with a camera.
My inspiration came from many photographers including William H Rau, Walker Evans, George Tice, David Plowden, Frank Gohlke, and William Clift to tip the iceberg, but the real drive is simple, a love for the railroad and history. Interestingly enough when I am fortunate enough to travel for this project, I have seen places and things that already have vanished with little to no recognition. I suppose its a double sided sense of loss that preservationists feel at the loss of a landmark or what most railfans feel when their favorite railroad succumbs to merger, or how O Winston Link felt when the last fire was dropped on a N&W steam locomotive, but like some I am driven to photograph at exhaustion the places and things that tie back to the past, if for nothing else, to satisfy my only personal curiosity.
Take a case in point, the Lincoln School building in Tyrone PA, built in 1911 as the new Senior High, later expanded with a Junior High wing in 1929, and then becoming the Lincoln Elementary School with the construction of a new Central High School in 1962. This building continued to serve that purpose until construction of a new facility in 1999.Eventually sold to S&A Homes, the building was slated for removal. Here is where I come in... I happened to be in the Tyrone - Huntingdon area for a trip to photograph in September of 2008, my first to the Tyrone area. While driving aimlessly as I normally do, this site caught my eye. We scoped out the location, the light was all wrong, so it was deemed necessary to come back the next morning. So we did, arriving at some ungodly hour with heavy fog, and there it stood, like a Greek or Roman ruin. A flat bed trailer presented itself for an elevated view, the negative was made, and most likely the following Monday the pillars came down. That is why I do this, every image is important, and if you are serious every one needs to count!
For more perspective on the historic town of Tyrone Pennsylvania please visit http://www.tyronehistory.org
The town of Wilmerding Pennsylvania was a significant place in the history of railroads, not only for its trackside affiliation with the PRR, but because of a local manufacturer, The Westinghouse Air Brake Company. In 1890 George Westinghouse opened a plant in Wilmerding, 13 miles east of the City of Pittsburgh to build one of the primary devices that lead to the rapid growth and speed of the modern railroad, the air brake. Peaking at aprx. 3000 employees, Westinghouse was a forward thinking employer, the first to offer 9 hour work days, 55 hour work weeks, affordable housing for employees that diverged from the typical dismal "company towns" typical through out PA, and cultural activities for employees and their families. Further East the PRR had a sprawling yard complex know as Pitcairn Yard. The facility, originally built in the late 1880's, served as a classification facility for Westbound Pittsburgh Division traffic and Eastbound Panhandle Division Freight. Once the largest facility on the Pittsburgh Division, having multiple roundhouses, car shops and two hump yards, Pitcairn lost its status as in the 1950's with the construction of the Samuel Rea Car Shops in Hollidaysburg and the modernization of Conway Yard, west of Pittsburgh.
One last and final significant note on the Turtle Creek valley was the divergence of the Port Perry Branch from the Mainline. The Port Perry Branch was part of a traffic bypass for the PRR, joining the Monongahela Branch in Duquesne to route traffic around the congested Mainline and Station Terminal Complex of the Steel City. Traffic from the Mainline could take the Port Perry to the Mon, connect with the Panhandle Main, or back to the Fort Wayne Mainline West via the Ohio River Connecting Bridge. In addition, the Perry also provided connection with the Mon Valley Line south to the various coal mines, coke facilities, and mills along the Monongahela River, and ultimately connected to the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie and infamous coal carrier Monongahela Railroad in West Brownsville Pennsylvania.
Part Five: Johnstown Proper: Although Johnstown has lost a good deal of manufacturing the City still has a lot to offer including several great museums, walking tours, the historic Inclined Plane to Westmont, Point Park and a Minor League Baseball Stadium among other key features that are part of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association. Below are several images made over the past five years of the City Center, exploring both the City's relationship with the railroads as well as the landscape and architecture in general.
Part Four: Johnstown's Old Conemaugh Section: Moving into Johnstown from Franklin we enter a historic neighborhood that at one time was served by several railroads. The Baltimore and Ohio’s Somerset & Cambria Branch was a line incorporated in 1879, to tap local coal resources and serve the Bethlehem works. Though not nearly the operation of the PRR, the B&O nonetheless maintained a presence in town. Coming up from the South along the Stonycreek River, the line comes into the Old Conemaugh Section of town and forks, moving West toward a connection with the C&BL along Washington Street, and East along the sprawling Gautier Works between Clinton and Short Street toward the former Station area and Freight house that still stands today.
As mentioned the B&O and C&BL served the Gautier Works located along Clinton Street, accessing the sprawling facility from the North Side. The Gautier Works produced wire fencing, plows and other steel products for the agriculture industry. The size of this facility is quite evident from high views such as the one afforded from the surrounding hill sides.
Part Three: Franklin
Franklin is directly across from East Conemaugh, spread in two small neighborhoods, the eastern section is stacked on the hillside overlooking the former mill and river valley, once a home to many steel workers and the actual “hot side” of the Johnstown Works.
Further West, down Rt 271, heading South West, you cross the Conemaugh River and enter the western end of town, including a small area of housing and churches that also was home to the Rail Car Division later spun off to FreightCar America Works, which was to become one of the last remaining steel related manufacturing facilities of the former Bethlehem Johnstown Works.
In 2008 the works closed its doors, taking much need jobs and tax revenue from this struggling little town. As of the Fall of 2010, the facility was being leveled, ending hopes of manufacturing jobs that were once plentiful in a small town with big industry.
Part 2: East Conemaugh
The railroad maintained facilities here including Woodvale Yard, access to the Johnstown branch and interchange with the Conemaugh and Black Lick RR, the Baltimore and Ohio Railway, and a engine terminal that supported both local operations and helper assignments that assisted Eastbounds on the ascent of the Allegheny escarpment.
The town itself, like many other smaller Pennsylvania towns, is a unique assortment of original buildings, signage, and character, void of the congestion, shopping malls, and the box store epidemic of suburban sprawl.
The town’s design speaks of its relationship to the railroad, how the commercial center borders just blocks off the railroad tracks, becoming more residential as you progress further up the hill. Hand painted signage, beautiful old examples of small town architecture and community churches dot the landscape.
Part 1: Eastern Entry to the Valley
The Mainline of the Pennsylvania Railroad entered the Johnstown area from the East following the North Bank of the Conemaugh River. Parallel on the South side was the Conemaugh and Black Lick RR (C&BL), a Bethlehem Steel owned terminal road whose existence was to support the local steel facilities spread through out the valley.
Johnstown, Pennsylvania is a town dear to me, through my travels photographing the Mainline Series, the location was key to other areas that lacked amenities, central to the railroad's Western ascent of the Alleghenies, and home to some amazing people, landscapes, architecture, and history. Beginning in the 1850’s with Cambria Iron works, the area flourished, with the steel works growing and changing, the facilities eventually became part of the Bethlehem Steel Company. In early times, tragedy in the way of the Great Flood of 1889 struck, taking over an estimated 2200 lives, with almost 1000 more missing. Subsequent floods in 1936 and 1972 necessitated additional flood walls and engineered river channels to prevent the loss of life and property that devastated Johnstown at an early age.
Later, in the 20th Century tragedy would come in other ways, mainly the collapse of domestic steel production. In the early 1970’s employment was holding steady at approximately 11,800 employees. Ten years later compounded by environmental regulations, a location that couldn’t compete with the inter-modal transport Pittsburgh and Burns Harbor was privileged to, and damage incurred from the Flood of 1977; employment plummeted to 2100 workers in 1982. As time progressed some facilities have been re-purposed, others survived only later to be shuttered. While much of the Steel Production is gone the City has embraced re-invention moving forward into the 21st Century.
Over the three plus years traveling the Mainline from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh I stayed in Johnstown many times, through out the various seasons. It allowed me time to become aquatinted with the area and photograph in the surrounding landscape more than many other places. While Altoona, Pittsburgh, and the Harrisburg areas have plenty to offer, for me, Johnstown is a particularly special place.
Though the steel industry at large has been absent from Johnstown for quite some time, the resilient people have moved on, adapted and are moving forward to bring more business and tourism to the area. Small boroughs, beautiful and unique architecture and a sense of small town life are things that really attracted me to the area, not to mention the history and railroad!
Over the next two months we will examine the region and its relationship to the former PRR Mainline moving from East to West, establishing a larger view of not just the trains, but the greater landscape that thrived around it.
Hello again! I have been absent for a while but for good reasons! Stay tuned for many more updates and a series of posts about the great City of Johnstown, a place that I spent a great deal of time photographing and visiting during the Mainline Project! The series will touch on history and the landscape in which Steel mills and Steel rails intertwined with the Conemaugh River, defining the city's industrial status though a great deal of the 20th Century. Many other exciting projects are on the horizon, making 2011 a much more productive photography year! I will talk more about that soon, but for now enjoy this post on one of my favorite images from the Tyrone area! I will actually be traveling back to some of these areas this month and hope to share more as they become available! Enjoy!
Duncannon is a quiet little riverside town that sits just below the confluence of the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers in Perry County Pennsylvania. Along the banks of the Susquehanna runs the Middle Division of the former Pennsylvania Railroad. Above, we see the view from Cumberland Street looking East toward the former Passenger Station on Water Street. The beautiful brick and wood design is similar to neighboring Marysville, and Newport stations both of which survive today.
In the small village of South Fork, named for the confluence of the Little Conemaugh River with its south fork, the Mainline of the PRR follows the path of the former Allegheny Portage Railroad. Down stream, directly center in the photo, the south fork comes North from the notorious site of a dam that burst giving way to the tragic Johnstown Flood of May 31st, 1889, claiming more than 2200 lives, in what is still considered one of America's worst disasters. Today the small mining village in Cambria County plays host to mainline traffic, and local coal trains originating out of the valley to the south. Next to the River, just about directly below the low spot in the ridge, the small rail yard and terminal for the South Fork Mine Runs is visible. This plays host to daily unit coal trains coming and going, with a junction to the mainline in both directions sending the trains West to Pittsburgh and East to the Mid Atlantic Coast.
Built in 1913 after the expansion of the Mainline to the trademark four track "Broad Way", the Mifflin Depot still stands today. While passenger service ended in 1957, the building has continued to serve maintenance personnel along the line. Seen here on a typical Fall morning with a dense fog yet to burn off, the Mission style bay and classic details still look good after almost 100 years and four owners.
At the Summit of the Allegheny Range we look east on Sugar Run Valley in Cambria County PA. Immediately below us #3 track exits the New Portage Tunnel, this is the eastbound main commonly referred to as "the slide" on account of its 2.0 to 2.36 grade descending the Summit. Joining from the left, tracks 1 and 2 curve around from Gallitzin and Allegheny Tunnel (now just the newer Gallitzin Tunnel since Conrail increased clearances on the line in the 1990's). While the line is quiet during a steady mid-day rain, activity here can be quite impressive, watching west-bounds top the Allegheny Range and eastbound trains begin there descent to Horseshoe Curve and ultimately Altoona the eastern base of the climb.
It's a new year and we are on the beautiful property of Earl and Shirley Cummings of the "Second Best Place" a beautiful A frame cabin in Central Southern Pennsylvania along the former B&O mainline from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. Although its not nearly as busy as the former PRR route to the North, the scenery is breathtaking, rugged, and virtually unspoiled. This is no doubt one of the best places to watch trains, reconnect with nature, hike, fish, or simply unplug from the wired world. My family tries to visit once a year for a long weekend of kids playing in the open field and running to the tracks when the next train approaches.
We find ourselves in the tiny village of Summerhill PA on the West Slope of the PRR's ascent of the Allegheny Mountains. What is missing to the viewer is the smell of coal fired stoves, and the silent still of a fresh early morning snow. The temperature is about 28 degrees, and the sound of another eastbound is prominent as the Signal on No. 1 track beckons on with a "Proceed" indication on the company's trademark position light signals. Even though this is Norfolk Southern's property now, the spirit of the Pennsy lives on through so many who are dedicated to the preservation of all facets of this once self proclaimed "Standard Railroad of the World".
Thank you for all you interest in my first year of this blog, from my family to yours I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New year!