Photographs & History

Photographs and History

William H. Rau and the Pennsylvania Railroad

(L) William H. Rau portrait circa 1908. (R) Rau and his assistants setting up his camera along the Conemaugh River at the Packsaddle near present day Torrance, Pennsylvania, circa 1891. Both images collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

(L) William H. Rau portrait circa 1908. (R) Rau and his assistants setting up his camera along the Conemaugh River at the Packsaddle near present day Torrance, Pennsylvania, circa 1891. Both images collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

William Herman Rau, born in 1853, was a Philadelphia based commercial photographer whose relationship with the Pennsylvania Railroad spanned his 35-year career in the business. Though he had numerous assignments with the railroad over the years, it would be two commissions that brought Rau to our attention in the 20th Century. The first assignment was from June to September 1891, the second, April to July of 1893. The commission utilized the relatively new concept of advertising photography to entice the leisure traveler to explore the American landscape by way of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Illustrating the terrain and destinations along the system, Rau worked with a mammoth plate view camera in the field, traveling in a customized passenger coach complete with living quarters and darkroom, creating almost 500 dry plate glass negatives during the two commissions.

Plate 202: Special Photographic Train. This image depicts the locomotive and car outfitted for Rau's commissions of 1891 and 1893. The coach was specially outfitted with a complete darkroom, living quarters and a platform on the roof for Rau to set up his mammoth plate view camera to make images along the railroad. Collection of American Premier Underwriters, Inc.

Plate 202: Special Photographic Train. This image depicts the locomotive and car outfitted for Rau's commissions of 1891 and 1893. The coach was specially outfitted with a complete darkroom, living quarters and a platform on the roof for Rau to set up his mammoth plate view camera to make images along the railroad. Collection of American Premier Underwriters, Inc.

In April of this year, it will be 120 years since Rau’s second commission: Through those years the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad rose to the occasion during times of war and fell to its demise in an unthinkable marriage with bitter rival the New York Central. Having never experienced the Pennsylvania Railroad first hand, it was Rau’s work that led me to understand a young and expanding railroad at the dawn of the 20th Century. In the details of Rau’s rich large format albumen prints we see a railroad building for the future, a railroad that today leaves a legacy of engineering accomplishments, providing the subjects for a modern photographic survey. Working backwards to recreate a visual tour of the former Pennsylvania Railroad, the Main Line Project relies heavily on the visual clues of Rau’s work to make informed and inspired images.

In the coming weeks I am very excited to share more about the Rau commission and how it has impacted my project From the Main Line. These posts are part of a lecture on March 7th at the Library Company of Philadelphia, who has on deposit over 450 original images from the Pennsylvania Railroad Commission. If you are in the Philadelphia area I encourage you to RSVP for the lecture, March 7th at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The presentation will discuss how the dialogue between a historic and contemporary photo project evolves and will include a few original prints from Rau and myself in addition to the excellent exhibition, Frank Furness: Working on the Railroads. The Furness installation includes an amazing collection of artifacts, photographs and architectural drawings of architectural commissions for the Reading, Pennsylvania and Baltimore & Ohio Railroads.

Understanding the Pennsylvania Railroad: Part 1

A Dialogue with the Historic Photographs of William H. Rau

Plate 199. Stone Bridge at Johnstown by William H Rau. Collection of American Premier Underwriters

Plate 199. Stone Bridge at Johnstown by William H Rau. Collection of American Premier Underwriters

In 2003, about four years before I began the Main Line Project, I saw an exhibition of works by photographer William H Rau who was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1890’s to photograph the landscape and destinations along the main line. When I began the project in 2007, my intention was not to create a re-photographic survey but a modern portfolio of images exploring the railroad and its impact on the surrounding landscape. Rau’s work provided the first insight that a project like this could exist without the implicit use of just the trains themselves but by exploring the landscape, technology and the phenomena of the railroad corridor, which creates a uniquely built environment bridging city, country and towns alike. Rau’s commission left an impact on me that has continually evolved with the project to this day.

The stone bridge in Rau's photograph above survives today, though altered with reinforced concrete on its south side. This is one of the few images in the Main Line Project that present the opportunity to visualize the railroad 120 years ago versus today in the same (or similar) location.

The stone bridge in Rau's photograph above survives today, though altered with reinforced concrete on its south side. This is one of the few images in the Main Line Project that present the opportunity to visualize the railroad 120 years ago versus today in the same (or similar) location.

In the coming weeks I am very excited to share more about the Rau commission and how it has impacted my project From the Main Line. These posts will culminate into a lecture on March 7th at the Library Company of Philadelphia, who has on deposit, over 450 original images from the Pennsylvania Railroad Commission. In addition to this lecture, you will be seeing more of Mr. Rau’s work on my blog thanks to the help of the Library Company of Philadelphia and the cooperation of American Premier Underwriters who owns the historic collection. Part of a larger effort to incorporate more historical imagery in my research, Rau’s photos will compliment works from the Lancaster Historical Society’s Collection and the Columbia Historic Preservation Society Collection to detail past operations, facilities and the landscape along the Main Line.

If you are in the Philadelphia area I encourage you to RSVP for the lecture March 7th at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The presentation will discuss how the dialogue between a historic and contemporary photo project evolves and will include a few original prints from Rau and myself in addition to the excellent exhibition, Frank Furness: Working on the Railroads. The installation includes an amazing collection of artifacts, photographs and architectural drawings of Furness commissions for the Reading, Pennsylvania and Baltimore & Ohio Railroads.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

Part 6: Cambria City and the Western Suburbs: Leaving Johnstown proper, the Mainline of the PRR crosses another site associated with the history of the Great Flood of 1889. A seven span stone arch bridge over the Conemaugh River, officially know as Bridge 222 built under the guidance of Chief Engineer William Brown in 1888, was the sight of tragedy as flood waters washed across the valley, trapping over 500 people and debris, eventually catching fire and killing all but 80 in the blaze. While the structure survived the damage, over 2200 lives collectively were lost in what is still considered America’s worst natural disaster.

Later, in the history of this structure the PRR modernized the bridge reinforcing it in concrete on the South Side and expanding the bridge to accommodate the four track system the PRR was know for. Today, there is more plans for the bridge with the City planning its South Side re-facing to incorporate decorative lighting for night time illumination, tying in the Point Stadium, Inclined Plane, and Festival Park, adding another visual landmark to the Johnstown Discovery Network.

Eastward View of Bridge 222 from Brownstone Hill, note the reinforced concrete facade from the later expansion to a four track mainline system. This bridge continues to serve Norfolk Southern today and is planned to be restored/ refinished as an anchor for the Johnstown Discovery Network system.

Eastward View of Bridge 222 from Brownstone Hill, note the reinforced concrete facade from the later expansion to a four track mainline system. This bridge continues to serve Norfolk Southern today and is planned to be restored/ refinished as an anchor for the Johnstown Discovery Network system.

View of Brownstone Hill from the former Conemaugh and Black Lick rail yard on the North Side of the Conemaugh River. The mainline threads along the base of the mountain in the back lots of commercial and industrial buildings along Route 56 from left to right in the photo.

View of Brownstone Hill from the former Conemaugh and Black Lick rail yard on the North Side of the Conemaugh River. The mainline threads along the base of the mountain in the back lots of commercial and industrial buildings along Route 56 from left to right in the photo.

As the Mainline again follows the Conemaugh River westward, it hugs the base of Brownstone Hill in the back lots of Cambria City. Opposite, on the North Side of the river, the C&BL takes a wondering path, servicing the area know as the Lower Works, the original Cambria Iron Works that established Steel Making in area circa 1852. While the mainline is pretty straight forward, the C&BL runs through ruins of its former self. In the neighborhood of Minersville, vacant yard trackage and a quiet engine facility, far to large to be justified for the sometimes monthly operations of today stands testament to a company railroad that once thrived on terminal switching, moving in raw materials to the mill and finished product to the PRR and B&O.

L  ooking South East from 4th Street in Cambria City's neighborhood on the North side of the Conemaugh River, we see the Conemaugh and Black Lick Main running along the concrete flood walls that now keep the flood prone river in check. The siding diverting to the left appears to be a leg of a Wye that led to a branch extending into the hillside for slag dumping and steel waste, most likely coming from the nearby Cambria Works just out of view in the top right of this image.

Looking South East from 4th Street in Cambria City's neighborhood on the North side of the Conemaugh River, we see the Conemaugh and Black Lick Main running along the concrete flood walls that now keep the flood prone river in check. The siding diverting to the left appears to be a leg of a Wye that led to a branch extending into the hillside for slag dumping and steel waste, most likely coming from the nearby Cambria Works just out of view in the top right of this image.

Further West, past the engine house the C&BL once again crosses the Conemaugh one last time on the Ten Acre Bridge to access the Wire and Rod Works in the Morrelleville Section one of the last facilities still doing what it was intended to do by Bethlehem Steel. From the North Side, a spur continues on from the locomotive shops only to be lost in the weeds along Cramer Pike.

On the South Side of the River we make one more significant observation on the PRR main. At MP 277.3 stood SG tower in the Western Suburbs of town. Here interchange was conducted with the C&BL. More significantly on the mainline, tracks 1, 2, and 3 (4 split off remotely 3 miles West) divided along the South Bank, while track 5 and 6 ran along the North to Conpitt Junction some 13 miles further West. Track 5 and 6 known as the Sang Hollow Extension, was built between 1881-83 to handle heavier freight traffic through the area, eventually connecting back with the Mainline and elusive Conemaugh Line, a low grade back road into Pittsburgh, at JD Interlocking just west of New Florence PA.

Excerpt from a 1951 PRR Pittsburgh Division, Central Region track chart, showing the Mainline from SG located in the Western Suburbs of Johnstown to Conpitt Junction, 14 miles to the West, which was the end of the Low Grade Sang Hollow Branch and beginning of the Conemaugh Main, a slower route which provided an easier profile for heavy drags and mineral trains into Pittsburgh. The chart was provided from the  PRR Multmodalways Online Archive  

Excerpt from a 1951 PRR Pittsburgh Division, Central Region track chart, showing the Mainline from SG located in the Western Suburbs of Johnstown to Conpitt Junction, 14 miles to the West, which was the end of the Low Grade Sang Hollow Branch and beginning of the Conemaugh Main, a slower route which provided an easier profile for heavy drags and mineral trains into Pittsburgh. The chart was provided from the PRR Multmodalways Online Archive  

Just west of SG tower near milepost 278 the Sang Hollow Extension crosses the Conemaugh on a ballasted deck bridge at the area know as Dornock Point. Along the ridge in the rear of this image, the mainline continues westward along the southern bank of the Conemaugh River. 

Just west of SG tower near milepost 278 the Sang Hollow Extension crosses the Conemaugh on a ballasted deck bridge at the area know as Dornock Point. Along the ridge in the rear of this image, the mainline continues westward along the southern bank of the Conemaugh River. 

This concludes our tour of the Greater Johnstown Area, check back soon for more in depth posts on other towns related to the Pennsylvania Railroad. For more imagery from my Mainline Project please visit my website.

For more information on the PRR and the neighboring landscape check out some of the links below. As a side note, I would like to thank the many deicated people that spend so much time and energy preserving, interpreting, and sharing the past, present, and future of our Railroad, Social and Industrial Heritage in this Country! Please feel free to send me more links and I will be sure to add them!

Altoona Memorial Railroaders Museum

American Memory Project: Library of Congress

Center for Railroad Photography and Art

The Hagley Library

Johnstown Discovery Network

National Railway Historical Society

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society

Pennsylvania State Railroad Museum

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

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.

View looking Northeast of Franklin Street Bridge across the Stoneycreek River from Somerset Street. Building on the far side is the Conrad Building which dates from 1900  .

View looking Northeast of Franklin Street Bridge across the Stoneycreek River from Somerset Street. Building on the far side is the Conrad Building which dates from 1900.

View of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, demolished some time after this visit in 2007, for the Northrop Grumman Technology Park that now occupies the site  .

View of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, demolished some time after this visit in 2007, for the Northrop Grumman Technology Park that now occupies the site.

View from Flood Wall, Stoney Creek River and Franklin St Bridge. The church to the right is the Trinity United Methodist Church.

View from Flood Wall, Stoney Creek River and Franklin St Bridge. The church to the right is the Trinity United Methodist Church.

Support tracks and an interchange yard that runs parallel to Washington St fans out behind the Gautier Works in town, illustrating the Work’s dependency on the railroad to transport both raw and finished materials from just one of the many divisions of the Bethlehem Works.

Support tracks and an interchange yard that runs parallel to Washington St fans out behind the Gautier Works in town, illustrating the Work’s dependency on the railroad to transport both raw and finished materials from just one of the many divisions of the Bethlehem Works.

Leaving the Gautier Works complex behind the C&BL crosses the Conemaugh River on a impressive through truss span, and ducks under the PRR mainline just East of the Johnstown train station.

Leaving the Gautier Works complex behind the C&BL crosses the Conemaugh River on a impressive through truss span, and ducks under the PRR mainline just East of the Johnstown train station.

Just past the C&BL underpass is the train station the PRR built in 1916 by famous Architect Kenneth M. Murchison of New York City. Murchison is also known for his historic designs of the surviving Delaware and Lackawanna Stations in Hoboken NJ and Scranton PA as well as Baltimore’s Union Station (later known as Baltimore Penn Station for the dominate service of the PRR).  The station, just recently donated to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association is intended to become a cornerstone to the downtown tourism development and provides a beautiful entry to a City on the verge of rebirth as an Industrial and Cultural Heritage Center in Western PA.

Just past the C&BL underpass is the train station the PRR built in 1916 by famous Architect Kenneth M. Murchison of New York City. Murchison is also known for his historic designs of the surviving Delaware and Lackawanna Stations in Hoboken NJ and Scranton PA as well as Baltimore’s Union Station (later known as Baltimore Penn Station for the dominate service of the PRR).  The station, just recently donated to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association is intended to become a cornerstone to the downtown tourism development and provides a beautiful entry to a City on the verge of rebirth as an Industrial and Cultural Heritage Center in Western PA.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

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.

View looking West on Short Street with former S&C Freight House on the right and the Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert standing prominently in the center.

View looking West on Short Street with former S&C Freight House on the right and the Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert standing prominently in the center.

Three very unique houses along Railroad Street in the Conemaugh Section of Johnstown.

Three very unique houses along Railroad Street in the Conemaugh Section of Johnstown.

Two Churches are evident in this view from a lot bordering the Former S&C Branch looking Northwest. The Steeple in the foreground belongs to the 1891 Zion Lutheran Church the two further towers are part of the Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert built in 1895.

Two Churches are evident in this view from a lot bordering the Former S&C Branch looking Northwest. The Steeple in the foreground belongs to the 1891 Zion Lutheran Church the two further towers are part of the Cathedral of Saint John Gualbert built in 1895.

View North from Matthew Street with Clinton Street side of the Gautier Works.

View North from Matthew Street with Clinton Street side of the Gautier Works.

Rear view of the 1906 Central Catholic School, part of St. Joseph's German Catholic Church on Railroad Ave. This view is from Short Street looking south

Rear view of the 1906 Central Catholic School, part of St. Joseph's German Catholic Church on Railroad Ave. This view is from Short Street looking south

View from Singer Street looking Northwest. Note the Gautier Works behind the buildings on Railroad Street at the bottom of the hill.

View from Singer Street looking Northwest. Note the Gautier Works behind the buildings on Railroad Street at the bottom of the hill.

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.

View of trackage along Washington Street looking Northwest. Note the Gautier Works to the right. From  from the track layout this appeared to be an interchange area with B&O S&C Branch and the C&BL.

View of trackage along Washington Street looking Northwest. Note the Gautier Works to the right. From  from the track layout this appeared to be an interchange area with B&O S&C Branch and the C&BL.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

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.

View of the eastern section of Franklin from East Conemaugh.   Former PRR Mainline and Woodvale Yard in foreground. Note the Strank Memorial Bridge and old Chessie boxcar that appeared in the East Conemaugh Post last time from the opposide side of the Conemaugh River.

View of the eastern section of Franklin from East Conemaugh. Former PRR Mainline and Woodvale Yard in foreground. Note the Strank Memorial Bridge and old Chessie boxcar that appeared in the East Conemaugh Post last time from the opposide side of the Conemaugh River.

The former blast furnace and open hearth mills of the Bethlehem Johnstown Works from the Locust St. Bridge in Franklin. Note the C&BL lead that used to provide rail service into the mill.

The former blast furnace and open hearth mills of the Bethlehem Johnstown Works from the Locust St. Bridge in Franklin. Note the C&BL lead that used to provide rail service into the mill.

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.

Car Wash and St. John the Baptist Church from Jasper Alley.

Car Wash and St. John the Baptist Church from Jasper Alley.

Various freight cars waiting for work at the Franklin Railcar America facility   .

Various freight cars waiting for work at the Franklin Railcar America facility.

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.

Stored tank cars awaiting reconditioning. The weedy yard and empty tracks of the C&BL interchange yard speak of the impending shut down of Railcar America facility which happened in 2008.

Stored tank cars awaiting reconditioning. The weedy yard and empty tracks of the C&BL interchange yard speak of the impending shut down of Railcar America facility which happened in 2008.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

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.

View looking toward East Conemaugh. Taken from the Town of Franklin, Conemaugh and Black Lick trackage is in the foreground, the River, and finally the PRR and East Conemaugh nestled along the distant ridge. The bridge to the right is the Strank Memorial Bridge which is soon to be replaced.

View looking toward East Conemaugh. Taken from the Town of Franklin, Conemaugh and Black Lick trackage is in the foreground, the River, and finally the PRR and East Conemaugh nestled along the distant ridge. The bridge to the right is the Strank Memorial Bridge which is soon to be replaced.

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.

Small businesses flank quiet side streets that run parallel to the former PRR Mainline and Woodvale Terminal. This is a view from Davis Street between Cherry and East Railroad St.

Small businesses flank quiet side streets that run parallel to the former PRR Mainline and Woodvale Terminal. This is a view from Davis Street between Cherry and East Railroad St.

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.

Former First National Bank Building, 300 Block of Greeve St.

Former First National Bank Building, 300 Block of Greeve St.

Church of the Living God, Cambria Street, with residences on neighboring Heritage St. to the right.

Church of the Living God, Cambria Street, with residences on neighboring Heritage St. to the right.

PRR and the Greater Johnstown Area

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.

View from Franklin Park Showing the river valley and proximity of the C&BL in the foreground and Mainline on the far Side of the River.  This image is in the area of the Allegheny Portage Railroad trail that leads East to the preserved Staple Bend Tunnel, now a National Historic Landmark and linear park.

View from Franklin Park Showing the river valley and proximity of the C&BL in the foreground and Mainline on the far Side of the River.  This image is in the area of the Allegheny Portage Railroad trail that leads East to the preserved Staple Bend Tunnel, now a National Historic Landmark and linear park.

AO interlocking, deep in the Conemaugh River Valley below the Village of Park Hill, was remote controlled by Conemaugh Tower, to facilitate moves of both freight traffic and helper engines into and out of the Woodvale Terminal.

AO interlocking, deep in the Conemaugh River Valley below the Village of Park Hill, was remote controlled by Conemaugh Tower, to facilitate moves of both freight traffic and helper engines into and out of the Woodvale Terminal.

View from the Parkhill area, looking South West into the Villages of East Conemaugh (right) and Franklin, PA (left).  If one examines the image carefully a long unit coal train can be seen snaking along the North (right) side of the Valley. Opposite, image center, is the remains of the Wheel Mill, a part of Bethlehem’s now defunct Railcar Division.

View from the Parkhill area, looking South West into the Villages of East Conemaugh (right) and Franklin, PA (left).  If one examines the image carefully a long unit coal train can be seen snaking along the North (right) side of the Valley. Opposite, image center, is the remains of the Wheel Mill, a part of Bethlehem’s now defunct Railcar Division.

PRR: A Johnstown View

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.

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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.

South Fork and the PRR

Taken from the former Portage Railroad alignment in neighboring Ehrnfield PA, the viewer can see the South Fork Valley carved by the Little Conemaugh River of which the town of about 1100 is named. The river played host to America's worst disaster, the Johnstown Flood in 1889, which the PRR played an instrumental role in the recovery and rebuilding of the area.

Taken from the former Portage Railroad alignment in neighboring Ehrnfield PA, the viewer can see the South Fork Valley carved by the Little Conemaugh River of which the town of about 1100 is named. The river played host to America's worst disaster, the Johnstown Flood in 1889, which the PRR played an instrumental role in the recovery and rebuilding of the area.

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.

Woodvale Yard and the West Slope

The sleepy Borough of Franklin wakes up in a low fog alongside former Woodvale Yard on the PRR mainline about 275 miles West of Philadelphia's Broad Street Station. Like many local communities Franklin has a prominent church, St john the Baptist that stands dominant along the nearby mountain ridge.

The sleepy Borough of Franklin wakes up in a low fog alongside former Woodvale Yard on the PRR mainline about 275 miles West of Philadelphia's Broad Street Station. Like many local communities Franklin has a prominent church, St john the Baptist that stands dominant along the nearby mountain ridge.

Woodvale Yard sat along the Mainline and Conemaugh River, in the communities of East Conemaugh and Franklin, Eastern Sections of the City of Johnstown. The yard once provided support for the bustling steel works and acted as an interchange with the Conemaugh and Black Lick Railroad, a Bethlehem Steel owned shifting railroad that serviced the sprawling complex that was spread across the Conemaugh River Valley. Today, the yard is little more than staging and storage for coal trains heading west to the nearby power plant in New Florence. The yard also serves as the western base for helpers to assist trains up the Western ascent of the Allegheny Range to the Summit at Gallitzin PA.