Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Celebrating Labor Day on the Pennsylvania Railroad

A remarkable PRR system map from 1855 showing the original main line from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh including eastern connections to the Philadelphia & Columbia and Harrisburg & Lancaster Railroad. Note the inscription of Chief Engineer Herman Haupt, who succeeded J. Edgar Thompson when he became the third president of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1847 where he would remain until his death in 1874. For 27 years as president, Thompson still played a very active role in engineering the PRR from a single track intrastate carrier to one of the most influential and wealthiest railroads in the land. Map created by J.P. & J. Lesley Jr. Topographers, the collection of the Library of Congress.  

A remarkable PRR system map from 1855 showing the original main line from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh including eastern connections to the Philadelphia & Columbia and Harrisburg & Lancaster Railroad. Note the inscription of Chief Engineer Herman Haupt, who succeeded J. Edgar Thompson when he became the third president of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1847 where he would remain until his death in 1874. For 27 years as president, Thompson still played a very active role in engineering the PRR from a single track intrastate carrier to one of the most influential and wealthiest railroads in the land. Map created by J.P. & J. Lesley Jr. Topographers, the collection of the Library of Congress.  

September 1st, 1849 marks a day of significant history in the early years of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1838 State and Philadelphia officials acknowledged the failure of the Main Line of Public Works and the need for a privately owned all rail route to preserve Philadelphia’s western trade. As a result surveyor, Charles L. Schlatter was sent to the wilds of western Pennsylvania to survey various routes for such a potential venture. Schlatter returned with three options; the one selected would follow the Juniata and Conemaugh Rivers, and by 1845 the legislature was asked to charter such a railroad.

Trimmers Rock, a location along the Juniata Division of the Main Line of Public Works canal system represents the typical landscape of the original PRR main line to Lewistown, loosely following the canal network the railroad later used to improve and relocate its main line alignment. Photograph by William H. Rau, collection of American Premier Underwriters, Inc

Trimmers Rock, a location along the Juniata Division of the Main Line of Public Works canal system represents the typical landscape of the original PRR main line to Lewistown, loosely following the canal network the railroad later used to improve and relocate its main line alignment. Photograph by William H. Rau, collection of American Premier Underwriters, Inc

Much to the dislike of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad who was attempting to build a line into Pittsburgh, the State Legislature passed an act on April 13th, 1846 incorporating the Pennsylvania Railroad.  The new company recruited J. Edgar Thomson as Cheif Engineer, and by early in 1847, the railroad let contracts to begin construction of the first 20 miles west of Harrisburg and 15 miles east of Pittsburgh, to meet requirements to make the B&O’s Pennsylvania charter null and void. By the end of 1848 more contracts for the grading of roadbed would total 117 miles of right of way west of Harrisburg to Logans Narrows. The anticipated operations to commence between Harrisburg and Lewistown by 1848, however, due to problems constructing the Susquehanna River bridge, the difficulty of obtaining rails fast enough and the overall lack of labor the opening would be delayed for some time.

The surviving main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad owes its success to the years of tireless improvements that all began with the charter to build a privately operated railroad connecting Philadelphia to the west in 1846 opening the route between Harrisburg and Lewistown on September 1st, 1849. The Main Line, looking west, Mifflin, Pennsylvania. 

The surviving main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad owes its success to the years of tireless improvements that all began with the charter to build a privately operated railroad connecting Philadelphia to the west in 1846 opening the route between Harrisburg and Lewistown on September 1st, 1849. The Main Line, looking west, Mifflin, Pennsylvania. 

The first segment of the Pennsylvania Railroad was completed and open for service providing a connection with the Canal and Turnpike system on September 1st, 1849. Though one of the easier segments of the original PRR construction this important date begins a chapter in rail transportation history that would forever change the landscape of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. With much fan fare, the first through train from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh departed On December 10th, 1852 commencing operation on the PRR which has been in continual service since. With the evolution of the PRR’s route in the 19th Century, advancements in technology and engineering the State’s first east west rail line would develop into a conduit of industry and commerce. The very same route that visionaries like C.L. Schlatter and J. Edgar Thomson laid out and successor William H. Brown improved upon survives today as a vital transportation link in the Norfolk Southern rail network, remaining in regular service for over 165 years.

Though for many of Labor Day marks the end of summer, we should all take a moment to acknowledge the countless men and woman that work to keep our rail networks viable, maintaining a transportation system that has been vital to American life for generations. Have a safe and happy Labor Day Weekend!

Juniata River Valley: Part 4

Confluence

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.

The Juniata River Valley: Part 3

Newton_hamilton

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.

The Juniata River Valley: Part 2

MFROIO_PPT031

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.

The Juniata River Valley: Part 1

prr4

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.

Mainline: Huntingdon Pennsylvania

The Huntingdon County courthouse tower is visible from the mainline on the sweeping curve entering from the east. Note the access road along the right of way which used to be the alignment of tracks 3 and 4 the former westward freight and passenger tracks respectively.

The Huntingdon County courthouse tower is visible from the mainline on the sweeping curve entering from the east. Note the access road along the right of way which used to be the alignment of tracks 3 and 4 the former westward freight and passenger tracks respectively.

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.

Entering from the east the relocated mainline of the late 1890s runs along the former Public Works Canal alignment. Here at the mouth of Standing Stone Creek we are standing below the "new" bridge looking north toward the remains of the original alignment and stone arch bridge that runs parallel to Penn Street.

Entering from the east the relocated mainline of the late 1890s runs along the former Public Works Canal alignment. Here at the mouth of Standing Stone Creek we are standing below the "new" bridge looking north toward the remains of the original alignment and stone arch bridge that runs parallel to Penn Street.

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.

The 1872 Huntingdon train station is an Italianate style brick building. Detail of the (post 1890's) trackside elevation, while the traditional PRR herringbone brick pavers undergo restoration in the Spring of 2011  .

The 1872 Huntingdon train station is an Italianate style brick building. Detail of the (post 1890's) trackside elevation, while the traditional PRR herringbone brick pavers undergo restoration in the Spring of 2011.

PRR Hunt tower has been inactive for some time but remains standing. It was operated for a short time as a museum but now houses city offices. 

PRR Hunt tower has been inactive for some time but remains standing. It was operated for a short time as a museum but now houses city offices. 

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.

Jacks Narrows

PRR_BooK_Final_014

Looking east into Jacks Narrows from the Mapleton area we see the fabled PRR Middle Division turning south in a bend along the Juniata River. Note the access road to the left, which prior to abandonment, was the former number three and four track, which were part of the Pennsylvania Railroad's  famous Broadway mainline. Located in Huntingdon County, Jack's Narrows is the name of a glen in Jack's Mountain that runs over two miles long between the towns of Mt Union and Mapleton, Pennsylvania.  Jack's Mountain itself soars to 2,321 feet and creates a narrow gorge funneling the Juniata River, US Highway Rt 22, and the former Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division from east to west. With little access in the narrows, the railroad runs on the southern bank leaving Mt Union's interchange with East Broad Top Railroad behind, heading west to re-emerge in the sleepy town of Mapleton. Roughly midway in the narrows was a lonely outpost staffed by PRR tower operators for an interlocking tower aptly called "Jacks". The name of the mountain and narrows took their name from Captain Jack Armstrong, early pioneer and Indian trader who traversed this area frequently from roughly 1730 to 1744. He was allegedly murdered by the Indians and buried on the Juniata shore near this famous gateway.

PRR Bridge 147, Mt Union Pennsylvania

Upstream side of Bridge 147 on the Former PRR Middle Division, completed in 1906.  Note the center pier (center of the image), expanded to emphasize the center of the bridge, a nod to traditional   stone arch bridge building aesthetics. To the immediate right the railroad crosses Croghan Pike, Route 522 and enters town to the North of the sprawling interchange complex of the East broad Top Railroad.

Upstream side of Bridge 147 on the Former PRR Middle Division, completed in 1906.  Note the center pier (center of the image), expanded to emphasize the center of the bridge, a nod to traditional stone arch bridge building aesthetics. To the immediate right the railroad crosses Croghan Pike, Route 522 and enters town to the North of the sprawling interchange complex of the East broad Top Railroad.

Built under the supervision of Chief Engineer Alexander C Shand, Middle Division Bridge Number 147 was completed in 1906. In a tradition started by PRR Chief Engineer William H Brown, with his bridge in Johstown PA spanning the Conemaugh River, the bridge was built of cut stone because of its low maintenance and increased durability over early steel and iron structures. The bridge spanning the Juniata River on the Southeast Side of Mt Union consists of six segmental stone arch spans each 100' in length and 58' wide. Because the bridge consists of an even number of spans, the Center Pier was expanded by 8' to create a visible center to the bridge, a nod to traditional bridge building techniques in which an odd number of spans was utilized to define the center of the structure.  Bridge number 147 brings the former four track main of the PRR into Mt. Union on an elevated fill, avoiding grade crossings through the once bustling interchange town with the East Broad Top Railroad. Today, the bridge serves the Norfolk Southern Corporation's busy two track Pittsburgh Line, though later altered with reinforced concrete casing, the bridge remains another great example of PRR's tradition of Cut Stone masonry bridges that were built to last.

Tyrone Pennsylvania

Just West of the of the former PRR Tyrone train station and current Amshack the Mainline made a sharp turn South heading down the Valley to the well know City of Altoona. This simple study looks across Spruce St and the Mainline at dusk in September of 2008. To the right is the yard trackage and connection to the Bald Eagle Branch, a line that provided a alternative route to the Mainline and access to the Upper Susquehanna Valley.

Just West of the of the former PRR Tyrone train station and current Amshack the Mainline made a sharp turn South heading down the Valley to the well know City of Altoona. This simple study looks across Spruce St and the Mainline at dusk in September of 2008. To the right is the yard trackage and connection to the Bald Eagle Branch, a line that provided a alternative route to the Mainline and access to the Upper Susquehanna Valley.

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!

Mike Froio

Duncannon, Pennsylvania

Duncannon

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.

Main Street, Mifflin PA

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In Mifflin Pennsylvania, at the foot of Main Street and Railroad Ave, the famed Middle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad comes through on a North-South alignment. Mifflin, a sleepy town across the Juniata River from Mifflintown, was probably a result of the need to connect the town to the railroad and the outside world. Its a typical town along the river valley, with beautiful old Victorian houses. In the left of Image you can see the Brick Depot, now a maintainers office for Norfolk Southern. The station is in fair shape and has a unique design complete with terracotta roof and what remains of the yellow brick platforms. While the Mainline appears to be four tracks as it was in its heyday, the furthest track is actually a runner to a small yard and industrial track immediately to the West.