Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Winter News | Interview & Exhibitions

Former Pennsylvania Railroad Pratt truss bridge spanning the Susquehanna River. Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

Former Pennsylvania Railroad Pratt truss bridge spanning the Susquehanna River. Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

New Interview | The Trackside Photographer

Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Edd Fuller, editor of The Trackside Photographer, a blog focused on the railroad landscape. I am excited to share this interview about my ongoing work and how it ties into a central theme inspired by history. Follow the link to learn more about my process, creative work and how my interest in both the landscape and railroads has woven its way into my projects for many years. To read the interview visit The Trackside Photographer, or click the image above! 

Northward view, Susquehanna River, Marysville, Pennsylvania.

Northward view, Susquehanna River, Marysville, Pennsylvania.

Exhibitions | Current

2017 Members Exhibition | Main Line Art Center
Through January 3, 2018

I currently have a piece hanging in the 2017 Members Exhibition at the Mainline Art Center, in Haverford, PA. The exhibition is a celebration of the MLAC members’ support and creative energy, featuring a range of works from photography, sculpture, painting, printmaking, and ceramics. 

Gallery Hours are Monday through Thursday: 10 AM to 8 PM, Friday through Sunday: 10 AM to 4 PM. This exhibition is free and open to the public. The Main Line Art Center is located at 746 Panmure Road in Haverford PA, offers free parking, and is easily accessible from public transportation. 

South Fork Creek, Soukesburg, Pennsylvania

South Fork Creek, Soukesburg, Pennsylvania

Exhibitions | Upcoming

9 New Jersey Photographers | Stockton University
January 16th through March 28th, 2018

My work will be part of an upcoming exhibition curated by Stephen Perloff, editor of the Photo Review and the Photograph Collector; the show spotlights nine NJ based photographers. An artists reception will be held Tuesday, March 6th at 5 PM followed by a talk with curator Stephen Perloff at 6:30 PM. More information will follow as the event approaches. 

The Stockton University Art Galleries are located on Lakeside Lane, Galloway, NJ in Galloway, NJ. Parking is available at the Lakeside parking area. 

Merry Christmas from the Main Line !

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The railroad never stops, nor does the industry it serves. In the shadow of the Coatesville bridge spanning the west branch of the Brandywine River the former Lukens steel mill hums with activity around the clock providing jobs for people in the surrounding communities. As we enjoy the company of family during the holidays, men and women leave home to work in the plant day and night, producing specialized steel to build America's bridges, buildings and infrastructure. For some, working through the holidays seems unthinkable, to the folks in the steel or transportation industry its business as usual. Whether you are home with loved ones or on the job, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas !

Happy Holidays from Michael Froio Photography

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Friends, As 2014 winds down and we are amidst the holiday season I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone for all the wonderful words and support. Between formally becoming a small business owner, commercial commissions, lectures, curating an exhibition, writing, research and making photographs for the Main Line Project it has been a truly amazing year. I look forward to taking the final days of 2014 to reflect on the year and spend some much-needed time with the family. Looking forward to 2015 there is a number of events on the horizon,more information will follow after the start of the New Year. I have taken a moment to assemble here some of my favorite holiday posts from years past, enjoy and happy holidays from my family to yours!

Sincerely,

Michael Froio

Holiday Traditions: Story of the Night before Christmas Paintings by PRR employee William W. Seigford Jr.

This time of year, family and friends come together to celebrate the holidays with traditions developed over generations. As a part of our family tradition I have the pleasure to read to my children on Christmas Eve as my father did before, the fabled poem, The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore. First published anonymously in December of 1823, it is now the tradition in many American families to read the poem on Christmas Eve.

The story and illustrations presented here were made in 1953 by Pennsylvania Railroad employee, William W. Seigford Jr. who maintained an office at the Harrisburg Passenger Station. They were displayed in the station during the Christmas season alternating with other decorations for several years until Seigford was transferred to Cincinnati in 1956. The paintings were never displayed in Cincinnati but remained in Seigford’s possession until he retired from Penn Central as General Foreman of Passenger Locomotives and Cars in July of 1974. After retirement he returned to the Lancaster area and subsequently donated the paintings to Amtrak’s Lancaster Passenger Station for display during the Christmas season. Surviving the Pennsylvania Railroad and Penn Central, all 12 original paintings hang proudly in the beautiful 1929 waiting room under the watchful eye of Amtrak employees Richard Peiffer and Donna Whitney, who facilitated the making of these reproductions for future preservation.

I would like to acknowledge Mr. William (Bill) L. Seigford for his help on this post as well as his continued support on the Main Line Project, his knowledge and generosity have been a invaluable resource.

The Lionel Corporation: Model Railroad Icon of the Holiday Season

Page 12-13 of Lionel's 1947 product catalog illustrating the deluxe train sets # 1447WS and 1459WS featuring accessories including the log dump car and working cattle pen. Note the locomotive which is modeled after the PRR's failed S2 steam turbine locomotive, which ironically Lionel produced more of than the Juniata Shops!  Original 1947 catalog collection of the author.

Page 12-13 of Lionel's 1947 product catalog illustrating the deluxe train sets # 1447WS and 1459WS featuring accessories including the log dump car and working cattle pen. Note the locomotive which is modeled after the PRR's failed S2 steam turbine locomotive, which ironically Lionel produced more of than the Juniata Shops!  Original 1947 catalog collection of the author.

With modest beginnings Joshua Lionel Cowen and Harry C. Grant founded the Lionel Corporation in 1900, building model trains for retail window displays to help draw consumers to their stores. In 1906 the company responded to the increasing demand for the electric trains in the consumer market and developed its trademark three-rail “standard gage” track to simplify wiring and use of accessories.  By 1915 Lionel would supplement the large standard gage with the budget minded O scale which would later become the standard size of their product lines. Lionel’s use of sharp advertising was ultimately responsible for tying model trains to Christmas, making them popular presents during the holidays, establishing traditions that survive today.  By WWI Lionel was one of three major US manufactures of toy trains, surpassing competitor Ives as the market leader by the 1920’s. Lionel’s growth and aggressive ad campaigns further led to Ives' bankruptcy in 1928.

Lionel 027 gage locomotives and tenders! No Lionel layout was complete with extra motive power, this includes many Pennsy inspired locomotives lettered in both the classic Lionel Lines and PRR. Original 1947 catalog collection of the author. 

Lionel 027 gage locomotives and tenders! No Lionel layout was complete with extra motive power, this includes many Pennsy inspired locomotives lettered in both the classic Lionel Lines and PRR. Original 1947 catalog collection of the author. 

Like many other companies, the Great Depression would be a severe detriment to Lionel’s business, as a result their 1927 operating profit of over $500,000 plummeted to $82,000 in 1930, and ultimately a loss in 1931 of over $200,000 putting Lionel into receivership by May of 1934. A product credited with saving Lionel during the Depression era was a wind up hand car featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse which Lionel sold well over 250,00 units providing the cash flow to keep the company from closing.

"From the Ranch Lands and Dairy Country!" Lionel was well known for there operating accessories including the Cattle Car and Milk cars both which were accompanied by track side platforms for loading and unloading. Original 1947 catalog collection of the author.

"From the Ranch Lands and Dairy Country!" Lionel was well known for there operating accessories including the Cattle Car and Milk cars both which were accompanied by track side platforms for loading and unloading. Original 1947 catalog collection of the author.

In 1942 Lionel ceased toy production to produce items for the United States Navy during World War II. Regardless of the lack of toy train production, the advertising department pushed heavily to urge American teenagers to start planning their post-war layouts. By late 1945 Lionel resumed production, replacing their original product lines with more realistic trains and accessories exclusively in O Scale. Considered by many aficionados as the golden years, 1946-1956 saw sales soaring with new items including the famous Santa Fe Warbonnet EMD F3 locomotives as well as the Pennsylvania Railroad GGI and experimental S2 steam turbine locomotive. During the 1950s Lionel would tout its short-lived title of largest toy manufacturer, out selling American Flyer almost 2:1. After 1955 sales declined steadily with the rising popularity of the smaller but more realistic HO Scale and to many the end of the true “Lionel era” was in 1959. Over the years Lionel was diversified unsuccessfully and the name survived in different ways including retail toy outlet Lionel Kiddy City. Today the Lionel name remains the most famous name in model trains, though not associated with the original corporation, Lionel LLC owns most of the product rights and trademarks continuing the legacy started by American businessmen Joshua Lionel and Harry Grant well over 100 years ago.

Holiday Travel: A vintage add from the Pennsylvania Railroad

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Merry Christmas!

Lancaster. 007

Through all the shopping and holiday travel the railroads have done their job delivering the goods and people safely to destinations around the country. While people celebrate the season countless employees stand guard to keep the railroads running. During a moment between trains the historic Lancaster, Pennsylvania train station stands silent during the lull waiting to serve passengers who will return again soon.

From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Web_Froio.SFbranchWe find ourselves amidst the fresh snow fall in Cambria County, Pennsylvania along the South Fork Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Following the valley of the southern branch of the Conemaugh River the line dissects the former dam that caused the 1889 Johnstown Flood to reach various coal mines along the way. 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  the “Standard Railroad of the World”. Thank you for all you interest as I move into my third year of writing this blog! From my family to yours I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New year!

Sincerely,

Michael Froio

Classic Christmas Spirit from the Standard Railroad of the World!

In the spirit of Christmas, here are a few festive ads from the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad! Merry Christmas!

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PRR

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.

Industry Along The Line

Former Milling Complex of the Wheatena Company, ConAgra and finally Homestat Farms Ltd located off Second Street in Highspire Pennsylvania. The facility straddles Jury St, in this view looking West. To the right (North) is the milling buildings and offices, the left (South) are the storage silos. The dwellings in the background are typical of the area, resembling company homes from the nearby former Bethlehem Steel Steelton Plant. If one looks carefully there is a former Chessie Covered hopper tucked away to the left of the grade crossing in the center foreground.

Former Milling Complex of the Wheatena Company, ConAgra and finally Homestat Farms Ltd located off Second Street in Highspire Pennsylvania. The facility straddles Jury St, in this view looking West. To the right (North) is the milling buildings and offices, the left (South) are the storage silos. The dwellings in the background are typical of the area, resembling company homes from the nearby former Bethlehem Steel Steelton Plant. If one looks carefully there is a former Chessie Covered hopper tucked away to the left of the grade crossing in the center foreground.

Picture 6

While most imagine massive industry along the former PRR mainline, there was significant carload business scattered along the system, whether accessed by running tracks along the main, branch lines, or industrial tracks, these small businesses are something that the Company relied on to generate revenue. Take this Milling Complex for example, we are located on what the 1945 edition of a PRR CT1000 refers to as the the Wheatena Corp. Number 1 and#2 sidings on the Old Line in Highspire Pennsylvania at milepost 186. The Wheatena Corporation, dates back to 1879, when a New York City baker began roasting whole wheat and packaging it as a cereal called Wheatena. While the product was manufactured at a Modern plant in Rahway NJ through the better half of the 20th Century, the raw wheat came from this particular location. By the 1960's, The Ulhman Company's subsidiary, Standard Milling Company purchased Whetena and the Highspire Flour Mill, moving the cereal manufacturing to the Highspire Plant almost immediately in October of 1967. Production continued into the 21st Century under later lessees and owners International Home Foods, ConAgra,  and finally, William Stadtlander's Homestat Farm Limited who currently owns the Wheatena royalties and product line.  As of the purchase in 2001, Wheatena products were still manufactured in Highspire and was still served by Norfolk Southern Corp, however during a recent visit, the mill looks inactive, but it is unclear for how long the facility has been shut down.

Ohio River Connecting Bridge

View of Ohio River Connecting Bridge from California Ave in Woods Run Section of Pittsburgh on the North Bank of the Ohio River. Note the diverging trestle,the left leading to Island Ave Yard and right to the Fort Wayne Line. The Mainline is just visible below Ohio River Boulevard in the foreground. The first large through span crosses the Main Channel and measures 508' while the further spans the Back Channel and measures 406', all maintaining a clearance of 68' to the Ohio River below. 

View of Ohio River Connecting Bridge from California Ave in Woods Run Section of Pittsburgh on the North Bank of the Ohio River. Note the diverging trestle,the left leading to Island Ave Yard and right to the Fort Wayne Line. The Mainline is just visible below Ohio River Boulevard in the foreground. The first large through span crosses the Main Channel and measures 508' while the further spans the Back Channel and measures 406', all maintaining a clearance of 68' to the Ohio River below. 

Moving to the Western Limits of Pittsburgh from Wilmerding, we come to a key location on the PRR Eastern Division Mainline. Three miles from the Pittsburgh Division boundary and  Penn Station proper, the Ohio River Connecting Bridge served as the western end to a freight bypass early on routing trains around the congested Pennsy terminal in Pittsburgh by means of the Port Perry Branch from Pitcairn Yard, the Monongahela Line and the Ohio Connecting Bridge to rejoin the Fort Wayne Mainline.

OCBridge

On the South bank of the Ohio River, a "branch" came West from the junction of the Monongahela Line and Panhandle Main across from the City Center, through a complicated junction, the Scully Branch made connection with OC Bridge at Esplen Interlocking. From here the East leg of a Wye directs traffic to the Fort Wayne line accross the OC, and the West Leg moves traffic from the the Fort Wayne to the Panhandle via the Scully Branch connection in Carnegie PA. On the North side of the bridge, a fly-over junction with the Fort Wayne Line ties the East leg of the Wye into Island Ave Yard, the Mainline East, and the Conemaugh Line via Federal St. On the West leg the Panhandle makes a long descent to Jacks Run interlocking (later renamed CP Bell in Conrail's CTC project) allowing bi-directional access for diverting traffic around the City Center.

The bridge itself deserves some attention, originally being built in 1890 as the single track Ohio Connecting Railroad Bridge, after completion and several years of service, the key structure proved worthy of expansion. Started in 1913 and completed in 1915 construction took place in full Pennsy fashion. Engineers expanded the structure from single to double track, literally at times around the existing structure to avoid shutting the connection down causing major delays to rail traffic. Once completed the new bridge complimented several other projects, mainly the Brilliant Branch to add another bypass for traffic to and from  the Panhandle around the station area, onto the Conemaugh Line, then back to the Main in East Liberty via the new 1.8 mile four tracked Brilliant Branch.

Unlike the Panhandle Mainline and the Brilliant Branch, the OC Bridge still serves the busy Mon Line bypass for Norfolk Southern, moving long intermodal and heavy mineral traffic around the City Center, a testament to the construction and forward thinking of engineering staff who built the Standard Railroad of the World.

PRR in the Turtle Creek Valley

View looking East from Greensburg Avenue. Note the former Westinghouse manufacturing buildings opposite the mainline along Turtle Creek. The home signals at the curve belong to former WG Interlocking, the location of a full interlocking, departure and arrival tracks from the west side of Pitcairn Yard, and divergence of the Port Perry Line to Duquesne, and connection to the Monongahela Line. Today this is Norfolk Southern's Pittsburgh Line, and though greatly simplified both the Main and Port Perry Branch serve as a vital artery to both merchandise, intermodal and mineral traffic through the area.

View looking East from Greensburg Avenue. Note the former Westinghouse manufacturing buildings opposite the mainline along Turtle Creek. The home signals at the curve belong to former WG Interlocking, the location of a full interlocking, departure and arrival tracks from the west side of Pitcairn Yard, and divergence of the Port Perry Line to Duquesne, and connection to the Monongahela Line. Today this is Norfolk Southern's Pittsburgh Line, and though greatly simplified both the Main and Port Perry Branch serve as a vital artery to both merchandise, intermodal and mineral traffic through the area.

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.

Rockville Bridge

Susquehanna River and Rockville Bridge, looking East. Marysville Pennsylvania

Susquehanna River and Rockville Bridge, looking East. Marysville Pennsylvania

Teller_Rockville

Opened in 1902 under the direction of Chief Engineer William H Brown, the Rockville Bridge is the longest masonry arch railroad viaduct in the world. Built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the 3820' long span is made of 48 seventy foot spans over the Susquehanna River, connecting the PRR Harrisburg Terminal and Buffalo Line with the Mainline West, and connection to the sprawling Enola Yard complex through a complex junction in Marysville PA. This area of the PRR was the Eastern Hub of lines coming from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Buffalo, and Hagerstown, creating a westward funnel, concentrating mainline traffic to Pittsburgh and points west.

While the terminal deserves more in depth coverage, the Rockville Bridge and supporting approaches particularly on the West Bank in Marysville, represent the forward thinking of PRR engineers in designing and managing traffic flow of passenger, thru freight and terminating/ originating freight without interference and delay.

Today this bridge faithfully serves the Norfolk Southern Corporation seeing heavy freight traffic and a round trip of daily Amtrak NYC-Pittsburgh service trains. While the track layout has been altered over the years, changing from the original 4 track system, to three, to the current two track layout, the bridge's appearance is still just as impressive as Griff Teller's "1949 Main Lines-Passenger and Freight" commissioned  for PRR advertising purposes. Located on the West side, in Marysville, is a personal favorite location, to view the traffic crossing the mile wide river. Like many, I never seem to get enough of this impressive structure, another historic piece of the Standard Railroad of the World!

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.

Penn Coach Yard Power House: Lost Facilities of the PRR

View of powerhouse and neighboring coach yard facilities prior to demolition.

View of powerhouse and neighboring coach yard facilities prior to demolition.

View of powerhouse and neighboring coach yard facilities prior to demolition. On November 15th, 2009, the 425 foot tall chimney of the Penn Coach Yard Power Plant, built for the former Pennsylvania Railroad, was demolished after standing prominently on the West Bank of the Schuylkill River since the late 1920's. It was part of a power plant constructed to provide steam and power for the massive coach yard and roundhouse complex that was part of the massive Philadelphia Improvements Project taken on by the Railroad and City Planners to redevelop Center City,  phasing out Broad Street Station and introducing Pennsylvania Station for through passenger service connections.

Designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White and constructed in 1929, the facility was built to accompany Pennsylvania Station which was also built by the same firm. The structure was similar in design without some of the more elaborate details that the beautiful station still shows today.

The power plant was used into the 1960's until decommissioned and for many years, was left neglected and vacant as the building changed hands from the PRR to the ill fated Penn Central Merger, development of Amtrak and later South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa).

Several discussions surfaced over the years to redevelop the facility as a condominium and mixed residential district, keeping the historic building as a centerpiece of the new project. Unfortunately, after many ideas and proposals, it was decided to bring down the building for what Amtrak considered a security risk among other concerns. Sadly what will take the building's place will be a parking and storage facility for the local Amtrak maintenance of way base, located between Septa's Powelton Ave Coach Yard, the elevated freight bypass know as the Highline, and Amtrak's Penn Coach Yards.

In the early hours of Sunday November the 15th, many came out to watch the massive stack be "dropped" to the south onto the neighboring Pullman Commissary another historic structure that fell victim during this project. Over the following weeks the remaining power house was taken down with heavy equipment and a wrecking ball forever removing a piece of railroad and industrial history from Philadelphia's skyline!

In the company of former PRR Silverliner cars, we see the remaining moments of the unofficial "Drexel Shaft" as it drops to its final resting place.

In the company of former PRR Silverliner cars, we see the remaining moments of the unofficial "Drexel Shaft" as it drops to its final resting place.

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.

Mifflin Depot

mifflintowndepot

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.

Classic Christmas Spirit Railroad style!

In the spirit of Christmas, here are a few festive ads from railroads past celebrating the season! 

Farm Journal, 1948.

Farm Journal, 1948.

New York Times Magazine 1953.

New York Times Magazine 1953.

Saturday Evening Post 1949.

Saturday Evening Post 1949.

All Images are courtesy of the Duke University Library Collection

Downingtown

The Downingtown Station area as it appears today is one of the Stops of both the SEPTA regional Thorndale trains and Amtrak Keystone Service.

The Downingtown Station area as it appears today is one of the Stops of both the SEPTA regional Thorndale trains and Amtrak Keystone Service.

Having both the PRR Mainline and the Philadelphia and Trenton Branch also known as the Trenton Cut-off approaching the junction of Thorndale, Downingtown had significance for the PRR. The Interlocking "Down" was the Eastern end of of three interlockings including the Junction with the New Holland Branch and Chester Valley Yard. Further West at "Thorn" block and interlocking station, the junction of the Mainline and P&T Branch and "Caln" the Western Limits of the small yard facility, a one time Coaling Station and Junction of the P&T. The Downingtown area provided many car loadings with textile mills, manufacturing as and quarry activity in the area. The train station located along West Lancaster Ave is now a simple affair, the original being destroyed by fire in 1992. With few signs of it's former owner, the Station area still presents some references to the past when one looks across the tracks at businesses and historic buildings on the North Side of Lancaster Ave, some dating back to the early  1900's.