Photographs & History

Photographs and History

Lancaster County | Main Line Tour Recap

Greetings! As we wind down from Summer and enjoy the Fall like weather that seemed to come a month early in the Northeast, I wanted to take a moment to play catch up on a few things as I prepare to release some new content on the Main Line tour of the former Pennsylvania Railroad. We left off in southeastern Lancaster County chronicling the Main Line and Atglen & Susquehanna Branch as they approach the Chester County line along the South Valley Hills. Before I get started on new content, I figured it might be fun to put together a post recapping some of the articles that lead up the current position in the series since they have spread out over two years! 


On the Main Line

Looking west into Eby's curve the railroad traverses a fill across the timeless Amish farmland as it enters the Pequea Valley. The curve used to host four main tracks like much of the main line, but much of the heavy tonnage would be diverted away from this segment after the  Atglen & Susquehanna branch opened in 1906. 

Looking west into Eby's curve the railroad traverses a fill across the timeless Amish farmland as it enters the Pequea Valley. The curve used to host four main tracks like much of the main line, but much of the heavy tonnage would be diverted away from this segment after the  Atglen & Susquehanna branch opened in 1906. 

Crossing Mine Ridge | Passing through the pastoral Lancaster County landscape the eastbound ascent of Mine Ridge takes the PRR mainline around a series of reverse curves that carry the railroad over the 560’ summit dividing the Pequea and Chester Valleys. Gap, a quaint community whose history dates back to when William Penn visited the area late in the 1600’s is located at the crossroads of the Philadelphia & Lancaster Turnpike and the Newport Turnpike.


Typical views between Lancaster and Lehman Place Junction include simple frame buildings and unspoiled views of the rich agricultural landscape inhabited by the Amish and Mennonites.

Typical views between Lancaster and Lehman Place Junction include simple frame buildings and unspoiled views of the rich agricultural landscape inhabited by the Amish and Mennonites.


God's Country | The PRR in Eastern Lancaster County - Leaving the city of Lancaster behind, the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad snakes its way through small hamlets like Bird in Hand, Ronks, Gordonville, Leaman Place Junction and Kinzer arcing gently through the heart of central eastern Lancaster County. Known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, this area is home to a large population of Amish and Mennonite farmers offering a unique contrast between modern living and the simple life these people traditionally live.


The western end of the Downingtown & Lancaster Branch joined the PRR Main Line just east of the Conestoga River bridge. This undated view of ES tower with its classic wood frame structure looks east on the main line where it collapses from four to two tracks to cross the Conestoga. Left and behind the tower you can see the diverging route of the D&L. Image is from the collection of the Lancaster History Archive

The western end of the Downingtown & Lancaster Branch joined the PRR Main Line just east of the Conestoga River bridge. This undated view of ES tower with its classic wood frame structure looks east on the main line where it collapses from four to two tracks to cross the Conestoga. Left and behind the tower you can see the diverging route of the D&L. Image is from the collection of the Lancaster History Archive

The Downingtown & Lancaster Branch | On Philadelphia Division, we take a diverging path from the Main Line and Low Grade as we leave the Lancaster area to explore the former Downingtown & Lancaster Railroad, an interesting branch line operation that may have been the result of early efforts to expand the PRR soon after its charter. 


In a beautiful image by William H. Rau, we see the Conestoga River bridge, one of Brown's first stone bridges. Utilizing the figure and boat as a device for scale in the foreground Rau is looking south, as noted by the finished facade of the bridge. To the left out of view is the Lancaster Water Works which still survives today. Photograph collection American Premier Underwriters, Inc.

In a beautiful image by William H. Rau, we see the Conestoga River bridge, one of Brown's first stone bridges. Utilizing the figure and boat as a device for scale in the foreground Rau is looking south, as noted by the finished facade of the bridge. To the left out of view is the Lancaster Water Works which still survives today. Photograph collection American Premier Underwriters, Inc.

William H Brown: The Tale Of Two Bridges In 1881 a rising figure in the Pennsylvania Railroad by the name of William H. Brown was promoted to chief engineer. At 45 years old the Lancaster County native had 31 years under his belt working his way from a rod man on a survey crew in 1850 to the top of one of the most ambitious engineering departments in the railroad world. Brown had a reputation for knowing every grade, curve, and crossing on the PRR. As the chief engineer, his tenure was likely one of the most notable in the transformation of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s physical plant.


As built the Lancaster Cut-Off was intended to bypass traffic not serving the City of Lancaster; the route is the sole surviving main line for Amtrak and Norfolk Southern operations based out of Dillerville. On the east end of the Cut-Off, the grade of the Old Line is visible at former CG interlocking where the two lines split. (L) In the brush to the left, you can make out the diverging path of the Old Main in the gap in the trees. (R) The broad area around the railroad looking east is where the Old Line connected to the Cut-Off and Main Line east. Just out of view is the Conestoga River Bridge.

As built the Lancaster Cut-Off was intended to bypass traffic not serving the City of Lancaster; the route is the sole surviving main line for Amtrak and Norfolk Southern operations based out of Dillerville. On the east end of the Cut-Off, the grade of the Old Line is visible at former CG interlocking where the two lines split. (L) In the brush to the left, you can make out the diverging path of the Old Main in the gap in the trees. (R) The broad area around the railroad looking east is where the Old Line connected to the Cut-Off and Main Line east. Just out of view is the Conestoga River Bridge.

New Line: PRR's Lancaster Cut-Off | Opening in 1883 the Lancaster Cut-Off was part of a series of main line improvements to eliminate excessive grades, traffic congestion and operational issues associated with the original main line through downtown Lancaster. Under the direction of chief engineer William H. Brown a two-track bypass running along the city’s north side was constructed between Dillerville and an interlocking named CG where it joined the existing main line just west of the Conestoga River.


The Atglen & Susquehanna Branch

This 1906 view shows the wood frame tower at Quarryville (Milepost 10.8), the first interlocking tower west of Parkesburg. "Q" had control over the two main tracks and four additional sidings to manage helper movements assisting trains to Mars Hill Summit. Additionally, four water columns were available to top off steam locomotive tenders on their journey east or west. Image collection of William L. Seigford

This 1906 view shows the wood frame tower at Quarryville (Milepost 10.8), the first interlocking tower west of Parkesburg. "Q" had control over the two main tracks and four additional sidings to manage helper movements assisting trains to Mars Hill Summit. Additionally, four water columns were available to top off steam locomotive tenders on their journey east or west. Image collection of William L. Seigford

Managing The Line: Communications On The A&S | Running over 53 miles in length the PRR's Atglen & Susquehanna Branch was a shining example of modern railway construction, running across rolling countryside and up the Susquehanna River on a gentle gradient. Fittingly for such a contemporary piece of railroad engineering, another advancement of modern times accompanied the line: the telephone.


Quarryville Station, view before the Lancaster Oxford & Southern abandonment in 1917. Note the dual gauge trackage in the foreground, an area shared by the LO&S and the PRR. Image Walter G. Minnich Jr. collection, Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

Quarryville Station, view before the Lancaster Oxford & Southern abandonment in 1917. Note the dual gauge trackage in the foreground, an area shared by the LO&S and the PRR. Image Walter G. Minnich Jr. collection, Southern Lancaster County Historical Society

Quarryville: 19th Century Railroading With Big Aspirations | Quarryville has always been a crossroad of activity in the fertile farmlands of Southern Lancaster County. Farmers purchased lumber, grain, and fertilizer here and reciprocally exchanged their bounties in town and beyond via the local county railroad, a lifeline to the outside world. Commonly known as the Quarryville Branch this rail line had an interesting early history that started with big hopes and ended with financial disaster.


This cut excavated on the Manor Township section of the Atglen and Susquehanna illustrates the massive scope of ongoing work. The temporary narrow gauge track used to haul some of the 1.3 million cubic yards of debris is evident in the cut complete with a steam shovel at lower right, one of the key pieces of equipment for such work. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Columbia Historic Preservation Society

This cut excavated on the Manor Township section of the Atglen and Susquehanna illustrates the massive scope of ongoing work. The temporary narrow gauge track used to haul some of the 1.3 million cubic yards of debris is evident in the cut complete with a steam shovel at lower right, one of the key pieces of equipment for such work. Harry P. Stoner photograph, Columbia Historic Preservation Society

The Engineer And The Contractor | BY 1903 William H. Brown, the man who earned the nickname the stone man for his preference of masonry bridge construction was winding down a rewarding 44-year career with the Pennsylvania Railroad, 32 of which he served as Chief Engineer. Brown's tenure was part of an era that was arguably one of the most transformative times for the PRR's infrastructure and right of way. His role in the construction of the Low Grade, especially the Atglen & Susquehanna segment would be his last major project before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.


An excavation crew pauses with a rail mounted steam shovel that appears to be down for repairs. Steam shovels and air powered drills were initially utilized to excavate the right of way in Manor township as well as the deep cuts along the line to the east. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

An excavation crew pauses with a rail mounted steam shovel that appears to be down for repairs. Steam shovels and air powered drills were initially utilized to excavate the right of way in Manor township as well as the deep cuts along the line to the east. Kline Collection, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, PMHC

The Cost Of Labor: Constructing The A&S | Today when you walk along the path of the former Atglen & Susquehanna Low Grade it is a very peaceful experience. There’s no shortage of lush foliage shrouding rock cuts blasted out of the rolling hills, the elevated fills and stone masonry look they were there since the beginning of time, and the railroad itself is long gone. Today it is hard to fathom the purpose of such a resource and even more challenging to imagine the human struggle that was involved in creating such a line.


View looking south from the Martic Forge Trestle reveals the rugged terrain the PRR had to contend with when creating the Low Grade, cutting through hills and spanning valleys to maintain an acceptable ruling grade for moving high volumes of heavy freight. 

View looking south from the Martic Forge Trestle reveals the rugged terrain the PRR had to contend with when creating the Low Grade, cutting through hills and spanning valleys to maintain an acceptable ruling grade for moving high volumes of heavy freight. 

Revisiting The Atglen & Susquehanna | Returning to the Atglen & Susquehanna Branch, part of the PRR’s Low Grade freight network we pick up from Shenk’s Ferry where the line pulls away from the Susquehanna River to cross southern Lancaster County. From the high fill above the river the A&S makes a hard turn east to face the first formidable obstacle; crossing the switch back divide between Martic and Conestoga Townships in the rugged Pequea Valley.

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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Summer Break

As summer begins I have taken a few weeks to look back at the first half of the year, and for the first time was able to take a breath. So far 2013 has been a year of considerable progress for my project documenting the Pennsylvania Railroad. With four lectures, six photographic site visits, an article published online with Trains Magazine, a new website and over 20 blog posts I have come to a point where a little break is in order.

My work isn't just centered around the Pennsylvania Railroad, it also explores places of natural beauty and of a historic nature. The summer is often a relaxed time when I venture out with my family to explore new places and revisit old favorites, sometimes to make photos, but more often just to share the diverse history and landscape with the kids.  Delaware River at Washington's Crossing, Pennsylvania. 

My work isn't just centered around the Pennsylvania Railroad, it also explores places of natural beauty and of a historic nature. The summer is often a relaxed time when I venture out with my family to explore new places and revisit old favorites, sometimes to make photos, but more often just to share the diverse history and landscape with the kids.Delaware River at Washington's Crossing, Pennsylvania. 

I look forward to time with my family and will regroup with my research and writing in a month or so. In the fall you can expect some exciting opportunities, more lectures and maybe even an exhibition in the Philadelphia area, but more on that later! For now I hope you all enjoy a wonderful and rejuvenating summer season, whether you’re out making art, exploring new places, or just spending time close to home with family. I will be staying in touch on a relaxed schedule this summer and look forward to sharing more in the future.

Thank you for your time and continued support!

Warm regards,

Michael Froio

News and Updates for Winter 2013

Dear Friends, Happy New Year! I trust that you all had a wonderful and restful holiday and have settled into the New Year. Finishing out the last quarter of 2012 proved incredibly productive for the Main Line Project. While continuing work with many wonderful people at Amtrak for a second year I have begun building new relationships, with noted preservationist Bennett Levin and Eric Levin of Conrail Shared Assets opening many new opportunities. In addition, the release of the NRHS Bulletin article on the Main Line Project and the invitation to present lectures for several events ended 2012 with a promising start to the New Year.

Park. 001
Park. 001

In 2013 we will continue the tour of the Pennsylvania Railroad, focusing on the Philadelphia Division’s fabled Low Grade route east from Columbia, Pennsylvania as well as the main line from Royalton to Philadelphia. With new content and added historical imagery you can expect a more rounded look at the history and current operations of this important division of the PRR. I have already started making new images this year continuing documentation of the extensive infrastructure along the Main Line to finish out the Harrisburg – Philadelphia segment and expand upon my work in the Philadelphia Terminal and New York Divisions for future posts.

In addition to research, writing and photography, this year marks an exciting chapter for the project with the opportunity to present my imagery and research in three lectures scheduled for the winter and early spring. See below for details on these upcoming events!

From the Main Line: Exploring the former Pennsylvania Railroad today.

January 28th, 2013 7:30 PM

Though modern imagery inspired by railroad photographer William H Rau, the presentation will explore the unique landscape and vernacular associated with the Standard Railroad of the World.

West Jersey Chapter, National Railway Historical Society

625 Station Avenue, Haddon Heights NJ 08035

Understanding the Pennsylvania Railroad: Contemporary photographs in response to the historic works of William H Rau.

March 7th, 2013

This lecture will look directly at W.H. Rau’s photographs of the Pennsylvania Railroad made in the 1890's exploring their impact on the Main Line Project to understand the importance of dialog between the historic and contemporary photographer. Details to follow.

The Library Company of Philadelphia

1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Conversation on Photography Annual Conference

April 12th – 14th, 2013

The Center for Railroad Photography and Art hosts this annual conference. The Center has become America’s foremost organization for interpreting the intersection of railroad art and culture with America’s history and culture.

I will discuss the ongoing photographic project (2007- present) From the Main Line, exploring the transitioning landscape along the Pennsylvania Railroad from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh highlighting the unique vernacular of facilities and infrastructure built by the former Standard Railroad of the World. Details to follow.

Lake Forest College, 555 North Sheridan Road, Lake Forrest, IL 60045

I look forward to sharing another year of history and stories from the great Pennsylvania Railroad. I encourage you all to stay in touch and please feel free to share your stories and experiences with the railroad. I am only one person in the fraternity of countless historians and enthusiasts of our railroad heritage; it is exciting for me to understand a railroad that I never had the good fortune to experience though the oral histories and photographs of others!

As always, thank you for your time and support!

Sincerely,

Michael Froio

Harrisburg Passenger Station

Front elevation drawing of the Harrisburg Train Station.   (below) Detail drawings of the fireplace and floor tile work. Drawings collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service drawn by Harry Weese & Associates  .

Front elevation drawing of the Harrisburg Train Station. (below) Detail drawings of the fireplace and floor tile work. Drawings collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service drawn by Harry Weese & Associates.

Harrisburg was at the crossroads of the eastern system, and the largest city on the PRR between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. From the east passenger trains originated from Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore and Washington DC, from the west traffic came via Buffalo and Pittsburgh gateways to the North, South and West.

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The surviving passenger station, built between 1885-87 is the third such built by the PRR in the general area between Mulberry and Market Streets. Constructed of brick and stone, the Queen Anne style station was altered several times during the early 20th Century and featured details like facing granite and brick fireplaces in the main waiting room, coffered ceilings, wood paneling and intricate mosaic tile floor patterns. After a destructive fire in 1904, the station was completely remodeled restoring the unique gambrel roof while converting the attic space into a third floor for offices adding the eight dormers on the front (east) elevation. A major addition to facilitate the electrification to Harrisburg in 1936-37 added a two story, three bay extensions on the south end of the building to accommodate the new Power Dispatcher’s facility and State Interlocking.

Train shed interior looking east. Notice the intricate iron work on the stair railings and trusses. The active center platform has been elevated to accommodate Amtrak/ ADA compliance needs but the remaining low level platforms are still traditional herringbone brick with stone curbs. This shed is one of few remaining examples of a style of station that was once commonplace in America.

Train shed interior looking east. Notice the intricate iron work on the stair railings and trusses. The active center platform has been elevated to accommodate Amtrak/ ADA compliance needs but the remaining low level platforms are still traditional herringbone brick with stone curbs. This shed is one of few remaining examples of a style of station that was once commonplace in America.

The surviving train sheds behind and to the east of the station were of even greater significance. When constructed they were considered some of the largest of its time, utilizing historic Fink trusses constructed of wood and iron to support the roof. The twin station sheds were extended at various times and measure roughly 540 feet in length providing shelter to 8 of the 10 station tracks maintained in the busy terminal.

View from photographer Harlen Hambright, taken during the 1981 HAER survey. Survey caption reads "View, looking north (railroad west) under shed from concourse, showing exposed truss after shed roofing was removed." Collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service.

View from photographer Harlen Hambright, taken during the 1981 HAER survey. Survey caption reads "View, looking north (railroad west) under shed from concourse, showing exposed truss after shed roofing was removed." Collection of the Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service.

Current view of the south (railroad east) end of the station bound by the Mulberry Street Viaduct itself a beautiful curved concrete arch bridge. The track curving off from the bottom right is Norfolk Southern's connection with the former Reading Company Lebanon Branch, now part of the busy Harrisburg Line. The track immediately behind that and parallel to the station is the Royalton Branch which provides freight an alternate route off the Port Road via Shocks Mill, running alongside Amtrak's Keystone Line west of Roy Interlocking.

Current view of the south (railroad east) end of the station bound by the Mulberry Street Viaduct itself a beautiful curved concrete arch bridge. The track curving off from the bottom right is Norfolk Southern's connection with the former Reading Company Lebanon Branch, now part of the busy Harrisburg Line. The track immediately behind that and parallel to the station is the Royalton Branch which provides freight an alternate route off the Port Road via Shocks Mill, running alongside Amtrak's Keystone Line west of Roy Interlocking.

Today the passenger terminal and sheds survive and are on the National Register of Historic Places and are also designated as a National Engineering Landmark. Known as the Harrisburg Transportation Center, the building serves both bus lines and Amtrak, where the Keystone Service from Philadelphia and New York Terminates, and the daily New York – Pittsburgh Pennsylvanian calls in each direction. While passenger train service is a mere ghost of what it used to be, the historic building survives as a monument of what rail travel used to be for future generations.

Situated on the former #5 Station track, PRR class GG-1# #4859 resides as part of a permanent display owned and maintained by the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, also accompanied by a class N6b PRR Cabin Car (caboose to non-PRR people). The 4859 is of particular significance to Harrisburg as it hauled the first scheduled electric powered passenger train into the station in 1938. The locomotive was part of a fleet of 140 locomotives built by both the PRR in Altoona and General Electric, the ubiquitous G,  was the workhorse of both the limiteds, regional and local passenger/ mail trains as well as freight on the PRR. The last operational  GG-1 ran in October of 1983 and 16 survive around the US as static displays.

Situated on the former #5 Station track, PRR class GG-1# #4859 resides as part of a permanent display owned and maintained by the Harrisburg Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, also accompanied by a class N6b PRR Cabin Car (caboose to non-PRR people). The 4859 is of particular significance to Harrisburg as it hauled the first scheduled electric powered passenger train into the station in 1938. The locomotive was part of a fleet of 140 locomotives built by both the PRR in Altoona and General Electric, the ubiquitous G,  was the workhorse of both the limiteds, regional and local passenger/ mail trains as well as freight on the PRR. The last operational  GG-1 ran in October of 1983 and 16 survive around the US as static displays.

Mainline Model for Historic Preservation: Harris Tower

Harris Tower avoided a fate most towers ultimately succumbed to after being decommissioned. Today as a result of dedicated volunteers from the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS, the 1930 built switch tower functions as a unique museum experience, providing visitors with a hands on understanding of tower operations and traffic management in golden age of railroading.

Harris Tower avoided a fate most towers ultimately succumbed to after being decommissioned. Today as a result of dedicated volunteers from the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS, the 1930 built switch tower functions as a unique museum experience, providing visitors with a hands on understanding of tower operations and traffic management in golden age of railroading.

In 1991 when Harris’s remaining functions were transferred over to State Tower, the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS realized the significance of this building and set out to preserve the facility in place. The initial state of affairs in the old tower was pretty sad: damaged windows, a dated electrical systems, leaky roof, a defunct heating system and an interlocking machine and board that was in rough shape made just stabilizing the building a monumental task. Under the direction of Fred Wertz former Chapter President, countless volunteer hours from members of the Harrisburg Chapter (see the complete honor roll below) were logged to bring the structure back to its original as built appearance. As work progressed on the building itself, volunteers Dan Rapak and Jeff Vinton worked to restore the Union Switch and Signal interlocking machine and its accompanying model board. Rapak and Vinton worked to free the seized electro-mechanical levers while John Smith took on the restoration of the model board. A computer-controlled system was developed to operate the magnets on the interlocking machine allowing the levers and locks on the unit to once again function properly. The concept of running virtual trains was developed to make the interlocking machine a hands on exhibit which, by way of computer simulation, a given visitor can direct trains through the “interlocking” during a typical 1943 shift. The block lines, phones, teletype and indicator bell all work as if a neighboring tower was relaying train info, complete with scripts developed and read by former tower operators, announce oncoming trains as was done in typical tower operations. The Harris Tower museum is a one of kind experience for the historian, train buff and curious observer alike. Where else can you go and have a hands on history lesson on how to manage trains and control traffic in what was one of the busier towers on the PRR system?

Detail of the restored interlocking machine and interior of Harris Tower. The operator and train director's desk in the foreground features a restored lamp and key control panel that provided the tower communications with dispatchers, line-side phone boxes and other interlocking towers. In the rear is the carefully restored Union Switch and Signal Model 14 Interlocking Machine and Model Board, the device by which switches and signals were controlled to route trains through the busy Harrisburg Station. Note the complexity of the track work through this junction, which was needed to route the many passenger and freight trains in addition to the countless light engine and switch moves that took place during the height of the PRR era.

Detail of the restored interlocking machine and interior of Harris Tower. The operator and train director's desk in the foreground features a restored lamp and key control panel that provided the tower communications with dispatchers, line-side phone boxes and other interlocking towers. In the rear is the carefully restored Union Switch and Signal Model 14 Interlocking Machine and Model Board, the device by which switches and signals were controlled to route trains through the busy Harrisburg Station. Note the complexity of the track work through this junction, which was needed to route the many passenger and freight trains in addition to the countless light engine and switch moves that took place during the height of the PRR era.

While we visited Harris Tower volunteer William Kcenich provided a great interpretive lesson on operations and the restoration. We were also joined by Chapter member Don Rittler who provided first hand knowledge of operations at Harris from his time as a block operator here. Don Rittler started his career with the Pennsylvania Railroad on October 11th, 1937 as a messenger for the interlocking towers on the PRR Philadelphia Division. The first person to be hired since the 1927 furlough of employees as a result of the Great Depression, Don worked the introductory job spending his days relaying messages and paperwork from tower to tower as needed, gaining a familiarity to the basic operations and chain of command among the many towers on the system.  On December 1st, 1940 Don posted his first position as a block operator and leverman, working the Philadelphia Division extra list, filling in at different towers. Over the years Don worked such posts as Norris, State, Harris, Cork and many others.

Don Rittler who used to work at Harris as both train director and lever man, shared many great stories and insight on the daily operation of a busy tower like Harris. Don worked for the PRR for 42 years enjoying a flawless career and the camaraderie of the many people he worked with. Rittler, now 93 is still as sharp as ever and is never shy about sharing a great story or two about his experiences on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Don Rittler who used to work at Harris as both train director and lever man, shared many great stories and insight on the daily operation of a busy tower like Harris. Don worked for the PRR for 42 years enjoying a flawless career and the camaraderie of the many people he worked with. Rittler, now 93 is still as sharp as ever and is never shy about sharing a great story or two about his experiences on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

In 1944, like many other PRR employees Rittler was summoned to serve his Country in World War II. He would be part of an Army Unit known as the 775th Railway Grand Division, centered in the Pacific Theater during the height of the War. Initially working in the Philippines operating the Manila Railway the 775th would move on to Japan to be the first front if land attacks were made to secure a rail head for military transport inland. As a result of the infamous atomic bombs, their services were not needed for this purpose but they did continue to work keeping the Japanese rail systems functional. Returning to the US a short two years later almost exactly to the day, Rittler returned to work for the PRR holding tower positions as both leverman and eventually train director for State and Harris towers near the Harrisburg Passenger Station.  Rittler, who’s father was a master machinist for the Pennsy in Enola was always fascinated with the railroad, as it was always apart of his life, with many friends, neighbors and family also employed by the PRR.

Don and his wife built a house in New Cumberland near Lemoyne and lived a great life with their daughter Donna, sharing the family like atmosphere and camaraderie of the many railroaders Don worked with on a daily basis. Don continued to work out of the Harrisburg area well into the Penn Central era eventually moving to Conrail after the 1976 consolidation. Amtrak was slowly taking over operations on the Keystone Corridor in the mid 1970’s and Don’s choices of where to work were becoming increasingly limited. Don worked day trick at Lemo Tower, which he described as a welcome break from the busy towers he was accustomed to like Harris, finishing out a spotless 42 year career in railroading in 1979. Since retirement  Don has been very gracious with his time and experience in the towers, helping the NRHS Harrisburg Chapter with the Harris reconstruction and developing the interpretive exhibit. He also on occasion visits with small groups at Harris to provide first hand working knowledge of a craft that has largely disappeared from the railroad landscape.

I wish to thank Don for sharing his time and knowledge during our visit and subsequent phone conversation, for somebody who never experienced the PRR first hand, I feel very lucky to spend time with such a warm and welcoming gentleman. Special thanks to Mr. William Seigford who accompanied us to Harris and helped facilitate our visit, and of course to Mr. Kcenich who took time out of his schedule to accommodate our group from Amtrak and John Bowie Associates. In respect to the many people and countless hours bringing Harris to life again as key museum piece in the interpretive history of railroad operations I  would like to acknowledge NRHS Harrisburg Chapter members and their contributions. A very special congratulations and thanks to everyone, you have raised the bar on historic preservation and interactive exhibits all the while saving a part of the great Pennsylvania Railroad for future generations. Bravo!

Abe Burnette: Secured parts for model board and interlocking machine, including a reproduction machine builder's plate.Ed Burns:  Interior scrapping and painting (walls and ceilings).Richard Crow: Outdoor grounds keepingTerry Gardner:  Floor tile scrapping, cleaning.  Personally purchased and replaced all broken and/or smashed floor tile out of his own pocket. Joseph Heffron: Handled some of the interior painting of window trim and other interior painting.Charles High: Secured jacks and headed the moving of interior racks.Bill Kcenich: Responsible for assigning, training, and scheduling all Chapter members who volunteer as, and are, Harris Tower docents.Matthew Loser: Handled the initial negotiations with Amtrak to secure ownership of Harris Tower for the Harrisburg Chapter, NRHS; also handled the registration process to have Harris placed on the National Register of Historic Places; had a Harris reproduction sign made for the Walnut Street side.Robert Lyter: Responsible for the main front door restoration and maintenance.John Pari: Scrapping, painting of woodwork and window trim.Daniel Rapak: Interlocking machine restoration and development of the simulation systems, restoration of original ceiling lighting fixtures,  all interior electronics, including the securing and installation of the Seth Thomas #2 wall clock reproduction.  restoration of the original dispatcher's desk and accompanying furniture.John Smith: Responsible for model board graphic restoration, the elimination of oil heat and re-installation of city supplied steam heat (as original when Harris was constructed), the removal of  brick chimney (was added when oil heating conversion was done.) and personally involved with exterior renovation, i.e. power washing, new roofing, new gutters and new downspouts.Jeff Vinton: Assisted in restoring the interlocking machine and developing the simulation systems.Fred Wertz: Former Chapter President who has been instrumental since day one, overseeing building management, parts allocations and organizing monthly work sessions.Allen Wolfinger: Responsible for the removal of all interior wiring.Gary Yanko: Responsible for all building electrical upgrades, outdoor lighting, alarm system, and building insulation.

Currently the Harris Tower Museum is open to the public every Saturday from now through the end of October 10 AM-3 PM.  To learn more about the Harrisburg NRHS Chapter and Harris Tower, please visit their website, http://harristower.org/

A Perspective on Photography and Preservation

Seven years after the loss of a Philadelphia Landmark

The Philadelphia Civic Auditorium a it appeared in April of 2005, about a week before I gained access to the demolition site.

The Philadelphia Civic Auditorium a it appeared in April of 2005, about a week before I gained access to the demolition site.

This coming Sunday, June 24th marks the end of a project I was part of in 2005 that completely changed the way I viewed photography. Through a random chain of events I found myself with complete access to the demolition of a Philadelphia landmark, the beautiful art deco building known originally as Municipal Hall. Designed by architect Paul H. Johnson and completed in 1930 the Auditorium was host to four National Political Conventions and notable people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul the II. The auditorium was also utilized for countless musical performances including the Beetles, Jackson Five, Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead while also serving as the original home of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Warriors. In 1967 the opening of the Spectrum sports arena in South Philadelphia made the Auditorium virtually obsolete, and the beautiful building was relegated to a secondary status occasionally utilized for performances or University of Penn and Drexel graduation services. By the mid 1990’s the City could not entice a regular tenant and the facility began fall in neglect. The massive building was expensive to maintain and would see sporadic use as a sound stage for both TV and movie productions. Finally in 2005 the Civic Auditorium would meet its demise to clear way for construction of University of Pennsylvania Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

What was so significant for me was the experience of having essentially three months to roam what was left of the sprawling facility and watch the remains come down piece by piece. Unfettered access to such a grand building allowed me to make countless negatives on an almost daily basis. As time passed and I became more familiar with the space, and it began to feel as if I was spending time with a dying friend, watching what was left slowly disappear. Working constantly, I allowed no time to process the film until much later when the building was so far gone there was almost nothing left to take pictures of. Finally on the 24th of June in 2005, the remaining structure of the stage (east) end was pulled down at dusk.

Final demolition of the Stage (east) end of the building. The demolition company put me in a long reach lift to capture the "pull down" of the remaining structure using a Hasselblad. You can see as the dust cleared the demolition did not go completely as planned leaving a large piece of the east and north wall standing. Crews worked through the night to bring down the remaining structure since it was structurally compromised and unsafe to leave for any amount of time  .  The site was not imploded due to the close proximity of several hospital facilities. 

Final demolition of the Stage (east) end of the building. The demolition company put me in a long reach lift to capture the "pull down" of the remaining structure using a Hasselblad. You can see as the dust cleared the demolition did not go completely as planned leaving a large piece of the east and north wall standing. Crews worked through the night to bring down the remaining structure since it was structurally compromised and unsafe to leave for any amount of time.The site was not imploded due to the close proximity of several hospital facilities. 

Shortly after this project, our daughter Anna was born and photography went on hold to enjoy the coming of our second child. By Fall I began looking at the work realizing, that for the most part, I was the only person to the best of my knowledge that had photographed this building in such detail at the end of its life. That this binder of negatives could be a lasting record of a building, a significant cultural and historical place that many people who visit the Penn medical campus may never know existed. This project, as unexpected an unplanned as it was made me realize just how valuable photography is, when used to preserve our historic landscape and buildings. Over the next year the seed was planted to bridge this great new revelation with something that brought me to pick up a camera years before, the railroad, this would set the stage for the Mainline Project. Beginning in 2007 I have been working to document my beloved Pennsylvania Railroad and today I have yet to run out of subject matter and enthusiasm for this project. Its been a real pleasure to share this project with so many people and receive such wonderful feedback from so many backgrounds. I look forward to sharing more as the work continues to grow and encourage your feedback on the Mainline Project and my research and photography in general.

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

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.

An Institution of Steam Preservation

While there are many dedicated people operating steam locomotives in 2012, an institution among those in the Northeastern United States is the Strasburg Railroad. Reborn from a weedy right of way in 1958, by a group of dedicated business men who partnered to resurrect the historic line chartered in 1832. Running through the beautiful countryside of Lancaster County Pennsylvania, the company has continued to provide generations with an opportunity to ride living history through bucolic rolling farmlands.

Number 89 a former Canadian National Mogul Type Locomotive built in 1910, stands cold in August of 2011 waiting for its routine inspection.

Number 89 a former Canadian National Mogul Type Locomotive built in 1910, stands cold in August of 2011 waiting for its routine inspection.

As I child I was fortunate enough to visit several times, and now share it with my son and daughter making the occasional trip and also visit the neighboring Pennsylvania State Railroad Museum, another treasure of the Northeast.  Currently the Strasburg rosters four running steam locomotives including former Canadian National #7312 0-6-0 built in 1908 (renumbered 31 - subsequently the first locomotive purchased and operated by the 1958 Strasburg group), 1924 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-10-0 #90 formerly of the Great Western Railway, A 1910 Mogul type, former Canadian National #89, purchased from the Green Mountain Railroad, and finally No 475, a former Class M Norfolk Western 4-8-0 built by the Baldwin Works in 1906, and finally a former Brooklyn East District 0-4-0 from the Porter Company which has been converted into an operating replica of Thomas the Tank Engine. In addition scores of beautifully restored period passenger, freight and non-revenue cars, a very special gas electric car, and even a few early diesel electric switchers!

Former Great Western Light Decapod Class 2-10-0 #90 stands on the ready track early in the morning on a foggy August day in 2011.

Former Great Western Light Decapod Class 2-10-0 #90 stands on the ready track early in the morning on a foggy August day in 2011.

Strasburg has a world class reputation for their mechanical shops, where everything is fabricated and maintained by skilled craftsmen of various trades  to keep the equipment in as new shape. These same men and women also contract out their services to other railroads and steam operators all over the Country. Something else unique about the Railroad is their dedication to preserving the landscape it operates in, the lush Amish farmlands. Several years ago, the company initiated a land trust to preserve open space along the line, putting proceeds from ticket sales into a trust to preserve the view for generations to come.

There has been quite a bit written about the historic Strasburg Railroad, but in my opinion, its best to go and visit, take a ride, chase the trains, get there early and watch the daily routine of prepping the locomotives for the day's run, or when they put them to bed at dusk. Its been instrumental in captivating my love for history, steam and the railroads that built our Country, and I hope sometime you'll have the opportunity to experience it too!

From the Mainline...

As most of you have seen, this blog centers around all things Pennsylvania Railroad for the most part. Even though the Railroad is what brought me to create this work, and using the blog to further it with research about location specific notes, history, etc, the landscape itself along the former PRR (and all other railroads for that matter) is an open book for interpreting how the railroad helped develop our Country. Over time, the relationship between the community and the railroads has changed, industry has gone away and the visual clues are left behind for young people that care, to piece together what once was. As a photographer, my goal to is to consider the "big picture" looking at the whole package and where the railroad fits in, hence the title, "From the Mainline". Its sort of a cultural/ historical/ industrial archeology project that is brought together with a camera.

My inspiration came from many photographers including William H Rau, Walker Evans, George Tice, David Plowden, Frank Gohlke, and William Clift to tip the iceberg, but the real drive is simple, a love for the railroad and history. Interestingly enough when I am fortunate enough to travel for this project, I have seen places and things that already have vanished with little to no recognition. I suppose its a double sided sense of loss that preservationists feel at the loss of a landmark or what most railfans feel when their favorite railroad succumbs to merger, or how O Winston Link felt when the last fire was dropped on a N&W steam locomotive, but like some I am driven to photograph at exhaustion the places and things that tie back to the past, if for nothing else, to satisfy my only personal curiosity.

Former 1911 Lincoln High school of Tyrone Pennsylvania,  Fall of 2008. Made just a few days before its complete demise. The gloomy fog is fitting for this image of what remained of the beautiful relic.

Former 1911 Lincoln High school of Tyrone Pennsylvania,  Fall of 2008. Made just a few days before its complete demise. The gloomy fog is fitting for this image of what remained of the beautiful relic.

Picture 7

Take a case in point, the Lincoln School building in Tyrone PA, built in 1911 as the new Senior High, later expanded with a Junior High wing in 1929, and then becoming the Lincoln Elementary School with the construction of a new Central High School in 1962. This building continued to serve that purpose until construction of a new facility in 1999.Eventually sold to S&A Homes, the building was slated for removal. Here is where I come in... I happened to be in the Tyrone - Huntingdon area for a trip to photograph in September of 2008, my first to the Tyrone area. While driving aimlessly as I normally do, this site caught my eye. We scoped out the location, the light was all wrong, so it was deemed necessary to come back the next morning. So we did, arriving at some ungodly hour with heavy fog, and there it stood, like a Greek or Roman ruin. A flat bed trailer presented itself for an elevated view, the negative was made, and most likely the following Monday the pillars came down. That is why I do this, every image is important, and if you are serious every one needs to count!

 

For more perspective on the historic town of Tyrone Pennsylvania please visit http://www.tyronehistory.org

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.

Summer Road Trips!

Quarry, Crooked Road, near Hulls Cove, Mount Desert Island, ME 2009

Quarry, Crooked Road, near Hulls Cove, Mount Desert Island, ME 2009

Normally I keep to the railroad work I have been doing, but there are a lot of other things that get my attention with or without a camera in hand (or more appropriately on tripod). The Summer season is not always the most productive time photographically but its a chance to take the family, load up the car, and explore new places. As this posts we will be visiting a special place in Maine on Mount Dessert Island. We visited a few years back and were given a great opportunity to go back again this year. While some day I may do something with the photographs, for now making these pictures is a way to just explore a different place, in the quiet still of early morning, my preferred time to photograph. Over the Summer I hope to share more un-published works from those times where the work doesn't fit into the greater idea of ongoing projects but stand on their own as single images. Stay tuned for more of this work and continued exploration of the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad! Have a great summer, take trip, explore somewhere new, even if its close by!

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