Woodvale Yard sat along the Mainline and Conemaugh River, in the communities of East Conemaugh and Franklin, Eastern Sections of the City of Johnstown. The yard once provided support for the bustling steel works and acted as an interchange with the Conemaugh and Black Lick Railroad, a Bethlehem Steel owned shifting railroad that serviced the sprawling complex that was spread across the Conemaugh River Valley. Today, the yard is little more than staging and storage for coal trains heading west to the nearby power plant in New Florence. The yard also serves as the western base for helpers to assist trains up the Western ascent of the Allegheny Range to the Summit at Gallitzin PA.
Photographs & History
In Mifflin Pennsylvania, at the foot of Main Street and Railroad Ave, the famed Middle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad comes through on a North-South alignment. Mifflin, a sleepy town across the Juniata River from Mifflintown, was probably a result of the need to connect the town to the railroad and the outside world. Its a typical town along the river valley, with beautiful old Victorian houses. In the left of Image you can see the Brick Depot, now a maintainers office for Norfolk Southern. The station is in fair shape and has a unique design complete with terracotta roof and what remains of the yellow brick platforms. While the Mainline appears to be four tracks as it was in its heyday, the furthest track is actually a runner to a small yard and industrial track immediately to the West.
Overbrook Station is a great example of the Old Mainline of the PRR. With the original train station complete with intricate woodwork, position light signals and functioning interlocking tower one could only wonder when the Broadway Limited is going through! Overbrook tower originally served the West End of sprawling freight yards in West Philadelphia that served the PRR at the Junction of the Mainline, Schuylkill Valley Branch, West Philadelphia Elevated Branch, PB&W, and Tidewater terminals at both Greenwich and Girard Point.
At the base of the West Slope in Woodvale Yard, heavy eastbound trains pick up helper locomotives in East Conemaugh, Pennsylvania to begin the climb to the Allegheny Summit in Gallitzin and descent onto the famed Horseshoe Curve on the former PRR Mainline. Flanked by neighborhoods on steep hillsides and the bleak remains of the former Johnstown Steel's East End, this sleepy area witnesses this repeated scene some 20+ times a day. Here the conductor is tying in a four unit set of EMD SD40-2 Locomotives to shove a huge Pennsylvania Power and Light Coal train over the mountain and provide braking assistance down the Eastern Slope into Altoona PA.
Now served by the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), this station was built for the PRR to serve the suburban Chestnut Hill Branch in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, 8.5 railroad miles from Suburban Station. Built in 1878 by architects William Brown and William B. Powell, the station was occupied by either agent or business up until 1978. Since then the building has been unoccupied and has suffered from neglect, until local efforts worked to preserve this historic structure.
Currently the building is being restored, starting from an initiative taken by the West Central Germantown Neighbors working with SEPTA, Philadelphia City Planning, and local politicians, the local residents raised funds to match a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In the Spring of 2009, SEPTA had received Federal Stimulus Funds to restore the structure in an attempt to bring business back to this quaint PRR station as well as other gems along this short branch.
Although the Philadelphia Terminal Division has quite a bit of its original infrastructure in tact, serving its predecessors well, there are a few relics left that fell victim to redundancy during the Penn Central Era and into the creation of Conrail and local Commuter Agency SEPTA. The PRR Schuylkill Division left the Mainline at Valley Junction located at 52nd Street in West Philadelphia and ran North along the Namesake River, through Norristown, Pottsville, and on to Wilkes-Barre, giving a direct access to the Anthracite Fields and lines North and West via Scranton. The Schuylkill Division followed the Mainline of long time rival Reading Company often times following each other on opposite sides of the River.
Manayunk, a Northern manufacturing center in Philadelphia, situated on the East Bank of the Schuylkill River was one of the first towns the Division encountered, marked by a branch on the West Bank to serve Pencoyd Steel and beautiful Reinforced Concrete Arch Bridge across the River and Canal entering Manayunk proper near Green Lane slightly North of the downtown business district.
Perched on the hill above the commercial area, the station was located at the corner of Dupont and High Streets in a residential area, far less convenient than the Reading Company's direct access to the business district from their service that paralleled Main St by a block on a dedicated grade separated mainline running South to North through town.
Although the division and it's northern reaches were severed in 1976 with the formation of Conrail, SEPTA continued to use the Line into Manayunk until 1990 as part of the R-6 Service. At this point service was cut back due to deterioration of the Concrete Bridge across the Schuylkill, which consequently has been restored but has had all tracks and overhead catenary removed.
Although, really a separate Division, the Schuylkill Division played a major part in supping the home city of the PRR with a steady stream of clean burning Anthracite coal for heat, manufacturing, and export via Pier 124. In addition it provided access to the Lehigh Valley Railroad creating a gateway to New York, New England, and Canada.
Today the mainline right of way is void of trackage and often a dumping ground, strewn with trash through the norther part of Manayunk, until one reaches the bike path on the North Side of town near the site of the former Spring Mill train station. From there one can bike all the away to Valley Forge and eventually it is hoped that the path will be reclaimed to extend through the historic Anthracite Regions of North Eastern Pennsylvania
Below are a few images from the famed junction of the Boston and Maine and Rutland Railroad. Its a classic at grade crossing complete with a depot dating from 1922 and served daily by Amtrak's Vermonter and Green Mountain Railroad Excursion Service.
Part of the unique Pennsylvania Reading Seashore Lines operation of Southern New Jersey, the Salem Branch extended from the Millville Branch in Woodbury NJ at Milepost 8.8 to the terminus of Salem NJ at Milepost 37.5 ending at the foot of Grant Street.
Originally a light density branch of the West Jersey and Shore System, a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the line was part of a larger operation that provided significant passenger and freight service to the agricultural areas and of course the Beach resorts of Atlantic and Cape May Counties. After increase auto traffic from the Delaware Bridge, now know as the Ben Franklin, rubber tired competition created a unique 60-30 partnership between fierce rivals Reading Company (Atlantic City Railroad) and Pennsylvania Railroad (West Jersey and Shore).
The Salem branch serves an agricultural region of the State that also hosts larger customers such as Anchor Glass and the large textile producer Mannington Mills both in Salem. Today the line South of Swedesboro is operated under contract with a host railroad, who interchanges traffic with Conrail Shared Assets (ironically another unique partnership of Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation) but the tracks are actually owned by the County in an effort to preserve rail service on this aging line. Over the past several years there have been periods of much needed track and infrastructure work, but over all the line is in rough shape and trains creep along at a steady 10mph.
The line to me represents the typical rural branch line, running through beautiful little towns and representing a glimpse of the past with old mills, industry and railroad infrastructure that speaks of a simpler time. I have come back to this line, not far from my home, time and time again, to disconnect from cell phones and technology, making images of the towns and countryside that Salem branch serves.
Its been almost five years since the last remains of the Philadelphia Civic Auditorium were torn down to make way for the now complete Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital System. Completed in 1931 the Art Deco Auditorium graced Civic Center Boulevard in West Philadelphia as part of a complex of buildings that began with the National Export Exhibition in 1899. There were two important buildings on the site. The Commercial Museum, built in 1899, was one of the original exposition buildings and The Municipal Auditorium (Convention Hall), built in 1931, by Philip H. Johnson.
During the Demolition I worked with permission from Keating Corporation and Mazzocchi Demolition to Document the the remaining interior and exteriors of the massive structure. They were very gracious in helping with many photographs, providing insight on the structure, unlimited access to their employees and the work site. During the three month time span I spent there I got know every passable inch of the building and made well over 100 photographs of the site from about mid demolition to the final removal of the of the East end of the building which was very heavy and supported the massive stage and support infrastructure, water chillers, pipe organs, and mechanical equipment. It was an incredible opportunity for which I will be grateful for the rest of my career. From this building spurred the Relic Project, documenting Historic Interiors of the Philadelphia area while "In transition", some being demolished, others being saved and given new purpose.
Below are images from the first month, showing the overall site and some of the first images I made in and around the building during April of 2005