A 79 ton, 61 year old railroad crane has come back to the site where it once worked in Peters Township, Pa. on the Montour Railroad. The X-1 crane was rescued from the scrap heap, where it surely would have been cut up, if a group of volunteers had not worked to save it for a historical and educational display. The X-1 was manufactured by the Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. and worked on the Montour Railroad for 36 years, from 1947 to 1983.
Many recreational users of the Montour Trail are little aware that a railroad once trod the same ground on which they now walk, run, or bicycle. Indeed, until its demise in 1984, the Montour Railroad hauled coal from mines south and west of Pittsburgh, providing livelihoods and helping shape the history and economy of the entire southwestern Pennsylvania region. Subsequent salvage operations removed rails, ties, and ballast stone, leaving little evidence that the railroad ever had a presence in the countryside.
A small but dedicated group of its supporters decided earlier this year that memories of the Montour Railroad cannot be allowed to fade from public consciousness. These loyal fans met and voted to form a preservation group that would be known as the Montour Railroad Historical Society (MRHS). Plans were made to refurbish a number of signs, signals, track switches, and other small artifacts and display them outdoors. Discussed were hopes of eventually getting an indoor space within which photographs, maps, and other memorabilia could be arrayed.
Then, about four weeks ago, the MRHS learned of a fleeting opportunity to save a much bigger piece of Montour Railroad history: When the Railroad ceased operation, the X-1 crane was sold and moved to Dennison, Ohio, where it operated for its remaining working life. The X-1 was eventually purchased by the Ohio Central Railroad System, which now is in the process of being acquired by Genesee and Wyoming Inc., a short-line holding company.
Conversations indicated that the Ohio Central was willing to donate the X-1 for historic preservation, but the MRHS would have approximately two weeks to arrange for it to be removed and to find it a new resting place. The X-1 could not be moved by railroad. This meant that it would have to be disassembled and moved by truck.
Discussions with Century Steel Erectors of Dravosburg determined that they would be willing to donate all services involved in disassembling, loading, trucking, unloading, and reassembling the X-1. Tom Robinson, of TAR Storage on Valleybrook Road in Peters Township, the site of the former Montour Mine #4 coal mine, was contacted and offered to provide a space adjacent to the Montour Trail in which to publicly display it.
“The most challenging part of the acquisition was the move from Dennison to McMurray, which Century Steel Erectors planned and executed. They worked for 2 days in getting the X-1 to its new home. The MRHS realizes that this project could not have occurred without the help of people like Century Steel handling the physical challenge of moving a 79 ton crane. They completed the entire move with their own crane, trucks and crew. Their expertise made sure we could welcome the X-1 back to its home territory,” said MRHS President Bryan Seip.
Over Labor Day weekend, MRHS members built a section of track at the TAR Storage location using donated ties and actual Montour Railroad rail, spikes and tie plates in readiness for the X-1's arrival. On September 4, Century Steel Erectors disassembled the 61 year old crane and loaded it onto four trailer trucks. Upon arrival on September 5, these components were reassembled by the Century Steel crew at the prepared site.
The frame of X-1 is set onto the railroad trucks at the display site in Peters Township.
Photo – Bryan Seip
"In addition to the sizeable donations of services by our benefactor firms, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Montour Trail Council, which helped us make arrangements for these donations," said MRHS Vice President Stan Sattinger.
The MRHS will be restoring missing or damaged components and applying badly needed coats of paint. While this restoration work will be not be totally completed in time for the opening of the new Valley Brook section of the Montour Trail, the X-1 will be available to visit during ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the Trail section, which is to be opened on October 18.
The Century Steel Erectors crew finishes the reassembly of the X-1 crane adjacent to the Montour Trail in Peters Township.
Photo – Bryan Seip
Information about the MRHS and the history of the Montour Railroad may be obtained by visiting http://www.montourrr.com