• West Penn on PRR Southwest branch, Scottdale, Mt Pleasant

  • General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.
General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by boteman
 
Did the West Penn interurban "trolleys" run on the Pennsylvania RR Southwest branch to Scottdale and up to Mount Pleasant or on their own rails?

A Wikipedia article on them says that they were broad gauge and that they ran mostly on their own track down the streets and over highway bridges, but this sounds unlikely away from major cities and towns.

Any information about passenger service to Scottdale, Mount Pleasant, and Tarrs would be appreciated, especially if there are photos available to illustrate the narrative.

Thanks very much!

Bote
  by Aa3rt
 
boteman-I'm afraid I don't know a whole lot about this system however at a recent meeting of the Pope's Creek Railfans here in southern Maryland a member of our group, a very knowledgeable traction buff, showed a number of slides of this system. The West Penn right-of-way seemed to almost follow a roller coaster like profile in places as it traversed the hills in that region of Pennsylvania.

Here's a link to some West Penn photos at the Dave's Electric Railroads site:

http://www.davesrailpix.com/wpenn/wpenn.htm

This photo in particular shows a good view of the broad (5' 2 1/4") gauge trackage:

http://www.davesrailpix.com/wpenn/htm/wpenn101.htm

A system map: (Scroll down)

http://patheoldminer.rootsweb.ancestry. ... tpenn.html
  by boteman
 
Interesting photos. So, it looks like they did indeed lay their own tracks usually down the paved streets with overhead catenary. I tried to find remnants using the satellite and aerial views on Bing.com and there is very little evidence remaining.

And those trestles were something else! The West Penn system must have taken wheelbarrows full of money to start up. I read elsewhere that somewhere around Dunbar they had to cross the Pennsy, the B&O, AND the Western Maryland all in a short stretch. WHEW!

Thanks.
  by BaltOhio
 
I don't know of any case where the West Penn used the tracks of some "steam" railroad. They did connect with the Pittsburgh Rys. at Trafford and ran through freight motors into Pittsburgh. There were, however, several instances where they ran adjacent to some railroad.

Despite its numerous trestles, the West Penn was built as cheaply as possible for that kind of territory, with mixtures of street, roadside, and across-the-fields running -- and nothing so fancy as catenary. There were no block signals that I recall, except for bare light bulbs at passing sidings that were manually set by the operators and which then activated a light-bulb signal at the next siding. Almost needless to say, the system was a joy to ride.
  by ohioriverrailway
 
West Penn gauage was 62.5" -- going to be hard to run those cars on standard gauge. There are a few long-out-of-print West Penn books available. Look on evilbay, or email the folks at either Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, or Illinois Railway Museum -- which has a large number of old books for sale.
  by boteman
 
I appreciate the replies. I found out from the PRR mailing list at Yahoogroups that West Penn had an extensive system, so extensive that it blew my mind. Here I thought they were a little rinky dink operation, and while they shaved costs as you said, they found a way to lay a lot of track parallel to or zig-zagging over the Pennsy RR.

That's the part I couldn't get over, that a small operation like West Penn would have trackage that duplicated the mighty Pennsy.

Also, while I knew they were broad gauge, I thought they might have had some service that ran over the PRR on standard gauge as unlikely as that sounds.

Does anybody have any photos of the stations along the Southwest branch or the West Penn around Tarr, Mount Pleasant, or Scottdale?

Thanks for the replies, and happy holidays!
  by UpperHarlemLine4ever
 
Just as a point of information. The Pennsylvania Railroad had so much power in Pennsylvania that they were able to have a law passed that prohibited interurban and trolley lines from building lines at standard gauge. This was at the end of the 19th or early 20th century. To date you still have the Philadelphia trolley network and the Frankfort-Market Street Subway that are broad gauge.
  by ohioriverrailway
 
UpperHarlemLine4ever wrote:Just as a point of information. The Pennsylvania Railroad had so much power in Pennsylvania that they were able to have a law passed that prohibited interurban and trolley lines from building lines at standard gauge. This was at the end of the 19th or early 20th century. To date you still have the Philadelphia trolley network and the Frankfort-Market Street Subway that are broad gauge.
Not to mention the bastardized light-rail system in Pittsburgh.
  by delvyrails
 
Some street railway and interurban lines in Pennsylvania used standard railroad guage (56.5"). The original impetus in the early 19th century for a non-standard guage came from the cities' teamsters when the short-line railroads of the day were being pieced together.

The teamsters wanted to continue their monopoly of carting the freight between city railroad terminals; so they used their influence to require the non-standard track guage for the new horse-car railways. These moves were supported by the local citizens who didn't want big railroad freight cars moving through their streets. In some cases, the street railways had to use flat-flangeway T-rail ("step rail") which allowed the cart wheels to roll on steel instead of bumping over the cobble stone pavements.
  by TREnecNYP
 
delvyrails wrote:Some street railway and interurban lines in Pennsylvania used standard railroad guage (56.5"). The original impetus in the early 19th century for a non-standard guage came from the cities' teamsters when the short-line railroads of the day were being pieced together.

The teamsters wanted to continue their monopoly of carting the freight between city railroad terminals; so they used their influence to require the non-standard track guage for the new horse-car railways. These moves were supported by the local citizens who didn't want big railroad freight cars moving through their streets. In some cases, the street railways had to use flat-flangeway T-rail ("step rail") which allowed the cart wheels to roll on steel instead of bumping over the cobble stone pavements.
Interesting you bring that up.......

http://prr.railfan.net/photos/Sm_PRR443 ... WNixon.jpg

- A
  by Aa3rt
 
This is actually one of many street switchers that the Pennsylvania Railroad used in Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA and Jersey City, NJ for switching in industrial and dock areas with very tight curves. The B&O also employed similar units for use in the streets of Baltimore.

The ones with flanged wheels all ran on standard gauge track while some were rubber tired and did not have to rely on rails at all. A more complete writeup on these unique beasts can be found here:

http://prr.railfan.net/RubberTiredSwitchers.html

While this is a fascinating topic it is better suited for the Pennsylvania Railroad forum.

Let's try to regain focus on Mr. Boteman's original query regarding the West Penn Railways.
  by Aa3rt
 
I just received the Spring 2010 issue of Classic Trains in the mail. On pages 108 & 109 are 5 color photographs illustrating a brief article titled "Waning days of the West Penn".