(If you need a map of the region, click here.)
Main Line, Philadelphia to Pittsburgh
The former Pennsylvania Railroad main line between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh continued to play a major role as a vital freight artery in the Penn Central system. The line entered the PC Central Region at BANKS Tower near Marysville, Pa, west of Enola Yard and the Rockville Bridge. Here is a look at some locations along the line, starting at Mt. Union and heading west:
Mt. Union, PA
Spruce Creek, PA
Union Furnace, PA
PC U33B 2902 and three other 4-axle units head a westbound ore train at Tyrone, PA., August 1969. Tyrone is located about 14 miles east of Altoona and is where the ex-PRR Bald Eagle Branch joins the main line. Photo by Mike Bezilla.
Horse Shoe Curve (west of Altoona, PA)
Brake shoes are smoking as a 75-car coal train, consisting mostly of Cambria & Indiana hoppers, tries to maintain its speed coming down the hill around Horse Shoe Curve. Also taken on April 13, 1974, by Dennis Bydash.
GP35 2273 and two other locomotives grind uphill around Horse Shoe Curve with a 125-car westbound freight, while a helper set, consisting of SD45 6219 and SD35 6000, drifts downhill on their way back to Altoona. To the right of the trains is PRR K4s 1361, a long-time resident of the Curve. Photo by Dennis Bydash.
PRR C628 6306 and SD35 6047 provide braking power to a westbound train rolling through Cresson, PA. Notice the NYC caboose in front of the power. Photographer and date unknown, from the collection of Randy Masales.
It's April 1976, and overnight, PC has become Conrail. We decide to head out to a stretch of track between Seward and New Florence, Pa, a few miles west of Johnstown, for a last glimpse of the old order. Traffic was fairly heavy that day-here is GP38 8110 and C425 2451 caught hustling trailers eastbound. Photo by G.G. Haines.
Main Line, Pittsburgh to Chicago
The former Pennsy main line from Pittsburgh to Chicago was a major freight line during the PC era. Built by the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway, the line was frequently referred to in PRR and PC days as the "Fort Wayne." In the later Conrail era, the line was downgraded west of Crestline, Ohio, but its east end remains busy today, just as in the Penn Central era, as the following photos show:
Conway was home to the largest yard on the former PRR system and a major locomotive maintenance facility, and it remains an important yard today under Norfolk Southern. Back in 1973, however, the motive power was a little different than it was today. Witness PC C628 6308 taking a spin on the Conway roundhouse turntable on July 1, 1973. Photo by Dennis Bydash.
About three miles west of Conway is Rochester, where the Bayard and Low Grade Branches left the Ft. Wayne main line. Here, C425 2418 and U25B 2765 are in helper service on the rear of a 122-car freight train about to enter Conway Yard. The light is starting to get low on this evening of May 22, 1976. Photo by Dennis Bydash.
On June 7, 1975, Penn Central suffered a three-train wreck between Salem and Leetonia. Read about the wreck and see pictures of the aftermath here.
Alliance was where two Pennsy mainlines crossed at grade. Going east-west through town was the Pittsburgh to Chicago (Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago) mainline, which was crossed by the Rochester, Pa, to Cleveland, Ohio, main line, originally the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, running from southeast to northwest. In PC days, the C&P north of Alliance was known as the Main Line-Valley, while to the south of the diamond the line was called the Mahoning Secondary Track between Alliance and Bayard, and the Bayard Branch between Bayard and Rochester. Both lines are still heavily used by Norfolk Southern today.
A view of the junction at Alliance. The Pittsburgh-Chicago main goes across the photo from left to right, while the line on the right heading into the distance is the Mahoning Secondary. East and Pittsburgh is to the left, while west and Chicago is to the right, and the line to Cleveland is behind the photographer. The passenger station is on the left behind the signal bridge, and CP Tower is farther down the tracks to the left of the station, out of the picture. Photo by Gary Morris.
Three GP38s and a GP40 pull out of Crestline on a Sunday evening with an 89 car eastbound coal train on July 17, 1977. The diamonds in the foreground are for the crossing with PC's ex-NYC/Big Four Cleveland-Indianpolis main line. Photo by Dennis Bydash.
Cherry Tree Branch
The former NYC Cherry Tree Branch came out of Williamsport and invaded Pennsy-dominated territory in central Pennsylvania, running as far as Cherry Tree. Here, a pair of EMDs lead a train on the Cherry Tree Branch at Mahaffey, PA, on January 4, 1976. Photo by Dennis Bydash.
Mingo Junction, OH
Mingo Junction, home to several steel mills, is located along the Ohio River at the junction of two ex-PRR lines, the "Panhandle" main line from Pittsburgh to Columbus, and the River Branch.
The spacious roundhouse at the former PRR yard in Mingo Junction, Ohio is no longer the mainstay of operations in town as it once was. With the decline in steel traffic in the area during the 1960s and consolidation of facilities under the merger, SW7 9041 is setting outside instead of under the protective roof of the paritally dismantled roundhouse. May 15, 1979. Collection of Dale A. DeVene Jr.
A set of power, including C628 6301 and three GP38-2s, sits in the Mingo Junction yard in between trips in December 1974. After Conrail, mineral trains to the Mingo area would become the exclusive domain of former PC, Reading, and LV six-axle Centuries. That track in the foreground looks to be in pretty sad shape. Photo by Jay Potter, from the Gary Stuebben collection.
This view, looking north, of another set of power at Mingo Junction yard in December 1973 shows more details of the yard area. The yard office is the building to the left of the locomotives. In the distance is a long-used coaling tower and beyond it, the Norfolk & Western's former Pittsburgh & West Virginia line crosses above the yard on a bridge. Barely visible behind the bridge rise the blast furnaces of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel's works. Photo by Jay Potter, from the Gary Stuebben collection.
Jamestown was where the former PRR Erie & Pittsburgh Branch crossed the former NYC Stoneboro Branch. The Stoneboro Branch and the JF&C Branch together created a line between Brookville, Pa, and Ashtabula, Ohio. In this photo, C425 3456, U25B 2679, U30B 2846, and F7 1693 lead a 115-car westbound train through the weeds at Jamestown on September 14, 1975. The train is about to go there where the old E&P Branch diamond used to be, as the E&P north of Jamestown was abandoned in the early 1970s and a connection was put in to allow northbound E&P trains to swing west and continue to Ashtabula. Today, both of these lines are gone. Photo by Dennis Bydash.
A 48-car coal train crosses U.S. Route 322 in Simons, Ohio, on the Stoneboro Branch. Simons is located just west of Pymatuning Reservoir. Ex-NYC GP40 3046 and ex-PRR GP35 2380 power this train on July 14, 1974. Photo by Dennis Bydash.
The PY&A Secondary Track (formerly Branch) was the ex-PRR line from Youngstown through Niles to Ashtabula, and was a coal and iron ore artery between the docks at Ashtabula and the Pittsburgh area. During the Penn Central era, this line became superfluous as it was paralleled by the superior ex-NYC Youngstown Branch about 10 miles to the east. Today, the PY&A is a bike trail, while the Youngstown Branch is now the NS Youngstown Line.
The Akron Branch was a former PRR route which ran from Hudson, Ohio, to Columbus. The route used a shared trackage arrangement with the Baltimore & Ohio between Akron Junction and Warwick. This line was downgraded after the PC merger in favor of the superior former Big Four route between Cleveland and Columbus. Later, the line was severed by a washout north of Holmesville, which sealed the line's fate.