Thursday, July 14, 2011

First PRR Passenger Train to Pittsburgh

"A historic event. On December 10, 1852, a wood-burning locomotive of the Pennsylvania Railroad arrived in Pittsburgh with four cars, making the first all rail trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh." Pittsburgh - The Story of an American City by Stefan Lorant, Page 121.

The photograph's location is attributed to be East Liberty, PA. The Union Pacific and the Central Pacific had their last spike at Promontory Point, UT. The Keystone Corridor West has its East Liberty!

In 1852 the trip from Harrisburg west was not on today's continuous line through Altoona. Rather, while the line was being built west from Altoona to Conemaugh, PA, the gap in the PRR line was completed using the Allegheny Portage Railroad. The Allegheny Portage Railroad was built and operated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as part of the canal built from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg in the 1830's. The western connection between the Pennsylvania railroad and the Allegheny Portage Railroad was at Conemaugh, PA east of Johnstown, PA.

The Allegheny Portage Railroad's purpose was to be a portage connecting two canals. Initially freight and passengers were trans loaded at Hollidaysburg and Johnstown. An innovation was made to avoid trans loading by building canal boats in sections then hauling the sections on the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

The original location of the Allegheny Portage Railroad required that rolling stock follow a ROW of levels and inclines. At 10 places there were 10 inclines. The gradient was so steep on the inclines that stationary steam engines at each incline gave motion to ropes that were used to hoist or lower the rolling stock over the incline. It was that laborious and time consuming incline and level system that was used to move Pennsylvania Railroad rolling Stock.

The eastern connection between the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Allegheny Portage Railroad was accomplished at the "Wye" switches located about midway between Hollidaysburg to the east and Duncansville, PA to the west. The Pennsylvania Railroad built and operated a connecting line from Altoona to the "Wye" switches.

Ironically, the "New Portage Railroad" was being built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the same time the Pennsylvania Railroad was building its continuous line without interrupting inclines using the Horseshoe Curve west of Altoona. The Pennsylvania Railroad completed its continuous line from Altoona to Conemaugh on February 15, 1854. Despite the loss of Pennsylvania Railroad traffic, the Commonwealth completed the New Portage Railroad on July 1, 1855. The New Portage Railroad's continuous ROW across the Allegheny frontal barrier used a Muleshoe curve and a summit tunnel at Gallitzin, PA to surmount the barrier to transportation.

See Chapter 3, pages 94 -169, of "History of the Pennsylvania Railroad" Volume 1, by William Bender Wilson, published 1895, for a description of the building of the Pittsburgh to Altoona line. Pages 95 to 156 focus upon the Allegheny Portage Railroad and New Portage Railroad.
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