Thursday, April 5, 2012

53. Conemaugh Line Pittsburgh Northside to Bolivar

This blog has addressed the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line  that was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad as its mainline in the 1850's. There is an alternative line from Pittsburgh's Northside that  follows the the Allegheny River Valley to the Kiskiminetas River Valley to the Conemaugh River Valley ultimately joining the mainline in the vicinity of Bolivar, PA. The line was then known as the Western Pennsylvania Railroad and was operational in 1865. (See: Page 106 and 110 of "Centennial History of The Pennsylvania Railroad Company.")

Later the line became absorbed into the Pennsylvania Railroad and  became known as the Conemaugh line. It became an alternative freight line to Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Railroad operated no scheduled passenger service on the line east of Freeport. If a passenger were operated across the line it would have been a special excursion. Or, the passenger train may have been a special operation routed over the Conemaugh Line in order to avoid an operational problem on the mainline such as a rerailment. There was no scheduled passenger service over the line.

The Conemaugh line has a ruling grade of only .04 per cent. From that standpoint, it has a more favorable ruling grade than the mainline from Pittsburgh to Bolivar, PA.

Access to the Conemaugh line was once possible from Pittsburgh on the east side of the Allegheny River over the Allegheny Valley Railroad built to Oil City, Pennsylvania. When the Pennsylvania Railroad gained control and ownership of the Allegheny Valley Railroad the line became know as the Allegheny Branch. The access from the Allegheny Branch was made at Kiski Junction on the east bank of the Allegheny River across the River from Freeport, PA.

As the former Allegheny Branch is now a truncated independent short line company, the Conemaugh Line can be reached from the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station (milepost 353) using the "Brilliant" Branch that crosses  the Allegheny River reaching the Conemaugh Line at Aspinwall  (milepost 71 - Conemaugh Line) on the west side of the Allegheny River. The Brilliant Branch's connection with the mainline is at milepost 347.8

The Conemaugh Line follows the Allegheny River to Freeport, PA. At Freeport the Allegheny is bridged to the Kiski Junction described and from there the Conemaugh Line proceeds east along the Kiskiminetas River upstream to its formation at the confluence of the Loyalhanna River and the Conemaugh River at Saltsburg, PA.

The length of the Conemaugh Line from its connection with the mainline at the Northside of Pittsburgh at Federal Street to Bolivar is 78 miles. The distance from the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station to Bolivar is 59 miles.

Shown is the connection with the mainline in blue with the Conemaugh Line ( yellow) at federal Street on the Northside of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Amtrak Station (MP 353) is in the lower right hand corner.

The Pittsburgh Amtrak Station at MP 353 is in the lower left corner. The Brilliant Branch (red) connects the mainline to the Conemaugh Line at MP 71 on the Conemaugh Line at Aspinwall, PA.

The Aspinwall, PA connection with the Conemaugh Line in greater detail:

 Shown is the Conemaugh Line (yellow) crossing the Allegheny River at Freeport to the once active Kiski Junction as it proceeds up the Kiskiminetas River.

1 comment:

  1. The idea of upgrading the Conemaugh line for passenger routing is interesting. As additional capacity for the Pittsburgh Line, NS may be more likely to allow use of the ROW for passenger service.

    There are some big concerns with this idea though. First, the section from Freeport to Aspinwall is not much more straight than the sections you address in your subsequent posts. An additional problem is that population density is greater the closer you get to Pittsburgh, so re-location gets harder and harder to do.

    Secondly, I think alot of the route straightening is easier said than done. Some of these re-locations you're talking about (specifically near Vandergrift and Hyde Park/Leechburg) would require lengthy tunnels as the land goes up steeply directly from the riverside. I could see a great deal of backlash, particularly in the Vandergrift area as the tunnel would be directly under the town.

    Do you think perhaps re-double tracking the Conemaugh Line to add additional freight capacity for NS may be a better use of resources?

    This could could give NS an outlet for displaced freight off the Pittsburgh Line as a result of increased of passenger traffic and would be much less expensive then multiple re-alignments along the Conemaugh Line.