Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pittsburgh Station - Some Thoughts

The integration of restored passenger service upon a railroad that is now a freight railroad creates capacity problems for the freight railroad. The current location of the passenger station, now owned by Amtrak,  at Pittsburgh is within two blocks of where all the Pennsylvania Railroad passengers stations were located since 1855. Its location is convenient to the center of the city.
The Pitttsburgh Amtrak Station is located in the upper right of the photograph at milepost 353. The large roof structure over the tacks of the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line are easily seen. Current canopy structure dates to 1947.
The former Pennsylvania Railroad office structure above the station is now the Pennsylvanian which was converted to apartments in the 1980's. The grand station building fell on hard times when it was rehabilitated into apartments in the 1980's

The station has an enviable proximity to the Greyhound station, the bus way and the T subway facility. All are adjacent to the facility. The T is noted by the dotted white line in the lower portion of the photograph. The Bus Way is a limited access highway dedicated to bus operation. It's right of way is a portion of the former four track PRR mainline. It along with the T are remarkable public transit assets.
Their location overcomes the "final mile" problem. Long distance passenger train passengers have options for the final mile of their journey.

The blue line outlines the 10 degree curve that leads from the passenger station to the bridge crossing the Allegheny River out of sight to the upper left of the photograph. The severe curve allows Norfolk Southern freight trains to operate at 10 mph. The PRR passenger train speed through the curve was designated as 30 mph. However, it is difficult to believe that any passenger train might have ever operated over such a curve at that speed.
The Pittsburgh PRR passenger station was the point where passenger tracks diverged to the west. The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line in blue crossed the Allegheny River to eventually reach Chicago. This blog has been addressing the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg portion of the Chicago to New York City PRR line. Restoring rail passenger service upon what was once a line that shared freight traffic with passenger traffic on a shared right of way with dedicated tracks for freight and passenger was nick named the "broad way" as it required 4 tracks. Also diverging from Pittsburgh to thesouth side of the station were the tracks that led to St. Louis. Those tracks crossed the Monongahela River over the "Panhandle" bridge. Southwest of the city, the line on its way west crossed through the northern panhandle of West Virginia before making its way across the Ohio River to cross Ohio to Columbus to Indianapolis to St. Louis.

The decline after WW II of the PRR's business and profitability led to the Penn Central merger and bankruptcy in 1968. In turn the Consolidated Railroad Corporation was created by Congress to reorganize the railroad industry in the northeast and midwest in 1976. In order to maximize asset utilization all west bound freight traffic was concentrated upon the line to Chicago. Sections of the Panhandle route were sold to short line operators. Sections were retained. It was no longer a continuous line to St. Louis. The Panhandle right of way then became available for the the development of the T subway. In dotted white lines above the loop and storage tracks for T equipment is adjacent to the station.

The passenger track shelters of the 1898 passenger station were removed to allow for construction of Interstate 576 above them.
The original 1898 train shed that preceded the 1947 train canopies of today. Large train shed structures such as this were an inherent part of passenger stations in the age of steam locomotives. They sheltered passengers  as well as allowed for ventilation of coal smoke.
If rail passenger service were to be restored to the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line at some point the station location may need to be reconsidered. Adequate space exists between the station and 21st Street for redesign and reconfiguration of the station facility when and if it might need to be undertaken. The Pittsburgh Amtrak station is located at milepost 353.

East of the Pittsburgh station (Milepost 353) at milepost 347.8 the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line has a connection with what the PRR named the Brilliant Branch. It is in the vicinity of 5th Avenue and Hamilton Avenue. The branch connects the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line with the Conemaugh line. The Conemaugh line was built by the PRR to provide an alternative freight line from New Florence, Pennsylvania, west of Johnstown to the Northside of Pittsburgh where the Conemaugh line rejoined the PRR mainline at Federal Street. The Brilliant Branch goes north to cross the Allegheny River connecting with the Conemaugh line at Aspinwall, Pennsylvania. It remains as a freight route that avoids the Pittsburgh station. As at the station, the severe curves (white) from the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line (blue) can support a 10 mph speed.
Just as the curvature from the milepost 347.8 connection with the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line in the vicinity of 5th Avenue and Kelly Avenue has severe curvature, so to does the connection with Conemaugh line at Aspinwall. Corrective curvatuure at both ends of the 1.8 mile Brilliant branch could sustain 30 mph freight speed instead of 10 mph. This a freight bypass that planners could consider. The potential for moving freight to 30 mph here rather than facing the 10 degree constriction at the passenger station curve argues for a new alignment.
 The Conemaugh line  connects with the portion of the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line  that the Norfolk Southern calls the Pittsburgh to Crestline line as a part of the Fort Wayne line at Federal Street on the Pittsburgh Northside. The Conemaugh Line is in the upper right portion the photographAs noted earlier the curvature west of the passenger station is limited to a 10 mph speed. This slow speed is the same for the connecting curvature on the Northside. The Pittsburgh station is out of the photo at the lower right.
Looking east of the Pittsburgh station at milepost 351.6 shown is the connection to the CSX line used to connect Pittsburgh with Washington, D.C. Milepost 351.6 is between 28th and 33rd Street overpasses.
The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line is in blue and the CSX line is in white. The 33rd Street overpass crosses both the CSX and Norfolk Southern Pitsburgh to Harrisburg line. The CSX line is the former B&O line. The CSX line to the right travels through Panther Hollow to connect with the CSX line that is the former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. The Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad was built from Connellsville, PA to Pittsburgh and then Youngstown. 



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