by Frank Stingone
You have made an excellent choice for inspiration, and that's not just because I live in Carnegie. I also am in the early design stages of an N pike of this area. I am mostly interested in the late 30s/early 40s. Information is few and far between and a lot of it involves obscure local sources and collectors. There are very few photos that I have seen regarding the coal tipples and mines and those seem to date to the 1880s/1910s.
One of the coolest things about the Chartiers Branch is that it is for the most part not one, but 2 railroads. From Scully yard to Washington, PA the line was double tracked. However, one track was technically PRR ROW and the other was Pittsburgh, Chartiers & Youghiogheny Rwy (PC&Y) ROW, with mutual trackage rights on both lines. So, generally speaking, for every PRR coal train you run, there will be a PCY train on the same tracks. I have never seen a timetable for either road, so I don't know for sure the frequency of either. The PC&Y was jointly owned by the PRR and PLE. The PCY was based out of Mckee's Rocks, PA, adjacent to the PLE main yard and engine facilities. Up to the mid 50s, all but one of its road engines were similar to the new MDC Consolidation but heavily modernized.
From Carnegie to Bridgeville the Pittsburgh & West Virginia (PWV) pretty much paralleled the PRR/PCY. Imagine one long narrow valley with the Chartiers creek meandering in the bottom. The PRR/PCY traveled along the valley floor following the Creek (the reason for those 19 bridges - most of which still exist) while the PWV ran along the ridge from zero to a couple of hundred yards to the east and about 50 to 100 feet up. At least 4 picturesque PWV trestles loomed above the PRR/PCY trackage, one long one finally crossing the PRR/PCY at Bridgeville, the PWV tracks heading west from here. There was an interchange between these two roads a little ways west of Bridgeville until the 60s (I believe). While I do not know how many cars were interchanged between them, I don't believe there were many, if any (there was a long standing bitter rivalry between the PRR & PWV in the Pittsburgh area).
There was also an interchange with the Montour RR. The MTR serviced many coal mines in the South Hills into the 80s and interchanged two bay coal hoppers with the PRR at Hills. Their were many MTR hoppers on the Chartiers Br. and vice versa. The MTR ran mostly Consols (just like the new Bachman) and Mikados (just like the Kato) into the 50s.
As you can see, the interchange opportunities are almost endless. (By the way, my Ntrak buddies and I recently had some decals made for MTR hoppers and several PWV freight cars. If interested in some, let me know. They are relatively cheap, look great and do multiple cars per set.)
To get a good feel of the PRR in the Pittsburgh area get yourself a copy of "The Pennsy in the Steel City" & "The Pennsylvania Railroad in the Golden Triangle" both put out by the PRRTHS. They are around $15 - $20 each and may even still be in print. While they only touch on the Chartiers Branch, they do show several of the stations along the line and give a good glimpse of the atmosphere of the PRR in the area.
Commuter passenger runs trains on the Chartiers were probably pulled by G5's (not Consols like I said). The PRR used the ten-wheelers extensively for passenger ops around here. One reason is they had back-up headlights on the tender, helpful on the Chartiers because there was no way to turn engines around down the line.. They went head first one way, ran around the train and backed up the whole way back. I don't know which direction the engines were pointed though.
Big freight stuff I'm not sure anymore. The Panhandle MP229 for 1945 had lots of I1, L1, J1 & M1, and I'll bet they all came through Carnegie on the Panhandle, but I think the J1 & M1 was just too big for the Chartiers. Joe Andrews, though, swears he remembers an N2. I just don't know right now. For Modeling purposes, you have the I1 & L1. When Bachman comes out with their new Mountain, you will no doubt figure a way to make an M1 out of it. I don't think the track or grades (yes there were some - read the Keystone article) could handle anything bigger than an I1, if that.
Not sure about early diesels, but I would bet that, with the heavy coal industry of the area, they were not used around here till much later than other branches. There were some early S1/S2 (as in Arnold), GE 44 tonners (future JnJ maybe???) and VO-1000 (and other Baldwins - good luck on them) switchers around the area though.
Get yourself the book "Montour Railroad" by Gene Schaeffer (softcover about $30). It contains photos of several local mine heads and processors. While they are not directly on the PRR, they are close enough for you to get an idea of the style prevalent in the area. Some of them are quite interesting. I agree about the limited variety of kits in N (damn those HO scalers!!!!), though you could probably kitbash just about anything from a couple New River Mine kits. They seem much bigger than necessary for most of the mines in this area
The majority of them are small plate girder types (about like Atlas size out of the box) about 10 feet or less above the creek. There were/are no more than 5 short through truss (most of them in Carnegie). Make lots of trees, much of the route looks like a long green tunnel in the summer.
First, PRR steam did not run in reverse on the Chartiers branch as I earlier stated. There was a turning wye at Houston and a turntable in Washington. PCY steam, on the otherhand, did run in reverse. I have photographic evidence of this.
The Chartiers Branch was restricted to nothing heavier than an L1s/K4s. However, the trainmasters were not averse to sending heavier stuff down the line when there was a shortage of power, if they thought they can get away with it.. In the early 50s, a trainmaster once sent an I1 down the line for a coal train. On the return trip, a switch had been mis-set in front of the furniture store in downtown Bridgeville by a Kennywood Special that had gone by earlier. He hit that switch and tipped right over on to a row of parking meters, preventing it from falling flat on its side. 150 tons being propped up 4 feet off the street by some cheap metal tubing. There was hell to pay by that TM for that. So an N1 was possible, but not probable.
Every spring was MOW time for Carnegie Yard. The yardmaster spent the first couple weeks of every spring clearing out the last 2 or three tracks for the track maintenance gang's equipment, tool and camp cars. A fleet of every possible shape and size spent the whole summer parked back there.