Chartiers Branch Remembered
Pictures and Text by Kevin Trichtinger 

 

This is the bridge over Chartiers Creek between Scott Township and Collier Township at Bower Hill, taken in February, 1977. The view is timetable west, geographically south, from the Scott Township side of the creek. The train at the top of the shot is on the former P&WV, by1977, N&W, today, W&LE main line. The P&WV crossed over the PRR, Vanadium Road, and Chartiers Creek here, and the PC&Y would have crossed under about 50 yards behind where the lead locomotive is. By 1950, though, that branch of the PC&Y was gone. The Bower Hill station, a corrugated metal shed with a round window, like the window on an N5c, was on the right of the track in this photo, just past where the track disappears from view around the curve. It was gone by the time I took these shots. I last remember seeing it around the time of the PC merger. By then, it was painted dark green.


 

One of the friends I mentioned before told me that most of the regular passenger trains were pulled by a G5s, since trains were short enough that  a K4 wasn't needed. They were usually only one or two cars long: usually either a P54 or a P70, and a PB54 sometimes. However the Kennywood  Picnic extra trains were almost always pulled by a K4s, and could be four to seven cars long, (all P70) depending on how many schools or communities were involved. At the time, joint school districts hadn't been established, so nearly each town had its own school picnic day. Many schools adjacent to each other along a given PRR line would schedule their picnics for the same day. The third week in May was for a long time the Carnegie, Collier, Scott, Heidelberg, Bridgeville, and South Fayette day. Chartiers Valley School District (Bridgeville, Collier, Heidelberg and Scott) continues to use that week up to the present, even though there hasn't been a school picnic train since 1960.

 A schedule for these trains (one on the Chartiers Branch, and two on the Panhandle Main Line) from the late 1930s or early 1940s appears on page 102 of the book: _Kennywood...Roller Coaster Capital of the World_by Charles J. Jacques, Jr. Apparently at that time, Bridgeville and South Fayette weren't using the same day, since the train on the Chartiers Branch starts at Bower Hill, but North Fayette, Oakdale and McDonald were, since one of the trains on the Panhandle starts at McDonald. (These days, North Fayette and Oakdale are part of the West Allegheny School District, McDonald is in the Fort Cherry School District).

This is Bridgeville in 1998. The train is timetable Westbound.

To the right of the shot, the largely open area would have been the freight track at Bridgeville station, just out of shot to the right. More on this, from the reverse angle, in a subsequent shot.

This was taken July 3, 1976. It's the reverse angle of the winter shot from 1998. The bridge in the foreground is the one over McLaughlin Run. You can see where the eastbound track was, to the right of the smaller walkway.

Bower Hill Road has been regraded since that track was removed. The street parallel to the tracks is Railroad Street. The parking lot along side the road was where the station siding was. This was dug away in the late 1960s to add parking. The station is the dark building at the end of the parking area. It's now the public library, and the (B&O) caboose to its left is the children's section of the library. (Originally, they were supposed to get an N6b that was stored at Scully, but it was burned by vandals. There weren't any other ex-PRR cabins available, hence the B&O caboose).

In the very foreground, you can see the switch where Eastbound trains off the B&M branch would have switched onto the eastbound track. About even with the first utility pole at the edge of the parking area, you can see the switch to the B&M Branch.

The white building across from the end of Railroad Street (on Station Street) is part of the Norwood Center, a small shopping strip center. In 1950, it was the site of the three-story Norwood Hotel. The hotel itself was across Station Street from the buildings at the left edge of the picture. There was a board sidewalk and stairs which led to the area where that white building (in 1976, the Norwood Party House) is now. The hotel was destroyed in a fire in 1963. The year before, the public grade school, known as Washington Elementary School, which was just out of shot to the right at the top of the hillside (the location I took the 1998 shot from) also burned. It was a large wood building, which, from photos I've seen (I don't remember seeing it until it was charred rubble) was a two-story, 16-classroom scaled up version of Bachmann's "Plasticville School". It faced away form the tracks, toward Washington Avenue, which is one block the right of this photo.

This is an eastbound (geographically, northbound) in 2001. It's on the old westbound track. The eastbound track here was the one that was removed.

To the right of the shot is the Borough of Heidelberg. the embankment to the right of the train leads down to Chartiers Creek. To the left of the shot is now Flynn's Tire. In 1950, this was the E.W. (it stood for Ed Witzberger) Coal Yard. There was no mine here. The coal was brought from other mines by truck or rail, and was dumped here. The dump track ran from the now-removed eastbound track, right about where the warehouse edge is now. Mr. Witzberger began to operate a tire store on the edge of the property farthest from the tracks in about 1951, and closed the coal yard in 1953, since nearly everyone had gas heat by then. The train in this shot is heading for the tunnel under the intersection of Washington Avenue, Carothers Avenue, and Hope Hollow Road. It's actually a cut with a bridge over it, but was once a tunnel bore. The cut and bridge was done in 1917.


 

This is from near the same vantage point as the last one, shooting in the opposite track direction. The bridge carries the intersection of Hope Hollow Road and Washington Avenue on this side, and Carothers Avenue on the other side. Carothers is behind the traffic lights in this shot. In 1950 (and until 1959), the Route 27 Heidelberg streetcar line of Pittsburgh Railways came out Carothers, and turned onto private right-of-way beside Washington Avenue, on the side farthest from my camera position here, heading off to the left of this shot.


 

This is the bridge over Chartiers Creek at Bower Hill, again. It's the one from the first shot. This is taken from the creek bed in March, 2002. In the 1950s, the creek level would have been higher, since the Thoms Run Flood Control Channel, which follows the path of the old PC&Y line from Woodville to Presto, would not have been built yet. The water would also have been a bright orange-brown color with a slightly oily sheen from the mine drainage and industrial effluvia upstream, and there would not have been anything growing (indeed, anything alive) within about five feet of the water.


Here's the Canonsburg station in 1999. It's now the Sons of Italy Social Club.

This is the General Electric Glass plant in March, 1977.

The view is from the tracks, looking geographically west at the side of the plant closest to Chartiers Creek. The siding from the P&WV is visible just in front of the storage tanks. The PRR siding is on the other side of the tanks, next to the building. The pile of stuff closest to the camera location in this shot is glass pellets. The stuff behind is silica sand. This plant makes the glass for the elements of nearly all GE incandescent lamps made in the U.S. In the 1950, GE had its own fleet of (PS-2 , I think) covered hoppers, and ILDX 320, 321 and 322 were assigned to the Bridgeville Glass Plant. They regularly traversed the Chartiers Branch and the P&WV.

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