The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad

PCSRR - 1901

If you lived in Castle Shannon, Fairhaven or West Liberty in the late-19th century and needed to travel to downtown Pittsburgh, one way to get there, without access to a horse and buggy, was to ride the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad.

A short trip on the P&CSRR, including a dark ride through Mount Washington's first train tunnel, was followed by a slow descent along the 850-foot Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane, a coal incline built in 1864. Passengers exited onto Carson Street near the Smithfield Street Bridge. In later years, the railroad also operated two other inclines, the Castle Shannon Incline and the Castle Shannon South. The coal/passenger railroad operated from 1871 to 1912.

The former railroad rights-of-way were taken over by the Pittsburgh Railways Company. The lines were electrified and used for the Shannon-Drake and Shannon-Library streetcar routes. Today the PCSRR property is part of Pittsburgh's southern light-rail system.

History of the P&CS Railroad

♦ The Old Coal Railroad
♦ Milton D. Hayes
♦ Birth of the P&CS Railroad
♦ Line Extended to Castle Shannon
♦ Bridges/Stations/Horseshoe Curve
♦ Fairhaven and Castle Shannon
♦ Pittsburgh Southern Railroad
♦ Tensions Mount
♦ Castle Shannon Railroad War
♦ Rival Crews Battle in the Streets
♦ Struggling Through Hard Times
♦ Transporting Coal Brings Growth

North and South Inclines ♦
Landslides and Other Disasters ♦
Pittsburgh Coal Company ♦
Pittsburgh Railways Company ♦
Electrification of P&CSRR ♦
End of the P&CS Railroad ♦
After the P&CS Railroad ♦
Maps of Mt. Washington Route ♦
Photo Gallery - P&CSRR Trains ♦
Photo Gallery - PRC Trolleys ♦
Trouble at High Bridge Station ♦
Pittsburgh's Old Inclines ♦

The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane - 1875
Illustration entitled "On Carson Street, South Pittsburgh, 1875" that appeared in "Fleming's Views of Old Pittsburgh,"
showing the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane a four years after the P&CS railroad took over the line and began
passenger service. On Carson Street was a coal distribution platform and a loading station/office building. This
drawing shows the northern portal of the old railroad coal tunnel and the upper coal depot/passenger station.

The Old Coal Railroad

The Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad was a narrow gauge line from Pittsburgh to Castle Shannon. The P&CSRR began as the Coal Hill Coal Railroad, established in 1861 by the Pittsburgh Coal Company. It ran from the north face of Mount Washington through a Mount Washington tunnel and extended a further one and a half miles along Warrington Avenue to the Oak Mine in West Liberty Borough.

The tunnel was a converted coal mine, started in 1825 by Jacob Beltzhoover, that eventually extended through Coal Hill. Measuring 1,741 feet in length, the northern tunnel portal was located below Bailey Street and the southern portal stood on the hillside above the present-day South Hills Junction and Port Authority transit tunnel entrance.

Milton D. Hayes

Milton D. Hays was born in 1844. His family settled in the South Bank area of Fairhaven in the home at 1766 Ballinger Street (now 1900 Whited Street). His father was Jacob Hays, a former railroad man and prominent landowner who operated a lumber business on the South Side. At the age of 22, Milton Hays was elected director of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank, and later was named Vice-President.

Hays dreamed of getting involved in the growing railroad and coal mining industry. He envisioned acquiring property rights and building a railroad through Fairhaven and on to the south. This way he could exploit the riches of the Pittsburgh Coal Seam and bring passenger service to the mining towns that would grow along the route.

In 1866 he began holding meetings in Finleyville and Monongahela to drum up support for the new railroad. The first official stockholder was Fairhaven land owner Jacob Horning, who operated a farm along the proposed route of the railroad. He acquired his two shares as compensation for two bales of hay.

The Horning Farm in 1895. This is the
site of present-day St. Norbert Church.
An 1895 representation of a P&CSRR train passing Jacob Horning's Fairhaven farm on its way
towards Castle Shannon. This is the location of the present-day St. Norbert's Church.

By August of 1871 Milton Hays and his stockholders had acquired the necessary investment capital to begin the process of creating the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad.

The Birth Of The P. & C. S. R. R.

The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad Company was incorporated on September 21, 1871. The company articles stated that the railroad was to be constructed a distance of seventeen miles from Pittsburgh to Washington County. The railroad received it's charter on October 9, 1871. Twenty-seven year old Milton D. Hays was named President.

The Coal Hill Coal Railroad was purchased by the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad in November 1871 for $225,000, plus the assumption of $50,000 in debt owed by James Bailey on prior land acquisitions. The property acquired in the transaction included:

PCSRR Locomotive #7

All railroad buildings, fixtures and machinery, sidings, check houses, oil houses, steam pumps and pump house, water station and tanks, three locomotives, 280 coal cars, six horses and harness, five tunnel mules, fourteen pit mules, four two-horse coal wagons, three stables, eight coke ovens with furnishings, the Coal Company's mineral rights and the coal business, which included a coal yard at the corner of present-day East Carson Street and Arlington Avenue.

Separate from the transaction, the company also obtained the remaining forty-year lease between the Coal Company and the Bailey family.

The lease included rights to a 275-foot parcel of land along the south side of Carson Street that included a loading dock and office building, the existing Coal Incline and the Coal Tunnel, the Horseshoe Curve on the south side of the tunnel and the remaining mile of existing of railroad tracks along Warrington Avenue.

The P&CSRR Company was required to pay a yearly royalty of one-tenth cent per bushel of coal transported and cover the cost of all required city improvements.

PCSRR Locomotive #8

PCSRR Locomotive #8 Specs

The company also acquired rights to a second Mount Washington tunnel which began near the coal incline, on the north face, and ran to the west under Grandview Avenue. This 1,766 foot tunnel was used to transport coal from active mines located under Mount Washington. It was abandoned a few years later when the mines ceased operation.

At this time, the coal incline was renamed the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane. The Mount Washington Coal Tunnel was redesignated the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Tunnel. The tunnel was soon enlarged from 5.5 feet high to a height of 12.5 feet to accomodate larger locomotives and rail cars. Passengers and freight could now pass through the natural divide of Coal Hill directly to Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane - 1888
The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane, shown here along the slope of Coal Hill in 1888, was a
low guage inclined plane used to transport coal mined in the South Hills to industries located
along the Monongahela riverfront. The old coal incline was built in 1864.

Railroad Line Extended To Castle Shannon

When purchased, the Coal Railroad line extended along the eastern side of the Saw Mill Run Valley to a terminus in West Liberty Borough, behind present-day Moore Park in Brookline. When the railroad reached the present-day McKinley Bridge, in Bon Air (which was part of West Liberty Borough at that time), it veered to the right across the broad expanse and creek, over another wooden high-level bridge*, to the Oak Mine on the Brookline on the western side of the valley.

The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, although primarily focused on the growing coal mining industry in the South Hills, was also interested in becoming a common carrier, adding freight and passenger service. In 1872, the company acquired options on 2000 acres of land in Fairhaven (present-day Overbrook) and Castle Shannon, with the intention of both mining and developing the land.

The McKinley Railroad Bridge at Bausman Street.    The Reflectorville Bridge at Edgebrook Avenue.
The P&CSRR McKinley Bridge on August 24, 1912 (left) and the Reflectorville Viaduct at Edgebrook Avenue.
Both bridges were replaced in 1929 and remained in service with the Port Authority until 1993.
These bridges have since been replaced to accomodate modern light rail traffic.

In 1872, the company began upgrading and extending the line from McKinley, in Bon Air, south along Saw Mill Run to Reflectorville, a small community located between Edgebrook Avenue and Whited Street. The original Coal Railroad terminus in West Liberty became an active spur line until that portion of the vast Oak Mine was closed around 1890.

This required the construction of three bridges. The McKinley Bridge (over Bausman Street) and the Reflectorville Viaduct (over Edgebrook Avenue) were on the northern embankment of the valley. The third bridge was the Oak Viaduct across from Oak Street (now called Whited Street). It brought the line across the valley to the south bank of Saw Mill Run near the Oak Station. Here, another short spur line extended into the valley to an active Oak Mine shaft.

PCSRR Repair Shop
The P&CSRR Maintenance and Repair Shop in Castle between Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard.

From Oak Station, the main line continued on to mine shafts located along both sides of the Saw Mill Run Valley. A third spur line, near present-day Overbrook School, branched off to the Fairhaven mine in the valley behind present-day Brookline Park.

The tracks followed Saw Mill Run Creek and, at Library Road, turned towards the west. Further mines entrances were located along Library Road. Eventually, the main line came to an end at Arlington Station in Castle Shannon, a total distance of six miles from the Mount Washington tunnel.

The Arlington Station was the
southern terminus of the railroad line.
The Arlington Station marked the end of the line, the southern terminus of the P&CSRR.

* NOTE: The original high-level bridge at McKinley which crossed the valley to the mines behind Moore Park was dismantled in the late-1880s when that section of the Oak Mine was closed.

Bridges, Stations and the Horseshoe Curve

The P&CSRR maintained four major bridges along its route with a total length of 1,530 feet. In addition to the three built in 1872, this included a bridge over Warrington Avenue acquired in the original lease agreement. The railroad also operated fourteen passenger and loading stations along the length of the line.

The stations were, from north to south, P&CSRR Station (incline), Warrington Station, Boggs Station, Bell Station, High Bridge Station, Reflectorville Station, Smith's Station, Oak Station, Fairhaven Station, Elwynn Station, Cooley Station, Grove Station, Castle Shannon Station and Arlington Station.

The Wabash Tunnel at Glenbury Street - 1909    The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad
passenger station located at Glenbury
Street along the rail line.
A railroad crossing sign at Fairhaven Road (present-day Glenbury Street), The West Liberty Belt Railroad
Tunnel stands in the distance; and the P&CSRR Fairhaven freight and passenger station.

Castle Shannon station, the next to last stop on the P&CSRR line, was located on Willow Avenue. The main service yard, locomotive shop and car barn were located in Castle Shannon at the corner of Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard.

The rail yard extended to a spot near the present-day Lebanon Shops along Mount Lebanon Boulevard. This was the location of the Arlington Station, the final stop along the line. The trains then looped around the rail yard for the return trip to Pittsburgh.

PCSRR Repair Shop
The Castle Shannon Station at Willow Avenue. A box car sits idle on the side rails.

Aside from the scenic route through the rolling, wooded landscape of the rural South Hills, one of the most striking features of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad was the Horseshoe Curve. It was located on the south face of Mount Washington, near the southern portal of the Coal Tunnel.

Inbound trains would approach the curve, which began along Warrington Avenue near Boggs. Here, there was a sharp horseshoe-like turn, first to the right and then around to the left. Once on the hillside leading to the tunnel, there was a final turn to the right before reaching the entrance.

PCSRR Horseshoe Curve
A 1910 map showing the P&CSRR Horseshoe Curve.

In 1892, when passenger and freight traffic through the tunnel ended, an expanded loading station was built along the horseshoe curve. From this station, passengers and cargo were transfered to the Castle Shannon Inclines for the trip over Mount Washington. Coal continued to be transported through the tunnel until 1912.

The Fairhaven and Castle Shannon Suburbs

The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad Company immediately began advertising home lots in Fairhaven, the first of their planned suburbs. On April 17, 1872, they offered sixty parcels of the former Briggs Farm. The terms of sale were ten percent down and five dollars per month with interest.

The lower end of Glenbury Street
at Saw Mill Run intersection - 1895.
The town of Fairhaven (present-day Overbrook), shown here in 1895, was developed along the route of the railroad.
This view shows Fairhaven Road (Glenbury Street) and the P&CSRR boarding station to the lower left.

The company encouraged railroad workers and miners to take advantage of this opportunity to live close to the new mines. An additional advertised benefit was the convenience of a fifteen minute commute to the city.

Fairhaven Hotel - 1930.    P&CS RR schedule
The Fairhaven Hotel on Library Road was a popular resting spot for passengers on the Pittsburgh and
Castle Shannon Railroad. Train schedules (right) were available at the hotel.

A year later, in 1873, lots were offered in Castle Shannon. Advertisements described large lots four to five times the size of average city lots and a timely forty-five minute trip to the city. Although the Fairhaven suburb thrived, the Castle Shannon subdivision initially struggled with a lack of interest in buyers.

Castle Shannon - 1890
Castle Shannon, shown here in 1890, was another community that grew along the railroad line.

Between 1873 and 1876, in an effort to increase interest in the Castle Shannon development, the railroad opened a zoological garden, picnic groves, and a Protestant Methodist church camp meeting ground along the rural route. Linden Grove, still a popular stop along Library Road, was built at this time.

The Zoological Gardens, located at Arch Street and Poplar Avenue, drew between 2000 and 3000 people to its grand opening in May 1876. The zoo featured over 100 varieties of birds and animals, and contained a museum that housed a variety of curiosities. The Castle Shannon Camp Meeting Grounds, later called the Arlington Camp Meeting Grounds, included twenty-one cottages, a hotel, a boardwalk and a pavilion.

Intersection of Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Blvd.    The Castle Shannon Hotel.
The intersection of Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard (left) and the Castle Shannon Hotel (right),
another popular stop for P&CSRR passengers. A the railroad crossing sign stands in the foreground.

These efforts did much to increase ridership, but did not attract the large-scale migration the company had in mind. Although miners and rail workers began settling in Castle Shannon, city dwellers from Pittsburgh continued to shy away from buying land, perhaps because of the six-mile distance from the city and the reliance on the train.

Railroad tracks along Willow Avenue, 1910, and a P&CS RR train passing the Castle Shannon Hotel, 1912.

In 1874 the P&CSRR claimed ownership of five locomotives, two first-class passenger cars, five second-class cars (converted box cars), one freight car and 320 coal cars. The value of real estate owned by the company totaled $292,000.

P&CSRR Time Table

According to 1877 reports, the P&CSRR Company owned two South Hills mines along the railroad line. The first, the Oak Mine in West Liberty, had three drift openings and produced some of the finest coal on the market. The second mine, located in Fairhaven, produced 68,500 short tons of coal that year and employed 134 persons.

The Pittsburgh Southern Railroad

P&CSRR President Milton Hays became involved in the promotion of a new railroad in 1876, which was to travel south to Washington, Pennsylvania. It became known as the Pittsburgh, Castle Shannon and Washington Railroad, and Hays assumed the presidency of the new company.

Hays considered this new railroad company, which operated thirty miles of track between Castle Shannon and Washington, as an extension of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad. The expanded railroad was projected to haul coal, petroleum, iron, stone, lime, agricultural products, livestock and lumber between Washington and Pittsburgh.

Two years later, Hays formed the Pittsburgh Southern Railway Company in a merger with the Washington Railroad Company, extending his southern rail line a further six miles.

The Pittsburgh Southern also used the same forty-inch guage track as the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad. Since there was no way to obtain locomotives or rolling stock of that guage, Hays arranged a one-year lease agreement between the two railroads. The Pittsburgh Southern was now equipped with P&CSRR motive power and equipment.

For a short while this arrangement worked just fine. The Pittsburgh Southern enjoyed financial success as farmers shipped their goods to the city and ordered manufactured goods and machinery. These items used the six miles of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad to reach downtown Pittsburgh.

Tensions Mount Between The Two Railroads

The Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad did not see eye-to-eye with Milton Hays on the purpose of the new southern railroad, nor were they pleased with Hays' dual-presidency.

The P&CSRR Board considered the southern railroad as a spur line of their railroad, and were envious of the sizeable profits flowing into the pockets of their acting president as a result of his private railroad. They were also unhappy with Hays' lease agreement, which allowed the use of their equipment to contribute to these profits.

The P&CSRR Board saw many advantages in gaining control of the southern railroad, but were powerless to act due to the influence of Hays as President of both companies. This animosity towards Milton Hays grew until one day the board members decided to act.

In May 1878 the directors of the P&CSRR announced in a formal letter to Hays that their railroad would no longer honor Pittsburgh Southern tickets and that they would be terminating the lease of locomotives and rolling stock in thirty days.

Cargo from Washington destined for Pittsburgh was now unloaded at the Arlington Station and sat idle. With no means to transport the good to Pittsburgh, the P&CSRR board felt that Hays would be forced to sell the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad to the P&CSRR at a bargain price.

The Castle Shannon Railroad War

Milton Hayes was stung by the decision, but quickly came up with a plan to outwit the now-hostile P&CSRR board. He met with the owner of the Little Saw Mill Run Railroad, which operated a thirty-inch narrow guage coal line along the Banksville corridor. Hays offered a tidy sum of money to enter into a lease agreement with the Little Saw Mill Run Railroad to use their line for his Pittsburgh Southern trains. The transaction was kept secret from the P&CSRR board members.

With the Little Saw Mill Run Railroad's access to Pittsburgh, Hays needed only to construct a three mile connector to bridge the gap between the northern terminus of the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad and the coal line to gain access to the city. His crews went to work immediately on building this extension.

To the chagrin of his rivals, Hays continued to use P&CSRR equipment to build his new extension. Without knowledge of his agreement with the Saw Mill Run Railroad, the P&CSRR board stood by and watched as he built what they considered to be a road to nowhere.

Another problem facing Hays was the lack of narrow-gauge locomotives and rolling stock. Once his lease expired with the P&CSRR in thirty days, he would have no equipment to run his railroad.

After a hasty search, he was able to purchase a thirty-six inch guage locomotive, two passenger cars, one baggage car and three flat cars. This news was also kept a secret from the P&CSRR board, who were growing increasingly suspicious of Hays' clandestine activities. The new acquisitions were immediately emblazed with the name Pittsburgh Southern Railroad.

Thirty-six inch narrow guage locomotive
of the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad

Rival Railroad Crews Battle In The Streets

Only one day before the expiration of the old lease with the P&CSRR, Pittsburgh Southern crews drove in the last spike connecting their line to the Little Saw Mill Run Railroad. When the P&CSRR directors saw the crews laying the third rail to accomodate the new guage, they finally understood Hays true intentions.

The P&CSRR directors were both amazed and furious when they realized that they had been deceived. The day was a Sunday, and the courts did not open until Monday. With the idea of delaying the planned junction and seeking a court injunction the next day, P&CSRR men were mobilized in a effort to halt the work of the Pittsburgh Southern crews.

Some of the P&CSRR men hurriedly spiked a switch to block the Pittsburgh Southern workers while others fired up a P&CSRR locomotive and purposely derailed it in the path of the oncoming Pittsburgh Southern locomotive, upon which stood Milton Hays himself. Others tore up a length of the new track to further delay the connection.

Hays used his locomotive to push the derailed P&CSRR engine off the tracks. It crashed down an embankment and was seriously damaged. The P&CSRR master mechanic then threw a hammer at Hays, hitting him with a glancing blow and knocking him unconscious.

At this point the rival railroad crews began to brawl. The fight lasted a few minutes until weapons were drawn. Outnumbered by the Pittsburgh Southern crewmen, the P&CSRR gang withdrew from the scene. Shortly afterwards, the Pittsburgh Southern connection was completed and Hays emerged victorious in the Castle Shannon Railroad War.

The following day Hays resigned as president of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad. He continued in his role with the Pittsburgh Southern, which remained in operation until 1884. Hays' victory was bittersweet, as his new railroad was never able to turn a profit. The route was sold to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for $50,000. The Pittsburgh Southern Railroad was then reorganized as the Baltimore & Ohio Short Line Railroad.

The P.& C.S.R.R. Struggles Through Hard Times

Although, in the end, the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad emerged as the survivors of the short-lived railroad war, the company itself began to suffer. Due to its use of the odd forty-inch narrow guage rails, it was prohibited from connecting to other railroads in the city, thus hampering its growth potential and profitability.

After the Hays incident, the railroad fell on hard times. Between May 1, 1879 and April 1, 1880, the railroad was placed in receivership. Stockholders scrambled to liquidate the company's real estate holdings to pay off accumulating debt.

Lost during receivership were five parcels of land totaling 359 acres, including the picnic groves, Zoological Gardens, camp grounds and unsold lots in the Castle Shannon plan.

Transporting Coal Brings Modest Growth

After receivership, the railroad enjoyed a decade of modest growth. Coal continued to be the most profitable venture, as the subdivisions of Fairhaven and Castle Shannon did not experience a large increase in population and the loss of the tourist attractions eliminated a large source of passenger traffic.

A P&CSRR locomotive at the Castle Shannon
maintenance and repair shop in 1901.
A P&CSRR locomotive at the Castle Shannon maintenance and repair shop in 1901.

In the 1881 Annual Report, the value of company real estate was reported as $35,000. The line transported 18,162 passengers and 134,450 short tons of coal. The fare rate for passengers was 2 1/2 cents per mile (5 cents if the passenger also used the Coal Incline). Freight was transported for 33 1/3 cents per ton, per mile.

Shown here is the six-page 1882 Annual Report:

PCSRR Annual Report -1882    PCSRR Annual Report -1882    PCSRR Annual Report -1882

PCSRR Annual Report -1882    PCSRR Annual Report -1882    PCSRR Annual Report -1882

Throughout the 1880s, while other traction companies and railroads were experimenting with new technology, the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad changed very little. It continued to operate a steam railroad while others were exploring the use of cable systems and electricity.

1882 Ridership Pass     1889 Ridership Pass

The Castle Shannon and Castle Shannon South Inclines

In 1889, due to safety concerns regarding the transporting of passengers through the Coal Tunnel, the P&CSRR was compelled to begin making capital improvements along the line. The first was construction of a passenger/freight incline along the north face of Mount Washington. Pittsburgh's newest funicular was designed by renowned engineer Samuel Diescher, following a line from Bailey Avenue atop the hill to Carson Street.

Castle Shannon Incline looking towards downtown Pittsburgh.    Castle Shannon Incline, looking up from Carson Street.
The Castle Shannon Incline was the final part of Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad trip from the
southern communities to Pittsburgh. The incline itself continued operating until 1964.

Built on land leased from the Bailey family, the funicular first known as Incline Number One, or the Front Incline, was 1,375 feet long and rose 451 feet from the lower platform along Carson Street. The cost of the project was $161,815. Incline Number One opened to the public on March 7, 1891.

PCSRR Horseshoe Curve
Incline Number One, the Coal Incline and the northern tunnel portal are shown on this 1910 map.
Incline Number Two, or the Back Incline headed to the left from the P&CSRR Station.

With Incline Number One in place, passengers were no longer transported on the old coal incline. Once through the tunnel, they went up a flight of steps to the new incline for the ride down to Carson Street.

The Castle Shannon Incline and the Pittsburgh
and Castle Shannon Plane, the old coal incline.
A postcard image circa-1912 showing the Castle Shannon Incline (left) and the Pittsburgh and Castle
Shannon Plane (right), which was used to transport coal brought from South Hills mines by the old
Coal Railroad, and later the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, from 1864 until 1912.

To connect this plane with the railroad, Diescher was also hired to design Incline Number Two, or the Back Incline, along the south face of Mount Washington. Under construction between 1890 and 1892, the second funicular was a cable road, 2,562 feet in length, that gradually rose nearly 200 feet. The final cost of the southern incline was $58,000 and it opened to the public on August 20, 1892.

Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916.   Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916.
Looking from Warrington Avenue up Haberman Avenue along the route of the Castle Shannon South Incline (left)
and the P&CSRR Warrington Station and Horseshoe Curve on the lower end of the incline.

Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916.   Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916.
Looking up from near the lower Warrington station (left) and a view towards the Bailey Street upper station.

Once the two inclines were in place, the tunnel was used exlusively for transporting coal to the old coal incline, with the exception of times when the inclines were out of service. Once both funiculars were in service, Incline Number One was renamed the Castle Shannon Incline and Incline Number Two was designated Castle Shannon South.

Landslides and Other Disasters

Maintenance of the Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad locomotives and cars was a constant process carried out at their railyard along Castle Shannon Boulevard. Keeping the tracks in working order was another frequent undertaking, one that included not only track upkeep but responding in a timely fashion to both natural and man-made problems.

Mechanical breakdown was always a possibility, and crews needed to be on call to clear the rails and keep the traffic on schedule. With the railroad operating mostly along hillsides, another potential emergency was the threat of landslides, which cut shut down operations for a considerable time while crews clear the debris.

Pittsburgh Press clipping - March 24, 1898.    Pittsburgh Daily Post clipping - November 30, 1901.

On November 29, 1901, a collision between a passenger and freight train at a side track in West Liberty Borough. The locomotives and two freight cars were damaged. Both engineers were injured. The damaged cars and their cargo were pushed over the hillside and the locomotives removed.

With little of no help of being evacuated from the location of the disturbance, passengers were forced to walk the tracks all the way to the incline station along Warrington Avenue. In the case of the 1901 collision, nearly 200 were compelled to make their way by foot to Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Coal Company Regains Ownership

Then, the financial Panic of 1893 hit the nation, and the railroads suffered hard. During this period of economic dissolution, a total of 156 operational railroads in the State of Pennsylvania were put in receivership. Although the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad survived the immediate crisis, the long-term effects were disastrous.

A P&CSRR outbound passenger
train moving through Fairhaven,
present-day Overbrook, in 1902.
A P&CSRR outbound passenger train moving through Fairhaven, present-day Overbrook, in 1902.

In 1900, the Pittsburgh Coal Company acquired a controlling interest in the stock. They bought out 7,756 of 9,628 shares, eighty percent of the railroad. The Coal Company assumed operation of the mines, transportation of coal to market and the passenger service. Pittsburgh Coal had regained control over the railroad that they had sold to Milton Hays thirty years before.

The stock takeover did not result in the termination of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad Company, however, as it continued to exist as a real estate and coal mine holdings company. The railroad line itself also retained the P&CSRR designation.

The Pittsburgh Railways Company

The popularity of horse-drawn trolley service, cable car service and then electrified streetcars was growing rapidly in the late-1800s. As the technology continued to evolve, independant transit companies began a number of short neighborhood lines throughout the city of Pittsburgh.

In the late-1890s several of the companies began to merge and consolidate these urban transit lines. As growth within the city limits continued, these large transit companies began looking to the developing suburbs for the creation of new routes.

The Pittsburgh Railways Company was formed in 1901 as a conglomeration of numerous local traction lines. The company immediately began a massive expansion that included bringing streetcar service to the South Hills communities.

Construction at the South Hills Junction - 1904.
Looking down upon the Pittsburgh Railways South Hills Junction in the spring of 1904 from the P&CSRR tracks above.

The Pittsburgh Coal Company operated the line from 1900 to 1905. In 1902, the Pittsburgh Railways Company entered into a ninety-nine year lease of the railroad with plans to convert the steam powered line into an electric interurban streetcar route.

The terms of the lease allowed the Pittsburgh Railways Company to use the main line and its equipment, but reserved the mining operations and narrow-guage access along the line for the railroad company's transportation of coal for a rental fee of $15,000 per year.

The first major undertaking of the Pittsburgh Railways Company was the construction of the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel. Excavation of the 3,492 foot tunnel began October 6, 1902. The tunnel followed roughly the same path as the old coal tunnel. Its southern portal was slightly below the coal tunnel portal, and with a six percent downhill grade, the northern portal emerged at Carson Street near the Smithfield Street Bridge.

At that time of the lease, the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad inventory included three locomotives, five passenger cars, three combinations, ten flat cars, and 275 coal cars.

South Hills Junction - 1906
An outbound P&CS RR train in 1907 on the hillside above the South Hills Junction. After emerging from the coal
tunnel, the train navigated the Horseshoe Curve to Warrington Avenue, then headed south along Saw Mill Run.

Electrification Of The P.& C.S.R.R. Line

While Pittsburgh Railways began installing new electified routes to southern suburbs like Beechview, Brookline and Mount Lebanon, the company began studying the feasibility of double-tracking and electrifying the P&CSRR main line to accomodate several projected interurban lines, including Charleroi and Washington.

The Charleroi line, the construction of which was funded by the Mellons, was completed in 1904, using the P&CSRR passenger service initially to connect to the southern end of that line in Castle Shannon. That line would remain in service until 1953.

P&CSRR locomotive near Fairhaven    P&CSRR tracks in Fairhaven.
P&CSRR locomotive near Fairhaven (left) and a stretch of track near the same area.

This modernization began in April 1909 and was finished in December 1910 at a total cost of $161,000. The work included refitting the four remaining railroad bridges, installation of electrical equipment along the entire line, and adding a third rail to accomodate the Pennsylvania Broad Gauge of 60 1/2 inches. P&CSRR trains continued to run during the project, and the refurbished dual-purpose line opened to trolley traffic on July 15, 1909.

P&CSRR McKinley Bridge.    P&CSRR McKinley Bridge
A view from both ends of the P&CSRR McKinley Bridge after electrification.

Although the railroad played a key part in the early development of Fairhaven and Castle Shannon, it was the advent of streetcar service that really propelled the growth of these two municipalities.

Pittsburgh Railways provided cost-effective, frequent and reliable transportation. Commuters could now travel from Castle Shannon directly across the Monongahela River into downtown Pittsburgh in record time. This more than anything made moving to the suburbs an attractive option for city residents.

The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad continued to operate its mines between 1909 and 1912, running coal at night along the route. The lease for the horseshoe curve at Warrington Avenue, the coal tunnel, and the coal incline was scheduled to expire with the Bailey's in May 1912. When the lease expired, the Pittsburgh Railways Company purchased the rights to these parcels of land for $12,000.

The End Of The Pittsburgh And Castle Shannon Railroad

This lease expiration signaled the end of the narrow-guage railroad. The Pittsburgh Railways Company began removing the extra rail from the line, leaving the third track only on bridge approaches as safety rails.

Although the railroad was no longer in operation after 1912, the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad Company continued to exist as a land holding subsidiary for the Pittsburgh Coal Company, collecting fees on their rented property. The P&CSRR rights-of-way were not sold to Pittsburgh Railways for several years after the termination of the actual railroad.

McNeilly Road - Elwyn Street.    Glenbury Street - Fairhaven Road.
Pittsburgh Railways trolleys pass Elwyn Street (left) and Fairhaven Road,
McNeilly Road and Glenbury Street in present-day terms.

The railroad discontinued day-to-day operations in May 1912. Steam passenger service officially ended in 1915. The last Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad train made a final ceremonial run in 1919. The company remained on the books until 1950, when its remaining obligations and assets were acquired by the Pittsburgh Railways Company.

The Years That Followed

In the century following the end of Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad operations, the railway right-of-way along the Saw Mill Run Corridor, from the South Hills Junction to Castle Shannon, was in continuous use by the trolleys of the Pittsburgh Railways Company, and subsequently the Port Authority of Allegheny County, until 1993.

 The Bausman Street Bridge.    A Port Authority light-rail transit stop
near the old P&CSRR maintenance shop
along Castle Shannon Boulevard.
A trolley passes over the McKinley Bridge (left) and a modern light-railcar along
Castle Shannon Boulevard, near the old P&CSRR maintenance shop.

After several years of inactivity, the former P&CSRR line was completely rebuilt from the South Hills Junction through to Library for use by the modern light-rail system. The new, refurbished rail line was returned to service in 2004 and has performed well.

The community of Brookline, whose commuters used the P&CSRR and the Castle Shannon years for over a century, finally got a stop along the route in 2004 when the South Bank Station was installed along the light rail route. It was the first time since the old 39-Brookline trolley route was discontinued that the Brookline community had a stop along a Port Authority rail line.

South Bank Station.    South Bank Station.
South Bank Station is a light-rail transit stop located within the Brookline community.

The communities of Overbrook and Castle Shannon, as well as numerous points further south, are fortunate to have light rail service. It is a cheap, reliable and environmentally sound alternative to the automobile. This would not be the case without Milton D. Hays and his 1866 vision of a suburban rail line known as the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad.

The Castle Shannon South Incline's fate was tied to the railroad itself. With no passengers to move, the line was abandoned in 1914. The more successful northern incline was acquired by Pittsburgh Railways Company and in operation until June 21, 1964. At the time of it's closing, Castle Shannon Incline No. 1 was one of only three functioning inclines remaining in Pittsburgh.

Maps Showing The P.& C.S.R.R. Route
Through Mount Washington

PCSRR Map 1886 - Mount Washington.    Current Map of Mount Washington 2011
A map of the P&CS RR route from 1886 and a current map of Mount Washington, 2011.

PCSRR Map 1920 - Mount Washington.
Map from 1910 showing the route of the P&CSRR along Warrington Avenue to the Horseshoe Curve, then through
the tunnel to Pittsburgh. This map shows the inclines used by the railroad to ferry passengers and freight.

Photos of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad
and the Castle Shannon Inclines

Click on images for larger pictures

A vintage turn-of-the-century
Castle Shannon Incline Car.    A vintage turn-of-the-century
Castle Shannon Incline Car.
Vintage turn-of-the-century Castle Shannon incline cars from the northern (left) and southern planes.

PCSRR horseshoe curve - 1915    PCSRR horseshoe curve - 1930s.
The P&CSRR horseshoe curve at Warrington Avenue (left), running under the trolley ramp, in 1915
and the same location after the removal of the railroad line in the 1930s.

Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916   Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916
Looking from Warrington Avenue up Haberman Avenue along the route of the Castle Shannon South Incline (left)
and the P&CSRR Warrington Station and Horseshoe Curve on the lower end of the incline.

Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916   Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916
Looking up from near the lower Warrington station (left) and looking down from near the top of the rise.

Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916   Castle Shannon South Incline - 1916
Cables along the tracks near the top of the line (left) and a view towards the Bailey Street upper station.

The Castle Shannon Incline - 1900
The Castle Shannon Incline and the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane along Mount Washington in 1900.

Looking up from the Carson Street Station.   Looking down from the Bailey Street Station.
The Castle Shannon Incline measured 1,350 feet in length.
Originally steam powered, the incline was electrified in 1918.

View from the Castle Shannon Incline.   The Castle Shannon Incline.
Vintage Pittsburgh postcards showing the Castle Shannon Incline.

The Castle Shannon Incline in 1921.
The lower station of the Castle Shannon Incline on Carson Street in 1921.

Approaching Library Road and McNeilly Road - 1930.    Entrance to the South Hill Coal Mine - 1930.
Library Road approaching Elwyn Street (McNeilly Road) and the bridge leading to the entrance to the South Hills
Coal Company (right). The P&CSRR tracks followed the hillside, crossing the trestle in front of the tunnel.

The P&CSRR Railroad - 1906
The P&CSRR tracks passing Castle Shannon Boulevard, the Washington Boulevard, in 1906.

Panorama of Castle Shannon - 1909.
Panoramic view of the village of Castle Shannon in 1909, showing the P&CSRR tracks, near the
bottom of the photo, approaching the West Side Belt Railroad Viaduct.

The P&CSRR Railroad - 1910
The P&CSRR tracks passing Castle Shannon Boulevard, the Washington Boulevard, in 1910.

Photos of Pittsburgh Railways Trolleys Along
The Old P.& C.S.R.R. Route

Click on images for larger pictures

Reflectorville Viaduct    Linden Grove
The Oak Viaduct at Whited Street (left) and the Linden Grove car stop.

Willow Avenue    Willow Avenue
An inbound (left) and outbound trolley pass along Willow Avenue in Castle Shannon.

Edgebrook Bridge    West Side Belt Viaduct in Castle Shannon
The Reflectorville Viaduct (left) and passing under the West Side Belt Viaduct in Castle Shannon.

Edgebrook Bridge    Overbrook
An outbound trolley on the hillside overlooking Edgebrook Avenue (left)
and another heading inbound along Saw Mill Run through Overbrook.

Warrington Avenue trestle    Fairhaven Road - Glenbury Street
A trolley passes over the Warrington Avenue trestle heading towards the South Hills Junction (left) and a
Library Trolley passes Fairhaven Road (Glenbury Street) and the old P&CSRR passenger station.

Interurban service to Washington    Interurban service to Washington
Interurban trolleys following the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad route to Washington, Pennsylvania.

<Trolleys in Brookline> <> <Brookline History>