Sunday, December 8, 2013

Plum Creek Branch of The Pennsylvania Railroad- Milltown to Verona

The Plum Creek Branch of The Pennsylvania Railroad was constructed by The Allegheny Valley Railroad Company in 1872. The AVRR operated this branch until 1910 when The Pennsylvania Railroad acquired the company. The branch ran from Verona to North Bessemer until some time after 1950 when it was extended to The Unity Railways line east of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. An abandoned railroad tunnel under the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad at North Bessemer bears the date 1957 so this is probably the year of the extension. On the 1950 map the branch only reaches North Bessemer. The 1964 map shows it reaching the Unity Railroad which lead to the mines at Renton. The Plum Creek Branch served the Plum Creek Mine which also opened in 1872 as well as the Newfield Mine which opened later in 1916. Passenger service was also available until 1966. The branch was officially abandoned on July 10, 1972 and the tracks were removed. There was some mining at Newfield as late as 1990 but the coal was probably just loaded into trucks. The 1976 map doesn't show the branch going beyond Verona where it still sees some usage today by the Daily's Beverage Company which is located right on the tracks. 

This post concentrates only on the section from Milltown to Verona. There is a lot to see on the other sections but that will be saved for another day.

The area I traced in red is where we are at.

This bridge is the first thing you come across leaving Milltown.

The deck of the bridge. I didn't walk across this one. Maybe if it wasn't covered in snow....

Side view of the bridge.

A close up of the cut stone abutment.

Heading down the railroad.

Approaching the first old building.
I'm not sure what it is. An old shed.

This is in front of the old shed. I'm not sure if the branch to the left is an old spur. It goes to a house now.

Old stone wall across from the shed.

Heading out towards Hulton Road. There is some kind of business on the other side of Plum Creek.

Another building on the other side of the creek along Hulton Road.

The Plum Creek bridge on Hulton Road.

The railroad crossed Hulton Road here and traveled down through where the trailer park is now.

The tracks went through this field.

The railroad traveled to the right of the trailers, in between the two trees near the road.

An old house up from the rail line.

Heading down to the next section below Oakmont.

This was probably the easiest abandoned railroad I ever walked. It was never too grown in. Just a bit muddy at times.

Some old railroad ties.


The next old building.
Throwing caution to the wind, I opened the high voltage door and found....
Looking up the hillside toward upper Oakmont.

White Oak trees.

Penn Hills Community Park across Plum Creek.

Plum Creek is the border between Penn Hills and Plum Boro.

More railroad ties.


This is when it got pretty lame. I really wasn't looking for a housing plan.

At least the railroad cut is still there.

Coming to the end of the housing plan section there's a fence to the left.

On the other side of the fence.

An old collapsed house.

Inside the abandoned shop/garage.

Old file cabinet.

A bunch of old fire hoses.

Scrap metal.

Looking outside the garage door.

The coolest thing in this building was this old furnace.

Fire damage.

Side of the old house.

Side of the shop.

Dark Hollow Road in Verona. The section in the foreground is part of the old rail bed. It went straight through the field and to the right of the house in the background.
This is looking back at the housing plan section.
Walking through this swampy field to the next railroad bridge.

This is all that's left of the bridge.

Looking up at the old grade.

This driveway is the other side of the bridge and was part of the old railroad.

The railroad crossed the road here at the intersection of Plum Street and Hunter Road.

This parking lot is part of the old rail bed.

The railroad went diagonally past where this truck is sitting. This is behind the Daily's Beverage plant.

The other side of the Daily's plant.

Heading under Allegheny River Boulevard.


Under the boulevard.

1936 plate.

Headed towards the river.

And this is where the branch begins.


  1. Very cool. I know the area, but have never walked it. Thanks for taking these pics.

    1. It's a nice walk. It's probably pretty grown in now though. It's probably better to wait till fall. The section from Milltown to Hulton Road is probably good but from Hulton Road to Verona might be a little rough in the summer.

    2. Very nostalgic. I grew up in Verona/Oakmont circa 1937 - 1969. Many times did I walk the old railroad line. The ruined house with interesting furnace was most probably my Uncle John Cenk's house, circa 1950 - 1970. My cousins Amelia, Joan, Mary, and Bill Cenk were born and reared there. Amelia and I are still well, both in our late 70's. You will likely find the graves of John, and my grandfather John Cenk, plus my mom and dad Pauline and Samuel Toia in Verona cemetery, in Oakmont. As to the railroad: a train would come up the tracks about 11 PM, and Mary, Amelia and Joan would flash their porchlight on and off, and the engineer would blow the whistle - almost every night.-
      Mike Toia - Culpeper VA

    3. Thanks for writing Mike! Thank you for sharing your memories of the old railroad line. I'm happy you and Amelia are doing well. Thanks again!

  2. Is there any access to the Newfield or Renton mines for exploration??

    1. Not that I could find. I think the Renton Mines were all shaft mines. It looks like there's some buildings left below Renton though. Newfield has all been reclaimed too.

  3. Mike
    I started in mining in 1975 at the Newfield Mine which was one of six mines that produced coal for the Republic Steel coke works. This coal was shipped via the Bessemer to Russellton for cleaning in their prep plant Newfield leased the coal from Pittsburgh Coal in 1952 and at one time Newfield and Renton were physically connected underground. This connection was severed by the installation of bulkheads in 52 The Plummy did ship coal from Newfield until 1963 when the slope was completed and then the Bessemer replaced it . There is one photo of the loadout in the B& LE book . I was also part of the group that actually reopened the mine in early 1994 until the closure in November 1994 due to water issues. You are right, we did ship via truck during this period as we were doing necessary rehab work

    1. Thank you for the information and accurate dates. Thanks for looking at my blog.

  4. Mike
    Yes both Newfield and Renton were shaft mines

  5. The old building just past the Milltown trestle was some type of sub-station for the power co., the dirt road was accesswhich came from the Steurnagle farm. The demise of this rail spur occurred when the conveuyer belt was completed(mid 1960's), which sent the mined coal directly to the B&LE, eliminating the for Plummy(our nickname for this line.

  6. Hi, thanks Mike for this blog post, really helpful! I heard about this old railroad line last week at a Verona Historical Society meeting, and went out today to hike it from the trailer park heading towards the old mine. Trail is in fine condition, until I got to the old bridge maybe a mile away. Difficult crossing even in good weather! I might've tried it on my own, but I had a small fluffy dog with me and didn't want to chance it. :) Might try it again without the dog...

    1. Hi Jeff, that bridge is pretty tricky from what I remember. I think it's tough even getting onto it. I'm usually pretty brave when it comes to bridges but I didn't do that one. I think it was snow covered the day I was out there too.

  7. This is awesome. I grew up in Verona and walk that many times and never knew what it was for. Thanks