I have walked or biked many abandoned railroads and branches. This is the first time I walked one that realistically never existed. The Derry-Donohoe-Jeannette (DDJ) Branch was planned out prior to 1903 for the most part. The plan was to eliminate the twin dips at Latrobe and Greensburg on the main line, while avoiding Greensburg. The DDJ sits north of, and runs almost parallel to the main line. As late as 1943 they were still conducting studies to see if the project should be completed.
One of the underlying reasons for this line was to reduce helper service for freight trains. By 1943 the branch was graded from Derry to the Loyalhanna Creek. Another reason was the PRR was running out of space to waste slag, mill refuse, cinders and other industrial waste. The entire grade from Derry to the creek is built of this, thus solving two problems at once.
By 1920 the project was well under way and in 1923 the Board okayed the new line. The volume of waste then fell and the project began dragging. With the dawning of the Great Depression in the 1930's the project just stalled. Finally in 1955 the PRR wrote off its investment in the DDJ for a tax credit.
The fill on this grade is absolutely enormous. This mountain is huge. It was meant to carry two tracks but between Bradenville and Pandora Road it could easily carry four. Bridge abutments can still be seen along Pandora Road and massive piers still sit along Rt. 982. Anyone using a Tomtom GPS knows that old railroad tracks show up on it. This shows up on it as well.
The only thing missing on the stretch are the rails and bridges and from the look of the abutments and piers there could very well have been bridges. Today a high tension power line runs where the railroad should have been. Dirt bikers also enjoy the stretch. In the ruts left from the bikes, I found old stamped bricks, a lot of slag and even a piece of railroad hardware.
I started at Rt. 982 near Bradenville and walked to Rt. 981.
|The blue line is underneath the DDJ branch. This is the area I followed.|
The massive bridge piers near Bradenville.
A wooden bridge abutment is still visible of the east side of 982.
The west pier.
A close up of the wooden abutment.
This is looking down at the pier from the grade. Compare the truck passing between the piers to the hill to see the enormity of this grade.
The top of the piers. This is what leads me to believe there may have been a bridge here. If not, it's certainly bridge ready.
Right off the bat I found some railroad hardware.
Heading west toward Pandora Road.
Looking east toward Bradenville.
Looking north from the grade.
The bridge abutments at Pandora Road.
Looking north up Pandora Road from the eastern abutment.
At Uschak Road. If there were abutments here they are gone now.
|Heading west from Uschak Road toward 981.|
A black cat in the woods that wanted nothing to do with me.
These are huge boulders of slag or cinders that are all over the place as you near 981.
I saw this from the grade and had to go down and check it out.
It's a huge old pipe.
An old stone wall near the pipe. This is all located in a deep pit off the railroad grade. I thinking possibly a reservoir at one time. I'll have to remember to look into it more.
Looking through the pipe. It runs under the grade.
A big roll of barbed wire.
Looking east toward Chestnut Ridge.
This is the end at 981. There was a guy burning trash up ahead to the right. He was eyeballing me so I just ended my journey here.
The following information was given to me by Ray Washlaski and was accumulated from his extensive research on the mines and coke works in Derry Township.