Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad- Mahoning and Mack Tunnels

Today was a great day to explore a couple portions of the old Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad. The 88 mile long railroad was founded in 1903 and constructed over the next several years. Originally named the Brookville and Mahoning Railroad, its name was changed in 1910 mainly to avoid confusion with the Boston and Maine Railroad which had the same reporting marks. The railroad ran from Brockway, PA to Freeport, PA as a connection to Pittsburgh for its parent company; the Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern Railroad. 


In 1916 the Pittsburg & Shawmut broke away from its parent railroad and became its own company. The P&S was completed from Brockway to Freeport in 1917 and continued to operate for nearly a century. In 1996 the railroad was purchased by Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (a short line holding company) but continued to operate under the name of Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad. On January 1, 2004 it was absorbed into the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad who continues to operate a section of it from Freeport to Kittanning.

This railroad was the main supplier of coal for the Reesedale Power Plant until its closure in 2012. With the plants closing the section of railway near Templeton seems to be largely abandoned. The tracks still remain but are in poor condition in many places. The furthest east we explored today was near Rt. 66/28. There are no tracks in this section.


After parking and walking a while, we are approaching the Mack Tunnel.

Approaching the eastern portal.

This was certainly the nicest of the two we explored today.


This tunnel is nicely tucked away. You really have to be looking for it to find it.

Inside of the tunnel.

The inside of the tunnel is lined with brick.

Looking out the western portal.

The western portal.

Heading west on the abandoned rail bed.

A look down at Mahoning Creek.

Approaching the bridge.

Fenced off.

It still appears that the bridge is very sturdy.

Heading back toward the Mack Tunnel.

A lot more mist has settled in.

Mary Jane standing at the tunnel portal. It's a single track tunnel but still very huge.

Looking out the eastern portal.

There were only two of these manholes in this tunnel. Both were at the western end. These were holes on the side of the tunnels that a person could jump into if a train was approaching.

An interesting thing in this tunnel were these holes in the brick. I'm assuming they were for drainage.

Wooden slats sat in the back. Behind them was river gravel.

The walls were lined with this stamped Youngstown brick. Other brick we saw was stamped SHAWMUT PA.

Leaving this section and heading over to the Mahoning Tunnel.

There was still track in this section but they don't appear to have been used recently.

A chipmunk eating its lunch on an upright railroad tie.

Approaching the Mahoning Tunnel.

A large landslide in front of the western portal.

It was tough getting photos in this very dark tunnel. Notice the curve towards the back.

Approaching the eastern portal.

The eastern portal.

Another look inside.

Looking out the western portal.

Mary Jane's shadow.

Heading back. Hungry and wet.

An excerpt from the Mahoning River Mining Co. map. On the west side of the Mack tunnel once was the mining patch town of Thayerton. Nothing exists of Thayerton today.

A video of the steam train days on the Pittsburg & Shawmut.


  1. Just amazing! Thanks to you,what is left of our industrial heritage is being cataloged! I could never go into those tunnels,brave folks you two!

    1. Thanks! The Mack Tunnel was actually in very good condition. The Mahoning, which was more recently used was pretty scary!

  2. Good reporting and photos Mike! I never explored this part of the P&S. Spent many weekends at my uncle's summer cottage at Clinton, PA (north of Freeport) and saw many a P&S train delivering coal and some limited freight to Penn Central and later Conrail at Freeport Jct. What a great railroad it was with its SW9 switcher locomotives. I sure miss this line.
    Eric Johnson

  3. Thanks for all of the great photos. Did you know there were 5 or 6 tunnels on that line. The rt. 28/66 bridge at Hogback once had a tunnel under it. I guess it was always caving in at the portals so they daylighted it. I grew up on the P&S in Bridgeburg along the river.

    1. Nice! I did read that and followed the route on online maps. It's one of those things I always meant to finish but got sidetracked with something else. That's a long line! Thanks for writing.

  4. Excellent site! I will be spending a lot of time here.

    One point though: "Mack" tunnel should be "Mauk".

    1. I don't know. The Mauk Tunnel is further out by Punxsatawney isn't it? This tunnel is west of 28/66.

  5. Mauk tunnel is further up just off Mauk Tunnel Rd. The road obviously makes it easy to locate. Two beautiful viaducts and two more tunnels further up but close by.

    1. Thanks Mark, I've located them on the map but have never had a chance to get up there yet, Hopefully I get a chance this fall. So little time, so many places....