Sunday, April 17, 2016

Allegheny Valley Railroad - Templeton to East Brady - Armstrong Rail Trail

Today was a perfect weather day for getting on a bike, riding along the river and seeing some amazing railroad artifacts. The original Allegheny Valley Railroad (unrelated to the one operating today) was a very early railroad in this region. Originally it was incorporated as the Pittsburgh, Kittanning, and Warren Railroad on April 4, 1837. The name of the railroad was changed to the Allegheny Valley Railroad on February 12, 1852. The road was completed to Kittanning on January 23, 1856 after which the railroad ran out of capital. Things were stagnant until the oil boom in the northern counties kickstarted the railroad back to life. The road began construction from Kittanning north in 1863 and eventually made it the whole way to Oil City by 1867. 


In 1900 the Pennsylvania Railroad leased the Allegheny Valley Railroad. After this the railway is listed as a Pennsylvania Railroad branch until the Pennsylvania's collapse. After that Conrail ran the railroad until 1984 when it was abandoned. 


The Pennsylvania did a lot of improvements on the railroad starting around 1913. Several tunnels were constructed which shortened the length of the road and eliminated sharp curves. A couple years ago I did a post on a section of the railroad north of Emlenton. That can be seen here along with some more history of this railroad. 


There are a lot of really cool things along this 15 mile section from Templeton to East Brady.



Coming out of Templeton. This is looking over at the now abandoned Pittsburgh & Shawmut Railroad bridge. This bridge was abandoned after the Reesedale Power Plant closed in 2012. The power plant was the railroad's only customer. East of here are some really nice tunnels. We explored a few of them last summer and they can be seen here.

After this, the first area we come across is called Gray's Eddy. Gray's Eddy was a small village started around 1840. Oliver Gray built the first house here and Robert Thompson built a store, hotel and warehouse. Freight was shipped here, I'm assuming by river until the railroad was completed.

This culvert would date back to the 1863 northern expansion of the railroad.

Today it is a very serene location with a really nice waterfall. There are some old stone walls remaining but the area is heavily posted.

Looking up around a bend in the river a little bit north of Gray's Eddy is the first railroad treasure. The Redbank Coaling Station.

To the right is the old Pennsylvania Railroad Low Grade Division. It is now the Redbank Valley Trail which goes through New Bethlehem and up to Brookville.

The Redbank Coaling Station. This tower was started in 1928 and put into service on February 8, 1930. It was used until 1957 when the entire railroad switched to diesel. The fact that it remains is incredible. These are increasingly difficult to find.

This is a small "tunnel" section behind the tower. I'm assuming this is where the coal was unloaded from the trains.



There is a long stone wall behind the coaling tower.

Some of the upper windows at the top of the coaling tower. There is no way into this thing though.

It's huge.

Underneath the coaling station. Obviously the steel hoppers are gone.

I think the odd hole at the upper left of the photo might have been the way into the tower. I'm picturing steps.


Up next is the Brady Tunnel. This is one of the improvements the Pennsylvania did on this railroad. The date on this tunnel is 1915. It was built at the same time as the Kennerdale and the Woodhill/Rockland Tunnels to the north. The Brady Tunnel is completely flooded and is closed. This is the south portal.


What is really cool about this is this flume that runs across the top. The flume appears to have been out of commission for a very long time. The water that used to flow above the top of the tunnel is now running down the side of the hill and through the roof of the tunnel.

The 1915 keystone.


The bottom of the flume.

A look inside the flooded tunnel.

This is the endless stream of water flowing down the side of the tunnel portal from the broken flume.

Another view inside the southern portal.

Another view of the water rolling down the side of the hill and the supports for the flume.

This is the bottom of the flume. I don't know if the water was saved. Could there have been a water tower here at one time?

Up next is this incredible locomotive turntable and train yard. The Phillipston Turntable and Train Yard were built in 1876 and was the main service station for the Allegheny Valley Railroad. The yard originally contained 1.7 miles of track, a wooden two stall engine house and a 75 foot wide turntable. The classification yard contained 13 tracks. In 1886 the service station and other buildings burned down but were quickly rebuilt.

Some of the huge gears required to turn a 400,000 pound locomotive.

Side of the turntable.

Some of the curved track and a wheel that drove the turntable.

Looking across the top of the turntable.


Looking down at one of the drive wheels.

Looking down at the curved track. The cut stone walls surrounding the turntable are about four feet high.

One of the wheels.

A final shot of the turntable.

This is in East Brady. I was resting outside of the Uni-Mart and grabbing something to eat before the trip back. The railway got all cut up going through East Brady due to recent development. The house across the street had this "Whistle" sign in its driveway.


Here is the link for the Armstrong Trail website

And here is the link to the Redbank Valley Trail website

 Hopefully someday it will be possible to ride the entire Allegheny River.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Brady's Bend Iron Works

These remains of two iron furnaces at Brady's Bend, PA originated in 1839. In February of that year, Philander C. Raymond, a New York Iron Master purchased the land that became the site of the Great Western Iron Company. This company initially produced strip rails and expanded their operations up through 1842. By 1843 the company ran into financial difficulties and they ceased operations while searching for more funds. 


In 1844 some of the previous owners of Great Western formed the Brady's Bend Iron Company and purchased the bankrupt company. This company enjoyed great success up through the mid 1850's producing rail for the then booming railroad industry. At this time they employed nearly 500 people. However, the Panic Of '57 and the depression that followed brought railroad construction and the need for iron to a halt. Unable to find a market for their iron, the company shut down in 1858.


In 1861, William B. Ogden, the first Mayor of Chicago and noted canal and railroad industrialist purchased the iron works. In 1862 following the Pacific Railroad act Ogden became the first president of the Union Pacific Railroad. He was a very busy man. Seizing the opportunity to combine iron rail production with his railroad ventures, Ogden re-fired the works in December of 1862. The iron works began turning profits in mid 1863 despite being under-capitalized with an initial stock offering of only $45,000.00. At this time the company began building houses for its employees. Initially 70 houses were constructed but there would be 150 by 1865. The company also constructed  Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches and a grocery store. The rapid growth during the Civil War found the iron works undermanned. The search was out to find all the iron and coal miners they could and bring them to Brady's Bend. The company's mines could not produce enough iron ore to meet the demands of its furnaces and realized financial difficulties importing ore by train. This and the reduction of iron demand following the Civil War proved difficult for the company and they fell into debt. On January 30, 1866 Ogden stepped down and was replaced by Samuel G. Wheeler. The company saw an upswing from the oil boom and the construction of the railroad from Brady's Bend to Oil City in 1868.


In 1869 Wheeler stepped down and W.D. Slack took over. Brady's Bend grew tremendously under Slack's leadership with holdings at over $7,000,000 and nearly 1,400 employees by 1872. Despite all this the company was still facing financial difficulties. In March 1873 the laborers went on strike due to not having been paid in months. The strike didn't last long and the workers were reassured that they would paid. In June of that year the machinery broke down and the works were shut down for one week. In July the workers went on strike again because they still hadn't been paid. The financial situation was too great for the company. In September 1873 they sent out their last shipment of rails and in October the furnaces were blown out for good. In 1894 another attempt was made to open the iron works but it failed. The bank foreclosed the land and sold it to Col. Edward W. Dewey in 1901 for $40,000. Dewey's son, Edward R. Dewey managed the land until the late 1900's and leased it for real estate, oil and gas development and 1,000 acres were donated to the State Game Preserve.


Today there are ruins of two iron furnaces sitting behind a baseball field.



Photo of the iron furnaces sent to me by Google Effects.


The two iron furnaces.

You can see part of the arch under all this rubble.

Portions of this stone are still very tight.

Perfectly smooth angles.


Interesting map of the iron works and associated mines.


Another map. (Maps courtesy of Ancestor Tracks)