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.


  1. Mike,
    Nice report! Not sure you are aware, in the area between Brady Tunnel and the coaling station sat a brick interlocking/control tower named Brady. PRR constructed in the early 1940's and it had an early PRR CTC (Centralized Traffic Control) system for the PRR. Brady remote controlled switches and signals from Red Bank north through the tunnel to just south of Oil City. Conrail tore down the tower in the early to mid-1980's. I guess the big coal dock was too much a daunting task to remove. So it is there as a wonderful monument to steam trains, the PRR and local history.
    As far as the neat flume over the tunnel portal, I believe it was just used to funnel ground water over the tunnel portal so the railroad didn't have a problem like there is today with flooding and deterioration of tunnel face. I don't think it was used to capture water for steam locomotives.
    I visited Phillipston in the early 1980's, saw 1 Conrail train there, a couple strings of coal hopper cars and visited the yard office. Hard to believe the yard is all overgrown. One would never know a railroad yard was there.

    Eric Johnson

  2. Great blog and I love what you have to say and I think I will tweet this out to my friends so they can check it out as well. I like what you have to say.
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