Articles - PRR Chartiers Branch Towns
03/02/2014
In this page I want to capture more detailed information about the various towns, and, specifically, information related to the PRR Chartiers branch interaction with those towns, such as local track arrangement, and industries served. This is only the information I've been able to collect and document so far. Much more remains to be done. I do not intend to cover all history of the Branch in this page. I am modeling the Chartiers Branch as it was during the summer of the year 1950, so my research will be focused on that time period only. I picked that time period, because that is still when some passenger service was provided, when the Branch was still double-tracked, and when both steam and diesel locomotives would have been observed on the line.

Canonsburg

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Canonsburg itself was incorporated in 1802. It had been founded by John Canon who built a flour and saw mill in the area. In my mind, Canonsburg serves as the center point of the Branch; it represents the mid-point between the start of the Branch at Carnegie, and the end of the Branch at Washington. Also, thanks to the book Canonsburg Reflections 1802-2002" by James T. Herron, Jr., we have a fantastic track map of the Canonsburg area, so this is great for researching where certain industries were.

Canonsburg Passenger Station

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The station still exists to this day (it is currently used as a fraternal club for The Sons of Italy). The MapQuest satellite photo below shows the station highlighted. It is at the corner of Murdock and Jefferson. The single-line track of the modern-day version of the Chartiers Branch is labeled "Conrail". The Chartiers Creek is visible south of the station.

From the roof-top view, you can see it is a fairly typical small branchline passenger station. The section on the left is longer than the section on the right, and the cross section of the roof line appears to be shorter on the street side than on the track side. So, it is not a perfectly symmetrical design.
PRR Chartiers Branch Towns
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The track in Canonsburg was completed in May 1871. A wooden depot was built in the present-day location of the brick passenger station. The wooden depot was moved in 1908 to the left (west) of this location, to make room for the new brick passenger station. The brick station was opened in 1909. The area actually had a railroad yard, and the wooden structure became the common-goods freight station for the yard. The passenger station handled passengers, baggage, and first-class mail. This is a photo I have found on the Internet (I need to trace down its source/owner; it looks like it is a scan of a newspaper print) that shows the station in its glory days. Note the double-track mainline, and the fence in between the tracks to discourage people from crossing the track at dangerous locations.
PRR Chartiers Branch Towns
This photo was taken by Gary Carmichael in September 2010, and he has given me permission to use his photos on my web site. This view is taken from the football stadium across the tracks. The wooden freight station is no more, but a photo taken in 1967 shows it still existing. Passenger service in Canonsburg stopped in July 1952. After that the building was unused, until in the mid-1960s when it was used as the CAAA spa, a health and fitness business. It was during that remodel that the open breeze way was enclosed. This is according to a gentleman who informed me that his uncle and father did the construction work during that remodel. Today the building is owned and used by the Sons of Italy Lodge 758 (address is: 3 Murdock St, Canonsburg, PA 15317). It is my understanding that the Sons of Italy are considering renovating the building to restore it back to its original looks (from a 2013 e-mail I received). I have also been told that despite the years, the interior of the building is still very much like it was originally, and that parts are still recognizable, such as the ticket office space.
PRR Chartiers Branch Towns

Canonsburg Pottery

The company was formed in 1909 by purchasing the assets of Canonsburg China Company. The George family started and ran the company over the years until its closure in 1978 after suffering a devastating fire in 1975. The company specialized in dinnerware and produced 25,000 dozen pieces per week. It employed 350 people. An interesting side bar is that beginning in 1957 the company started using clay from land where the Vitro Manufacturing Company had been located. Vitro made refined uranium for atom bombs. Yes, the clay was radio-active! I am guessing that the company used boxcars to ship their manufactured goods, and received gondolas, hoppers, and boxcars for their clay and other manufacturing materials. Clay was brought in from various parts of the U.S., especially southern states (which may justify southern railroad cars).

Pennsylvania Transformer Co.

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In the "Pennsylvania Railroad C.T. 1000 C, May 1, 1945" the Pennsylvania Transformer Co. is not listed because they didn't move to Canonsburg until 1946.

Houston

There was a turning wye near Houston, so engines did not have to run in reverse.

Tylerdale Connection

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The Tylerdale Connecting began as an idea in the late 1800s by W. P. Tyler, and industrialist who opened a carbon tube mill in Washington. The valley quickly opened up as the industrial base of Washington PA due to the discovery of cheap natural gas and proximity of Chartiers creek which ran through the corridor.

Tyler (Tylerdale ward was named after W.P. Tyler) decided to build a connecting line to open up competition between the two railroads (then PRR and B&O) and get the best rates for his mill and the other industry that had developed.

Dunbar & Wallace Lumber

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The "Internet Archive" web site contains historical information about J. Harper Wallace who was a prominent citizen of Washington County, and president of Dunbar & Wallace Lumber Co. as well as of Crafton Builders' Supply Company in Crafton, PA. His second marriage yielded six children, several of whom were involved in either of the two companies. The Google newspaper article, published on February 1, 1969, mentions Wilbert B. Wallace as the president of the Dunbar & Wallace Lumber Co. at that time. They apparently provided specialty millwork. The company was started in 1901, and was located at 1045 Jefferson Avenue. Apparently it was the U.S. Plywood Corporation's headquarters for all Weldwood products and paneling. It provided dressed lumber as well as building supply materials such as lime, cement, and plaster. There was a hardware store (by the same name) located next to the lumber company. A full-time carpenter was employed to do custom work for clients. There were an additional 12 employees, six in the office, three in the store, two drivers, and one yard man. There is a company ad right next to the article. What a fantastic resource! According to the February 6, 1971 article, the company had grown to 4 yardmen, and seven office staff. That article announces the 70th anniversary of the company but otherwise is an almost exact reprint of the previous article. Dunbar & Wallace Lumber Co. was located at milepost 21.7 of the Chartiers Branch.

Washington

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The glass industry alone employed 40,000 people in the Washington area. Washington also sits on top of the Pittsburgh Coal Vein, and is the hub of the current Marcellus Shale natural gas bonanza.

Washington Engine Servicing Facility

The end-of-the-line of the Chartiers Branch was an engine servicing facility in Washington, PA. The facilities included a turntable, a three-stall rectangular engine house/repair shop, as well as the typical appliances, such as water spouts, a platform, etc. Some photos show a turntable cabin (see below), while others show the turntable without one. It must have been added or removed at some point in time. The photo below came from the "prr_panhandle_pa" Yahoo group's photo section.
PRR Chartiers Branch Towns
The "prr_panhandle_pa" Yahoo group's files section has a Microsoft Word document that shows a map of the area dated between 1857 and 1906. It clearly shows the turntable and engine house. It indicates that the turntable was 60 feet in diameter. There is a prototype photo showing a 4-4-0 steam engine with tender on the bridge with maybe 4 feet to spare, so that would confirm the 60-foot length of the bridge. Note the orientation of the diagram. Conventionally, it should be turned clockwise 90 degrees, to have the "north" arrow pointing up.
PRR Chartiers Branch Towns