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Railroad History, Pittsburgh Plan, 1923

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General Description

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, with its eastern terminals at Baltimore and Philadelphia, with close working traffic arrangements with other companies to New York and New England States, concentrates its through traffic from the east via Baltimore and Washington on a single main line between Washington Junction and Cumberland. At the latter point, its main lines diverge; one to the southwest, by way of Parkersburg, to Cincinnati and St. Louis; and another, by way of Pittsburgh, to Youngstown, Akron and Chicago, also to points on the Great Lakes including Fairport, Cleveland, Lorain, Sandusky and Toledo. In a general way it may be said that it serves the same territory as does the Pennsylvania System, at least with respect to the transportation necessities of Pittsburgh. The latter city is served by the following lines:

The main line from the east enters Pittsburgh along the north or right bank of the Monongahela River, and its passenger and freight terminals are at Water and Smithfield Streets.

The main line from Chicago, originally the Pittsburgh & Western Railroad, enters the city from the northeast, follows the north or right bank of the Allegheny River and connects, through the Pittsburgh Junction Railroad, with the Pittsburgh-Cumberland main line east.

The Pittsburgh Junction Railroad connects with the eastward line at Laughlin Junction, adjacent to Second and Greenfield Avenues. It passes through Junction Hollow (on the north side of Schenley Park), tunnels under the Bellefield district east of Craig Street, emerges into an open cut at Neville Street and Center Avenue, leads through a contiguous ravine into the larger ravine in which the Pittsburgh Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad is located, parallels the latter to 33rd Street, follows 33rd Street on a viaduct leading to a bridge across the Allegheny river, and crosses the latter to Willow Grove Yard where it connects with the main line west to the Lakes and Chicago.

The Wheeling Division, leaving the Pittsburgh-Cumberland main line near Glenwood, at Glenwood Junction (formerly Wheeling Junction), crosses the Monongahela River and extends southwest to Wheeling, W. Va., where it connects with the Ohio River Division and the Newark Division. The Ohio River Division main line follows the left bank of the river to Parkersburg where it connects with the Cumberland-Cincinnati-St. Louis main line, thence following the Ohio River to its terminal at Kenova. The Newark Division main line leaves the Wheeling Division main line at Benwood, W. Va., crosses the Ohio River in a northwesterly direction to Zanesville, Newark and Columbus, and connects also with the Cumberland-Cincinnati-St. Louis main line at Midland City, east of Cincinnati.

The principal industrial trackage includes (a) a line from Willow Grove Yard (Millvale) down the north or right bank of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers to Stieren Street, a distance of about five miles; and (b) a line from about 9th Street, eastward, up the south or left bank of the Allegheny River to 43rd Street, a distance of about three miles.


Since the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad has two routes west from Cumberland, as above noted, its system tonnage is divided, only part of its through business passing through the Pittsburgh gateway. However, as it enjoys, with the other large systems in the Pittsburgh district, a fair share of the local business of the large industrial plants, of the output of coal and coke, and also operates a large number of suburban trains, its total business in the district assumes very great proportions.

A density diagram, prepared by the Committee, is shown on page 26.

Existing Conditions: Trackage

The main line of this railroad from the Water Street Terminal to all points east is double tracked, with two additional main tracks between Glenwood and McKeesport. The line to western points, which is double tracked, joins the above mentioned line at Laughlin Junction, about two and one-half miles east of the Water Street Terminal. This line of two and one-half miles is not used for through freight movement nor by some of the through passenger trains; in fact, it is a terminal line for Pittsburgh freight and passenger service at the Water Street Station.

It may be said of the main tracks of this Company that they can be operated with but little interference arising from switching, as the greater part of the service to industrial plants in the district can be given from the two industrial tracks mentioned above. Other switching of considerable magnitude, to industrial plants, is at various points between Laughlin Junction and Versailles on the eastern line, and at Etna on the Western lines.

Directing attention to the main lines in the district, the greatest handicaps to a satisfactory operation are: the heavy grade approaching the south portal of the tunnel under Neville Street in Pittsburgh; the necessity for using in common with the West Penn Division of the Pennsylvania the tracks between Millvale and Etna; and the many street crossings in McKeesport and Braddock and in the Hazelwood District, Pittsburgh. These conditions must eventually be corrected and when this is finally accomplished immense sums of money will have been expended. The Major Street Report treats of that part of the problem along Second Avenue through Hazelwood to Glenwood but it is here suggested as part of this improvement; also that, through Braddock and McKeesport, an elevated structure upon the present right of way might be used to carry the through tracks, the present tracks remaining as they are to afford access to local industries. In this connection it might be well to say that several years ago the Company raised its elevated structure on 33rd Street and the bridge across the Allegheny River to eliminate a dangerous grade crossing at Liberty Avenue. The Committee understands that studies are being made to better the grades on the approaches to the Neville Street Tunnel and for main tracks independent of other companies at Millvale.

The industrial track along the south bank of the Allegheny River, from 9th Street to 43rd Street, follows an irregular and broken course which is difficult to maintain in good working order. It traverses a heavy producing industrial district which cannot reach its best development until the track capacity is increased and service tracks and essential sidings secured. This might be accomplished by the construction of a quay wall along certain portions of this track, thus effecting a reclamation of river front.


The yards of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad are listed below, those on or immediately tributary to each division or branch being so far as possible named in the order of their proximity to the central business district of Pittsburgh.

Main Line, East:
-- Water Street Yard (Pittsburgh)
-- Glenwood Yard (Pittsburgh)
-- Denniston Yard (Pittsburgh)
-- Demmler Yard

Main Line, West:
-- Produce Yard (26th Street, Pittsburgh)
-- 36th Street Yard (Pittsburgh)
-- Willow Grove Yard (Millvale)

Industrial Branches:
-- Smoky Island Yard (South Avenue, Pittsburgh)

Glenwood is the principal yard used for the "breaking-up" of freight trains, and for the classification of cars for their various local destinations. Through trains are made up here for New Castle, Youngstown, and Chicago; and for Connellsville, Cumberland, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Made up here also are a local train for Butler, and miscellaneous groups of cars for Water Street, 36th Street and Willow Grove. Glenwood is off the main line and connects with it at Marion Junction and at Wheeling Junction, which are 2.1 miles apart. Through freight trains in general follow the main line and do not enter the yard, except occasionally to fill out with more cars or to drop off cars for local delivery. The yard is at present as large as the space will permit.

Water Street is used as a terminal yard for both freight and passenger stations.

Denniston is 7-1/2 miles from Water Street. There are 15 tracks stub-ended against the filled approach of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad bridge. There is also one long track connected at each end to the main line. This yard serves principally as a receiving point for car-load freight from local industries. Unfortunately, the yard is separated from the main line by a single track electric line which effectually prevents its efficient development. The capacity of this yard can be about doubled by filling out as far as possible into the river, and such development is suggested.

Demmler is a heavy receiving point for finished steel products, and is also a filling out place for local trains. The yard is a transfer point between the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Merchandise (both car-load and less-than-carload) destined to the Pittsburgh Terminal Warehouse is here delivered to the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. During times of normal business the yard is very busy. This yard is at present as large as the space will permit. It is suggested that this yard be increased in capacity by constructing a quay wall along the river bank and filling in behind it.

The Produce Yard is located at 26th Street, fairly close to the Pennsylvania Railroad's produce yard. All the available space here is occupied, and there is little room for expansion in the vicinity.

Thirty-sixth Street Yard is located on the south bank of the Allegheny River, at 36th Street. The yard is principally used to collect cars to and from local industries; and, to some extent, for the storage of cars. The yard is of considerable importance as it serves, through the track paralleling the river, the thickly settled industrial district between 9th and 43rd Streets. Northbound trains enter the yard by direct movement off the main line. South bound trains enter by a reverse movement after crossing the Pittsburgh Junction Railroad bridge. This yard should be increased in capacity by expansion into the river in the manner previously noted for other yards.

Willow Grove is located on the north bank of the Allegheny River just below Millvale. It is principally used as a collecting point for freight of local origin and destination, and for interchanging cars between railroads. Classification of cars is made here for the Produce Yard, 9th Street, 36th Street Yard, and the North Side section of the city. Cars from those points are also classified here where they are later picked up by through and local trains. It is suggested that this yard, from its eastern end down to the head of Herrs Island also be increased in capacity by an expansion out to a revised harbor line in the river, -- the new harbor line being determined when the channel back of the island is closed. The closing of the back channel is a highly desirable improvement since it would effect the enlargement not only of this yard but also of the excessively congested yards on the island itself. (See page 25.)

Smoky Island is located on the north bank of the Ohio River just west of the Manchester bridge. This yard serves local industries and, to some extent, is also used for storage of cars.

The Committee believes that the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad could, with advantage to itself, make use of more yard room, and that the natural growth of its freight business in the near future will compel large additions to its present facilities, especially in Pittsburgh proper. Fortunately it controls a considerable amount of property between the Water Street Terminal and Laughlin Junction which can be used for this purpose. Furthermore its property at Glenwood, now used for shops, could be given over to the extension of yards by moving the shops outside the city.


Along the south bank of the Allegheny River, from 9th Street to 43rd Street, additional siding capacity is an essential feature. To secure this, river front reclamation is recommended, as already noted on page 28.

Freight Stations: Team Tracks: Warehouses

See Section X, pages 61 to 69 inclusive.

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Last modified: 14-Oct-2001

Source document: Citizens Committee on City Plan of Pittsburgh. "Railroads of the Pittsburgh district : a part of the Pittsburgh plan." p. 19-34. Pittsburgh, Pa : Citizens Committee on City Plan of Pittsburgh, [1923], c1924.