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Leak Run Tunnel


USGS 7.5" Topo Quad - UTM Coordinates:
Braddock - Zone 17; 0602 4477
-- Old William Penn Hwy (former Leak Run Rd)
-- Leak Run

-- near intersection Old Wm Penn Hwy and Thompson Run Rd

Union RR (former B&LE RR)

vertical wall horseshoe profile, filled concrete arch, through filled embankment

128 ft

Road tunnel:
11 ft 1 in posted clearance
26 ft wide

Creek tunnel:
11 ft to top of arch rise
8 ft wide

1902; Bessemer & Lake Erie RR
Depending upon which map of which era, the small creek which empties into Thompson Run has had several names -- or just a series of typos. The earliest sources, including the 1907 USGS map and the builder plaque on a nearby county bridge from 1916, show the name as "Lake Run." One later map shows "Lick Run." Most newer maps, including the current USGS map, call the stream "Leak Run."

Thompson Run flows south in its deep wide valley dividing Wilkins Twp from Monroeville (Patton Twp until 1951). As an extension of the Turtle Creek Valley, it was something of a barrier to travel with few easy locations to cross east-west. About one-half mile south, c1810, Northern Turnpike had forsaken an easy western approach to cross Thompson Run but took advantage of a narrow ravine to climb eastward into Wilkins Twp and on to Pittsburgh. At Lake Run was one of the few breaks in the eastern wall. Following Lake Run was a convenient location for an east-west travel into Patton Twp. Lake Run Road, shown on maps of the mid-1800s, would become part of Old William Penn Highway in 1924.

This portion of the railroad was built by the Pittsburgh, Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad. It opened in 1897 with the completion of the high bridge over the Allegheny River in Harmar (replaced 1918). Once the main line had been established many of the original structures were replaced in the twenty years which followed. The structure which carries the railroad over Leak Run was completed in 1902. The portion of the rail line from North Bessemer in Penn Hills to East Pittsburgh was leased in 1906 and later sold to the Union Railroad.

At the north end of the structure, a spur descended the northern wall of the Lake Run valley and continued westward into Patton Twp. Crossing land owned by Carothers and Beatty, the mine railroad followed the creek to present-day Duff Rd. The line ascended a ravine which has since been regraded and filled by homes and William Penn Hwy in the 1940s. The railroad crossed US22 near Wendy's, passed below Center Rd on a trestle and split to serve various strip mines. The largest area was McMasters Grove, a local favorite for picnics. When the mines were opened to supply the needs of the First World War, the Grove was destroyed. Caruso Plan and Giant Eagle on Monroeville Blvd were also built on mined land. In 1953, the former strip mined land which had been McMasters Grove became Monroeville's first major shopping plaza, the Miracle Mile.

At the junction of the mine spur and the B&LE was one of Monroeville's first gas stations. The Gravity Fill was served by a tank car parked on the spur above Old William Penn Highway.


The Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad is a route which connected the iron ore and coal docks at Conneaut on Lake Erie to the Mon Valley steel works owned by Andrew Carnegie.

Carnegie had been discussing rail transport with other lines, but determined the best way to protect his interests was to control the rail line himself. Several smaller companies had constructed sections of the route. "Bear Creek Railroad (name changed to Shenango and Allegheny Railroad Co.) was incorporated in March 1865 for the purpose of moving coal 21 miles from Pardoe to Shenango for delivery to other railroads and the Erie Extension Canal. By 1883, Shenango and Allegheny had extended north to Greenville, PA and south to Butler, PA. By 1892, the line had extended north to reach the port of Conneaut, OH. The extensions carried their own descriptive corporate names and survived a series of corporate reorganizations to become the Pittsburgh, Shenango and Lake Erie." The rail line had been completed as far as Butler, still 40 miles distant from the Mon Valley.

"The first ore boat arrived in Conneaut in 1892 stimulating the interest of Andrew Carnegie. In April 1896, a tri-party agreement between PS&LE, Union Railroad Company and Carnegie Steel Company called for construction of a line from Butler to East Pittsburgh. The Butler and Pittsburgh Railroad Company incorporated April 8, 1896 and completed, spectacularly, by October 27, 1897 including a long, single track bridge across the Allegheny River. Also in 1897, PS&LE and B&P were consolidated into the Pittsburgh, Bessemer & Lake Erie under majority ownership of Carnegie." "Four years later, Carnegie formed the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad under this exclusive ownership and arranged to lease PS&LE for 999 years. This arrangement stayed in place with the formation of U. S. Steel in 1901, which bought out Carnegie interests." "In 1906, B&LE leased, and later sold, to Union Railroad the portion of line between North Bessemer and East Pittsburgh." "In 1988, the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad became part of Transtar, Inc. Transtar is a privately-held transportation holding company with principal operations in railroad freight transportation, dock operations, Great Lakes shipping, and inland river barging. The Transtar subsidiary companies formed over the years to meet the transportation needs of various steel making facilities that were the predecessors of today's USX Corporation. Prior to 1989, the Transtar companies were wholly owned transportation subsidiaries of USX (formerly United States Steel Corporation). In December 1988, these transportation companies were acquired by a new holding company, Transtar, Inc."

"In 2001, the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad became part of Great Lakes Transportation, a privately-held transportation holding company with principal operations in railroad freight transportation, dock operations and Great Lakes shipping."


"The Union Railroad, as it exists today, has resulted from the union of all or parts of five railroads between the years 1906 and 1915. The first addition occurred in 1906 when a portion of the Pittsburgh, Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad, extending from North Bessemer to East Pittsburgh, was leased to the Union Railroad. Later in 1906, the railroad leased the Monongahela Southern Railroad. The next addition involved the St. Clair Terminal Railroad in 1920. All three properties were subsequently merged. The last addition occurred in 1915 with the lease of track from Duquesne to McKeesport via the Penn Central Bridge. The original URR extended from East Pittsburgh to Hays, a distance of six miles, and was constructed in the years 1894-1907. During the same period, 13 branches, with an aggregate length of 14 miles were built. Operations began on June 1, 1896, with 241 employees, 25 steam locomotives and no cars. On October 26, 1897, the first train was interchanged with the Pittsburgh, Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad at East Pittsburgh. This 30-car ore train from North Bessemer was consigned to Edgar Thomson."


B&LE RR website and Union RR website, quoted passages; Chandler "From Hamlet to Highways: A History of Monroeville," 1988

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Introduction -- Nearby Structures

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Last modified: 26-Sep-2001

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