Aerial photo map of Greentree Tunnel;
Aerial photo map of Bigham Cut (tunnel)
USGS 7.5" Topo Quad - UTM Coordinates:
Pittsburgh West - Zone 17; 0580 4474 western portal; 0581 4475 eastern portal
Wheeling & Lake Erie Rwy
-- western portal: Rook Yard (Greentree)
-- eastern portal: below Alcon St, between Greentree Rd and Kearns Av (Pittsburgh)
Mt. Pigsah: (west to east) Mansfield Av; School St; Poplar St; Rocklyn Dr; Ringold Av; McKenna Av; Warriors Rd; Alcon St
TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION / DESIGN:
vertical wall horseshoe profile, concrete lining, bored through rock
YEAR OPENED / ENGINEER:
1903, Wabash-Pittsburg Terminal Railroad
Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, current owner
The eastern portal of the tunnel is below the industrial park on Greentree Rd at Alcon St. The former Wabash line follows the valley below Kearns Av after passing over the girder bridge above Greentree Rd near the West End. The track runs high above Saw Mill Run, crossing the Parkway West on the higher girder trestle. A parallel lower level trestle carries the former West Side Belt RR which was also incorporated into the WLE. After the Wabash line passes the site of the Bigham Tunnel, the two lines meet west of the Wabash Tunnel (aka Seldom Seen): the Wabash line leading to the tunnel was sold the Port Authority for use as transit line; the WLE continues to operate freight traffic over the former West Side Belt line to the south and east.
Between Rook Yard near Greentree and the Wabash Terminal at Liberty Av and Ferry St (Stanwix St), the line descends at a one percent grade for 4.8 miles through some of the sharpest curves on the entire line. Between the Greentree Tunnel and the Wabash Tunnel, Bigham Tunnel was carved out on the hillside south of the present Parkway West interchange with Saw Mill Run Blvd. The tunnel's timber interior structure caught fire within the first year. The collapsed debris was removed and rebuilt as an open cut.
The western portal of the Greentree Tunnel is between the Parkway West and Mansfield Av near Trumbull St. The track leads into the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway's Rook Yard along Mansfield Av and then crosses the Parkway West over the high level trestle.
Rook Yard is located near the western portal of the Greentree Tunnel. Although Gould's Wabash line constructed a grand terminal building and elevated tracks which stretched river-to-river across Pittsburgh's Triangle, the configuration was limiting. The line was dead-ended; trains were backed into downtown as they had nowhere to turn around. Rook Yard was built about 5 miles west of downtown to allow for the switching, make-up and storage needed to service the downtown terminal.
The yard was named for Charles Alexander Rook, an influential publisher and owner of the Pittsburgh "Dispatch" newspaper. It is reported that he gained popularity such that he was encouraged to run for mayor or other public office, but he determined he could do more to shape local politics through his publishing ventures. Offering his support to the Gould railroad interest, he helped surmount the pressures brought by the Pennsylvania Railroad and Baltimore & Ohio Railroad which had been lobbying against allowing the Wabash to enter Pittsburgh.
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Built for the Wabash-Pittsburg Terminal Railroad, the railroad was bankrupt by 1908. This line includes the infamous Wabash Tunnel under Mount Washington.
view page - Wabash Tunnel and the Wabash-Pittsburg Terminal RR.
Though the Wabash-Pittsburg Terminal Railroad went into bankruptcy and George Jay Gould lost his empire and fortune, the railroads which were built around Pittsburgh continued on under new ownership. The Wabash properties in Pittsburgh, including the West Side Belt Railroad, were acquired by the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad in 1917. Beginning in 1964 these lines were leased by the Norfolk & Western, which subsequently sold them off in the formation of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway in 1990.
The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway (WLE) began in 1871 with a plan to connect the coal field near Wheeling, WV, with Lake Erie port cities and facilities. Operations were slow to start until 1877 when the line began to move coal to and ore from the Lake. After World War II, WLE had various owners: the Nickel Plate leased the line in 1949, then the Norfolk & Western took control in 1964, and finally, a holding company was established to acquire the Norfolk & Western and Southern (NS) in 1982. The WLE was dissolved in 1989 in preparation for the final merger of the NS. In 1990, a group of investors purchased the assets including 575.8 miles of track made up of a combination of the former WLE, the Pittsburgh & West Virginia (PWV) and the Akron Canton Youngstown (ACY) lines. These 575.8 miles of track were combined with trackage rights from NS, encompassed 840 miles, thus creating the current WLE.
Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway website; Carsten Lundsten
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