The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad

PCSRR - 1901

If you lived in Castle Shannon, Fairhaven or West Liberty in the late-19th century and you needed to travel to downtown Pittsburgh, one way to get there, without a horse and buggey, was to take a ride on the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon railroad. A short ride on the P&CS RR and a trip down the 850-foot Mount Washington Coal Incline would put travelers on Carson Street near the Smithfield Street Bridge.

The Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad was a narrow gauge line from Pittsburgh to Castle Shannon. The P&CS RR began as the Coal Hill Coal Railroad, established in 1861 and extending one and a half miles from Pittsburgh to mines along Saw Mill Run in Fairhaven (Overbrook). The coal railroad, along with the coal incline, was purchased from the Pittsburgh Coal Company in 1871. The railroad line was extended along the Library Road corridor to Castle Shannon. The coal incline was renamed the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Plane.

PCSRR Locomotive #7
Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad Locomotive #7.

The railroad used the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Tunnel, a converted coal mine that extended all the way through Coal Hill, to get to the north face of Mount Washington. The tunnel was 1,741 feet in length and located on the hillside above the present Port Authority Transit Tunnel. There was another P&CS RR tunnel on the north side of Mount Washington, 1,766 feet long, running parallel to Grandview Avenue that was used for coal only.

In 1874, the tunnel from north to south was increased in height. Passenger and freight traffic could now proceed through the natural divide of Coal Hill directly to downtown Pittsburgh. On the opposite end of the 3 1/2 mile line was the southernmost location, called Arlington Station, near what is now The Lebanon Shops on Mount Lebanon Boulevard.

Haberman Street was the location of
the Castle Shannon South Incline, which
took passengers from the boarding area
at the Warrington Loop up to Bailey Street
and the Castle Shannon Incline.
This is a view of Haberman Street, heading from the Warrington Loop up towards Bailey Street.
This was the location of the Castle Shannon South Incline, which operated from 1874 to 1914.

The Pittsburgh Southern Railway (1877-1884)

The Pittsburgh Southern Railway was a narrow gauge railroad, formed in March 1879 by the merger of the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad (which was named the Pittsburgh, Castle Shannon and Washington Railroad from July 1877 to April 1878), the Pittsburgh Railroad, and the Washington Railroad. It was operated by the Milton Hayes, the owner of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad. The line ran from Washington PA to Castle Shannon, where it connected to the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad.

Pittsburgh Southern Railway
A locomotive of the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad.

The railway was converted to standard gauge in 1883, and purchased by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on November 20, 1884. It was reorganized as the Baltimore & Ohio Short Line Railroad.

A Boon To Castle Shannon and Overbrook

The first passengers cars were converted box cars. These were later replaced with two coaches. In 1880, due to safety concerns, passenger traffic no longer used the tunnel. The railroad constructed an incline, called the Castle Shannon South, along Haberman Street that carried passengers and freight up the southern side of Mount Washington to the coal incline at Bailey Street. In 1890 the railroad constructed the adjacent Castle Shannon Incline for passengers and freight only. Coal shipments continued to use the train tunnel and the old coal incline until 1912.

Castle Shannon Incline looking towards downtown Pittsburgh.    Castle Shannon Incline, looking up from Carson Street.
The Castle Shannon Incline was the final part of Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad trip from the southern communities to Pittsburgh. The incline itself continued operating until 1964.

With the economic benefit to the coal mining ventures in the South Hills, and the ease of access to the city for passengers and freight shipments, the P&CS RR had a dramatic effect on some rural areas south of Pittsburgh, like the Boroughs of Overbrook and Castle Shannon. Both areas saw increases in commercial and residential development. The main benefactor was Castle Shannon.

The railroad owned much of the land in these areas. Attractive ridership promotions spurred property sales and development. In Castle Shannon, the railroad built an amusement grove in 1873, called "The Linden Grove". A second grove was built at Wildwood, and a zoological garden was constructed near Arch Street and Poplar Avenue. Other camp grounds followed, making the southern suburbs a more attractive place for visitors and home buyers.

1889 Ridership Pass

P&CSRR Falls On Hard Times

Despite these successes, the P&CS RR fell on hard financial times. The Pittsburgh Coal Company purchased the railroad in 1900. In 1905, the railroad was leased by the new Pittsburgh Railways Company. At that time there were three locomotives, five passenger cars, three combinations, ten flat cars, and 275 coal cars.

With the construction, in 1904, of the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel from Carson Street to the South Hills Junction, trolley service was extended into the southern suburbs. The Shannon-Drake and Shannon-Library routes shared the same right-of-way as the P&CS RR locomotives. In 1908, double-gauge lines were laid to accommodate both forms of transportation. Trolleys ran during daylight hours and the trains ran at night.

PCSRR locomotive near Fairhaven    P&CS RR tracks in Fairhaven.
P&CS RR locomotive near Fairhaven (left) and a stretch of track near the same area.

The railroad discontinued day-to-day operations in May, 1912. Steam passenger service officially ended in 1915. The last train on the P&CS RR made the final ceremonial run in 1919. The company and remaining assets were purchased, in 1950, by the Pittsburgh Railways Company.

Bridges, Mines and Curves

The P&CS RR maintained four bridges along its route with a total length of 1,530 feet. It had fourteen stations along the 3 1/2 mile track. The Castle Shannon station was located on Willow Avenue. The main service yard and car barn were located in Castle Shannon at the corner of Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard, near the old Borough building.

The Castle Shannon Railroad Bridge at Bausman Street.    The Reflectorville Bridge the corner of
Nobles Lane and Whited Street.
The P&CS RR McKinley bridge at Bausman Street (left) and the Reflectorville bridge at Nobles Lane and Whited Street. Both bridges remained in service with the Port Authority until the 1980s and have since been replaced.

The P&CS RR also operated two coal mine locations, one located at West Liberty Hill and the other at Fairhaven. The Fairhaven mines, called Oak Mine #1 and #2, were located near Overbrook Elementary School.

One of the many striking features of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad was the Horseshoe Curve, located on the south side of Mount Washington. Trains would proceed along Warrington Avenue then make a sharp horseshoe turn, then head along the hillside to the southern portal of the railroad tunnel. When passenger and freight traffic through the tunnel ended in 1880, the horseshoe turn was where the unloading station was located.

South Hills Junction - 1906
An outbound P&CS RR train on the hillside above the South Hills Junction. After emerging from the tunnel,
the train navigated the Horseshoe Curve to Warrington Avenue, then headed south along Saw Mill Run.

The Pittsburgh Railways Company and the "T"

In the century following the end of Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad operations, the railway right-of-way along the Saw Mill Run Corridor, from the South Hills Junction to Castle Shannon, was in continuous use by the trolleys of the Pittsburgh Railways Company, and subsequently the Port Authority of Allegheny County, until 1993. The old railroad route has since been completely renovated for use by the modern light-rail system.

The Bausman Street Bridge, once a wooden
structure, was rebuilt and in service until
the 1990s. It has since been rebuilt for
the modern light-rail transit line.     The McKinley Bridge, once a wooden
structure, was rebuilt and in service until
the 1990s. It has since been rebuilt for
the modern light-rail transit line.
The Bausman Street Bridge (left) and the McKinley Bridge (right) were originally wooden spans used by
the P&CSRR. They were rebuilt and used by the Pittsburgh Railways Company until the 1990s.
Both spans have since been rebuilt a third time for use by the current Light Rail System.

 The Bausman Street Bridge.    A Port Authority light-rail transit stop
near the old P&CSRR maintenance shop
along Castle Shannon Boulevard.
Left - The old streetcar bridge over Bausman Street; Right - A modern light-rail
car along Castle Shannon Boulevard, near the old P&CSRR maintenance shop.

Click on images for larger pictures

Related Link: Pittsburgh's Old Inclines.

Maps Showing The P&CS RR Route Through Mount Washington

PCSRR Map 1886 - Mount Washington    Current Map of Mount Washington 2011
A map of the P&CS RR route from 1886 and a current map of Mount Washington, 2011.

PCSRR Map 1920 - Mount Washington
Map from 1910 showing the route of the P&CS RR along Warrington Avenue to the Horseshoe Curve, then through the tunnel to Pittsburgh. This map shows the inclines used by the railroad to ferry passengers and freight.

Photos of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad

PCSRR Repair Shop
P&CS Railroad's Castle Shannon Station. A box car sits idle on the side rails.

PCSRR horseshoe curve - 1915    PCSRR horseshoe curve - 1930s.
The PCSRR horseshoe curve at Warrington Avenue (left), running under the trolley ramp, in 1915
and the same location after the removal of the railroad line in the 1930s.

Overbrook in 1895, from Glenbury Street    The Horning Farm in 1895. This is the
site of present-day St. Norbert Church.
Glenbury Avenue (1895) approaching the Saw Mill Run/Library Road intersection, in Fairhaven, showing the railroad tracks and passenger station. An 1895 drawing (right) showing the Horning Farm, in Fairhaven, and a P&CS RR locomotive.

A P&CS RR locomotive at the Castle Shannon maintenance and repair shop in 1901 (left) and a train moving through Fairhaven, present-day Overbrook, in 1902.

The Wabash Tunnel at Glenbury Street - 1909    The Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad
passenger station located at Glenbury
Street along the rail line.
Left - Glenbury Street, 1909; Right - Railroad freight and passenger station located at Glenbury Street in 1917.

Fairhaven Hotel - 1930.    P&CS RR schedule
The Fairhaven Hotel on Library Road was a popular resting spot for passengers on the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad. P&CS RR train schedules were available at the hotel.

Approaching Library Road and McNeilly Road - 1930.    Entrance to the South Hill Coal Mine - 1930.
Library Road approaching Elwyn Street (McNeilly Road) and the bridge leading to the entrance to the South Hills Coal Company (right). The P&CS RR tracks followed the hugged the hillside, crossing the tressel in front of the tunnel.

Intersection of Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Blvd.    The Castle Shannon Hotel
The intersection of Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard (left) and the Castle Shannon Hotel (right), another popular stop for P&CS RR passengers. A the railroad crossing sign stands in the foreground.

Railroad tracks along Willow Avenue, 1910, and a P&CS RR train passing the Castle Shannon Hotel, 1912.

PCSRR Repair Shop
The P&CS RR Maintenance and Repair Shop in Castle between Willow Avenue and Castle Shannon Boulevard.

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