Beginnings of Pennsylvania Railroad Ran through Region

By Robert B. Van Atta | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 23, 2007 | Go to article overview

Beginnings of Pennsylvania Railroad Ran through Region


Robert B. Van Atta, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The Turtle Creek Railroad, referred to in its early days as The Westinghouse Road, began service in 1891 from Stewart's Station (Trafford) to Murrysville and was later extended to Export. The railroad was extended farther through Salem Township to Delmont and Trees Mills, then connected with another railroad at Saltsburg.

The supply of equipment to the gas fields at Murrysville, given as the main reason for the railroad's development, contrasted with another belief that it was to be a future link in a major rail system. It did become part of the branch lines of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1903.

Passenger service on the line reached its peak in the 1920s, with as many as nine daily trains in each direction. The last passenger service to Murrysville was furnished by a single diesel-powered car known as the "doodlebug."

Joseph Parkinson attempted to found a town on his land along the Monongahela River in 1792, which he pointed out was on the road from Washington (Pa.) to Philadelphia. He operated a ferry at the site, and in 1796 tried again when he laid out the town of Williamsport, 20 miles from Washington and about 15 from Greensburg, according to his advertising.

That effort was more successful. Williamsport continued to grow as it figured in river and other commerce. It was incorporated as a borough in 1833, and its founder died at the age of 95 a year later.

In 1837, the borough of Williamsport (which was Parkinson's Ferry post office) became Monongahela City, and the post office name was changed. but it wasn't until 1873 that Monongahela officially became a third-class city by charter.

The trolley era in Fayette and Westmoreland counties is often recalled with nostalgia, the crowded summer cars, the convenient transport, and the romance of a bygone era that many would like to see return in these times of gasoline problems.

There were many positive recollections to the trolleys era, but there were problems, too.

One forward step was in late December 1901 when street cars began running from Greensburg to "the new railroad center" of Youngwood. Cars left the center of Greensburg on Main Street, ran southward to where the Hempfield railway operated, and patrons walked 200 feet to another car that carried them to the county home or to Youngwood. …

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