The History of the Railroad in Indiana County Part IV

The automobile and the Depression took a heavy toll. In an effort to cut operating costs PRR had put a gasoline combination baggage-passenger car in service between Indiana and the Torrance intersection with the mainline.  B&O put a similar car on the Punxsutawney-Indiana line.  These were known as “hoodlebugs.”

In 1940, plans were underway by the U.S. Army Engineer Corps to build the Conemaugh flood control dam near Tunnelton.  This would flood the PRR lines in many places and necessitate rebuilding them on higher ground.  The railroad bridge between Blairsville and Torrance Junction was within the flood control area and had to be razed late in 1940, thus cutting Indiana County’s connection with the mainline.

Passenger train “Groundhog Flyer” of the B&O in 1949

Due to this and dwindling passenger use, PRR discontinued passenger service to Indiana.  The last passenger train ran from Indiana to Blairsville on April 18, 1940.  Ralph E. Forrester was the conductor and C.A. Taubler the engineer on this last run by gasoline car No. 4656.

While work proceeded on the Conemaugh Dam, the West Penn tracks were being re-routed in several places.  Below the dam a high-level bridge replaced the old Bow Ridge tunnel and bridge.  In Saltsburg, the entire line was abandoned.

The last passenger train passed through Saltsburg in 1947 and the last freight train in September 1951.  The railroad had been built on the old canal towpath which is now known as the Saltsburg Canal Park.  The Saltsburg station gradually deteriorated and was razed in October 1975.

Elsewhere PRR ended its passenger service from Clymer to Cresson.  The last passenger train left Clymer on October 4, 1947.  That left only one railroad in Indiana County offering passenger service – the B&O “hoodlebug” from Punxsutawney to Indiana.

Finally on June 10, 1950, the B&O gave up; gasoline engine No. 6040 made its last run operated by engineer M.S. Reams, and conducted by Thomas Baird, both of Punxsutawney.

The age of steam was also ending.  On January 3, 1954, the last steam freight locomotive, a 124-foot J-1, left the Blairsville railroad yards enroute to Pitcairn and the scrap yards.

Over the years, many miles of railroad have been abandoned, some branch lines to coal mines and others trunk lines.  The B&O from Juneau through Trade City and Plumville was abandoned and tracks torn up.  In February 1975, the old Indiana Branch of PRR was abandoned and the tracks torn up in 1980.

Disaster befell the PRR and NYC.  Both railroad giants were in financial trouble in the 1960s.  A merger of the two was effected in 1968 and named Penn Central – the largest railroad in the U.S. Various economies were tried.

On May 29, 1967, PRR terminated all its operations at the Blairsville yards and moved them to Kiskiminetas Junction.  In July 1969, all railroad structures in Blairsville except the station were torn down – the round house, a 100-foot turn table, coal tipple, sandhouse and repair shops.  By 1975, Penn Central was bankrupt and a new corporation was formed with Federal government help – Conrail – to continue freight service.

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hgsic

Through a broad range of activities, The Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County seeks to promote a greater appreciation of the Indiana community's rich heritage and a better understanding of life today.

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