Westmoreland county is abundantly supplied with railroads. Nearly the one sixth of the Pennsylvania road between
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia lies within its bounds. It was the first railroad across the county, built in the early
days of railroad making, and it has been a prominent factor in the development of our industries. From the earliest
history to the present time the problem of transportation has taxed the resources and the ingenuity of mankind.
In our state, as we have seen, it was a tedious journey from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. First came pack horses,
and these in time were supplanted by wagons and stagecoaches. The best stage coach time from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia
did not vary much from fifty:six hours. With the building of the railroad the time was at once reduced to twelve
hours, and even this has since been greatly shortened.
The building of the Pennsylvania was one of the first railroad projects in America. On March 31, 1823, our legislature
incorporated a company to build a railroad from Philadelphia to Columbia, a town situated on the Susquehanna river
in Lancaster county. The distance was about eighty miles. It was not built for some years afterwards, but its agitation
helped to prepare the public mind, and thus contributed greatly to its ultimate success. Among its incorporators
were Horace Binney and Stephen Girard of Philadelphia. John Stevens, of New Jersey, was the leading spirit in the
enterprise. At that time the majority of our people had no faith in railroads. They truly regarded agriculture
as the basis of all wealth, and reasoned that steam transportation would injure the sale of oats, horses, etc.
But New York in 1826 had completed the Erie canal, which connected the Northern Lakes with New York city, and our
Pennsylvania legislators were bright enough to see that something must be done or the western trade would all go
that way to the seaboard. The Erie canal was already carrying seventy million dollars worth of western products
to the East each year. In 1828, therefore, the canal commissioners were directed to complete a railroad from Philadelphia
to Columbia within two years, and to examine a route over the Allegheny mountains with the ultimate purpose of
thus reaching the navigable waters of the Ohio river at Pittsburgh. The Erie canal was a sad blow to Philadelphia
and to our state in general, for it stimulated the New York trade at the expense of Pennsylvania. Our state therefore
appropriated two millions of dollars for the project of opening a way between the Ohio river and Philadelphia.
It was a large sum for that day, but the legislature was equal to the emergence. They continued the cnarter of
the Bank of Pennsylvania for eighteen years on an agreement that the bank would lend the state four millions of
dollars at five and one half per centum interest. This money all went into canals and railroads between Philadelphia
and Pittsburgh. With it was built the Columbia road and also the Portage railroad across the Allegheny mountains.
Thus they triumphed over a most serious barrier between the East and West. Under the circumstances the "Old
Portage Road" has not been surpassed by railroad building in America. It consisted of eleven levels or grade
lines, and ten inclined planes. The cars were pulled over the levels by locomotives, and were pulled up the incline
planes by wire ropes attached to stationary engines at the tops. It was operated for twenty years, and was the
wonder of America. From Johnstown going east, the five inclines, with an aggregate length of 9670 feet, raised
the train 800 feet; the five inclines on the eastern slope of the mountains, with an aggregate length of 13,499
feet. lowered it 1202 feet. The levels between the inclines were constructed so as to gradually raise or lower
the train, that is, they were not quite level. Thus, by means of these two railroads and the canals, they opened
up a continuous line of travel and transportation from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh as early as 1834. The line consisted
of a railroad from Philadelphia to Columbia, eighty two miles; then came the canal, 172 miles long, reaching from
Columbia to Hollidaysburg; then the Portage road from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown, thirty six miles; and a canal
from Johnstown across the northern part of Westmoreland county to Pittsburgh, a distance of 104 miles, making in
all 394 miles. Freight, of course, had to he handled with every transfer, and its transportation was slow and expensive.
The state had expended about fourteen million dollars on the project, and never realized, anything of value from
it by the way of dividends. But it was of untold benefit to the country through which it passed, and by the development
of our resources, the state was in the end an abundant gainer.
Almost as soon as this route was finished, a project was set on foot and agitated to construct a railroad all the
way, that is, to supplant the canals with railroads. On March 6, 1838. a general convention was held in Harrisburg
to urge the building of the road to Pittsburgh. Delegates were present from twenty nine counties, and a good many
from Ohio. Thus the matter was agitated, and not long after Mr. Charles L. Schlatter was appointed by the canal
commissioners to survey and determine the best route upon which to build a railroad to the west. In 1840 he reported
three routes which he had surveyed, one of which followed the Juniata and, crossing the mountains, passed down
the Conemaugh. This was thought to be the best route. It was he and his survey which first demonstrated conclusively
that the Allegheny mountains could be crossed without using inclined planes. The project did not assume a tangible
shape till 1846, when, on April 13, the act incorporating the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was passed by our legislature.
On February 25, 1847, Governor Francis R. Shunk granted a charter to the company, and work was soon begun at both
ends, that is at Pittsburgh and at Harrisburg, the grading of fifteen miles east of the former city being let on
the 22d day of July. On September 17, 185o, the road was opened to Hollidaysburg, where it connected with the Portage
road across the mountains. In August, 1851, twenty one miles west from Johnstown were finished, and this, with
the part built east from Pittsburgh, left a gap of only about twenty eight miles to complete the entire road. The
year following this gap was closed up, and on December io, 1852, the cars began to run through from Philadelphia
to Pittsburgh. The Portage road was still used by which to cross the mountain, but by February 15, 1854, the road
over the mountains was finished, and trains passed through from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia without using the inclined
The Allegheny mountains had for twenty five years been considered an insurmountable barrier. Its completion was
of great advantage to Westmoreland county and its industries. Otherwise we should not so long have dwelt on its
construction. A great deal of credit for its construction is due our early representatives and senators in the
legislature. They were men of much more than average ability and influence in public affairs. Those who represented
Westmoreland were vigilant in looking after the interests of their county, and managed to have it included in all
the great railroad and canal building schemes undertaken by the commonwealth.
Public meetings were held in Greensburg, one as early as April 19, 1836, to express the desire of the people to
have the railroad pass through Westmoreland and through Greensburg. Such agitation was not unnecessary, nor were
they without reason. Schlatter was then surveying, and from his examinations reported a route south of the present
location, and which would have passed onl through the southern part of the county. This route had moreover been
reported as a feasible one by Hother Hage, a distinguished engineer, some years prior to Schiatter's survey. This
was called the southern route. But Schlatter also reported a third route, called the northern route, which passed
up the Susquehanna and down the Allegheny to Pittsburgh. While this route was longer than either of the others,
it had one advantage which appealed to all, viz.: by a short branch to the northwest Lake Erie, with all the commerce
on the northern lakes then passing through New York, could be reached, and doubtless this commerce could be diverted
and drawn over the proposed Pennsylvania Railroad. The survey of the road through our county was made by Charles
De Hass, and it was he who in January, 1837, first reported in favor of the route passing through Greensburg.
The grading of the road near Greensburg began in 1849. The tunnel at Greensburg and the immense fills east and
west, made it one of the most difficult and expensive sectidns west of the Allegheny mountains. The contractor
was Michael Malone. The section west of Greensburg, which included the old Radebaugh tunnel, was let by contract
to Richard McGrann, Jr. Charles McCausland was contractor for the next section eastward, including the "cut"
near the old fair grounds. It required about three years to complete the work near Greensburg on account of the
heavy fills, etc., above referred to. All the earth for these fills was hauled there in carts. A strike occurred
in November, 1850, the report of which shows something of the wages paid laborers employed on the work. When the
days began to shorten with approaching winter, the contractors reduced the wages from one dollar per day to 87
1/2 cents per day, and a general strike was inaugurated. As is usual in such cases, the men went to work again
after a week's idleness, at the reduced rates.
The first locomotive which entered Westmoreland county came from the West, that is from Pittsburgh. It had been
made in the East, and taken to Pittsburgh in pieces on canal boats. It arrived at Radebaugh's near Greensburg,
on Monday, July 5, 1852. Its coming had been widely heralded, and men and women came from all sections of the county
to witness the unprecedented event. Most of them had never seen a locomotive before, and many a level headed visitor
studied it with deep and curious interest trying to discover the secret of its hidden strength. On Thursday, July
15, 1852, trains began to run regularly from Radebaugh's to Pittsburgh and return. The daily train left the "station"
at 6 o'clock a. m., and reached Pittsburgh twenty nine miles, in two hours. It returned again in the evening, leaving
Pittsburgh at 6:3o, and reaching Radebaugh's at 8 o'clock. The fare each way was eighty cents.
A few months after, on November 29, was the eventful day for Greensburg, so far as railroad building was concerned.
It will be understood that the train from Pittsburgh stopped at Radehaugh's two miles west of Greensburg, because
the immense fill immediately west of Greensburg was not completed. On November 29, it had been finished, and the
locomotive passed over it and through the tunnel and over the embankments east of the tunnel. It passed over them
very slowly, going over them several times, perhaps each time with more assurance and speed, to test the solidity
of the massive piles of earth and stone. Later in the day a train passed over the entire length of the road through
the county. It was a great event. For almost a generation they had been talking about and projecting it. Now, at
last, it was a reality. Citizens of all ages, men, women and children, gathered at the stations or along the line,
to see this wonder of the nineteenth century. Not alone was the railroad a curiosity among the people of the rural
sections when it first made its appearance. Though poorly equipped and only in embryonic form of what we have today,
travel by railroad was the marvel of the age.
The celebrated abolitionist, Joshua R. Giddings, of Ohio, one of the ablest lawyers and statesmen of his day, when
on his way to Washington, in November, 1838, to assume the duties of hips long and noted career in Congress, took
his first ride on a railroad. The experience was so remarkable to him that he made the following note of it in
his journal. Its uniqueness entitles it to a prominent place in any railroad literature.
"At eleven o'clock about one hundred and twenty passengers, seated in three cars, carrying from forty to
sixty passengers each, started upon the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for Washington. The cars are well carpeted
and the seats cushioned. We had also a stove in each car which rendered them comfortably warm. Thus seated, some
conversing in groups, others reading newspapers, and some, from loss of sleep in traveling, sleeping in their seats,
we were swept along at the rate of fifteen miles per hour. At the usual time our candles were lighted and we presented
the appearance of three drawing rooms filled with guests traveling by land. At about seven o'clock we arrived at
Washington City. The moment we stopped we were surrounded on every side with runners, porters, hackmen and servants,
one calling to know if you would go to Gadsby's, another if you would go to Brown's, another if you would take
a hack, etc. They are a source of great annoyance, which the police ought to prevent."
The Pennsylvania Railroad enters Westmoreland county at its most eastern point, in St. Clair township, passing
through that township through the borough of New Florence; thence through Fairfield township, by the banks of the
Conemaugh river, through Lockport and Bolivar; thence into Derry township to Branch, where it takes a southwestwardly
course through Derry township, passing through Millwood, Derry, Bradenville, and Latrobe, where it crosses the
Loyalhanna, and passes west across Unity township; thence in a westwardly direction through Hempfield township,
passing through Greensburg, Grapevine, Jeannette, Penn Station, Manor, Irwin, and Larimer, in North Huntingdon
township; thence northwest, passing out of Westmoreland county west of Trafford City, in North Huntingdon township.
The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad enters the county at the northwest part of Rostraver township, and traverses
the western part of the township close to the Monongahela river, passing through, the borough of Monessen, leaving
the county at the southwest corner of Rostraver township.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad enters the county in the southwest portion of South Huntingdon township, and
runs northward along the Youghiogheny river, passing the borough of West Newton; thence through the western part
of Sewickley township, leaving the county north of Robbins Station, in North Huntingdon township.
The South-West Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad begins at Greensburg, running southwest through Hempfield township;
thence southeast through East Huntingdon township, passing the towns of Youngwood, New Stanton, Hunker, Ruffsdale,
Tarr, Alverton, etc., to Scottdale.
The Sewickley Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad leaves the South-West Branch at Youngwood, running southwest
through Hempfield and Mt. Pleasant townships to Unity and Tranger. Branches run also to Mammoth, in Mt. Pleasant
township, to Humphries and Klondike in Unity township, and to the Hecklas.
The Hempfield Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad begins at South Greensburg, and runs north, and thence southwest
through a rich coal field to Arona, in Sewickley township. It also connects with the main line of the Pennsylvania
at Radebaugh and Irwin.
The Youghiogheny Railroad, with one terminus at Irwin, extending south through North Huntingdon township; thence
through Sewickley township, intersecting the Baltimore & Ohio at Lock No. 4, in the southwest part of Sewickley
The Unity Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad leaves the main line at Latrobe, runs southward through Unity township,
to Baggley and Lippincott.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad has a branch extending from near Scottdale passing through the southern part
of East Huntingdon township, passing Bridgeport and Mt. Pleasant, extending to the Standard Mines of Mt. Pleasant
The Pennsylvania Railroad has a branch extending through East Huntingdon township from Scottdale to Mt. Pleasant.
The Ligonier Valley Railroad has one of its termini at Latrobe, extending southeast through Derry township along
the banks of the Loyalhanna, through Ligonier township to Ligonier, a distance of ten miles.
The Turtle Creek branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad leaves the main line at Trafford City, passing northwest through
North Huntingdon, Penn and Franklin townships, to Murryville; thence east through Franklin township to Export and
The Allegheny Valley Railroad enters the county at the southwest part of Burrell township, passing north to Parnassus,
New Kensington and Arnold, being close to the Allegheny river, passes northeast through Lower Burrell and Allegheny
township to Lucesco.
The West Penn Railroad enters Westmoreland county at the northern part of Allegheny township, passes southeast
along the Riskiminetas river, with stations at Hyde Park, and Vandergrift, and through the northern part of Washington
township in a southeasterly course, through Bell township to Avonmore.
The Pittsburgh, Westmoreland and Somerset Railroad has its northern terminus at Ligonier, extending south through
Ligonier and Cook townships to Somerset.
The Westmoreland Central Railroad has its southern terminus at Ligonier, extending north through Ligonier township
to the coal mines of the Colonial Coal and Coke Company.
The Alexandria Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad leaves the main line at Donohoe, runs north through Unity township