From: "CRAIG SANDERS (216) 397-4356" 
Subject: Mon River Bridge (PRR)
To: Multiple recipients of list RAILROAD 

Craig Sanders ( initially emailed me the parts
denoted by ">"s.  I thought this may have a somewhat wider interest,
particularly since my superfluous verbosity has once again not failed me,
and thus am posting to RAILROAD as well.

Details, where I have not been able to supply them, comments, corrections,
counteropinions, point-counterpoints (Jane you ignorant ...), differing views
on my speculations about Penn Central/Conrail motives, etc., are welcome.

>       Do you know when the Panhandle Bridge in Pittsburgh closed? I
> was watching a tape the other night about Amtrak. The narrator said the
> Panhandle Bridge was closed in the late 1070s, forcing the National Limited to
> take another route into/out of Pittsburgh. The narrator said the train crossed
> the Ohio River at Neville Island. I got out my Penn Central employee
> timetables and my map of Pittsburgh and didn't see a bridge across the Ohio
> going across Neville Island. Maybe they meant the Ohio Connecting Bridge,
> which crosses Brunots island.
>       I'm wondering how Amtrak's National Limited would have ran to cross
>  this bridge? Know anything about this?

I don't have on the tip of my tongue what you ask, which is an exact date.
We could figure it out from my timetables, tho.

Follow along with me.  I assume you know that PGH is formed by the Allegheny
from the NE and the Monongahela from the SE, forming the Ohio to the W, then
NW, then W, then S (in Ohio already).

The PRR mainline arrives from the SE, very near the Mon, but chooses to follow
a stream valley east of Squirrel Hill, to the north, giving off the Port
Perry Branch (future double-stack route), then around this large hill,
turning to the west (giving off yet another branch at Wilmerding), then
generally SW into town.  Here is where the major yard was (except coal,
which followed the Port Perry Branch and went east to Pitcairn Yard,
prompting a 5-track main line.)

Just RR-west (SW) of the yard was the psgr station, integral with which was
a split of the main line into the former Pgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago, which
turns sharply at the station, crosses the Allegheny, and proceeds on up
the Ohio and Beaver Rivers;  and the "Panhandle", the Pgh, Columbus,
Cincinnati, & St. Louis (if I have that right -- it may be Chicago),
the PCC&StL [and not to be confused with the CCC&StL, the Big Four], which
proceeds right into a tunnel beneath central Pgh, then crossed the Mon
on a large iron bridge, then turned NW along the Mon and soon the Ohio,
then turned SW into a narrow river valley, through a tunnel in "Mount"
Washington [it can't be a Mount[ain] since the Ohio and Mon are in
gulleys within a plateau] emerging in Carnegie, then went generally
west across Pennsylvania into West Virginia (hence, "Panhandle", a name
retained all the way to Chicago!) to Weirton, crossed the Ohio at
Steubenville, then thru Uhrichville, etc. to Newark and joint trackage
rights with B&O into Columbus.

Now, from the point on the Panhandle where it turned away from the Ohio
was a branch, the Scully Branch, that ran on up to Esplen tower (and
the Ohio Connecting Bridge, which crossed the Ohio to Federal St. Itlk
on the Fort Wayne), then turned SW into _another_ river valley, then S,
to Scully Yard, thence to Carnegie.  Some other RR [?Montour] also used
this valley and yard.

Sometime in the 70s, I think, the tunnel on the main became unsafe and
was closed.  The Scully Branch then became the main.  This, plus the
major downgrading of the downtown yard in favor of Conway Yard, caused
the Mon bridge not to be needed any more.  A trolley line eventually
took the PRR's place.

Conway yard had another effect:  westbound trains ran both NW, down the
Ohio, into Conway, if coming from the east;  and westbound trains ran
SE, up the Ohio, to the Ohio Connecting Bridge, if trying to go west
on the Panhandle.  This section of the main became very busy.

It also caused the Panhandle's demise, despite the major improvements
that I alluded to in my posting on RAILROAD.  Conway Yard was much
farther north than the downtown yard in Pittsburgh.  With the coming
of Penn Central and ultimately of Conrail, it made more sense to send
Columbus- and St. Louis-bound traffic west on the Fort Wayne to the NYC
junction in Crestline, rather than back SE to Pittsburgh, then west on
the Panhandle.  The Fort Wayne west of Crestline (or at least west of
Warsaw IN, given the then-relatively new yard in Elkhart IN) was probably
doomed anyway, but the Panhandle would probably have been salvageable
had it not been for Conway.

Several sources have told me that the Panhandle was the preferred route
from Pittsburgh to Chicago, because of both better grades and less
passenger traffic.  There were quite a number of tunnels on this route;
and in the same E/W area of Ohio where the Fort Wayne rises and drops
across several river valleys, the Panhandle finds an E-W stretch of the
Tuscarawas and manages to remain reasonably level.  Of course, west
of Columbus, it was level going, just as it was west of Mansfield/Crestline
on the Fort Wayne.  Columbus--Mansfield--Cleveland Heights is the line
that marks the western end of the Allegheny Plateau.