Fall & Winter 1996
Along the Rails
Laurel Highlands Railroads
The building of the railroads in this area was an important part of the growth of the coal and coke industry which fueled the industrial development of the United States.
One of the first railroads, the Pittsburgh & Connellsville Railroad (1837) would later extend its line to savage junction at the Maryland border. The B&O acquired control of the line in 1871 and ran the first through train from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. Today this is the CSX mainline.
The Mt. Pleasant & Broadford Railroad (B&O) was completed in 1871. This line crosses the Pennsy line in Scottdale (Everson). The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad arrived in Connellsville around 1890. At that time, the railroad was known as the Pittsburgh, McKeesport & Youghiogheny Railroad. (The line which was abandoned is now a part of the Youghiogheny River Trail)
Construction of the Western Maryland Railroad (which came north from Cumberland, MD) began in 1908 and arrived in Connellsville in 1913 as part of the George Could Coast to Coast Railway. (This line which was also abandoned is now a part of the Youghiogheny River Trail)
The Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad Company (1930) reached Connellsville to hook up with the Western Maryland Railroad. The line operates today as the Wheeling & Lake Erie.
The Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad (The Pennsylvania Railroad) was built from Greensburg south to Fairchance. Youngwood was the main yard for this Pennsy line and had the very first HUMP yards in the U.S. Most area mines worked out of Youngwood.
The Laurel Highlands Railroad operates "The Highlander" through the region known as the Connellsville Coal and Coke Field, an area designated by the Southwestern Preservation Heritage Commission as the originator of the Industrial Revolution in the United States.
Scottdale, the departure point for "The Highlander" is only 10 minutes away from Interstate 70 or Exit 8 (New Stanton) on the PA Turnpike. Take Route 119 South to Scottdale Exit Route 819. Follow 819 (Broadway) into town to Sheetz Convenience Store located on your left. The parking area and the platform are next to Sheetz.
We suggest that you plan to spend the day with us. You can begin in Scottdale, which has a lovely downtown district, within easy walking distance of the platform. Come early and browse. You might also want to schedule time to visit West Overton Museum (Route 819) on your way to or from your train ride and/or AAA Attraction Linden Hall on 819 South.
Mt. Pleasant, one of the destination points of "The Highlander" was the largest coke oven complex in the world. It is a lovely community complete with a town square (cirle actually), The Diamond, in which a statue of "The Doughboy" stands in tribute to the men and women who served their country. It too boasts a thriving downtown area lined with shops.
Those of you who choose Sunday for your train excursion, can join the Texac Train Fest in the parking lot at Cook's Hobby/Train Shop at the Mt. Pleasant platform (Route 31). While in Mount Pleasant, you can grab a bite to eat at the R & R Station before you travel on to the Lenox and Smith Glass Outlets where you can tour the facilities.
The former Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) Station in Youngwood, which serviced the Southwest Branch, now houses a Railroad Museum. At one time, this station was one of the busiest stations on the Pennsylvania Railroad line servicing an average of 75 locomotives each day. However, a combination of factors, including the decline in the coal and coke industry and the increased usage of trucks as a method of transporting the coal and coke marked the beginning of the end for rail service in Youngwood. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s sealed the fate of the coal and coke industry and of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station in Youngwood, PA.
The restoration of the station was completed in 1991. The Museum carries a wide variety of railroad memorabilia, including a railroad train whistle which children adore but most adults find annoying after several hours. Take a few minutes and wander around the old yard and visit the display at the museum during the layover in Youngwood.
In Connellsville (a short trip down Route 119) is the Youghiogheny Station, a preseved Western Maryland Railroad Station, which is the location of the Opalescent Glass Gallery. You can wet your whistle with an "Iron Horse" soda from Faris Distributors or wet yourself down during a "float trip" or a guided river tour down the Yough with Wilderness Voyagers. For those of you who work up an appetite along the rail or trail, stop at Cheryl's Six Pack for a bite to eat.