The History of The Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railway Company


The Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railway Company was incorporated in November 1917. The evolution of the physical development of the railroad took place in three major parts over a period of years. The Goulds, Jay and his son George, bought control of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad, bringing the line to within 60 miles of Pittsburgh. Just after the turn of the century, Andrew Carnegie was feuding with the Pennsylvania Railroad's policies concerning the transportation of his steel mill products.
Carnegie and the Goulds signed an agreement that provided for the construction of a connecting railroad between the W&LE and the Union Railroad, which Carnegie had built to serve the steel plants of the Monongahela Valley.
On May 7, 1904, the Wabash-Pittsburgh Terminal Railway Company was incorporated. This was to be a link in the Goulds' transcontinental railroad system. The first train over this line reached Pittsburgh on June 1, 1904. The road extended from Pittsburgh Junction, Ohio to the "Point'' in Pittsburgh where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet. At Pittsburgh Junction, a connection was made with the W&LE, which ran west as far as Toledo.
Shortly after its incorporation, the Wabash-Pittsburgh Terminal Railway Company acquired control, by purchase of the entire capital stock, of the Pittsburgh Terminal Railroad & Coal Company. This company had controlling interest in the West Side Belt Railway, a belt line extending 22 miles from Pittsburgh southeast to Clariton. This company had its origin as the Little Saw Mill Run Railroad Company, which operated 21 miles of road from 1850 to 1897 until it merged with the West Side Belt Railroad. The property of the West Side Belt line was operated in conjunction with the Wabash - Pittsburgh Terminal line.

P&CS 2-4-0 #9 Castle Shannon PA August 24,1904 -JZ Collection

Standard Steel Car Company used by W&LE and WPT to transport ore to the Great Lakes to the Pittsburgh Steel Mills August 1915 - DK Ritter Collection.

Standard Steel Car Company June 1909 - JZ Collection

Standard Steel Car Company June 1909 - DK Ritter Collection

Before the Wabash - Pittsburgh Terminal Road began operation, Carnegie sold his steel Interests. The new company,
The United States Steel Corporation, and the Pennsylvania
Railroad settled their differences. Permitting a connection with the Union Railroad honored Carnegie's commitment to the Goulds, but tonnage allotment agreements were disregarded.
This development, combined with the effects of the Panic of 1907, proved disastrous for George Gould and his line to Pittsburgh.
On May 29, 1908, the WPT was declared insolvent and entered receivership. Two other Gould lines: the W&LE and the Western Maryland also went into receivership at that time, ending any dreams their promoters had of completing a transcontinental route to the east coast.
On January 29, 1917, the reorganization was complete and the WPT became the P&WV. Over the next 15 years, this company operated about 92 miles of road, including the mainline from Pittsburgh Junction to Clariton and several short branches.
As of December 31, 1928, the P&WV acquired ownership of the West Side Belt Railway, which it had been operating. In 1924, in response to government pressure, the P&WV divested itself of the coal properties by selling the stock of the Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Company.
As constituted through the 1920's, the P&WV would participate in hauling the Industrial traffic of the Pittsburgh area, particularly that of the Monongahela Valley. Through its connection with the W&LE it handled through traffic between the Pittsburgh area, and points in the Midwest and beyond.

It had, however, no satisfactory connection for handling traffic to and from the east.
[A small amount of traffic to and from the east was handled via the connections with the B&O at Bruceton and the P&LE at West End, Pittsburgh.]
In order to obtain such a connection, the P&WV in 1928 requested authorization from the Interstate Commerce Commission to extend its line from Pierce, eastward 38 miles to Connellsville, where a connection could be made with the Western Maryland. This was granted, and construction began in August of that year. In 1930 the ICC granted permission for the construction of a six-mile company line serving industrial plants in and around Donora. In the spring of 1931, operations began to Connellsville.
In 1929, control of the P&WV passed to the Pennroad Corporation. This corporation was a holding company, some of whose officers were on the board of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. However, Pennroad never owned much Pennsylvania stock. [The Pennroad Corporation is now the Madison Fund an investment trust.] In the middle of the 1930's the Pennroad Corporation owned as much as 73% of the stock of the P&WV. During this period, it also owned a controlling interest in the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad. After 1951, the Pennroad Corporation started to sell P&WV stock. By June 1, 1954, it still owned slightly fewer than 50%, and by September 12, 1955, it had sold all of its P&WV stock.
The P&WV was the last important railroad built in the Pittsburgh area. By the time of its construction, the most desirable rights of way, along the streams of the area, had been preempted by other railroads. This meant that the latecomer had to use other routes, usually along the tops of the ridges, almost all of which involved difficult engineering problems. Part of the result was that about 6% of the mileage of the road was on bridges and about 2% in tunnels. There were about 171 bridges of more than ten feet in length and 21 tunnels. Of these, 151 bridges and 18 tunnels were on the mainline, and the costs of maintaining the road were exceptionally high. Speeds at which trains could move had to be reduced over some sections of the road, particularly between Pierce and Connellsville.

ALCO Light-Pacific 4-6-2 #200 Setember 1921 - ALCO Historic Collection

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P&WV #927 Rook, PA May 1938 - Harold K. Vollrath Collection

On the other hand the P&WV was essentially a single-track road, a factor that tended to keep maintenance costs low. The yard at Rook, on the southwest side of Pittsburgh, was P&WV's only important yard. By virtue of arrangements with the Western Maryland and the Nickel Plate, the P&WV used yards of those connecting lines at or near its eastern and western terminal points. The Nickel Plate took over operation of the W&LE in 1949. Operating in conjunction with each other, these three roads constituted the "Alphabet" route for hauling freight between the Midwest and Baltimore.
The Wabash - Pittsburgh Terminal Railway had originally been constructed into the heart of Pittsburgh at the "Point" This had been accomplished by boring a tunnel through Mount Washington and constructing a bridge over the Monongahela River. In 1946, a fire destroyed the freight terminal adjacent to the passenger station. In 1949 the passenger station was closed and razed, along with all the P&WV's other facilities at the "Point". This was part of a redevelopment of that section of the city from blighted area into one with shining modern buildings, highways, parking lots, and a state park. At that time, the Mount Washington tunnel was abandoned and sealed. This reduced the miles of road operated by the P&WV by three.
As of June 1, 1955, a through freight route between Chicago and Philadelphia was established by four railroads. The Nickel Plate hauled the cars from Chicago to Pittsburgh Junction, Ohio and the P&WV took them to Connellsville. The Western Maryland operated between there and Lurgan (Shippensburg), and the Reading completed the link to the Philadelphia area.
This ''overhead'' traffic had become a very important source of revenue for the P&WV.


The P&WV operated 132 miles of road in three states. The breakdown of mileage by state: Pennsylvania, 105; Ohio, 20; and West Virginia, 7.
The mileage in Pennsylvania is concentrated in four southwestern counties: Allegheny, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland. The great bulk of this mileage was in Washington and Allegheny counties, with only small amounts in each of the other two. The western terminus of the P&WV was at Pittsburgh Junction, Ohio, where a connection was made with the Nickel Plate. This was located about 20 miles west of Steubenville. The line reached the Ohio River at Mingo Junction, another connecting point with the Nickel Plate. It crossed the narrow neck of West Virginia south of Wierton and entered Pennsylvania near Avella. The line ran eastward from there through Bridgeville to West Belt Junction, on the western edge of Pittsburgh. Connections were made with the Montour Railroad at George and the Pennsylvania Railroad at Bridgeville. From West Belt Junction, a two-mile spur ran northward to the Ohio River at West End Station in Pittsburgh. A connection was made here with the P&LE The main line of the P&WV ran southeast from West Belt Junction to a point opposite Monessen on the Monongahela River. Branches extended eastward to Mifflin Junction and Clariton. Both of these were junction points with the Union Railroad, a switching and terminal company that handled a large volume of industrial traffic. Another branch line ran to Donora.
Connections were also made with the B&O at Bruceton, the Pennsylvania at Clariton, and the Montour at Salida, the last on the branch line to Mifflin Junction.
The mainline crossed the Monongahela River at Monessen where it connected with the Monessen Southwestern Railway, a switching and terminal road owned by the Pittsburgh Steel Company and running along the right bank of the Monongahela River. From Monessen, the P&WV ran 21 miles eastward to its terminus at Connellsville, where it had a vital connection with the Western Maryland.
The P&WV long had bituminous coal mines along its right of way, especially between the Pittsburgh and West Virginia line.
At one time, these mines provided most of the tonnage hauled by the road, but activity in them had dropped greatly. The heavy industries of the Pittsburgh area had been another major source of traffic. Of more recent origin was the ''overhead'' traffic for which the P&WV served as the Pittsburgh area link between the Western Maryland and Nickel Plate Road.

P&WV #1102 2-6-6-4 Rook PA March 3, 1939 - William Nixon Collection

P&WV #1010 2-8-2 Rook PA July 1942 - JZ Collection

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P&WV FM #53 Rook PA June 18, 1949 - JJ Young Jr.

P&WV FM H-16-44 #91 Rook PA January 1957 - JZ Collection


Operating and Financial Data Circa 1960's

The mileage operated by the P&WV had undergone only one major and a few minor changes since 1920. The major change occurred in 1931 when the line was opened from Clairton in the Monongahela Valley to Connellsville. Prior to that time, the P&WV had operated 92 miles of road. With this eastward extension, plus some spur line, the mileage rose to 138. In the 30 years since this increase, about six miles had been abandoned.
The amount of freight traffic hauled, as indicated by ton- miles of revenue freight, averaged about 150 million tons annually from 1921 to the opening of the Connellsville extension.
This increase in potential occurred just as the 1930's depression was gaining momentum. Ton-mile figures for the years
Immediately following this addition do not reflect a picture of greater traffic of the P&WV. In 1934, however, the traffic hauled exceeded all previous records and continued rising rapidly until, in 1943, 670 million ton-miles were recorded, over three times as many as in 1934.
The high level of traffic continued through the war years but settled back in 1945. For the 15 years through 1946 - 1960, the average was just over 450 million ton-miles, but from 1960 to 1964 it had been below that average.
Although the central part of the P&WV line was in the highly industrialized Pittsburgh area, this railroad depended upon its connections for the great bulk of its business. For the years 1956 - 1964, about 26% of the tonnage carried originated on the road with 74% having been received from connections. Of the originated traffic, about 56% was product of the mines and 44% manufactured and miscellaneous Items. Almost nothing else was originated. Of the connection tonnage, about 60% were product of the mines and 30% manufactured and miscellaneous commodities.
Three particular items comprised the bulk of the products of mine hauled: bituminous coal, Iron ore and ore concentrates.
The coal originated on the road between Pittsburgh and the Ohio River. The iron ore and ore concentrates were almost all received from connections and terminated at steel plants served by the P&WV.
Of the traffic originating on the road, about 10%, an unusually low figure, also terminated on the road, with the other 90% being passed on to connecting roads. Of the tonnage received from connections, about 41% terminated on the P&WV, with the other 59% representing "overhead'' traffic which comprised 44% of total tonnage.

The passenger operations of the P&WV were never significant and were abandoned completely in 1931, about the time the extension to Connellsville was opened. Revenue passenger-miles totaled about 6 million in 1921, but dropped steadily until the time the service was discontinued ten years later.
Operating revenues averaged about $4 million annually through the 1920's. They were off considerably during the depression years, with the poor economic conditions temporarily more than offsetting the effect of extending the line to Connellsville in 1931. The wartime business caused operating revenues to rise rapidly during World War II. Rate increases more than offset the decline in physical volume of traffic after the war, which enabled the company to push its operating revenues to record heights. The peak was $9.9 million in 1957. After 1957 revenues averaged $8.0 million.
Net income after fixed charges figures reveal that the P&WV had it ups and downs since 1920. In 32 of the next 40 years net income was positive, and in the other 8 years negative. During the 1920's the situation was amazingly good with net income averaging $1.6 million for the years 1921 - 1925 when operating revenues averaged only $3.7 million. For the next 5 years the averages were $2.3 million and $4.4 million, respectively, making net income over 50% of the operating revenues. The situation worsened after that, with negative figures appearing four times in the 1930's. From 1941 through 1957 the picture was good, with net income averaging over $1 million annually through this period, well over 10% of operating revenues. After 1958, only negative figures were recorded for net income.
The stock of the P&WV consisted of 305,000 shares of common stock, all outstanding, of par value $100. Prior to 1925, the company also had 6% cumulative preferred stock outstanding. This was retired at the end of 1924. The first dividends on the common stock were paid in 1926. Dividends
were paid each year through 1931, but for the 16 year period, 1932 - 1947, none were paid. A small payment was made in 1948, but none the next year. Payments were resumed in 1950, and continued through the 1st. quarter of 1958, but none were paid after that year. This stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. From 1929 to 1954, the Pennroad Corporation had controlling interest in the P&WV by virtue of owning more than 50% of the stock. By the end of 1955 Pennroad had sold all of its P&WV stock. The railroad was leased in 1964 to NW / NS, for 99 years with the right of unlimited renewal.


P&WV Caboose #850 February 1952 - Railroad Museum of PA