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Bellefonte Railroads

Bald Eagle Valley Railroad

"The Bald Eagle Branch extended 54 miles from Tyrone, Pa. to Lock Haven, Pa. At Tyrone's GRAY interlocking, it connected with the PRR's Middle Division (part of the New York to Pittsburgh east/west main line.) At Lock Haven, it connected with the PRR's major north/south line between Harrisburg and Buffalo. Originally known as the Bald Eagle Valley Railroad, the line encountered financial problems early in its construction and the PRR was 'obliged' to purchase the uncompleted railroad in 1861. By 1863 tracks reached from Vail, just north of Tyrone, to Milesburg, 27 miles away. Two years later, tracks finally reached Lock Haven.

Several other PRR lines connected with the Bald Eagle Branch. At PARK interlocking, near Vail, the line connected with the Clearfield Branch. This branch, one of the PRR's most abundant sources of coal traffic, ran for about 50 miles from Vail to Grampian by way of Osceola Mills (site of a yard and engine terminal) and Clearfield. Between Unionville and Milesburg, the Bald Eagle Branch and the 17-mile long Snow Shoe Branch had a junction. The Snow Shoe Branch was famous for a series of switchbacks that enabled it climb the steep grade of the Allegheny Front to reach mountaintop coal fields. The Bellefonte Branch connected with the Bald Eagle Branch at Milesburg and was the PRR's foremost originator of stone and lime traffic. (Bellefonte also had a yard and engine facility.) The Lewisburg & TyroneBranch connected with the Bellefonte Branch at WHITE, near Pleasant Gap, and extended 63 miles east to Montandon and a junction with the Harrisburg/Buffalo line. Until its elimination around 1930, the Tyrone Division, headquartered in the spacious passenger station in the division's namesake town, included nearly of the above trackage.

PRR timetables from about 1931 to the early 1950s and PRR's 1945 Form CT 1000, lists all trackage from Milesburg to Pleasant Gap and the Lewisburg& Tyrone Branch trackage to its junction at Montandon as the Bellefonte Branch. Northern Region Timetable No. 1 of 1956 and Central RegionTimetable No. 2 of 1965 show the Bellefonte Branch downgraded to secondary status and divided. The original Bellefonte Branch portion became the Bellefonte Secondary Track. The old Lewisburg & Tyrone portion became the Montandon Secondary Track. WHITE again was the dividing point.

The New York Central Railroad interchanged with the PRR at Mill Hall Junction. The PRR's archrival came into central Pennsylvania aiming to tap coal reserves around Clearfield, Philipsburg, and Cherry Tree. They did this via a line from Corning, N.Y. to Jersey Shore and Avis, Pa. From Avis the line proceeded through Lock Haven (actually Castanea), Mill Hall, Beech Creek and Snow Shoe before entering the heart of their coal fields. Avis, located just west of Jersey Shore, between Pine Creek and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, had an extensive NYC shop and steam servicing facility.

Railway Age Gazette in 1912 noted that the Bald Eagle Branch had a greater traffic density than any other single-track line in U.S., carrying 12 million ton-miles per year. A typical day saw (in each direction) 4 passenger trains, 25 freight trains, and 18 helper engine and work train moves. The helpers pushed heavy trains up the 1 percent grade from Vail to Dix. This practice continued into the Penn Central era. By1946, more than 20 million ton-miles were moving over the branch each year. A typical day saw (in each direction) one passenger train and 12-15 freight trains.

To handle this traffic more efficiently, the PRR in 1946 installed Centralized Traffic Control. The CTC machine was located in newly rebuilt MILES tower. PARK and LOCK HAVEN controlled just a few miles at either end. Prior to the CTC project, as many as nine towers were in service. The track arrangement put in place during the CTC project stayed pretty much untouched until Conrail, with the exception of a short line relocation in the early 1960s around Howard. This was done to make way for the new Foster Joseph Sayers Dam and Lake.

The Bald Eagle Branch served as an important 'bridge route' between the western portions of the PRR and the northeast United States. A substantial amount of this traffic was coal destined for Sodus Point, N.Y., on Lake Ontario. Coal trains leaving the branch used the Harrisburg/Buffalo line as far as Williamsport, where they headed north via the Elmira Branch. Other coal trains continued east to Northumberland and mid-Atlantic destinations. Merchandise consisted primarily of traffic bound to and from New England via a gateway at the PRR's Buttonwood Yard in Wilkes-Barre. Symbol freights CSB-7 and CSB-8 (said to stand for "Chicago, St. Louis, Boston") were the fastest of these trains.

The branch saw only light passenger traffic. A PRR public timetable from 1924 lists 510 and 511 as the only through trains and six local trains. PRR's 1931 Williamsport Timetable No. 12 lists 510 and 511, another pair of through trains, 515 and 578, plus two locals. By 1950, only 510 and 511 were still running. Their last runs occurred on August 23, 1950. These unnamed locals carried the numbers of the once-proud Penn-Lehigh Express, joint PRR-Lehigh Valley Railroad service that linked the steel-making centers of Pittsburgh and Bethlehem. The branch also served as an alternate route for in the event of a blockage on the Middle Division. Although technically a branch, the Bald Eagle Branch was a busy line, built and maintained to main line standards.

The map above is a portion scanned from The Pennsylvania Railroad Regional Map of 1955. This 18 inch by 42 inch color map shows what lines were part of what regions after the mid 1950 restructuring. The Bald Eagle Branch ran across the two Regions from 1955 until PRR's final restructuring in 1964. From 1964 until the end it was split between the Northern Division and the Pittsburgh Division all within the Central Region. Prior to the mid 1950s restructuring, the branch was split between the Williamsport and Middle Divisions of the Central region. The above map indicates Vail as the boundry point between the Northern Region and the Pittsburgh Region in 1955. However, according to PRR's timetables, including Northern Region Timetable No. 1 of 1956, the line of division/region demarcation was always between Mill Hall and POST interlocking at Mile Post 52.0.

Source:
Hobo's Guide to the Pennsy
http://kc.pennsyrr.com/guide/baldeagle.html

Construction Chronology

Jan. 29, 1861 Tyrone & Lock Haven Railroad sold at foreclosure.

Mar. 25, 1861 Tyrone & Lock Haven Railroad Company reorganized as Bald Eagle Valley Railroad Company.

Mar 25, 1861 Bald Eagle Valley Railroad incorporated

Apr. 1, 1861 Bald Eagle Valley Railroad organized; Philip M. Price, Pres., and Tom Scott a director; purchases property of Tyrone & Lock Haven
Railroad; operated by Bellefonte & Snow Shoe Railroad.

Aug. 17, 1861 PRR contracts to aid the Bald Eagle Valley Railroad under the Commutation Act.

Mar. 1862 PRR appoints Samuel A. Black Superintendent of Eastern Division of P&E and William A. Baldwin Superintendent of Western Division of P&E.

Oct. 1862 Bald Eagle Valley Railroad opens between Tyrone Jct. (Vail) and Port Matilda, Pa.

Dec. 1862 Bald Eagle Valley Railroad opens between Martha Furnace and Unionville, Pa.

Jan. 1, 1863 PRR leases Bald Eagle Valley Railroad, Tyrone-Bellefonte, Pa.; operated as part of Middle Division.

Jan. 20, 1863 PRR begins operation of Bald Eagle Valley Railroad.

Jan. 24, 1863 Bald Eagle Valley Railroad opens between Unionville and Snow Shoe Intersection, Pa.

May 31, 1864 Operation of Bald Eagle Valley and Tyrone & Clearfield Railroads detached from Middle Division and placed under a Superintendent of Branch Roads.

Aug. 1864 Bald Eagle Valley Railroad opens between Milesburg and Howard, Pa.

Dec. 7, 1864 Bald Eagle Valley Railroad opens between Milesburg and Lock Haven, Pa.; leased to PRR.

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Last Updated
21 May 2002

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