DETAILED HISTORY of the P&S R.R.
In the late part of the 1800’s several small western NY and PA railroads were merged into and named the Pittsburg, Shawmut, and Northern Railroad which ran from Wayland, NY to Brockway, PA. During the time the P.S.&N. began Pittsburgh, PA was spelled without the “h”.
Early in the 1900’s the P.S.&.N. started building a new railroad south from Brockway towards Freeport to connect with Pittsburg naming it the Brookville & Mahoning. The first section of the B&M from Brookville to Brockway was completed in 1907. In 1910 the name was changed to the Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad. Some think the name change was due to confusion with Boston & Maine also having B&M reporting marks, but others think it was done to make it look like it was the P.S.& N. Around this time the P&S broke away from the P.S.&N. as a separate company.
In 1917 the P&S was completed now running 88.1 miles from Brockway, PA to Freeport, PA. Coal was always the main business of the P&S although it also ran passenger service until the 1930s, and other types of freight traveled over the line. Although it struggled at first, the P&S did very well for the most. Unfortunately, for all of its life the P.S.&N. had financial problems and was finally abandoned in 1947. Be sure to see the P.S.&N. web site for more on that railroad.
A visitor to the site asked what Shawmut meant. The word Shawmut originates from the Boston, Maine area where not only was there a hill/mountain with that name, but a bank as well which had financial history with the P&S. Shawmut is also related to the Algonquian Indian’s word Mashaumowuk which as above refers to the Boston area. There is also a Shawmut Dam on the Kennebec River. There is also A large, unrelated electrical manufacturing company named Shawmut. Other railroad related subjects include Shawmut, Montana on the Union Pacific R.R., and the tiny town of Shawmut near Brockway, PA on the original P.S.&.N.
From its beginning the P&S operated with several steam locomotives, some former P.S.&.N. and some former Monon 2-8-2’s. In October 1953 the P&S began what many other railroads were doing, switching to diesel power by purchasing nine General Motors, EMD SW9 1200 HP switchers outfitted for multiple unit operation. The bright red and yellow SW9s operated in teams of 2-5 units. In the mid 1970’s the SW9s were repainted red, white, and blue in celebration of the USA’s Bicentennial. When the SW9’s were being repainted, they were also being rebuilt with new brakes, insulated cabs, power change-out, etc., not just new paint. (Info from Dudley Dumaine.) From the mid 1970’s through the early 1980’s three used GP7 diesels were added. The last new power was during the final years when six GP10’s were acquired for the new Mountain Laurel. The Shawmut continued to use cabooses into the early 1990s. Be sure to see the separate section about power with engine numbers and more info.
THE LATER YEARS
Especially during the late 1970’s and first half of the 1980’s business was booming on the Shawmut. During the 1980’s coal was being loaded mainly at Brockway, Dora, Colwell, and Reddco. Earlier, many other smaller coal loaders operated along the P&S and a fair amount of the coal found its way to power plants in the northeast as well as the power plant at Reesedale on the Shawmut. Over the years there were many other businesses that received rail service along the P&S that came and went. One was the large Linde Air Products plant just south of Kittanning, which shut down in the 1980s. Another fairly significant customer was the large glass plant just north of Brockway Yard, it was related to another nearby glass plant on the B&P and both plants still operate today. The West Penn Power plant at Reesedale operated from the mid 1950s until 2012 and the last coal train to Reesedale was in February 2012.
Unfortunately, coal business began dropping off in the late 1980s. Trying to survive, the company expanded by purchasing the former Pennsylvania RR Low Grade secondary line from Conrail which ran from Lawsonham to Sligo and Lawsonham to Driftwood including the 25 mile former New York Central line from Rose to near Clarion known as the Piney Branch. The ten mile line from Lawsonham to Sligo was operated as the Red Bank Railroad. Shortly after, the Mountain Laurel Railroad began and ran from Lawsonham to Driftwood. Six red, black, and silver GP10 locomotives were added and lettered MOUNTAIN LAUREL. The Red Bank had no locomotives or freight cars, the Mountain Laurel also had no freight cars. Shawmut and Mountain Laurel power and P&S cars were used on all three lines. However, over the next few years business continued to fall off on all these lines and it was decided to sell all three lines in the mid 1990’s.
In April 1996 the Pittsburg & Shawmut, Red Bank, and Mountain Laurel Railroads were purchased by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. (GWI or G&W) and received the new reporting marks PSR. The G&W company has purchased many small railroads around the US and other countries and has become a large company including the nearby Buffalo & Pittsburgh. Although the Shawmut name would continue under G&W ownership, all PSR operations were absorbed into the Buffalo & Pittsburgh in 2004 effectively eliminating the proud little Pittsburg & Shawmut name from railroading.
The former P&S mainline from Freeport to Mosgrove remains in operation by the B&P as do the tracks from Dellwood to the glass plant at Crenshaw including Brockway yard. The locomotive and car repair shops at Brookville are being phased out. The former Mountain Laurel section of the low grade east of Brookville is being operated by B&P as well. Much of the tracks from Reesedale to Colwell are being used for car storage as is some of the area around Brookville and to the south near Rayard.
Brookville Locomotive Company built a new facility next to the former P&S Brookville yard and shops. Over the years “Brookville” has been expanding from mining type locomotives to full sized locomotives and the B&P tracks allow them rail access and test tracks. During 2013 and 2014 several Tri-Rail BL36 commuter locomotives had been produced for the Miami, FL area and were been seen making their trips to Florida.
Some coal is still being loaded by Rose Bud Mining at Penefield on the former Mountain Laurel. Coal and other commodities are sometimes loaded at Brockway Yard and coal is also loaded at Bridgeburg north of Kittanning.
This is the really sad part of the P&S history. The Pittsburg & Shawmut mainline from Brockway to Brookville, from south of Rayard to north of Mahoning tunnel, the Red Bank from Lawsonham to Sligo, and the Mountain Laurel from Lawsonham to east of Brookville (including the Piney Branch) have all been removed.
The Widnoon and Conifer branches off the original P&S mainline were also removed. Some of the earlier branches had been removed long ago. These lines are officially “railbanked” and can be put back in operation by the railroad in the future if needed and some of them have been converted to hiking trails.
Be sure to check out the link below for some great information and photos of the development of the trails in the Red Bank Valley area.
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