Northern Region Pittsburgh Region Other Railroads
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 encounteredfinancial problems early in its construction and the PRR was 'obliged' to purchase the uncompleted railroad in 1861. By 1863 tracks reached from Vail (MP 3), just north of Tyrone (MP 0.0), to Milesburg (MP 30.8), 27 miles away. Two years later, tracks finally reached Lock Haven (MP 54.2).
Atright is an early 20th Century picture postcard view of Lock Haven. Theview is east, toward Williamsport. The foreground tracks are those of the Harrisburg/Buffalo line, formerly the P&E RR. The Bald Eagle Branchenters from the right of the photo and goes behind the station. The junction here in Lock Haven formed a 'wye' bounded by Hanna Street, about where the locomotive is, Henderson Street, behind the photographer and Walnut Street, to the right out of the photo. Click on the photo for a full size version .
Several other PRR lines connected with the Bald Eagle Branch. At PARK interlocking (MP 1.5), 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 (MP 25.9) 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 (MP 37.4), 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.
The early 1900 picture postcard view at right shows a train between Milesburg and Bellefonte on the Bellefonte Branch. Bald Eagle Branch passenger trains left the line at Milesburg to provide service to Bellefonte and then returned to Milesburg. This train is heading toward Bellefonte. Milesburg is just beyond the gap at right center. About three miles of track separated the two towns. Spring Creek is in the foreground. It flows into the branch's namesake, the Bald Eagle Creek, at Milesburg. Click on the photofor a full size view ().
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 (MP 50). 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 (MP 8.1). 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 freighttrains.
To handle this traffic more efficiently, the PRR in 1946 installed Centralized Traffic Control. The CTC machine was located in newly rebuilt MILES (MP30.8) 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 timetablefrom 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 BaldEagle 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 (MP 51.3) and POST interlocking (MP 52.5) at Mile Post 52.0.