Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Thu Jun 18, 2009 2:35 pm

Here's an 1895 map of McKean County that shows the BB&K:

http://www.west2k.com/pastations/mckean.shtml
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby CHAUNCEY » Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:03 pm

Actually the map is not that confusing if you grew up in them parts. I traveled that Bordell rout several hundred times as a kid, 1970's, on feet that is. I can trace it from Ormsby to Bordell, but I don't remember the rout from there on. And it certainly was not a straight line as shown on the map, many large turns. My older broth first told me about the old grade when I was about six, he would tell me about the abandoned locomotives and boxcars. Of course he was pulling my leg, but it forever intrigued me about the grade. There are some very cool rock carvings along it's east side. I assume the boys that built the grade are responsible for the carvings.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:50 am

I was browsing http://www.pennpilot.psu.edu/

In the 1937 aerial photos of Smethport:

You can see the BB&K bridge abutments in East Smethport where they crossed the river to get to the Pennsylvania RR interchange.

It's hard to see the row from Smethport to Ormsby. I'd love to hike this section someday.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Sun May 01, 2011 12:43 pm

Some BB&K historical dates:

October 1982 - abandonment of Eldred line from Rixford to Eldred

Fall 1893 - Bradford Eldred & Cuba abandoned

Summer of 1894 - Kendall & Eldred torn up
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby Richard1 » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:42 pm

McKean County Democrat
Thursday, June 23, 1938

The Bradford, Bordell & Kinzua - A Great Little Railroad
By Russell R. Lindsley

Old memories were stirred by the good will visit of the Smethport Conopus Club in Simpson Monday night, where at a joint meeting with leaders of the busy hilltop oil town as guests, veterans recalled the hectic history of the old Bradford, Bordell & Kinzua Railroad which in early McKean county oil excitement days enjoyed the distinction of being the greatest narrow gauge railroad system in the United States.
The railroad, built in the '70s, originally linked Bradford, Smethport, Rew City, Duke Center, Eldred in Pennsylvania and Rock City, Olean, Bolivar and Wellsville in New York. Eventually the route was extended to Mt. Jewitt, linking with the Pittsburgh & Western narrow gauge system, which extended through Kane, Marienville, Clarion Junction, Knox and Butler to Allegheny, Pa. which was then a city in its own right, across the river from Pittsburgh before becoming a part of greater Pittsburgh.
When the road was originally built in this county, Smethport capital played an important part in the project and Henry Hamlin of Smethport, McKean county's pioneer banker, was a member of the board of directors. The Goodyears of Buffalo were also interested in the railroad and for a time controlled it. One of the distinguished stockholders was Grover Cleveland, who was a Buffalo attorney when the railroad company was organized and who later served as mayor of Buffalo, governor of New York and two terms as President of the United States.
When the line was first built over the precipitous hills of McKean county - then covered with dense grow of virgin timber - the engineering problem involved was of complicated nature. But the road was built with incredible speed and passenger and freight trains were soon rolling over a territory where it had been impossible to maintain public highways to carry the traffic of the booming oil fields.
The discovery of oil had only been recent and tapping of the rich McKean county field had caused rush of hardy adventurers from the pioneer discovery field about Titusville, Venango county, to the new local strike.
"Oil" was the cry heard on every hand as a wilderness of new derricks leaped skyward like magic, striking the fluid gold in seemingly inexhaustible quantity whenever the drill struck. Cities and towns sprang into being overnight with thousands of residents and as full of abundant life as western mining camps - only to fade to forgotten oblivion after their brief days of glory.
The new railroad did a tremendous passenger business and the freight transportation facilities it provided came as a godsend to harassed oil operators. During early years the B.B.& K. reaped a golden harvest. Even after the first flush of the oil development the great timber cutting industry of the county continued to provide a steady source of revenue to the railroad, through the '80s and '90s. But the late 90's saw the passing of the hey-day of giant lumbering operations and the early oil industry.
Boom towns along the like had become ghost towns and locomotive whistles sound an empty echo among what remained of deserted villages and denuded forest areas. As late as 1901 the railroad was still operating trains over an extensive system extending from Bradford to Allegheny, via Smethport, Mt. Jewett and Kane. But creditors were closing in menacingly on the line and in 1905 it disintegrated. The Smethport division, from Ormsby, was abandoned that year and on Sept. 2, 1906 the last train was run over the line from Bradford to Kane.
The southern end, then known as the Foxburg division, continued to operate as a narrow gauge for several years, being acquired by the Baltimore & Ohio system. In 909 the work of widening this section of the line to standard gauge was started from Allegheny to Mt. Jewett. The branch of the B.& O. is still in operation, with Kane as an important division point.
But rails and ties of the old narrow gauge between Bradford, Smethport and Mt. Jewett were completely removed years ago, and the old right-of-way is now only a ghostly corridor through the rapidly-growing second-growth timber of the county forest region with the exception of the sector of a road-bed from nearby Ormsby to Mt. Jewett which was converted into a fine public highway after removal of the rails. The railroad, traversing a dense forest region with trees almost forming a cathedral archway over the track, encountered a menacing forest fire hazard eat dry seasons of the year.
Nevertheless schedules were maintained by some miracle during periods of some of the most terrible forest fires of early county history which caused loss of life and heavy property damage. Courageous train crews raced trains through burning forest infernos where rails were heated to danger point and ties were smoldering and the air was filled with burning debris. Approaching such a fire hazard the engineer might take an extra pull at his flask and give the engine "the gun." The train would come through with coaches ablaze and with the train crew's hair and whiskers closely singed, while occupants of coaches would come up"for air" coughing and choking and with eyes inflamed by heat and smoke.
A snow-plow pushed by three locomotives, augmented by crews of men with shovels kept the right-of-way open. But one winter a passenger train was stalled in giant drifts at Kanesholm on the Big Level line and passengers were rescued with difficulty and it was six weeks before engine and coaches could be removed.
Some fine rescue efforts during fire seasons were credited to B.,B. & K. train crews during forest fire seasons in the early days, when they braved extreme dangers to rescue inhabitants of nearby hill-top oil towns who were imperiled by raging forests in adjacent forests. The B., B. & K. was a "snappy" little railroad with locomotive and coach equipment which looked about the same as similar equipment of standard gauge lines - always kept in trim condition. The locomotives possessed surprising power for their size.
Local people of an earlier day frequently witnessed the spectacle of one locomotive tugging a loaded excursion of eight and ten coaches up the steel hill from Smethport to Ormsby Junction. The rolling equipment was not provided with modern air brakes. Train crews had to face the hazardous job of operating hand brakes in all kinds of weather to control trains on steep hills of the county. Patent couplers wee unknown on the line and crew members had to exhibit both courage and dexterity in making up trains with the old dangerous link and pin couplings.
On one occasion, several coaches of a Smethport-bound excursion train ran wild when coupling link broke on the steep ascent of Mt. Raub overlooking Bradford. Crew members stuck to the hand brakes heroically and the speed of the runaway coaches was checked sufficiently that they remained on the track and finally came to a safer halt in the Bradford yards.
Incidentally, the view from Mt. Raub was breath-taking in beauty. Some time after the train left Bradford entirely from view and negotiated the winding climb of the steep mountain a curve of the track high up the hillside brought the city in view again in bird's-eye perspective. Passengers looked down directly, from a great height, upon the top of the oil metropolis.
It is safe to say that no railroad in the east ever traversed a route so rich in scenic beauty. The hill road from Smethport to Ormsby was particularly beautiful - and dangerous, too. In switching cars at Ormsby and at the switch on Crystal Hill where glass rock was loaded for window glass factories in Smethport greatest care had to be exercised to prevent cars starting a mad run-away down the hill.
Even so the spectacle of madly careening runaway box-car or flat car coming down the hill with speed of lightning and continuing through the length of this borough to the East Smethport end of the line with sparks flying from the wheels was not infrequent.
Conductor Lawler of Smethport gave his ice in the endeavor to stop a runaway car which started its wild ride during switching operations at Ormsby one evening. Lawler could have jumped, but he stayed at the hand-brake long in a desperate effort to prevent a runaway which presented a menace to life and property in Smethport. Half way down Crystal Hill to Smethport the car jumped the track and rolled down the hillside, pinning Lawler underneath.
The history of the B. B. & K. was filled with similar instances of heroic sacrifice and devotion to duty on the part of employees. During the years it was in existence the railroad operated four passenger trains a day, seven days a week, in and out of Smethport - a better train service than the town has ever enjoyed since. The sawmills and glass factors of this town gave the B., B.& K. a splendid business in return. The railroad hauled countless thousands of tons of silica-sand glass rock, quarried inn Crystal Hill, to the big glass factories which flourished here for many years.
The narrow gauge did a thriving exchange business with its standard gauge neighbors, the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh, B.& O., Erie and Pennsylvania systems. At its terminal points ingenious lifting apparatus transferred bodies of loaded standard gauge cars onto narrow gauge trucks and, after deliveries had been completed to B.,B.& K. points, transferred them again to their standard gauge trucks. In its own right the B., B.& K. had a large assortment of boxcar, coal cars and flat cars.
A freight train made up mostly of standard gauge cars temporarily mounted on narrow gauge trucks presented a dizzy, swaying effect which almost defied the laws of gravity.
For several years after the B.,B.& K. was abandoned forever one of the narrow gauge locomotives was used by the Kuskequa Railroad, in Smethport, which acquired the B.,B.&K.'s right-of-way crossing of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern in this borough. At that time the Kushequa - now abandoned also - operated passenger and freight service between Smethport and Mt. Jewett and between this borough and Larabee. In this manner the Kushequa ferried engines and trains, one car at a time over the Shawmut tracks.
In 1913 the New York State Supreme Court upheld the Kushequa's right to lay a standard gauge track across the Shawmut and Smethport had its last look at a B., B.& K. locomotive. At least one other B., B.& K. engine was sold in West Virginia, where it operated for many years.
The B.,B. & K. played an invaluable part in the development of McKean county's fabulously rich oil, gas and lumber resources. It well that Conopians and residents of nearby Simpson - once an important stop on the B., B. &K. - have momentarily recalled its former greatness, with the assistance of memory and historic archives presented by Leo Wise and Ross Davis of Bradford.
Although stations and right-of-way of a grand little railroad have been obliterated by time and the screech of the owl has replaced the once common screeching of chugging locomotives of a busy boom railroad the fame of the B.,B. & K. will live long. No more will obliging conductors stop the train to merit two or more oil field huskies, returning from a celebration in Bradford, to alight and settle an affair of honor - or dishonor - with fists under roaring flambeau, supplied by an over-surplus of then-useless natural gas throwing red flames high skyward and illuminating the countryside for a great distance, and common in all oil towns along the line.
The battle ended, participants would climb aboard covered with mud and gore and enmities would soon be forgotten as the train chugged on its resumed journey. Those war grand, lush days which made history. A sturdy race of mountain people was being started.
History will give increasing credit to the Bradford, Bordell & Kinzua Railroad for the heroic part she played in the permanent development of McKean county and her rich natural resources.
You youngsters make for us older ones, who remember the narrow gauge so vividly and rode her trains on frequent occasions - we want to retire to shed a silent tear alone. Our minds and hearts are sad with fond memories.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Wed Nov 14, 2012 11:18 pm

^Thanks!

This confirms what I thought:

"...with the exception of the sector of a road-bed from nearby Ormsby to Mt. Jewett which was converted into a fine public highway after removal of the rails."

I thought the current highway from Ormsby to Mt. Jewett was the old narrow gauge right of way.

The road doesn't use all the narrow gauge row.

Between Kinzua Bridge Park and Mt. Jewett, an old stone abutment remains from where a BB&K bridge crossed the Erie tracks.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:45 pm

thebigham wrote:What route did the BB&K take into Smethport?

According to this trail map, it took a southern route into Smethport:

Look at page 12: http://www.smethportpa.org/pdf/Smethpor ... l_book.pdf

But, using http://mapper.acme.com/ and looking at the Smethport topo map, there is an old railroad grade north of Smethport. The grade is very visible until Ormsby by switching to the satellite photos.

Is the northern grade a 3rd railroad that went to Smethport?

Thanks!

Chris


This map on page 12 sating the BB&K RR grade is just north of the PS&N is an error. It's not a railroad grade.

The BB&K RR grade follows Rt 59 bewtween Ormsby and Smethport.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:59 pm

thebigham wrote:^Thanks!

This confirms what I thought:

"...with the exception of the sector of a road-bed from nearby Ormsby to Mt. Jewett which was converted into a fine public highway after removal of the rails."

I thought the current highway from Ormsby to Mt. Jewett was the old narrow gauge right of way.

The road doesn't use all the narrow gauge row.

Between Kinzua Bridge Park and Mt. Jewett, an old stone abutment remains from where a BB&K bridge crossed the Erie tracks.


By looking at the aerial photos at Penn Pilot, I found where the BB&K crossed the Erie. It's just outside of Mt. Jewett here:

https://goo.gl/maps/RdxaTnVdwF92

I know it's hard to see.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby RussNelson » Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:39 am

Based on what I understand you're saying, the OpenStreetMap version of the BB&K routing is not hardly right.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:19 pm

Here's an aerial photo from Penn Pilot that shows where the BB&K had a bridge over the Erie.

When the BR&P bought the BB&K, they bulldozed away the BB&K right of way for the relocated BR&P mainline.

Top r.o.w. is BB&K.
2nd is the Erie
3rd is the BR&P
Lower right is the original BR&P into Mt. Jewett
Lower left was a BR&P siding to an indstry
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:23 pm

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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby RussNelson » Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:35 pm

thebigham wrote:Here's an aerial photo from Penn Pilot that shows where the BB&K had a bridge over the Erie.

When the BR&P bought the BB&K, they bulldozed away the BB&K right of way for the relocated BR&P mainline.

Top r.o.w. is BB&K.
2nd is the Erie
3rd is the BR&P
Lower right is the original BR&P into Mt. Jewett
Lower left was a BR&P siding to an indstry


Where is this? I'm not seeing it. But there's plenty to see around Mt. Jewett:
  • BR&P, the active rail
  • BR&P's original main line, very twisty and windey.
  • New York, Lake Erie and Western Coal Railroad
  • Mount Jewett, Kinzua and Riterville, later B&O
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:08 pm

Here's where the BB&K went over the Erie:

https://binged.it/2jtH1Ne

The original twisty BR&P is off to the right.

The MtJ, K & R is to the left.

NY, LE & W is the Erie RR - unused K&K tracks today.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby RussNelson » Sat Jan 14, 2017 1:35 pm

So Peterson / Lumbar / Hacker Streets is the BB&K right-of-way?

It's amazing how much of the K&K still has tracks. Ought to be turned into a railbike concession.
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Re: Bradford Bordell and Kinzua RR route question

Postby thebigham » Sun Jan 15, 2017 12:12 pm

^Probably, yes.

I hope to get to Mt. Jewett in February and do some exploring.

The BB&K was really the Big Level and Kinzua RR.

This book has good info on the area:

http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/10443.htm
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