• Pittsburgh Commuter Rail - PATrain

  • General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by gt7348b
I was looking through some old transit fact books published by the American Public Transit Association and noticed that there was at least one line in Pittsburgh from the late '70s until '89 or '90 operated first by the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie and then the Port Authority. Anyone have any more information about this such as cars used, ridership levels, how long it lasted, etc?

  by aline1969
I would like to know too :) Pittsburgh has such a wonderful streetcar system into the 60's hard to think they ever needed commuter rail...but love to see the stats.

  by BaltOhio
My memory is very hazy, especially on dates, so hopefully somebody with better facts will chime in. But Pittsburgh at one time had three reasonably major commuter operations -- the PRR to Jeanette, the P&LE to College, and the B&O to Versailles. The PRR service went first, but the P&LE and B&O operated into the early '70s at least. The last survivor was what formerly had been the B&O Versailles service, which had been taken over by the Port Authority. The PA acquired two F7s from the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton (originally SP, I think) and rebuilt some ex-C&O coaches. Ex-B&O RDCs may also have been used. This operation probably lasted into the 1980s, but I don't have a date.

  by gt7348b
In the 1990 Transit Fact Book, APTA said the Port Authority ended service in April of 1989. The 1985 Fact Book lists the Port Authority and the Beaver County Transit Authority as the operators of commuter rail in Pittsburgh. It also list that there were 200,000 passengers on the line in 1989; since it closed in April, I'm sure that is just from Jan through the end of the year. I'm guessing the Beaver County operation was the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie?

  by csxmonsub
The Port Authority of Allegheny County ran subsidized service to Beaver Falls, actually College, Pa and McKeesport and Versailles, Pa. Railroad employees were used and not PAT operators. PAT fare zones were used and transfers were issued. The Beaver Falls line was operated by the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie RR and was discontinued in 1981. At the end it was only one morning inbound trip to the P&LE Station on the Southside of Pittsburgh near the Smithfield St Bridge and return to College Pa in the evening.

The McKeesport line was operated by the B&O/Chessie System/CSX and ran until April 28, 1989. Equipment used was at first B&O RDC cars and then PAT bought push-pull equipment consisting of former Chesapeake & Ohio commuter coaches and two rebuilt F-9s painted for the service. Two of the coaches were converted to cab control cars. The F-9's were former Wellsville Addison and Galeton (PA) engines, which were refurbished by General Electric's Erie locomotive plant for PAT. Stops were in Hazelwood, Braddock, McKeesport and Versailles. The cars and the F-9s were sold to the State of Connecticut where they run to this day. And I believe one of the RDCs ended up at the B&O Museum at Baltimore.

The downtown B&O station was torn down a number of years ago and replaced by a bank building. The former right of way is now a walking trail known officially as the Eliza Furnace Trail after the former blast furnace and unofficially as the Jail Trail after the Allegheny County trail that the row passes. The McKeesport station still exists, however CSX removed the tracks leading to it. It is now PAT's McKeesport Transportation Center and only buses stop there. The Versailles station also exists. It was a small waiting room on one side and a CSX tower on the other side separated by a Dutch door. I used to ride this line regularly and the lady operator there was fairly friendly to a young railfan. And also nice and toasty warm on cold winter days!

Here is PATrain F-9 6691 inbound along Second Avenue…and this is Cab Car 1681. Both photos by George Hamlin. MK Tower/Versailles Station—Photo by J. Alex Lang.

Moderator note: Links to Railpictures.net pages replaced with direct links to photos. I'm sure that nobody wants to see a banner ad enticing you to "Press the Fart Button"…

  by Tadman
I think the coaches if not the entire train is now at Adirondack scenic railroad, and no longer at CDOT.

  by traingeek8223
Many of the coaches are still on the Adirondack Scenic, but some have departed the propery( at least one cad-car went to NYS&W). The F9's are still owned by CONDOT and are stored in Waterville CT on the Railroad Museum of New England's property.

  by Otto Vondrak
The F's started life on Southern Pacific... then went to the WA&G... then to PATrain... then to CDOT! Those engines sure got around.
  by 2nd trick op
At one time, the Pennsy also ran "accommodation" trains from Pittsburgh to Kittanning, Kiski Junction, Washington and Burgettstown. Derry, near Greensburg, was the terminus for these moves on the main line. A 1946 Official Guide in my library shows only one or two moves in each direction on these lines, and the last of them came off some time around 1960.

  by Otto Vondrak
A footnote: There was also a train run briefly from Greensburgh to Pittsburgh using Conrail power and Amtrak heritage coaches in the early 1980s. It was some sort of construction relief project sponsored by PennDOT. It wasn't very popular and was dropped relatively quickly.


Everyone: I decided to revive this topic about PGH commuter rail because I was able to check info and TTs we have in file at NRHS National.

The earliest PATrain TT we have is 2/1/75, and the last is 6/5/88. I remember the colorful PATrain—I rode it on a visit to PGH in late 1981. I also remember the former B&O RDCs as well as PennDOT-owned former RDG RDCs that were used there around that time after the shutdown of the former RDG passenger trains to Reading/Pottsville and Allentown/Bethlehem in the summer of 1981. Around that time, the Hazelwood stop and Saturday service was eliminated. I recall high-level platforms at the Pittsburgh B&O station, as well as McKeesport—Amtrak used this station also.

One of the reasons that the PATrain was not successful was that the area served was not prime commuting territory for downtown office workers—towns on that line were predominately blue-collar. The P&LE train to Beaver Falls and BF College was briefly subsidized by Beaver County's BCTA, NOT PAT—I have a card TT in my collection with this train along with a couple of BCTA express buses to Pittsburgh. They also financially supported that short-lived midday RT—sometimes just an engine and one car.

The PRR at one time had multiple commuter lines serving Pittsburgh: West to Burgettstown and Steubenville,Ohio; northwest towards Beaver Falls; east to Derry and northeast into the Allegheny Valley towards New Kensington. All of this was phased out in the 60s.

Otto: That train you remember was called the Parkway Limited. This train ran east to Greensburg during the reconstruction of the Penn Lincoln Parkway/US 30 by PennDOT in the 1981-82 time period. This train was discontinued for lack of financial support—commuters well supported this train—it used Amtrak coaches and was operated push-pull. Rail support groups like KARP got the word out but because PA transit funding—or lack of it—is the reason why the train was quietly discontinued. Also, I recall Conrail, as landlord, was not that happy with it, not helping matters any.

Remember when Amtrak ran the Fort Pitt with the equipment that would lay over overnight from the Pennsylvanian in the 80s? That train ran on a definite commuter schedule from Altoona to Pittsburgh—AM west, PM east. That equipment was serviced and laid over in Altoona instead. This was also PennDOT-subsidized.

I think PA has come quite a bit towards rail in recent years—the Philadelphia-Harrisburg line is a good example—but PA has let just too much rail service die. I believe the Harrisburg-Pittsburgh line can well support more than one round trip per day; and the Pittsburgh area can support some sort of commuter rail if it serves downtown workers from prime bedroom communities.

Comments, observations and memories from MACTRAXX

I decided to do a little research on PGH commuter rail at NRHS National today 2/9. I will start with the PRR commuter trains that were discontinued in the 60s:
  • From Pittsburgh to:
    • Burgettstown 27.4 mi. one R/T 6/11/62
      Sewickly-Rochester-Beaver Falls 6/11/62 30.3 mi one R/T
    The PRR Main Line E to:
    • Braddock 10.1 mi one R/T-North Trafford 17.4 mi two R/Ts
      Derry 45 mi two R/Ts form folder 48 6/11/62
      Duquesne-Elrama (Mon Valley) 23.8 mi 1 R/T 6/11/62
    Allegheny Valley:
    • Aspinwall-Tarentum-Aladdin 30.2 mi 4/20/62 and Oakmont-New Kensington-Kiskiminetas Junction
      29.8 mi 4/20/62.
I would like to see discontinue dates on all these services-the date given was the last TT issue on file at NRHS National.

I discovered this info also: Amtrak's Fort Pitt ran PGH-ALT between 4/24/81 to 1/30/83. The P&LE train was indeed subidized by Beaver County's BCTA-this train was discontinued in July 1985. BCTA boosted PGH express bus service in place of the rail service. The source of this info was BCTA HISTORY from their website. Pittsburgh has an interesting rail commuter history.


The book Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad In Color Volume 1 (1976 to 1992) by Richard C. Borkowski Jr. (Morning Sun Books) has sections on both the Pittsburgh-Beaver Falls-College commuter runs, as well as the PATrain. Photos include the last P&LE commuter run on 7/12/85.

There was also a four-page section called The Great Train Ride. On 10/7/81, the P&LE, using PATrain equipment, toured rail lines in the Pittsburgh area for future commuter rail routes. Check out this book if you can — the photos are really good!


Railfan and Railroad did an article on PGH commuter trains in the 11/81 issue, titled Steel City Commuting, by Gordon Lloyd Junior on pages 33-35. On the cover is a photo of F7au 6691.

It includes all commuter operations during that time period — the PATrain, P&LE, Amtrak's Fort Pitt and the Conrail-operated Parkway Limited, which began operation on 3/3/81 and ran until sometime in 1982. The Parkway indeed ran PGH-GBG using Amtrak coaches, E-units and CR GE U-boats push-pull. As was said, it was discontinued due to lack of subsidy.

More research from MACTRAXX

  by Otto Vondrak
There was a good story in Railpace about twenty years ago all about Pittsburgh commuter trains, from PRR and B&O to PAT and PLE. I don't remember precisely, but I think the story was in 1986.

Interesting about the Great Train Ride. What other routes were they exploring?