Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

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Nicolai3985
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Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by Nicolai3985 » Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:51 pm

Note: I had posted this on another forum I frequently visit to no avail. If no luck here, I'll try the Yahoo group, but would like to drum up some conversation on the forums first...

I'm in the process of doing design work on a section of I-70 east of Washington, PA, and found a mysterious B&O ROW shown on the 1950s era plans of the original interstate...

Attached is a map showing the approximate location of the Right-of-Way. The plans state that it was Railroad Right-Of-Way (legal terminology rather than actual grading) and label it as "B&O Wheeling Ext," but do not indicate any rails were laid.

I looked at a combination of our ground survey and the Lidar contours from PASDA, and it appears there had been some grading done. On the east side, north of Rankin Road, there was some clear cut-and-fill. It looks as if the cut was not finished. I could not find anything east of that point that stood out as railroad engineering. On the west side, there is some embankment between the present rail line and the stream. Everything else in between was disturbed when I-70 was built.

I'm not that familiar with the B&O nor railroads in that part of Pennsylvania. My best guess would be some sort of aborted mining branch, though that doesn't really seem to fit. Any thoughts gents?

I'm in the process of doing design work on a section of I-70 east of Washington, PA, and found a mysterious B&O ROW shown on the 1950s era plans of the original interstate...

Attached is a map showing the approximate location of the Right-of-Way. The plans state that it was Railroad Right-Of-Way and label it as "B&O Wheeling Ext," but do not indicate any rails were laid.

I looked at a combination of our ground survey and the Lidar contours from PASDA, and it appears there had been some grading done. On the east side, north of Rankin Road, there was some clear cut-and-fill. It looks as if the cut was not finished. I could not find anything east of that point that stood out as railroad engineering. On the west side, there is some embankment between the present rail line and the stream. Everything else in between was disturbed when I-70 was built.

I'm not that familiar with the B&O nor railroads in that part of Pennsylvania. My best guess would be some sort of aborted mining branch, though that doesn't really seem to fit. Any thoughts gents?

-Nick

Below are a LiDAR view from PASDA in which the grading really shows up, and a google maps view with the ROW highlighted for reference.
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poppyl
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by poppyl » Wed Feb 29, 2012 10:37 pm

Looking at my 1948 B&O track map for that area I see nothing beyond the line from Pittsburgh to Wheeling in terms of branches, etc. I'm wondering if what you might be looking at is part of the old Waynesburg and Washington RR ROW that paralleled the B&O east of Washington before veering south. But the use of the term "Wheeling Ext." doesn't gee very well with that possibility. Hopefully someone with more expert local knowledge will weigh in with some good information.

Poppyl

poppyl
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by poppyl » Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:21 am

More speculation on my part, but after reviewing your aerials against my railroad map, you may be looking at a proposed interchange track with the PRR/WAW that ultimately never fully happened. It could also be a plan to relocate the B&O ROW in that area but the direction of the east end of your ROW would not seem to support that idea. If it were a proposed branch line, it must have come up very quickly as the 1948 map doesn't indicate anything in that area.

Poppyl

choess
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by choess » Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:40 pm

Found it! (Wow, this was a hard one...partly because I was chasing things like the Chartiers Southern and the Pittsburgh & Southern's Morgantown extension which don't bear on the problem.)

From Railway Age, 1900: "Surveys are being made for a new line, to run from Zediker's Station in Washington County, Pennsylvania, to near Wylandville, where the main line will be met again. The new line will be about a mile longer than the present line, but it will have easier grades." If I had to guess, I'd say the current alignment of the B&O might be the "new line" referred to, which appears to be water-level from Zediker to Wylandville, but I'm not certain.

poppyl
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by poppyl » Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:35 pm

Good research. So what I'm looking at on the 1948 map is the "new" ROW put in some time after 1900. I wonder if the top photo was extended to the right (east), would remains of the "old" ROW appear on the other side of the field?

Poppyl

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RussNelson
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by RussNelson » Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:32 am

I found this posting from five years ago: http://railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=130&t=39266 I don't think it's related, as it seems to be entirely about Chartiers Southern. But they're just a few miles from each other.

Nicolai3985
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by Nicolai3985 » Mon Mar 05, 2012 4:18 pm

With the new information that choess dug up from Railway Age, I took another look at the area. I would wager that the existing line is the original, and that the realignment being surveyed in 1900 is what I found on the old plans. If a new line were to be constructed from Zediker's Station, run west parallel to I-70, then turn north (maybe using the constructed-but-never-tracked Chartiers Southern alignment) and follow Rt. 519 to Eighty Four, it would be about a mile longer. This would require a tunnel or deep cut just beyond the end of the ROW I highlighted (through the same ridge I-70 has a cut through) which might have been why construction was halted. Some rough measurements from Google Earth show the existing grade through Zediker's Station as being 1.2% downhill. There's no evidence of any grading between what I've found and the Chartiers Southern alignment mentioned in the post Russ linked to.

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RussNelson
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by RussNelson » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:34 pm

BTW, where did that LIDAR image come from? It's astoundingly detailed, and punches right through the vegetation. There's a bunch of unfinished railroads in NYS that I'd LOVE that have that view of.

Nicolai3985
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by Nicolai3985 » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:35 pm

The LiDAR image came from the PASDA website (www.pasda.psu.edu). There's a ton of mapping resources on the site, but for the most part the limits only extend a little ways into New York. There may be a similar resource for our neighbors to the north. The LiDAR is pretty good at picking up distinct ROWs, but smaller branches with minimal earthwork can be hard to find.

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RussNelson
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by RussNelson » Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:02 pm

Nicolai3985 wrote:The LiDAR image came from the PASDA website (http://www.pasda.psu.edu).
Wow, that's FANTASTIC!! I can easily see the Shohola Gravity Railroad; at least the portion on the west of 434. That was the first abandoned railroad I ever found and traced, so it holds a special place in my heart.

jrevans
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Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by jrevans » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:30 am

Wow, I missed this post before. Great thread and a great tool with the LiDAR maps.

I grew up in Washington, PA and didn't know about that proposed change. I found it amazing to read in "Three Feet on the Panhandle" that when the line was narrow gauge, and the Brady tunnel didn't exist yet, the tracks went over the hill with switchbacks and all! I wonder if the LiDAR maps shows any of that? I'd also like to find the former spur which came off near maiden street and supposedly ran across by the Washington Mall to a coal mine past there.

*EDIT* - Found the LiDAR stuff on the site, but couldn't find the remains of either the trackage over Brady tunnel, or the old line to the mine. Neat to look at the stuff though!

Looks like our "killer curve" replacement in Washington, PA is coming right along. Thanks for your design work.
JimE
Jim's train Web Pages - (Actually, this site doesn't exist any more....)

Nicolai3985
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Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Mystery B&O Alignment Near Washington, PA

Post by Nicolai3985 » Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:32 pm

If you look in the LiDAR image I posted originally, you can see a short portion of the original grade. It's northwest of the I-70 shield and runs southwest-northeast. It ran through a swampy area, by the streams, and when the line was realigned things were shifted to the west and to higher ground. That one stands out a little bit, but it helps that I saw the original centerline note on the Val Maps.

I couldn't find anything on LiDAR or on the PennPilot aerial images to show switchbacks. I was thinking the route originally followed the same valley I-70 does, rather than the valley up to Brady tunnel...though that would mean I-70 construction likely eliminated them.

Another firm was responsible for the South Junction interchange - we're the one just east of there - but I share you sentiments about that curve being eliminated. Not only was it dangerous, it was just plain ugly!

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