Many of us remember the feeling – you are traveling south on Main Street in Monongahela trying to get to Charleroi for an appointment. You are a few minutes late but if all the green lights through town are in sync you might just arrive on time. You approach 4th Street and YESSS, you just get through on the yellow. You breeze through the light at 3rd, catch the green at 2nd then pass Park Avenue when CRAP – the red railroad crossing lights up ahead start flashing. You roll to a stop and sit there for what seems like hours as a train creeps across Main Street at 5 miles per hour.
We don’t have to worry about that today since they haven’t hauled coal on the Ellsworth Secondary for about ten years. The crossing now is just a rough patch on Main Street that you have to slow down for. Nothing special.
But 121 years ago this crossing made headlines. It was the day workmen completed the track across Main Street connecting the with the railroad trestle that now spans Pigeon Creek near Lenzi’s Restaurant. Here’s the story from the January 12, 1900 edition of the Daily Republican (click the thumbnail to view the original clipping)
CROSSED PIGEON CREEK.
With the Injunction Dissolved, the First Engine and Train Was Run Friday Morning.
A telegram was received last night from the county seat conveying the intelligence that the preliminary injunction granted on behalf of the street car company, against the Railroad Co. had been dissolved. Early this morning workmen completed the track at the street car line and main street and connecting it with the trestle. When everything was ready at 10:57 a.m. the first train pulled out from the main line on to the branch and over the creek. Engineman Thomas C. Buchanan held the throttle and Conductor Bennet had charge of the train which consisted of a tool truck, two cars of rails and construction iron, and engine No. 76 Pittsburg Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway. As the train moved slowly across the street and over the bridge the crowd that had gathered noticed that she jarred not a rail or tie nor did the trestle give or sway, so excellent has been the construction. Each bolt, rivet and timber was firmly set with such precision had the construction been accomplished by Contractor Murphy. As the train moved along, the crowd that had gathered gave a cheer and the railroad up Pigeon creek so anxiously expected by many of our olde citizens for years was an accomplished fact. The train will be used daily as a work train carrying a crew of construction and hauling rails etc for the track.
Below is an earlier article in the August 11, 1899 edition of the Daily Republican which mentions that the name of the new railroad along Pigeon Creek will be the Monongahela & Washington Railway among other details.
MONONGAHELA & WASHINGTON
J. W. Ellsworth Company to build a Railroad to Market Their Coal. Six Thousand Tons will be Carried Daily.
When the Daily first gave out the news that a new railroad would run from Bentleyville to Monongahela “before the snow flies” it seemed incredible, but now it is sure, and is to be called the Monongahela and Washington Railway. At present it will extend from the P. V. C. tracks at the William Dewalt property, which has been bought by Mr. Ellsworth, crossing Main street just above R. M. Gees’ Sons marble works, where a bridge is to be built, stretching over the creek at its widest point to the Gregg homestead, thence following Pigeon creek through the numerous properties of the magnificent Ellsworth coal vein to the new town of Ellsworth. The options are taken in the name of John Simpson, Esq., who is the representative of the J. W. Ellsworth Co. here, and he is to-day serving notices of acceptance of properties along the route. Mr. Simpson has been here for the past ten months securing coal territory for the company, and has purchased some 13,000 acres, as was told in the Daily of July 21st. It became necessary as the purchasing progressed to take out a charter for a railroad in order to get right of way through the properties of some who were disposed to obstruct the outlet and improvement of the coal property. It is However generally understood that the James W. Ellsworth Company not only owns this vast acreage of the best coal being taken up in the Pittsburg district, but also represents the greatest portion of capital in promoting the railroad. Mr. Simpson in company with J. B. Bott, chief engineer of the new line, has been all along the creek interviewing those who have so far refused to give the right of way, and are making offers for the right to go through the properties. If these offers are refused application will be made to court to have them condemned and appraised according to law.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE ROAD.
The road will be substantially built with a view to withstanding the heavy coal traffic passing over it daily. Mr. Ellsworth contemplates the marketing of 6,000 tons of coal over the road per day during 1900. Passenger trains will be run from Monongahela to the new town of Ellsworth daily. Specifications for the construction of the road have been in the hands of the largest railroad contractors in the United States, and as soon as all right of way has been secured the road will be completed as quickly as money and men can do it. The road will be standard gauge, and a number of bridges will be built at the various crossings of the creek. Owing to the fact that the iron mills are overcrowded with work, and it is practically impossible to get structural iron out in time to build the bridges, it is proposed to build them temporarily of timber. The object of of Mr. Ellsworth is to get out the coal by the established right of way, and this will be done with as little damage to the property owners as possible.
THE RIGHT OF WAY.
The road will run from the Gregg property mentioned above, the Behanna Woodward and Bollman homesteads, thence along the Kate Manown, Bryan and John W. Zeh properties, running up through MrSjLevi Campbell’s farm crossing Clinton VanVoorhis’ place. Passing thence between stable and house of the Fry farm aud over the following properties, Harvey Sampson, John VanVoorhis, Mrs. Colvin, Mrs. Luke Beazell, the Williams’ homestead, Solomon Snyder, Calhoune, McMillan and Gault farms, to the Jasper Redd property. Passing just above the Red dam, through the Hiram Redd, Noah Jones, Jacob Gibson, Harry B. Leyda, N, J. Weaver, B. M. Crouch, William Newkirk Buffington heirs, J. J. Mc-Cormick and Solomon Frye farms, to the borough of Bentleysville. Crossing over the property of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, to the Greer Smith and B. N. Crouch properties. Thence to John F. White and W. F. Richardson estates. The large barn on the latter place will be torn down having been bought by the company. On to the Fry, Robinson and Elliott Richardson properties, over the Joseph Jennings’ farm and Marsh estate now owned by J. W. Ellsworth and Company. Where one of the shafts of the coal mines is now going down. Here the railroad divides; a branch running to the De Grass Jennings’ farm where SSRW the second shaft is sunk. This is the terminus of the road, the five farms adjoining, having been bought for the purpose of building the town of Ellsworth thereon. The railroad yards will be on the Marsh and Yorty farms. This gigantic concern controls several miles of frontage along the creek, having all the veins of coal in the district. Mr. Ellsworth’s enterprise and capital are thus concentrated in the Pigeon Creek district and Monongahela is to receive the benefit of his big interests. The looked for has come The Monongahela and Washington Railway is begun.
Here are few points that caught my attention:
- The town of Ellsworth PA (right outside of Bentleyville) had just been recently built. (Click on this link to coalcampusa.com to read an account by “Jerry” who grew up in a mining family in Ellsworth PA. It’s fascinating. I wonder if any Lost Monongahela readers know Jerry and if he is still alive. It would be fun to interview him.)
- The railroad was to be built “before the snow flies”. (They didn’t quite meet that goal but It’s amazing how quickly it was built)
- If property owners refuse to give right of way to the railroad the courts most likely would condemn the property
- The Daily Republican both here and in previous articles was not taking the side of property owners who didn’t want their property taken.
- Note the prediction that 6,000 tons of coal would be hauled daily during the year 1900.
- There was such a shortage of iron at that time that temporary timber bridges would be constructed at various points.
- Passenger trains will travel between Monongahela and Ellsworth daily.
Clearly the construction of this railroad would be an economic boon to all the towns and villages along this section of Pigeon Creek.
A few years ago I purchased two rare postcards that give a panorama view of this area of town just a few years after the bridge and crossing were built. So check back tomorrow for more!