Pittsburgh Railways started in 1902 with the acquisition of several local traction companies. In 1905 Pittsburgh Railways leased the Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad which operated on a line built by the railroad in 1871 called the Overbrook Line from Pittsburgh to Castle Shannon. In 1964 the Port Authority of Allegheny County more commonly known as PAT acquired Pittsburgh Railways.
In 1929, the presidents of a number of large street railway companies, held a national conference to discuss the future of the industry. There were two main issues of major interest discussed at that notable meeting. First issue: a serious discussion on how to stop the loss of passengers to automobiles and buses. Second issue: to come up with a new design of a modern, comfortable, fast accelerating trolley. This new trolley would be designated as the standard streetcar for any city, as well as compete against the buses and automobiles.
The new design was called the PCC car, or President's Conference Committee car, after that conference. Nearly 5,000 of these cars were built from the mid 1930s to the early 1950s, when the last trolleys were built in this country.
At one time Pittsburgh Railways had 600 miles of track and a fleet of 666 PCC cars third largest in North America behind Chicago and Toronto, with their 683 and 745 cars, respectively. It has been said by many a traveler that Pittsburgh Railways had some of the toughest terrain for any streetcar to travel. One good example was on the 21-Fineview route where streetcars routinely attacked the 12% grade up Henderson Street. Pittsburgh was loaded with seemingly insurmountable challenges for the incredible PCC's to overcome....but....they did it every day!
The PCCs are gone now and have been replaced by the bland LRVs with far less character. The once 600 miles of track has now been reduced to 25 miles. Perhaps in the years to come we will learn to love the LRVs....but....they will never replace the character laden PCCs in the eyes of those who rode them.
The Overbrook Line started off as the Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon narrow gauge Railroad in 1871. In 1905 after 34 years of operation, the line was leased from the railroad by Pittsburgh Railways and for 88 years streetcars traveled the line until operations were suspended in 1993. The line reopened for service on June 2, 2004, with an electrifying new look and for the first time in its history, the entire line is double-tracked.
If you stop to think about it the Overbrook Line is a very historical line which has been around and traveled by either steam locomotives or streetcars for 139 years....except for that slight suspension of operations from 1993 until June 2, 2004.
To enjoy the imagery of the legendary PCCs of Pittsburgh Railways click on a thumbnail below