Steel City Traction 2
West End Story
This is a complete transcript of the narration of Steel City Traction 2: West End Story. If you are wondering whether the videotape covers a particular point of interest in the West End, try searching for it using your browser's Edit/Find (or Search) function; if it is mentioned in the narration, it is almost certainly shown in the tape.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio, home to one of the largest US streetcar systems of the post-World War II era.
The West End lines of Pittsburgh Railways formed a nearly isolated self-contained system.
We are going to take a complete tour of the West End lines through the films of several cameramen, shot mostly during the last year of operation. The first leg of our journey starts at the downtown loop shared by all 6 lines, crosses Point Bridge, and follows Carson Street to West End Circle.
Rush hour at Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue on the downtown loop. Our cameramen catch outbound cars on 5 of the 6 lines making the turn onto Penn. Cars moving in the opposite direction on Stanwix are bound for the North Side.
Our first trip will be over the Route 27 - Carnegie line.
There have been several bridges connecting the Point to the South Side. This 1902 view shows the American Bridge Company's Point Bridge, built in 1876, replaced by the Point Bridge in these films in the late 1920s. Trackage along Carson Street between the Smithfield Bridge and Point Bridge carried the cars of Route 32 - Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Transfer until June, 1953. The track was closed permanently in 1956, leaving the Point Bridge tracks as the only connection between the West End and the rest of the system.
Ft. Pitt Bridge was nearly complete in 1958. It still carries the bus lines which replaced the streetcars on June 20th, 1959. Although closed in 1959, Point Bridge wasn't demolished until 1970.
To the left of the vacant lot was once a car house of the Pittsburgh & West End Railway, one of the predecessors of Pittsburgh Railways.
Both Manchester Bridge on the left, and Point Bridge are long gone, but the Duquesne incline is still in operation. At the time these films were shot, it connected the West End lines at the bottom with Route 40 - Mt. Washington cars at the top.
Continuing out Carson Street... This trackage was originally built as a horsecar line by the Pittsburgh & West End Railway. Pittsburgh once had over 100 separate street railway companies. They were all gradually merged together in a process which culminated in 1902 with the formation of Pittsburgh Railways.
During the construction of West End Bridge and associated highway work in the late 1920s, two simple double-track turnouts were rebuilt into a roundabout, or traffic circle configuration carrying all 6 West End lines.
The next segment of our tour covers trackage on South Main and Wabash, also originally built as a horsecar line.
The Pittsburgh & West End connected with the West End, Mt. Washington & Banksville Street Railway, which Pittsburgh Railways operated as Route 33 - Mt. Washington via West End, until 1931.
At McGann's Corner, Routes 27, 28, and 30 turned off Wabash onto private right of way closely paralleling Noblestown Road up to Crafton Junction. This trackage was originally operated by the Pittsburgh, Crafton & Mansfield Street Railway.
At Crafton, Route 30 - Crafton-Ingram cars turned right. We'll follow routes 27 and 28 as they continue to Carnegie.
This is Black's Bridge, crossing over the Panhandle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. We'll have more to say about this a little later.
After crossing, this time underneath, the Panhandle Division, the tracks turn to form Idlewood Road. This unusual right of way, unique to Pittsburgh, is a roadway laid down and maintained by Pittsburgh Railways in accordance with their franchise agreement, which required them to pave between the railheads, and as far outside the rails as the crossties extended. Most municipalities took it from there, adding at least a curb lane and a curb. But some didn't feel the extra investment was necessary...
We're approaching the town of Carnegie, and since our film coverage has a gap here, we thought we would fill it with a panoramic map from the Library of Congress collection. Dating from 1897, it shows streetcar tracks already laid along the length of Main Street in Carnegie.
We'll pick up our filmed coverage as a PCC crosses the tracks, for the last time outbound, of the Panhandle Division.
The Carnegie loop was at 9th and Main. The tracks to the left are yard tracks of the Panhandle Division.
Backtracking to 3rd Street now, cars of Route 28 - Heidelberg diverge from Main onto 3rd.
Near the end of service, Heidelberg was the only major West End route with a considerable stretch of single track with passing sidings.
Route 28 was originally operated as a shuttle between Carnegie and Heidelberg, using double-ended low-floor cars. A loop was installed at Heidelberg in 1945 to accomodate PCC cars when the decision was made to operate it as a through route to downtown. This is the first PCC through the loop, checking the placement of the frog in the overhead wire.
We will follow Route 28 - Heidelberg inbound only as far as Crafton Junction.
Didn't I just say this was 28- Heidelberg? So why is the car signed for 27 - Carnegie? By mistake? No. On alternate trips over this pair of lines, the outer destinations were swapped. To avoid having to change the destination sign en-route, operators made the change during the layover. This inconsistency hardly mattered, since the two routes shared most of their trackage.
These are the passenger tracks of the Washington Branch of the Panhandle Division.
We're crossing Chartiers Creek. The tracks ahead are the freight tracks of the Washington Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad's Panhandle Division. It was named for the West Virginia panhandle, which it crossed on the way to Columbus, Cincinatti, and beyond. The trolley tracks of several of the routes we will be following for the next 9 minutes play hopscotch with the Panhandle Division, crossing back and forth 4 more times.
Making the turn from Bell Avenue into Idlewood Road.
Oakwood Park, one of four Pittsburgh Railways trolley parks, existed off screen to the right until 1906. Only one of the four, Kennywood, survives to the present day.
At Crafton Junction we change from an inbound Route 28 - Heidelberg car to an outbound Route 30 - Crafton-Ingram.
On Noble Avenue approaching Steuben. This was formerly the junction point with Route 29 - Thornburg. On our return journey, we'll take a brief trip on that line.
On Center, approaching the next crossing of the Panhandle.
On Berry approaching Ingram Car House. All of the West End lines were operated out of Ingram. A loop around the car house office building served as the terminal for Route 30 - Crafton-Ingram and the combined Route 34/31 - Elliott-Sheraden. An Elliott-Sheraden car was on layover behind the office building, so we'll follow it inbound.
Faronia approaching Jeffers.
Jeffers into Chartiers Avenue.
Here Chartiers Avenue makes a dogleg over the Panhandle.
Chartiers curves to screen left here. The straight tracks proceed into Corliss Street and eventually through the Corliss Tunnel just before reaching Carson Street. Route 31 used these tracks before it was consolidated with Route 34 in 1954. The tracks were kept operable to serve as a bypass until 1957.
On Steuben Street approaching West End Circle.
The next leg of our trip takes us farther out Carson Street to McKees Rocks.
Turning from Carson onto another Chartiers Avenue, in McKees Rocks. At one time cars of Route 24 - Schoenville branched off near here. In 1919, bridge problems turned it into an isolated shuttle, which operated until 1952.
The junction at Chartiers Avenue and Island Avenue was sheltered by the Pittsburgh, Chartiers & Youghiogheny overpass. The PC&Y was a freight connection railroad owned jointly by the Pennsy and the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie.
A panoramic map from 1901 shows McKees Rocks as a railroad town. The lowlands along the Ohio called Presston, poised for development, were provided with streets and a trolley line. The area that would become West Park was still vacant land and oil rigs.
Route 26 - West Park was operated as a counterclockwise single-track loop.
Chartiers onto Parkway.
The dogleg from the left to the right side of the street indicates the loop may have been designed to operate in either direction.
Broadway onto Dohrman.
Back on Chartiers inbound.
A short distance behind the cameraman was the location of the West Park Car House, closed in 1931.
Route 25 - Island Avenue branched off from the West Park line in McKees Rocks. Until 1953, these tracks were shared with Route 23 - Coraopolis-Sewickley.
On Island Avenue near the foot of the former Norwood Incline.
At Fleming Park loop, in 1958 there were still traces of the tracks that continued out to Neville Island, Coraopolis, and Sewickley.
On Neville Island. Route 23 was cut back from Sewickley to Neville Island in 1952. It was replaced by a bus route in 1953.
Heading towards the bridge to Coraopolis.
This bridge, however, is on the return trip to Fleming Park.
Island Avenue inbound. You'll notice a strange wiggle in the animation - that's not a mistake, as you will see...
The land here had been gradually sliding down into the Ohio River valley for several years.
Instead of taking our Island Avenue car into downtown, we'll get off at West End Circle and retrace parts of our earlier journey in the opposite direction, using footage not seen on our outbound trip.
The dip here was for the track leading into the loop for Route 34 cars, used before the line was consolidated with Route 31 in 1954.
Because of the tight quarters, the loop for Route 34/31 cars cuts inside the loop for Route 30 cars - they join up behind the carhouse offices.
We are back at Steuben and Noble. Until 1952, this was the track connection for Route 29 - Thornburg. It was originally a through route to downtown. In 1918 it was cut back to a shuttle.
Downtown rush hour when Pittsburgh was still a streetcar city, with cars for the North Side and the West End mixing it up at Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Stanwix.
We thought you might be interested in seeing how all this new digital technology you hear so much about actually improves your viewing experience. Right after the credits, we'll give you a demonstration...
Here's a sequence from the program without any manipulation, other than putting the shots in the correct order. The shaky camera and mismatched exposure are the major problems.
First we stabilize the shaky shot.
We equalize the exposure for each shot.
We correct color differences.
8mm footage tends to be grainy, so we'll eliminate most of the grain.
And finally we can bring back some of the sharpness lost in the previous steps.
Here's how it looks with all the corrections.
Here's how it looks with all the corrections, side by side with the original.
Here's a different sequence, after editing, but without any sound.
It's pretty lifeless, isn't it?
First we add the sounds of the trolley cars.
Each squeal is added separately.
Next we add in the sounds of passing automobiles, each one individually.
And finally we add the general ambience of the neighborhood.
Hey, turn down that radio!
We hope you have enjoyed this look "behind the scenes."