Trolley Tracks in the North Hills
Please join us for the 2017 CTHS Fall Program on September 13, 2017 at 6:15 pm in Franklin Road Station next to the Library in the Cranberry Township Municipal Center at 2525 Rochester Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066. This program is brought to you by the Cranberry Township Historical Society and the Cranberry Public Library.
One of the most popular subjects for our talks has been the Harmony Line, the electric trolley that ran from Pittsburgh through Cranberry Township, then to Evans City and beyond. The car barn was located in Harmony. For our next talk, we are getting two Trolley lines for one trolley price. Our speaker is trolley expert Bill Fronczek, and he will talk about the Harmony Line (also known as the Harmony Route), which had the official name of the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler and New Castle Railway, and he will also talk about the Butler Short Line, which had the official name of the Pittsburgh and Butler Street Railway. Both cars lines ran from overhead electrified wires through the North Hills. The Harmony Line ran from Pittsburgh through what is now the McKnight Road corridor, along Evergreen Road, through Ingomar, Warrendale, then through Cranberry Township. Cranberry had six trolley stops: Duthil, Criders, Rowan, Franklin Road, Plains Church and the West stop. The Criders stop was at Meeders Store (now Burger King) and was a popular local stop. These two trolley lines were a Godsend to the locals in 1908 as it would take over a day to ride by horse to Pittsburgh. People riding the trolley could shop in Pittsburgh and be home in the evening. Farmers could now use the freight cars to move crops and milk. Saw mills moved lumber on it and laborers such as oilmen traveled to the wells. No longer would wagons get stuck in the mud on Perrysville Road (Rt. 19). School children also had a reliable way to school. After leaving Cranberry Township, the Harmony Line continued on to Evans City then to Butler or New Castle and it's spur to Beaver Falls.
The Butler Short Line, which started to run a year earlier, traveled through Etna, Glenshaw and Allison Park (Route 8 corridor) then through Mars and Evans City to Butler. The Butler Short Line was acquired by the Harmony Line in 1917. These trolleys could run up to 70 Miles per hour. The Harmony Line had a party car. Both lines had freight cars and refrigerated cars.
Conveniently, the last cars left Pittsburgh at 11:50 pm each night. Both lines operated for two decades until the Great Depreciation and motor vehicles, which grew in popularity, slowly reduced ridership, causing the lines to close in 1931.
What is left of these great modes of transportation that ran over 100 years ago? One can see the crumbling concrete bridge abutments on Cemetery Lane, Pine Creek Road and locally on Plains Church Road.
Only one car was spared by happenstance. Car 115 avoided being burnt like the other cars when the line closed as when operating, it had mechanical problems and had been abandoned where it failed. It became a roadside diner, The Dew Drop Inn, between Ellwood City and New Castle. It was used until the restaurant expanded and was recovered in 1986 by the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, in Washington PA, where it awaits restoration.
The Trolley museum also maintains the Wexford Station (formerly the Wexford Post Office Deli, Wexford Post Office and Brennan Station) as well as Cranberry’s old West Station.
Our speaker and trolley expert Bill Fronczek is a retired eye surgeon from the South Hills. He grew up in Pittsburgh and rode trolleys all over the city including the West Penn system in Westmoreland County. He is President Emeritus of the PA Trolley Museum and has been active there since 1955. He was involved in saving car 115 for the museum. Due to his early interest, he was able to interview employees of both the Harmony and Short Line. As stated above, he is the foremost expert on these trolleys.
Remember; bring your dime to ride the line on September 13th. Fittingly, we will meet in the Cranberry Library’s Franklin Station meeting room at 6:15 pm. Due to popularity of this talk, we are expecting a large crowd, therefore please register by calling the Library at (724) 776-9100 or registering on line with the library ( https://goo.gl/pNgBuf ) or by calling Tom Cully at (724) 776-6551 and leaving a message.
Please note that our events are free, however for this talk, we are suggesting a $2.00 donation, which will be given to the Trolley Museum to help refurbish car 115. It needs some love as you can see. Light snacks and refreshments will be served at the meeting. All aboard!
September 13, 2017 - 6:15 pm
The Harmony Line: PHB&NC Railway
The route map for the Harmony Line appears to be a very complicated affair. How could the trolleys ever make decent time to and from the cities with such frequent stops?
Actually, not every entry on the map is an actual stop. Since the trolley cut through privately held land, Mr. Boggs (the president of PHB&NC) promised each landowner his own personal “stop.” Local trolleys did indeed stop at the little sheds bearing names such as Cupps, Smiley, and Grimm–but only if passengers were waiting. Express trolleys maintained their schedules by only stopping at the larger stations.
When the cars of the Harmony Line reached the city limits of Pittsburgh, the trolley operators stepped aside to allow Pittsburgh railway employees to finish conducting the trip. A modest fare of ten cents was collected from each trolley car.
New Castle Spur:
Although the city of New Castle enjoyed rail connections to Sharon and Sharpsville, there was no means of mass transportation to Ellwood City in the south until the advent of the Harmony Line in 1908. The New Castle spur of the line cut travel time to Ellwood to 35 minutes.
One of the car barns in New Castle circa 1897. Harmony Line trolleys may have stopped here occasionally for emergency maintenance.
Ellwood City Spur:
Ellwood City was connected by trolley line to the northern city of New Castle in 1908. Five years later the Harmony Line increased coverage with another branch line extending south from Ellwood to Beaver Falls.
A Harmony Line trolley crossing a trestle near Ellwood Junction, Pa.
Evans City – Ellwood Route:
Though there were numerous stops on the Harmony Line between Evans City and Ellwood City, express trolleys only stopped at Zelienople. Local trolleys stopped more frequently, but often it was necessary for waiting passengers to flag down the trolley motormen if they wanted a ride.
Fare between Evans City and Ellwood via Zelienople was 52 cents.
Evans City – Butler Route:
In order to account for changes in elevation levels, the builders of the Harmony Line often constructed trestles that gradually increased/decreased elevation. The Harmony Line entered the city of Butler by way of the neighborhood of Highfield which sat at a higher elevation than next-door Lyndora.
The Harmony Line met up with the Butler Short Line at the Cunningham Street station in Butler.
A Harmony Line trolley crosses the Lyndora valley. The trestle has been gone for many years, but at least one of the concrete posts used to support the trestle can still be seen from the location of the old Pullman Standard office building.
Evans City – Pittsburgh Route:
The Evans City station was the heart of the Harmony Line. From Evans City travelers could connect to trolleys heading west to Ellwood, east to Butler, and south to Pittsburgh. The main car barn for the trolleys was only several minutes west at Harmony Junction.
Commuter trolleys typically took about 40 minutes to reach Pittsburgh from Evans City. This is comparable to the forty to forty-five minutes it takes modern drivers to reach Pittsburgh from Evans City via I-79.
Commuters waited in comfort at the Evans City trolley station.
The junction at the Evans City trolley station saw trolleys coming from three directions.
This was the maintenance hub for the Harmony Line trolleys. The building, long since demolished, was located just east of Harmony, Pa.
Butler – Pittsburgh Route:
The Butler-Pittsburgh Route was originally not a part of the PHB&NC Railway, although passengers could transition between the Harmony Line and the Butler Short Line quite easily. The Butler Short Line ran south to Pittsburgh, roughly paralleling what is today’s Route 8. Commuters could expect to be in the big city within an hour of boarding the trolley in Butler.
It is interesting to note that the Butler cars were longer than the Harmony cars. Therefore, the cars could not negotiate many of the turns on the Harmony Line routes. When Mr. Boggs purchased the floundering Butler Short Line in 1917, he slowly replaced the long cars with others similar to the Harmony Line trolleys.
The Cunningham Street station was erected in 1921.
One of the long cars used by the Butler Short Line.
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Harmony Route / Harmony Line
Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler & New Castle Railway
(P.H.B. & N.C.)
In operation 1908 - 1931
Route 588 at Pine Run Road
The main focus of this page concerns the Harmony Line
between Zelienople and Ellwood City, PA
Harmony Line or Harmony Short Line?
To clear up some confusion, the Harmony Route, or more commonly referred to as the Harmony Line, was an electric Trolley railway which operated from Pittsburgh to terminals in Butler and New Castle. The route came from Pittsburgh to Evans City, where the routes split to Butler & New Castle. The route coming through the Fombell area (from Evans City, through Harmony to Ellwood City and then on to New Castle) was known as the Harmony Line.
The Pittsburgh - Butler Short Line was a separate route which reached Butler from Pittsburgh on a route that passed through Mars and Valencia.
Harmony Short Line Motor Transportation Co. (commonly known as the Harmony Short Line) began operating supplemental bus service in 1922 and operated until 1961.
The maps on the following link further explains the different routes: Interurban Railways
Stops Between Zelienople and Ellwood City
(If you can identify the location of a stop that has not been documented, let us know)
Special thanks to Mark Barnes for his assistance!
Benvenue - West end of Wilson's Bridge on Route 588 next to Airport
Pine Run - Intersection of 588 and Pine Run Road
Spruce Hill - Intersection of 588 and Spruce Hill Lane
Fombell - Intersection of 588 and Hartzell School Road
Eckert - Intersection of 588 and Herman Road
Marion - Intersection of 588 and Nagel Road
Riverview / Celia - At the Celia Bridge abutments on the Riverview side
Willow Grove - Intersection of Country Club Drive and Willow Grove Road behind Chapel Valley Estates
Rustic Park - Intersection of Country Club Drive and Rustic Park Road
Jackson - Somewhere near the Jackson Farm
Ellwood Country Club - South side of the Creek at the North Sewickley Trolley Bridge
North Sewickley - Miller's Store. Intersection of Mercer Rd and Harmony Fisher Rd.
Hazen - Vicinity of Harmony Fisher Rd and the driveway that leads up to the Word Alive Church
Frisco - Intersection of Old Route 288 and Frisco Ave
Knox - Where the trolley tracks crossed over the Pittsburgh & Western tracks on River Road, right at Knox Bridge
Wurtemburg - Intersection of Railroad St. and Wurtem Way in Ellport
Pittsburgh Harmony Butler & New Castle Railway Bridge over the Connoquenessing Creek.
Other Links of Interest
Lawrence County Memoirs
Ellwood City Memories
2014 Ledger Article
PITTSBURGH HARMONY BUTLER & NEW CASTLE RAILWAY
Pittsburgh-Evans City-Butler (1908-1931)
Evans City-New Castle (1908-1931)
Subsidiary Harmony Short Line Motor Transportation Co. began operating supplemental bus service in 1922, and operated replacement interurban bus service. Ceased operations in 1961, with remaining service via original direct route between Pittsburgh and Butler assumed by Lincoln Coach Lines. Operated at least into 1970s. Suburban bus service in Pittsburgh area eventually became part of publicly owned Port Authority Transit.
Pittsburgh-Butler Shortline - Blue
Harmony Route (Pittsburgh to Butler) - Dark Green
Harmony Route (Evans City to Elwood City) - Light Green - [partial route trace]
Pittsburgh Northern - Dark Gray - [partial route trace]
Submit info or inquiry - share some facts or ask a question.
Last modified on 4-Oct-2018 25-Sep-2009
Short map harmony line
The Harmony Trail is a nearly one-mile long well-maintained and mostly flat, scenic path that is popular with dog walkers, runners, hikers and young bicyclists. It has a surface of crushed limestone similar to most rail-trails like the Montour Trail. It parallels Wexford Run between Route 910 and Richard Road, following the same corridor used by the Harmony interurban trolley from 1908 to 1931. There is no access to the trail from Richard Road at this time.
The Harmony Trail connects with the Rachel Carson Trail which takes you through North Park and across Allegheny County to Harrison Hills Park, approximately 45 miles away. The Harmony Trail will connect to the planned Commodore Perry Regional Trail that is proposed to extend through the townships of Pine, Marshall, Bradford Woods, Cranberry, Jackson and Adams. The Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy is promoting extending the Harmony Trail as a hiking trail to the North Country Trail near McConnells Mill State Park.
For the safety and enjoyment of everyone, please observe the following:
- Keep dogs leashed at all times.
- Clean up dog waste & place in the container provided.
- Keep off the trail with motorized vehicles.
- Hunting by permit only; contact [email protected]
- Carry out your own trash; help by picking up others’ litter.
- Enjoy the trail and be mindful not to trespass on adjacent properties.
In case of an emergency, call 911.
- A landowner has recently installed another chain across the trail, obstructing access to our legal right-of-way in an effort to continue blocking access. The RCTC is pursuing a legal remedy to restore the public's ability to use the entire trail. (11 Feb 2021).
- Coyotes have been sighted near the trail, and there's reason to believe they're present most of the time since the habitat is suitable. Be vigilant with small children and pets. (14 March 2017).
Presently the trail is in good shape. If you notice any problem with trail conditions, signage, or landowners, please email us at [email protected]
- North trailhead (map)
From Pittsburgh, take I79 North to the Wexford exit. Take Route 910 (Wexford Bayne Road) east and travel 1.8 miles. On the right, in the valley directly across from Brennan Road, is an unmarked gravel parking lot which many use to access the trail.
From Route 19 in Wexford turn west onto Route 910. The unmarked gravel lot is on the left in about 0.8 mile.
The idea to create a biking/hiking trail along the right of way of the Harmony trolley line goes back a long way. There was an eight mile stretch identified by students in North Allegheny High School's Lifetime Sports club and the North Area Environmental Council (NAEC) in 1974 as a desirable location for a community trail.
In 1992, the NAEC created the Harmony Trails Council (HTC), to concentrate on developing and maintaining a six mile trail between Ingomar and Warrendale. The Allegheny County Greenways Program from the early 1990s focused attention on a potential trail from Pittsburgh to Cranberry which would include parts of the old Harmony Line right of way. In 1994 the Town of McCandless worked on a pilot project for a bike trail on a short section from Potter Park to Pine Creek.
Parcels of land for trail connections were deeded to the HTC by the developers of the Brooktree Corporate Center, led by architect Jack Ross, in 1996. A grant allowed the development of a trail on this land with a crushed limestone surface. Pine Supervisors and the owners of Brooktree Office Park worked together to donate a parcel of land to the HTC so the Harmony Trail could be linked to Brooktree Road and then to North Park.
The mile between Route 910 to Richard Road is fully designated and recorded for the community trail by Pine Township at the north, and by the Town of McCandless at the south.
In 2004 the HTC merged with the group that developed and maintained the Baker Trail and the Rachel Carson Trail, and the new organization was named the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy.
Since 1992 we have kept the trail clean and had work parties out to repair culverts and clear brush and deadfall. An eagle scout established a narrow trail to connect the gravel parking at 910 with the uphill (official) entry lane. Volunteers have cut brush, trucked in their mowers to improve the edges and have hauled out any trash found.
Harmony Trail Committee/Trail Stewards
These are the volunteers who help manage and maintain the trail:
Before there were cars there were trains. Between 1908 and 1931, two companies ran interurban trolleys between Pittsburgh and points north. The Pittsburgh and Butler Street Railway operated the Butler Short Line between Pittsburgh and Butler, and the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler & New Castle Railway Company operated the Harmony Short Line from Pittsburgh to Evans City where it split and then continued on to Butler and New Castle. The two companies merged in 1917 and became the Pittsburgh, Mars and Butler Railway.
The trolley carried both passengers and freight and was powered by electricity delivered from overhead cables. The cars made frequent stops, although there was a "limited" car that made few stops, and a "party" car for charters. Passengers could board at the Wexford Station, located just north of Route 910, and ride the Harmony Line to Pittsburgh, Evans City and Butler. Connecting tracks also went to Ellwood City, Beaver Falls and New Castle. Travel to Pittsburgh took 52 minutes and cost about 25 cents.
The Harmony Line made it possible to live in the country and work in the city. It also efficiently transported farm products and other freight. During the time it operated about 4 million passengers rode the trolley. When the trolley ceased operations in 1931, the Wexford Station was sold and relocated 1/2 mile to the east near Route 19. Over the years it served as post office, antique store and delicatessen. It now resides at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.
Walking along the Harmony Trail today, we can still appreciate the quiet, rural character of the Wexford Run valley and imagine a trolley ride here many years ago.
The rise of the automobile, in particular the bus, and the Great Depression conspired against the trolley. It ceased operating in 1931, and the land was sold and put to other uses. The section that followed Girty's Run out of Millvale was acquired by the county and became Babcock Boulevard.
Locally, the trolley ran along a wooded valley that parallels today's Route 19. The rail bed followed the only level right of way available through the North Hills' otherwise steep terrain. Today, more than 85 years after service was abandoned, its tracks are gone. Much of its old alignment has given way to pavement, housing developments, and other forms of progress. Between Ingomar and Warrendale, however, a scenic stretch of the old Harmony right of way remains largely intact. As with many rails-to-trails projects throughout the country, the wide, flat corridor is ideal for a trail, and the Harmony Trail occupies a short section of it.
The Pittsburgh City Paper (dead, now links to archive.org) noted, somewhat wryly, that plans for a similar regional transport system are being promoted today, yet it existed over 75 years ago, and was accomplished without magnetic levitation.
More historical details can be found on this rail enthusiast's site (dead, now links to archive.org), at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, or Wikipedia. Photographs from the trolley era can be seen on the University of Pittsburgh's Historic Pittsburgh site. The Northland Public Library also has a flat file with articles and pamphlets about the trolley line and the efforts to develop hiking & biking trails in the area of the old line.
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