Motive Power much
more to come soon - in the meantime, here are XL versions of the MP229
from November, 1944 (compiled from an original document scanned by
Wayne S. Betty) and July, 1949 (compiled from an original document
scanned by Jerry Britton): 1944 MP229
Every month, a statement of
locomotive assignments by division would be prepared for the Motive
Power Department. Locomotives were listed by number and class,
and distinctive appliances that affected their respective abilities to
perform certain tasks were noted. Each division would have
several Assistant Road Foremen who would split administrative
responsibilities for that divsion's locomotives. Each Assistant
Road Foreman (or ARF) had a desk number in Philadelphia, which was also
noted on the MP229 for administrative purposes. Note that this
desk number did not indicate specific roundhouses for maintenance or
specific road duties for the locomotives.
What can this document tell you?
above, specific locomotive duties were not noted on the MP229 - the
document was intended to give a broad overview of power assignments.
Another set of documents, listing assignments for each
locomotive, existed but are much more elusive. With a bit of
detective work, however, one can
speculate reasonably on a few things. For example, B8a
locomotives were roundhouse goats and lived at major backshops.
Backshop photos can place them at a particular shop; locomotives
grouped with the B8a stood a good chance of working out of that shop as
well. For example, ARF 354 (in 1944) on the Monongahela Division
B8a. Shire Oaks was the major divisional backshop which serviced
most of the Mon Division road freight and commuter locos. Sure
enough, the majority of the locos here are also under ARF 354.
The only other choice is ARF 373, and, since the closure of 30th
St., our only other choice for locomotive service is Youngwood, which
collected lighter branchline locos.
clue is likely service. Pittsburgh division ARF 355, in 1944,
consists entirely of I1s and I1sa locos - probably a helper pool.
Whether they worked out of Pitcairn, Derry, Conemaugh, or Altoona
is not clear, but chances are they were all spending their time at the
rear. And so on.
The XL files combine all of the original divisional
sheets into a sortable database. You can now survey the entire
fleet by whatever criterion takes your fancy. Please note that in
order for the divisional counts to come out correctly, you must have
the locos sorted by division (but not necessarily in numerical or class
The 'Notes' column indicates appliances - 'X' =
cab signal whistle and acknowledger, 'B' = equipped for cab signals to
function in reverse or 'backup' service
(Thanks to Dick Jacobs for clarification), '#' = mechanical stoker
equipped, 'I' = intermittent inductive train stop device (a New
York Central gadget found on locos exercising PRR traffic rights over
the Central into Erie, PA). Division names in the 'Notes' column
indicate that the locomotive was borrowed or leased from that division.
Freight, particularly bulk freight, pays the bills for
any railroad, and PRR's Central Region generated more of it than
probably any equivalent area in the world during WWII and the immediate
postwar years. Below are a few documents to help get a
handle on this massive flow of traffic.
In late 1949, the PRR took a look at car counts in some of the yards in
the greater Pittsburgh region with an eye towards consolidating
switching jobs for greater efficiency. As a legacy of the old
Lines East / Lines West split, each division moving towards Pittsburgh
got a class yard complete with hump operation and all the other bells
and whistles. After consolidation, these operations continued
largely through force of habit. In the labor-cost-conscious
environment after WWII, the handicaps of this arrangement started to
become apparent. At Conway, the largest yard in the region, and
the only one with significant room to expand, there were two humps
(east and west), each of which worked only two shifts. Neither
one had retarders or scales, and the only scale in the yard was on the
eastbound side. Thus, the PRR was stuck with an expensive car
rider operation, with the additional problem that westbounds needing to
be weighed had to be hauled across the relay tracks to the eastbound
side, and then hauled back again after weighing. Unsurprisingly,
Conway was getting clogged up.
In addition, the study revealed some overlaps of responsibility between
Conway and other regional yards, as well as other inefficient
practices. For example, the vast majority of traffic coming off
the Monongahela Division, wherever it was bound, went to Pitcairn for
classification. Westbound cars in the South Side, then, ended up
going east first, to the far end of Pitcairn, to be run over the
westbound hump, stuck into a train, and then traverse some of the same
trackage before at last making miles in the right direction. Why
not send this traffic west to Conway first?
The upshot of the study was a proposal for a large, single-hump yard at
Conway, with retarders and scales, working around the clock.
Conway would then become the western gateway to Pittsburgh, with
Pitcairn forming the eastern gateway. This proposal was not
executed; however, given the demonstrated cost savings from
consolidating hump operations, someone must eventually have gotten the
idea that Pitcairn could be thrown into the mix as well. The
current Conway yard is what finally came of this, opening in 1957 (and
thus, outside the scope of this site). It was and is a monster,
and fortunately lies right next to Route 65 between Baden and
Rochester, so railfans can get a pretty good eyeful of the Norfolk
Southern operations there today.
One side effect of the study is that the yard records leave a pretty
good snapshot of the flow of freight on the west side of Pittsburgh.
Below are some of the charts for yards that had a complete study
Ave. Scully Mingo Jct.
A couple of points are worth noting. First, one can see that the
railroad has a marked aversion to hauling empties (they are a net loss,
while loaded cars are money in the bank). If a car can be loaded
at or near the same spot as it is unloaded, so much the better.
This explains why coal and ore docks on the Great Lakes were
typically paired - cars coming up from the mountains loaded with coal
could go back down loaded with ore, and the railroad only had to pull
empties a mile or so between docks. At other points, it is
interesting to see how the railroad responds. For example, take
Weirton, the site of a large integrated steel mill. It pulled in
over 80 cars a day from Cleveland (almost certainly from the ore dock
there), but a like number of empties did not go back. Instead,
empties coming out of the mill went downriver to the southeastern Ohio
coal mines for loading, and were then shipped all over the PRR -
a much shorter haul for empty hoppers.
Second, it is clear that Conway was already functioning as a regional
distribution point, and that any reworking of the yard would enhance
that function rather than add it. The vast majority of cars
moving through Conway was overhead traffic coming in from Altoona via
the Conemaugh division, and being relayed to the west, or vice versa.
A certain amount of this traffic was siphoned off for
distribution to all the divisions of the Central Region. At the
other three yards, traffic is dominated by work on their own divisions
- Eastern at Island Ave., and Panhandle at Mingo and Scully.
Thirdly, some small traffic notes. At Island Ave., note the
massive proportion of cars going to 16th St. This is because the
Pittsburgh icing station was at Island Ave., and reefers from the west
and south would roll through here for a final icing before sitting in
the PRR's produce yard at 16th St. in the Strip District. Once
empty, those cars no longer needed ice and could be collected at any
point for bundling into a TRS train. At Mingo, note the high
proportion of coal - nearly half of all loads, and about a quarter of
all freight traffic. But what is really odd about that is that,
in general, it was not going to the industries in that part of the Ohio
valley. It was leaving the Panhandle division altogether.
Wherever the industries were getting their coal from, for some
reason the PRR was getting frozen out.
Below are a few photos of a standard
PRR two track signal bridge installation. This particular bridge
is out of service but still standing on the former Columbus Division,
Bradford line (currently the Ohio Central), midway between Grandview
Ave. and Marble Cliff. Note the chopped face on the lower
position light - a typical feature of PRR signal heads that did not
have a horizontal arm.
a distant overall view
upper portion closeup
a detail view of the deck, and the signal