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General Documents and Info

System Operations   /   Motive Power   /   Freight   /   Passenger   /   Signals   /   Structures   /   Track

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

1949 MP229

What is an 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?

As noted 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 contains a 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.

Another 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 Files

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 order).

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.

Conway Study

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 done:

Island Ave.

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.

distant view  a distant overall view  

beam closeup  upper portion closeup

arm detail  a detail view of the deck, and the signal mast connection

head  side view of the signal head

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