Montour Railroad 

Montour Railroad


Bridges and Tunnels







Working on the Montour

Schaeffer Stories

Sposato Stories


Railroading 101



Bridges and Tunnels of the Montour
A Study By Bryan Seip

Tunnels of the Montour
The Montour had 4 tunnels bored on its main line - but only 3 were in existence at any 1 time. Tunnel #1 was the 4th one bored, while Tunnel #2 was probably the 1st, in 1913.  Seven years later, #2 didn't exist except as a memory and a deep cut. The 4 tunnels were known by 7 different names - and one of those had two spellings and then shared its name with another tunnel that doesn't even belong to the Mighty M.  Another with two names probably shouldn't have used either one and the name of the land-owner where it was built was never mentioned. Three were curved and only one was straight and one crested a hill in the middle of its bore, meaning train crews had to transit under power in either direction - thus running in smoke and exhaust fumes. (How long can you hold your breath?? - Not long enough at 10 MPH or less.....) two were considered wet and only one was dry. The shortest was 235 feet and the longest 623.  - Bryan Seip

Jeffreytown tunnel has 2 names.  RR aficionados refer to it as Jeffreytown, while the Trail community calls it Enlow.  As Bob Ciminel  suggests, maybe neither is correct, as the tunnel was bored on the granted property of Robert McMin.
Bob calls it Montour Tunnel #1 as a reference, as it is the first tunnel heading east from Montour Junction.
However, it was the 4th tunnel bored on the Montour main line.
Three were bored during construction of the Mifflin Extension in 1913-14 and this one was constructed as part of the realignment project from Cliff Mine to Imperial in 1926.

The tunnel eliminated almost a half-mile loop of main line that followed Montour Run around the rocky hillside and also eliminated Milepost 9, which was included on that track segment.  Thus, MP 8 & MP 10 are only about a mile & a half distant. This tunnel was the only straight bore on the Montour.  The other 3 were all curved. It also has had interior lighting installed by the Trail Council to make it an easier transit for Trail users.  At 575 feet, it was dark, and exhaust fumes & smoke were a challenge to train crews. (National Tunnel also received interior lighting this summer, while Peacock Tunnel was daylighted by 1920 and Greers Tunnel is much shorter, so does not need lighting.)

Bob Ciminel:
I'll call it Montour Tunnel No. 1 for starters, but the first tunnel on the Montour has so many different names it confuses a lot of folks.  Let's start from the beginning before the Montour even existed. Plates 27 & 28 of the Warranty Atlas of Allegheny County, which shows the original owners of land grants in the county, show the spit of land where the tunnel is located as being owned by Samuel Jefferey.  This would be on the original alignment of the right of way before the tunnel was built in 1924.  The land where the tunnel actually went through the ridge was owned by Robert McMin.  You can see that on the attached map.  Samuel Jeffery's deed goes back to 1785, while Robert McMin's was recorded in 1784.  So, that would give precedent to calling it McMin Tunnel.
If we move ahead to 1906, the Carnegie Quadrangle of the USGS topographic map shows the area around the tunnel labeled "McMinn."  There's no mention of the Jefferys or any place called "Jefferytown." The community of Enlow doesn't exist either. Montour Railroad public timetable No. 16, which went into affect on April 25, 1915, lists the station as "Jeffreytown."  It's also listed that way on passenger tickets. The 1940 Montour Railroad employee timetable does not list the tunnel; however, the 1962 Montour track chart identifies the tunnel as "Jeffrytown," without the second "e" in the name.
Gene's book refers to  the tunnel as "Jeffrey Town" in the chapter titled "Montour Junction to Imperial Realignment" on Page 66.  The "Bridges and Tunnels of Allegheny County" website says the "official" name of the tunnel is either "Enlow" or "Jeffrey Town." 
So here's my argument: The name "Jeffery" is only mentioned in the Warranty Atlas and is never seen again on any official documents.  The "McMins" actually owned the land the tunnel was bored under.  The names "McMin" and "Jefferey" have been spelled "Jeffrey" and "McMinn" over the years.  The Montour railroad timetables and track chart list the station at the west end of the tunnel as "Jeffreytown"  and the east end is called "Enlow."  The timetables list stations from west to east, in the direction of train superiority.  So I will refer to it as the "Jeffreytown Tunnel" until someone can provide solid evidence to the contrary.

Very little hard information can be found about Peacock Tunnel - bored through a hillside between Primrose and Southview during the 1913 Mifflin Extension project - east of MP 21. It was probably the first tunnel built on the Montour. Like the others at that time, it was built with a timber & wood lining. However, this hill was very wet and the ground was unstable and water and rocks falling inside the tunnel hampered train operations almost from the very beginning. As the way to rectify these problems, it was decided to daylight the tunnel and make it a deep, but open, cut. The tunnel does not appear on the 1920 track charts, so daylighting took place before that date.

Tim Sposato has said that he heard comments from some of the "old hands" on the track gangs that indicated the tunnel was only in existence for about 5 years - which would put the daylighting about 1918-1919.  But again, no hard evidence and even the "old hands" would have had more than 55 years between the end of the tunnel and Tim's employment, so many of the comments about the tunnel may have been passed down a generation or two. Tim tells us Jim Lane talked about seeing timbers sitting on the side of the cut when he started working on Montour train crews in 1936.

This hillside still has water and rockfall problems. You may have seen a story in the latest Montour Trail newsletter about trail crews recently working in Peacock Cut cleaning dirt, debris and rocks out of the drainage ditches.  Occasionally rocks will still fall off the sides of the cut and end up on the trail surface. Walking the cut & checking out the terrain & maps, it looks like the tunnel could have been in the 600 foot range, with a curve in its bore. It is hard to tell what distance the right-of-way might have been cut into the hillside before the portals were installed (similar to those at National Tunnel) and as there is no indication where the portals were actually located, this is an educated guess.

Peacock is the only Montour tunnel with only one name - perhaps due to the short time it was in existence - but I bet those early train crews and track gangs had a few other interesting names they called this tunnel. - Bryan Seip

This tunnel was known by three different names. Most railroad features are named for a nearby landmark or land owner where a structure is built. This tunnel was called National - for the nearby National Coal Company mines that the Montour Railroad serviced. It was also known as Bishop - for the near-by community of that name, and as McConnell - for the farm land on which it was bored.

This was the longest of the Montour tunnels, at 632 feet.  The railroad grade was uphill from either direction into the tunnel and it crested the top of the hill inside the tunnel.  Thus, with a train stretched out behind them, the train crews had to keep full power as  they transited the tunnel, engulfed in smoke or exhaust from the locomotives. By the time half their train's weight was over the crest and they could throttle back, the engines would usually be outside the tunnel portal.  

Known as a wet tunnel, water dripping from the ceiling still presents a problem, as winter freezes create an impressive crop of icicles and ice mounds inside the tunnel. Safety and visibility for Trail patrons was addressed by two projects in recent years.  The floor was paved with asphalt in 2008 and interior lighting was added in 2012. - - Bryan Seip

The fourth tunnel on the Montour Railroad was Greer Tunnel. The shortest of the Montour tunnels at 235 feet, it goes through the sharp ridge-line above Chartiers Creek on the Peters Township side of the creek. An earlier tunnel was bored through the same ridge in the late 1800's, at a lower level, to carry the PCC&StL (ex-PRR/Penn Central/Conrail/now-Pittsburgh & Ohio Central) on its Washington Branch. As the land around this tunnel site was owned by the Bell families, it was called Bells Tunnel.

When the Mifflin Extension was built in 1913-14, the Montour bored their tunnel at a higher elevation to be able to cross over the PRR line on the east side of the ridge. It is the only tunnel on the Montour to have bridges outside both portals, with the spectacular view of Chartiers Creek on the west and the through-truss over an active railroad outside the east. A nearby land owner named Greer was used to indicate the newer tunnel.

Some confusion over the names of the two tunnels remains, with some topo maps mis-labeling the earlier tunnel as Greer and the later tunnel as Montour Tunnel.  Timetables from the PRR show their tunnel as "Bells" - but the current operators of the line - Pittsburgh & Ohio Central's Arden Branch - call this tunnel "Greer", perpetuating the confusion. Thus, while some other tunnels on the Montour were known by two or three separate names, Greer Tunnel had its name at two different locations.

The last railroad operations over this section of the Montour were at the end of 1980.  Rails were pulled up and the line abandoned within a few years.  Greer Tunnel and the bridges were closed and lay dormant until the Montour Trail Council re-built and opened this section of trail in 2008, eliminating an important "missing link" to the Arrowhead Trail in Peters Township.
Bryan Seip
Bridges of the Montour

Engine House

Car Yard


Shop Loop
MP 2-3 
MP 3.8  
MP 4.0  
MP 4.2   
MP 4.8  MP 5.0  MP 5.2 
Nelson Industries
MP 6.7  MP 7.1  MP 8.2  MP 8.3 
MP 8.4   MP 8.5  MP 9.8   MP 9.9  
MP 10.1   MP 10.4   MP 10.5   MP 10.7  
MP 10.8   MP 11.8   MP 15.5  MP 15.6 
MP 16.0 MP 16.4  MP 17.2  MP 17.6 
MP 19.5 
McDonald Viaduct
MP 19.5  
McDonald Txfr   
MP 21.0  MP 22.7 
MP 22.8    MP 23.1   MP 23.4   MP 23.7  
MP 24.0   MP 24.5  MP 25.3  MP 26.2 
MP 27.3  MP 27.5  MP 28.0   MP 29.1 
MP 29.2  MP 29.5  MP 30.1  MP 30.6
MP 30.8 MP 31.5 MP 31.7 MP 32.3  
MP 32.4 
Pittsburgh Railways
Interurban Bridge

Pittsburgh Railways
Thompsonville Bridge
Part 2
MP 32.6 
MP 33.1  MP 34.1   MP 34.7   MP34.8 
MP 35.7 
Library Viaduct
MP 36.5  
MP 38.1  
MP 38.8   MP 39.2  
Logan Tunnel Vandalizsm
MP 40.7   MP 41.2  
MP 41.3   MP 41.4   MP 42.0   MP 42.1  

Westland 2.7       Westland 2.9     Muse Branch 0.6 

MP 2.0   MP 2.9   MP3.0   MP 3.1  
MP 3.7   MP 4.0   MP 4.3   MP 4.5  
MP 5.2