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Mile Post 30.5 Greers Viaduct and Tunnel


North Side (Montour #4 side)


On Saturday 12-Jan-2008 I took a short walk to visit the remains of the Montour Railroad around Mile post 30. This is one of the few remaining areas of the Montour that have not been 'sterilized' by conversion to the Montour Trail. Don't get me wrong, I am glad the trail has been built, better than housing developments that would remove all traces of the railroad. But when sterilization takes place much of the remaining history of the Montour is carted away. Ties, ballast, old rail, engine parts, spilled loads, plates, spikes most gone when the trail is constructed.

I set out on this trip by myself and wanted to visit the area before complete conversion over to the trail. For those who have not taken the time to make Montour visits to 'pristine' areas before the trail, you really need to make the time. When you walk the the old RoW the ghosts still linger. You can imagine steam engines belching smoke and cinders, the smell of SW-9's working the hills with full loads of coal for Champion and squealing wheels. The piercing headlamps exiting the tunnels and lighting the surrounding hills and trees.

Below is the section of the track chart of the area.

 


Above is a photo of eastbound coal loads at Rowley, MP 30.1, with Engine 24.  This was the afternoon of my last day of school at the end of May, 1949.  With three months of freedom ahead of me, it just didnít get any better.  The day had started with brilliant sunshine and ultra clear conditions, but about the time of this picture I noticed that high clouds were slowly moving in.  We just had a half-day of attendance on that final date and got home bearing our report cards and anything else that didnít belong at school.  After lunch I took my first camera, a 127 size Baby Brownie Special and headed out for adventure.  This is what I saw about 3:30 PM.  Thatís Hahn Drive in the picture at about the location of the old farm underpass beneath the railroad.

An interesting feature in this picture is the steel tower carrying the high tension electric line that ran along the railroad from about Thompsonville to Henderson, maybe further.  This line seems to be labeled P.C. Co. on your valuation map at Greer Tunnel.  A gang came along in the summer of í48 or í49 and painted those towers.  They must have worked for a contractor named Kuder because on a number of abutments they left a painted tag in 1 ft high letters stating the Kuder Kids Were Here.  Itís too bad I didnít get a picture of that.  It was a serious defacement that remained visible for years.

This picture shows the openness of the countryside at that time.
Bill Poellot


Below is an aerial view of the Greers area. I've added text and the basic route of the tunnels. Greers is slightly curved as shown on the image.

Google Link

I started the journey by parking nearby and climbing the hill near the bridge over Valley Brook Rd. This is not the best place to start as I found out later. It is better to take Buckeye St. and park where the street crosses the right-of-way. The first thing I noticed was the work being done on the bridge over Valley Brook Road. It is very muddy in the area from the heavy machinery moving across the area.

There is an access road that comes down the hill across the MROW and down to Buckeye Rd. This is a good place to park and go either way Greers tunnel or back toward #4. There was a road that came out here and went back to the widows house. - Carter Roth


Bridge work over Valley Brook Rd.

From here I started heading to the north portal of Greers Tunnel. Along the way were the regular assortment of ties that have been moved to the side. Most of the RoW before reaching the Buckeye St crossing was muddy and strewn with large boulders. There is a small stream running down the hillside on the left as you walk, probably from a spring higher up the hill.


Small waterfall cascades down the hillside

As you move along you will notice an old foundation and headboard from an old bed. This is the remains of the residence of Widow Johnson. Mrs. Johnson lived on a farm and often was the recipient of the generosity of the Montour employees. In the old steam days they would shovel coal from the train for her to burn in her furnace. As I paused at the foundation I wondered how she would get to market as there are no road access to her house. You can see in the image that there is some work going on near her house. I hope it's not removed by trail construction.


Widow Johnson's house foundation

After the Widow Johnson's house you will cross Buckeye St. On the south side of Buckeye St the RoW becomes more pristine without any development work being done. The Row is drier and more solid with a covering of cinders. Looking down to the right you will see that the rail follows Chartiers Creek well below. Slowly rising out of the trees is what I refer to as Greers Bridge. The is a truss bridge that crosses over the active Pittsburgh and Ohio Central railroad. The deck of the bridge is very worn but a small walkway has been placed on the deck surface I assume to allow surveyors to gain access to the tunnel for restoration.


Greers Bridge

Bells Tunnel of the P & OC Railroad can easily be seen from the bridge deck.

                
Greers Bridge deck with installed walkway         Pittsburgh & Ohio Central Bells Tunnel

                
Looking from the portal to the bridge                P&OC Bell Tunnel Portal

Following crossing the bridge there is a good amount of mud before the entrance into Greers Tunnel. The first thing you notice is how the tunnel is slowly being buried by soil creep from the hillside. There are some cracks in the tunnel portal that looks as if the top section of the portal has separated from the bottom half.


The North portal of Greers tunnel, notice the soil creep.

When you enter the tunnel the first things you notice is the amount of water pooled in the bottom of the tunnel. This has caused many of the remaining ties to rot. Most are still in pretty good shape but they are not stable underfoot. There is still some rail on the inside and looks to be frog rails and not the main rail. The rail is twisted and bent in places. The tunnel is shorter than I had imagined when I first viewed it from the south side across the viaduct. The walls have graffiti as one would expect for a dark location away from any houses.


Inside Greers Tunnel, lots of water on the floor


Inside Greers

At the end of the tunnel near the viaduct the rails become parallel again. The tunnel floor is drier making it easier to walk, no more balancing on the ties and rails. At the exit of the tunnel there are a number of boulders strewn about. I am going to assume that they fell from the hillside over the portal.


Look out towards the South and Greers Viaduct.

Once outside the tunnel you of course notice the long and high Greers Viaduct that crosses over Chartiers Creek. The viaduct is fenced off to prevent access and for good reason. Do not go out onto the viaduct.


Greers Viaduct

As this point it was time to turn around and head back through the tunnel. On this portal is the construction date of 1922. You can see the curve in the tunnel and the exit from here. This curve is why the tunnel looks deeper than it is from across the viaduct, you can not see from one side to the other.


Heading back into the tunnel

I started to head back into the tunnel and obviously found the same conditions, dry to mud.


Just inside the south portal.

Exiting the north portion of the tunnel reveals the bridge and the amount of mud between the two. If your going to make the trip bring some boots. I didn't and got some wet feet but well worth the trip.


Locking from the North portal to the bridge.

So this ends my second journey to the Greers area. I've put some of the remaining photos below. This is a great area for exploration, bridges, tunnels and an active rail line make for a nice few hours exploring.

 

      

      

      

      

 







South Side of Greers

Greers tunnel and viaduct was built in 1913. The viaduct crosses Chartiers Creek and enters the tunnel on the west side. The tunnel is 235 feet long and is single track and stands at about 920' in elevation. Nearby is the Pittsburgh and Ohio Central tunnel and bridge which stands at about 890' in elevation some 30' below Greers. The Montour Trail ends at the viaduct and a fence prohibits access to the viaduct deck. DO NOT go onto the viaduct, it is not safe. Also stay off of the P&OC bridge as well as the tracks are active and it is P&OC railroad property. These pictures were taken from the SW side of the tunnel.

In the general area of the tunnel can be found the assortment of ties thrown over the hillside when the tracks were removed. Also milepost 30 is still there in the ground. The paint is well worn but the 30 is unmistakable. At Hahn and Georgetown road intersection is the remains of an old bridge which I assume was removed during the construction of the trail.


Tim Sposato Photo

May 2006 after the Chartiers Flyer excursions from Carnegie to Arden. Tim says it was about 6:45am & he was deadheading the empty passenger train set from Canonsburg to Scully Yard and thought a short stop at Bells Tunnel was in order for this photo op. Note the decking on the thru-truss - the original timber before the Trail was constructed in this area and the concrete deck was added.



 

 
 

 

       
The Montour Through Truss Bridge over the former PRR branch is rotting away. Even though there was a parade of automobiles into and out of Hidden Valley CC, I could of sworn I heard a four unit consist of SW-9's working Montour #4..

Gene P. Schaeffer

 

The "east" portal of Greers showing a terrible crack in the ceiling with several inches of separation that shows earth through the crack

Gene P. Schaeffer

   











Here are some additional photos taken by Gene Schaeffer of the P&OC Bell Tunnel Dec-2005










 
Greers Tunnel

N40 17.783
W080 07.813

     
View from below
 





 
1913 etched in stone below the deck
 
1913 is also on the support. I can't believe that someone put graffiti here!
 
Pittsburgh & Ohio Central bridge.
 
Some rail lying near Hahns Rd.
 
Ties strewn about






Mile Post 30

N40 17.631'
W080 08.372'

Bridge near Hahn and Georgetown Road parking area