Montour Railroad 

Montour Railroad








Working on the Montour

Schaeffer Stories

Sposato Stories


Railroading 101



Milepost 44 Mifflin Junction

By Gene P. Schaeffer

I hope you all don't mind taking a peek back at a small section of  trackage at Mifflin Junction.

Construction of Mifflin Jnc in 1919.

As stated in the Montour RR book, the property at Mifflin Jct. was leased from the Union Railroad. The Montour had a small terminal there for many years where both diesel and steam locomotives were kept.
In the attached scene, were looking west from on top of Delwar Road overpass which was just below the scale at Mifflin. Each day and night, crews arriving Mifflin Junction would divert onto Montours own trackage that is now part of the scrap yard, pulling their train up to the scale here the engine(s) would cut away, run around the train and shove over the loads over the scale for weighing.

Car load by car load would ease over the live rails of the scale, and from inside the scale you could watch the weighmaster stamping the weights of each car onto their respective bills.
The weighmaster during my time riding into and out of Mifflin Jct. was a pleasant gentleman by the name of Gene McCuen. Gene lived in Bridgeville and would receive his nightly telephone call from the train dispatcher advising him when the estimate arrival time of the crew in Mifflin.
Mr. McCuen told me many times his arrival at Mifflin usually ended up hours before the Montour crew did and he would as best as possible, take a "un-official" nap during the wait.
So vividly, I remember those nightly rides into Mifflin. Coming out of Salida, the Flagman would announce the car count till the caboose was off Montour trackage so the connection switch there could be lined and locked back for the N&W main.
When the highball was announced over the airwaves, the SW-9's came back to life, throttling up restarting the train...the gentle hiss of sanders accompanied the constant flashing of the wheel slip light, and the un-mistakable whine of the EMDs loosing their footing echoed throughout the engine cab.
Years after that last train of coal was delivered to Mifflin Junction, now living just 2 blocks up the street from the crossing on the Mifflin Branch, I would take the dog for a walk and re-explore that Mifflin Branch trackage, stopping occasionally to examine the burn marks in the rail head near the end of that tangent coming out of Salida, where those SW-9's from years earlier, sometimes with me aboard, would leave permanent scars that only a few would understand.
30 years and millions of tons of steel coil, coal, auto parts, miscellaneous freight, coke and a wide variety of newer EMD products later, those scars left behind on the rail head by those elderly SW-9s have been gently erased. Here and there a few rail burns still remain, but today who would understand. Only a devoted few understood the significance of keeping record back then, even at such a young age.
Those trips to Mifflin during those God awful night time hours of the early 70's were offset by thrill and adventure of being part of the Montour RR. The feeling...the participation...the experience of being aboard those multiple unit consist of SW-9's...with 40...50...and as much as 89 loads of Mifflin coal...out on N&W's Mifflin Branch...the roar of the diesel engines... the cab atmosphere...the darkness of the night time hours...seeing homes and businesses fast asleep as the Montour moved another train load of Champion Coal closer to destination...
There was always one household inside that last mile coming into Mifflin, that no matter what hour it was, the bedroom television reflected itself outside bringing attention to the rider back in the locomotive consist. I often wondered if the train crews found amusement as I did, finding themselves looking for that same residence to see if that same t.v. was still on, trip after trip over the N&W into Mifflin Junction.
Arrival at Mifflin...engines cut away and back through #14 track to the rear of the coal. Sometimes the train had to be cut in half for weighing. With the engines behind the caboose and each car bled off, weighing would begin.
Standing in the doorway of the white brick building, directly above the doorway a black metal plate, paint faded in time, identified this place as Mifflin Jct.
A few car lengths to my right, a darkened figure gripping a railroad lantern, cuts away each car load of coal for the trip over the scale. Gene McCuen paced with experience, jockeys each waybill into position for stamping. Those railroad cars, just a few feet from the buildings threshold where I stand, are frightening in size to a teenager as each eases itself over the scale.
To my left, where the attached photo was taken from, a gathering of MONTOUR and B&LE hoppers loaded with Champion coal, rain down a shower of coal from each cars coupling after the trip over the scale.
The photo was taken 4 years after the last Montour coal train was delivered to Mifflin Junction. On the ground in the photo, witness the excess Champion coal still there from all of those hard couplings....
Delwar road overpass has since been retired. The Mifflin scale is a distant memory. The red brick building over to the left is now a Target store, the Union RR switchers are no longer kept at Mifflin...but the Memories of the Montour Railroad delivering Champion coal to Mifflin Junction linger on with time.

Near the End - Tim Sposato

Mifflin Jct was a fairly busy point up until steam was retired. The 1940's saw up to 5 locomotives assigned to the assortment of mine runs and locals that would originate there. By the early 1950's only 3 engines were used there, since the mineswere winding down and coal runs reduced. The local would also be eliminated as the diesels took over the headends.
There was a locomotive inspector, laborer, hostler and mechanic to make the running repairs needed.  When an engine came due for its monthly boiler wash, it would be traded with a fresh engine from Mtr Jct. allowing it to return  for heavier repairs and a washing. Mainly small repairs could be done here. The laborer would do all the menial jobs including loco cleaning & coaling, caboose supplies, and any other detail assigned by the other employee's.
Several corrugated buildings with coal stoves for heating housed the office, tools, oils and other support material required for the steam engine maintenance. There was a coaling conveyor to load  the tender bunkers and a small homemade water plug to fill the water. The coal was fed onto the conveyor by manual shoving most of the time.
There also was a small bunk house, work and storage sheds to service other  equipments and several MRR owned yard tracks in the Union yard. This would include the car inspector and his parts & tools. Some train crews would report each day for their call, while others opted to use the bunkhouse and going home on days off.  I suppose depending on their travel distance and ownership of an automobile. Also the scalehouse had a clerks working there for both the MRR & PWV. Each RR provided their own clerk up into the early 70's.
The bulk of the trains MRR handled were loads of coal and empty hoppers. The Union would pull the empties into the receiving track and pull loads out.  The switching was minimal by the MRR, occasional bad orders, and other than coal equipment would show up for the smaller MRR customers. MRR would move steel mill owned equipments from Mifflin to B&T, this could be slab gondolas, coke hoppers, ladle cars for repair or even scrapping. This type of movement continued to November, 1975, when the last train out of Mifflin were a handful of cars destined for B&T.
The sights and sounds of this yard would have been enjoyable, as the Union was always making switch moves round the clock, add in the PWV trains, the rails would have been shiny all the time. Several older employees spoke of the glow in the skies to the SW as the Union dumped slag along RT 51, the mills to the NW added more, along with the mills to the North and Pittsburgh to the NW.
Night was far from dark in Mifflin yard. Also the sounds of the B&O mallets working hard up the grade along Streets Run on the "Pike" was frequently heard in the clear night air.

Not much is left in Mifflin now,  two bridges over the road has been scrapped, the scale house leveled, as the lumber yard expanded. Its hard to find anything remaining of the servicing facilities now, in the 70's evidence of the buildings still existed, now removed. The loaded yard tracks can still be found, mostly in their original location, the empty tracks are gone.
I walked these tracks a few months back, reminiscing their glory days of supporting the weight of loaded hoppers, now covered with coal, weeds, trash and small trees. The rails, corroding by the coal's sulphur, heavily scaled, rusting slowly away. Sections are severed, rails bent or broken by heavy equipment that removed most of the Union RR tracks. Slowly disappearing....most likely soon to be gone......
Attached is a shot of me in Mifflin Jct. The last train had departed the  3 months before, Section Gang Two was sent to Mifflin to remove badly needed 90 lb switch points and switch machines  for other locations. I was pulling spikes on the first switch, off the lead for the loaded yard, when Foreman Schmidt asked to use my camera. Behind me are the bridges over the road,  the scale house, behind my helmet. Mounted on the pole across from the scale house is the "Traffic Light" used to signal the engineers of the weighing movements by the clerk, prior to use of radio's.
The spotlight tower,most of  the Union Yard, scales, lights, bridges, .....gone. Those few rails in front of me, amazingly remain.... for now......
The east end was an busy, exciting place, even when we were growing up, some sounds and night time glows remained for us to remember.....enjoying the friendliness of MRR crews and avoiding the Union RR bulls.
Tim Sposato