Montour Railroad

Montour Railroad








Working on the Montour


Railroading 101



Gene Schaeffer's 2007 Ghosts or Christmas Past

Ghosts of Christmas Past - 1 The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
A few days ago, while out enjoying southwestern Pennsylvania's first snowfall of the season, while passing through McMurray then Thompsonville, there, across the valley was the silent right of way of the Montour Railroad.
Snow covered, in full wintry splendor. I could not help reflecting back to another time of Long Ago, when consists of General Motors SW-9 locomotives hauled car load after car load of Pittsburgh Seam Coal up and down these hills.
Remembering back to those times now seems so long ago. A quarter of a Century of time has now passed since sounds of throttling locomotives, rattling and creaking coal hoppers, loose rail joints, could be heard far and near.
My purpose on that December 5th, 2007 was not to be out photographing those remaining landmarks of the Montour Railroad Company. However, the right of way in all of its snow covered charm, becokend attention from Ghosts of Times Past.
Stubbornily, I proceeded onward through Thompsonville, over snow covered roads, glancing steadily over at the silent right of way, trying in vain to ignore that within my eyesight and focus on the days plans. Past the West Switch Thompsonville I went, observing the charm of this first wintry day. My focus this day was not on the Montour Railroad.
Passing the Bridge at Station 673, there between Thompsonville and the former location of Pittsburghs Railways overhead bridge, right there along Route 19, I could no longer ignore what was before me.
My plans for that first snowy day, if need be, were now on hold. The car was pulled off the road there at the West End of Montour #4. With camera in hand, a few exposures were made of the the remaining bridge there at the West End of what once was know as;  West End Montour #4, Mine  Hills...
The bridge...the trees...the road...everything was snow covered in wintry splendor as steady snowfall continued throughout the day.

 A black & white...then a color exposure of this long forgotten Montour RR overpass, even in this saddened state of neglect and abandon, there...there... is that magic of the Montour Railroad Company that still draws me near.
And so my friends, during the next 12 Days to Christmas, allow me to share with you, at this Most Wonderful Time of the Year, reflections of Christmas's Past, stories and photos of those magical times, along the Montour Railroad Company.
                   Christmas Time at Primrose Crossing
Standing here on Noblestown Road, here at Primrose crossing, I am only feet from the famous PanHandle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Primrose Crossing was a small out of the way location and near to the Montour Railroad. A great place where one could sit in their car and observe some interesting action along the PanHandle. Long ago, the PRR maintained 4 main tracks through Primrose. In later years, only 2 main tracks remained, with a former westbound main converted to a active interchange with the Montour Railroad. The PRR allowed the Montour RR permission to come out onto this former main track where coal trains could be interchanged. In addition, the GSCX unit trains that loaded at Champion were delivered to the Montour RR here, above Primrose Crossing.
During the 1970's, a significant amout of coal was routed PRR-McDonald. Montour crews, using the 1 mile McDonald Transfer passed over this road crossing nearly every day. On some occasions, it was not un-common to see two seperate Montour crews interchanging to the PRR here within a 24 hour period.
But the magic of Primrose, there high above Fort Cherry's ambulance garage, was the right of way of the Montour RR, lying silently still in todays first snowfall.  How sweet it would of been once upon a time to document on film, engines, cars or cabooses of both the Montour RR and that of the mighty PRR, passing each other here in this tiny Washington County Village.
I can remember, watching PanHandle iron ore trains battling westbound through Primrose. With helper engines attached to the trains rear, a exploding storm of energy occupied this place for a few moments of time. Locomotives from both EMD and Alco produced that energy that moved those tonnage trains upgrade to Burgettstown...
Then the time, perhaps 3 EMD's lead a westbound truc-train through here, at a speed that would impress Santa and his team of reindeer ...Then another time, while working Section Gang #1 - Champion, I stopped in Vincenties Service Station, long before it became Cherry Valley Ambulance Service,  to obtain a few snacks before that gruling day working on the track gang...and being startled out of Vincenties, with my trusty 126 Instamatic, nabbing Amtrak Eastbound there at Primrose...if you wanted to see speed, Primrose was a place to be.
And lastly, how many times have I rode those multiple unit consists of SW-9s' across Primrose Crossing. Many of those trips across Primrose, those SW-9's had every ounce of tonnage those old machines could pull. Even one one frosty night early in 1980, I was on that right hand seat box with 36 GSCX loaded 100 ton hoppers...and those 3 ol'e railroading machines, sanders hissing away, wheel slip light on more that it was off, struggling to drag those coal hoppers off the transfer to make the train.
Merry Chrsitmas


 Ghosts of Christmas Past - 2   Company Houses at Primrose Curve
Christmas 1974, in the company of Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus, we visit the local camera store at South Hills Village.  Looking over the selection, the Mamiya/Sekor MSX 500 35mm camera is selected. I'm sure Mr. & Mrs Claus figure this gift selection is some passing teenage fad, but as time progresses for the 18 year old, the journey has just begun. Thankfully, if it was not for the inspiration of friend Dave D. 33 years ago, its anyone's guess where life would of taken me..
The first task for the MSX 500, shortly after Christmas Day is a journey to the Westland Branch where errant coal hoppers are off track and Montour's Brown Hoist is on scene. One car on its side and others simply off rail. The railroad is not working today and the scene is eerily silent...
Time marches forward as a teenager struggles to understand the basics of camera. Much like life itself, trial and error...success and
failure, and over the next 33 years, the Mamiya/Sekor, 2 Canon's and 2 Nikons are put through the task of recording thousands of railroad images here in southwestern Pennsylvania...
For many of those first years, the basic concept was aiming the camera at some point along the right of way for a photo. In time, the concept changes and it becomes appearant standing trackside does not capture the essence of the story. Slowly...very slowly the concept is adjusted. The scene...the enviroment...the characteristics of the communities demand attention, but the maturity to recognize all of this comes a bit to late.
Here we stand on this wintry December 5th, 2007 at Primrose. There on the hillside several remaining company houses now carrying the selected decor of their owners choice, no doubt quite different than the original company concept, reflect difference of time then and time now.
Primrose...lets be more specific and title this Primrose Curve. Primrose curve, 'R.O.R' probably remembers the time when the main track, there above that top row of homes was closed down for 3 days due to a derailment. I wasn't around then, but some of the remnants from that derailment remained long afterwards.
Its funny how recollections are borne, often resulting from a incident that leave behind a trace of information for later recall. But that one derailment wasn't the only factor of recall. Two other derailments have occurred up there on the hillside behind that top row of homes, that brough focus to Primrose.
One of those derailments brought about the need to borrow from Conrail two of their locomotives which were delivered at Hills Transfer. Was it 'R.J.' that ran em from Hills to Primrose to pull back the rear of that one train, then another light engine move back to Hills Transfer returning the borrowed EMD's to Conrail...
Those recollections...are inspiring, but I also like to look just a bit beyond those incidents. I have visualized a time, before the rails came up...before the SW-9's were released from the employ of the company, when coal hopper trains still rounded that long sweeping curve followed by the once upon a time caboose, a image taken during the winter time, when the right of way is in full view, and with temperatures well below freezing, I often imagined a portrait taken here at Primrose, smoke exhausting through the residential chimneys, or kids playing or heading off to school, occupying the narrow company town streets, while there on the hillside, the scene complete with the and cabooses of the Montour Railroad Company. 
If I was only good with canvas and oils, a recreation of those Ghosts of Times Past, here along the Montour Railroad...

Merry Christmas

 Ghosts of Christmas Past - 3    McDonald Viaduct
What a beautiful time here at McDonald Viaduct. One of my many favorite adventures is being out of doors during a snowstorm. This December 5th was one of those days. It had snowed overnight and has been snowing most of this day.
My first real adventure with McDonald Viaduct was in 1974. A westbound coal train had derailed 10 loads at the East End of the viaduct. Five of those loads were out on the viaduct with the remaining 5 loads on solid ground east of the viaduct.
I remember when I first heard of the derailment. I was at home as Conductor Mike Desko, from inside the Yard Office at Champion, was talking over the airwaves with Train Dispatcher Schofield about the location of the derailment and what was derailed. Usually, train crews would use the Intercom that was built into the radio system as a means to talk off 'air' between the Yard Office and Train Dispatchers Office. And thanfully from the spirits of above, that days events was put out over the air for my information.
It was at this moment I had learned of the derailment. As I listened in to the conversation, Conductor Desko was asking for a train order from Champion to McDonald Viaduct as his crew was elected to begin rerailing. Immediately I was on the telephone with friend Dave D. asking if he wanted to go along with me to McDonald, hoping to be able to take some photos of the mishap.
Over the years I have often referred to these derailments as points of interest. I have also stated derailments were ugly marks on a companys reputation, however during these times, derailments were educational tools allowing me to understand the ugly side of railroading and how these problems were corrected, but derailments factored in a gathering of most of the crafts of the railroad.
From Management ... the Superintendent ... to the Supervisor of Track...Then you had  many of the maintenance of way-track gangs...Section Gang #1 and #2...along with the extra gangs who put the roadbed back together after rerailing.
Most often there was a train crew on hand, the Montour Junction Car Shop Department, perhaps if the locomotives were involved, employees from the EngineHouse, perhaps the General Foreman. If the derailment required a crane, throw in employees from Penn Erection and there in one centralized location, a vast representation of the Montour Railroad work force...
After arriving McDonald, Dave & I did a quick look around the derailed loads at the East End of the Viaduct. The company was lucky in this derailment. All of the derailed cars were upright and on the roadbed. The Viaduct was not damaged during the derailment.
In short fashion, Conductor Desko was now on the air waves repeating back the train order to -  Run Extra Champion to McDonald Viaduct...
While still at home listening in to the conversation and the train order, and as luck had it, I had the tape recorder recording both sides of that train order. That was my very first and no doubt only Montour Railroad Train Order that used McDonald Viaduct as a station and that unique train order is still preserved here at home.
After Dave & I examined the derailed loads, we relocated to the top of the slate pile there next to the Viaduct as 3 SW-9's and probably caboose 34 eased out onto the Viaduct. If my memory is correct,  Jim Lane was Engineman which I  understood later on, had a thing for heights. Jim didn't enjoy being off the ground and I'm sure that evening out on the Viaduct was not one of his memorable recollections
of the Montour RR.
Being up on the slate pile afforded a sparkling view of the East End of the structure. The SW-9's eased out onto the Viaduct towards the derailed loads where Montours Car Shop Department was waiting. Rerailing the first load required using a steel cable attached between locomotive coupler knuckle and car coupler knuckle. Thankfully, the so-so photos I made that day with the 126 instamatic camera were supplemented by Dave's so-so images made on his Argus35mm camera which he added to my collection in later years!
When I look at this recent wintry scene, it is so difficult to believe what has happened here. That great 4 track main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad-PanHandle from where I stand has been totally abandoned. So much PRR freight that moved over this line is no longer. The Montour above, moving so much coal from mine to market also nothing more than a fading memory. I often wonder, was the Montours' demise
a factor in the PanHandles demise? 
However, in this snowy view of McDonald Viaduct in full winter splendor, it looks as if I was the second person this day to be out in this new snow. The atmosphere here at McDonald Viaduct was breathtaking. So full of fond memories of  long ago.
Merry Christmas

I was the engineer that relieved uncle Jim on the viaduct that day, yes he was afraid of being on the last step of a step ladder. I think we re-railed 12 or 14 hours on the viaduct that day. Wreck train service there was no hours of service. Also here is the story of the lights on the poles in Kamps cut, many years ago we were doubling up our train at the west end of #4 and the engineer though we were headed for the main track to couple into the [stink box] caboose and he did not pull over the switch far enough. He stopped and started to shove forward right away, I was at the switch waiting to throw the it and couldn't throw the air on in time. he shoved the train into the loaded yard into a track of loads cars. Well after the dirt, dust and metal came back to earth, a lot of re-railing took place, no one got hurt. as you can figure out the engineer was an a.hole. by the way, he was the same engineer, if you want to call him an engineer that took out all the windows in the engines national tunnel. say no more.   R.J. Lane

 Ghosts of Christmas Past - 4        Jolly ol'e Saint T.J.S.
Quite honestly folks, Ghosts 4 was slated to reflect on times past at Southview, that was until a short time ago, at a few minutes till Noon as the Postman, brought to me a wonderful Christmas gift.
The title of today's Ghosts belongs to one of us. A person who I've know for quite a long time and who shares the same passion in this Montour RR as I do. I hadn't originally thought of dedicating a Ghosts to him...or for that matter, anyone in particular, but today, it is only fitting.
Many years ago, while in the employ of the Montour RR in their maintenance of way department, Section Gang #1, Foreman R. Maga and company were instructed to surface and replace the bad ties in Geary Curve. Geary Curve, located just East of the East End of Russell, between Mile Posts 15 and 16,  and as it's name implies is part of a 6 degree curve as well as being the place where the 1.31 gradient from Champion ends and the 1.30 percent ascent up through Shaw Mine and #9 begins, was a place I spent many weeks of my first summer working on a Montour RR  track gang.
Being employed on a section gang on the Montour RR was a tough task. There wasn't a thing you did that was easy. Nearly every tool a laborer used in those days was heavy. From claw bars to spike mauls...track jacks to lining bars, bolt wrenches to spike kegs, they were all heavy.
Surfacing track in those days was a art and a part of daily life with Section Gang #1.. It was my opinion back then, our Foreman was a bit rusty in this art. Being one of those old heads as they are called, his skills at surfacing (raising) track was not up to par as it should of. Needless to say, the responsibility in raising track so not to have a uneven surface was left to another old head, and prominent employee of the Montour RR, M. Sacco.
Marshall Sacco was not a stocky section hand as one would imagine. He was average build and average height, and for being a senior employee, not like many of us younger, still wet behind the ears know it alls,  he could outwork anyone who cared to challenge him.
Most of the guys on Section Gang #1 respected Marshall, and for the most part, no one wanted stuck with working with Marshall on the surfacing projects. During each raise of the main track, it was typically common to raise roughly 2 rail lengths at a time, thus allowing Marshall to sight the rail, keeping it as even as possible with the last raise, but making sure the furthest raise point wasn't raised to high so the next raise would have to be compensated that would lead to unevenness.
Raising track in a curve, where gradients change required attentiveness. During one particular week while Marshall was on vacation, our Foreman did the sighting, which later lead to a hump in the main track which required another raise in the effected raise, and the ballast removed so the roadbed would settle into more of a even surface...not a fun thing to redo.
As time progressed during those summer months, Geary Curve was transformed into a nearly brand new road bed that began about the WestBound Yard Board there at Russell, extending east of the underpass up to a point where the 2 homes sit accross Route 980 from the Geary Barn.
During those couple of weeks Section Gang #1 spent at Geary Curve, hundreds of new ties were installed. New ballast was brought out by rail and spread allowing gang #1 to do a second-lighter tamp on the weak spots that had settled  as work progressed. We finalized our work at Geary Curve by edging the outside ballast on both sides of the right of way trying to keep the defined area of ballast separate from that of the dirt and cinders, before moving East to Shaw Mine where our next surfacing project would commence.
But in 2 years time, I found myself looking at Geary Curve from a different perspective. No longer was I a section hand with the Montour RR. Personality differences between the afternoon Champion Yardmaster and Superintendent J.E.S. created a vacancy in that afternoon slot. The job was available if I wanted it, but it was not a no strings attached promotion as I had to fill in as Train Dispatcher when there was the need.
With a new job came new hours. More time was again available to rediscover photography and go back to documenting the characteristics of the Montour RR instead of, after a long tiring day on the track gang, heading home to take a nap. 
Just across the highway from the Montour RR main track was the Geary Farm and Barn. You couldn't miss that gigantic white barn with its brillant red roof, and those gigantic identifying letters on its front that added so much beauty to the land.
I had often wanted to hike out into the opposite field wanting to record a passing coal train right there at the Geary Farm. Or up there in the field behind the barn affording one a panoramic view of the farm, the barn and just beyond...the Montour RR.
The beauty and splendor of Geary Curve was there at hand.  But time...could be your worst enemy. The inexperience of a young cameraman had caught up to me. The mines were in trouble...and the Montour RR was in trouble.
The photographs I had visioned were there, just waiting. There was so much there to record. The angles...the landscape, I had much to do. The transition from wanting to be on board with train crews had been redefined. I had ridden nearly every mile of the Montour. But now, it was time to record the physical characteristics of the Montour RR.
But one of the characteristics of the Montour RR I hadn't taken into account, would be its demise. There was no formal announcement...No television ads or radio spots. A simple conversation announced the SW-9's were up for sale...#4 was flooded and Champion and Westland were adjusting operations. Furlough notices went out and life forever changed.

And thus this past December 5th, the Geary Farm was re-visited by a cold cameraman, seeking to record its silent beauty, and there in the distance, how inspiring the portrait could of been...
Years later, at a gathering in Cecil, anothers presentation of the Montour RR brought fond memories of the Geary Farm. There rounding the lengthy curve, westbound, 3 SW-9's with Champion Coal and me requesting a copy
of that scenic splendor, that arrived this Christmas Eve...
T.J.S., a Merry Christmas to You, and to all a Good Night.

Ghosts of Christmas Past - 5       S o u t h v i e w
I want to say the time was around 6 AM, December 7, 1975. The airwaves this early Sunday morning beckon my attention as Train Dispatcher R.J.K. converses with Superintendent J.E.S. This is quite unusual for a Sunday Morning, but something is wrong on the Montour RR.
By this late date of 1975, Radio Shack offered a 4 channel, VHF scanner that with the proper crystals, that could be ordered and delivered to your mailbox within 2 weeks, a dedicated means of monitoring railroad operations, more specifically, no longer did I have to worry about that Westinghouse AM/FM tunable radio that came for a Birthday years earlier, offering me that golden opportunity to listen in to the airwaves of the Montour RR. That tunable radio needed constant frequency adjustment which could result in missing out on important radio transmissions if you didn't keep a close eye on what it was....or wasn't monitoring.
So in those early waking hours of December 7, which experience from the past few years had taught, if you want to be on top of  operations, you had to be vigilant. After years of listening to Dad pound on bedroom walls, yelling turn that damn thing down... and me not wanting to miss one single event, I had to find a way to stay involved during those dark nights long after bedtime.
A idea awhile back had taught me, you can monitor the airwaves while in bed at night, by simply plugging in a earphone to the scanner, keeping its volume low, and attaching it to the head of the bed thus those nightly reminders from dad could be avoided. I also avoided all of those weekly groundings Dad had imposed for not following his directions by staying away from that railroad, which found me stuck inside my room for sometimes 2 weeks at a time.
Dad...simply didn't care. He wasn't involved with his son and he just didn't care. Mom, on the other hand, probably was glad I found the railroad as now I had someone to bond with as the guy she married simply had no interest in his kids. Mom often ran interference when Dad was on the warpath with me and the railroad. You wouldn't believe some of the comments a youngster had to endure from his own father...during those times.
But the railroad was there and so was I. I tolerated the groundings and moved forward in my pursuits now ignoring dad and...his comments, Dads way of life became less of a concern to his now teenage son. With or without the support of dad, a teenage boy followed the direction of his heart.
And so on this Sunday Morning, the airwaves contained some of the details of the unfolding event...Only able to hear Train Dispatchers side of the radio conversation, the details outlined yet another derailment...A car if off the bridge, the road is blocked and Penn Erection is notified.  R.J.K.  then advised J.E.S. the road exits over at Peacock - John, so you still have a way in and out.
In short time the 1974 Nova is enroute to Southview. Not knowing exactly what to expect,  I pull under the N&W overpass after passing Gilmore Junction, I am in awe of the derailment site.
Its a eerie scene, completely breathtaking in the near perfect early winters weather, P&LE 72392, loaded at Westland, is derailed and lying on it side, its contents of coal partially dumped on Galati Road and the embankment of the right of way, but the hopper car itself is off the bridge, and partially down in the void of the underpass.
Yes Galati Road is blocked. Superintendent J.E.S. is still on scene waiting for the arrival of Penn Erection. I go about my business of photographing the scene as Superintendent J.E.S. looks on.
Long after my arrival, Montour Section Hands arrive along with Penn Erection. J.E.S. comments to someone in his customary slang...Goddammit - I though we were out of business... close inspection of Bridge (Station) 383-B reveals no structural damage other than a broken off chunk of concrete from the top of the East Wing Wall.
Penn Erection arrives with customary bulldozer and highway crane. The dozer constructs a small access road west of Bridge 383-B so the crane can back up against  the west derailed loads and rerail them first. After each car is rerailed, the dozer is attached by winch hoist cable and pulls the car west of the derailment scene so the remaining cars can be rerailed and moved so the section men can repair the track.
As the hoppers are being rerailed, the customary sounds of the bulldozer and crane mixed with the sounds of the section hands, the cling and clang of spike mauls and such, is overwhelmed to the east as trumpets of railroad air horns echo up through Millers Run Valley. Through the trees, a headlight is seen moving west at speed. Nearly everyone's attention is focused on the N&W right of way on the hillside not far from the derailment.
Indeed, moving at speed, is a N&W westbound. I am dumbfounded by the surprise appearance of a N&W train. If I would of been seasoned in photography, a quick sprint towards Peacock on Galati Road would of afforded a splendid portrait of the N&W westbound with the Montour derailment in the foreground, but youth and inexperience find me standing next to Superintendent J.E.S. 
This N&W movement turns out to be a empty grain hopper train.
It seemed like forever, listening to the cadence of those 100 or so empty grain hoppers,  slapping rail joints all seemingly in sync with each other, as truck bolsters act like sololist, adding rythum to the movement. Wow, what a fitting finalle to this days event along the rails of the Montour RR. Superintendent J.E.S. again remarks something slang, Thank God that is over...
This event at Galati Road slowly comes to a fitting end as the last hopper is rolled over, emptying it contents on the embankment making it easier for the crane to rerail. The Section hands are now repairing the rail on the bridge deck, and I begin to think about heading home, ending another event here at Southview and along the Montour Railroad.
In the course of one weeks time, all during that first week of December 1975,  two significant event have unfolded in front of the camera here at Southview. The first event, much like this event has been written about before, as Extra 80-78-77-75 with caboose 33 ease through Peacock and down to Southview in front of my camera and friend Dave's camera, coming to a stop at the interchange switch.
The head brakeman will line the switch so the SW-9's can head up the interchange where a waiting N&W pilot crew will detour the SW-9s and crew over  23 miles of their railroad and back to Montour rail at Salida. Another derailment between Muse Junction and Mile Post 26 has the main track blocked. Montour Mine #4 is communicating it needs service, and the decision is made to detour this crew around.
Not only do Dave & I photograph the SW-9's arriving Southview, only a short distance from Galati Road, but we also relocate in time to photograph the SW-9's crossing over top the Montour as they begin their Eastward journey over N&W rails. The N&W overpass is also a short distance from Galati as the SW-9's make a striking appearance on the bridge crossing overtop the Montour.
During the upcoming year, Southview will become a point of interest for 2 additional events in the ongoing drama of the Montour RR. That first event will occur in April 1976 as the last detour over N&W rails will occur. The train crew that day, Conductor Desko, Engineman R.D. Lane, Flagman Leonard,  is one of my all time favorite Montour crews. Leonard and Desko repeatedly invite me to ride the detour while they line themselves in on the interchange. The decision is a tough choice, but I firmly state, I need photos. Yes, I could of exposed a tremendous amount of film riding the detour, with those images being quite rare and unique, but the decision was made, and as the SW-9's stop for their pilots, I begin my sttempts of driving ahead of the SW-9's now out on N&W rail.
With the scanner inside the Nova with me, Condcutor Desko is on his caboose radio, transmitting to someone down there at the derailment site between Glasses and  Venice this is a real railroad. The SW-9's are running caboose light leaving Southview,  the sounds of throttling out SW-9's is blended into Desko's radio communication, boy what a recording that would of made...
During June 1976, I am now employed with Montour Section Gang #1.  Finally I am part of the Montour RR, a dream come true. In the months ahead, winter 1976 is upon us. As Christmas is near, Section Gang #1 is advised to guage the curve west of the N&W overpass at Southview...yes, back there at Galati Road we spend a snowy winters day, sweeping the right of way so we can see. Its been snowing most of the day, and by now just to be sure, the Instamatic 126 camera is carried in by coat if a event occurs, it can be recorded.
As guaging progresses there on the curve at west of the N&W overpass, the Instamatic is used to record a N&W westbound  passing  overtop the Montour main. Our work is again delayed at Southview as a Westland crew approaches our work area with Champion coal.
As the SW-9's roar by, dragging their train off the Westland Branch, I observed the drivers under the SW-9's fighting for footing on snow covered rails, as no doubt Engineman J. Lane tries to balance out brakes, throttle and reversing gradient coming out at Gilmore.
Section gang #1, standing trackside there in the curve as 44 car loads of coal creek by, is startled by a sudden run in of slack and the explosion of a emergency application of air brakes. The slack run in is terrifying as all of that weight being bunched up suddenly. Then silence. The westbound is stopped in the winters snowfall. Comments echo from co-workers... when the external speaker on Hi-Rail Truck #1 reverberates a communication from the engineer to the conductor...were on the ground up here at Southview...
I guess the engineman was looking back over his train entering that long curve and seen the head cars derail there on the station siding switch. The derailed cars are rerailed through the evening hours and the next day Section Gang #1 is back at Southview tamping low joints and guaging the right of way at Southview. The road bed there was a mess, mud holes everywhere...No wonder.
30 Years later, as one drives through that silent community located off the beaten path along Millers Run, Southview holds so many fond remembrances from long ago. The evolution of time has changed the personality of Southview forever. As the snow fell this December 5th 2007, driving Galati Road in to Southview from Peacock, then stopping the car short of that small through girder bridge over Millers Run, standing there enjoying this first seasonal snowfall, recollections of 30 years ago were reflected upon.
In this scene, Bridge 383-B is but a memory. Removed from its location many years ago to open up overhead clearance, then having its wing walls removed and right of way redeveloped for other uses, time once again here at Galati Road is eerie, now from change...
The N&W rails up on the far hill no longer host N&W traffic. The N&W like the Montour, is just a faded memory preserved only in mind and upon film. Rails still exist up there, but now belong to a regional carrier and those empty grain hopper trains that resounded a finale to a historic event 32 years ago are also a faded part of my along the Montour Railroad at Southview...
Merry Christmas

Ghosts of Christmas Past - 6 Montour #4...
                  Montour #10...

McMurray Pennsylvania, December 5th, 2007.
Hidden in the weeds not far from the main track of the Montour Railroad, a grim reminder of what the railroad was all about.
27 years after the mines close, a sign remembers two reasons for the very existence of the Montour Railroad...Once Upon a time...


Ghosts of Christmas Past - 7   Henderson
Over the course of several years, the fascination with the Montour RR and the growing fascination of railroad photography transformed two loves into a means of sharing the memories through images of time.

Those simple standing trackside photographs still haunt me today. Yes, they are important. But the overall perspective of the right of way... the community...the characteristics of what brought our hearts in contact with the railroad, managed to escape the camera.
Along Montour's line of road through Henderson, was a series of old wood frames homes. Each and every time I passed these old homes, a glance and a notation that somehow I need to record on film the very existence of both.
So simple they were. And how neat several of them looked with the main line of the Montour RR so near. I I have repeated many times here, recording scene's not just with the railroads locomotives, but perhaps one view...of this lonely old house... mailbox waiting for delivery of Christmas cards from far and near... and in the background, some old rustic coal cars passing by...

Ghosts of Christmas Past - 8     Montour #4 Mine, Hills
Summer 1980 is here. Trouble is ahead for the Montour Railroad.Montour #4 Mine is flooding and in the very near future, Superintendent J.E.S. would be fighting a flood of trouble of his own.
Montour #4 as some of us remember, could produce 40+ car loads of Champion Coal every 8 hours. I vividly recall a few times when #4 loaded
upwards of 50 railroad cars in one eight hour shift which kept train dispatchers on their toes so as not to delay the mine.
The years leading up to that fateful summer, I remember sitting in the Train Dispatchers Office at 6:00 AM as Superintendent J.E.S. talked by telephone to certain Coal Company Officers who were calling in that days needs for all 3 mines as well as Champion.
J.E.S. was adamant about Montour #10, I'm no longer sending a crew down there...track is too bad, derailments are too expensive and unless
the coal company wanted to finance operations...
That being said, the Montour RR ceased servicing #10. The next blunder coming out of the Superintendents Office was refusing to accept PRR/PC
and Conrail system hoppers via Hills Transfer used in the movement of Champion Coal.
I was present when J.E.S. notified a unhappy Conrail Manager that those 100 empty hoppers out on Boyce Siding, the ones that had been there for
about a week, were not going to be used on the Montour RR. The reply was a stern, if you don't use them, you'll never get another empty hopper from us at Hills...
Thus those summers of 1977 and 1978. Westland didn't have hardly any railroad service as any available hopper went to Montour #4 due in fact, #4 couldn't store coal. Champion suffered car shortages of empty hoppers as well. All of those P&LE hoppers that were promised to supplement those from Mifflin Junction and Hills Transfer were only a myth while ore season was at hand on the P&LE.
By now, the P&LE influence upon the Montour RR was noted by the coal company. By years end 1980 - Superintendent J.E.S. had troubles of his own. Rumors ran rampant down at the Shops and in the General Office...but whatever it was that ended J.E.S.'s career, the damage was was too late.
As 1980 came to a close, the last crew to service Montour #4 had come and gone. The day after Christmas 1980, the last crew to service Brookside Lumber had come and gone. Muse and the entire railroad east of Gilmore Junction was slated for abandoment.
No longer did the airwaves echo out those nostalgic trainorders once so common....
 Engine 74...74,  Run Extra Champion...C H A M P I O N
to East End....E A S T  E N D ...#4...four... Mine Hills...H I L L S...
Run By and Back In...
And return to West End...W E S T  E N D...#4...four...Mine Hills...H I L L S...
Run By and Back In...
Not Protecting...

Ghosts of Christmas Past - 9    T h o m p s o n v i l l e
Standing near the East end Thompsonville Siding, this westward scene of the double track through deck girder bridge allows a tranquil view of
one the few remaining bridges once part of the Montour Railroad Company.
Located East of Montour #4, during my early years of following the Montour, this siding was used more so as a storage track rather that it being used as a passing siding.
When Montour #4 was loading one four unit train every eight hours, there was times for various reasons the Montour fell behind and not wanting to delay mine operations, train crews would be instructed to pull one or sometimes two tracks of coal out from the four track #4 loaded yard, then shove those loads to Thompsonville Siding for storage until railroad operations allowed a means for movement to Champion.
Other times, westbound crews returning from Montour #10 would be instructed to either set their train off at Thompsonville...or...stop back at Thompsonville, put empties in #4 off Hills Transfer, then either pull coal out of #4 then shove to Thompsonville...or...with their coal from #10, fill out to tonnage at #4.
Then there were times that are still recorded on cassette tape recordings, crews departing Mifflin Junction with 30 or 40 or 50 empty hoppers, being instructed to set off their empties at Thompsonville, then run light out to Boyce Siding on the PRR, and pull Boyce in filling #4, so another 100 car order can be placed with the PRR.
Besides being built on a gradient, the ugly side of Thompsonville Siding was it being used to clean hoppers coming in off Hills Transfer. Hopper car pockets occasionally had remnants of its last car loads... of coke, iron ore, stone, limestone or metal that the coal company wanted removed before reloading. From one end of Thompsonville to its other, small piles of these raw materials were everywhere.
My first years associated with the Montour RR, hardly a passing trip through Thompsonville, would not find the siding full of PRR...PC or Pennsylvania hoppers waiting their turn through #4's tipple for another load of Champion Coal....or simply waiting for a extra crew to haul these stored loads of Champion Coal, West.
Down at Thompsonville's West End, was Easton Lumber with its spur built off the West End of the siding. Easton Lumber also had a garden hose tucked away so train crews, when needed, could add cooling water to the locomotives. During the summer of 1973 Engineer D.J.L. and Brakeman Roy Parkinson were stopped at Easton one afternoon as the SW-9's needed watered. Roy instructed this 16 year old up on top of the SW-9's, unscrew the radiator cap so water could be added to the cooling system.
Talk about excitement...along with my first close up look at a SW-9 locomotive bell which was inches away then a look down into the exhaust stacks of idling General Motors 567 diesel engines. After watering the SW-9's, Roy proceeded to hose out the interior of their gigantic green x: U.P. caboose...before putting a train together and starting the trip west towards Champion...
This was Thompsonville - During its Time...

Ghosts of Christmas Past - 10    McDonald Viaduct - 2
On that snowy December 5th just 2 weeks ago, I spent over a hour at the Viaduct recording the winter snow from many different angles...
 The winter storm had worked magic here at McDonald... From the the Transfer...from Noblestown to 980, I recorded as best I and camera could.
The quaint farm house that sits at the corner of 980 and Noblestown always intrigued me. At a guess, I have three seperate scenes of
this little spread with the SW-9's doing their best....
But somewhere did I once read, this once was a school house for little kids to be...
Needless today, quite impressive to say...

Ghosts of Christmas Past - 11   Henderson  Company Store
On this Christmas Eve, what would it be, without a tribute to the company way..

Ghosts of Christmas Past - 12

The Finale of Ghosts of Christmas Past, brings to a end the sharing of some great memories from a lost time along the Montour Railroad.
I hope all of you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.
As originally stated, Ghosts of Christmas Past was not planned. A series of un-planned  event brought about this idea. From the snowy
December 5th vacation day, to a drive along the railroad, then on December 7th, the idea to do this.
But there are so many stories yet to tell...
Once upon a time, December 1973 as neighbor friend Dave L. and I begin the short walk to St. Germaines for Saturday evening church.
A lone air horn announces the approach of a Montour crew passing over Horning Road, only a mile from our Bethel Park homes.
I beckon Dave to Salida with me...thats a MONTOUR Dave listening in to cadence of  EMD's...
Minutes later, the SW-9's throttle to a stop behind the N&W dwarf signal there at Salida.
Back on the third SW-9, the cab door swings open and a stocky gentleman, exits heading for the N&W telephone at the connection switch. With the permission from the N&W train dispatcher, Conductor Desko lines the switch, and all three of us climb back up on that 3rd SW-9 as Engineer H. Wirth restarts those 45 car loads of Mifflin Coal.
Arrival at Mifflin Junction, the SW-9's are cut away from the train at the scale, back through the yard they go to run around the train. We walk the train with the P&LE brakeman as air is bled off. One by one each car is pushed over the scale. As the 3rd car is cut away, it stops on live rail. Desko comments about this 3rd car. At #4 is was seen sparking and the air was bled off. At Brookside the same thing, sparks and the air was bled off. Now out on Mifflin Scale, it won't roll on its own, a inspection found it is off center. Two deep groves are newly cut in its slope sheets.
Then another time riding with Roy and D.J., it was winter 1976, to Westland we go one cold winters night. With four SW-9's we start back westbound, passing Westland Yard Board we find were on the ground. Four cars near the caboose  derailed under the power line, as Blumling radio's D.J. telling him the train is cut away, don't dare stop as the snow's too deep,  we'll come over top...
And was it that first night I Dispatched on my own...
Oh what a mess I had sewn.
Two crews called East...
Two crews coming West.
What a feat that night of meets...
By 12 that Night, we had penned, 30 orders or more.
Run by Back In....
Take Siding and Meet...
I could do no More...
Merry Christmas

 Gene P. Schaeffer