The Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad (P&S), also known as the Shawmut Line, once connected Freeport Junction to Brockway, Pennsylvania. The P&S historically operated as an independent railroad that moved coal and other aggregates in west-central Pennsylvania. Today, much of the line has been abandoned.
The P&S had its beginnings after millionaire Mark Hopkins died in 1879. 1 His widow, Mary Frances Hopkins, married New York architect and home decorator Edward T. Searles. Frances passed away in 1891 and bequeathed her estate to her husband.
Searles, in collaboration with Thomas H. Hubbard, decided to use the money to build a railroad. 1 On July 21, 1903, the Brookville & Mahoning (B&M) was incorporated to transport coal from western Pennsylvania to the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) at Brockway. The company would be based out of Brockway, which would include a main classification yard, car shops and steam shops.
The first segment of track, at nine miles, opened between Brookville and Knoxdale. 1 It included a short brancxh to Ramsaytown. By 1907, the B&M was completed to Brockway, a distance of 20.9 miles.
At Brockway, the B&M interchanged with the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern (PS&N) and the Erie. 1 In 1908, the B&M was leased by the PS&N, which stretched from Brockway north to Wayland, New York with branches to Hornell, Olean and Tyler, Pennsylvania. The lease was terminated in 1916 after the PS&N went into bankruptcy.
The B&M changed its name to the Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad (P&S) on January 3, 1910 after being routinely confused with the Boston & Maine Railroad. 1 It’s cars were often sent to the northeast.
The P&S then focused its attention on completing its line to Freeport, a distance of 88 miles, where it connected with the PRR. 1 It’s new line, generally along the Allegheny River, also connected with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at West Mosgrove.
The completed P&S included:
- Mauk Tunnel at 1,989 feet
- Sprankle Viaduct at 1,430 feet long and 150 feet high
- Coutler Tunnel at 2,035 feet
- East Branch Viaduct at 1,478 feet and 128 feet high
- Knoxdale Tunnel at 812 feet
- Mahoning Tunnel at 1,040 feet
The P&S offered passenger service which ceased completely in 1938. 1 At that point, it was utilizing a gasoline-powered “Doodlebug” to haul children from school in Kittanning and Brookville.
In 1990, the P&S acquired 10 miles of the former PRR low grade secondary line from Conrail between Sligo and Lawsonham and operated it as the Red Bank Railroad. 1 In 1991, it added an additional 104.3 miles of former PRR from Conrail between Lawsonham to Driftwood and operated it as the Mountain Laurel Railroad.
The P&S was acquired by the Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) in 1996. 1 Under the G&W, much of the trackage was mothballed and then abandoned, leaving just 24½ miles between Freeport Junction and Reesedale where it served a coal-fired power plant. In 2004, the line was dissolved into the G&W regional Buffalo & Pittsburgh.
On January 26, 2012, it was announced that FirstEnergy would close the Reesdale Power Plant in order to comply with federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines. 2 It was determined that it would be too expensive to install pollution scrubbers and other air pollution control upgrades. The last load of coal was delivered to the power plant in February.