Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad

The Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, commonly referred to as the Panhandle Route, was part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system that connected Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Bradford, Ohio where the line split into routes to Chicago, Illinois, Indianapolis, Indiana, and East St. Louis, Illinois.


Steubenville & Indiana Railroad

The Steubenville & Indiana Railroad (S&I) was established on February 24, 1848, with the intention of constructing a railway from the Ohio River at Steubenville to a location near the Indiana state border, close to Willshire and Fort Recovery. In March 1849, the S&I received authorization to construct a bridge over the Ohio River at Steubenville and to extend the railway westward to Columbus.

Progress in constructing the railway westward was hampered by the challenging hilly landscape, necessitating the construction of numerous tunnels. Specifically, the construction of the Bowerston tunnel was particularly time-consuming, taking two years to complete due to the need for arching and building side walls in some sections. The railway’s initial segment between Steubenville and Unionport opened on December 22, 1853. This was soon followed by an extension westward to Cadiz Junction on February 2, 1854, and a branch line to Cadiz was finished on June 12 of the same year. The mainline continued to expand westward, reaching Masterville on June 22, Bowerston on July 12, and finally Newark on April 11, 1855.

On April 16, 1857, the S&I finalized an arrangement with the Central Ohio Railroad for the use of its tracks from Newark to Columbus, thereby completing the railway’s originally planned route.

Tunnel No. 4Reeds MillTunnelAbandoned
Tunnel No. 5Fairplay/BroadacreTunnelAbandoned
Tunnel No. 6FairplayTunnelAbandoned
Tunnel No. 7BowerstonTunnelAbandoned

Pittsburgh & Steubenville Railroad

The Pittsburgh & Steubenville Railroad (P&S) was established on March 24, 1849, with the goal of constructing a railway from Steubenville to a point near the Monongahela River close to Pittsburgh. On April 21, 1852, the P&S received authorization to extend its line directly into Pittsburgh. To facilitate construction, the S&I transferred the rights of way it had obtained from 36 landowners in Virginia to the P&S. This transfer allowed the P&S to proceed with construction without needing its own charter in Virginia.

The inaugural through train service connecting Pittsburgh and Columbus via the P&S commenced on October 2, 1865. 3

Subsequently, the P&S was sold during a foreclosure to the Panhandle Railway, which had been chartered in April 1861, on November 6, 1867. A consolidation occurred on April 30, 1868, when the S&I, Panhandle, and Holiday’s Cove Railroad merged, creating the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway’s (PC&StL) Panhandle Line. This railway was further expanded in September 1890, when the PC&StL merged with the Cincinnati & Richmond Railroad and the Jeffersonville, Madison, and Indianapolis Railroad, forming the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway (PCC&StL).

Pennsylvania Railroad

By 1893, the Panhandle Line had been largely upgraded to double tracks, incorporating gauntlet tracks within its tunnels to bypass the need for switching. 1 The line was then leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in 1921, which led to it becoming one of the busiest rail lines in the United States by the time of World War II. 2

In 1949, the PRR initiated a significant construction project aimed at enhancing the Panhandle Line between Dennison, Ohio, and Steubenville. The objectives were to increase clearance heights to facilitate the transport of exceptionally large loads and to complete the double-tracking of the route. 1 To accomplish this, the PRR decided to eliminate Tunnel Nos. 4 through 7.

The removal of Tunnel No. 7 was a major part of this project, commencing in June with a $2 million investment. This phase involved creating a new mile of track through a cut that was 600 feet long and 220 feet deep, necessitating the excavation of 2½ million cubic yards of earth, the blasting of one million cubic yards of rock, and the use of 500,000 pounds of explosives. 1 The project reached completion on October 24, 1950.

On April 2, 1956, the PRR incorporated the PCC&StL into its Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington Railroad (PB&W) subsidiary. In a significant rail industry development in 1968, the PRR merged with the New York Central Railroad, creating the Penn Central Transportation (PC). However, the PC faced financial difficulties and failed in 1976, eventually leading to its reorganization as Conrail.


Following the merger that led to the creation of Conrail, a train wreck west of Steubenville necessitated the rerouting of Conrail trains. Consequently, trains that originally traveled on the Panhandle Line were diverted to the Fort Wayne Line, with much of the traffic heading to St. Louis being redirected onto the Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Chicago Line. 2 Observing the benefits of reduced operating costs, Conrail decided to cease using the Panhandle Line from Columbus westward to Bradford. At Bradford, the railroad branched into two segments: a northern route to Chicago and a southern route to Indianapolis.

In the mid-1980s, Conrail sought to abandon portions of the Panhandle Line between Columbus and Pittsburgh, including three branch lines. 2 This move was met with opposition from local, state, and federal officials, who successfully prevented the abandonment. In 1992, the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) persuaded Caprail I to purchase the section of the Panhandle Line stretching from Columbus eastward to Weirton for $7.3 million. This section was then leased to the ORDC for 20 years, which in turn granted an operating franchise for the line to the Columbus & Ohio Railroad. This arrangement allowed Conrail to abandon the segment of the Panhandle Line running from Weirton to Pittsburgh.

Today, the easternmost part of the Panhandle Line, between Carnegie, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh, has been repurposed as the West Busway, dedicated solely to bus traffic. The stretch from Carnegie to Walkers Mill is managed by the Pittsburgh & Ohio Central Railroad. The section from Walkers Mill to Weirton, West Virginia, has been transformed into the Panhandle Trail, part of a rail-to-trail conversion. The segment extending west from Weirton to Columbus is operated by the Columbus & Ohio Railroad.



  1. Baker, Jon. “Bowerston rail tunnel opened roads for nearly a century before elimination.” Times Reporter [New Philadelphia] 2 Mar. 2014: n. pag. Print.
  2. “Panhandle Rail Line Anti-Privatization Opinion.” Multimodalways. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2016. Article.
  3. “The Pittsburgh and Steubenville Railroad.” New York Times, 1 Oct. 1865, p. 1.


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Allow me to correct my previous comment as I just visited and photographed these tunnels. Everything I previously said is correct with exception to tunnel 4. Tunnels 1&2 are part of the Pittsburgh Transit Authority. Tunnels 3&4 are bypassed and along the Panhandle Trail.

If you can, can you tell me then who currently owns the ralroad along South 6th St in Steubenville Ohio?


These tunnel numbers and locations are incorrect. Tunnel 4 is part of the port authority of Pittsburgh I believe. Tunnel 5 is Gould tunnel at Mingo Junction and is still active. Tunnel 6 is at Reeds Mill and it is abandoned as well as tunnels 7 + 8 at broadacre + 9 + 10 which are now bat sanctuaries. Tunnel 9 is in the Jewett area and tunnel 10 is it Bowerston.

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