John Oyler: Bridgeville’s research center for railfans
Five years ago, Jim Fry donated his collection of railroad memorabilia to the Bridgeville Area Historical Society to become the nucleus of their railroad exhibit in the caboose annex at the History Center. His contribution included 140 books and pamphlets, plus 34 VHS tapes related to railroading.
Recently, I had the occasion to be updated on the status of the society’s collection of railroad-related information. I have been aware of individual additions in the ensuing years, but really had no idea how extensive they have been.
At this point, the accumulation of documents and memorabilia has created a valuable research center for anyone interested in railroading, and particularly as it concerns our local railroads.
Both of Gene Schaeffer’s fine books dealing with the Montour Railroad are included — the original 1997 volume as a paperback and the subsequent 2008 version, full of wonderful photographs.
David Aitken’s “The Little Saw Mill Run Railroad: Its Life and Legacy” is another treasure. Mr. Aitken donated a copy to the society after making a presentation on that subject at one of their program meetings.
The Chartiers Valley Railroad and its successor, Pennsylvania Railroad’s Chartiers Branch, are expertly documented in three copies of “Keystone” magazine. Doug Mahrer’s fine description of that topic is included in these issues.
The history of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad is well covered by Howard V. Worley Jr.’s “Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railroad” and by “The Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway: The Story of the High and Dry,” by Mr. Worley and William Poellot Jr.
“Three Feet on the Panhandle” by Larry L. Koehler and Morgan J. Gayvert is a comprehensive review of the Waynesburg and Washington Railroad, the wonderful narrow gauge line that extended the Chartiers Branch 28 miles into Greene County.
The same railroad is discussed in a massive document produced by Mike Carrozza and presented to the society in a large binder. “Sixty Miles to Waynesburg” is a remarkable collection of photographs, maps, time tables and other documents focused on railroading in the Chartiers Valley.
The title of this collection celebrates the fact that it was possible to travel by train the 60 miles from Pittsburgh to Waynesbug, a trip that took about three hours, if all connections were properly made. His title page includes the comment “Including Branch Lines and Intersecting Railroad Lines”; the detail by which this comment is implemented is unprecedented.
Three other binders contain valuable railroad-related information. One is a collection of articles by Peter Roehm dealing with the Wabash Railroad. Bob Kurchena put together a binder full of memorabilia from the Pennsylvania Railroad. Dana Spriggs printed out a large number of newspaper articles dealing with the murder of Pennsylvania Railroad station agent James Franks and compiled them in a binder.
Two additional donations from Jim Fry were a pair of handsome books dealing with railroad art, “In the Traces: Railroad Paintings,” by Ted Rose, and “The Railroad Artistry of Howard Fogg,” by Roland C. Hill and Al Chione. Both books contain very impressive railroad art.
The extent and variety of railroading information that the society possesses, especially as related to our local area, is unique. Our challenge is to find ways to communicate it to a niche group, railfans.