Presbyterian College > Academic Web Server > Jon Bell > Transit > (Cities | Types) > Pittsburgh > Light Rail

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:
Light Rail

In the early 1960s, Pittsburgh had the largest surviving streetcar system in the United States. The Pittsburgh Railways Company operated more than 600 PCC cars on 41 routes. In 1964 the system was acquired by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which rapidly converted to buses. By the early 1970s, only a handful of streetcar routes remained, most of which used the Mt. Washington Tunnel just south of the Monongahela River to reach the South Hills area.

In 1985 a short subway replaced the street-running tracks in downtown Pittsburgh and a converted railroad bridge over the Monongahela River replaced the tracks on the Smithfield Street bridge. Part of the system was upgraded to modern light-rail status, with articulated cars built by Duewag (now Siemens). A short extension was built to the South Hills Village shopping center.

During the period when the pictures on this page were taken, service was operated on three routes:

On 4 September 1999, the following route had its last day of service:

Until 1993, PCC streetcars operated on a second route between South Hills Junction and Castle Shannon, the "Overbrook route". This was the original route used by the Library and Drake streetcars (and earlier, the Charleroi and Washington interurbans). In the 1980s part of it was incorporated into a busway, with the tracks running in the busway pavement. The rest was left in its original state, partly single track with passing sidings, clinging to the side of a valley with several trestles spanning cross-valleys. This route was closed because the track and roadbed were deteriorating. It has now been rebuilt into a modern light-rail line and re-opened on 2 June 2004. Since then, the service pattern has been as follows:


These pictures were scanned from film negatives during 2006-2007.

[picture] The Gateway Center station is the terminus of the downtown subway. (August 1994)

[picture] Rush-hour passengers prepare to board a train at the Steel Plaza station, in a view looking down from the mezzinine level. (August 1994)

[picture] A northbound train emerges from the tunnel on its way from Steel Plaza to Penn Park. When I took these pictures, only two trains per weekday (both at about 5:00 pm) served this short spur. (August 1999)

[picture] One of the two daily trains (as of summer 1999) leaves Penn Park for South Hills Village. The bus at the left is about to enter the East Busway, which begins here. Someday the light-rail line might be extended along the busway route. (August 1999)

[picture] A train stops at Station Square just after crossing the Monongahela River. After turning left up ahead, it will enter the Mt. Washington tunnel. A short walk away are the Station Square shopping complex (in the former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad station) and the lower terminal of the Monongahela Incline. (August 1999)

The north [picture] and south [picture] ends of the Mt. Washington Tunnel. It was originally built for streetcars only (in the early 1900s, I think), and was modified in the 1980s so that buses can now use it also [picture]. (August 1999)

[picture] A view of the trackwork at South Hills Junction, seen from the hillside to the north. The train at the station at upper right is headed south towards Beechview on route 42S or 42L. The tracks at the top lead to the (at that time) suspended "Overbrook route" to Castle Shannon, Library and Drake. The tracks at lower left carry route 52 to Warrington Avenue, and the tracks at lower right enter the Mt. Washington tunnel. (August 1999)

[picture] A southbound train on route 42S arrives at the Dawn stop at the south end of the Palm Garden trestle, just south of South Hills Junction. Until the 1980s, this bridge was used only by streetcars; then it was rebuilt as part of the light-rail upgrade and construction of the South Busway, and it now carries both LRVs and buses. The ramp to the right is the South Busway. (August 1999)

[picture #1] | [picture #2] A bridge spans a populated valley between the Westfield stop and the Fallowfield station on routes 42S and 42L. (August 1999)

[picture]After crossing the bridge shown in the previous picture, a southbound route 42S train turns from Fallowfield onto Broadway in Beechview. In this street-running section of the route, trains mix with cars just as in the streetcar era. (August 1999)

[picture]A bit further along, a northbound 42L train stops at Hampshire with its in-street boarding island, in August 1999. Except for the vehicles, the scene looks very much the same as in 1972 [picture]

[picture] A northbound 42S train stops at the Boustead stop on a residential section of Broadway in Beechview. (August 1999)

[picture] Between the Potomac and Dormont Junction stations, routes 42S and 42L cut diagonally through a grid of residential streets, on private right of way. Here a southbound train is about to cross Alabama Street. (August 1999)

[picture] Between the Dormont Junction and Mt. Lebanon stations is another tunnel, which replaced a street-running section along busy Washington Road. Here a northbound 42L train approaches Dormont Junction just after leaving the tunnel. (August 1999)

[picture] A northbound train at the Martin Villa stop, just south of Castle Shannon, in August 1999. Compare this with the same location in 1972 [picture].

This page was last updated on 20 August 2007.

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