Pennsylvania Lines West of Pittsburgh and Erie

Back in the last 1990s, I remember walking along the (now) CSX line that was once the original Madison & Indianapolis Railroad. While I was walking, I noticed a manhole cover with a keystone on it, and the letters “PL.” It is the same logo that I noticed in mosaic form at the corner of Maryland and Alabama Streets before the construction of Bankers Life Fieldhouse and its attendant structures.

I had always known that that old route was part of the Pennsylvania Railroad, as if the bridge that crossed Pleasant Run Parkway in Garfield Park wasn’t enough of a dead giveaway. The Pennsylvania Railroad always seemed to be a very important part of my family’s life, given that my mother grew up with the PRR Main Line between Pittsburgh and Altoona in her back yard, and my father’s father ran trains along that very line as an engineer. Doing genealogy in later years, the PRR would show up in many an occupation field on census images. The Pennsy was important!

What I didn’t know at the time, and what most people still don’t because of the time that has passed, is that the Pennsylvania Railroad, for the longest time, didn’t officially appear anywhere in Indiana until after 1921. The lines that we know of as the PRR, the Panhandle (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis), the Vandalia, and the Fort Wayne (Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago) were all actually combined into a holding company called “The Pennsylvania Company.” While the people in Philadelphia running the PRR held controlling interest, the lines in question were generally run as separate lines.

And collectively, they were called the “Pennsylvania Lines West of Pittsburgh and Erie.” This might seem strange, until one considers that the official original charter of the Pennsylvania Railroad was for a railroad that was to connect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. That’s it. Everything else outside of that was outside the scope of the PRR charter. Also, I had seen, in numerous sources, that PRR management in Philadelphia wanted to keep ties to other companies to a minimum.

So, what does this have to do with Indiana Transportation History? Well, honestly, the railroad that had the most trackage in Indiana were railroads that came under the “PLWPE,” or Pennsylvania Company, umbrella. Through consolidations, the PLWPE ended up connecting Pittsburgh to Indianapolis, Logansport, St. Louis, Fort Wayne, Louisville and any number of smaller towns along the way. Logansport and Fort Wayne became major railroad cities thanks to the PLWPE.

But in the wave of consolidations, the Pennsylvania Company was eliminated and the lines it controlled ended up falling into the Pennsylvania Railroad proper. This occurred in 1921. Many places still have monuments to the Pennsylvania Railroad. There are many bridges that still have the keystone logo either painted or pressed into them across Indiana. But there are very few remnants of the old PL logo.

I went back after a few years to find that the old manhole cover was long gone. While I would have never taken it in the first place, I dreaded the fact that it was probably in a scrap yard someplace without any consideration that even at the time it might have been 100 years old or better. The old mosaic from Maryland and Alabama Streets was saved, for a while, by the Indiana Transportation Museum in Noblesville. But since they were evicted from Forest Park, I am not even sure if that is still around. (No political comments about that whole fiasco, please. Suffice it to say that there are things I would rather do than visit Noblesville ever again. Appendectomy with a chain saw comes to mind.) It makes me wonder if the ITM managed to save that piece of history, or if the city of Noblesville just destroyed it. Anyone with answers, I would appreciate them.

I do really hope they saved it. Not only for the history, but also due to the very fact that it would be more in place where the ITM is now than it ever was in Noblesville. Heck, the ITM is in Logansport on the old Pennsylvania Line West of Pittsburgh and Erie to Kokomo.

4 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Lines West of Pittsburgh and Erie

  1. I would love to see the old mosaic returned to downtown Indy. Since the Cultural Trail runs right next to the old train yard that the mosaic was attached to, it would be a nice cultural display with a little history of the Pennsy and downtown rail in general

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