There was one other survivor. Route 49 Arlington-Warrington had been created in 1971 by combining portions of the surviving 48 Arlington and 49 Beltzhoover lines. The route climbed uphill from downtown on the surface tracks of Arlington and Warrington avenues. Its chief virtue was that it provided an alternative route between downtown and the South Hills if the Mount Washington tunnel was blocked. This was amply demonstrated during tunnel reconstruction projects in the 1970s and 1990s. The line survived into the light rail era, and was rechristened 52 Allentown in 1984.
|Rolling through Allentown, March 22, 1999.|
In the meantime, PAT's battered PCC cars soldiered on, and with replacements nowhere in the near future, a modest rebuilding program was begun. Between 1972 and 1979, 25 1600-series air cars (built 1945-46) were given intensive overhauls and were assigned numbers from scrapped 1700-series cars. A handful were subjected to novel modifications including back-up controllers and modernised LRV-style end caps. Such actions seemed to confirm that PAT was was finally thinking ahead to a new era, which would include trolleys, albeit vastly different trolleys than the Steel City had ever seen.
|Renumbered and rebuilt, 1789 started life as a 1600-series car. It is seen at Clearview Loop, Mt. Lebanon, in Dec. 1976. Ken Josephson photo.|
|All-electric PCC 1702 wears one of the many vertical stripe designs applied to PAT PCCs in the 1970s. Photo by an anonymous friend in Pennsylvania; print in Roger DuPuis Collection.|
The Shannon-Overbrook, Library and Drake lines, which reached the suburbs via the precarious side-of-the-hill Overbrook tracks, also were retained. But they were not to be part of the Stage I program; their conversion to LRT was postponed indefinitely. In the interim, federal funding was secured for basic infrastructure repairs on these lines. While LRVs would provide primary service on the Stage I LRT system, PAT planned to rebuild 45 all-electric 1700-series PCCs (built 1948-49) to serve the rehabbed Overbrook routes.
Stage I construction began at the outer ends of the line, working toward the middle. The first phase kicked off December 10, 1980, with groundbreaking for the South Hills Village Rail Operations Center. The 60-acre facility, along with a new passenger station and 200-space parking lot were built adjacent to the popular South Hills Village shopping mall. The Skybus maintenance facility had been slated for the site.
Branching westward immediately south of the Dorchester stop, an all-new half-mile spur connected the existing tracks of the Drake line with with the new South Hills Village complex via a a bridge spanning busy Fort Couch Road. The new complex would replace the aging former PRC shop and yard facilities at South Hills Junction, south of the Mount Washington tunnel.
Trackage at the southern end of the system, from South Hills Village to Castle Shannon, was re-opened on April 15, 1984, with PCC 1769 doing the honors. Through service to Drake and Library, closed south of Castle Shannon since 1982 due to construction, resumed the same day. PCCs from downtown reached the outer terminals via the Overbrook line.
Subway construction began in 1982. The new alignment routed trolleys off the aging Smithfield Street Bridge and onto the disused PRR Panhandle span. That bridge formerly carried Pennsy's long-distance St. Louis trains and commuter runs across the Monongahela River and into the downtown Pennsylvania Station via a short tunnel. Rebuilt for the new light rail line, this corridor was intended to carry the cars to Penn Station, where riders could transfer between LRVs and PAT's Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway.
But the Panhandle-Penn Station alignment was somewhat removed from the commercial heart of Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle, which remained the focal point of surface transit services. To bring the cars downtown, an entirely new subway branched off of the railroad tunnel at the new Steel Plaza subway station, running below Sixth and Liberty avenues. Midway along the tunnel, Wood Street station was built under the Sixth-Liberty-Wood intersection. Turning south under Liberty Avenue, the line terminated at Gateway Center station, under the Liberty-Stanwix intersection. Turnback facilities there consisted of a large loop, negotiable by PCCs and LRVs.
Pittsburgh's new subway opened in July 1985. A downtown tradition ended July 7, when 125 years of surface streetcar operations in the Golden Triangle wrapped up with a late-night PCC fan trip.
|LRV 4109 pauses at the Wood Street subway station, circa 2000.|
The 3,000-foot-long, double track Mt. Lebanon-Dormont tunnel was bored between Shady Drive and McFarland Road. There are no stations inside the tunnel. Dormont Junction and Mt. Lebanon Stations are located outside its north and south portals, respectively. The latter is situated at roughly the same location as the former Clearview loop, used by the erstwhile 42/38 cars.
Soon after 42/38 service was withdrawn, reconstruction of the route between South Hills Junction and Castle Shannon -- the middle section of the system -- began with removal of the existing track and overhead. While the basic right-of-way alignment was retained, its transformation was remarkable. An antiquated, suburban trolley line with conventional jointed rail, aging overhead and single track segments was reborn as a wholly double track light rail line with welded rail and modern catenary.
The line still winds around some sharp curves and through residential neighborhoods, cutting across the yards of some homes in the process. Conventional street running was retained on Broadway through Beechview, where passengers board LRVs at safety islands in the center of the street.
|Street running in Beechview, May 20, 2000.|
Regular service to Penn Station -- Penn Park in PAT nomenclature -- began a little over a year later. Short turn runs were using the branch for layovers prior to that time. Under-utilized since its opening, Penn Park was served by a free shuttle from Steel Plaza until 1993.
Stage I was up and running, and the new system was dubbed "The T." By the 1980s, rapid transit planners tended to avoid the word subway, fearing it would evoke in the public mind, rightly or wrongly, images of crime- and graffiti-Laden systems such as New York's. Euro-chic Metro was the pre-ferred term used by many new systems, but it just didn't seem to fit in Pittsburgh. The nickname T, used successfully in Boston, was adopted in Pittsburgh as modern-speak for trolley, that time-worn bit of Pittsburghese. The distinctive circle- T logo designed for the LRT system (and initially used only on LRVs) is reminiscent of Boston's MBTA logo.
PAT introduced operation of two-car LRV trains in peak hours and had experimented with LRV express runs, such as the short-lived 43S. PCCs still held down service on the unrebuilt lines. LRVs and PCCs mingled between Gateway Center and South Hills Junction, and between Castle Shannon and South Hills Village. Regular operation saw the two fleets otherwise segregated from one another.
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