Site hosted by Build your free website today!
Pittsburgh Railways

History - Page 6

Operation of air-electric PCCs ended in August 1986; the last 18 re-numbered 1600s were among a group of 24 cars removed from the property in December. Spot inspections of unrebuilt 1700s in 1988 revealed advanced deterioration of electrical and other components. These inspections followed a number of equipment failures. One such incident was a dramatic, if over-publicized incident in which a PCC lost its brakes in the Mt. Washington tunnel, derailing in Station Square. Serious injuries were limited, thanks to the actions of the quick-thinking operator, who guided passengers to safety at the back of the car and sent dispatchers an urgent radio message to clear Station Square.

In the interest of safety, PAT banished 36 PCCs from further service effective August 1. Of these, 27 were stored for parts. The sudden loss of so many cars severely compromised PAT's ability to maintain full schedules on the unrebuilt trolley lines. Of these, only Library might be able to accomodate LRVs without a total reconstruction, which PAT was not then prepared to finance.

Library's double track right-of-way was wide enough for LRVs in most places, but the devil strip between the tracks wasn't. PAT gave the line a rudimentary upgrade, renovating the track and roadbed with wider track centers to accomodate the heavy, wide LRVs. Low-level stops were still the standard on Library, and the LRVs' low-level end doors proved invaluable for this service. The big Siemens cars began running through to Library in 1988, rerouted via Beechview/Mt. Lebanon. LRV operation to Library over the precarious 5.5 mile "side-of-the-hill" Overbrook line was then practically impossible.

LRV on Library's private-right-of-way, May 20, 2000.

On June 6, 1993, rail service on Overbrook was suspended due to deteriorating track, structures and power supply. PAT began a track reconstruction project in the Mount Washington light rail/bus tunnel the same day, with 42S and 42L LRVs .I detoured over the Allentown line until October 31. PAT maintained that its available resources could not support the extensive reconstruction of bridges and structures (including precarious single track segments) needed to keep Overbrook running with PCCs, let alone with the larger, heavier LRVs. Routes 47 Castle Shannon via Overbrook and 47S South Hills Village via Overbrook were suspended, replaced by Shannon-Overbrook buses between Castle Shannon and Downtown Pittsburgh. The outer end of route 47D Drake survived as a shuttle between Drake Loop and Castle Shannon, where through passengers transferred to and from LRVs or buses to complete their journeys.

Prior to the light rail era, Overbrook's bucolic right of way provided a rapid ride between down- town and the outer reaches of Drake and Library. Route 42/38 was, by contrast, a local with stretches of slow, congested street running. South of Creek Clearview Loop, the right of way to Castle Shannon was single track with passing sidings, and service on that segment was later restricted to rush hours. The service had earlier been operated as a separate entity, shuttle route 38A.

Stage I initially brought more and speedier service to the route, with LRVs running through to South Hills Village all day long. The suspension of Overbrook service and the re-routing of Library cars through Beechview-Mt. Lebanon meant that all major rail services now used the formerly local corridor. Restoration of the Overbrook line -- called a longshot by some observers in 1993 -- grew increasingly desireable as rush hour delays and crowded cars prevailed in Beechview and Mt. Lebanon during the 1990s.

Eclipse of PCCs
Also during the '90s, speculation brewed about the imminent demise of the aging PCCs. By the time Overbrook was suspended, only 16 remained: 4001-4012 (4000 was re-numbered 4012 in 1986), and four spruced-up 1700s (1713/37/45/65). These were relegated to the diminutive Drake Shuttle, while dead cars rusted out their days on the back tracks at South Hills Village yard.

PCC 1706 and sisters at South Hills Village, May 1996.

Anxious to be rid of these rusting hulks, PAT hired contractors equipped to safely remove asbestos insultation from the last 30 stored cars before cutting them up on the property. With the carbodies reduced to manageable pieces of scrap metal, salvageable materials were loaded onto trucks and carted away. Scrapping finished early in 1998, leaving just five PCCs (4001/04/07-/09) on the property.

PCC 4004 stops at Castle Shannon on the last day of PCC service, Sept. 4, 1999.

Sixty-three years of PCC operation ended with the suspension of Drake Shuttle rail service on Saturday, September 4, 1999, followed by a farewell fan trip the next day. Reconstruction of Drake for LRV operation was contemplated under Stage II, but that was well into the future, the PCCs simply had to go. Three cars were in service at the end (4004/08/09), and Port Authority estimated that keeping them in operation might cost as much as $1 million over two years -- a good deal of money for cars which served about 50 daily riders.

An era had ended. But the future of light rail in Pittsburgh was about to take a turn for the better.

Return to Pittsburgh Railways OnLine Homepage

Proceed to History, Page 7