Trolley Tracks in the North Hills

Submitted by CTHS on September 07, 2017 - 10:56 pm
Car 111 at Keown

Please join us for the 2017 CTHS Fall Program on September 13, 2017 at 6:15 pm in Franklin Road Station next to the Library in the Cranberry Township Municipal Center at 2525 Rochester Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066. This program is brought to you by the Cranberry Township Historical Society and the Cranberry Public Library.

One of the most popular subjects for our talks has been the Harmony Line, the electric trolley that ran from Pittsburgh through Cranberry Township, then to Evans City and beyond. The car barn was located in Harmony. For our next talk, we are getting two Trolley lines for one trolley price. Our speaker is trolley expert Bill Fronczek, and he will talk about the Harmony Line (also known as the Harmony Route), which had the official name of the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler and New Castle Railway, and he will also talk about the Butler Short Line, which had the official name of the Pittsburgh and Butler Street Railway. Both cars lines ran from overhead electrified wires through the North Hills. The Harmony Line ran from Pittsburgh through what is now the McKnight Road corridor, along Evergreen Road, through Ingomar, Warrendale, then through Cranberry Township. Cranberry had six trolley stops: Duthil, Criders, Rowan, Franklin Road, Plains Church and the West stop. The Criders stop was at Meeders Store (now Burger King) and was a popular local stop. These two trolley lines were a Godsend to the locals in 1908 as it would take over a day to ride by horse to Pittsburgh. People riding the trolley could shop in Pittsburgh and be home in the evening. Farmers could now use the freight cars to move crops and milk. Saw mills moved lumber on it and laborers such as oilmen traveled to the wells. No longer would wagons get stuck in the mud on Perrysville Road (Rt. 19). School children also had a reliable way to school. After leaving Cranberry Township, the Harmony Line continued on to Evans City then to Butler or New Castle and it's spur to Beaver Falls.

The Butler Short Line, which started to run a year earlier, traveled through Etna, Glenshaw and Allison Park (Route 8 corridor) then through Mars and Evans City to Butler. The Butler Short Line was acquired by the Harmony Line in 1917. These trolleys could run up to 70 Miles per hour. The Harmony Line had a party car. Both lines had freight cars and refrigerated cars.

Conveniently, the last cars left Pittsburgh at 11:50 pm each night.  Both lines operated for two decades until the Great Depreciation and motor vehicles, which grew in popularity, slowly reduced ridership, causing the lines to close in 1931.

What is left of these great modes of transportation that ran over 100 years ago? One can see the crumbling concrete bridge abutments on Cemetery Lane, Pine Creek Road and locally on Plains Church Road.

Only one car was spared by happenstance. Car 115 avoided being burnt like the other cars when the line closed as when operating, it had mechanical problems and had been abandoned where it failed. It became a roadside diner, The Dew Drop Inn, between Ellwood City and New Castle. It was used until the restaurant expanded and was recovered in 1986 by the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, in Washington PA, where it awaits restoration.

The Trolley museum also maintains the Wexford Station (formerly the Wexford Post Office Deli, Wexford Post Office and Brennan Station) as well as Cranberry’s old West Station.

Our speaker and trolley expert Bill Fronczek is a retired eye surgeon from the South Hills. He grew up in Pittsburgh and rode trolleys all over the city including the West Penn system in Westmoreland County. He is President Emeritus of the PA Trolley Museum and has been active there since 1955. He was involved in saving car 115 for the museum. Due to his early interest, he was able to interview employees of both the Harmony and Short Line. As stated above, he is the foremost expert on these trolleys.

Remember; bring your dime to ride the line on September 13th. Fittingly, we will meet in the Cranberry Library’s Franklin Station meeting room at 6:15 pm. Due to popularity of this talk, we are expecting a large crowd, therefore please register by calling the Library at (724) 776-9100 or registering on line with the library ( )  or by calling Tom Cully at (724) 776-6551 and leaving a message.
Please note that our events are free, however for this talk, we are suggesting a $2.00 donation, which will be given to the Trolley Museum to help refurbish car 115. It needs some love as you can see. Light snacks and refreshments will be served at the meeting. All aboard!

Event Date
September 13, 2017 - 6:15 pm