The South Pennsylvania Railroad

Pittsburgh to Harrisburg, PA

The abandoned right-of-way of the South Pennsylvania Railroad ca...
The abandoned right-of-way of the South Pennsylvania Railroad can still be seen in some areas adjacent to the present-day Pennsylvania Turnpike; this was taken in Somerset County, PA. Photo by Russell Love.
In some places, the turnpike rides atop the former right-of-way....
In some places, the turnpike rides atop the former right-of-way. This was taken in Somerset County, PA. Photo by Russell Love.
The abandoned right-of-way of the South Pennsylvania Railroad ca...
The abandoned right-of-way of the South Pennsylvania Railroad can still be seen in some areas adjacent to the present-day Pennsylvania Turnpike; this was taken in Somerset County, PA. Photo by Russell Love.
The grade can still be seen south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike i...
The grade can still be seen south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Hustontown, Fulton County. Photo by Russell Love.
A bridge over a cut south of Hustontown in Fulton County.
A bridge over a cut south of Hustontown in Fulton County. Photo by Russell Love.
A double box culvert beneath the Pennsylvania Turnpike just west...
A double box culvert beneath the Pennsylvania Turnpike just west of the Fort Littleton interchange in Fulton County. Photo by Russell Love.

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Has anyone explored the entrances to the abandoned and unused tunnels adjacent the PA turnpike?

Rich Schlauch
Breinigsville, PA
10/16/2014

Update: The PA Turnpike Commission is going to re-align the PA Turnpike at the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel, creating another section of the "Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike". This is good news for South Penn RR fans, as we will have another section of where the South Penn RR could've run if Vanderbilt had succeeded in bringing his railroad to southern PA.

Kevin W. Brownlie
Princeton, NJ
5/16/2015

A couple of fallacies here. First the western terminus of the South Peen would have been Demmler, near McKeesport, not Pittsburgh. The second is the idea that the turnpike is built on the old South Penn right of way. With very few exceptions it is not. In many places, the remnants of the South Penn can be seen along the highway if you know where to look.

As for the realignment of the turnpike in the Allegheny mountain area, do not assume the abandoned sections of the turnpike are the old railroad right of way. They are not. The railroad would have taken a completely different, and much less steep, route up the mountain. Even the Allegheny Tunnel itself is not the railroad tunnel, which sits abandoned beside the turnpike tunnels.

Jeffery Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
5/13/2017

My father, the son of a B&O Railroad Engineer in Somerset, PA, is the person who ignited my interest in the South Penn Railroad.

The South Penn Tunnel through the Allegheny MountIn lies just to the North of the Turnpike tunnel. I have seen the Eastern mouth of that tunnel which lies just to the North of the Eastern portal of Westbound Turnpike tunnel, and at a higher elevation, which makes sense since there is a grade in the Turnpike tunnel. There were the remnants of a steep, wide path (possibly an old construction vehicle path for building the Turnpike tunnel) that I walked up from the Turnpike. As I recall, it was about 400 meters East of the Turnpike tunnel, although it has been well over 25 years since seeing that mouth, and may have been further. I spent over 24 years as an Artillery Officer in the US Army, so I have no trouble accurately estimating distances. My problem is that it has been over 25 years since finding the tunnel mouth, and my estimate of distances is dimmed by the over 25 years since exploring for the South Penn Railroad around the Allegheny Mountain tunnel.

I had always wondered where the Eastern mouth of the South Penn tunnel for the Allegheny mountain was located since I knew the Turnpike had not been able to use the South Penn tunnel (many other Turnpike tunnels were completed South Penn tunnels). My father had always assumed that the South Penn Eastern tunnel mouth had been destroyed during construction of the Turnpike tunnel.

I wish I had a camera but the idea suddenly hit me near the end of the drive to the Eastern end of the Westbound mouth of the Turnpike tunnel.

According to my father (long gone - born in 1920), the Western mouth of the South Penn Railroad tunnel is literally right beside the West bound mouth of the Turnpike tunnel. If you look at the Western mouth of the West bound Turnpike tunnel, you will notice that the tunnel mouth concrete extends far to the North of Turnpike tunnel entrance. My father told me that this was to cover the old South Penn tunnel mouth.

I have followed the South Penn Railroad rail bed on both sides of the Allegheny Turnpike tunnel. The roadbed on both sides of the Turnpike tunnel is some distance from the tunnel mouth, which makes sense since the roadbed was probably destroyed by Turnpike tunnel construction.

On the West side of the tunnel, the South Penn roadbed lies just to the North of the Turnpike and follows a path toward the tunnel mouth. The area just to the West of the tunnel is relatively flat so the South Penn roadbed fill is fairly constant between 1 to 2 feet above the surrounding terrain.

On the East Side of the tunnel, the South Penn roadbed is significantly higher than the Turnpike, and lies to the South of the Turnpike. The Turnpike has a substantial climb to the tunnel which far exceeds the 3% grade that the Roadbed would try to maintain. The Railroad track bed is very obvious with cuts and fills for some distance East of the Allegheny tunnel, as far as I have explored.

David C. Kregar
Alexandria, VA
6/29/2019