MTR Montour Railroad

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Montour RR SW9 73 at Coraopolis, PA

Montour RR SW9 No 73 waits at the MTR’s main yard at Coraopolis, PA for its next assignment in Apr 1973 -Dan Bourque collection

Track PlansTrack Plan ThumbnailMTR Track Plans PhotosMontour RR SW9 73 at Coraopolis, PA

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Montour Railroad MapHistory

The Montour Railroad was originally chartered by the Imperial Coal Co in 1877 to haul coal from its mine at Imperial, PA to a connection with the Pittsburg & Lake Erie near Coraopolis, PA. From these beginnings, the Montour, after ownership passed to the Pittsburgh Coal Company, expanded in a horseshoe around the southwest side of Pittsburgh eventually serving 27 mines at its height in the Depression era.

The Montour served the mines, but it connected with several important railroads which moved the coal on to customers including the P&LE, Pennsylvania RR, B&O and P&WV (later N&W). Another important outlet was the Union Railroad which was reached via trackage shared with the P&WV (former West Side Belt RR) from Salida to Mifflin Jct, PA. In 1946, the Montour was sold to the Pennsy and P&LE with the latter taking sole ownership in 1975.

The Montour began to dieselize in 1950 and bought its last diesel in 1953. As a shortline where pulling power, flexibility and small size were more important than speed or horsepower, the Montour bought only EMD switchers which it MU’ed together as needed to take care of the day’s chores.

The mines began to play out by the 1950s, and traffic on the Montour steadily decreased. By the mid-’60s, only four loaders were still active on the Montour, mostly on the southern end of the railroad: Library, Montour No 4 near Hills, Westland, and the large prep plant at Champion. In 1984, the last remaining operation at Westland shut down, and the Montour ceased operations. While the tracks have been pulled up, the Montour is now used as a trail.

Coal Lines and Operations

The Montour essentially formed a horseshoe around the southwest side of Pittsburgh. The line started at Montour Jct. near Coraopolis, PA where the Montour joined the P&LE and ran its circle through the coalfields to Mifflin Jct. where it connected with the Union Railroad. The line served dozens of tipples along the line. Many were along the main, but several were served via short spurs and branches, the most significant of which were Moon Run, Midland Spur (Westland), Muse Branch and Library Branch. The Montour crossed several lines of larger railroads along the way, but none of them at grade.

The first mines were closer to Coraopolis, but as these played out, the majority of the Montour’s coal came from the area between the Westland Branch and the far terminus of the railroad. Pittsburgh Coal Company loaded mostly raw coal (known also as “green coal”) from these mines which was shipped via the Montour to its large prep plant at Champion before being shipped to one of the lines many connections with larger railroads. Shuttle cars (older Montour 50-ton cars) were used for these tranfers.

Operations in the diesel era consisted of several trains daily. Trains would originate from the yard near Coraopolis and shuttle MTYs from Champion to the mines. Later trains would bring in the raw coal loads for cleaning, and still other trains would move clean coal from Champion to one of the Montour’s connections such as the PRR, P&LE, B&O, P&WV/N&W or Union RR.

In addition to moving coal, a handful of industries dotted the lines requiring some non-hopper cars each day including boxcars to a lumber yard at Brookside (near Salida), tank cars and an occasional boxcar to a plant at Muse, propane cars to Agway, boxcars to the furniture plant at Wickes, flatcars of equipment to various sidings including Aloe, and equipment of all types for repair at B&T shops.

Montour Diesel Roster

Number Model Year Acquired
72 SW7 1950
73 SW9 1952
74 SW9 1952
75 SW9 1952
76 SW9 1952
77 SW9 1952
78 SW9 1952
79 SW9 1952
80 SW9 1952
81 SW9 1953
82 SW9 1953
83 SW9 1953
84 SW9 1953

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