The Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad CompanyThe Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad Company, also known as the "Shawmut Line," was a standard gauge, Class 1 Railroad company that operated both freight and passenger service from 1899 to 1947. Trackage extended from Wayland, NY to Brockway (nee Brockwayville), PA totaling approximately 190 miles. In addition, the railroad operated branches to Olean and Hornell, NY and to Hazelhurst, Cardiff, Drummond and Tyler, PA.
The purpose of this railroad was to haul coal from the mines of Elk (and later Jefferson) Counties in Pennsylvania to the Buffalo, Rochester and New York City areas in New York State.
The Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad started its life on August 2, 1899 by the combination of five smaller, financially troubled, railroads in New York and Pennsylvania. These component rail lines were disconnected from each other and were comprised of a mixture of both narrow and standard gauges.
The company put together an ambitious and costly plan to connect up the route and convert the entire line to standard gauge; This feat was not completed until 1910. The financial burden of this endeavor combined with lackluster freight business forced the company into receivership (a form of bankruptcy) in 1905. This state of receivership lasted for the remainder of its 42 years of existence — one of the longest in American railroading history.
The principal shops were divided between Angelica, NY and St. Marys, PA. The Angelica Shops were used mostly as car repairs, painting and maintenance of way work with some repairs on motive power. Locomotives were maintained and repaired in St. Marys. Both shops burned over the years and were replaced. The Angelica Shops burned on May 23, 1918 and the St. Marys shops burned on March 20, 1941.
The Pittsburg & ShawmutThe same officers that put together the PS&N started building a route toward Pittsburgh, PA. It was to operate from Brockway (and a connection with the PS&N) to Freeport, PA. It was initially given the name of the Brookville & Mahoning Railroad to entice local investors in the Brookville area, but it was never intended to operate as such. The goal had always been to merge this new line into the PS&N.
In 1909 when the company issued its first public offering of stock, the name was changed to the Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad in order to make the stock more enticing to buyers. This stock offering was part of an overall scheme to provide funding for the continued expansion of the P&S, to eventually lift the PS&N out of receivership and finally merge the two into a unified system.
There is an often repeated (but unfortunately incorrect) legend that the name change was done because of confusion with the Boston & Maine. However, the Brookville & Mahoning never owned a single piece of rolling stock. Therefore, the idea that there was confusion with the reporting markings on freight cars doesn't hold an ounce of water.
The P&S was under lease to the PS&N from 1906 to 1916. However, the poor finances of the PS&N and its state of receivership precluded a merger. In 1916 after a consulting firm evaluated the financial state of both roads, the backers of the P&S terminated the lease and the two companies operated separately from then on.
The same financial analysis also determined that the P&S was receiving a disproportionally low portion on the division of rates it received from coal traffic being handed over to the PS&N at Brockway. As a result, the P&S elected to turn over most of its coal traffic to the Erie at Brockway and earn more money on the very same traffic. The only coal turned over to the PS&N after this revelation was for coal contracted to be used by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western for its own locomotive use.
WrecksDuring its history, the PS&N had two major wrecks, both in the New York State and both within a year of each other.
One wreck known as the "Nile Wreck" and occurred on September 22, 1912. This wreck was between engine No. 11 pulling an excursion train from Stony Brook Glen and a freight train pulled by engine No. 68. Two passengers and one crew member were killed.
The other wreck was a head end collusion on May 26, 1913 near County House about 2 Miles north of Angelica. A work train being pulled by Engine No. 226 that met head on with a coal train being pulled by engine No. 55. The engineer on the freight train was killed when Engine No. 226 was derailed and overturned.
The Clarion River RailroadThe Clarion River Railroad operated from Croyland to Halton, Pennsylvania and was leased by the PS&N on August 2, 1899. The lease continued until July 31, 1926 when it was sold. There were plans to physically connect the Shawmut with the Clarion River but it was never constructed. The line was abandoned in 1948.
Demise...The PS&N has been described as "a railroad that started nowhere and ended no place with a lot of nothing in between." It connected the mines with markets to the north yet it did not touch upon any major industrial cities. Nearly 1,300 men and women labored for the Shawmut.
After World War II, the demand for coal began to decrease. The strengthening labor movement in the mines caused many disruptive strikes. Nothing was being done to improve living conditions in the mining towns. The Shawmut Mining Company had strikes and labor problems.
The "Company Doctor" by the name of Betty Hayes started to investigate the sanitary conditions at the company owned mining villages of Force, Byrnedale, and Hollywood. The conditions were so bad that the water had to be boiled before drinking and sewage overflowed into the streets causing mud bogs. The doctor confronted the Shawmut Mining Company officials with these deplorable conditions. The mining company officials replied that there was nothing that they could do, especially since there were only 5 or 6 years before the mines would be worked out and abandoned.
With the help of Dr. Hayes the issue came before Federal Judge Guy K. Bard, who had jurisdiction over the receiver and who then ordered an investigation. The receiver at the time, John D. Dickson was removed.
In late November of 1945, the court appointed two new receivers: Thomas C. Buchanan and Robert C. Sproul, Jr. Judge Bard instructed them to investigate the situation. However, taking the extreme length of the receivership into consideration, he also instructed the new receivers to "Wrap things up, quickly!"
What the new receivers found was a company that was about 30 million dollars in the red. There wasn't even money on hand to meet their first payroll. There weren't even enough serviceable locomotives on the property to operate the entire length of the line!
In March 1946, an emergency request to the Interstate Commerce Commission was granted where all traffic north of Bolivar, NY was embargoed. This, combined with other cost saving measures, gave the receivers time to figure out how to operate the properties at a profit. But no matter how they sliced and diced the numbers, they couldn't make ends meet.
Faced with this reality and with the court's blessing, the PS&N Railroad, the Kersey Railroad Company, the Shawmut Mining Company, and the Kersey Mining Company were sold to the highest bidder in an auction in Pittsburg, presided over by Judge Bard on March 4, 1947.
When the final gavel rang, the winner (for $1,505,000) was Harry W. Findley, a scrap dealer, of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
The last train of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad ran on April 1, 1947 at which time the Class I common carrier ceased to exist.