from In and About the Twin Cities,


Something of Interest to the Delegates who will attend the

This article, from The Street Railway Journal, October, 1891, describes street railway companies in the then-twin cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. Pittsburgh hosted the tenth annual convention of the American Street Railway Association on October 21-23.

Street Railway Map of Pittsburgh & Allegheny
Street Railway Map of Pittsburgh & Allegheny

These two cities, virtually one, although they have separate city governments, are hemmed in by steep hills along the narrow valleys of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers at their confluence with the Ohio. The narrow tongue of land between the two rivers was a landmark in the early history of our country, for on this point was built Fort du Quesne (du kane), one of the chain of forts extending from Lake Erie to the mouth of the Mississippi, which was built by the French in order to establish their claim to the Northern and Western territory of our continent -- a claim which gave rise to the French and Indian war. As early as 1753 George Washington, then a young man only twenty-one years old, was sent by the Governor of Virginia with a reauest to M. De St. Pierre, commander of Fort du Quesne, to withdraw from this post, a request which was politely, but firmly refused. In 1754, Washington, then in command of a detachment of Virginia troops, was forced to surrender to the garrison of this same fort. Again, in 17*55, we see him covering the retreat of the Virginia troops from this point, and saving the army from total ruin after the defeat and death of its commander, Gen. Braddock. In 1758 we learn that the fort surrendered to a body of British forces led by Gen. Forbes, who changed its name to Fort Pitt, in honor of Mr. Pitt, then prime minister of England,from which we have the present name of Pittsburgh.

What a marvellous transformation in this locality would the actors in these early scenes witness to-day could they stand upon Washington Heights -- reached by means of the Duquesne incline or at the head of any of the inclines -- and overlook these two cities with their teeming population of 350,000. The two rivers seem to be alive with quaint looking steamers having in tow a countless number of coal barges, the contents of which constitute the chief source of wealth in all this region. Volumes of black smoke and flames belching forth from the forest of chimneys along the banks of each river make a magnificent view at night and mark the location of the various iron and glass works that have made this location famous as a manufacturing centre, and given it the name, everywhere, of "the great workshop of America." Not only have the natural advantages of this location been placed under tribute to the welfare of its inhabitants, but the natural disadvantages as well. The almost perpendicular bluffs which border the rivers have been scaled by numerous inclined railways, devised by modern engineering skill, and even the raging rivers themselves have been tamed, and the laws of gravity overcome, by means of dams and locks; so that the numerous rapids, that were impregnable to ordinary means of navigation, are now successfully traversed by steamers and barges drawing from six to eight feet of water, thus opening to the steam craft, of Pittsburgh more than 20,000 miles of inland navigation.

Inspiring as the general view is, it is not very attractive to the aesthetic eye; for these leading commercial industries do not tend to beauty or cleanliness, so that, in order to find the attractive features, it will be necessary to visit the high rolling country behind the bluffs, over which the cities have spread to the northward and eastward, and which is dotted all over with elegant villas, the homes of the business men to whose energy and perseverance the eminence of these cities is clearly attributable.

Natural Resources and Industries.

While much more might be said of Pittsburgh as a land mark in the nation's history, its resources and industries are of greater interest at this time.

Bituminous coal and gas constitute the chief wealth of this region, Pittsburgh being surrounded by a coal field estimated to contain 14,000 sq. miles, and from which is annually mined 13,000,000 tons of coal, Allegheny county alone having an output of nearly 6,000,000 tons. The coal of this county is rated as an excellent steam producing fuel, and large quantities are also employed in the manufacture of illuminating gas and coke, the latter being the form in which coal is consumed by the blast furnaces in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, and the making of which forms a principal industry, especially in the Cannonsville region. But the greater portion, about 4,000,000 tons, is shipped down the river in barges, requiring for its transportation over 4,000 vessels, some of which go as far as New Orleans, and do the work even at this distance, at a cost of less than one-tenth of a cent per ton per mile, including the return of the empty boats.

The Products of Iron

represent the leading industry of this region, but why the locality has become the greatest centre of the iron in dustry in the country is difficult to explain, for the metal is not a natural resource of this region, but the ore, which is here smelted, is brought chiefly from the mines of the Lake Superior region by steamer on the lakes to Cleveland, Ashtabula, Fairport and Erie, thence by rail to the furnaces. The manufacture of pig iron was carried on in Pittsburgh as early as 1790, when there was a small blast furnace near what is now known as Shady Side station, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, but the beginning of the modern industry may be said to date from the erection of the Clinton furnace in 1859. This furnace is located on the South Side, and is still in operation, although it has been remodelled many times. There are now twenty-five blast furnaces in the Pittsburgh district, having an aggregate capacity of 2,000,000 tons of pig iron in one year, or about one-fifth of the output of the entire country. The full capacity, however, has never been reached, owing to various causes, but the actual product for 1890 amounted to 1,497,786 net tons. The blast furnaces consume, annually, 3,000,000 tons of iron ore, 1,000,000 tons of coke and 750,000 tons of limestone.

The first iron rolling mill in Pittsburgh was erected in 1824, and is still in operation. It is now known as the Juniata Iron Works, and is situated on the Allegheny River, just below the Ninth Street bridge. The works include two blast furnaces which were erected in 1865.

There are now fifty-five iron and steel works in the Pittsburgh district, and the product for 1890 was as follows:

Bar, angle, skelp and shaped iron 537,860
Plate and sheet iron 126,191
Iron rails 800
Crucible steel 53,122
Bessemer and open hearth steel 1,394,798

In addition to the furnaces and rolling mills, the foundries of Pittsburgh employ 3,500 hands and consume 125,000 tons of pig iron annually, and the yearly product has a value of $7,000,000. Admission can be had to nearly all the iron and steel mills, and they are well worth a visit.

The Manufacture of Glass.

This industry, which had its origin in a very small way nearly a century ago, has developed to enormous proportions and now ranks second in importance to that of iron and steel. Within the city limits are twenty-nine window-glass factories, and as many more establishments for the manufacture of various other forms of glass. Over $3,000,000 worth of window glass is made annually, and the annual output of bottles is from 85,000,000 to 90,000,000. An enormous amount of pressed ware is also made, one of the chief specialties being lamp chimneys, of which nearly 50,000,000 are made each year. The plate glass factories are nearly all located outside the city in the towns of Jeanette, Butler, Duquesne, Creighton, Tarentum, Ford City, etc. The Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. has works in the three last mentioned towns, which employ about 2,500 hands and have a capacity for making about 6,000,000 sq. ft. of plate glass per year. An abundant supply of natural gas, a few years since, gave a tremendous impetus to the glass industries, and the eminence obtained in this line by Pittsburgh has been well maintained, although on account of the partial failure of the gas supply, it has been necessary to resort to more expensive and less convenient fuel.

We might speak at length of the other natural resources of this region, including petroleum; of the fifteen magnificent bridges which span the rivers at this point, and of many other prominent industries including the steam railway systems, which comprise parts of the great trunk lines of the country, known as the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Vanderbilt corporations; but these not being of special interest to our readers, we devote the greater part of our space to

The Rapid Transit Facilities.

Few cities present more or better opportunities for the study of the problem of rapid transit than are offered in the cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. The street railway system of these cities is essentially modern animal traction having been almost entirely supplanted by mechanical power. The accompanying map shows clearly the different routes and the different methods of traction employed on each. There are three excellent cable roads, which embody many of the best elements in that means of traction. There are nine electric roads, all of very recent construction, and among them may be found the most advanced ideas in the use of electricity in street railway work. Although as recently as four years ago the car horse and mule jointly held the situation, they have practically disappeared within that brief time. In the matters of construction, equipment and operation the different roads offer a considerable variety and an opportunity for instructive study. There is much to interest practical street railway men in the methods by which the various conditions of curves, grades, crowded streets and the demand for high speed have been successfully met.

There are twelve distinct operating companies in the two cities, and there is very little community of interest among them; that is nearly every company represents a separate and independent interest. The natural result of this condition of affairs is an active competition, the effects of which are manifest in the excellent equipment and service rendered. It was this spirit of aggressive competition that caused the introduction of mechanical traction to such a large extent, and the public is obviously the gainer thereby.

The table presented below summarizes the statistics of the lines of the twelve operating companies, giving the capitalization in stock and bonds, the number of miles of track, and the number of passengers carried during the year ended June 30, 1891:

Name of Company.Stock.Bonds.Miles of Track.Passengers Carried
Year Ended
June 30.
Pittsburgh, Allegheny & Manchester$3,000,000$1,300,00018.005,789,510
Citizens' Traction$3,000,000$1,250,00025.0012,547,568
Duquesne Traction$3,000,000$1,500,00028.00***
Pittsburgh & Birminham$3,000,000$1,500,00013.504,843,039
Pittsburgh Traction$2,500,000$750,00012.678,649,788
Pleasant Valley$1,300,000$525,00023.006,859,000
Central Traction$1,500,000$375,0008.003,116,000
Second Avenue$300,000$150,00010.251,808,993
Pittsburgh & West End$200,000$75,00010.501,854,836
Allegheny Traction$350,000$150,0007.001,034,910
Schenley Park & Highland$100,000$50,0001.00***
Suburban Rapid Transit$120,000$40,0002.25140,000

*** Under construction during the year.

These details of construction and equipment that are likely to be of most interest from a practical standpoint, are given in the articles upon the various systems that follow.

Citizens' Traction


The Local Committee

Mr. John G. Holmes, the president of the Citizens' Traction Co., was born in Pittsburgh, and comes from a family that has been identified with the street railway interests of that city ever since the running of the first horse car in 1859, his father, Nathaniel Holmes, having been a moving spirit in its organization. After passing through the usual preparatory course of studies he entered Dickinson College, at Carlisle, Pa. He began his business career in 1866, in the banking house of N. Holmes & Son, established in 1822, and is now the senior member of the firm, it being the oldest banking house in Pittsburgh, so that he has now followed a banking career for a quarter of a century without intermission.

Mr. Holmes began his street railway career in 1859, when, as a boy, thirteen years old, he affixed the seal and ribbon to the bonds of the newly organized Citizens' Passenger Railway Co., which built the first street railway west of the Allegheny mountains, hence can be said that he was brought up in the company. This road began at the corner of Penn and Sixth Streets, in what was then the business heart of the city, and extended from Penn Avenue, running parallel with the Allegheny River, to Lawrenceville, where the U. S. arsenal is now located. In 1871 Mr. Holmes was elected treasurer of the company, and in 1882 became the president -- an office which he has continued to hold ever since. During the' year 1888 the horse car line was converted into a cable line, and the road, with the twenty-five miles of track and ninety-one cars, operated by cable, electricity and horse power, is now one of the best paying lines in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Holmes' connection with the American Street Railway Association dates from the first regular meeting of the organization. He has missed very few of the conventions. In 1883-4 he was a member of the executive committee. He likewise holds many other important offices in the various institutions with which he is identified.

The Citizens' Traction Passenger Railway Co. is the present representative of the first street railway ever built in Pittsburgh. The Citizens' Passenger Railway Co. was incorporated in 1859 by James Verner and Nathaniel Holmes, father of the president. The original horse-car line extended on Penn Avenue from Sixth Street to Thirty-fourth, and thence out Butler Street to Forty-first. Subsequently the line was extended out Butler Street to the Allegheny Cemetery, and then it was carried still further to the Sharpsburg bridge and across the Allegheny river into the boroughs of Etna and Sharpsburg. Some ten years ago the line was carried out Penn Street from Thirty-fourth Street, where the Butler Street line begins, to East Liberty, a distance of two and one-half miles. This East Liberty division was run for years as a branch, the passengers being transferred at Thirty-fourth Street and paying another fare. In addition to these lines, which constitute the active system of the company, the property of the Transverse Passenger Railway Co. is also owned by the company. The line of the Transverse company extends from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station at Smithfield and Water Streets, along Water, Wood, Liberty and Smallman Streets to Forty-seventh and Plummer Streets. This road was built to parallel the Citizens' Passenger Railway about eleven years ago, and was consolidated w ith the Citizens'company about five years ago. A portion of this line is operated under lease by the Allegheny Traction Co., and the remainder is practically idle.

The Citizens' Traction Passenger Railway Co. was chartered July 6, 1887, and all the lines of the Citizens' Passenger Railway Co. were taken under lease, September 1, 1887. The entire system was then operated with horses, but the work of changing to cable power was commenced at once under the direction of George Rice, then engineer of the company, and the cables were put in operation on January 1, 1889. Three cables were put in; one on Penn Avenue, from Sixth Street to the fork of the road at Thirty-fourth Street; one from this point on Butler Street to the Cemetery, and the third on Penn Avenue, from Thirty-fourth Street to East Liberty. The Sharpsburg line was left under operation with horses, and a short extension out Frankstown Avenue from the East Liberty terminus, a distance of three-quarters of a mile, is still operated by horses as a feeder. During the present year the changing of the Sharpsburg line from horse power to electricity was begun, and is now nearly completed. This branch has also been extended from its terminus at Thirteenth Street in Sharpsburg to Guyasuta station on the West Pennsylvania Railroad.

The lines of the Citizens' Traction Co. are well worth the study of street railway men as an example of a well managed system, upon which all the details of construction, operation and maintenance have been carefully worked out and are still closely studied. It is not possible, however, to give more than brief mention cf the various features in this connection. In their physical features the lines do not present much that calls for comment. There are some fotr)-eight curves in the cable lines, but they are chiefly of long radius. On the East Liberty division there is an interesting grade, commencing at the fork of the road and extending in a straight line about one mile. The grade ranges from four to six per cent. For any but a cable road this long grade would be very interesting, but under the circumstances it offers no obstacle. Prior to the introduction of the cable on this line four horses were required to pull a car to the top of this hill, and the trip consumed fifteen minutes. Beyond this hill the line descends into East Liberty, on a much shorter grade of five to six per cent. On the East Liberty and Butler Street divisions the cable runs eleven miles an hour, and nine miles on the down end of line on Penn Street.

The cable lines are laid with girder rails, sixty-five pounds to the yard. The conduit is built of concrete, and the rails are supported on cast iron yokes, spaced four feet. The carrying pulleys are twelve inches in diameter and are spaced thirty feet apart. Fourteen inch pulleys were formerly used, and many are still in service, but they were found to be troublesome when there is water in the conduit, and are being replaced with twelve inch pulleys as opportunity affords. On curves forty inch pulleys are used. The conduits are cleaned by scraping from the manholes. Formerly they were flushed with water, but the present method gives satisfaction at less cost and trouble. The conduits are cleaned twice a year, the work being done at night when the cable is idle. With cleaner streets, once a year would suffice. There are two steam railroad crossings on the line of the road, that of the Allegheny Valley Railroad at Twenty-eighth Street and Penn Avenue, and the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago at Eleventh Street.

The loop at the down town end of the line is formed by passing from Penn Avenue, at Cecil Alley, to Liberty Avenue, thence along Liberty Avenue to Seventh Street and then to Penn Avenue again. The passing along Cecil Alley from Penn to Liberty Avenue, is through the company's property, and, as all the cars come through this point, an inspection pit is located there. As each car reaches the pit the cable is lifted from the grip by a lever, the grip is inspected, the spools are oiled and new dies are inserted if needed. All of this is done very quickly, not more than ten or fifteen seconds being consumed. During the busiest hours ol the day cars are run through this point at one minute headway, so there is little leeway for delay at the inspection pit.

The power house of the company is located at Thirty-third Street and Penn Avenue, and is an attractive specimen of architecture. The motive power consists of three Wetherill-Corliss engines, with cylinders 28 X 60 inches. They are rated at 500 H. P. each. They are run at seventy-six, sixty-two and sixty-six revolutions respectively, on account of difference in the gearing. Steam is used at 90 lbs. pressure. Only two of the engines are required to operate the three cables, the third engine being kept in reserve for emergencies. The driving drums are split, with intermediate compensating gear, and the cables make four wraps. The tension carriages have a travel of about ninety-five feet, and the tension is maintained by weights of 5,000, 6,000 and 7,000 lbs. respectively, on each of the three cables. These weights are cylindrical in form, cast in small sections, and each weight rises and falls in a pit. Close beside these pits, at the rear end of the building, is a labor saving appliance that is worthy of attention. It is a fifty ton hydraulic elevator of the plunger type, which is used for lowering reels of cable from the street level above. The power house stands on the slope of the hill, and the street level at the rear is near the roof of the building. The steam plant consists of eight Wetherill boilers, eighteen feet long and six feet in diameter, with sixty four inch tubes. These boilers are set in two batteries of four on each side of the stack. Natural gas is used for fuel, and the immense meter registering as high as 10,000,000,000 ft, is one of the things that strikes a visitor's eye. The scrupulous cleanliness of the boiler and engine house illustrates the possibilities of this fuel.

The vault beneath the street contains a complication of sheaves, carrying the incoming and outgoing cables. As there are three cables issuing from this house the arrangement of pulleys is necessarily intricate. The conduit above the power house is relieved of one cable by dropping the incoming East Liberty rope into a subway a few hundred feet above the station and allowing the cars to come down by gravity. The guide sheaves in the vault are twelve feet in diameter, and are set at various angles. As the power house stands on a grade it necessarily requires care on the part of gripmen to make passage on the up trip, but failures are infrequent, averaging not more than three or four in a day. The three cables that are run from this power house are the city, 25,800 ft.; the East Liberty, 28,400 ft., and the Butler Street, 12,000 ft. The diameter of the ropes is one and five-sixteenths inches. It has been the practice to cut the long cables when partially worn and finish their life on the Butler Street line. The rope now in use on that division, is a new Lang cable, made by Washburn & Moen, and put in service in August of this year. There is a Roebling rope in use on the East Liberty branch, which was started in April last, and which will be replaced by a Lang cable from the same makers. On the city division a plain Broderick & Bascom rope has been in use since June of this year. The average life of the cables on all three divisions is about seven months.

This company has an efficient signal system for use in case of accident on the line. Signal boxes are placed at suitable intervals along the lines and in the cab of each car is a printed sheet of instructions and a list of the locations of the boxes. From any box an alarm can be rung, which sounds a gong in the engine room of the power house. At the same time a card is displayed, showing, in letters large enough to be seen from any part of the room, the line on which the trouble is located, so that the proper cable can be stopped with small delay. As an example of the efficiency of this system, it may be mentioned that when a grip recently caught in one of the cables, an alarm was sent to the power house and the car was stopped within a distance of 300 ft., although three miles from the power house.

The car barn for the cable lines is located at East Liberty, at the terminus of that division. The cars pass through the house and are inspected at a pit similar to that at the down town end of the line. The barn is built in the shape of an L, the larger arm forming the car house proper. This is a substantially constructed building 180 X 60 ft., and two stories high. The second floor is used for repair work and is supported by heavy plate girders. The roof is of iron and slate, but it might be mentioned in this connection that fire removed the roof and second floor together with eight cars last March. In the second floor of the shorter wing there is a stable for the horses used on the short feeder that runs out Frankstown Avenue from this point.

As opportunity offers here for an examination of the cars, some notes concerning the rolling stock of the company may be pertinent. There are sixty-six cable cars in service, all of them of the Pullman build. The cars are twenty-nine feet over all, with closed octagonal cabs. The interior finish is plain, but of a character that is easily cleaned, and after all that is the chief consideration. The ceiling is oak, the doors, sashes and framing are mahogany and the blinds have maple slats. All of the later cars are equipped with the Rugg truck designed by the superintendent of the road. In these trucks the number of parts has been reduced to a minimum, and the smallest possible number of bolts and nuts is used in order to reduce the liability of loosened parts. The car body is supported by a circular bearing about forty inches in diameter which rests within a slightly larger circle upon the truck. The weight is borne upon two shoes, one on either side, which gives the truck sufficient play in crossing tracks, frogs, etc., but permits no rocking of the car body upon the truck. In these trucks the brake is mounted entirely upon the truck frame instead of being suspended in part or entirely from the car body. This insures complete independence of the load in the car. The Bemis box and pedestal are used on the cars. Another of the superintendent's new ideas is the use of a plate iron front for the cabs. They look fully as well as wood and, of course, stand much heavier usage. Headlights are placed within the cab so that the glass comes flush with the front of the cab. The superintendent is putting on new pilots on the cars, using an idea of his own. It is merely a stout wire netting held in a frame of one and three-quarter inch pipe, and carried four inches above the pavement. A few of the cars are equipped with air brakes, the pump being carried on one of the trucks and driven by gearing from one of the axles. These have been in experimental use for about six months and have given good satisfaction.

The Whitton grip is used on all of the cars. The grip is hung to the body of the car over the centre of the front truck. Each car carries a differential tackle by means of which the grip can be hoisted out if necessary, an eye bolt being placed in the ceiling of the cars for the purpose. The grip jaws now used are of cast steel with rolled steel dies. These dies are made of mild open hearth steel, rolled with a groove, and they are fastened into the jaws with a single bolt at one end, the other end being dovetailed. These dies wear about fifteen days, as against six to eight days for the cast iron jaws formerly used, and the cost of renewal is only about one cent per car per day as compared with four or five cents for the cast iron.

The Sharpsburg division commences at the end of the Butler Street line at Forty-seventh Street. There is a large car barn at this point, in addition to a stable, machine shop, etc., and the electric power station for the future operation of this division is also here. This line has just been relaid with Johnson & Wharton girder rails, and will soon be operated by electricity, most of the plant and equipment being now ready. The wiring and overhead work was done by the company. There are ten new cars built by the Gilbert Car Manufacturing Co. of Troy. They have sixteen foot bodies with four foot closed vestibules, and are finished in oak and mahogany. The trucks are the Dupont type, with numerous modifications introduced by the superintendent. Two fifteen H. P. Westinghouse single reduction motors are used on each car.

The power station contains three 125 H. P. Edison generators, driven by three 125 H. P. Buckeye engines, cylinders 14 1/4 X 24 ins. Steam is furnished by three 5X16 ft. Buckeye boilers. These boilers are fitted for burning coal, and have the Murphy stoker. The draft stack is of iron, four feet in diameter and 100 ft. high, lined with fire brick to about one-half its height. Provision is made in the power house for increasing the number of engines and generators to five when needed.

The traffic of the Citizens' Traction Co. during the past five years is of interest, as showing the result of the introduction of cable traction and the provison of rapid transit. The number of passengers carried during the year ending June 30 have been as follows:


*** The change from horses to cable was made on January 1, 1889.

Pittsburgh Traction


Although a comparatively new man in street railway circles, Mr. George W. Elkins, the president of the Pittsburgh Traction Co., has a firm grasp of the administration of the affairs of the road, and he enjoys the reputation of giving more time to the road than any man in the company's employ. Mr. Elkins was for many years in the oil business, lastly as president of the Globe Refining Co., but when the Pittsburgh Passenger Railway passed into the hands of the Widener-Elkins-Kemble party, he was placed at the head of the reorganized company.

The Pittsburgh Traction Passenger Railway is the oldest of the three cable lines of Pittsburgh. It is the successor ol the Pittsburgh, Oakland & East Liberty Passenger Railway, the property and franchises of which were acquired by the Widener-Elkins-Kemble syndicate, of Philadelphia, on June 17, 1887, soon after which the work of introducing cable traction was commenced. The old horse car line extended on Fifth Avenue from the Court House to Oakland and East Liberty, the present line on lower Fifth Avenue being over the right of way of the old Central Transit Co., which was also acquired at the same time. The line of the Pittsburgh Traction Co. is the most centrally located of all the Pittsburgh railways, running from the lower end of Fifth Avenue along that street to East Liberty, a distance of five miles, passing through the principal business section of the city as well as the beautiful residence portion. The increase of traffic consequent on the change from animal to cable traction is strikingly shown by this road, the number of passengers carried during 1887 by the horse cars being 2,045,756 as compared with 8,649,788 carried over the same line by cable cars duing the year ended June 30, 1891. The work of introducing the cable was done chiefly during 1888. The East End cable, extending from Oakland to East Liberty, was started in September, 1888, and the middle rope and city loop were started about two weeks later.

FIG. 1. -- LOOP

There is a double track nearly the entire length of the line on Fifth Avenue. The loop at East Liberty embraces several squares, and passes through a terminal building on Penn Avenue near Highland Avenue. For a short distance on Penn Avenue the tracks of the Pittsburgh and Citizens' Traction companies run side by side. At the East Liberty terminus there is an inspection pit where grips are examined. The office of the secretary and treasurer is also at this point. At the city end the line forms a loop at the lower end of Fifth Avenue, where the turn is made on a curve of twenty-seven feet centre radius, Fig. 1. The line is divided into three sections: The loop extending from the foot of Fifth Avenue to the power house at Fifth Avenue and Washington Street; the middle section from the Washington Street power house to the Oakland power house at Fifth Avenue and Atwood Street, and the East Liberty division, from Oakland to East Liberty. The length of single track in each division is as follows:

Loop7,604 ft.
Middle section19,428 ft.
East Liberty29,248 ft.
Total56,280 ft.


The track is all laid with sixty-five pound Johnson girder rails. The conduit construction is of the plan followed in the later cable railway work on the Philadelphia Traction Co.'s lines in Philadelphia. The conduit itself is shaped out of three-sixteenths inch steel plate, carried in cast iron yokes, spaced four and a half feet apart. The whole structure is kept in position by a solid filling of concrete. The carrying pulleys are placed thirty-one and a half feet apart. The pulleys are eighteen inch babbitted cast iron wheels with wrought iron spokes. In the entire line there are 1,583 manholes, 116 grip hatches and 510 curve castings. On the curves forty-eight inch pulleys are used, with the exception of the city loop, where a thirty inch pulley is used. There are numerous curves on the line, but most of them are of easy radius. There are eleven curves on the loop, twelve on the middle section and thirteen on the East Liberty division. On the Soho hill, about midway between the two power stations, there is a beautiful double reverse curve on a grade of about four per cent. (See Fig. 2). The middle curve has a radius of about 250 ft. and the other two about 350 ft. In the two tracks on these curves there are 290 pulleys. Since the cables were first started there has been no trouble with these or any other of the curves.

Roebling cables have been used on this line since it was first started, the diameter being one and five-sixteenths inches. The lengths of the three cables are as follows:

Loop8,220 ft.
Middle section20,130 ft.
East Liberty29,920 ft.

The longest cables weigh about fifty-five tons, and Superintendent Davis has a very convenient method for handling them. He has built a heavy car about twenty-nine feet long, and mounted on eight ordinary twenty-four inch car wheels. This car is taken to East Liberty, where the reel of the cable is unloaded from the car on the Pennsylvania Railroad. The cable is hauled a short distance to the car, upon which it is loaded, and then hauled to the power house over the railway tracks. This has been done successfully several times. The life of the cables on this line is rather exceptional. It is rather singular, too, that the best life is obtained on the short rope of the city loop, in which there is the worst curve on the road. The average life on this portion of the line is about eleven months, and on the other two sections about nine months. A record of thirteen months has been made, however, on the middle section, and one rope has shown a life of twelve months on the east end of the line. The grips used are of the Whitton type, with cast iron jaws, which last, on an average, fifteen days.

The city loop of the cable is run by the power house at Washington Street and Fifth Avenue. The middle and East End sections are operated from the Oakland station. The car barn, repair and paint shops and power station of the electric division are also at Oakland. The building containing the cable machinery at Oakland is a substantial brick structure with heavy plate floor girders. The engine room is about sixty-five feet square. Power is furnished by a pair of 500 H. P. Wetherill-Corliss engines with cylinders 28x60 ins. These engines use steam at ninety pounds, and run at seventy-two revolutions. The driving mechanism is of the usual Wetherill pattern. The cable driving drums are twelve feet in diameter, split and fitted with the Whitton compensating gear. The drums have six grooves and the cables make six wraps. The idlers, of the same diameter, are also split, but have no compensating gear. Both driving drums are upon the same line of shafting, which is fitted with a clutch in the centre, so that either drum may be driven separately or one engine may be used to drive both drums. In ordinary service both engines are used together. The middle and eastern cables, which are driven from this station, are run at twelve miles per hour. The tension arrangements do not differ from ordinary practice in this respect. The carriages have a runway of about eighty feet, and the weights used are 3,000 lbs. for the East End cable and 2,500 lbs. for the middle section. The runway is in another portion of the building, lying directly in the rear of the engine room, and measuring 100X40 ft. The cables are led in from the street over eight foot pulleys, two pulleys placed at right angles for each cable. The steam plant consists of six Wetherill boilers, 18 ft. X 72 ins., with sixty four-inch tubes. Natural gas is used under the boilers.

The car barn, adjoining the power house, measures about 175 ft. X 115 ft. and has nine tracks with two inspection pits. In the centre of the barn are two Hathaway transfer tables. The second floor over the engine room is used as a repair shop for cars and grips, and is well equipped with tools and machinery. On the same floor are also the paint and carpenter shops.

The electric branch of the line starts from the Oakland power station and extends a distance of two miles. There is double track for only two squares from the power house, the balance of the line being single track. The generator is a 100 H. P. Short, and is driven by a 100 H. P. Ball engine. There are two sixteen foot St. Louis cars with Brill trucks, each car being equipped with two fifteen H. P. Short motors. Although a short line this branch is full of severe curves and grades with hardly a rod of straight level track. The grades range from two per cent, to seven per cent, and the curves from thirty feet to forty-five feet radius. Wooden poles are used on the line, and the track is laid with a flat tram rail. This branch is operated merely as a feeder to the cable line, and passengers are transferred at the junction point without extra charge. The road was opened on July 4, 1890, and has been operated very successfully.

The lower cable power house, at Washington Street and Fifth Avenue, from which the city loop is operated, is similar to the Oakland station on a smaller scale. The motive power in this plant is two 175 H. P. Wetherill-Corliss engines, with cylinders 20 ins. X 48 ins., and running at seventy-three revolutions. The driving drums are twelve feet in diameter. The drums are split and have compensating gear, and the idlers are also split. There are six grooves, the cable making four wraps. The usual speed on the loop is six and a half miles per hour. The pulley arrangements in the street vault are similar to those at Oakland, and there is also a twelve foot terminal sheave set at an angle for the cable of the middle section, which is driven from the Oakland station. After three years of heavy service these two power plants are running smoothly and steadily under a very heavy traffic at the busy hours of the day.

The rolling stock of the cable line consists of seventy-four cars of several types and sizes, adapted to the various kinds of traffic the company is called upon to accommodate. The standard car is a twenty-eight foot combination car, about one-third of the length being devoted to the smoking compartment, which contains two seats facing the middle of the car. The gripman stands in a narrow space between the seats. These cars were built by Brill, and are well made, substantial cars for general traffic. The trucks are equipped with twenty four inch Whitney wheels.

Another type of car, intended especially for winter service, is a parlot car, built by the Philadelphia Traction company. These are twenty-six foot cars, very heavy and roomy, and are used as trailers. The forward end is round and contains a large mirror in gilt frame. The seats are heavily upholstered in red plush and all the interior woodwork is painted white. Although there is no attempt at ornamentation, these cars have an appearance of richness and elegance that is often lacking in more elaborate cars. These parlor cars are drawn by ten grip cars, which are old sixteen foot horse cars altered over for this purpose.

The Pittsburgh Traction Co. is the only railway in Pittsburgh that runs open cars in summer service, but these are exceedingly well patronized during the hot season. The seats face the sides of the car and there is a heavy galvanized wire netting for a rail. The roof is supported by stanchions of iron pipe. In both grip and trail cars the entrance is at the rear end only. Although severly plain, these open cars are very neat and attractive, and they also have the additional advantage of lightness and strength. in addition to the cars already mentioned, the company has six old horse cars that are used as trailers when necessity demans. All of the cars on the road have Lewis & Fowler fare registers.

Central Traction


Mr. George I. Whitney

At the head of the Central Traction Co. is Mr. George I. Whitney, a new addition to the list of street railway men, but one who has brought to the management of his road some good ideas of affairs. Mr. Whitney is the head of the firm of Whitney & Stephenson, stock brokers, in Pittsburgh. He was a stockholder in the old company before the cable was introduced, but he never had any active interest in railway matters until entering his present position. He is also largely interested in real estate on the line of his road.

The Central Traction Co. is the youngest, and in some respects the most interesting, of the cable roads of Pittsburgh. The line was built mostly during 1889 and was first put in operation on February 24, 1890. The company succeeded the old Central Passenger Railway Co., which operated a portion of the same route as a horse car line. A portion of the old horse road is still in operation, but it is to be altered into an electric road at an early date. The city loop of the cable line runs through Sixth Avenue, Wood Street, Fourth Avenue and Grant Street and the main portion of the line runs through Wylie Avenue and other streets to the car barn and terminal loop at Thirty-third Street and Madison Avenue, a distance of a little more than two miles. The territory served by this road lies between that traversed by the Citizens' Traction Co. on the north and the Pittsburgh Traction Co. on the south. The Central line climbs straight to the top of the high central ridge of the city and follows an exceedingly irregular surface. The grades are something astonishing to a stranger on his first trip over the road. The car climbs straight up a steep hill, and you naturally expect to strike a piece of level ground at the top, but you reach the summit only to plunge down a similar grade, and this process is repeated to the end of the road. There is hardly a rod of level track in the whole five miles of track, and in two instances the ascent follows so close upon the descent that depression pulleys have to be used in the hollow. See profile, Fig. 1, which gives a good idea of the physical character of the line.


The road is well built with fifty-six pound Wharton girder rails. The conduit is built of concrete, with cast iron yokes spaced four feet. Ten-inch carrying pulleys are used, spaced thirty-two feet. On the curves thirty-six inch pulleys are used. The depression pulleys that are used on the upper portion of the line are seven inches in diameter. At Fifth and Wood and Fifth and Grant Streets the line crosses the Pittsburgh Traction road and the cable is carried down by four and a half feet depression pulleys. The sharpest curve is one of thirty feet radius at Webster and High Streets near the centre of the city. On this end of the line there are also six curves of forty-five feet radius, one of forty feet and one of fifty feet. On the upper end of the line there are four curves of 150 ft. radius, four of forty-five feet and one of fifty feet. The grades range from one per cent, to twelve and three-quarters per cent., the worst of them being a section of about 2,000 ft. rising continuously twelve and three-quarters per cent, from Fulton Street a short distance east of the power house. There are three other grades ranging between ten per cent, and twelve and three-quarters per cent. Much of the section of the city through which this road passes is as yet thinly settled, but there is a great amount of good real estate that is available for development and will eventually yield a large traffic.

There are two cables in use, designated as the downtown and uptown ropes, both being driven from one power house, situated on Wylie Avenue at the corner of Tunnel Street, a few minutes' walk east of the Court House. Both ropes are one and five sixteenths inches in diameter. The downtown rope is a Washburn & Moen cable. This section is only 6,000 ft. long and the numerous sharp curves and the two depression pulleys give the rope a very short life, averaging not more than three to four months. The speed of this rope is seven miles per hour. The uptown rope is 21,500 ft. in length and runs nine miles an hour. A Roebling cable is now in use, and the average life on this section is between four and six months.

Cable Power Station

The power house is a handsome building, faced with rough stone, and contains a well equipped plant of Wetherill machinery. The engine room has a front of sixty feet on Wylie Avenue and extends back ninety feet. Across the rear is a wing 120 ft. long and fifty-three feet wide, with an entrance at one end on Tunnel Street, where cable reels are taken in. There are two 500 H. P. Wetherill-Corliss engines, with 28 X 60 ins. cylinders, r u n n i n g at fifty-six revolutions. These engines are both geared to the same shaft and can be used together or separately (Fig. 1). Ordinarily one engine is enough to do the work and the two engines are used alternately one week at a time. The driving drums are solid, that for the uptown rope being sixteen feet in diameter and for the downtown twelve feet. Split idlers are used, both being twelve feet in diameter, and the cable makes four wraps (Fig. 2). The tension arrangement is of the usual type, with weighted carriage,which travels underneath the floor of the engine room with a runway of about fifty feet. The cables are led in from the conduit on six foot pulleys, the other guide pulleys being twelve feet in diameter.

Cable Winding Drums

The steam plant consists of four Wetherill boilers, 18 ft. X 72 ins, with sixty four inch tubes. The working pressure is eighty-five pounts. the luxury of natural gas is still enjoyed at this plant, the fuel being purchased on yearly contract without any meter. The wing in which the boilers are located is of ample dimensions, and gives plenty of room for storage and change of cables.

The cars are of Pullman build. There are sixteen of them, twenty-eight feet long over all. In general appearance they closely resemble the cars of the Citizens' line, but they are shorter by one foot. McGuire trucks are used, with twentyfour inch Whitney cast iron wheels. The cars . are.light and very simply constructed, but they are strong and neat. They are painted a bright yellow, and furthermore, they are kept clean. The grips used are of the Root pattern, taking the rope at the side,with an upper jaw of cast iron and a lower shoe of steel. These jaws are heavy and will wear for about one month. Lever brakes are used, with shoes between the wheels operated by a toggle movement. One of the cars is equipped with a Westinghouse aire brake designed for the work, which has been in experimental use for more than a year with excellent results (Fig. 3). I couldn't find a figure 3. Perhaps this was copied from an earlier publication.

One of the car axles is geared directly to the crank shaft of a small air compressor, which maintains a pressure of sixty-five pounds per square inch in a small cylindrical reservoir, under the body of the car. A three-way cock, in the cab controls the supply of air for the brake, which is a modification of the mechanism in use on steam roads. The admission of compressed air to the brake cylinder drives out the piston to which the levers of the brake rigging are attached. The air compressor works continuously while the car is in motion and the pressure is regulated by a valve that blows off at sixty-five pounds.

The car barn of the Central Traction Co. is at the upper end of the line, the track forming a loop through the building, which is triangular in shape. There are inspection pits here and all grips are examined as the cars pass through. There is storage room for all the cars, and the tracks have conduits, so that it is not necessary to remove the grips.

All the plant and equipment of this road is in first class condition and an excellent service is rendered, which adds as much to the interest in the road as do its engineering features.

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