Our recent visit to Pittsburgh (see our earlier post for part 1) centered around a fantrip on the PAT (Port Authority of Allegheny County) light rail system, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum. This was said to be the first fantrip on PAT in about 15 years, since the end of PCC service on the former Drake shuttle.
2014 is the 50th anniversary of PAT taking over from Pittsburgh Railways, and to celebrate this, they have decorated one of the LRVs in Pittsburgh Railways colors. Last year, we very much enjoyed our trip to Philadelphia to ride on a fantrip celebrating the 100th anniversary of the SEPTA Media trolley, which used an LRV decorated in “Red Arrow” colors. We had been under the impression that something similar would be done in Pittsburgh.
Deciding whether to ride, or to chase a fantrip is always a difficult decision, especially when non-revenue trackage will be used, and the Pittsburgh trip was no exception. We decided to chase the two-car train (or, as Bernie Rossbach likes to say, we “motorcaded” it). It wasn’t a question of not wanting to spend the money for a ticket, since between the three of us on the trip, we had purchased four fantrip seats from PTM on the sold-out trip.
The possibility of photographing the “Pittsburgh Railways” LRV was enticing, and 125 people can get in each other’s way on photo stops, which generally need to be brief when a fantrip train is running between regular service cars. For me, the most interesting parts of the PAT system are the short stretches of street running, and photo stops in these areas would not be practical for such a large group anyway. Some of the planned photo stops were in the Downtown subway, not necessarily most photogenic of locations.
Needless to say, things did not go exactly as planned. As it turned out, the 50th Anniversary car was not used on the fantrip, but was instead parked in the subway, where the fans were assembled in front of it for a group picture. We are not sure whether the car was inoperative or what. This meant that from the standpoint of photographs, the fantrip train looked just like any other two-car set on the Pittsburgh system, except for a small sign taped to the back window.
The fantrip did operate on a few areas of non-revenue trackage, including about 600 feet (all that still has overhead wire) of the former Drake shuttle, which last ran on September 4, 1999. Apparently, once service was extended to South Hills Village in 1984, ridership on Drake evaporated, and 15 years later, the short branch line was abandoned.
The Pittsburgh system has gone through many changes since I last rode it in 1985, with the Overbrook section being completely rebuilt, and the Downtown subway extended to the new home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
We first caught up with the fantrip train at St. Anne’s and then raced to meet it again in Allentown. Here the fantrip cars used bypass trackage that goes “over the hill” instead of the usual route through the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel.
In 1985, I rode a PCC car on the Allentown trackage, which was given its own route (52) for a time. Now it is used only when the tunnel is not available.
Next, we headed to the Beechview neighborhood, where there is about a mile of street running, a fragment of an older time when Pittsburgh Railways operated a very extensive streetcar system. we caught up with the fantrip one last time at the Library station, where they had a photo stop. The configuration of the this terminal will remind Chicago fans very much of the Dempster station on the CTA Yellow Line.
We hope that you will enjoy our photos and videos of our excursion. Unless another photographer is credited, they are my work. Despite our disappointment that the 50th Anniversary car was not used on the trip, a fine time was had by all, and the Pittsburgh system has evolved into something very interesting, always worth a trip.
Video of the fantrip train at St. Anne’s
Video of the fantrip train in Allentown
Video of the fantrip train in Beechview
Video of the fantrip train at Library