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   Nanty Gl
o's Trains

This article by George Dilling
Note: The "Coal trains" section below was added over a year after
the orignal article appeared. Revision date: Ocober 14, 2002.


Passenger trains

Two daily passenger trains came through Nanty Glo (late 1920s, '30s), one going east early in the morning and one going west at 7 p.m. They carried both mail and freight. When they arrived, Mr. James Cornelius, Station Master, would take a large cart out on the long wooden platform to get the mail and freight from the train and take the mail and freight going on to the train.

I was about fourteen or fifteen years old when one Sunday a friend and I decided to walk to the Ebensburg Airport. We hoped we would get a ride home. I had on a pair of new shoes and got a blister on my foot. When it was getting late and we hadn't gotten a ride, we decided to walk home. We were told that if we went down the hill through the woods to the railroad tracks it would be much shorter.

When we got to the tracks, we did not know which way to go. In a few minutes, the 7 o'clock train came by, showing us the way. It was getting dark when I got home. I knew I was in trouble for getting home too late for church. There were three doors into the house. The kitchen and dining rooms were locked. We seldom used the one into the living room. I went through that door and there, facing me, was a bear with its mouth wide open showing big teeth. I hurriedly closed the door and waited for the family to come home. They laughed at me for being afraid of the new bear rug made from the 300-pound bear my dad had killed.

Coal trains

Nanty Glo had two train systems that served the community: The C & I (Cambria and Indiana) system was rated one of the most prosperous short haul lines in the United States. It was headquartered on the hill above the Ivory Hill houses and was referred to as the upper tracks. I don't know how far east it went, but I do know that it brought coal from the east.

On the Western side it went as far as Pine Flats in Indiana County. There was a branch that went to Rexis (near Vintondale) and up past White Mill. The tracks were connected also to Nanty Glo, Ebensburg, and Colver. (Webmaster's note: From Vintondale's history and the account of the "Belsano Job," it's understood that the original rail line from Ebensburg to Vintondale was via Colver, White Mill, Red Mill, and Rexis.)

Back of the C & I houses was the Eleanor Railroad yards. This was used to shift cars to determine where the coal would be shipped. Some went on to Colver and some went to the Pennsylvania tracks in Nanty Glo.

The other system, mentioned above, was The Pennsylvania. The Pennsy had two spurs, one going to Syberts Feed Mill, which was used to deliver items like wheat to the mill. The other spur went into the Ragley Lumber Yard, delivering lumber to the mill. It went into the large enclosed building. There was room on either side of the tracks for cars, trucks and the sheds to store the lumber. There was also a short section to deliver sand to the sand house.

The main purpose of the railroads was the shipping of coal. The "lower" tracks, which went through the center of town, had a siding between First Street and McCoy Street. Tracks from Heisley Coal Co., "later Bethlehem Mines," and Webster Mines crossed the creek on the trestle across from the Firehall and joined the Pennsy near the entrance to the Ghost Trail.

Some of the coal from Heisley also went in the opposite direction and across the long trestle at the end of McCoy Street and onto the C & I tracks.

Although the railroads were essential to the economy of Nanty Glo, they were also somewhat of a nuisance. From early morning until late at night the tracks along McCoy Street were used for shifting the cars around. The trains were long, extending far beyond Chestnut Street, blocking the crossing for very long periods of time. Often, several of us students would line up the steps to the principal's office to receive an excuse for being late.

Sometimes, some impatient person would crawl under the cars or climb over the coupling between the cars. Two persons lost their lives trying to get to the other side when the train blocked the crossing. They were Edward Baldwin, Sr., and Charlie Morgan.

Sometimes, during the night there would be an engine on each end of the train. Sometimes there was a brakeman in the middle who would signal the engines with a lantern. At other times, the engines would signal each other with shrill whistles. My wife lived between the two tracks and she says that often she was frightened at night when she was wakened by the shrill whistle of the train in front of their house.

But without the trains, the coal mines could not have existed and the livelihood of most of the people of Nanty Glo would have been lost.

Other train-related pages: The Belsano Job | Clark's Farm | Rail Ghosts on the Trail

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