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kjr_logo3Kiski Junction Railroad

Pennsylvania shortline

Situated along the Allegheny River, northeast of Pittsburgh, the Kiski Junction Railroad is a 6 mile shortline offering scrap metal hauling for an Allegheny Ludlum plant located online. The road also handles local grain interchange, and service to a reactivated coal mine is in the works. First constructed in 1856 by the Allegheny Valley Railroad, the line was later merged into the vast Pennsylvania Railroad system, later Penn Central and Conrail. The current shortline began in 1995 and is based in Shenley, Pennsylvania, where the road interchanges with the Norfolk Southern. The KJR offers seasonal tourist passenger service, often utilizing a 1943 Alco S-1 switcher.

Norfolk Southern interchange

The Kiski Junction connects to the outside world via an active interchange with the Norfolk Southern. During a July 2010 visit to the shortline, the NS local was switching interchange cars in Schenley using two locomotives on either end of their train. The ex-Conrail unit seen here was not running during this switching move, serving here only as the trailing equipment on the backup move across the river from the NS mainline.

All images Schenley, Pa / Jul 2010 / RWH

The region below Lake Erie is dotted with a number of small shortline operators who have given the public a great nod by offering seasonal tourist operations on their pikes. To the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson and the Oil Creek & Titusville add the diminutive Kiski Junction -- proud owner of the finest looking Alco S-series I have seen in quite some time. The Kiski is a one-industry shortline, although there is discussion about the possibility of reactivating coal service from a nearby mine. Still, the good folks of this Allegheny River valley road open up their little line to the public every summer, even giving passengers a front row seat to switching operations at the mill -- a perk perhaps lost on the dozens of families who ride; cherished by railfans. A summer 2009 visit to the Kiski reminded me of why shortlines loom large in my pantheon of steel rail interests: the people. My father in a wheelchair, the crew of the KJR all afternoon went out their way to make him comfortable -- even assisting me in coaxing his wheelchair through the heavy gravel of the shop area in order to take a peak at their Alco lady tied up in the engine house, awaiting new brake shoes. Thanks Kiski Junction. It's likely you were host to his last run.

After only two visits, the tiny Kiski Junction already holds a dear place in my heart. It turns out the KJR was the last pike my father and I were able to ride together, as he died just months after our first visit to the line. Not able to see their Alco switcher in service during that visit, I knew I would have to come back and ride again. A year later, I got my chance. On a hot and humid July day, my brother-in-law and I took my nephew to Schenley for his first big-time train ride. The KJR did not disappoint: Arriving in town, we all three squealed with delight at the sight of #7135 on the station track, ready for a day's work. (Well, the grown-up railfans in the car squealed over the Alco power; my nephew was just happy to see a train--any train!) Once again, the folks at the KJR were terrific hosts. We enjoyed lots of horn action, a long stay in the cab, and plenty of after-ride conversation and answers to all our probing questions.

Thanks again, Kiski Junction. You hosted my father's last, and my nephew's first.
Another generation of railfan gets the green signal. Dad would be pleased.

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This page was updated on 2016-07-11