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The North Shore Railroad Controversy

Milestones Vol 30. No. 3

by Wayne Cole

The following article is the last chapter of the History of the North Shore Railroad, a railroad that existed in Beaver County for over four decades. The longer history (and one of ten histories) is told in detail in the recently published book, Ghost Rails Volume I by Wayne A. Cole, which documents abandoned lines, their industries, and last runs with many photos and maps. The hardback, 144 page book is available now. See or type in the title in a word search. You can also order direct by sending a $40 check to Wayne A. Cole, 243 Cordak Road, Darlington, Pa. 16115. Books will be sent promptly.

Mary Park versus Walker D. Hines, Director General of the Railroads

"In light of the ceaseless Park court case in the Beaver County court of appeals, pleas cases in Lawrence County, and in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania since 1896, 10 years of court battles yet remained. The biggest was coming.

"In May of 1916 the land of the former North Shore Railroad Company was conveyed to William H. Park, and then to his wife Mary J. Park. The land stretched from the Borough of Conway through the Crow Run Valley to the former property of Albert Krammer, a distance of approximately 5 miles. However, four months before, the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County gave judgment of ouster to the North Shore Railroad Company. The decree stated that the North Shore never had been entitled to the rights of a railroad corporation. The name however would still burn in the eyes and ears of the courts.

"With the advent of World War I the Director General of the Railroads took charge of all the railroads in America, and Walker D. Hines in essence controlled the Pennsylvania Company. But in May of 1918 George E. Burrows of Oakmont, Pa., who was engaged in the steel business, was employed by William H. Park to lift the track from the Upper Works #2 to Wallace City. However, Mr. Park did not want the lower rail of about 1.5 miles lifted. He considered it newer, a heavier 70 pound rail, and more valuable. The rails of the North Shore were carried to Freedom and shipped out by barge the same way the rails had arrived years before.

"That same month a PRR crew with a rail derrick lifted the lower approximately 1.5 miles of the former North Shore track. Some track was set on flat cars and shipped to an unknown destination, presumably a scrap yard as the price of scrap had rocketed with World War I. Other rail was left scattered on the banks of Crows Run. The Pennsylvania believed these rails were the rails not returned by Park and Park when the brothers replaced the superstructure in the early 1890s.

"Mary Park had charged Director Walker D. Hines of Washington DC because he controlled the PRR. He would be the defendant in the case. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, however, found the PRR guilty of trespass. On January 23, 1924, the empanelled jurors entitled to the plaintiff, Mary Park to the sum of $2038.50. A motion for a new trial was filed, but on July 14, 1926 the motion was refused.

"In 1924 severe weather and a tornado struck the Crows Run area, the same year as the hearing. Crows Run overflowed its banks and destroyed both brick works. (Note: Works Number 3 ceased operations in 1919.) The forty- one year old Pennsylvania Clay Company would never reopen. The track was used for car storage; and according to railroaders, "gandy dancers" had a camp near the valley entrance. With the reconstruction of Conway Yards in the 1950s, the short siding was lifted.

"The father, James I. Park, who lived on the hill above Upper Works Number 2, died at his home on October 15, 1912. He rests with his wife in the Old Section of Oak Grove Cemetery. In the first court hearing, his son William A. Park stated, "We wanted to remove the old gentleman from the business." The father of William and John Park may never have wanted a railroad.

"The 1923 Pennsylvania Railroad timetable lists the Crows Run Branch: Junction Crows Run Branch, 22.6 miles (from Pittsburgh); Pennsylvania Clay #3, 23.0 miles; Pennsylvania Clay #2, 23.5 miles; Keystone Standard Supply, 23.4 miles; Freight Station 23.5 miles.

"In 2004 a cinder road covers the grade of the old PRR switch; the remains of the North Shore Railroad are gone. Serious flooding still occurs, the most recent in the summer of 2004. Quiet homes, reached only by narrow footpath bridges across Crows Run, are tucked away on the hillside. The grade is visible in the tunnel areas, where a brakeman would ride and brake a freight car uncoupled from the untrustworthy #32 down the grade. The portals for the tunnels are nearly closed. The state of Pennsylvania is contemplating the Crows Run Expressway to Cranberry Township where the old Harmony Line ran, the route proposed 110 years ago by the Park brothers."