The "Midland Route"
The Midland Route is a 183 mile bridge route between Cumberland, Md. and Beech Creek, Pa., and White Deer, Pa., not unlike the Alphabet Route. [This is an account of a fictional but plausable railroad placed in history and topography with other railroads of the time.]
The collective efforts of the three railroads -- the Pennsylvania Midland, the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain, and the Bellefonte Central -- were collectively referred to as the The Midland Route.
The Bellefonte Central Railroad
The Bellefonte Central Railroad was organized in May 1882 and was a short line connecting Bellefonte, Pa. with State College, Pa., in Centre county. The 18 mile line served to hauled local iron ore to furnaces in the Bellefonte region, and later hauled freight traffic to the Pennsylvania State University and lime for steelmaking from local quarries.
The line handled massive tonnage in lime products, but only transported it a few miles for handoff to the Pennsylvania Railroad at Bellefonte. Seeking to profit from more mileage for their efforts, the Bellefonte Central pursued several options for expansion1.
Of the BFC's president, Bezilla also writes, "Frazer's ambitions for the Bellefonte Central went far beyond State College. He envisioned the BFC as a bridge line between the coal-hauling Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad to the southwest and the Beech Creek Railroad (NYC) to the northeast."4
In Branchline Empires, Mike Bezilla writes, "In May 1912, newspapers reported that the New York Central wanted to acquire the Bellefonte Central and the Central Railroad of Pennsylvania, a relatively new short line that ran between Bellefonte and a connection with the New York Central at Mill Hall, Clinton County, a route of 27 miles. It was widely rumored that the NYC planned the acquisition as the first step in a larger effort to reach the Broad Top coalfields and then establish a connection with the Western Maryland Railway near Cumberland, Maryland."4
The Central Pennsylvania Railroad was incorporated on May 11, 1889 to connect Unionville with Mill Hall, running by way of Bellefonte and the Nittany Valley. On December 11, 1890, the Central Pennsylvania Railroad Eastern Extension was incorporated, to leave the main line of the first company at Lamar and follow Fishing Creek, Sand Spring Run, and White Deer Creek to White Deer on the Susquehanna. This would provide a connection to the Philadelphia and Reading Railway, in addition to that with the NYC at Mill Hall. The two companies were merged on September 11, 1891 and became the Central Railroad of Pennsylvania. The extension was never built and the railroad operated until 1918.
In 1894 the BCR was extended from Struble to Pine Grove Mills, Pa., at the base of Stone Mountain, as a first step towards a connection to the south. It never went any further.
Historical Tweak #2: The Bellefonte Central acquired the Central Railroad of Pennsylvania, providing it with a connection to the New York Central at Mill Hall, Pa., and with the Reading Company at White Deer, Pa.
The Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad (H&BTM) was chartered in May 1852, to provide a rail link from Huntingdon to Bedford, and to provide a competitive alternate route to local coal producers to break the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's monopoly on coal that was being shipped from the Cumberland, Maryland, area. It ran through Bedford and Huntingdon counties.
However, the completion of the Bedford Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1910 allowed the PRR to divert most of the lucrative through traffic from the Cumberland area away from the H&BTM. Significant revenues were lost as a result.
It operated until 1954.
Historical Tweak #3: The H&BTM prospered under the Midland Route arrangement and remained in business.
Historical Tweak #4:
The Pennsylvania Midland Railroad Company
The Penn Midland was formed in 1915, a joint venture of the Bellefonte Central Railroad and the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain Railroad. Its purpose was to
- Connect the Bellefonte Central at Pine Grove Mills, Pa. with the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain at Huntingdon, Pa.
- Connect the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain at Everett, Pa. with the Baltimore & Ohio and the Western Maryland at Cumberland, Md.
Such a route was not only plausable, but has factual roots in the history of the South Penn Railroad. Most think of Vanderbilt's New York Central when discussing the South Penn, but involved parties extended to the Reading, the Western Maryland, and the Baltimore & Ohio. The latter, in fact, had actually surveyed a route from an interchange with the H&BTM at Everett, Pa., to its main line at Hancock, Md.3
The Bellefonte Central received 46% of the new company's stock; the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain 24%. These amounts were based on the percentage of route miles each railroad contributed to the bridge route. To finance construction of the line, the remaining 30% was sold in even portions (7.5%) to each of the bridge route participants -- the Baltimore & Ohio, the Western Maryland, the New York Central, and the Reading.
A significant merchandise transloading operation was implemented at Everett. PRR "Merchandise Service", B&O "Sentinel Service" and NYC "Pacemaker Service" "home road" cars frequented the facility.
In addition to the Midland Route partners (NYC, RDG, B&O, WM), Everett also offered local connections with the Pennsylvania Railroad (via Bedford) and The Penn Family Lines.
The Penn Midland also opened new opportunities in sand and lime quarrying, iron ore, and lumbering.
The Pennsylvania Midland is a member of The Penn Family Lines consortium.
Kishacoquillas Valley Railroad
Historical Tweak #5: In 1941, the Penn Midland leased trackage rights on the Kishacoquillas Valley Railroad (KV) in Mifflin county. The KV had fallen on hard times. It had constructed an inter-mountain extension [an expansion it had actually considered2] to reach Greenwood Furnace. When the iron ore industry dried up, the KV was left with debt from which it could not recover on its own. A short connector was constructed from McAlevy's Fort to Greenwood Furnace to allow through traffic. This provided the Penn Midland with a relatively short route between Lewistown and State College/Bellefonte for both freight and passenger service.
1 Bezilla, Michael and Rudnicki, Jack, Rails to Penn State: The Story of the Bellefonte Central, Stackpole Books, 2007. 310 pp., 50 photos, 25 maps.
2 Hartzler, John G., The Ol' Hook & Eye, A History of the Kishacoquillas Valley Railroad. Self-published. ISBN 978-0-9620642-1-0.
3 Harwood, Herbert H., The Railroad That Never Was: Vanderbilt, Morgan and the South Pennsylvania Railroad, Indiana University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-253-35548-5.
4 Bezilla, Michael, Branchline Empires; The Pennsylvania and the New York Central Railroads, Indiana University Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0-253-02958-4.