The Pennsylvania Midland Railroad is a 39 mile railroad constructed to enable a 150 mile bridge route between Beech Creek, Pa., and Cumberland, Md. [This is an account of a fictional but plausable railroad placed in history and topography with other railroads of the time.]
The Pennsylvania Midland has its roots in the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain and Bellefonte Central railroads.
The Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain Railroad
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.
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.
In 1894 the line was extended from Struble to Pine Grove Mills, Pa., at the base of Stone Mountain.
The first expansion was from Bellefonte to the north to Milesburg, Pa., then northeasterly to a connection with the New York Central at Beech Creek, Pa. This connection provided an increase in mileage for lime traffic, but also opened the door to new customers via the NYC. [Though considered, this expansion was never built.]
The second expansion was from Pine Grove Mills to Huntingdon, Pa., via a 1,000 foot tunnel through Stone Mountain. By extending to Huntingdon, the line connected with the Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad, allowing the Bellefonte Central to form part of a coal route tapping the Broad Top field on behalf of the New York Central. [Though considered, this expansion was never built.]
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 southern end of the H&BTM (at Everett, Pa.) directly with Cumberland, Md.
The Bellefonte Central received 44% of the new company's stock; the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain 28%. 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 28% was sold in even portions (7%) to each of the bridge route participants -- the Baltimore & Ohio, the Western Maryland, the New York Central, and the Reading.
The Penn Midland also opened new opportunities in sand and lime quarrying and lumbering operations.
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.
The Pennsylvania Midland is a member of The Penn Family Lines consortium.
"The Midland Route"
While the Pennsylvania Midland Railroad served local customers between its end points, the larger objective of the line was to complete a bridge line from Cumberland, Md., to Beech Creek, Pa., a distance of 150 miles. The collective efforts of the three railroads -- the Huntingdon & Broad Top Mountain Railroad, the Bellefonte Central Railroad, and the Pennsylvania Midland Railroad -- were collectively referred to as the The Midland Route.
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
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. 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
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 to the northeast.."4
A significant merchandise transloading operation was implemented at Everett. 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. PRR "Merchandise Service", B&O "Sentinel Service" and NYC "Pacemaker Service" "home road" cars frequented the facility.
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.