Railroads of York, Pennsylvania

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Pershing Avenue Street Trackage

The Northern Central Railway extended from Baltimore, Maryland to Canada, and passed through York on it's journey. This route was a main passenger and freight route from Baltimore to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's state capitol. As it passed through York, it had to use about two blocks of street trackage on Pershing Avenue in downtown York. This line was originally double tracked, and saw quite a number of trains daily.

Now, the tracks no longer extend into Maryland. There are some industries on the south side of York that still receive freight service on this line. The Stewartstown Railroad connects to this line at New Freedom, however there is currently no freight service to New Freedom or the Stewartstown Railroad.

NOTE: The information and photographs on this page were gathered in 1998 when I had originally received a request for information on street trackage in York. As this site continues to develop, I will update this page with more current information and photographs.

Map of street trackageIn order to help you orient yourself to the following photographs, I have included this map of the Pershing Avenue area. Market Street is the main eastbound route through town, and Philadelphia Street the main westbound route. Both streets are one way. Pershing Avenue north of Market Street is two way, and one way southbound south of Market Street. Pershing Avenue traffic patterns will be changing in the near future, to all two way traffic.

Market Street east of Pershing Avenue narrows to two winding lanes through downtown, and truck traffic is restricted. Trucks must turn right onto Pershing Avenue to follow a truck route onto King Street eastbound.

You'll notice that the streets aren't exactly aligned with true north. When describing the photos below, I'll be using street directions instead of true compass directions.

Click on a thumbnail for the full size photo:
This first view is looking northeast from Pershing and Gas. This is the trackage approaching Pershing Avenue. The building with the blue silos in the background is Ohio Blenders. On the close side of Ohio Blenders is the current main line of the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad (former Pennsylvania trackage) and on the far side of Ohio Blenders is the current main line of Yorkrail (former Western Maryland trackage), both local shortlines owned by Emons Transportation. The foreground trackage ties into the Ma & Pa main line behind the Keystone Color Works building on the right.
Now we're looking south from essentially the same location. Here you see the tracks entering the street, and heading south. Philadelphia Street crosses at the intersection. The building on the left was originally a steam plant that generated electricity, and sold the steam to downtown buildings for heat. It has since been converted into a commercial/industrial complex with different businesses, including a switching station for MCI. Sadly, no one in the complex is using any rail service.
I'm standing on the southeast corner of Philadelphia and Pershing, looking south. The street trackage continues. The second track was located on the other side of the double yellow line. I can remember both tracks being there, but I don't remember when they pulled it out.
Now I'm almost at Market Street, on the west side of Pershing Avenue. As you can see, there's quite a bit of traffic on this street. We're two block west of the square at this location, and there's lots of downtown traffic passing through here. Above the cars you can see the new traffic lights that are being installed for two way traffic on the next block. There are several tourists attractions in this area, including the restored 1700's tavern visible to the left above the pickup truck.
Now we're looking northwest at the southwest corner of Market and Pershing. You can see the signal control boxes for the crossing gates at Market Street, which are also tied in with the traffic signals. The croosing gate that you see is probably the most repaied and replaced crossing gate in the county. All trucks must turn off of Market onto Pershing here, and that gate gets hit fairly regularly. The Ma & Pa's signal maintainer is a regular fixture at this intersection!
We're now looking south from Market Street, and can clearly see where the tracks bear off to parallel the Codorus Creek (actually a small river) southwest out of town. Just to the right of the tracks is a bus transfer station. Just past the transfer station to the extreme right is a biking and hiking path. More on that below.
I'm standing at the end of the street trackage, looking back towards Market Street. The big stack in the background is the old steam plant at Philadelphia Street. To the left is where busses enter the transfer station. This should prove to be an interesting place when Pershing Avenue becomes two way. Most trains coming from this direction will be making reverse runs, so they'll have their work cut out for them checking on northbound traffic.
Now were looking southwest down the right-of-way off the end of the street trackage. I'm standing where the second track would have passed through. Obviously, the manhole and trees were placed after the track was removed. About two blocks from here, a walking and biking path parallels the track where the second track would have been. This will eventually be tied into the Northern Central Rail Trail which extends to Cockeysville, Maryland. The path terminates across from the old steam plant.
Time for a slight detour. We're on Market Street, on the other side of the Codorus Creek. This is a project that is underway to increse tourism to York; the murals project. It's one of two murals in this block, and one of at least five in town so far. This one is of particular interest, so I decided to grab a few shots since I was in the area.
A close-up of the mural shows a rendering of "The York", a steam engine built in York for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad by Phineas Davis and his partners in 1832. The B&O held a competition for a locomotive that burned anthracite (coal), with a grand prize of $4,000. The York was built and taken to Baltimore where it won the grand prize and eventually served the B&O on it's main line to Ellicott Mills.
On my way back to my car I find that the city's Electrical Bureau has returned to Philadelphia & Pershing, where they are installing signal lights for the new traffic patterns. In addition, the Liberty Limited dinner train tends to foul the circuit for the crossing gates here, as they stop just past Philadelphia St. Hopefully the modifications planned here will alleviate that problem. This whole area could change if plans for a minor league ball park on the Ohio Blenders site go through.

This page maintained by Greg Halpin.
This page last updated on 8/20/2002
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