History of the Grove City Railroad

The railroad running through Grove City and Mercer County has served as a facilitator of commerce over the years.  This particular rail line most commonly transported coal from surrounding mines, products from the Bessemer and Cooper Bessemer Company, and also, some passengers.

In 1850, the discovery of bituminous coal in the Grove City area would foreshadow the expansion of the railroad to Grove City.

In 1872, Pittsburgh, Shenango and Lake Erie Railroad reached Pine Grove.

In 1880, the first coal mine was opened in Grove City.

In 1898, the Bessemer Gas Engine Company was founded.

In 1900, the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad was created and developed by Andrew Carnegie.

On October 24, 1908, The Slippery Rock & Grove City Railway applied to the Borough Council for a franchise to construct a “street railway” in Grove City.  Slippery Rock and Grove City Railway was begun, but never completed. At least five miles of rack were laid. One source states that track was laid along Highland Avenue to Airport Road.

In 1913, Bessemer Lake Erie Railroad crashes in Grove City.  This was a serious crash with multiple train cars piled on top of one another.

In 1929, Bessemer Gas Engine Co. and C. and G. Cooper Co. merged to form the Cooper Bessemer Company.

In 1929, Cooper-Bessemer products included gas engine-driven compressors, stationary and marine diesel engines and gas engines. During World War II, Cooper-Bessemer contributed heavily to the war effort by manufacturing diesel engines for troop and cargo ships as well as warships, tugboats, rescue, and patrol boats. Cooper-Bessemer gas engines were widely used in the production of rubber, alloys, light metals, high-octane aircraft fuel, synthetic ammonia for munitions, and in refineries, chemical plants, shipyards and petroleum pipelines.

The Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad

Once was a Class I railroad based in western Pennsylvania, The Bessemer and Lake Erie Railraod connected Bessemer, PA with the Lake Erie port of Conneaut, Ohio. The B&LE railroad dates as far back as the Shenango & Allegheny Railroad of 1869, with the modern railroad tracing its roots to steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie who chartered the railroad in 1897. The purpose of Carengie’s railroad was to haul steel products, such as iron ore, from the Lake Erie Port to steel mills located near Pittsburgh.

The Bessemer and Lake Erie’s main line stretches 149 miles from the starting point of Bessemer, all the way to Conneaut, Ohio. The railroad also had three branch lines divering from the main line in Hilliards Branch (which connects Branchton with Hilliards, PA) which stretches 10 miles, the Meadville Branch (which connects Meadville Junction with Meadvill, PA) stretching over 15 miles, and the Kaylor Branch (connecting Hooker with Kaylor, PA) which stretches 18 miles.

The railroad was purchased in 2004, under the ownership of the Canadian National Railway as part of CN’s larger purchase of holding company Great Lakes Transportation. Reports have stated that the railway system is still very much alive and is said to be operating virtually the same as before the 2004 takeover. Although it is unclear how much longer the CN will allow the locomotives to keep the same orange and black livery and maintain operations as they were, every other aspect of the railway systems seems to be as consistent as before.

There are currently four diesel locomotives in use by the B&LE Railroad, with an additional 15 steam powered locomotives in use. With varying sizes and weights, the railroad system may not be the most efficient way to travel like it once was, but is still very much alive and in use today.

Railroads in Grove City Today

Railroads helped build America: westward growth, coal mining, wars, and economic advancement. However, they are not things of the past. Sounds of train whistles can be heard on the railroads in Grove City today.

GE Transportation and Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad hold presence around Grove City.  Trains use high technology. They can be controlled from thousands of miles away through electronic control of signals and switches. The Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad still operates freight cars filled of coal.

Trains today carry a variety of cargo. Mixed freight trains carry a variety of goods from flatcars, gondolas, and closed freight cars.  Single commodity trains can carry anything from grain to produce.

Check out the Railroad Museum of PA for more information on the history and growth of railroads.

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