What's Historic About Brookville, Pennsylvania?

Pittsburgh & Shawmut Railroad
By Jay Shoffstall

In 1853 Jefferson County subscribed $90,000 to the stock of the Allegheny Valley Railroad. To enable them to pay this money, the commissioner of the county issued bonds of $1,000 each for stock in the road, payable in 30 years.

The road not being finished in the time specified, the bonds were not paid but were still held by the railroad company until 1869, when a compromise was effected between the commissioners and the officers of the bonds. The railroad company agreed to run their road through the limits of the borough of Brookville.

The Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad was opened eastward from Redbank to New Bethlehem, a distance of 21 miles, on May 6, 1873. On June 23, trains commenced running regularly to Brookville from Redbank, a distance of 40 miles. On November 5, a further section of 16 miles was opened which extended to Reynoldsville. On the eastern end of the road, a section of 19 miles from Driftwood to Barr's Station was thrown open for business on August 4. By May 4, 1874, the entire Low Grade Division from Redbank to Driftwood was opened.

The Pittsburgh, Shawmut and Northern Railroad extended from Wayland, NY, to Brockwayville to Freeport on the Allegheny River, a distance of about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. This projected road was called the Brookville & Mahoning. The initials B&M were being confused with the Boston & Main, so the railroad was renamed the Pittsburgh & Shawmut. Construction was started in 1903 under the name of the Pittsburgh and Shawmut Railroad Company. The PS & N leased the P & S, and both roads operated as a unit until 1916, when the Pittsburgh & Shawmut broke away and operated as an independent railroad.

The cause of this break was the fact that the southern end, the P & S, was the money maker and the northern section the PS & N went into bankruptcy in 1905 when it defaulted the interest on its bonds and went into receivership. With this break went a great deal of coal traffic. Out of 70 cars arriving at Brockway over the P & S, 60 went to the Erie and only 10 went to the PS& N.

The Shawmut Mining Company was the principal subsidiary of the PS & N. In 1945 the company doctor, Dr. Betty Hayes, complained to the mining company about the sanitary conditions in the company owned villages of Force, Byrendale and Hollywood. The company said they could do nothing as they had been in receivership since 1905 and the mines would be worked out in six years, Dr. Hayes then resigned. The miners struck in sympathy, the company was losing a great deal of money through the strike, probably more than it would have cost to correct the sanitary conditions. The company closed the doctor's office on which she paid the rent, and removed some of her medical supplies and books. Because of this harassment, she hauled the mine operators into Federal Court.

In November 1945, Thomas C. Buchanan and Robert C. Sproul were appointed receivers of the Shawmut Mining Company. These gentlemen were previously appointed trustees of the PS & N after its shortcomings were brought to light in Dr. Hayes' suit. The trustees said that they were without sufficient funds to operate the railroad and would have to suspend certain operations.

John C. Dickson, receiver of the BS & N for 22 years, was brought before the court in its investigation of the Shawmut. The Shawmut ran into the red, more than 30 million dollars. There never was an honest effort to free the Shawmut from receivership. Upon demand of the holders of receivers certificates, Dickson was dismissed. Attempts were made to sell the road to another railroad, but none were interested. The road was sold to Harry W. Finlay on March 4, 1947, for $1,505,000. He dismantled the road and sold the equipment.

The Pittsburgh and Shawmut was built through Brookville in 1906-1907.The construction of the Shawmut through Brookville opened large coal fields south of town. They opened large mines at Ramseytown, Conifer, and Stanton. Pawnee Coal Company had a mine about four miles south of town, Stewart Coal Company and Knoxdale had large mines. Ira Campbell of Brookville and Dr. John G. Steiner of Knoxdale owned the Knoxdale Coal & Coke Company. These mines were worked out many years ago and the towns have disappeared, except Knoxdale, which survives.

The Shawmut provided passenger service for many years. In the last years of this service a gasoline coach, called the Hootelbug was used instead of a steam train. Passenger service was discontinued in the late 1940's. Headquarters of the company had been right here in Brookville.

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