Knox and Kane Railroad
|This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (June 2009)|
Knox & Kane 58, in July 1990, before being repainted
|Dates of operation||1982–2008|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The track and right of way was bought from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1982 when the B&O discontinued operations on the old Northern Subdivision between Foxburg and Kane. This line was a part of the old Pittsburgh and Western Railroad, originally a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge line created in the latter third of the 19th century from a merging of various earlier narrow-gauge lines.
When the segment of the B&O from Foxburg to Knox was taken out of service, shipping raw materials, mostly glassmaking sand, to Knox Glass became difficult. To ease this situation, a connection with the Conrail (originally the New York Central Railroad) line through Shippenville was put in place. The B&O and NYC crossed each other not too far west of Shippenville for many years, but there had never been provision for interchange between the two roads. Operations in to Knox, which had been the original southern terminus of the K&K, were discontinued around the time the only real customer in Knox, the Knox glass bottle company, ceased operations. This ended the use of the Shippenville interchange.
After the Knox segment was embargoed, the southern terminus became what was known as North Clarion Junction, where there was a fibreboard plant and a wye, the tail track of which had been the P&W's line across to the east side of the Clarion River to the borough of Clarion (county seat of Clarion County). This branch was discontinued at around the time the B&O purchased the P&W. The bridge over the Clarion River needed replacement and the railroad requested that the town help with funding the project. Clarion's town fathers declined this honor, so the railroad cut back service to the west side of the river, which was eventually abandoned as well.
At one time, the K&K derived some revenue from shipping out car loadings of coal from what had once been an extensive coal mining complex in and around the village of Lucinda, a few miles north of North Clarion Junction. During the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, under B&O ownership, coal loadings from this area were quite extensive. A conductor's report from one northbound freight train (Foxburg to Kane) in the early 1960s showed in excess of fifty loads of coal shipped north out of Lucinda, most of it bound for ports on the Great Lakes. The last coal shipper on the line, Zacheryl Coal, went bankrupt not too many years after the K&K acquired the line, which materially reduced shipping over the line, and thus reduced income.
The K&K also operated a tourist railroad operation over the segment of the line from Kane to Marienville (originally the site of another of the Knox Glass Bottle Company's plants), and back to Kane. A portion of the Erie Railroad was purchased so that the tourist trains could cross the Kinzua bridge. A Tangshan Locomotive and Rolling Stock Works-built 2-8-2 steam locomotive 58 was acquired to power the tourist trains. 58 was built as SY1658 in 1989. It was imported new to the Knox and Kane, (one of only six steam engines imported from China after the end of steam in the States). The K&K had a much older 2-8-0 steam locomotive, Knox & Kane 38, built by Baldwin for the Huntington and Broad Top Mountain Railway 38 had not run since the 1980s, but was under restoration to be returned to steam. A new tender tank had been built. As the B&O never saw a need to turn locomotives at Marienville, there was no wye or turntable in that community. So the K&K built a turn table there, specifically to turn its steam locomotive. There was also a four bay roundhouse built in Marienville. Today, the roundhouse is in a considerable amount of disrepair, with three of the four tracks having been removed. The coaches used on the Knox & Kane were mostly an old type of Long Island Rail Road commuter cars. This type of car had been dubbed ping pong cars because of their tendency to rock and bounce all over, even when new on well maintained track. The cars, while charming and somewhat modern in appearance with their round vestibule windows, were also notorious for rusting, making maintenance one these cars a constant chore. This collection of old and new equipment made for one of the more distinctive tourist train operations in the country, although it was often overlooked because of its remote location.
In the spring of 2006, the K&K ceased both freight and tourist service. One reason was that freight shipments over the line had declined seriously over the years. An additional reason the line was abandoned as a tourist operation was that the main attraction of the ride was a trip over the Kinzua Bridge. The viaduct was extensively damaged by a tornado in 2003. When the State of Pennsylvania, which owns the viaduct, could not afford to repair it, the railroad lost its major tourist draw.
In another devastating blow, on early Sunday March 16, 2008 the locomotives used to carry sightseers across the Kinzua Bridge were severely damaged by a fire set by arsonists. The fire, which burned the Biddle Street building used to house the trains in Kane, Pennsylvania caused $1 million in damage. This further dampened the dream of reopening the railroad.
End of the line
According to an article published in the Bradford Era newspaper immediately following the auction, the Kovalchicks reportedly had "little interest in resuming tourist rides along the rails."
In the spring of 2010, Kovalchick removed the rail crossings between Clarion and McKean counties. The entire line from Clarion Junction to Mount Jewett is now in the process of being removed. Once the tracks are removed, there are plans to convert the line into a trail as part of the rails-to-trails program.
- Burns 1999, p. 5.
- Burns 1999, p. 2.
- Vosler, Adam (March 17, 2008). "Arson fire in Kane causes $1 million in damage". The Bradford Era. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
- Lutz, Ted (September 26, 2008). "Sale, auction dims future for tourist train". The Kane Republican. Archived from the original on November 20, 2008. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
- "Knox & Kane Railroad auction proves successful". The Bradford Era. October 13, 2008. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
- Publisher (2010-05-25). "Former excursion railroad to remove crossings". The Kane Republican. Retrieved 2010-06-29.[dead link]
- Burns, Robert W (1999). Ex-Baltimore & Ohio Lines in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Robert W. Burns.
- "Running up the Stumps". The Sentinel. Baltimore, Maryland: Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Historical Society. Spring 2002.