The McKeesport Connecting Railroad (1899-2021)

In May of 2021, the Union Railroad Company, a short line company in Pennsylvania, submitted an application to abandon "5.4-miles of switching and terminal trackage in the City of McKeesport in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (known as the “MCR Track”). (STB - AB_183_5_X). This was originally known as the McKeesport Connecting Railroad.

The MCR dates back to 1899, and became part of the Union Railroad on Jan 1st, 2013.

(Location and right of way

The abandonment request states that "No customers have been served by URR over the MCR Track for over four years, [as of 2021]. Following abandonment, URR will convey the right-of-way to DB Pipe, LLC with the MCR Track’s rail and related track material intact."

While DB Pipe, LLC has no immediate plans to salvage the MCR Track, it will be responsible for such salvaging should it occur in the future."

Abandonment is a very long legal process, for the reasons that existing railroad rights of way are an incredibly valuable resource, and only continue to become more valuable as land becomes more scarce. Thus, any abandonment that is granted must undergo an arduous process that ensure that the tracks really aren't necessary for the continued health of the US railroad network, and won't be in the future. It should be noted that this is a different process than rail-banking a line, which preserves the right of way for future railroad use, should it become necessary, and in the interim, allows the land to be used by the public, usually in the form of a rail trail. Either process must be approved through the Surface Transportation Board.

So while, as of the time of this writing, the abandonment of the tracks have not been granted, I see no reason why the request won't be accepted in the relatively near future.

The abandonment of the line was preceded by the abandonment of the railroad's bridge over the Monongahela River, known as the McKeesport Connecting Railroad Bridge. While it no longer serves railroad traffic, it still stands as the Riverton Bridge, part of the Great Alleghany Passage Rail Trail.

"Union Railroad crossing the McKeesport Transfer Bridge on June 28, 1997. Originally built by the PRR, the Union acquired trackage right over the bridge in 1965 and outright purchased it in 1976. US Steel donated the bridge to the local rails to trails and today you can walk (or bike) over it." Steven J. Raith photo via Industrial History.

The historical report of the exemption request speaks of the MCR's history, "Incorporated on March 20, 1889, the McKeesport Connecting Railroad connected the National Tube Works Co., and later U. S. Steel's National Plant, to the Pennsylvania [Railroad], Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, and Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It also switched freight cars within the plant." 

The report also highlighted an MCR pamphlet, downloaded from Tube City Online and available digitally from the source.

More history from the pamphlet, "The railroad consists of 14.83 miles of main tracks, yard tracks, and sidings. It maintains two public team tracks known as Locust Street and Center Street team tracks."

In 1948, the company converted from steam engine power into a diesel fleet. 

MCR Steam Engine no. 5. Tube City Online image.

The MCR Roundhouse still stands, but needs restoration funds if it is to be preserved. The Railway Locomotive & Historical Society organized a fundraiser in 2018, but it doesn't appear as though any progress has occurred on the roundhouse since that time. I'm hopeful it can be preserved, and the ongoing abandonment process of the railroad tracks shouldn't impact the roundhouse in any appreciable way. 

MCR 1002 at McKeesport, PA, 1978. Image: Doug Lilly via 

Thanks as always for reading!


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