Every so often the subject of Bridgeville’s absence from the network of streetcars in this area pops up, usually as part of a story of a young man stranded in Carnegie late at night and being required to walk home. Somehow the trolley-building boom at the beginning of the twentieth century got no closer to Bridgeville than Heidelberg.
We have discussed this general subject in this column before, but at this point we have enough additional information to develop it further. We know that the Pittsburgh and West End Traction Company ran its first cars into Carnegie on Memorial (Decoration) Day in 1895, enabling GAR Post 215 to decorate graves in the Mansfield Cemetery.
Two years later a group of investors incorporated the Carnegie, Heidelberg, and Bridgeville Street Railway Company, capitalized at $30,000. The railway was planned to parallel the tracks of the Chartiers Branch of the Panhandle (Pennsylvania Railroad) from Carnegie to Bridgeville. Its survey had been completed and construction was anticipated within a year. According to a docent at the Arden Trolley Museum, this project failed because of opposition from the merchants in Bridgeville.
At the same time an alternate route, the Carnegie-Canonsburg Street Passenger Railway was also chartered. Its route was via Oakdale, McDonald, and Bridgeville. “Nouveau riche” investors who had profited from the oil boom in McDonald were reported to be behind it. We have no idea why it was never built.
By 1900 the consolidation of numerous street railways in the Pittsburgh area had progressed to the point that the Southern Traction Company had acquired the West End Traction Company and was well on the way toward the ultimate consolidation of the Pittsburgh Railways Company. Nonetheless entrepreneurs in the suburbs still had plans for new ventures.
One of these, the Bridgeville Street Railway Company, was chartered in December, 1904, with a completely different route. It was planned to begin in Mt. Lebanon, follow Bower Hill Road to Bridgeville, go up Millers Run to Cecil and then on to Canonsburg. The President of the company was A. J. Barron, “a student in the office of the law firm of Lyon, McKee & Mitchell”.
In April, 1905, they presented a proposal to the Bridgeville Borough Council. Its route would enter the borough on Bower Hill Road, turn left on McLaughlin Run Road, then right onto Baldwin Street. It would then turn left on Jane Way and proceed up to Station Street. At that point a massive trestle would be built leading up to Washington Avenue, high enough to provide clearance over the railroad.
The line would then follow Washington Avenue south to the bridge over Chartiers Creek.
While the Borough Council was considering this proposal, they suddenly were confronted with an alternative; from the Carnegie, Oakdale, and McDonald Street Railway Company (C. O. & M). They too were interested in reaching Canonsburg via Bridgeville and Millers Run. Debate over the two competing proposals lasted for months.
The Council was composed of George R. Shidle (President), Dr. S. J. S. Fife, C. P. Mayer, S. P. McCaffrey, August Rehman, Peter Watkinson, and A. W. Melvin. Webb Murray was Burgess, and a member of the consortium behind the Bridgeville Street Railway Company.
At some point the Council proposed a charter that Murray’s company felt was too restrictive. Some of their members considered the C. O. & M alternative to be more attractive to the Borough. In November the Council passed an ordinance accepting their proposal; Burgess Murray promptly vetoed it. Council responded by over-riding his veto.
The C. O. & M then succeeded in getting franchises in Oakdale, McDonald, and Canonsburg and began acquiring right-of-way properties along Millers Run. In 1906 it was learned that this railway was part of a master plan backed by the Mellon interests to develop a major competitor for Pittsburgh Railways, with plans for a tunnel through Mt. Washington and the installation of elevated rail lines in the city.
Concurrently, Pittsburgh Railways was working on an alternate route to Canonsburg and Washington, the one that would eventually be built. They chartered three companies – the St. Clair & Sodom Street Railway Company, the Bethel Street Railway Company, and the Canonsburg & Upper St. Clair Street Railway Company – and began acquiring right-of-way linking Castle Shannon, Drake, Thompsonville (now Donaldson’s Crossroads), Canonsburg, and Washington.
Another branch ran from Castle Shannon south to Finleyville, Monongahela City, Donora, Charleroi, and Roscoe. Too bad we can’t activate our time machine and spend a day on each branch! The successful completion of this line apparently spelled the death knell for both the Bridgeville Electric Street Railway company and the C. O. & M.
Nonetheless in 1910 another set of plans for a new line from Dormont to Bridgeville were made public. This line would be a major component of the proposed Pittsburgh, Steubenville, and Wheeling Street Railway, an ambitious interurban line.
It would begin at Dormont Junction, follow Bower Hill Road into Bridgeville, then proceed up Thoms Run through Roseville (Presto), Federal, and Hickman to Oakdale. The route would continue through Midway, Bulger, and Raccoon to Burgettstown. From there it would pass through Dinsmore, Hanlon, and Colliers, then through Holiday’s Cove into Steubenville. From that point it would go south to Wheeling.
Apparently this project was too ambitious to succeed. There is no record of the company in any of the relevant newspapers after 1910. Once again Bridgeville was denied the spectacle of trolleys running up and down the middle of Washington Avenue, with a stop right in front of Weise’s. What an interesting era that was, sandwiched between the horse-and-buggy days and our love affair with the automobile!