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PRR Railroad Bridge - Willow Grove (N. Beaver Twnp) PA

In August 1864 the New Castle & Beaver Valley Railroad (NC&BV), a 14.98-mile railway connecting New Castle to Homewood Junction, was completed along the western bank of the Beaver River and opened for service. The line branched off the main Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad (PFW&C) at Homewood Junction in Beaver County to a point just south of New Castle in Lawrence County.

Several additional branch railroads were soon joined at the New Castle terminus, which became known as Lawrence Junction and was located near Mahoningtown at the confluence of the Mahoning and Shenango Rivers. Most of the these smaller rail lines soon came under the control of the powerful Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR), which built up Lawrence Junction as a major rail center on its Erie & Ashtabula Division.

A small railroad bridge allowed the trains to traverse the Mahoning River into the yards. That small bridge was later replaced with a new two-track iron railroad bridge and it opened for traffic on March 17, 1891. Lawrence Junction continued to grow as the industries of New Castle relied upon the railroads to support their operations.

Work on replacing the two-track Mahoning River bridge with a new four-track structure began in 1912. The massive new bridge, supported by eight large piers and two abutments, was constructed by the American Bridge Company – a subsidiary of the U.S. Steel Company – and erected right alongside the old span. It was one of the largest railroad bridges ever built in the entire region.

Two of its tracks were in use by early 1913 before the old span was demolished to make room to complete the remainder of the new bridge. A New Castle News article of November 20, 1912, reads, “In addition to the erection of the bridge all of the tracks of the Pennsylvania company have to be raised for a considerable distance from the bridge before the new spans can be used. The new bridge will have a grade two feet higher than that of the old bridge and all of the tracks approaching the bridge will have to be raised accordingly.”

The third track of the massive bridge was in operation later in 1913. When the yards got even busier a fourth track was finally completed across the bridge in November 1915.

Today, the once-thriving rail yards at Lawrence Junction are all but a memory, but the bridge across the Mahoning River is still in use by the modern trains of the Norfolk Southern Railway (NS).


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An aerial view showing the large Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge in the area of Willow Grove, located just at the confluence of the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers. The smaller Hickory Creek Bridge, closed to vehicle traffic, is seen nearby. (c2014)


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