Engine No. 10 of the
Bellefonte Central Railroad as featured in a photo from
the collection of Michael Bezilla
Historically, the Bellefonte Central Railroad played
a major role in the development of the Centre Region. Volunteers
with the Centre Rails-to-Trails Association are working with local
historic groups to compile a history of the rail line and incorporate
historic perspectives and information in literature about the
As the Arboretum is developed, we hope to place
interpretive signs at appropriate points along the former railroad
corridor, and involve faculty in offering programs that bring
local railroad history to life for Arboretum visitors.
Origin and Major Stages of Operation
Source: Michael Bezilla
Engine No. 5323 is shown here at a location known today
as Waddle. This was the last stop before trains could take
the extension into State College. (See historic map below
for approximate location of "Waddles").
The Bellefonte Central rail line follows a portion
of a railroad originally built between 1884 and 1886 by the Buffalo
Run, Bellefonte, and Bald Eagle Railroad Company with the main
objective of transporting iron ore from a farm owned by Conrad
Struble west of State College. The 19-mile rail line connected
to the Pennsylvania Railroad in Bellefonte and provided both passenger
and freight service to State College.
When the railroad ran into financial difficulty,
it was sold at a public sale and eventually re-organized as
the Bellefonte Central Railroad in January 1892. A short extension
was quickly built into downtown State College, along with
a new station on College Avenue.
Most of the Bellefonte Central line was officially
abandoned in 1975, except for the first 4.1 miles near Bellefonte.
The last train of the Bellefonte Central line ran on this
section in June 1982 and the Bellefonte Central was formally
abandoned in 1984.
The 1923 map below shows the route of the railroad line after
it was extended into State College. If you would like to read
more about this railway's history, please visit the pages dedicated
to the Bellefonte Central Railroad on the following Web site:
Clicking on the above
image will open a new window with a larger image of
the 1923 map of the Bellefonte Central Railroad's route.
Examples of the Railroad's Role in Penn State History
Although its main role in the early years was dictated by the
needs of the iron ore industry, the railroad eventually played
a role in events at Penn State.
- Railroad cars were indispensable in bringing construction
materials to the expanding campus as the Farmers' High School
evolved over the years into a major university. For buildings
of large proportions, the railroad line even made special arrangements:
"So much steel was used in Rec Hall (and the Nittany Lion
Inn, also under construction) that the Bellefonte Central Railroad
laid a temporary track across the golf course and N. Atherton
St. to expedite deliveries to the work site" (story
- The presence of the railroad also proved useful for studies.
In his book, History of Mechanical Engineering, Robert
Jennings Heinsohn, professor of mechanical engineering, records
one of these instances: "In 1906, the college received
an eight-wheel, passenger-type steam locomotive. . . . To supplement
this acquisition, Wood's students constructed a dynamometer
car to perform various performance tests. The locomotive was
steamed up to run the eighteen miles to Bellefonte. Experiments
were made only on the return run since there was a prevailing
grade from Bellefonte to Penn State" (http://www.mne.psu.edu/History/ch1.html).
- On May 9, 1953, Dwight Eisenhower became the first of five
U. S. presidents to visit Penn State's University Park campus
while in office. "Ike" and his wife, Mamie, wanted
a respite from the stresses of the nation's capital, and a weekend
sojourn in rural central Pennsylvania, where brother Milton
Eisenhower was Penn State's president, seemed ideal. The Eisenhowers
arrived in State College by special train over the Bellefonte
Central Railroad. You see them here [in the photo below]
emerging from their private car, the armor-plated Ferdinand
Magellan, at 143 tons the heaviest passenger car on American
rails. (Text courtesy of University archives)
Source: University archives
- In spring 2005, the Penn State University Libraries announced
the acquisition of 126 boxes of archival materials about the
Bellefonte Central Railroad from near the turn of the past century
into the early 1980's. More information about the railroad and
its impact on campus life and the community will become available
as portions of the collection are digitized for accessing on
the University Libraries' Special Collections Library Web site