Additional Images

Construction
Bellefonte
Central
Rail Trail

Eastern Inner Loop

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Robert Baumbach
Abandoned watering stations such as this remind hikers and bicyclists that cows and horses once grazed in the pastures next to the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

". . . Studying the Bellefonte Central Railroad can . . . contribute not only to a better understanding of local and state history, but can also yield insights into the development of the railroad industry generally" (Michael Bezilla and Jack Rudnicki).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Mandi Platzer
A view showing some of the natural beauty along the former route of the Bellefonte Central Railroad

 

 

 

 


Sharing the History of the Railroad Line With Arboretum Visitors, Tourists, and Trail Users

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 trail.

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: http://www.bellefonte.com/heritage/BCR/.

 

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 and photo).

  • 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 (http://www.libraries.psu.edu/speccolls/).

 

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