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picture of bridge

View west from Saxonburg Blvd

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Bakerstown Rd over B&LE RR
Millerstown and Culmerville Rd over B&LE RR

West Deer

USGS 7.5" Topo Quad - UTM Coordinates:
Curtisville - Zone 17; 0598 4500
Bakerstown Rd [S.R.1028; Red Belt; Millerstown and Culmerville Rd]

-- Saxonburg Blvd
-- Norris Ln

-- Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad

Warren deck truss

141 ft

TOTAL LENGTH (including longest elevated ramp):
141 ft


1921, Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad

The crossroads at Bakerstown Rd and Saxonburg Blvd is Culmerville.


The Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad is a route which connected the iron ore and coal docks at Conneaut on Lake Erie to the Mon Valley steel works owned by Andrew Carnegie.

This portion of the railroad was opened in 1897 with the completion of the high bridge over the Allegheny River in Harmar (replaced 1918). Once the main line had been established many of the original structures were replaced in the twenty years which followed.

At Culmerville, Bakerstown Rd crosses the B&LE on a 1921 deck truss span; the site appears to be a daylighted tunnel. Whether this is true, it appears the fill from this cut was used to create a fill to carry the rail line above Bull Creek about 1.5 miles to the north near Red Hot. The Culmerville cut links the natural valleys formed by Bull Creek and Little Deer Creek which the B&LE RR followed through this hilly northern section of Allegheny County.

The embankment above Dawson Rd is approximately one mile long at a depth of about 140 feet above Rocky Run, a tributary of Bull Creek. Some of the fill appears to be slag and industrial by-products; some may have been from the cut at Culmerville.

The 1906 USGS topo quad map New Kensington East shows the B&LE as double-tracked from a grade crossing about one-half mile of Culmerville. North of the crossing the railroad follows the present day route of Saxonburg Rd through Red Hot to a straight-line trestle approximately one-quarter mile long where Bull Creek crosses the Allegheny-Butler county line. Saxonburg Blvd in 1906 is shown following a creek -- a route which is now private driveways.

At Culmerville, the road crosses the railroad at an unhindered angle which seems to indicate that it was not a grade crossing -- possibly a tunnel; and the long fill over present day Dawson Road had not been built. More evidence of an excavation or daylighting between 1906 and 1921.

from the PennDOT Historic Bridges Survey:
The bridge carries a 2 lane street and 1 sidewalk over 2 tracks of the B&LE RR located in a cut. The B&LE was founded in the early 20th century by US Steel as a means to transport steel and coal between USS's Mon Valley operations and the shipping facilities on Lake Erie.

The 1921, single span, 141' long, riveted, Warren with verticals deck truss bridge is supported on concrete abutments. Most of the members of the traditionally composed trusses are built up. In 1991 the bridge was rehabilitated. A cantilevered deck section was added as was the safety shape barrier. The trusses were also strenghtened by the bolted connection of additional members. The bridge is late and altered example of a common bridge type/design. It is not individually technologically significant, but it is historically significant in association with the Bessemer & Lake Erie RR, one of the most important short lines in the region. The railroad built the bridge during its period of significance.


Carnegie had been discussing rail transport with other lines, but determined the best way to protect his interests was to control the rail line himself. Several smaller companies had constructed sections of the route. "Bear Creek Railroad (name changed to Shenango and Allegheny Railroad Co.) was incorporated in March 1865 for the purpose of moving coal 21 miles from Pardoe to Shenango for delivery to other railroads and the Erie Extension Canal. By 1883, Shenango and Allegheny had extended north to Greenville, PA and south to Butler, PA. By 1892, the line had extended north to reach the port of Conneaut, OH. The extensions carried their own descriptive corporate names and survived a series of corporate reorganizations to become the Pittsburgh, Shenango and Lake Erie." The rail line had been completed as far as Butler, still 40 miles distant from the Mon Valley.

"The first ore boat arrived in Conneaut in 1892 stimulating the interest of Andrew Carnegie. In April 1896, a tri-party agreement between PS&LE, Union Railroad Company and Carnegie Steel Company called for construction of a line from Butler to East Pittsburgh. The Butler and Pittsburgh Railroad Company incorporated April 8, 1896 and completed, spectacularly, by October 27, 1897 including a long, single track bridge across the Allegheny River. Also in 1897, PS&LE and B&P were consolidated into the Pittsburgh, Bessemer & Lake Erie under majority ownership of Carnegie." "Four years later, Carnegie formed the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad under this exclusive ownership and arranged to lease PS&LE for 999 years. This arrangement stayed in place with the formation of U. S. Steel in 1901, which bought out Carnegie interests." "In 1906, B&LE leased, and later sold, to Union Railroad the portion of line between North Bessemer and East Pittsburgh." "In 1988, the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad became part of Transtar, Inc. Transtar is a privately-held transportation holding company with principal operations in railroad freight transportation, dock operations, Great Lakes shipping, and inland river barging. The Transtar subsidiary companies formed over the years to meet the transportation needs of various steel making facilities that were the predecessors of today's USX Corporation. Prior to 1989, the Transtar companies were wholly owned transportation subsidiaries of USX (formerly United States Steel Corporation). In December 1988, these transportation companies were acquired by a new holding company, Transtar, Inc."

"In 2001, the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad became part of Great Lakes Transportation, a privately-held transportation holding company with principal operations in railroad freight transportation, dock operations and Great Lakes shipping."


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Introduction -- Nearby Structures

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Last modified: 29-Jun-2004

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