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Book Review: The Ligonier Valley Rail Road

By | June 25, 2014

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The Ligonier Valley Rail Road
by Robert D. Stutzman
Arcadia Publishing, 420 Wando Park Blvd., Charleston, SC 29464; 128 pages; softcover, 6.5 x 9.25 in.; $21.99

Pennsylvania is known today for having more than 50 shortline railroads within its borders, most of which are castoff segments of the Class I railroads. In the 19th and 20th centuries, however, Pennsylvania’s industrial might spawned many short lines, among them the 15.5-mile Ligonier Valley Railroad. (It was originally chartered as a “Rail Road,” but subsequently adopted the more common style.)

Laid down in 1877, the Ligonier Valley tapped natural resources and industrial production in the region south of Latrobe, Pa., where it connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line. Robert D. Stutzman’s profusely illustrated account covers the life and times of the Ligonier Valley from start to finish, including passenger services performed by a pair of Electro-Motive Corp. gas-electrics, operation of the railroad’s Idlewild amusement park (Pennsy trains from Pittsburgh ran directly to the park’s station via the Ligonier Valley), wrecks, and final abandonment in 1952.

Unlike many short lines, the Ligonier Valley maintained daily passenger trains right up to its last day, and its equipment was always clean and well-maintained. In fact, the Ligonier Valley bought secondhand steam locomotives as late as 1950 to replace its own worn-out 2-8-0s. Stutzman reports that the only diesel incursion on the line was one of the last Pennsylvania special trains to Idlewild Park, shortly before abandonment.

This volume is produced by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Images of Rail series. While the usual Arcadia format is followed, with rather minimal information, the photo captions and Stutzman’s knowledge of the Ligonier Valley make this book a must-have for anyone interested in the industrial history of Western Pennsylvania and of the little railroads that served the region.

One thought on “Book Review: The Ligonier Valley Rail Road

  1. And the beautiful Ligonier Valley RR depot is still in place. Now used for other purposes. Probably one of the most opulent structures for this purpose by a railroad of this size. Watched the operation of this railroad activity in Ligonier decades ago as an interested young person.

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