The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad
"Serves the Steel Center"

    Youngstown, its best customer



 

                                                                  by Janet Camp Ricciardi
 
 

The greatest boom to the American industrialization and economy was the Railroad. The railroad would cut travel time and distance 7-10 days down to 1-or 2 days. It would upgrade our society by speeding up the pace of our lives. Business would enjoy this speed up also, giving them the opportunity to be open all year round. This new wrinkle in our economy would put us on schedules; see the rise of factories and mass production. The years between 1835 and 1910 would see the railroad industry lay 352,000 miles of track, and become the single largest employer before WWI. One of these players would be the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Rail Road.

Railroads would be very influential in towns and communities being built around them, giving way to the fastest movement of goods, services and military supplies throughout the country or in the world. The labor needed to sustain the railroad industry would range from unskilled to special skilled men. The tasks
available would be digging ditches, blowing mountains to lay track to special skills such as boilermakers, mechanics, maintenance men and engineers. Many immigrants would flock to the railroads for any kind of work possible, no matter how long or dirty. The population explosion in the first half of this century would enable the railroads to take advantage of this workforce.

In 1888 the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad was just massing its way through the new routes that the Lake Erie Canal afforded them. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Youngstown were main routes at this time. The steel companies in this triangle became excellent customers of this railroad. Youngstown�s steel industry was exploding and considered the best customer of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. Thus the railroads slogan: "Serves the Steel Center".

Youngstown, Ohio was packed with track throughout the communities of Lowellville, Struthers, and Youngstown, Ohio. The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad came to all of the stops as it covered the area where the greatest amount of steel was being produced. While carrying freight, coal and ore to the steel giants of Youngstown brought the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie higher revenues, passenger service was also vital. In the July 22nd, 1937 photo the railroad boasted of being accident free since 1879, and carrying 170 million passengers.

My grandfather, Alfred Camp, was an engineer on the passenger run for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad here in Youngstown, Ohio for 35 years, retiring in 1956.
 


 

He joined the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad in 1921, at the age of 32. Working long hours under extremely hot conditions, stoking the fire of the engines, and driving the diesels. He first saw this new job as an opportunity to get away from farming and an opportunity to improve his family status. He knew that the
railroad work would be hard yet it would bring economic stability to his wife and 12 children. This engineer�s job saw them through the depression, World War II and the years into 1950�s. My grandfather believed hard work was part of life. The stories he told in my childhood years were seen as fascinating. Now as I walk into my 50�s I am proud to know that he and the railroads are a part of the fabric of my heritage, and of the great industrial age of the United States.
 
 


 

OTHER LINKS:

Family Tree of Railroads
Railroads: Industrialization of Youngstown,Ohio