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Throwback this Thursday to 1964, when Mon Valley residents could board a train in Downtown McKeesport --- "all cars air-conditioned" -- to New York, Washington, Baltimore, Akron, Detroit, Chicago ... or Willard, Ohio.
You always wanted to go to Willard, Ohio, didn't you?
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, whose tracks entered McKeesport between Market Street and Walnut Street in the Seventh Ward, then cut across Walnut Street, Fifth Avenue and Lysle Boulevard, then had six long-distance trains (three westbound, three eastbound) each day that stopped in McKeesport, at a train station roughly on the present site of the Dollar Bank drive-thru location on Lysle Boulevard.
That doesn't count the 16 commuter trains (eight east, eight west) that connected Versailles to Pittsburgh, stopping along the way in Christy Park, McKeesport, Braddock and Rankin. One train each way even went from Connellsville to Pittsburgh, through West Newton, Sutersville and Coulter.
But by 1964, cars were already surpassing the train as the preferred way to get to Pittsburgh. In 1970, the train tracks were re-routed around Downtown McKeesport and in 1975, the commuter train service between Versailles and Pittsburgh was taken over by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which paid the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to continue running the trains.
In 1987, Port Authority, citing increasing expenses that caused the service to operate at a deficit, cancelled what was then called the "PATrain," and replaced it with express buses --- including the P7 McKeesport Flyer --- that still run between Versailles, McKeesport and Pittsburgh.
Baltimore & Ohio, and other railroads, also wanted to drop their long-distance passenger trains, which in 1971 led to the creation of the U.S. Government owned-and-operated Amtrak.
Although Amtrak trains continue to pass through McKeesport between Chicago and Washington, D.C., they no longer pause, except in emergencies; the McKeesport stop was discontinued in 1991.
In 2005, North Huntingdon Twp. railroad historian Allan R. Bluman published a coffee table book called The PATrain: Pittsburgh's Last Commuter Train, featuring more than 150 color and black and white photos. Although now out of print, Carnegie Library of McKeesport holds a copy in its collection.
For now, if you want to ride a train from McKeesport to Pittsburgh, you will either have to buy a ticket from Connellsville to Pittsburgh, or get a job with the CSX Railroad, which took over from the B&O (also known as Chessie System) in 1986.
Originally published September 14, 2017.