The Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler, and New Castle Railway (more commonly known as the Harmony Line), operated a daily trolley service from 1908 to 1931 that connected Ellwood City to Evans City and Pittsburgh. Not only did the trolley line carry passengers, but it also was used by rural farmers to carry crops and even livestock to the cities for sale.
In the early 1900′s Edwin Lamb’s automobile was the first and perhaps only one in Ellwood City. The rest of the citizens in town would have to travel by horse and wagon to get to Butler or upon the slow Baltimore and Ohio passenger train. Then in 1905 Russell H. Boggs of Evans City, and his business partner Henry Buhl, owned a department store in Pittsburgh and wanted to expedite travel between rural areas and Pittsburgh. Mr. Boggs developed friendly relations over the years with regular trips between Evans City and Pittsburgh buying from local farmers and selling store goods to rural families. Through these relationships, he was able to obtain a right-of-way for the Harmony Line trolley system. In exchange for the right-of-way and One Dollar, each landowner received a promise to establish a trolley stop on his property and electric run to their homes for the first time. The promised terminals were added to the PHB&NC but the local trolleys only stopped if passengers were waiting at the makeshift buildings. The Express trolleys only stopped at the large stations in Pittsburgh, Harmony, Evans City, Butler, Ellwood City, & New Castle.
On July 2, 1908, the very first run on the Harmony Line began at the Harmony car barn to the Ellwood City station. The Ellwood City PHB&NC station and freight station were built on the Southeast corner of Spring Avenue and Fifth Street. The freight station building was still standing as late as 1999. The Ellwood City station was the original end of the line from 1908 until 1914 when the Beaver Valley extension was opened. The original Koppel Bridge was built by the railway for this extension. The cement pillars are the only signs that remain today of the original bridge with a United States flag mounted upon one pillar west of the current bridge. Dambach Lumber built a new group of trolleys at the shop near Evans City for the opening of the line to Beaver Falls. These cars were referred to as ‘gunboat’ cars and there is an old wives tale that they were built low to get under the subway in Ellwood City but historians don’t believe that to be true as lower “arch” roof cars were the modern look in 1914.
The typical car on the Harmony Line could accommodate about forty passengers and included three different sections: a general seating area, a smoker section, and a baggage section. Eventually the Harmony Line added special party cars to their lineup that could be rented for $55 per day. Church groups, school students, and small parties enjoyed movies and card-playing aboard the party cars on their way to and from special occasions.
As the popularity of the automobile increased and the Great Depression continued, passengers on the PHB&NC decreased. January Fourth 1931 marked the beginning of the end when the Harmony line between Koppel and Morado was abandoned and the line from Ellwood City to Koppel was greatly reduced. Maurice Scharff, a receiver appointed in federal court, assumed charge of the Harmony and Butler short line April 6th and things continued to get worse.
The summer of 1931 started with the closing of the Pittsburgh/Butler route and on June ninth the petitions to abandon the Harmony streetcar route between New Castle and Beaver Falls was approved. The line running through Ellwood City continued through the summer but the losses became too great. August eleventh Federal Judge F.P. Schoonmaker signed an order granting permission for the abandonment of the remainder of the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler, and New Castle Street Railway Co., more commonly known as Harmony Line. In the early hours of August 15, 1931, the last Harmony Line trolley pulled into the Harmony car barn and the P.H.B.&N.C. had come to an end.
In a large ceremony to commemorate the end of an era, all of the trolleys were ceremoniously burned. All except one single car. Car 115 survived the purge simply because it was forgotten about. The car had been broken down and abandoned along Route 65 just outside of Ellwood City heading towards New castle. After the Harmony Line closed in August of 1931, a former motorman for the line turned the car into Clark’s Diner. Eventually, Clark’s Diner would become the Ranch which was much larger than the original restaurant. Fifty-five years after the opening of Clark’s Diner, car 115 was purchased and extracted from the Ranch and sent to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Washington, PA.
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