The railcar was constructed in 1914 for Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. Seventy feet long and weighing 64 tons, it served as a combination passenger and baggage car until it was taken out of service in 1961.
On Earth Day 1998, the railcar was moved from Buddtown near Banning #4 mine (between West Newton and Cedar Creek Park) to its current site in West Newton, a 2-acre site adjacent to the Yough River Trail. Two 60-ton cranes and a flatbed truck were used to make the move. Caz Liszewski, a founding member of the WYTC Over the Hill Gang, contributed his own engineering time and services to spearhead the relocation effort. Once it arrived at its destination, the railcar was placed on 33-foot-long track panels atop a three-foot bed of ballast. CSX Corp. donated the rails and ballast for the project.
The original intention was to use the railcar as an interactive classroom, environmental lab, and community activity center. The railcar was to be renovated and fitted with computers and lab equipment; water and soil testing would be performed. With the help of a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant of $110,000, and a massive volunteer effort led by a student-based initiative called Blazing New Trails, the project gained momentum. Administered through Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 in Greensburg, Blazing New Trails was a statewide program that encouraged at-risk students to get involved in rails-to-trails projects. Belle Vernon Area School District teachers Diane Koneffko and Don Paradise secured grants for the schools that supported the renovation. Belle Vernon teacher Cheryl Lewis and husband Gary did much of the interior renovation of the car. Students in the Blazing New Trails program from Belle Vernon Area and school students from the Yough School District spent months gutting and renovating the old railcar. Belle Vernon teacher/contractor Mr. Evans painted the outside. The materials and supplies needed to complete the project were secured through the grant.
The effort involved sandblasting all interior and exterior surfaces to remove lead-based paint and replacing asbestos with fiberglass insulation. Rusted structural and trim members were replaced or repaired. All windows were replaced with shatter-proof glass, new flooring was installed, and early 20th-century light fixtures were mounted with new electrical wiring. Finally, a fresh coat of light beige paint was applied to the inside surfaces, and the outside was finished in a coat of the classic dark green.
The renovation was dedicated in May 2012. Unfortunately, funding to continue the classroom program could not be obtained, but the railcar has continued to serve as a special feature of the Yough River Trail. From 2015-2016, the car underwent another restoration as the Belle Vernon Rotary President’s Project for Frank Jaworowski. The Belle Vernon Rotary members created a historical journey from the Allegheny County line to the coke ovens at Adelaide. The exterior was repainted, welded by Chuck and Joe Wadsworth, and given a new door by Scott Shoff. West Newton Rotary donated to purchase new windows, and artist Francine Mendicino painted displays inside. The concept and garnering of information for the inside was spearheaded by Sam and Sandra Cover with work being done by a number of Belle Vernon Rotary members and the Westmoreland Yough Trail Chapter (WYTC) staff. The WYTC continues currently to guide the project.
1. Grant application, Bob McKinley
2. TribLive website
Contributors: Sam and Sandy Cover
Overall Editor: Donna Morrison
This is a 100- pound bell, made of iron and other alloys. It has a seventeen-inch diameter (base of bell) which was generally the largest bell made for steam locomotives. There is a number on the bell that looks like it was changed at one time. This was the number of the steam engine. Another number is on the base and this was a mold number.
Google provides this description: “Bells were standard equipment on steam locomotives in North America from around 1840 onward. Their purpose was to make noise, alerting people and animals of an oncoming train. Steam locomotive bells were usually made of cast bronze or brass. When the bell swings the clapper hits the bell causing it to ring.”
The bell was found on Terry and Cazmier Liszewski’s property in Smithton, PA. They are lifetime WYTC members and members of the Original Over The Hill Gang, who helped to transform the abandoned rail beds (GAP) into a readily accessible trail for biking and walking in the early 1990’s.
According to Terry, “many the properties in Smithton had a similar bell which was used to call farmers and workers to dinner. Donating the bell to the WYTC and its location in the railcar has special significance as Caz spearheaded the project to relocate the railcar from Buddtown to its current location in 1998. The railcar underwent its initial restoration from 1998-2012.”
Two WYTC volunteers, Tim Aaron and Keith Frid, worked on restoring and burnishing the bell. Tim Aaron cleaned and burnished the bell, by using a paste of vinegar, flour, and salt and lots of elbow grease. Keith scrubbed the iron parts of the bell with a stiff wire brush and coarse steel wool, and rubbed oil over them, applied two coats of a satin finish black paint.
Sam and Sandra Cover, WYTC volunteers, are responsible for the Rail Car and its historical contents.
The WYTC wishes to thank the Liszewski family for this important historical contribution to the Rail Car, situated near the GAP-West Newton Station. Special thanks to Jim and Paul Liszewski and Anna Liszewski DeRosa and families for their contributions.
I remember when this railcar sat on a siding at Buddtown for years, decades even. So glad to see that it has been restored and put to good use. Here's what the old train station used to look like before it was torn down. Strange how we let historic buildings decay then spend lots of money later to recreate them.....Notice how the new one is built above the flood plain of the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood.
Mr. Craft pointed out that the railcar sat abandoned for years along the tracks in Buddtown before it was moved to it's current location and restored
Over 100 people visited the rail car during the course of Trail Appreciation Day. Not only did we enjoy that large variety of visitors, but we also received several gifts for our displays from John Brunony, Scott Schuller, John Warhold and Susan Forney.
Pictured L-R: Sandy Cover and Susan Forbes
The P&LE traincar got a badly needed new door today thanks to the craftsmanship of Scott Shoff who took a stack of roughcut lumber and fashioned it into a beautiful new door for our traincar. A special thanks to Sam Cover, Gilbert Skowronek and son Steve for helping with the installation.
The train car will be open on Labor Day during and after The Poker Run so please sign up to ride the event and see the car.
Thank you Diana Shoff for making the vdeo!
Beginning in August 2015, the Rail Car has been undergoing extensive renovation inside and outside. Thank you Sam and Sandy Cover and the Belle Vernon and West Newton Rotaries for your hard work and dedication
Read and see more HERE story by Joe Napsha, Tribune Review, 2015-07-22
The pictures below show Club Member Sam Clover, left and Select Paint Services owner Bart Thompson, watch as William Thompson pressure washes the rail car. William Thompson, above, prepares the rail car for painting as part of the project to renovate the car into a rail museum. This project is undertaken jointly by the Rotary Clubs of Belle Vernon and West Newton.
Pictures by Sam Clover, Frank Jaworowski, and Donna Morrison.