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Fairbanks Feature: Keeping on the “Right Track”

James D. Van Trump Library | Frank B. Fairbanks Transportation Archive | Fairbanks Features

Showcasing a variety of materials located in the Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive

No. 18 Presentation

Fairbanks Feature: Keeping on the “Right Track”

For the researcher, track layout diagrams and charts can be a vital source of information. The importance of yard facilities for repair and maintenance needs, for work being done for local businesses, and for the larger concerns because of being a hub, are all reflected in track lanes, spur needs, and turnarounds. As passenger train travel diminished, many of these once-thriving work areas lost their importance, and, in some cases, ceased to be altogether.

The Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive has hundreds of track layout diagrams. Most of these diagrams are from locations in the United States, but there are a few from Europe and South America. The diagrams run from 8 ½ x 11 inches on sheets of paper that have been copied from sections of larger layouts, to original full-length track layouts and charts as long as 94 inches, with every kind of presentation in between. Some of the original track layout diagrams are such stunning works of industrial art that they could be framed and enjoyed by even the casual viewer. Professionals drew these track layouts, and even the “copies from copies” show grace and movement on flat surfaces.

Recently, Mr. Wayne A. Cole donated the materials he gathered for the writing and publication of Ghost Rails V and Ghost Rails VIII. Among the hundreds of pages of materials (all available for the enjoyment of visitors to the Archive) are countless track layouts used by Mr. Cole in writing about the old rail lines of the Northern Sub and the PRR Butler Branch, Kiski Junction and Winfield RR. Some are copies, but there are originals in these materials also.

Mr. Christopher Milne has donated a great deal of material on the Conway Yard, with great track layouts. He has also donated a vast source of Norfolk Southern material, including many track charts and diagrams as recent as 2007 and of the local area.

Most of the Archive track layouts are from the 1920s through the 1950s, resulting in good information for the researcher at the time when trains were especially important in our country. The following materials are shown in the photos below:

  • Conway Yard
  •  West Tarentum Yard; Millvale, Etna, Sharpsburg; Ellsworth; Norfolk Southern Pittsburgh Division––Federal Street
  •  Track Charts in the United States other than in this immediate area:

––Norfolk and Western Railway, Norton-St.Paul-Bristol-Roanoke, 1985

––Lang York-Toledo, 1985

––Kansas City-Terminal Railway and other rail yards

––Baltimore and Ohio––Green Springs to Petersburg

––Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, tracks, yards––Hazelton Crossing to McDonald

Mills, Ohio, 1910

  • Penn Central Pittsburgh Division––Panhandle, 1971

––PRR-Central Region-Pittsburgh 1948, Track layout between 11th St. and 51st St.

––Pitcairn Yard, Fortune Magazine, May 1936

  • Butler Branch

––Yard layout with turntable and other buildings

––B&O Central Region Pittsburgh Division––Butler to Mt. Jewett, 1931


The Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive is open by appointment on Mondays, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Use of the archive is free to PHLF members (one of the benefits!); non-members are assessed a $10 use fee.

The Archive is located on the fourth floor of The Landmarks Building at Station Square, in the offices of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

To schedule an appointment, email the Librarian James Halttunen:



Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633