The West Side Belt Railroad came through Castle Shannon aerially on this long viaduct. Here we see it crossing the Blue and Silver Line trolley tracks. The line is still active as part of the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad.
Railroad Viaduct in Castle Shannon
Under the Railroad Overpass, South Side
Little mineral stalactites dangle from the railroad overpass over 21st Street, South Side.
Skeleton of a Railroad Overpass
At the back of the South Side, where the Flats meet the Slopes, two railroads once ran above the level of the streets. One is still one of the busiest rail lines in the city. The other has been abandoned, leaving rusty skeletons like this. In dreamy moods, old Pa Pitt likes to imagine how this right-of-way—only three short blocks from Carson Street—could be repurposed for a South Side El that would connect to the subway at Station Square.
Seldom Seen Arch
The Wabash Railroad built this picturesque structure to carry its line over Saw Mill Run and the little lane that led back into the village of Seldom Seen.
Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Terminal
This station (architect William George Burns) was made as splendid as possible to show that the P&LE was serious competition to the big railroads. Its front entrance opened directly on the Smithfield Street Bridge to be as convenient as possible to downtown without actually being downtown.
Fall Comes to Seldom Seen
Early fall colors are appearing in the Saw Mill Run valley along the Beechview–Seldom Seen Greenway.
Sun and Shade
Patterns of sun and shade on the rocks in the middle of Saw Mill Run, Seldom Seen, with a railroad bridge in the background.
Seldom Seen Arch
This fine arched tunnel, stone faced with a brick interior, was built as part of the great Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway boondoggle, one of the boondoggliest boondoggles in a city known for boondoggles.
Just off Saw Mill Run Boulevard is a little parking lot. You have to look for it: it’s on the turnoff to Woodruff Street, and it’s almost invisible till you’re right there. From there you can reach the arch, which is well worth a visit for its own sake. The interior in particular is more interesting than interiors of tunnels usually are. The engineers had fun with this one.
If you walk through the tunnel into the green world beyond, you’ll find that you’re walking on a broad path of gravel and occasional asphalt. This was Watkins Lane, the only way into a little farm village called Seldom Seen, or Shalerville before that. Like a surprising number of isolated bits of the city of Pittsburgh, it remained a farming village, with farming, even into the twentieth century. It was abandoned by some time in the 1960s, and the forest has reclaimed it. We’ll see more of Seldom Seen in the future.
Stream valleys in the Pittsburgh area are valuable as being the only nearly level routes through the landscape, and you will never find a major stream valley without railroad tracks in it. But as we can see here, the Saw Mill Run valley has had three railroads in it at once, one of which is still active.
In the spring Saw Mill Run is often a raging torrent, but it is much more placid in the summer.