To the south, at the base of the steep South Side Slopes, was a small but crowded neighborhood of workmen and their families. To the north was a huge steel mill, a railroad roundhouse and shops, and a big brewery. In between was a railroad yard with more than twenty tracks to cross. How would the workmen get to work without getting run over by switching locomotives every day? The answer was to extend 33rd Street from the Slopes to the Flats as a pedestrian tunnel under the main line, followed by a long pedestrian bridge over the railroad yards.
The bridge and the railroad yard are gone now; the tunnel remains, but since it goes nowhere it is blocked. The tunnel entrance is still attractive in its stony simplicity.
Almost all the pictures of the Corliss Street Tunnel on line are of the much plainer southern entrance. That is because there is nowhere to stand and get a picture of the northern entrance. Or at least so old Pa Pitt thought until recently, but it turns out that, with a long lens, it is possible to stand on the other side of the Ohio River and get a fair picture without being run over by a truck.
The fall foliage is an added bonus.
This was the first of Stanley Roush’s tunnel trifecta: he designed the entrances to the Corliss Street Tunnel, the Liberty Tunnels, and the Armstrong Tunnel.
There are few entirely indoor streets in Pittsburgh, but this is one of them: Try Street, after which the Try Street Terminal is named. The street is entirely covered by the subway viaduct leading north from the First Avenue station. In other words, Try Street is a kind of subway under the subway. Here we see it from the First Avenue exit; metal doors along the right-hand side lead into the Try Street Terminal.
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.
Tunnel Park is a strip of green on the river side of the SouthSide Works development. The name comes from the fact that there is a railroad tunnel beneath the green. And here is the entrance to the tunnel, which is not very picturesque but is something of a curiosity.