"The Edingtons were the first residents of this vicinity, about 1785. Many years before the building of the Pennsylvania Railroad this locality was known as “Bell’s Mills.” Edward Bell, moved here with his wife, mother, and father, John Bell, from Sinking Valley, in 1806. John Bell, was one of the earliest settlers. Mr. Bell erected a gristmill and a saw-mill—hence the name, Bell’s Mills. He was the owner of 3674 acres of land; and about 1830, under the name of Edward Bell & Sons, built the Mary Ann Forge, and the Elizabeth Furnace. Edward Bell's son, Martin Bell, founded the Sabbath Rest Foundry located in Antis Township (Pinecroft) so-called because he invented a new way to stoke the fires and leave them burn Sunday without having any person attend to them." (For more information, please see: The Early Settlement of Antis Township, By Larry D. Smith, 150th Anniversary of Blair County).
"BELL'S GAP RAILROAD: "Seven miles east of Altoona the little stream known as Laurel Run flows under the Pennsylvania Railroad, and, after turning the wheels of some flour mills not far away from the line, it runs eastward to join the head-waters of the Juniata. This little stream comes down a valley from the Allegheny Mountain side. At the railway the station is known as Bell's Mills, and at the head of the valley is one of the notches cut in the mountain summit, known as Bell's Gap. A narrow-gauge railroad climbs the mountain along the steep sides of this valley, and, crossing through Bell's Gap, goes over into Clearfield County to bring away its wealth of coal and lumber and bark for tanning." (For more information, please see: The Bell's Gap Railroad," By Larry D. Smith, 150th Anniversary of Blair County).
Pinecroft and Bellwood
West bound freights would enter the Westbound Empty Receiving Yard at "HOMER", travel through the Westbound Empty Classification yard, and progress to "ROSE". "HOMER" was a two story stone structure built alongside the westbound hump and on top of the passenger mains. The passenger mains snaked under the west bound hump near "HOMER" Tower and continued on to "WORKS" Tower (MP 235.5.) It was demolished in 1969 or 1970.
"ANTIS" was located at MP 232.1. This tower segregated the Passenger Mains (Tracks #3 and #4) to the (rr) north and the freights operating on tracks #1 and #2. Tracks #1 and #2 left the Eastbound Departure Yard at "ANTIS". "The east gateway into Altoona." One place to go in this area is actually on the bridge along Rt 4018 near Riggles Gap Run. (Referred to here as the Bridge at Pinecroft).
|Looking East from the Bridge at Pinecroft. Note the Spur to the left. (12/30/96)||Westbound Amtrak "Pennsylvanian" approaching the Pinecroft Bridge. 12/30/96|
|Looking West from the bridge at Pinecroft. "Antis"("EF") interlocking is visible at the signal bridge. 12/30/96||Eastbound Freight approaching the bridge at Pinecroft. Looking NW. 12/30/96|
|Pinecroft, looking West towards "Antis". "Antis"("EF") interlocking is visible at the signal bridge. 12/30/96||"Homer" ("WJ") Tower was located at about MP 232.7. It was a 2 story stone block construction and sat along side the westbound hump with the passenger mains passing underneath. This Photo ca 1965 by David Seidel|
The east end tower ("BELL") was located at MP 230.0. Between 1955 and 1961, "BELL" became an unattended interlocking. Bellwood offers prime high and medium speed railroad operations along (and to the rear of businesses located along) Main Street. The first location is at the bridge at the intersection with Rt 865. Various other places located east and west from the bridge can also be accessed. Don't forget about the grade crossing at Fostoria.
According to the book "Railroads of Pennsylvania Encyclopedia and Atlas" the Bellwood branch was abandoned between Bellwood and Blandburg on 2/7/1941. The Bellwood station was demolished in 1953 according to the book Altoona Area Railroad Pictorial History that was published by the Altoona Mirror. The following information was found in a magazine article titled "The Bell's Gap Railroad and Its Successors: Seventy Years of Mountain Railroading", 1871-1941. In 1902 when the PRR purchased the line it became the Pennsylvania & Northwestern Division. It was later renamed to the Bellwood Division. From checking timetables, this change must of taken place sometime between 11/30/1903 and 5/29/1910. In 1918 it became part of the Cresson Division. In 1930-31 the section between Irvona and Bellwood became part of the Middle Division and the remainder from Irvona to Punxsutawney and beyond became part of the Pittsburgh Division. (by Duane Miller)
The P&NW has had that name since the late 1890's. It was merged into the Cambria & Clearfield (C&C) in 1902 and became the Bellwood Div of the C&C. In 1903 the whole C&C became the Cresson Div and it seems the Bellwood portion stay separate for a while longer. Notes stating that parts of the Bellwood Div were chopped up in places like N. of Irvona to S. of La Jose & N. of La Jose to S of McGees Mills. Somewhere in this period it was downgraded to branch status. Further notes saying that part from N. of Bellwood to Lloydsville was abandoned when merged into the PRR from the C&C account of the grade on this portion. Later notes state that they still ran regular passenger service to Fordham from Bellwood. (by Duane Miller)
|Bridge at Bellwood (Rt 865 and Main St). Looking NW. 3/13/97||An westbound Freight approaches the Bridge at Bellwood (Rt 865 and Main St). Looking East. 3/13/97|
|An westbound Freight approaches the Bridge at Bellwood (Rt 865 and Main St). Looking NW. 3/13/97|
Photographs are by Chris Behe unless otherwise noted.