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CSX Unveils 15th Heritage Locomotive, Honoring the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad

June 6, 2024 - CSX has released a new heritage locomotive, the P&LE 1875, paying tribute to the storied Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad (P&LE). The 15th in CSX’s heritage locomotive series, this new addition to the company’s fleet not only celebrates the rich history of P&LE but also marks a significant milestone in CSX's ongoing commitment to honoring the legacies of America's historic railroads.

The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad was established in 1875 with a primary mission of transporting essential industrial materials such as coal, coke, iron ore, limestone, and steel among the bustling industrial hubs of the region. 

“Its mainline connected Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with Youngstown, Ohio and Connellsville, Pennsylvania. It did not actually reach Lake Erie until 1976,” explained Tim Music, a carman painter at the CSX Waycross Locomotive Shop where the unit was produced.

Over time, P&LE expanded by leasing branches from smaller railroads. These extensions included lines southeast along the Monongahela River through Homestead and McKeesport, and along the Youghiogheny River to Connellsville, where it connected with the Western Maryland Railway.

Despite its relatively modest route mileage, the P&LE Railroad earned the nickname "Little Giant" due to the enormous volume of heavy tonnage it moved. This impressive capability drew significant attention and by 1887, the P&LE became a subsidiary of the dominant New York Central Railroad. Under this new ownership, the P&LE enjoyed substantial improvements to its tracks and added capacity for passenger services, further enhancing its regional significance.

After regaining independence in 1976 with the formation of Conrail, the P&LE continued to operate until CSX purchased some of their assets. As assets were absorbed, others saw transformations; the commuter route was terminated in 1985, and portions of the track from McKeesport to Connellsville were abandoned in 1993 to make way for the Great Allegheny Passage, a popular rail-trail.

The unveiling of the heritage locomotive serves as a celebration of P&LE's legacy and contributions to the development of the region's industrial infrastructure. The design of the locomotive pays homage to the iconic livery and branding of the P&LE, ensuring that the memory of this influential railroad lives on in the hearts of rail enthusiasts and historians alike.

"While the overall design is simpler than our previous heritage units, the logo on the tail of this one stands out due to its intricate detail," said Jeromy Hutchison, CSX carman painter who assisted with the project. "Everything on the CSX heritage locomotives is hand-painted, and we're proud of that craftsmanship."

CSX's heritage series recognizes and honors the railroads that have played pivotal roles in shaping the transportation landscape of America. Each heritage locomotive is meticulously designed to reflect the unique history and culture of the railroad it represents, making them a moving tribute to the past.

As CSX continues to innovate and expand, the introduction of the 15th heritage locomotive stands as a testament to the company's dedication to preserving the rich heritage of American railroading. By honoring the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad, CSX not only acknowledges the past but also inspires future generations to appreciate the profound impact railroads have had on the nation's growth and development.

CSX invites the public, rail enthusiasts, and community members to join in celebrating this momentous occasion. The P&LE heritage locomotive will soon join the active fleet, where it will serve as a rolling museum, reminding all who see it of the vital role the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad played in America's industrial history.

For more details about the CSX Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad heritage locomotive, view the below video.