The Union Railroad
A Class III switching railroad located in Allegheny County in Western Pennsylvania. The company is owned by Transtar, Inc., which is itself a subsidiary of USS Corp, more popularly known as United States Steel. The railroad's primary customers are the three plants of the USS Mon Valley Works, the USS Edgar Thompson Steel Works (blast furnaces, basic oxygen steelmaking, and continuous slab casting), the USS Irvin Works (hot and cold rolling mills and finishing lines) and the USS Clairton Works (producer of coke for blast furnace ironmaking).
History of the Union Railroad
Andrew Carnegie had been discussing rail transport with other lines, but determined the best way to protect his interests was to control the rail line himself. Several smaller companies had constructed sections of the route. "Bear Creek Railroad (name changed to Shenango and Allegheny Railroad Co.) was incorporated in March 1865 for the purpose of moving coal 21 miles from Pardoe to Shenango for delivery to other railroads and the Erie Extension Canal. By 1883, Shenango and Allegheny had extended north to Greenville, PA, and south to Butler, PA. By 1892, the line had extended north to reach the port of Conneaut Ohio. The extensions carried their own descriptive corporate names and survived a series of corporate reorganizations to become the Pittsburgh, Shenango and Lake Erie." The rail line had been completed as far as Butler, still 40 miles distant from the Mon Valley. The first ore boat arrived in Conneaut in 1892 stimulating the interest of Andrew Carnegie. In April 1896, a tri-party agreement between PS&LE, Union Railroad Company and Carnegie Steel Company called for construction of a line from Butler to East Pittsburgh. The Butler and Pittsburgh Railroad Company incorporated April 8, 1896 and completed, spectacularly, by October 27, 1897 including a long, single track bridge across the Allegheny River. Also in 1897, PS&LE and B&P were consolidated into the Pittsburgh, Bessemer & Lake Erie under majority ownership of Carnegie. The Union Railroad or as some call "railroad in the sky" was created 1896. The railroad, as it exists today, has resulted from the union of five different railroads between the years 1906 and 1915. The original URR extended from East Pittsburgh to Hays, a distance of six miles, and was constructed in the years 1894–1907.
Four years later, Carnegie formed the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad under this exclusive ownership and arranged to lease PS&LE for 999 years. This arrangement stayed in place with the formation of U. S. Steel in 1901, which bought out Carnegie interests.
The Union was expanded to include the several other mills in the Mon Valley Region. The Union was responsible for the various switching task within each mill, for delivering raw materials to each mill (which would arrive on the Union via interchange with the Bessemer & Lake Erie, another US Steel owned and operated railroad) and for delivering the finished products to interchange with the major railroads in the area (most notable the Pennsylvania, the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie).
In 1906, B&LE leased, and later sold, to Union Railroad the portion of line between North Bessemer and East Pittsburgh.
At its peak, the Union served eight separate steel mills and numerous other businesses (see below for complete list)- USS Homestead, USS Rankin, USS Edgar Thomson, USS Duquesne-National, USS National Tube & Pipe, USS Clairton,the relatively new USS Irvin rolling mill and Grant Steel in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. The URR also used four bridges crossing the Monongahela River - Union Railroad Port Perry Bridge, Union Railroad Clairton's Wyle Bridge, McKeesport Connecting Riverton Bridge (also known as: Union Railroad Riverton Bridge), Carrie Furnace Hot Medal Bridge (also known as: Union Railroad Rankin Hot Metal Bridge) - and was one of the busy railroads in the United States by tonnage hauled. Unlike the rest of the steel industry, the Union was relatively accepting of modernization as demonstrated by construction of a then state-of-the-art yard and dispatching center in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, in the early 1950s. With the decline of the steel industry in the United States, the Union's operations were greatly scaled back.
Today main transportation is iron ore from North Bessemer interchange. Edgar Thomson gets it coke from the Clairton works that is also interchanged to Dexter yard, slabs from Edgar Thomson to Irvin works and finished steel products (coils) from Irvin works to the interchanges. Only the Port Perry Bridge remains open for rail traffic. For inner-mill service the Edgar Thomson plant uses US Steel own EMD-switchers to move the hot metal subs and for tressel unloading. Crews from the URR have their own motive power EMD's for general switching duties within the mill. Their duties include the movement of loaded ore and coke cars to the staging yard and tressel, spotting and pulling the caster and slab mills, along with bringing in scrap and flux cars into the BOP "Basic Oxygen Process". After closing the Riverton bridge in 2008] there is no rail connection between the URR network and Mckeesport Tubular Operations "Camp Hill". Using URR motive power to switch McKeesport Tubular is the duty of McKeesport Connection Railroad (MKC), another subsidiary of Transtar. The Duquesne Coal Docks are still in operations unloading scrap metal from barges to be used at Edgar Thomson and coal barges to interchange with Norfolk Southern in the Kenny Yard. Union Railroad continues to serve the Mon Valley and have since expanded its customer base to include Dura-Bond pipe coating in the former Duquesne Works site and General Electric in West Mifflin hauling special oversize generators.