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Conway Automatic Classification Railyard (Pennsylvania Railroad Classification Yard)

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Pennsylvania Railroad Classification Yard
c. 1954–1956, Hunting, Larsen and Dunnells. Between the Ohio River and PA 65

Stretching nearly four miles along the Ohio River shore, the Conway Automatic Classification Railyard looks, in an aerial view, like a pair of forks with interlaced tines. An average of 6,000 freight cars coming from east or west are sorted here onto 107 separate tracks for destinations from St. Louis to Montreal. With 181 miles of track, the yard is one of only five or six this size in the United States.

Upon entering, a long freight train is pushed to the top of a slight hill called “the hump,” then each car is separated by hand when one of the crew pulls the coupling. The cars roll down the hump to the designated track, which is opened by an electronic switch. The buildings reflect the yard's evolution from a railyard for the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago line in the 1880s to a freight classification yard for the Pennsylvania Railroad after the turn of the twentieth century. The latter built the roundhouse in 1910, northwest of the administration building. Its timber construction is visible on the interior, though the building has been altered over the years. In the early twenty-first century, it had eight tracks and enough workers to sand (for traction), refuel, and repair an average of eleven locomotives per day. Nearby, the carpenter shop, formerly the administration building, is of red brick and has round-arched windows that are still visible through many coats of ruddy paint.

More tracks were added to the site over the years, and a renovation of the site in 1956 added five yellow-orange brick buildings dotted across the acreage. The three-story administration building, the largest structure, lies in the center of all the activity, and its five-story tower offers a view of the entire yard. This building initially housed train crews, who were fed and entertained by the YMCA under contract to the railroad. The former sleeping quarters now house training classrooms and an engine simulator. Similar but smaller buildings lie at both the east and west entrances of the yard and adjacent to each hump. They are simple brick buildings with metal-framed, green-tinted windows slanting in at the base to reduce reflections in the towers. Their interiors are finished with enameled tile and linoleum.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "Conway Automatic Classification Railyard (Pennsylvania Railroad Classification Yard)", [Conway, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 162-163.

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