H I S T O R I C   S T E A M

The Narrow Gauge Years

Almost as soon as the first trains started running on the line, the limitations of the Coudersport and Port Allegany being a narrow gauge railroad became apparent. In order for the railroad to provide the maximum benefit to the area, people and products would need to be able to travel to destinations beyond Port Allegany. Since the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia Railroad was a standard gauge line there was a barrier there. Connecting Passengers could easily change trains, but the process of transferring freight between narrow and full gauge freight cars was very time consuming and costly.

Ramsey Car Truck Transfer Apparatus Advertisement   Patent Drawing for the Ramsey Car Truck Shifting Apparatus 
An Advertisement for the Ramsey Transfer System Patent Drawing for the Ramsey Transfer System

In an effort to address this, the C & PA installed a system called the Ramsey's Car Truck Shifting Apparatus soon after the initial run. This process would allow workers to change the trunks (wheels) of standard gauge freight cars at the transfer point so the car could continue rolling on either gauge line. No longer was it necessary to unload and reload freight cars at the transfer site.

While use of the Ramsey Transfer did significantly reduce the effort needed to transfer goods between the lines, it had drawbacks of its' own. First, it still took additional time and effort to change the freight cars through the Ramsey system. Second, since the freight cars were designed to run on a standard gauge track, some of the width of the car would fall outside the width of the narrow gauge trucks underneath. Depending on how the freight car was loaded, or through goods shifting, situations would occur where cars would become top heavy and prone to tipping over as they rocked side to side down the line. Crews were aware of this and would generally limit the speed of a train pulling such cars to around 15 miles per hour.

As the railroad considered possible expansion plans, some of which called for other possible connections in other towns, the decision was made to reconfigure the railroad to be a standard gauge railroad. The work to reconfigure the line was completed in 1889, prior to beginning any expansion efforts.
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