The Pennsylvania Railroad and Ganister

This gallery of photos comes from Abram Burnett and the photographs highlight the importance of railways to Ganister. After all, even if the quarrymen removed all the limestone from the ridges, it still had to be shipped by rail to the steel furnaces in Pittsburgh. And the railway in Ganister was the Pennsy, or more formally the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Specifically, Ganister served as a junction on the Pennsy’s Petersburg Branch. The junction was named the Springfield Junction, hence the photos from and of SJ Tower that operated the signals at Springfield Junction. When I was growing up, I would hear stories of how the quarrymen and their families would hitch rides on the Toona Express, i.e. the trains heading west towards Altoona.

Today much of the railway landscape looks very different. The freight station remains today. And while the tracks were ripped out years ago, the roadbed remains via the Rails to Trails project. The Lower—pronounced like flower—Trail runs down the old Petersburg Branch.

Company Outing

The Pittsburgh Limestone Corporation operated the quarry in Ganister that eventually became the Blue Hole. Every year, the quarrymen were treated to an outing. This photo, taken at some point prior to 1937, is from one of those outings.

I have not identified most people, but from left to right: Ed Guerin, Mike Wapner, two unknown men, Wasil Youchison, Mitro Karol, and then a whole bunch of unknown men.

Mike Conrad and Wasil Youchison

This photo comes from my personal collection. Mike Conrad (originally Kundrat) stands on the left and my great-great uncle Wasil Youchison stands on the right. The photo dates to 1927 and was taken from what is today Wertz Road. Below is a photo I took in 2012 from very nearly the same spot to contrast how the area changed over 90+ years.

Mike Kundrat (Conrad) and Vasil Youchison standing on what is today Wertz Road with Stone Row in the background, 1927
Mike Kundrat (Conrad) and Vasil Youchison standing on what is today Wertz Road with Stone Row in the background, 1927
Wertz Road in 2012
Wertz Road in 2012

Mary Youchison and Mary Verbonits

This photo comes from my personal collection. The woman on the left is Mary Youchison, my great-grandmother, and her friend Mary Verbonits is on the right. The photo dates from 1925 and the two are most likely standing in what was known as Gypsy Row.

Mary Youchison and Mary Verbonits standing in, likely, Gypsy Row, 1925
Mary Youchison and Mary Verbonits standing in, likely, Gypsy Row, 1925

Class Photos

A burgeoning immigrant population resulted in a school-age population. Ganister’s children attended a one-room school situated atop the southern ridge overlooking the quarries and the miners’ homes. These two photos come from my family and portray students in 1936 and what we believe is a few years earlier.

Ganister school photo from 1936
Ganister school photo from 1936
Ganister school photo from an unknown year, but perhaps pre-1936
Ganister school photo from an unknown year, but perhaps pre-1936

The Ganister Blue Hole

The Ganister Blue Hole serves as a very physical reminder of the town’s raison d’etre: the quarrying of ganister, or limestone. After the quarries shut down, the pits gouged into the Earth filled with water. At first the Blue Hole functioned as a recreational pool. Then later it became a dumping ground. I remember from my childhood watching a car pulled from the bottom of the Blue Hole.

The Blue Hole in 2012 from the northeast end
The Blue Hole in 2012 from the northeast end