So I wanted to start a Photo Album dedicated to my new Train Room and Layout. I am naming the layout Western Allegheny & Welch Railroad. Here is some background information. Most of my family is from Pittsburgh, dating back to 1902 when my dad's grandfather came over from Europe (there is some debate if it was Scotland or Ireland), while my dad's grandmother came from Poland. Both migrated to Pittsburgh and my grandmother was born in December of that famous year of the Titanic tragedy, 1912. My grandmother grew up working downtown at the William Penn Hotel at the coat check-in. She worked there for most of her life until she married and had my uncle and dad.
My dad grew up in the Steel City in an area known as Polish Hill, right off Bigelow Blvd on Ridgeway Street. He always told me stories of the glowing hot metal being transported by the submarine cars at night and seeing yellow and orange glistening on the hill tops as hot slag was being dumped. One of my favorite stories was when he would take the electric streetcars to Kennywood, and when they would go down the steep hills he could feel the rattle and weight of the streetcar gripping every bit of the rail to keep from jumping off. He told me that no rollercoaster or ride at Kennywood could come close to that streetcar.
When my dad attended Schenley High School he worked the summers at Jones & Laughlin Steel Works. He helped grease the tracks of the massive overhead cranes that moved the ceramic lined steel kettles and the specialized lifts for the steel ingots. He always told me the winters in Pittsburgh were never that harsh to the locals because most worked in a steel mill or on the railroad.
My dad went on to attend the University of Pittsburgh, but when he graduated the great steel towns of the U.S. were collapsing. He could not find a local job in his field, so he worked at a local pharmacy for a couple years until he found a job out in Minnesota. He was only there a few years until the company he was with sent him all over the U.S. where he was needed. He met my mom while in North Carolina. Soon afterwards he landed a good position in California. This is where my siblings and I were born. When I was still just a young lad, we moved back East to Virginia to split the distance of my dad’s family in Pittsburgh, and my mom’s family in NC. So Virginia in my heart is my home state.
I attended Virginia Tech, where I met my wife, and hired onto Norfolk Southern right after graduation. I always loved trains and now I was able to experience things I never thought possible. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. It was challenging and exhausting work, but I was proud of what I did. I worked as a Trainmaster in Enola Yard in Harrisburg, Lancaster Yard, and Abrams Yard in King of Prussia, PA. I transferred over to the Engineering Department and trained at Enola Yard, Bethlehem, PA, and then Reading, PA. I was then promoted to a Track Supervisor at Conway Yard in Pittsburgh, PA. I always felt life was a giant circle, and here I found myself in the city I grew up visiting and hearing illustrious stories about. Well… now I have stories of my own, not just about the Steel City, but about the railroad that we all love.
Whether you are out West, in the Plains States, or on the East Coast, each of us here love trains and the stories connected with this beloved pastime we call the railroad. So here is the beginning of my own railroad, which I would like to dedicate to my future daughter Aubrey, due to bless us on December 30th.
-Eric C. Welch