Riding the Rails along the Allegheny River with the Kiski Junction Railroad
Edit: The Kiski Junction Railroad is closed indefinitely. This article will remain up for historical purposes with the hope that the railroad will reopen someday soon.
Pennsylvania is blessed to be home to more than a dozen short line railroads that operate excursion trains all over the state. However, the majority of these are concentrated in the eastern and central parts of the state, leaving those in western Pennsylvania with few options for excursion trains. Fortunately, they have the Kiski Junction Railroad in Armstrong County.
The point where the Kiskiminetas (Kiski) River meets the Allegheny has been a hub of transportation in the region for many years. The Main Line Canal, which ran from Columbia to Pittsburgh using the Allegheny Portage Railroad, followed along the Kiski River to the Allegheny beginning in the early 1830s. Then, just a few decades later, after the completion of the Horseshoe Curve, which allowed the railroad to cross the mountains, rail service came to the area.
Since then, rail service has been a part of life at the confluence of these two rivers. And, while there is little traffic there today, the Kiski Junction Railroad keeps the rails alive with seasonal tourist excursion trains.
Trips start in Schenley, Pennsylvania, just north of the Kiski River. After boarding, the train pushes off on its 13-mile, one-hour ride, along the banks of the Allegheny River. The train goes out and back, meaning that it doesn’t turn around at the end. For the best views, sit on the right side of the train and face the engine. The train starts the trip by going backwards down the track, with the engine pushing the train, and returns with the engine pulling the train.
The Kiski Junction Railroad’s bright red engine was built for the US War Department in 1943. It traveled around New Jersey for the Army Reserve before being sold to South Branch Valley Railroad in West Virginia. This diesel engine has been owned by the railroad since they opened 20 years ago and is a beautiful train engine to see.
Along the route to Johnetta, you’ll have an almost uninterrupted view of the Allegheny River. Along the tracks, many old cabins are still in use between the tracks and the river. The river in this area is popular with boaters and you’ll likely see people fishing and waterskiing on nice days. The loudspeakers alternate between a narration about the area’s history and what you’re seeing along your journey and some well-chosen music.
The journey ends at Lock 6 on the Allegheny River, just a few miles south of Ford City. This lock allows for navigation along the river and provides a very scenic spot for the train’s brief stop.
The train returns along the same line. However, instead of stopping directly at the station, the train continues about halfway across the train bridge over the Kiski River. The train stops on this bridge for several minutes, allowing for some great photos over this beautiful river. This section of the journey is the one advantage that people sitting on the left side of the train have, but it’s a beautiful view in either direction.
From here, the train makes the journey a few hundred yards back to the station to disembark passengers. For those that are interested, you can head up to the engine and climb aboard to have a brief look around, which is a nice added touch for riders.
Overall, I really enjoyed riding the Kiski Junction Railroad. The ride takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll see on an excursion train in Pennsylvania, and the railroad does an excellent job making this a great experience for the whole family.
Note: My ride on the Kiski Junction Railroad was hosted by the railroad. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Kiski Junction Railroad
Hours: Fridays: 2pm
Cost: Adults: $9, Children: $7
Address: 130 Railroad Street