Oil Creek Bridge (Atlantic & Great Western Railway)

The Oil Creek Bridge is a circa 1892 two-span Pratt truss built by the Atlantic & Great Western Railway over Oil Creek in Oil City, Pennsylvania.


The Oil Creek Bridge was completed by the Atlantic & Great Western Railway (A&GW) along the Franklin Branch, connecting Oil City to Meadville. 5

Authorized on June 17, 1862, the Eastern Coal Fields Branch (later renamed the Franklin Branch) was surveyed by August 23, 1863. 5 Rails were being shipped from England and the 36-mile line was completed by 1864. It became the first to reach Franklin and Oil City, two bustling industrial centers.

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the New York Central Railroad (NYC) both objected to the construction of the Franklin Branch, claiming that the charter of the A&GW prohibited such movement. 5 The courts disagreed.

By 1863, oil producers in the Oil City and Franklin areas were transporting over two million barrels of oil per year to oil refineries in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, slamming the A&GW with significant traffic. 5 Although the A&GW was profitable, it had occurred significant debt as part of its expansion into the oil fields. In 1865, the A&GW obtained a $30 million mortgage in order for it to meet its financial obligations.

The Erie Railroad leased the A&GW in 1868 which only marginally improved its finances for a short time. 5 On several occasions, the A&GW entered into receivership. The A&GW was acquired at foreclosure on January 6, 1880 and reorganized as the New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio Railroad (Nypano). The Nypano was in turn leased to the New York, Lake Erie & Western Railroad in 1883.

The Nypano went into bankruptcy and was sold to the Erie Railroad in 1896, merging officially with the Erie in 1941. 5 The Erie-Lackawanna Railroad was organized in 1960 and incorporated the Erie and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, operating until 1976 when it was absorbed into Conrail. Conrail operated the Franklin Branch until 1998 when the line was purchased by Norfolk Southern (NS).

In 2007, the Western New York & Pennsylvania, a short line providing service in western New York and northern Pennsylvania, leased the branch from NS in 2006. 5


The bridge over Oil Creek at the Franklin Branch’s eastern terminus was originally constructed by the A&GW in 1864. 5 The four-span Pratt through truss was destroyed by a fire on November 4, 1890 1 and replaced by a two-span Pratt through truss in 1892. 1 2

A footpath adjacent to the railroad bridge was completed in 1929 3 at a cost of $4,335. 4 It connected downtown to parking lots west of Oil Creek.