The Wheatland Bridge formerly carried the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) over the Shenango River near Wheatland, Pennsylvania. The Pratt through truss bridge was located on the PRR’s Erie & Pittsburgh Division mainline.
The Erie & Pittsburgh Railroad (E&P), begun in 1860, 3 was completed between Erie and New Castle on June 15, 1864 5 and opened on August 1. 6 The E&P was leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in April 1870, becoming the PRR Erie & Pittsburgh Branch. 2 4 The branch ran from Lawrence Junction, south of New Castle, where it interchanged with the Pittsburgh, Youngstown & Ashtabula Railroad (PY&A) north to Erie. 6
The original bridge over the Shenango River near Wheatland was a wooden crossing that was replaced by a new steel bridge in November 1899. 1
During most of its tenure, the E&P hauled coal from lines south of Pittsburgh to the docks in Erie. 4 It also supported steel mills and other heavy industry in New Castle and in the Wheatland, Farrell and Sharon area. Not long after Penn Central was formed, the segment north of Jamestown was abandoned after a connection was constructed that allowed trains to use the former New York Central Stoneboro Branch to reach Ashtabula. After Conrail was formed in 1976, the line between New Castle and Wheatland was placed out of service and then abandoned in 1982, 7 along with much of the line from Sharpsville to Jamestown.
The bridge is being studied for use in a rail to trail along the Shenango River utilizing abandoned right-of-way from the Pennsylvania Railroad and surface streets. 7 The study corridor, at 10½ miles, extends from the Shenango Dam and Reservoir and the Borough of West Middlesex, including the abandoned railroad segment between West Middlesex and Wheatland.