Welcome to Vintage Railroad Postcards!

Thank you for stopping by! This is the blog for the Russell P. Panecki Collection of vintage railroad-related postcards. The entire collection consists of nearly one thousand so far with images dating from circa 1904 to the 1950s. To leave a comment, ask a question, to contribute or correct historical information, a comment box is located to the left for your convenience.

Each page, including this homepage, has an index located in the lower portion of the page. In addition to the index, posts were updated with historical information, new postcards added from storage files, while some posts were completely rewritten or edited for corrections. Three articles have been added and are worth reading. They include how vintage postcards were made, the history of Pennsylvania Station, and the history of Grand Central Terminal.

My apologies, but the postcards in my collection and on this blog are not available for sale, copying, or for contribution to projects. Please keep in mind that I reserve all rights to the images and content of this blog.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bradford, Bordell, and Kinzua Railway

This is a rare postcard view of a Pennsylvania 3'  narrow gauge shortline, the Bradford, Bordell, and Kinzua Railway. There is an interesting piece of history attached to the railroad in its earlier years involving the oilfield that straddled the New York-Pennsylvania border. According to George W. Hilton and his monumental work, American Narrow Gauge Railroads (Stanford University Press, 1990, pp. 507-508) a large oilfield was discovered in 1859 located roughly east of the Allegheny River, south of Salamanca, NY and north of Mt. Jewett, PA. Approximately 20 small narrow gauge railroads operated in and around the oilfield over the years of production and at its peak in 1882. The bulk of their business was carrying supplies to the oilfield as well as passengers, general freight, lumber, clay, and sand for glassmaking. In addition to the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Erie also held interests in the narrow gauge operations and, in partnership with local oilmen, formed the BB&K Ry. in 1890. The total length of the line, including a subsidiary, was some 56 miles.

The lives of these railroads were shaky at best being dependent on the fortunes of the oilpatch for the bulk of their revenue. The production peak of 1882 was 6,519,000 barrels annually but then subsequently dropped steeply over the years to 750,000 barrels annually by 1913. The peak production year of 1882 was also the most profitable one for the BB&K, but after that year the line declined in into financial instability as oil output kept shrinking. With its other freight and passenger services not providing enough income to keep it running, the BB&K went through several reorganizations and ownerships and was finally abandoned in 1906.

The history of the railroad provides us with information that is useful in dating this postcard and its image. The reverse side of the card is the 'divided-back type' with the left side designated for writing a message and the right side reserved for the address. A vertical line divides the card into the two sections. There is also a stamp box for penny postage. This type of card was used from 1907 to 1915, giving us the earliest date of the card and the image of 1907. Knowing that the BB&K was abandoned in 1906 before the divided-back postcards were available, the image on the card must have been taken some years earlier during the happier days of this little-known Pennsylvania narrow gauge railroad.

Here is another view along the BB&K showing typical passenger service and a 'natural' right-of-way. You can detect a blur in the image of the train itself: the original photo that the card was made from most likely was of the train in motion. 

The card from our first view, the freight train, was from the divided back era that began after 1907. We also noted earlier that it  was made after the abandonment of the BB&K in 1906. Knowing when the line was abandoned and when divided-back cards were first allowed by postal law beginning in 1907, we determined that the first card  was from a photo taken some years earlier than 1907. Our passenger train card, however, is from the undivided-back era from 1901-1907, as shown on its reverse side below. This card's original photo was probably taken some time before abandonment in 1906.

Here in this 1905 view we see empty track in this view...perhaps a premonition of what was  to come in 1906.

The message on this card "is to remind you of the old BB&K" and may very well be a post-abandonment view. It could also be the last postcard published of this long-gone example of Pennsylvania narrow gauge railroading.

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