Oil City Trains

For decades, Oil City was a railroad hub for both freight trains and passenger trains.

The rail service was essential to transport petroleum products, timber, coal, household goods, steel, iron, livestock, food and produce, and much more to and from the thriving city. Passenger service was provided by more than half a dozen major rail lines that had Oil City as a prime stopping spot enroute to Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York City. More than a dozen railroads provided daily passenger service to and from Oil City.

In all, nearly two dozen trains, freight or passenger, stopped in Oil City each day during the oil boom heyday.

The last passenger train out of Oil City was in June 1953 and was enroute to Corry. Spring Street businesses and the old Oil City High School are visible behind the train.
This February 1896 newspaper advertisement promotes passenger service aboard the New York & Pennsylvania Railway.

Oil City had three major rail lines – the WNY&P, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, and the Allegheny Valley railroads – by the early 1920s. Three more lines – the Pennsylvania, Erie & New York, and Central – would eventually provide service to and from the city. The rail systems took on a variety of names over the years due to consolidations.

There were three roundhouses in Oil City. They were located in the East End, along Spruce Street on the North Side, and along Oil Creek near the current Agway store. All three roundhouses had circular turntables where repairs and turn-arounds could be made.

The imposing Union Station on Oil City’s North Side served as the passenger station for several rail lines.

The city was fond of boasting that “fresh (restaurant) oysters got to Oil City faster than the U.S. mail” in the late 1880s, a period in which the community was enjoying great fortune as the Hub of Oildom.

Oil City residents could enjoy special outings to Allegheny River communities via train during the summer. Trains for picnickers, fishermen, tourists and others made three round trips a day up and down the river from Oil City to Tionesta.

The Allegheny Valley Railroad station was located near Walnut Street in what was known as Venango City, a South Side community incorporated into the City of Oil City in 1871.
The Allegheny Valley Railroad operated a roundhouse and turntable in Oil City’s East End.
One of the largest crowds ever drawn to downtown Oil City was in June 1916, when local residents turned out to wish Company D, Oil City National Guard, members good luck as they headed for a training camp at Mt. Gretna. From there, they were deployed to Texas to help stop Mexican border incidents. Union Station and the old Oil City High School are visible behind the passenger cars.
The New York Central passenger depot is shown near the tunnel at Hogback Hill in Oil City in this 1903 photograph. The building later became a feed store.
One of Oil City’s three roundhouses and freight yard are shown in this North Seneca Street photograph. Assumption Church is visible in the background.
The 1926 Allegheny River flood was caused by ice jams. The city arranged for the jam to be broken apart by planting thermite blasts in the river. This photograph shows a thermite crew riding in a Pennsylvania Railroad car enroute to the ice gorge blast site.
The expansion of railroads throughout the oil region was a boon to producers and refiners who had relied on barge and wagon transport services until then. Tank cars were familiar sights in the oil region for decades.
An expansive freight yard and numerous freight stations were located along the Allegheny River near the former State Street Bridge. A disastrous fire destroyed most of the stations in the 1960s. A Holiday Inn hotel and Justus Park were later constructed on the site.
Oil City’s great fire and flood of 1892 destroyed much of the north end of Oil City. This photograph shows the area between the railroad bridge and the White Bridge along North Seneca Street.

Daily passenger train service in Oil City ended in June 1953 when the Pennsylvania Railroad announced it would discontinue its Oil City-to-Corry run, known as “the Corry Jerk”.

While it was the last passenger train for the city, a limited freight rail service continues within the city.

This 1903 Pennsylvania Railroad schedule shows an extensive listing of stops throughout this region.
An August 1882 train wreck killed several men when the train traveling between the Cranberry coal mines and South Oil City derailed. Several of the injured people were treated at a make-shift emergency parlor at the nearby City Hotel in the East End.
A new colorful mural painted by Michael Allison of Altoona was added to a building at the South Side end of Veterans Bridge in Oil City in late 2021.

Written by Judy Etzel with research by Kay Dawson and design by Natalie Cubbon.


Oil Region Alliance

Gates & Burns Realty

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