Pennsylvania Turnpike

This is a.....History of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.......Information Page. Special interests include the Pennsylvania Turnpike "Tunnels" and" Bridges"!..........Anyone with information about the Pennsylvania Turnpike history is welcome to "E-Mail" your experiences and submit your! message. Wait for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Pictures to load! Wait for the sound portion to load! Pennsylvania Turnpike History
Pennsylvania Turnpike
Pennsylvania Turnpike

Pennsylvania Turnpike History Site


This website information was published by the author Debi and Joe Topinka, in the Lincoln Highway Journal.
The Lincoln highway journal is distributed to hundreds of locations throughout the country.

This transportation history website was also used for newspaper articles.
Recent columns were published in the Washington Post and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Transportation history by Joseph Topinka...Bedford,Pa.
We are also linked to now, from several Transportation sites such as the Maine Turnpike,New Jersey Turnpike and others.



Enjoy the site ( there are currently 23 pages ) E-mail your transportation history to us !

How The Turnpike Started out in 1883

History of the South Penn Railroad from 1883-85
This old railroad railbed currently parallels most of the western Pennsylvania Turnpike through the Mountains.Sections can be seen north or south of the current road if you look closely.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike was originally an idea for a railroad, which started in the 1880s but was never completed.4 1/2 miles of tunneling was completed at 7 mountains from Laurel Mountain to Blue Mountain. The Pennsylvania Turnpike began as an idea for a railroad-the South Pennsylvania Railroad. William Vanderbilt envisioned a high-speed line going across Pennsylvania as a way to connect the east coast with Pittsburgh and points west. Because he could not get competitive freight rates from the P.R.R.,William and his investors began construction of his own railroad in 1883 (current pa. turnpike), grading right-of-way and digging 7 tunnels. Political and financial maneuvering led Vanderbilt to abandon this effort on July 1, 1885, leaving 4 1/2 miles of half-finished tunnels and miles of graded right-of-way. Only 1 of the Origional 9 Tunnels were actually ever used. A short Line (Narrow Guage)Railroad called the Pittsburgh,Westmoreland,and Somerset Railroad ,used the Quemahoming Tunnel for its route from Ligioner to Somerset for 15 Years.

In the 1930's, some people who remembered playing on the right-of-way and in the tunnels lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature to study making an "all-weather" highway using Vanderbilt's abandoned right-of-way. This led to the eventual formation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the construction of today's turnpike.

The original turnpike used most of Vanderbilt's right-of-way and several of the half-finished tunnels for the turnpike. The size of the existing single-track bores, and the available technology of the time dictated that the turnpike tunnels also be single-bore, with one lane of traffic in each direction.

This Site Highlights some of the History
of Early Transportation in Pennsylvania

E-Mail Your experiences of Transportation to the above Mailbox
and i will add you to our Page
Laurel Hill Tunnel
A typical Daily Tunnel Log Dated May 21 1963

Pictured below is the Origional Turnpike from Oct.1 1940
this Packet is dated August 1948 ,but was printed, and for sale at service plazas in 1941
Americas Superhighway
Pictured below is the updated 160 mile Turnpike from 1950
this Packet is dated october 1950
Notice the changes made from 1940 to early 1950
Americas Superhighway
Turnpike History - During World War 11 Guards were stationed at each Portal of all the Tunnels
Their job was to stop all Suspicous People from entering the Tunnel
Until Questioned about the reason for their Travel.
Traffic was so scarce during the war
that Familes were seen picnicing in the median of the Roadway


The Western Portal of Rays Hill Tunnel shown above in
1884 ( Construction of the South Penn Railroad ) Tunnel is 3,532 ft. long and was 70 percent completed in 1885


The Western Portal of Rays Hill Tunnel shown above in
1939 ( Under Construction ) Tunnel is 3,532 ft. long


The Western Portal of Rays Hill Tunnel below in
July 1950


The Western Portal of Rays Hill Tunnel
July 1980 ( tunnel was bypassed in 1968 )



The abandoned roadway above between Rays Hill Tunnel and Sideling Hill Tunnel ."
Looking east towards Sideling Hill tunnel. Closed Nov. 1968, North of Oregon Road.


"Pictures below are from August 1941.
20 pictures came in a small Packet called
"20 Views of Americas Superhighway"

"The original Irwin Interchange Looking East."

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"Western Portal of The Kittatinny Tunnel."

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"Interior View of the Tunnels."

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"A Typical 1940 Interchange ."

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"A gulf Service Station and Howard Johnsons Restaurant."

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"A Typical Interchange Layout."

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"The original Eastern Terminus.The Valley Forge Interchange."

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Stopping at the New Baltimore Service Plaza for fuel, summer 1941 The service plaza was located at the bottom of Allegheny Mountain near the town of New Baltimore,Pa. 13 miles west of Bedford. It was on the Eastbound side of the road. Westbound traffic would stop for fuel and the Service Attendants would carry fuel across the highway for motorists cars.
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Entering the Pike, it was summer of 41 and the driver reported next to no traffic. They stopped to have a picnic along the way at the Buchananan state forest area of the Pike.
View the Origional 1940 Pennsylvania Turnpike Map Here (Eastern Section)

View the Origional 1940 Pennsylvania Turnpike Map Here (Western Section)


Click here to visit my hometown,Bedford Pennsylvania,Turnpike exit 11, 1940s style. Bedford county is a hidden treasure chest of History for the traveler.Long before people were flying and taking vacation cruses, they were traveling by car or bus to places like bedford to enjoy historic treasures such as Fort Bedford ( Revolutionary war ),Washingtons Headquarters (Whiskey Rebellion),Bedford village ( village museum of log homes and old customs),civil war entrenchments (Loysburg), Bedford Springs Resort (Pesidents summer white house),Wonderland Caverns (imbedded 25 ft. dinosour fossil), Jean Bonnet Tavern (1758 site of tax uprising) and more!

click here for the current service plaza's on the Turnpike

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Pennsylvania Turnpike

© pennsylvania turnpike history ©© from Joseph Topinka, Bedford,Pa. © Pennsylvania Turnpike History Page 2 click here!