Scope and Content Notes:
The photographic images provide visual documentation of P&LE railroad activities during the early- to mid-twentieth century. Included is the work of nationally known photo-documentarian David Plowden. These photographs contain information not only about the P&LE, but also the various branch lines that, along with P&LE, were controlled by the New York Central Railroad System (1883-1968), and later by Penn Central (1968-1970). Besides railroad information, many of the photographs are devoted to non-railroad activities and scenes. This sometimes incidental information is found in urban rural scenes predominantly in western Pennsylvania’s Fayette, Washington, Allegheny, Beaver, and Lawrence counties, as well as in some of the bordering counties of West Virginia and Ohio.
The photographic formats represented in the collection are dry gelatin glass plate negatives, cellulose nitrate negatives, cellulose acetate, and 4x5 safety negatives. The images are universally of high quality both in terms of physical condition and aesthetic composition documenting industrial scenes along the railroad’s rights of way as well as railroad facilities and equipment. The western Pennsylvania countryside is also featured in images taken for the proposed Lake Erie-Ohio River Canal in the 1940s. Also well represented are events such as river parades, celebrations in downtown Pittsburgh, as well as disaster such as wrecks and floods.
The Archives Service Center maintains an item level inventory of the photographic portion of the collection that is available for on-site review. The photographic images are arranged by date and image number assigned by the photographers. Portions of the photographs have been made available online: