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Harmony Short Line

1922 - March 31, 1961

Perhaps one of the most well known of all transit systems that operated some or all service in Allegheny County, besides Pittsburgh Railways Company, was the Harmony Short Line (HSL). This intrigue with the company perhaps goes back to the trolley days but the buses, along with the operation, lent much to the HSL being revered by many. By some it is considered as part of the Port Authority acquisitions as the routes and service style remained with other companies after the HSL closed down operation but the HSL actually ceased operations several years prior to the PAT operations starting up in 1964.

The HSL had its beginnings with two trolley companies. The first was in 1907 with the start of operations on the Pittsburgh & Butler Street Railway, known as the Butler Short Line and the second company in 1908 with the start of service on a new interurban line built by the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler & New Castle Railway Co., known as the Harmony Route. These 2 companies competed on sections of the line primarily between Pittsburgh and Butler. In 1917, the Butler Short Line was purchased by the Harmony Route and the operations merged into Pittsburgh, Mars & Butler Railway (PM&B).

In 1922, the PM&B created the Harmony Short Line Motor Transportation Company which was formed primarily to carry freight between Bakerstown and Butler with trucks. In 1923 bus operations began to supplement the Beaver Falls branch of the trolley line. Additional bus lines were added in 1924 to supplement Ellwood City and New Castle rail service along with a new route in 1925 between Butler and New Castle where rail service was not present. These lines operated both bus and trucks and were primarily for getting freight and some additional passengers to and from the rail operation. All the initial routes for the bus operations were certificated separately by the PSC and in August of 1926, the routes were consolidated into one certificate.

At this time, bus operations were rather hit and miss as trucks could be running the line since the operation was designed primarily for freight. By 1929 however this situation seemed to be changing as regularly scheduled bus service was running between Pittsburgh to Butler and Pittsburgh to Evans City. Also approved in 1929 was a new route between Pittsburgh and Zelienople which was extended in less than a year to Ellwood City. The existing Ellwood City - New Castle service was added to this new route at this time.

Improvements in the roads, primarily Perry Highway (US Rt. 19), allowed HSL to extend service from Zelienople to Mercer in 1930. A through route from New Castle to Pittsburgh was also implemented in 1930 via Etna, Bakerstown and Butler.

These new routes didn't help the bottom line however and in April of 1931, the entire Harmony system went into receivership. The main causes were the depression as well as the loss of business due to the increase of private automobiles. While most of the system remained in operation at this time, the Butler Short Line rail portion of the system was shut down after inspections determined the line was unsafe for continued operations. There was no actual replacement for the rail line as it was absorbed into the existing HSL bus service running on US Rt. 8.

Click for larger viewThe remaining rail service of the Harmony system was eliminated in 2 stages in 1931. The first stage being the Beaver Falls - Ellwood City - New Castle portion of the Harmony Route which was converted to bus operation on June 15th of that year. The second stage was the all of the remaining rail lines which were replaced in bulk on August 15th. A purchase of 10 Yellow Coach Type V buses aided in the conversion.

During the 1930's, Harmony had much activity in terms of acquiring rights for new lines which were held by other companies. Rights to service along portions of its main Pittsburgh routes along US Rt. 8 were originally held by Etna Transportation Company (ETC). In January of 1935, HSL received the rights to operate local service between Etna & Allison Park from the PSC. Until this point the HSL had to operate closed door through the area. Also at this time, all other ETC routes were granted to the HSL. It is unclear as to what happened with the ETC but the PSC revoked all of the ETC route rights in May of that year.

HSL also replaced rail service formerly provided by the West Penn Railways in the Allegheny Valley on May 23, 1937. Although West Penn's bus subsidiary, Penn Transit Company served the effected area, the PSC granted rights to the replacement service to HSL. 1938 saw the addition of routes formerly served by the Evans Bus Company which served Freeport, Tarentum and New Kensington.

The 1940's were much the same as the 1930's with some additional routes being added. There was also a purchase of the Brackenridge Bus Company which was a small one bus operation but came with 3 new routes to add to the HSL Allegheny Valley operations. The certification was not allowed to be transferred by the PUC so Harmony had to reapply to the PUC for certification for the old Brackenridge routes.

1953 saw an addition of a route purchased from the Penn Bus Company. This route ran from Pittsburgh to New Kensington via East Liberty, Verona and Oakmont. What makes this addition noteworthy was the fact that it operated out of the Greyhound terminal in Pittsburgh instead of street stops as the other HSL trips did. Parts of this route duplicated the existing HSL Pittsburgh - New Kensington route after passing over the Hulton Bridge so the HSL merged this new route with the existing service via the North Side on schedules but the 2 routes remained separate in actual service.

While other systems in Pittsburgh purchased and ran a multitude of different makes of equipment through the 1940's, the HSL was the first company in the Pittsburgh area that utilized GM diesels exclusively starting in 1940. This adoption of the GM diesel as the company standard did allow for limiting parts supplies and making maintenance much easier which reduced coasts but the HSL routes were not overly profitable. The HSL was forced to purchase second hand GM buses from Greyhound in later years to replace its older equipment due to the lack of revenue. The last new bus purchase occurred in 1952 for 5 GM TDH3612's.

Click for larger imageHarmony also leased some coaches for service during the 1950's. A photo of some Aerocoaches leased by Harmony for charter service have been sent to us as documentation on this fact. The Harmony listings were partially incomplete from the initial roster compilation in the Motor Coach Age publication but the leased coaches in the picture appear to fit into the Harmony numbering scheme and used unused numbers. It is not known how many coaches were leased by Harmony over the years. A close look at the front license plate shows Harmony as leasing the bus but it is not known from which company it originally ran for.

As with just about all the systems in the country during the 1950's, ridership started to decline rapidly due to the marked increase in private automobile ownership. The HSL may have lasted to the PAT takeover in 1964 if it was not for a series of long strikes which further reduced ridership and revenues. The HSL posted abandonment notices in early 1961 and ceased service on March 31, 1961.

Click for larger viewThe former Harmony routes were split up among many carriers as was its equipment. Lincoln Coach Lines, Butler Motor Transit Company, Grove City Bus Company, Culmerville Russellton & Cheswick Transit Company, Horrell Transportation, Community Transit Service and Roger's Transit all acquired routes with Lincoln, Butler Motor Transit and Grove City also acquiring various charter rights. Of the buses, not all were handed down to the succeeding lines as 10 of the TDH3612's were for one reason or another held out and sold separately to other transit companies in the Pittsburgh area. These TDH3612's were the newest equipment owned by the HSL and were 1951 & 1952 models.

The HSL had a rather elaborate livery for its equipment using red, blue and cream with a lot of striping and script lettering. The only other company of the Pittsburgh Independents to have such an elaborate livery was the Nobel J. Dick Lines which ran in the Clairton area.

Harmony Short Line Equipment  -  All Time
HSL Number Make Model Year Notes
1-10 Packard ? 1924 10 buses total, original roster as of 1926
11-12 Reo ? 1925 2 buses total, original roster as of 1926
? Reo ? 1925 3 buses total. May have been 2nd hand *
? Pierce-Arrow ? ? 1 bus total May have been 2nd hand **
? Peerless ? ? 1 bus total May have been 2nd hand **
? White ? 1927 1 bus total
? Yellow W-C-311 1929 4 buses total
? Yellow W-H-603 1930 2 buses total, #22 was one of the numbers
? Yellow W-G-366 1930 5 buses total
? Yellow V-A-634 1931 10 buses total, #29 & #31 were two of the numbers
? White 54-A 1936 2 buses total
? Yellow Z-CN-670 ? 2nd hand. #54 was one of the numbers
300-302 Yellow 732 1937 -
303-305 Yellow 732 ? May have been part of 300-302 order ***
306-307 Aerocoach ? ? Leased ****
400-408 Yellow 728 1937 -
409-412 Yellow 728 1939 -
600-601 Yellow PG-2502 1939 -
700-705 Yellow TD-3201 1940 -
706-710 Yellow TD3201 1941 -
800-802 Yellow PD-2902 1941 -
900 Yellow PDA-3701 1942 -
725-734 GM TD-3206 1945 -
901-910 GM PDA-3702 1945 -
750-759 GM TD-3206 1946 -
911-915 GM PDA-3703 1947 -
760-789 GM TDH-3207 1947 775 is preserved by AMCAP
916-920 GM PDA-3703 1948 -
550-554 GM TDH-3612 1951 -
555-559 GM TDH-3612 1952 -
476-479 GM TG-3609 1944 2nd hand
619 GM TD-4007 1946 ex-Penn Bus Co
621-624 GM TD-4007 1946 ex-Penn Bus Co
641-646 GM TDH-4507 1948 ex-Penn Bus Co
630-633 GM TD-4007 1945 ex-Great Lakes Greyhound Lines
634-635 GM TD-4007 ? ex-Great Lakes Greyhound Lines
850-857 Yellow PDG-4101 1941 ex-Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines
? GM PDA-3703 1947 2nd hand

Note: This roster is as complete as available information allows it to be.

* These three Reo's may have been 2nd hand. Records are unclear but the 1926 PUC records from August of 1926 show only 10 Packards and 2 Reos at the time.

** May have been 2nd hand acquisitions.

*** Coaches 303-305 were never documented in the initial Motor Coach Age article. The locating of the photo of coach 305, at the top of this page, confirmed the existence of these previously undocumented coaches.

**** Coaches 306-307 were leased coaches, not owned by Harmony Short Line

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This page was updated on November 08, 2006

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