The Little Giant:
The Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, established in 1875, connected the steel centers of Conellsville, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown, Ohio. Only 120 miles long, the P&LE served most of the major industries in the region, providing it the most revenue per mile of any railroad in the United States. This lucrative traffic earned the road the nickname "Little Giant," and made it an attractive acquisition for the New York Central. The Central, which owned a controlling interest in the railroad, used the line to compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The P&LE also had strong ties with its eastern interchange partners, the Baltimore and Ohio and Western Maryland. The B&O ran most of its freight via the P&LE through Pittsburgh since its own mainline faced sharp curves and steep grades. The Western Maryland interchanged large amounts of freight as part of the "Alphabet Route," a cooperative venture between several eastern railroads to provide competitive long-haul service.
Despite being controlled by the NYC and later Penn Central, the P&LE remained profitable and was not included in the 1976 Conrail merger. With its on-line and interchange traffic curtailed by the decline of the steel industry and mergers, the P&LE was finally force to merge, becoming part of CSX Transportation in 1992.
Builder: P&LE, McKees Rock, PA
Build Date: 1950
Retirement Date: 1991
Number Built: 10
Length: 35 ft.
Weight: 52,000 lbs.
PHMC Cat No. RR92.11
Controlled by the New York Central, the P&LE adopted many of the larger road's designs for equipment, including cabooses. No. 508 is one of 10 bay window cabooses built to NYC plans in 1950 by the railroad's own shops in McKees Rock, PA. As freight cars grew taller, the traditional cupola-style caboose provided limited forward visibility. Climbing the ladder to the cupola also presented a challenge and safety risk on a swiftly moving train.
No. 508 is believed to have spent most of its career in and around the Aliquippa Yard in Beaver County, PA. Railroad Museum volunteer Earl Kinard purchased No. 508 upon its retirement in 1991, accompanying the caboose to Lancaster County and subsequently donating the car to the Railroad Museum.
(Banner across the bottom):
The bay window design provided a better view around larger cars and a safer ride for the crew.