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.
The 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
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
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.
Harmony 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.
The 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.