Then and Now at Youngstown’s Brier Hill Shops

The weekend of Jan. 21-22, 2012, found Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee in Pennsylvania for a Conrail Historical Society meeting. But en route, he stopped in Youngstown to take care of some unfinished business.

Thirty-five years ago, Roger shot the above scene at Conrail’s Brier Hill shops. Before Conrail, Brier Hill sported the major classification yard in Youngstown of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. The EL also maintained a major locomotive repair shop here.

Reportedly, the shop forces, including the managers, were railfan friendly and allowed photographers to record the array of motive power displayed there.

Look carefully at the photo above and you’ll find liveries of at least four railroads.

Initially after the Conrail takeover in 1976, Brier Hill continued to play a key role. It became the western terminus of what had once been a Conway (Pittsburgh) to Haselton Yard train. Locomotive inspections and repairs done at Gateway (Pittsburgh & Lake Erie) and Haselton (Pennsylvania) yards were shifted to Brier Hill.

The collapse of the steel industry in the Mahoning Valley combined with Conrail’s downgrading of the former EL and other lines would diminish Brier Hill. Locomotive servicing was concentrated at Conway. Much of the former EL in Ohio was downgraded or ripped up.

In modern times, some of the Brier Hill shops complex continued to be used as a repair facility by Norfolk Southern maintenance forces. The Ohio Central also uses part of Brier Hill yard.

As seen in the photograph below, though, other parts of Brier Hill are silent, with some remains serving as monuments to a glorious past.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

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2 Responses to “Then and Now at Youngstown’s Brier Hill Shops”

  1. Jack A Marshall III Says:

    I was delighted to come across these photos u posted of the old brier hill yard! My grandfather (Jack Sr) began working in briar hill for the erie in 1946 as a yard boy & worked his way up through the years to clerk & IBM room & eventually to yard master. He bounced around a bit between brier hill & the hazelton yard but the hill was always his home. My father (Jack Jr)came on in 1967 as a fireman & worked his way to engineer eventually. I vividly remember my father taking me with him to get his check a couple times (they used to pick them up in the diesel shop) it was so massive to me then! My most favorite memorie though was dad taking me on a short ride thru the yard & getting to sit in the engine as they turned it around on the turn table (I remember this becouse he let me blow the horn!) I work in brier hill now carrying on the same tradition (with a little twist) I work for a company that services the V&M star mill in brier hill as a mechanic & one of my responsibilities is working on locomotives & railcars there. Thank you so much for posting these photos. I hope to see more!


    Jack A. Marshall III

  2. Stacy Jo Ferenczy Says:

    My father Steve Ferenczy worked at Brier Hill also. Very sad when they closed it down. Very fond memories of him taking me and my two older brothers there showing us where he worked. After that he went on to work at the rail yard in Lordstown, Ohio.

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