Grannas Station #14887
Situated under a towering silver maple tree, today’s Grannas Station is an old Pennsylvania Railroad freight house building in the small has-been town of Ganister, PA. The railroad tracks once here belonged to the Petersburg Branch of the PRR, a section of the original mainline. Before that, it was the route of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal. For hundreds of years beyond that, a Native American path closely followed the Juniata River. Today, the old railroad right of way is the path of the Lower Trail for hikers and bikers. People have been coming this way for a long, long time along the Juniata River, but today it’s only by pedal power for recreation’s sake.
Ganister was once a busy place with several large open pit quarries mining high-quality limestone which was shipped west for steel making in Pittsburgh. Ganister for making brick was also mined here, hence the place name. Many westbound stone trains left here heading west, sometimes three a day. Back then, there was once a water tower and a manned signal tower at Ganister to help move and control all the train traffic, both freight and passenger.
A freight house of this design was common but having two stories was not. It was built tall and thin, and most likely had a car height loading dock along its length back in the day. The building has been fully restored and maintained by Rails to Trails of Central PA to serve as a meeting place for Lower Trail business and the organization shares it with other conservation and historical groups. Taking the long view, their work on the freight house was well done and thorough with new windows, batten siding, and a metal roof. Today’s Grannas Station will be around for quite a while longer.
In these two old photographs of the Pennsylvania Railroad from the 1930s by Abram Burnett, the tall thin PRR freight house can barely be made out behind the leftmost semaphore signal standing tall in the top image. The tracks leading right head off to open pit stone quarries. The lower image shows a railroad bridge going to the left across the Juniata River, again, to yet another large stone quarry.
In the details, note the dwarf signals between the tracks and what appears to be a waiting shed for passengers also on the right. In the bottom image which was taken from the long-gone signal tower, a steam train pulling old wooden freight cars works its way eastward and the frozen Juniata River is to the left. The freight house in the distance is just to the left of the semaphore signal and behind a tree. Today, the view is very different with only a crushed stone bicycle path of the Lower Trail running out through the woods.
Location: Ganister, near Williamsburg, Blair County, Pennsylvania. Modern picture and story ©Andrew Dierks.
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