Tyrone, PA (TYR)
Forges established in the early 19th century attracted iron workers as well as farmers and small businessmen who set up grist and saw mills.
Pennsylvania Avenue and West 10th Street
Tyrone, PA 16686
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2020): 1,500
- Facility Ownership: Amtrak
- Parking Lot Ownership: Borough of Tyrone
- Platform Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
- Track Ownership: Norfolk Southern Railway
The Tyrone station is located in Railroad Park at the lower end of Pennsylvania Avenue on the south bank of the Little Juniata River. Passengers use a modest shelter structure surrounded by raised planters filled with shrubs and flowers.
Although the Pennsylvania colony was granted to William Penn in 1681, the mountainous central and western portions of the territory were not extensively settled until the mid-18th century. The region was primarily a hunting ground controlled by the Iroquois Confederacy of American Indians based to the north in the New York area. Penn had recognized the Iroquois’ claim to land in the center of the colony. Settlement by European-Americans was not legal until the Penn family purchased a large tract from the Iroquois in 1754. Growth was halted by the French and Indian War of the late 1750s-early 1760s, but picked up at the close of that conflict.
According to early histories, the site of present-day Tyrone—a flat plateau at the intersection of the Little Juniata River and Bald Eagle Creek—was occupied by an American Indian referred to as John Logan. He was noted as being friendly to colonists, especially during the Revolutionary War. The land was later purchased by a settler and Logan moved to the north in the vicinity of present-day Clearfield. The parcel was then acquired by John Gloninger, who began building a series of forges in 1806 to take advantage of the area’s ore deposits. Known as Tyrone Forge, the settlement attracted iron workers as well as farmers and small businessmen who set up grist and saw mills to provide for the basic needs of the community. Within a generation, the forges came under the control of Lyon, Shorb, and Company, an ironworks based in Pittsburgh.
Tyrone remained a small industrial village until new transportation modes and routes offered better connections to the rest of the state. As early as 1786, regularly scheduled stage trips began between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but the grueling journey took three weeks, as poor roads made night travel nearly impossible. Looking for a better link across the state, the Pennsylvania legislature was dismayed by the opening of the National Road in Maryland and the Erie Canal in New York during the 1820s—transportation routes that threatened to siphon off trade from Pennsylvania and its major port at Philadelphia.
The state quickly devised its own transportation scheme: the Main Line of Public Works. At a cost of more than $10 million, it included a series of roads, railroads, and canals built from 1826-1835. Upon completion, travel time was cut to only four days. The Juniata River provided a natural pathway through the mountains that was soon lined with the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal; the Juniata Division started at the Susquehanna River in the east and ended at Hollidaysburg in the west where freight was then transported by railroad over the Allegheny Mountains.
With a taste of what improved transportation infrastructure could provide in terms of speed and lower shipping rates, the communities along the waterway soon advocated for improvements to the main line. Many looked to the promise of the new railroads. In 1846, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania chartered the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) to construct a rail line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh in order to bypass the slower canals and roadways. Land holders in the vicinity of Tyrone Forge knew that rail access would allow for the easier transport of the area’s mineral goods, which included lead, coal, and iron ore, as well as limestone. Realizing the profit that could be made in shipping, the PRR chose to construct the rail line along the Little Juniata rather than follow the canal path further to the south as was common along most of the route.
Four years later, the first train passed by Tyrone Forge; recognizing the potential for growth, Lyon, Shorb, and Company laid out a settlement a mile to the west in 1851. The plateau upon which it was platted was not only flat but also substantially raised above the river to protect against flooding. Within a year, a handful of buildings was constructed and referred to as both Eagleville and Shorbsville until Tyrone City was settled upon. The name referenced a county in Ireland and was later shortened to “Tyrone.” The exact reason for the Irish reference is not entirely clear, but it may have been influenced by a group of Irish settlers in the nearby Sinking Valley as well as an additional community of Irish immigrants who worked in the iron industry.
Between Huntingdon and Tyrone, the tracks crossed the Little Juniata 15 times, requiring more bridges in that 20 mile stretch than in the previous 200 miles from Philadelphia to Huntingdon. By 1854, the all-rail route linking Philadelphia and Pittsburgh was fully opened, and the entire trip could be accomplished in an amazing 15 hours at a cost of $8. Tyrone was suddenly connected to Philadelphia, one of the nation’s primary Atlantic ports, and Pittsburgh, considered the gateway to the expansive and growing Ohio River Valley. Residents had to use the passenger depot at the old forges until one was built closer to town in 1853. Once the new station was built, the lower end of Pennsylvania Avenue was lined with hotels and other businesses catering to rail travelers. One of the most famous hostelries was the Ward House, part of which still stands across from the current station site.
In railroad miles, Tyrone was about halfway between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, and it soon became an important shipping center. The value of the coal fields and stands of lumber to the north of town had been one of the prime motivations behind the construction of the PRR main line along the Little Juniata, and within a decade, two branch lines were constructed from Tyrone to better access these natural resources; a third was laid in the early 1880s. The increased activity through the town prompted the PRR to name it the division headquarters in 1863, and five years later work was begun on expanded rail facilities including a roundhouse, repair shops, weighing platform, and a rail yard for the processing of coal and lumber.
Rather than erect these buildings close to the station, they were placed to the north of the town center in an area that became known as East Tyrone. The railroad also sponsored the construction of adjacent housing, most of which was intended for PRR employees working at the nearby shops. The neighborhood was absorbed into Tyrone in 1893. The railroad facilities spurred other industrial developments such as a brick factory and the Tyrone Paper Mills. The paper manufacturer received its vital loads of timber over the rails and produced a high quality product for use in mechanized printing as well as for general writing purposes. It had the honor of providing National Geographic Magazine with the paper used for its colorful yellow-bound covers. Other industries included shoes, artistic prints, and finished wood products. Gardner’s Candies has been in business since 1897. In addition to a small storefront, founder James Gardner sold his sweet treats from a horse drawn wagon that became a fixture at carnivals and other events. Today customers can tour the company factory to better understand how chocolates are made.
To accommodate the office functions associated with the maintenance of the PRR main and branch lines, a new and larger station was constructed near the original depot at Tyrone in 1888. It was a 2½ story brick structure marked by numerous gables decorated with fancy wood fretwork typical of the then-popular Queen Anne style of architecture. The right-of-way eventually contained four tracks, and they were divided into two pairs by a center platform with a long canopy that protected passengers from inclement weather as they waited for the train to arrive. A nearby building housed the Adams Express Company, a service that shipped parcels and packages along the rail lines. After World War I, a memorial was erected across from the depot to honor all those who had died in the conflict; the statue of a “doughboy” was later moved to Soldiers’ Park on the other side of the river.
By the end of the 19th century, Tyrone was the busiest stop on the PRR between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Functioning as the primarily departure point for students and visitors to nearby Pennsylvania State University, the depot bustled at holiday time and during school breaks. The PRR provided Tyrone with a solid economic base. In the late 1890s, the Tyrone Division of the railroad employed about 450 city residents, or about 1 in 13 Tyroners. Others labored in local manufacturing concerns that were able to ship their goods across the country due to the town’s excellent rail connections. Those links were soon augmented by a network of state highways that intersected at Tyrone, earning it the nickname “Hub of the Highways.”
Tyrone became a favorite destination for day trips or long weekends, as it was known for its natural beauty. Visitors enjoyed exploring the nearby Sinking Valley, famous for a stream that bubbled from the ground, rushed across the landscape, and disappeared into the earth only to reappear hundreds of feet away. In places, it could be viewed and heard in deep depressions within the ground. Stony Point, an impressive limestone formation jutting from the earth, was the scene of numerous events, such as athletic match-ups and religious meetings. Reservoir Park, site of large dance parties from the 1930s to 1960s, remains a favorite spot for social get-togethers, especially on long holiday weekends.
Many of those dances probably featured music by Tyrone native Fred Waring, one of the nation’s most beloved bandleaders. Dropping out of Penn State, he formed “Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians,” a choral group that blended time honored singing traditions with modern beats. Popular on the radio, touring circuit, and television, Waring’s career spanned more than four decades. Hit records included renditions of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “White Christmas.” As a side career, Waring backed the development of a new blender that saw great commercial success. In 1983, the “man who taught America to sing” was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest honor for a civilian.
By the mid-20th century, the activity of the PRR’s Tyrone Division had lessened and it was subsequently merged with the Middle Division. The rail facilities in East Tyrone were closed and most were later demolished; in 1968 the station was also destroyed. Toward the end of the century, the land that had once held the station was made into Railroad Park. In 2000, a new depot was dedicated near the Amtrak stop.
Partially funded through a $20,000 transportation enhancement grant from the Federal Highway Administration, the building references the design of historic PRR depots. Home to the Tyrone History Museum, one room is filled with artifacts and photographs that tell the story of the town and the region. Outside, PRR and New York Central Railroad cabooses painted in historic colors are on display, while a nearby gazebo offers a spot to relax. In 2003, a plaque was dedicated to all PRR workers from the Tyrone area. It is embellished with an engraving that depicts the former rail station and platform as they appeared in the 1920s. With all its amenities, Railroad Park has become popular with railroad fans who gather to watch and discuss the passing trains.
The Pennsylvanian is financed primarily through funds made available by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Platform with Shelter
- Quik-Trak kiosks not available
- No ticket sales office
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- Bag storage not available
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Accessible same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Accessible overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- No wheelchair lift