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The Oil Creek Rail Road Company

1860 – 1868

The Oil Creek Rail Road Company (OCRR) was chartered in 1860 and existed until 1868 when it was merged with other short line oil transporting railroads in western Pennsylvania to form the Oil Creek and Allegheny River Railway Company.  The OCRR ran 37 miles from Corry, PA, to Petroleum Centre. 

Track (six-foot gauge) was laid reaching Titusville in 1862, Miller Farm in 1863 and Shaffer Farm in 1864.  The main purpose of the railroad from 1862 to 1865 was to transport oil from the oil regions of PA to the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad  (also 6-foot gauge) in Corry, PA.     In 1865 standard gauge (4’ 8 ½”) was added in 1865 allowing connections to other standard gauge railroads such as the Philadelphia and Erie. 

In 1866, the OCRR connected to the Farmers Railroad in Petroleum Centre allowing oil to move from the oil regions to either Corry in the north or to Oil City in the south. 

The OCRR first transported oil in wood barrels on “flats” or in converted stock cars.  Starting in late 1865, the Densmore two-tank oil tank car (two vertical oil tanks on a flat car) was invented and was copied by many others in 1866.  The three-tank oil tank car was in use by companies such as the Empire Line.  Starting in February 1867, the horizontal iron tank car came into use and the vertical tank car shortly became obsolete.

More images of the Oil Creek Railroad can be viewed by going to Photo Gallery above.   Additional images of the OCRR can also be viewed by going to the Home Page, then to Back Issues, then to Index, and to The Oil Creek Railroad Company.

The black and white  prototype images on this page courtesy of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Drake Well Museum, Titusville, PA.  Go to  Links above and then to the Drake Well Museum site for information on the Museum.  




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History & Chronology of
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History & Chronology of
Bath & Hammondsport RR








The Oil Creek Rail Road Company

Chronology 1854 – 1869


    The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company of New York formed by George H. Bissell.
     This was the first petroleum company in the world.



     The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company of Connecticut formed by George H. Bissell.


    Seneca Oil Company formed by George H. Bissell and New Haven associates.
     Colonel Drake sent to oil regions to drill for oil.


    Colonel Edwin Drake strikes oil on August 27, 1859, near Titusville, PA.

     Second well drilled by Henry Rouse on the Parker farm. Oil sold for 75 cents per gallon &
     by the end of year, price dropped to 22 cents per gallon.

       October - John Brown raids Harper’s Ferry in Virginia, the signal for the general
     slave rebellion.


    Need for the OCRR: to haul oil from the oil regions to Corry, PA.

     Corry was selected for the terminus of the OCRR in order to connect with both the
     Philadelphia and Erie (controlled by Pennsylvania RR) and the Atlantic and Great Western
     (controlled by the Erie Railroad).

     OCRR Chartered August 17, 1860. The charter authorized the company to construct a
     railroad from any point on the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad to Titusville, along
     the Oil Creek to Oil City and Franklin.

     OCRR totaled about 37 miles – Corry, PA, to Petroleum Centre, PA (1866).

     Thomas Struthers, one of the investors in the Sunbury and Erie Railroad and a
     businessman from Warren, PA, and some other investors from Warren started the OCRR.
     The largest individual stockholder was Dr. W. S. Streator of Cleveland, Ohio.

     OCRR was the same gauge as Atlantic and Great Western, i.e., 6 foot.

     First oil refinery built in Titusville by Abbott, Parker and Barnsdall.

     Pond freshet used to transport oil on the Oil Creek.

     April - Pony Express makes its first run.

     November – Abe Lincoln elected President.

     Henry repeating rifle patented.


    Empire well comes in at the alarming rate of 3000 barrels per day.
     Barrels were unavailable and the oil flowed into Oil Creek. Price dropped to 10 cents per barrel.

     The “Oil Creek Association” was formed at Rouseville, PA, to improve the price of oil.

     Bulk oil boats used on the Oil Creek to transport oil.

     About 6000 teamsters were engages in hauling oil in wagons in the oil regions.

     Teamsters and barges popular way of transporting oil.

     April – American Civil War starts, Fort Sumter, SC.

     July – First battle of Bull Run.


    Track on the OCRR, Corry to Titusville, 27 miles, was completed in October of 1862.

     Corry, with three railroads (Atlantic and Great Western, Philadelphia and Erie, and the
     Oil Creek Railroad) grew to become the most important transportation center in the
     oil regions. Corry, with a population of 3000, was known as the city of stumps.

     March – first battle between two ironclad warships; USS Monitor and CSS Virginia.


    In the spring of 1863, the OCRR ran two extra trains a day to handle the heavy traffic.

     Summer - OCRR completed to Miller Farm in 1863.

     OCRR statistics (items transported) - November 1, 1862 to December 31, 1863:

                 430,684 barrels of oil
                 459,424 empty barrels
                 22,727 tons of merchandise and other freight
                 59,987 passengers

     Total receipts including mail, telegraph, and express business: $ 384,705.

     Expenses: maintaining and operating the road, cost of rolling stock,
     permanent improvements, payments of interest, and other items: $ 254,538.

     Surplus: $ 130,151.

     A dividend of 25 cents was declared on January 1, 1864.

     Farmers Railroad incorporated October 8, 1863.

     The United States Petroleum Company formed.

     Oil refineries exceed combined capacity of 28,000 barrels per day.

     The term “Wildcatter” comes from the Central Petroleum Company drilling in unknown
     territory in Wildcat Hollow in the oil regions.

     July – Battle of Gettysburg and Battle of Vicksburg.


     January 11, 1864, 27 miles of track had been laid on the OCRR.

     The New York Central (NYC controlled) and the Philadelphia and Erie (PRR controlled)
     purchased a majority of the of the stock of the Oil Creek Rail Road Company, thus agreeing
     to divide the rail traffic between themselves.

     Gone were the men from the Warren, PA.  New control of the OCRR – Thomas A. Scott,
     President of the PRR, and Dean Richman, President of the of NYCRR.
     Thomas Struthers remained as President of the OCRR.

     An election was held for President and Directors of the OCRR, for 1864, resulting:

                   President - Thomas Struthers
                   Secretary and Treasurer - John F. McPherson
                   Director - Orris Hall
                   Director - B. J. Wells
                   Director - Boon Mead
                   Director - Myron Waters

               Director - James H. Eddy

     OCRR completed to Shaffer Farm by July 1864.

     The completion of the OCRR decreased the amount of oil moved along the Oil Creek
     using the pond freshet. There is good reason to believe that the abandonment of the
     pond freshet system ultimately came about through the OCRR gaining control of the
     dams above Titusville and making it impossible to secure water.

     The OCRR did an excellent business in 1864 and paid a net profit of 53 per cent at year-end.

     In December of 1864 the tracks on either side of the RR stations of Titusville and Shaffer
     Farm were filled with loaded cars and the warehouses were full of oil too.

     John Wilkes Booth invests in oil wells in Franklin, PA.

     June – Battle of Cold Harbor.

     July - Battle of Atlanta.

     November – Sherman’s march to the sea.


    By February of 1865, over 40,000 barrels of oil awaited shipment from Titusville and Shaffer.
     Because of this backup, the teamsters again transported some oil.

     The agreement between the NYC and the P & E was terminated.

     In September 1865, the Philadelphia and Erie (PRR controlled) purchased sole control of
     the Oil Creek Rail Road Company.

     May - added standard gauge (4 foot’ 8  1/2 inches) i.e. - now dual gauge track, 6’ + std.

     Miller Farm and Shaffer Farm became important oil loading stations.

     J.H. A. Bone makes trip down the Oil Creek. He traveled in a "caboose car" from Meadville to Corry, PA.
     Then from Corry to Titusville. Three cars and a baggage car made up the train.
     He then continued to Shaffer Farm via the OCRR. Was the "caboose car" really a caboose?

     Col. Roberts uses gunpowder in a “torpedo” to shoot wells in the Oil Creek valley.

     Fall - The Densmore brothers tested a new concept of an oil tank car – the two-tank vertical
     oil tank car, which consisted of two tanks mounted on a flat car. Their car was then copied by
     Charles P. Hatch and others. See the PA road marker top of Engineer's Bio page.

     Pithole grows to population of 15,000, third largest PO in PA. A glass of water sold for
     10 cents per glass. The boom was on, but short lived.

     Sanuel Van Syckel built the first successful pipeline from Pithole to Miller Farm.  It was
     completed in October 1865.

     April 9 – Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant.

     April 14 – Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

     December – Ku Klux Klan formed.


    July - OCRR completed to Boyd City (Beninghoff City) in 1866.

     September - OCRR connected to Farmers Railroad in Sept. – Nov. 1866.

     William Fargo, president of the Buffalo & Oil Creek Cross Cut Railroad and
     linked to the NYC, was on the Board of Directors of the OCRR.

     OCRR probably had a 4-4-0 steam loco called “ Oil City”. Number 11 or 12?

     A special car was added to the OCRR trains where oilmen could buy or sell oil as it
     passed from one farm to another. This car was the first ”oil exchange”.

     Hiram Everest introduced the vacuum still at Rochester, NY, using lower
     temperatures, thus preventing “cracking” or decomposition.

     Roberts torpedo used to explode wells and increase production.

     Alfred Nobel invents dynamite.

     February – Jesse James robs his first bank.

     July – the Atlantic Cable is successfully completed allowing transatlantic telegraph.

     Winchester Repeating Arms founded.

     The Jack Daniel Distillery founded.



    Boom is over in Pithole.

     Col. Roberts uses nitro in torpedoes to shoot oil wells.

     February - The horizontal iron oil tank car is introduced. 

     Pullman Palace Car Company formed.

     February – first ship passes through the Suez Canal

     March –Alaska is purchased by William H. Seward.


     The OCRR was purchased by the Warren and Franklin Railway Company.

     The OCRR was sold and consolidated in February 1868.

     The Oil Creek and Allegheny River Railway was formed by consolidating the
     following Railroads: Oil Creek RR, Farmers RR, Oil City and Pithole RR, and
     the Warren and Franklin RR.

     Due to the opening of new oil fields in Shamburgh and Pleasantville, the passenger
     and freight traffic on the OCRR to and from Titusville increased dramatically.
     The regular passenger trains carried extra coaches and ticket sales at Titusville
     in the summer of 1868 jumped from $600/week to $1000/week.

     May – Memorial Day first observed.

     February – President Andrew Johnson impeached by the House.

     November – U. S. Grant elected President.


     Rockefeller’s oil refineries were the largest in the world.

     May - Transcontinental railroad completed.                                                                               

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