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Our Story: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Cambria County: Famous for its rich history in steel, coal, lumber, bricks, and farming, is uniquely qualified to claim public transportation as a part of its heritage. 
In 1882, Johnstowners rode horse drawn trolley cars.  During the early 1900s, six different trolley companies criss-crossed the mountains of Cambria County.  And the 1940s, 50s, and 60s featured such bus companies as Lubert, D&J, Blue & White, Greyhound, and many others operating in the county.

We at CamTran are proud of our transit heritage and your heritage and believe strongly in the future of public transportation in Cambria County.  Thus, it is with pride that we present to you Public Transit in Cambria County… Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow.

 

Yesterday: Southern Cambria Railway Co. 1908-1928

The “fabulous Southern Cambria, dread of the timid traveler,” is a story of a transit line that tried to conquer the tortuous terrain of the Alleghanies.  Extending from Johnstown to Nanty Glo, South Fork, and Ebensburg, the line was plagued by numerous accidents, the most tragic of which was the head-on crash of two trolleys on August 12, 1916.  Twenty-seven lives were lost and 80 injured.  The Southern Cambria continued operating until December 17, 1928.

Northern Cambria Steel Railway co. 1905-1926

Northern Cambria began operations between Barnesboro and Patton, extending to Carrolltown in 1907.  The company was sold at foreclosure in 1918 and reorganized as the Northern Cambria Railway Co., operating until July 31, 1926.  The company was forced to discontinue service due to the reconstruction of U.S. Route 219, an action which would have required the relocation of the company’s rail track.  The company decided to close instead.

South Fork--- Portage Railway Co. 1912-1928

The South Fork-Portage Company was originally chartered as the Johnstown & Altoona Railway Co. with the intention of connecting the two cities by rail.  But money problems narrowed the vision to a three mile trolley line between South Fork and Summerhill.  In 1918, the company failed and reorganized as the Penn Central Railway Co. with the goal of extending the line to Portage.  Numerous derailments resulted in the termination of the company in 1928.

Johnstown & Somerset Railway Co. 1916-1931

Organized to provided trolley service from Johnstown to Somerset, the company was limited to providing service between the Somerset County communities of Kelso, Hollsopple, and Jerome.  Johnstown passengers rode the Johnstown Traction Co. line to Kelso and transferred to the J & S Railway line.  In October of 1922, direct service was provided between Johnstown and these communities.  Automobile competition lead to the failure of the company in 1931.

Cambria Indiana Railroad Co. 1911-Present

Originally formed as a rail line in 1904 to haul logs from Rexis (near present-day Vintondale) to northern forests, the company began passenger service in 1911 and extended service east of the colver and norther of Pine Flats in Indiana County.  In 1914, service began to Nanty Glo and Revloc.  Only one trolley was used on the line, a Brill Company car capable of running on either overhead line current or self-contained batteries.  Service was discontinued on May 31, 1925, when the Brill car met a steam locomotive head on.

Johnstown Passenger Railway Co. 1882-1976

Originally former to provide horse car service in the Johnstown area. After the Flood of 1889, the system was electrified.  By 1907, the company operated 110 trolleys over 31 miles of track.  After a major accident in 1909, the company reorganized as the Johnstown Traction Co.  By 1943, the Traction Company was carrying over 17,000,000 passengers a year.  Thereafter, ridership declined due to the growth of the automobile industry.  On June 11, 1960, all rail operations were halted and converted to either trackless trolleys or buses.  All trackless trolley operations were discontinued in November 1967.  The Traction Company continued operating buses until December 1, 1976, when service was provided under a lease agreement with the newly created Cambria County Transit Authority.  The Authority purchased all assets of the company the following year and the Traction Co. was dissolved.

Cambria County Transit Authority was officially started in 1976.  In 1978, Cambria Area Rural Transit (CART) was formed in the northern end of the county.  By 1983, CCTA had officially acquired the Johnstown Inclined Plane from Westmont Borough, and the places were set for what would become CamTran’s trifold of services. 

1983 was also a year of restoration, and CCTA built their Transit Center in downtown Johnstown.

Bringing the Incline into a new light (1980s)
From 1980 to 1989, the Inclined Plane underwent major renovations.  By 1989, the visitors’ center had been built along with the James Wolfe Sculpture Trail and the flag atop the mound, which is the largest free-flying flag in the United States.

 

Expanding our service, expanding our brand (1990s-present)

In 1992, CCTA introduced a countywide paratransit service that still exists today.  In 1994, we constructed the pedestrian crosswalk at the bottom of the Incline. By 1999, it was time to update our image, as we changed our colors to blue and purple and renamed ourselves CamTran, following a contest to rename our authority.  The year 2000 saw a lot of updates from CamTran. We added the park and ride service from Ebensburg to Johnstown, began our Sunday service, and introduced Reserve-A-Ride.

By 2002, the rural division was rebranded at CamTran+, symbolizing the additional services that the rurual division provides, such as ADA, Reserve-A-Ride, and the Persons with Disabilities program that would be introduced in May of 2008.  We built a new transportation center for CamTran+ in Ebensburg in 2003 and did a major revision of our rural routes, introducing the Ebensburg-Altoona commuter route.

In 2005, we reopened the Incline to a daily schedule, remodeled the visitors’ center once again, and opened the new restaurant atop the Inclined Plane. We expanded the parking atop by 30 spaces, allowing for more groups to comfortably enjoy the area.

In 2006, we installed bike racks on all of our urban division buses and one large bus in the rural division.  These racks are gaining in popularity among all age groups.  2006 was also the first year in awhile that the Incline reached over 100,000 riders.  In July, CamTran celebrated its 30th anniversary.

By 2008, CamTran had completed renovations to its downtown transit center, improving air quality, making transfers more fluid for riders with electronic departure signs, and adding two new buses with cleaner burning engines.  In May, CamTran+ added the Persons with Disabilities program, which offers a discounted fair to persons with qualifying disabilities on our door-to-door services. 

 

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