Derry, Pennsylvania

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Derry is a borough in Westmoreland County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 45 miles (72 km) east of Pittsburgh. The Borough of Derry, consisting of the town area, should not be confused with Derry Township, which is a separate municipality surrounding the borough. In 1900, the population numbered 2,347, and in 1910, 2,954. The population was 2,991 at the 2000 census.

Contents

History

Derry, originally known as Derry Station, was created in 1852 to serve the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was named after the village on PA Route 982 originally known as Derry and now known as New Derry (even though it is older than the community being discussed here).[1] The original "Derry" in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania was named after the city Derry in Northern Ireland, because the area’s first non-Indian inhabitants were Scotch-Irish.

Derry was ideally suited for major railroad facilities because of its ready access to water from McGee Run (essential in the era of steam locomotives) and because it sits atop a slight summit along the railroad right-of-way. In Derry's heyday in the late 1800s, it had four hotels, mainly to serve railroad workers, as well as a roundhouse for locomotive maintenance and a massive railroad yard.[1] Derry was incorporated as a borough on October 22, 1881.[2]

Also, Derry served as the terminal for Pittsburgh commuter trains until 1964, when the Pennsylvania Railroad ceased operating its commuter service. The annual Railroad Days Festival serves to remind residents of Derry's railroading heritage.[3]

Little remains of Derry's railroading boom, although some might notice an unused railroad right-of-way that extends from Derry westward to PA Route 981, running slightly north but parallel to the currently-used railroad tracks. This was an ill-fated project known as the Derry-Donohue-Jeannette (DDJ) bypass, in which the Pennsylvania Railroad attempted to build a new main line that would avoid the curves and slopes of the existing main line, bypassing Latrobe and Greensburg.[1] Construction of the bypass began in the 1920s, including a large trestle near Bradenville, but the new route was never completed.

A tragic helicopter crash into a crowd assembled for a festival at St; Joseph's Catholic Church in Derry killed eight people and injured 18 others on Labor Day, 1978. The railroad crossing in downtown Derry has also been the site of other tragic fatal accidents.

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