Railroads of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company
By EARL J. HEYDINGER
RLHS Bulletin Vol 110, Pages 59 - 62
THE MAUCH CHUNK RAILROAD
Pennsylvania's first railroad and first anthracite carrier opened on Saturday, May 5th, 1827, when seven cars of coal passed from the Summit Hill mines of the L. C. & N. Company to their canal at Mauch Chunk, descending 936 feet in the nine-mile trip. Sixteen year old Solomon White Roberts, later a noted railroad engineer, who had helped his uncle, Josiah White, build the railroad, rode the first delivery of coal by rail. Loaded cars made the trip in a half-hour; mules returned three or four empties over the same route in three to four hours. Evidently the line had only seven (or twenty-one) coal cars at the opening, as that number brought coal to the canal on the following Monday and Tuesday also. These three days' deliveries, twenty-one cars, deposited nearly a thousand tons of anthracite into a chute over the canal boat landing. Loaded cars descending drew empties from the bottom of this chute on a self-acting plane. Built in a period of four months, on a turnpike previously used for coal wagons, the line, 12-1/2, miles with sidings, cost $38,726. Ties were on four-foot centers; strap rail was 3/8" x 11/2".
Mules rode down with the loaded cars, which they returned empty to the mines. Mauch Chunk quickly became a tourist center, with a ride over the railroad as the main attraction. In 1830, Hazard's reported the line shod with iron on the upper and inner edges of its track. In 1845, the Back Track, with its famous Mt. Pisgah and Mt. Jefferson Planes, increased traffic capabilities by returning empties over a separate route and by dispensing with mule power. These planes were 664 feet high by 2322 feet long, and 462 feet high by 2070 feet long, respectively. A switchback from Summit Hill to the Panther Creek mines had a 221-foot per mile grade and was a part of the 1845 empty-car return system. Trackage in the mining valley had a 60-foot per mile grade. Panther Creek Planes 1 and 2, 375 feet by 2436 feet and 250 feet by 2030 feet, were the beginning of the gravity loaded track system to Mauch Chunk. Before 1850, four chutes, from 600 to 750 feet long, inclined one in three, fed coal from the railroad to the canalboat landing. The fourth chute, four by five feet, had an iron floor with plates 4' x 1' x 1/2" thick, and load-control gates every fifty feet.
This railroad system delivered all Summit Hill and Panther Valley coal to the Mauch Chunk canal landing and returned all empty cars until, in 1872, the Hauto Tunnel, extending 3800 feet from the Nesquehoning Valley to Panther Creek Valley, allowed locomotive operation. The tunnel headings met on September 15th, 1871, and the first train passed through on February Ist, 1872. To pay for this improvement, each passenger and each ton of anthracite paid five cents into a special fund. With this diversion of coal traffic, the pioneer Mauch Chunk road became solely a tourist attraction, operating until 1932.
THE NESQUEHONING RAILROAD
began as Josiah White's Room (Rhume) Run Railroad in 1830, opened to traffic in 1833 as another gravity railroad with self-acting planes, which delivered its coal tonnage from Room Run to landings at Nesquehoning Creek, about a mile above Mauch Chunk. At this landing there was a self-acting plane, which lowered coal to the canal, and, eventually, a water-powered breaker. This location at the mouth of Nesquehoning Creek was known earlier as Lausanne, where Klotz kept the "Landing Tavern." In 1831, Hazard's carried a statement, probably contributed by Josiah White during the fight over the Catawissa-Danville and Pottsville routes to the Susquehanna, telling that the grade on the Nesquehoning route to the Catawissa Valley had a rise of only 254 feet in nine miles. This was a partial truth, as the total rise from Nesquehoning to Tamanend alone was 468 feet.
Chartered on April 12th, 1861, the railroad extended westward from Mauch Chunk (1956's "Jim Thorpe" sounds out of place) past Room Run 16-1/2 miles to Tamanend on the Catawissa R. R. Leased for 999 years and completed by the L. C. & N. Company, the line was opened on May 2nd, 1870, and passed with other L. C. & N. railroads by lease to the Central R. R. of New Jersey. Costs were $1,004,624 for the line and about three miles of siding, all laid with 60-lb. rail. Passenger and freight trains soon ran in cooperation with the Catawissa road. Pennsylvania Geological maps of 1883 show a proposed Mahanoy branch of the N. R. R., from the mouth of East Mahanoy Tunnel, linked with Delano via an inclined plane. The line from this tunnel, 3-1/2 miles in the opposite direction to Hawks, on the Catawissa R. R., opened in February, 1885, having cost $58,000.
THE LEHIGH & SUSQUEHANNA RAILROAD
The second railroad built by the L. C. & N. Company linked White Haven with Wilkes-Barre in the Third Coal Field. It was opened on July Ist, 1840 with three planes at Ashley and an 1800-foot tunnel north of White Haven. Authorized in 1827, early plans called for the planes to pass loaded canal boats between the canals at White Haven and Wilkes-Barre. Locks, twenty feet by one hundred, (one with a lift of thirty feet) passed coal transferred from this railroad to boats at White Haven, from 1840 to 1862. Packet boats from Mauch Chunk operated in conjunction with the horse-powered passenger cars of the railroad. Asa Packer was interested in one of these lines. The only record of a boat passage over the Ashley plane, found by the writer, was the trans-shipment of canal boats marooned at White Haven by the 1862 flood. These craft were loaded with L. C. & N. coal at Wilkes Barre, and passed through the Pennsylvania and the Tidewater and Susquehanna Canals to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, unloaded at Philadelphia, and returned to work on the Lehigh Canal below Mauch Chunk.
The Penn Haven & White Haven R. R. was opened on June 14th, 1S64, sponsored by the Lehigh Valley R. R., and was projected to link the Beaver Meadow R. R. with the L. & S. at White Haven, but the destruction of the upper Lehigh Canal caused the L. C. & N. Company to extend the L. & S. to Easton, Pa. The first L. & S. train ran between Penn Haven and Wilkes-Barre, on December 31st, 1866, and Scranton-Easton passenger and freight service began on February 3rd, 1868. For aiding the L. V. R. R. obtain its 1867 right of way through White Haven, that former coal port lost its L. C. & N. shops to Ashley. While the L. C. & N. lost the Buck Mountain coal to the Hazleton R. R., branches of the new L. & S. tapped the upper Second Coal Field. By 1895 this road had these coal branches: the Beaver Meadow, Tresckow & New Boston, 2.17 miles from Tresckow Jet. to Colraine; a 10.94-mile line from Drifton Jet. to Drifton; a branch from Pond Creek Jet., extending 2.58 miles to Sandy Run and .45 miles to Zehner, opened in 1878; and the 5.2-mile Tunnel Branch, Hauto to Greenwood, near Tamaqua. All of these lines and the L. & S. fed L. C. & N. coal to the Jersey. Central.
THE TRESCKOW RAILROAD
Incorporated on May 26th, 1870, after acquisition of coal lands south of Hazleton by the L. C. & N. Company, this anthracite line extended 7.5 miles from Audenreid to Silverbrook. It was leased to the Jersey Central for 999 years, on March 31st, 1871, for one-third of its receipts. It used the Silverbrook branch of the Catawissa and the Catawissa R. R. for about five miles to the Nesquehoning R. R. at Tamanend, until the P. & R. opened its Tamaqua, Hazleton & Northern R. R. in 1892. The only section of the T. H. & N., existing in 1956 is that portion used by the Jersey Central from the Tresckow R. R. down to Lofty.
THE LEHIGH & NEW ENGLAND RAILROAD
The last extensive new railroad construction in the First Coal Field was the Lehigh & New En-land, financed by the L. C. & N. Co., in 1911-12. The 33-mile extension from Danielsville to Tamaqua was opened on July 8th, 1912. Trackage for the new road included rights between Tamaqua and Hauto, and on the branch between Lansford and Summit Hill. The L. & N. E. parallels the Little Schuylkill R. R. of the P. & R - southward from Tamaqua along the Little Schuylkill River, bearing eastward into Lizard Creek Valley to reach the Lehigh River at Blue Mountain Gap, below Palmerton. It parallels the proposed route of the 1863 Schuylkill Haven & Lehigh River R. R., and the 1890-1953 Schuylkill & Lehigh Valley R. R. Its high bridge over the Lehigh River at the Blue Mountain Gap, visible from L. V. trains, carries the line from the north to the south side of the Blue Mountain, crossing the L. V. R. R. the Lehigh River and Canal, the Central R. R. of Pennsylvania (former L. & S.), and Pennsylvania Highways 45 and 309. In addition, the junction with the Chestnut Ridge R. R. on the east shore is a part of this crossing.
It is a most interesting coincidence that this youngest anthracite line, the L. & N. E., was financed by the L. C. & N. Company, which built Pennsylvania's pioneer Mauch Chunk R. R. in 1827