The Beaver Meadow Railroad

Matthews, Alfred and Austin N. Hungerford, History of the Counties of Lehigh & Carbon, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Everts & Richards (Lippincott), Philadelphia 1884, p. 605


The Beaver Meadow Railroad, now known simply as the Beaver Meadow Division of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, was the first railroad within the limits of Carbon County on which steam was employed as power, although it was built a number of years after the gravity road from the Summit Mines to Mauch Chunk. The Beaver Meadow Railroad and Coal Company was incorporated by act of the Assembly April 13, 1830, with a capital of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and was empowered to build a railroad from the Beaver Meadow Coal Mines (in what is now Banks township) to the Lehigh River, at or near Mauch Chunk, a distance, by the windings of the Beaver, Hazel, and Quakake Creeks, and the Lehigh River, of about twenty miles, and, if deemed expedient, to make a railroad from the mines to the Little Schuylkill at such place as might be deemed necessary to make connection with any other road built in that valley. Both of these routes were examined, and that to and along the Lehigh was found to be preferable by reason of the greater facility of passing through a country graded by streams of water, thereby avoiding the necessity of constructing planes and employing stationary engines; also on account of the advantage of markets for coal on the Delaware, to which this route led most directly. The original act authorized the company to extend their road on the Lehigh only to Mauch Chunk, at the head of the canal. A failure to make satisfactory arrangements with the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company in regard to tolls over their canal prevented the commencement of active operations during the summer of 1830, and at the following session of the General Assembly a supplement to the act of incorporation was passed authorizing an increase of capital to eight hundred thousand dollars, and an extension of the road from Mauch Chunk, a distance by the river of forty-six miles. The books for the subscription to the additional stock were opened at a time when the failure of coal operations had caused a general discouragement in all enterprises of that kind, and before the advantages of railroad transportation had been ascertained by experience. A sufficient sum had been subscribed to have authorized the undertaking, but the board had been too much influenced by the general depression to make the effort. The subscriptions were, therefore, canceled and the principal part of the money repaid to the subscribers. Since that time experience has more accurately determined the expense of transporting coal by railroads, as well as that of constructing them. A new subscription was commenced in November, 1832, and a sufficient amount of stock was taken to assure the board that there was no longer any reason for apprehending failure. But it was found that the period limited by law in which the work must be completed had so far elapsed that it, was deemed inexpedient to progress with the work until an extension of time was procured. Application being made to the Legislature, an act was passed Jan. 29, 1833, granting the privilege of four years more in which to finish the work.


Under the provision of the act work was commenced on the road. Canvass White was chief' engineer and A. Pardee assistant. After the road was surveyed, and while it was being graded, a difficulty arose between the company and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company about its location, the managers of the latter insisting that its grade was too low. This trouble culminated in the exercise of a little violence at what is called the Oxbow, where stones were hurled down the bank at the Beaver Meadow Company's laborers. The difficulty was finally settled, and the grade was changed, the road-bed being made higher than was at first intended. The road was finished and opened for transportation in the fall of 1836. The two locomotives put upon the track were called the "S. D. Ingham" and "Elias Ely." In April, 1837, another - the "Quakake"-was added, arid in August the "Beaver."


In the mean time, under authority of an act passed Dec. 22, 1836, extending the time of the company for building the road as far as Easton to seven years, that work had been undertaken and the track actually laid to a point opposite Parryville by the close of 1836.


The freshet of 1841 carried away all of the bridges from Weatherly to Parryville, and that part of the road below Mauch Chunk was abandoned, arrangements being made to transfer coal from the Beaver Meadow Railroad to the boats on the canal at that point. Shipment of coal was resumed in August, 1841. In 1849, under the presidency of W. W. Longstreth, the road was relaid with heavy T-rail, the track having previously consisted of timbers with flat or strap-rails. In September, 1860, another heavy flood occurred, which carried away the bridges on Black and Quakake Creeks, and destroyed the car-shops at Weatherly and Penn Haven. The repairs necessary could not be made in time to allow the resumption of business in 1850, but the road was again in readiness for operation on the opening of navigation, in 1851. On the 15th of March, 1853, the company was authorized by the Legislature to take such steps as were necessary to avoid the use of inclined planes. Accordingly a piece of road one and three-quarter miles long, extending from Weatherly in the direction of Hazelton, was purchased from the llazelton Coal Company. This was graded in 1854-55, and track being laid in the latter year, the inclined planes were abandoned on the 14th of August. The grade from Weatherly along Hazel Creek for one and three quarter miles is one hundred and forty-five feet to the mile. At about the same time this change was made a second track was laid along the Lehigh from Penn Haven to Mauch Chunk.


The Quakake Valley Railroad was completed Aug. 25, 1858, connecting the Catawissa, Williamsport and Erie Railroad with the Beaver Meadow Railroad.


The Beaver Meadow became a carrying road for all of the coal-fields in its region, and gained rapidly in business. In 1866 it was merged with the Lehigh Valley Railroad, of which it now formed the Beaver Meadow Division. The presidents of the road from the first to the time of the merger were S. D. Ingham, __ Budd, Joseph Pearsoll, J. H. Dulless, __ Rowland, and W. W. Longstreth, the latter holding the office until 1866. Capt. George Jenkins was superintendent of transportation; Col. William Lilly, shipping clerk; Morris Hall, treasurer; and James D. Gallop, roadmaster. A. G. Brodhead was appointed superintendent in May, 1850, and held the office until the merger, when he was appointed by the managers of the Lehigh Valley Railroad superintendent of the division thus added to their line, which office he still holds.


The following is a statement of tonnage of the Beaver Meadow Railroad from its commencement, in 1837, to July, 1859, from which time to its merger with the Lehigh Valley, in 1866, its figures cannot be well ascertained:

            Year.                Tounage.

            1837                33,617

            1838                54,647

            1839                79,971

            1840                123,225

            1841 (flood)     64,641

            1842                108,171

            1843                 125,456

            1844                143,363

            1845                149,000 

            1846                194,380

            1847                247,500

            1848                266,188

            1849                324.048

            1850(flood)     155,403

            1851                383,748

            1852                243,112

            1853                278,939

            1854                367,093

            1855                438,092

            1856                552,111

            1857                618,793

            1858                608,227

            1859                746,313



The Spring Mountain Coal Company prior to 1858 commenced building a road from their mines to Jeanesville to connect with the Beaver Meadow Railroad at their mines at Lewiston. In August of the year mentioned, this road was purchased by the Lehigh Valley management, who extended it to Yorktown and the German Pennsylvania coal mines, as has heretofore been related. The Tresckow branch was built later. It extends a distance of a little more than seven miles, from Silver Creek to Audenreid.


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