BEAVER MEADOW RAILROAD AND COAL COMPANY

Excerpt, pp 400-403

 

 

The Beaver Meadow Railroad And Coal Company was incorporated April 7th, 1830. At this time the Hon. S. D. Ingham was President, and John Ecky Secretary. With the early history of this enterprise the writer of this was but little acquainted, but has been informed that Canvas White, father of C. S. White, was first employed as chief engineer of the road, under whom A. Pardee, Esq., the present large coal landholder and operator, was engaged as an assistant. Mr. White's connection with the Company was of short duration, and he was succeeded by a Mr. Hopkins, who remained with the Company in the capacity of chief engineer for about one year, when he gave way to Mr. Pardee, who had previously been engaged in making surveys and locating the road, and under whom it was finally located, graded, and completed. The writer has been told that at one time, while the road was being graded, a difficulty grew up between this Company and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, about the location of the road, and that Mr. Ingham, the President of the Beaver Meadow Company, and Mr. Josiah White, the President of the Lehigh Company, went so far as to arm their men with muskets, and that at one time it was feared that they would have a. regular battle. The matter was, however, peaceably arranged. The location and grade of the road changed at a cost, to the Beaver Meadow Company, of many thousand dollars. The road was finally opened for the transportation of coal in the autumn of 1836, when two locomotives, the “S. D. Ingham" and “Elias Ely," were put on the road, which at that time extended from the mines of the Beaver Meadow Railroad and Coal Company to Parryville, a distance of twenty-five miles, In April 1837, another locomotive engine was added, namely, the “Quakake," and in August of the same year all additional one called the" Beaver." The shops of the Company for repairing locomotives, cars, mine machinery, &c., were originally located at Beaver Meadow (a very handsomely located town along the Lehigh and Susquehanna Turnpike, about one mile and a half from the Beaver Meadow mines, and four miles from the present town of Hazleton. The elevation of this town, Beaver Meadow, above tide-water is sixteen hundred feet, as ascertained by actual measurement), but, owing to reasons which were deemed of sufficient importance to justify their removal, they were, some time in the summer of 1839, removed to Weatherly, a distance of some five miles down the road, where they have continued.

 

The disastrous flood of January, 1841, carried away all the bridges on this road from Weatherly to Parryville, when it was decided by the Company to temporarily abandon that part of their road from Macch Chunk to Parryville, and to erect suitable facilities at Mauch Chunk for the shipment of coal. It may be added, that what was then considered suitable facilities for the shipping of coal in good order, would not now be considered good enough to clean coal for the use of a locomotive, or a blacksmith shop fire; all the bridges on the Quakake Creek, five or six in number, had to be rebuilt, and a very important one across the Lehigh River, at the Turnhole, together with a quantity of trestling at Mauch Chunk (or rather at Lousy Bay, on the opposite side of the Lehigh from Mauch Chunk, as it was then called), for the shipping accommodations.) Mr. A. H. Vancleave, who was then Superintendent for the Company, with an energy which will ever be remembered by those who witnessed it, proceeded to rebuild what the flood had destroyed. Giving his attention particularly to the rebuilding of the Turnhole bridge. This bridge was designed by F. C. Louthorp, and was a single span of 200 feet, arch and truss. The abutment on the north side of this bridge is unexampled as a piece of substantial masonry anywhere in this region, and the superstructure, after a trial of 18 years, yet stands to attest its superior workmanship and material of which it was constructed.

 

Some time in the month of August, 1841, the shipment of coal was resumed over this road. About this time, or before, Mr. Ingham was succeeded in the Presidency by a Mr. Budd; Mr. Pearsall followed Mr. Budd, and in turn was followed by Mr. Dulless, and he by Mr. Rowland, and finally, in 1849, W. W. Longstreth, Esq., the present efficient presiding officer was instituted; upon his accession to the Presidency, it was directly determined to relay the road (which had previously been a light wooden rail with flat bar iron), with heavy T iron. This wise determination was promptly carried out during the winter of 1849 and spring of 1850, and completed in May or June of that year. In September of this year occurred another remarkable flood, carrying away all the bridges on the Black Creek and Quakake, destroying the car shops, &c. &c., at Weatherly, and sweeping away nearly one-half of the superstructure, and a large portion of the permanent way of the road between Weatherly and Penn Haven, which was at that time a double track, one wood and one iron. The repairs consequent upon this disastrous freshet were not completed in time to resume shipments by canal in 1850, but the road was ready to commence with the opening of the navigation in the spring of 1851. The great loss sustained by the Company by the freshet spoken of in the carrying away of so many bridges, and so much of the road bed, together with the loss of almost the entire shipping season, was like a wet blanket thrown around the stockholders of the Company, and, but for the confidence reposed in their first officer, it is doubtful whether the stockholders could again have been induced to furnish the necessary amount to repair the very heavy damages thus sustained.

 

From this time until the present day, no serious interruption to the trade has occurred. In 1854, it was decided to avoid the two inclined planes with which the road had formerly been worked. Accordingly, a piece of road, extending from Weatherly in the direction of Hazleton, one mile and three-quarters in length, was purchased of the Hazleton Coal Company, and the continuation of this piece of road to its point of junction with the Beaver Meadow road, was graded in 1854 and 1855, the track was laid early in the latter year, and on the 14th of August the planes were finally abandoned. The grade above Weatherly is 145 feet per mile for a distance of one mile and three-quarters, and 135 feet per mile for a distance of some 4000 feet further. In the meantime, the road along the Lehigh, from Mauch Chunk to Penn Haven, a second track had been graded and laid at a very heavy cost to the Company, and some time in the month of July or August, 1857, the old Turnhole bridge, before spoken of, was abandoned, to avoid two very heavy curves (the hardest ones on the road), and a new iron double-track bridge, with a very heavy rock cut, at the north end of the bridge was erected by John W. Murphy, Esq., of Philadelphia.

 

The business of the road has been gradually increasing years after year, so that from being the means of getting a small quantity of caol to the market for the Beaver Meadow Company in 1837, it has become an outlet for numerous operations, amounting in the  aggregate to not less than 700,000 tons of coal in 1859.

 

How the stock of this company has appreciated one can see by referring to a Philadelphia price current, when it is still found to stand higher than any other security of a like kind in the State of Pennsylvania.

 

In connection with the statement That “S. D. Ingham was President, and John Ecky Secretary,” it should have been added that Capt. George Jenkins was Superintendent of Transportation, and Colonel William Lilly Shipping Clerk; Morris Hall, Treasurer; James D. Gallop (well known on the Upper Lehigh), Road Master.

 

Hopkin Thomas, now boss machinist at Catasauqua, was master mechanic. It is the impression of the writer that the locomotive “Beaver” was one of the first four-wheel connected engines built in the State. In the years 1838 and 1839, Hopkin Thomas built, at the shops of the Company at Beaver Meadows, a six-wheeled connected engine, the first of the kind constructed in the country. This locomotive, the “Nonpareil”, was supposed to be at the time what her name implied, and those living along the line of this road, who can look back at her as she appeared twenty years ago, and then at some of the locomotives now in use, can well note the contrast.

 

Following the notice of Mr. W. W. Longstreth’s connection with the Beaver Meadow Company, as President, we should have mentioned that A. G. Brodhead, Jr., was soon after appointed Superintendent, the duties of which position he has continued to discharge for nearly ten years, with credit to himself and entire satisfaction to the Company.

On the 25th of August, 1858, the Quakake Railroad, connecting the Beaver Meadow with the Catawissa, Williamsport, and Erie Railroad, was completed. This road is thirteen miles in length, passing through a very beautiful valley, and is stocked and run by the Catawissa, Williamsport, and Erie Railroad Company. The business of this road has been gradually increasing, and when the coal basin near the western terminus, called the Taumen End, shall be opened, it will largely increase the business of this road, and be a very considerable auxiliary to the Beaver Meadow and Lehigh Valley roads. This road connects with the Beaver Meadow one mile and a quarter below the town of Weatherly, and with the Catawissa three miles south of the Summit Station on that road.

 

At the point where this road connects with the Catawissa a road has been located, and considerable work done on it, leading Into the great Mahanoy coal field, which coal can be reached by four or five miles of road, not very expensive to make, which, if pushed forward and completed, would open up this vast coal field several years sooner than it can be by a projected road from Tamaqua to this basin.

 

 The work on the road leading from the Junction of the Quakake with the Catwissa into the Mahanoy has been abandoned for the present, but it is believed it will be resumed in the spring of 1860, and pushed forward to completion. This would throw a large trade over the Beaver Meadow, Lehigh Valley, the New Jersey Central, North Pennsylvania, and Belvidere Delaware railroads, and bring this coal into the New York market at lower rates than coal from many points in the Schuylkill region can be furnished.

 

The following table will show the amount of coal carried over the road since its completion :

        1837              33,617 tons        1849          324,048 tons

        1838              54,647            1850(flood)  155,403 

        1839              79,971            1851          383,748 

        1840              123,325           1852          243,112 

        1841 (flood)      64,641            1853          278,939 

        1842              108,171           1853          367,093 

        1843              125,456           1855          438,092 

        1844              143,363           1856          552,111 

        1845              149,000           1857          618,793 

        1846              194,380           1858          628,227 

        1847              247,500           1859          746,313 

        1848              266,188 

 

 

About The Hopkin Thomas Project

 

Rev. April 2010