Early American Railroads


Franz Anton Ritter von GerstnerŐs


Die innern Communicationen (1842-1843)





Frederick C. Gamst




David J. Diephouse and John C. Decker


Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 1997

Excerpts – Pages 611 – 622

Mauch Chunk Railroad.

Room Run Railroad.

Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad.

Beaver Meadow Railroad.

Little Schuylkill Railroad.

Little Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad.

Mine Hill & Schuylkill Haven Railroad.

The Mount Carbon Railroad.

The Schuylkill Valley Railroad.

Mill Creek & Mine Hill Railroad.




Railroads in the Coal Region



The oldest railroads in the United States are the ones that were built in order to deliver anthracite coal from the inexhaustible mines of the Pennsylvania mountains to the nearest navigable water route, by which it is transported to the large cities on the Atlantic coast. From Table 6.8 it can be learned that the output of the anthracite mines first began to be significant in 1829.


Table 6.8  Tons of Coal Shipped


Schuylkill  coal region

Lehigh coal region

Lackawanna coal region

Total quantity  (tons)
















































































































Most of the coal railroads date their construction from that year on. As descriptions given above make clear, three main canals exist on which the coal, coming likewise from three main regions, makes its way to the Atlantic seaboard: the Lehigh, Schuylkill, and Delaware & Hudson canals. We now wish in turn to describe briefly the railroads that serve as lateral feeders to those main lines of communication. We shall begin with the ones in the Lehigh Region. Of these, the most interesting is the


Mauch Chunk Railroad.


It was the second railroad completed in the United States, and the first of any significance, for it was opened for operations in 1827. It serves to transport anthracite coal from the summit of Mauch Chunk Ridge to the village of Mauch Chunk on the Lehigh River, a distance of 9 miles. The coal at the summit is present in large quantities and needs only to be broken up. In an 8-mile stretch terminating on the edge of a steep slope, 215 feet above the water level of the Lehigh-a slope on which 2 inclined planes are placed, leading down to the landing-the road drops 725 feet, or an average of 90 feet per mile. However, the descent is not uniform, so that on certain sections the gradient is much greater (up to 1 in 40). At the summit, the line splits into numerous spurs, which diverge in all directions to the coal seams. If the need arises they can be extended or moved from one place to another.


The road has only a single track with a gauge of 3 feet 6 inches. In part it was laid on an old highway. It winds down the mountain slope through dense forests in snakelike twists and turns, here and there passing close to the edge of a deep ravine. Because it was, moreover, built at a time when knowledge in America about railroads was still very insufficient, one can easily conclude that its survey line and mode of construction leave much to be desired.


The track structure consists of crossties that are simply placed on the ground at 4-foot intervals. On them are placed 4-inch-wide, 6-inch-high longitudinal timbers, which are secured to the crossties by wedges. Finally there are strap rails, some 1-3/4 and others 2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick; they are nailed onto the longitudinal stringers. Beside the track a path for donkeys has been made, allowing them to haul the empty cars back up the mountain. Including all its apparatus and rolling stock, the road cost $100,000.


The Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, to whom this railroad belongs, leases it for transport of coal from its own mines. The cars that have been loaded at the mines are coupled together, when there are many of them, and brought to the edge of the mountain slope. From there they go downhill on their own. Very light passenger coaches are used to carry those travelers who now and then make use of the line. When everything has been made ready, the coach is pushed forward several steps, and then it goes careening off at lightning speed down the mountain, propelled by gravity. Passengers shudder at every moment, looking at the edge of the abyss. Notwithstanding, it is claimed that there has never yet been an accident during these trips. Empty cars are brought up to the summit by donkeys specially adapted and trained for this work. They ride down the mountain in special low-sided cars, coupled backwards onto loaded trains, and it is said that they have become so accustomed to this treatment that they cannot be made to move in the downhill direction on their own.


Coal cars are small and lightly built and weigh only 1,600 to 1,700 pounds; each carries a load of 2 tons of coal. The company provides to the lessor of the coal seams the wood and rails for the railroad's maintenance. it also furnishes cars and donkeys, which, when the contract has expired, the lessor must return to the company in the same quantity and condition as when he received them. As delivered to the Lehigh River, one ton of coal costs $1.20. In 1838, 132,628 tons were transported over the railroad; in 1839, 104,000 tons.


The second coal railroad built by the company is the


Room Run Railroad,


named for the creek in whose valley it is located. It extends from the right bank of the Lehigh above Mauch Chunk to the new coal mines, and it is only 5 miles long.


In this short stretch 4 inclined planes are found, powered by stationary steam engines. In addition, two significant grades exist: one of 1 in 100, the other I in 120; both are half a mile long. This road's track structure consists of 2-by-1/2-inch strap rails nailed onto 5-by-7-inch longitudinal timbers. The latter rest on stone blocks and are attached to them by cast-iron angle joints. At intervals, crossties are laid down in order to hold the rails in the proper gauge. The track gauge is 4 feet 81/2 inches.


At one of the inclined planes an experimental iron band, 3 inches wide and 1/12 inch thick, was used in place of hemp rope. It rolls up onto a drum with a diameter of 14 feet. Its performance is said to be quite satisfactory.


The railroad was opened in 1833 at a cost of $150,000. Like the Mauch Chunk Railroad, it is operated under a lease. In 1838, the quantity of coal carried by this line was 16,000 tons; in 1839 this rose to 36,000 tons.


Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad


This is the last and most important of the three railroads built by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. Starting at White Haven, where Lehigh River lock-and-dam navigation reaches its upper limit, the railroad surmounts the summit that separates that river from the Susquehanna drainage area. It terminates at Wilkes-Barre on the North Branch of the Susquehanna. Its length totals 20 miles. By constructing this line, a link will be created between the navigation on the North Branch, including the state-operated canal along its bank, and the navigation on the Lehigh. A new and very direct route will thereby be opened from Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia and New York, as can be seen clearly on the map. The company will obtain its chief advantage in that all freight carried between one river and the other will also travel 72 miles on the Lehigh Navigation, and in this way it will be doubly profitable. The expectation is that the principal items carried will be wood and grain, and also coal, which is present in great abundance in the vicinity of Wilkes-Barre. In order to make it unnecessary to transload, freight items are to be transported in the boats on the railroad.


The road is being constructed under the supervision of civil engineer E. A. Douglass. It uses three inclined planes to ascend 1,000 feet from the Susquehanna River to the summit in the short distance of 2-1/2 miles. The planes have gradients of 1 in 10-3/4, 1 in 11-1/2, and 1 in 20. Apart from them, the steepest gradient is 60 feet per mile, or 1 in 88. The smallest radius of curvature is 1,000 feet. The roadbed has been designed to accommodate a double track, but a single track suffices at present. The extremely difficult terrain required many costly items of construction; among the more important of them is a tunnel 1,700 feet long. In constructing the track structure also, no effort was spared to make the railroad one of the most stable and durable, as can be seen from what follows. Beneath each line of rail a dry masonry foundation was built, with a crown width of 2 feet, a depth of 2-1/2 to 3 feet, and a slope of 1 in 6. Crossties are placed lateral to the two parallel foundations, and on them lie the chairs. "T" rails, 57 lbs. to the yard, are secured by wedges to the chairs. At the summit of each inclined plane a stationary steam engine is set up. There also, use is made of a 1/8-inch-thick band in place of the usual hemp ropes.


At the end of 1839, when construction was already far advanced and $600,00 had been expended to that end, the aggregate cost of the road was reckoned to b $1,000,000, or $50,000 per mile. The opening of the road took place in 1841.


Beaver Meadow Railroad


This is the longest of the coal roads in the Lehigh district. It goes from the coal pits at Beaver Meadow to the Lehigh, 11 miles away, and then down that river 15 miles to Parryville, where the coal is loaded into boats. Thus its total length is 26 miles. Although the company could have achieved its goal of delivering coal t0 the Lehigh with the building of the 11-mile stretch to the mouth of Quakake Creek at Penn Haven, preference was given to continuing the road an additional 15 miles along the river, in order to avoid being charged tolls on the latter, which were reckoned at 1-1/2 cents per ton per mile. Since the road was built, this toll was reduced to 1-1/4 cents, in order that other coal companies will use the river navigation instead of the railroad.


The Lehigh River is bordered on both sides by high mountains. The railroad which crosses over it twice, was forced to make vertical cuts into steep slopes in order to obtain the necessary room. Following the river's bends, the line of the railroad has many curves, and, owing to the significant drop of the river's level, it has significant grades. The smallest curvature radius on the main line, on which locomotives run, is 260 feet.


From Parryville up to Penn Haven, in the Lehigh valley, gradients total 25 to 30 feet per mile. From Penn Haven the railroad climbs up the first two miles along Quakake Creek at 1 in 86. In the two miles that follow it is 1 in 66. Then come 2 more miles at 1 in 59 and I in 55. This is followed by two inclined planes graded at 1 in 13; one is 2,000 feet long, the other 2,200. On the remaining stretch leading to the mines, the road is for the most part horizontal, with an additional gradient of I in 106 on only half a mile. Thus, on the sections of the road where locomotives are operated, the steepest gradient is 1 in 55, and the smallest radius of curvature is 260 feet. But at the foot of the inclined planes, where the locomotives end their run, there is also curve with a 190-foot radius. Last it should be said that in the place where the steepest gradient of 1 in 55 is encountered, there is also a curve with a radius of 550 feet.


The track structure consists of 2-1/4-by-5/8-inch strap rails, which are attached to 5-by-7-inch and 5-by-8-inch longitudinal stringers, on their sides with the narrower dimension. These timbers are secured into crossties by means of wedges Where the stringers are 8 inches high, the crossties are placed at intervals of 4 feet, where the former are 7 inches high, they are placed 3 feet apart. The crossties rest on posts that are 21/2 inches thick and 10 to 12 inches wide.


sTo operate the road, the company owns 6 locomotives. Five are from Garret & Eastwick of Philadelphia, and one was built in the company's own shops. The latter has 6 coupled wheels 44 inches in diameter, 13-inch cylinders, and an 18-inch cylinder stroke. it weighs 26,300 lbs. The sundry engines are heated by anthracite coal. The only device used to augment combustion consists of a vessel mounted on the smoke chest above the cylinders. The steam expelled from the smoke chest into this device passes through a number of small pipes and then into the stack. By this simple device, which causes the steam to pass in a uninterrupted stream through the stack, the draft is very much increased. In addition, the anthracite burns vigorously, and the production of steam is promoted to an extraordinary extent. The Eastwick & Harrison engines are also noteworthy in that they rest on eight wheels, of which the rear four (1 pair ahead of the firebox and one behind) are the driving wheels. The front four with their frame, as is the case with other American locomotives, form a special movable truck. In recent times these 8-wheeled machines have found a general application on American railroads, and the reason is that the load, being distributed on more wheels, does less damage to the track. At the same time there is sufficient weight on the four drivers to provide the adhesion needed to pull heavy freight trains or ascend steep grades.


The other rolling stock is as follows: 250 coal cars, each one weighing 2,600 lbs. and capable of being loaded with 2-3/4 tons of coal; and 3 passenger coaches, to carry those few travelers who wish to ride over the line. The coal cars have wheels that are movable on one side of the axle so that they may more easily pass through curves.


The railroad was opened in 1836; its costs, including $100,000 for rolling stock, came to $360,000, or $13,546 per mile. The total amount employed by the company for its railroad, for parcels of coal land, and for the various items required to deliver and ship the coal, was $680,000.


Besides the coal transported from the mines belonging to the company, the Beaver Meadow Railroad carries coal of lateral branch roads. But the other roads' coal goes only to Penn Haven, for from that place the toll charged by the Lehigh Navigation is only 1-1/4 cents per ton per mile, but on the railroad it is 11/2 cents. In addition to the toll set for the use of the railroad, the company also charges for freight that it carries using its own locomotives and cars. The charges are 1-1/2 cents per ton per mile in the downhill direction, and 3 cents uphill. Passengers pay 4 cents per mile.


One locomotive usually hauls 30 loaded cars on the railroad down to Parryville. When bringing the empty train back up, a helper engine is usually employed on the 6-mile stretch with an average gradient of I in 66 between the Lehigh River and the inclined planes.


Transport of one ton of coal from the mines at Beaver Meadow cost 92 cents in 1839, and its price at Parryville was $2.75. The transport costs came to 2 cents per ton per mile. The quantity of coal carried on the Beaver Meadow Railroad, part of it transshipped at Parryville and the rest at Penn Haven, is given on a previous page for the years 1837-39. It is included in the description of the Lehigh Navigation.


The following coal railroads connect with the Beaver Meadow:

1. The Hazleton Coal CompanyŐs Railroad, built by that company and open since 1838. It goes 10 miles from the coal mines to the Beaver Meadow Railroad, with which it forms a junction at the foot of the inclined planes. On a section almost 2 miles long, the Hazleton road has a gradient of 140 feet per mile, or I in 38. It was intended to operate this section using horses, but later it was found that locomotives were more economical. The track structure consists of 2-1/4-by-5/8-inch strap rails nailed onto 5-by-9-inch longitudinal timbers. The crossties lie at intervals of 4 feet on posts with a thickness of 2-1/2 inches and a 10- to-12-inch width. The costs of this line totaled $100,000 or $10,000 per mile. Three locomotives are used to operate it, and they were likewise built by Eastwick & Harrison of Philadelphia.


One locomotive hauls 12 to 16 empty cars with the weight previously given up the I in 38 grade. But because descending trains usually consist of twice as many loaded cars, the locomotive must return upon having reached the summit and fetch the other half of its train. In 1838, 33,826 tons of coal were transported over the Hazleton road to Penn Haven.


2. The Sugar Loaf Coal Company built a 2-mile lateral line from its coal pits to the Hazleton road. To transport the coal it employs one locomotive. This branch road was opened in 1839.


3. The Summit Coal Company likewise constructed a branch road 2 miles in length, connecting with the Beaver Meadow. It was opened in 1840. Finally, the


4. Stafford Coal Company has a line only one mile long from its mines to the Beaver Meadow road, completed in 1840 also. More important than the small coal roads just mentioned is the


Buck Mountain Coal CompanyŐs Railroad. It goes from the coal mines of that name to the Lehigh River, 1-1/2 miles above Penn Haven. It is 4-1/3 miles long. It has two inclined planes, one 160 feet high, the other 170. There are also two tunnels with lengths of 1,000 and 200 feet. Massive bridge rails weighing 38 lbs. per yard are employed as the track structure. This enterprise's costs came to $100,000.


Not far from the district in which are located the coal railroads just described, and only a few miles from Mauch Chunk Ridge, the Schuylkill River and its tributaries have their source. After flowing a short distance, that stream reaches Port Carbon, 2 miles above Pottsville. There it is transformed into a Port, and from that point to Philadelphia it serves as a canal. By following upstream the numerous tributaries of the Schuylkill to their sources, one reaches the great coal sites that are so abundant in these mountains. Railroads have been built throughout this area on the routes prepared by the rivers in order that coal could be brought down on them to the Schuylkill Navigation and then sent to Philadelphia. One of the oldest of the coal railroads is the


Little Schuylkill Railroad,


undertaken in 1829 by a stock company called the Little Schuylkill Coal & Navigation Company Inc. completed in 1831. It extends from Port Clinton, where the Little Schuylkill River empties into the Schuylkill. It goes 20 miles up the valley of the former to Tamaqua, and then one more mile along the coal mines and one mile northward from Tamaqua. At present, then, its aggregate length is 22 miles.


The route of the railroad has very many curves, including some with 400-foot radii. The entire drop in elevation to the Schuylkill totals 401 feet, or 20 feet per mile on average. The maximum gradient is 35 feet [per mile], or 1 in 151. The roadbed has been built for a double track. The single track that has been laid on it consists, from bottom to top, of the following. There are 18-inch-wide transverse trenches, filled to a depth of 12 inches with crushed stone. These are dug at six-foot intervals all along the line. On them are placed 7-1/2-foot slabbed crossties cut flat only on the underside. Next come the 5-by-9-inch longitudinal timbers, to which strap rails with dimensions of 2 inches x 0.44 inches are fastened. On a section of the road only 2-1/4 miles long, strap rails 0.6 inch thick are employed. When this line was built, horse power was the planned mode of propulsion; only later was a decision made to use steam. Five locomotives, 3 from England and 2 from Baldwin, plus 360 coal cars (each weighing 2,250 pounds and designed to load three 2,000-lb. tons), have been procured to operate the road.


The company's outlays for the actual railroad totaled $335,665. Those for parcels of land and other properties far exceeded that. The stock capital consists of $500,000, in addition, a loan of $300,000 at 6% was obtained. As of January 1, 1838, the short-term debts were likewise in excess of $300,000.


Until the fall of 1838, the road was operated by locomotives; from that time on, only horses were used. One horse hauls 3 loaded coal cars down the line and brings them back upgrade empty, covering 40 miles per day. The rate of travel is usually only 2-1/2 miles per hour. In 1838 (up to November 25), locomotives made 350 trips back and forth in 170 work days. They carried 12,592 tons of coal in 5,120 cars. So the distance covered was 14,000 miles. Only 3 locomotives were used on these runs, and the operating expenses were: for motive power, maintenance of cars, repairs in the shops, etc., $6,632.09; for maintenance of way, $5,713.45; and for administrative expenses, $1,600.00. The total was $13,945.54.


Thus, a mile of travel by a locomotive with its train cost $1. An average of 15 cars were hauled per trip, and the average load was 40 short tons. But because the locomotives had to bring the cars back empty, each 20-mile run yielded only 20 tons of load, and therefore the transportation costs per ton per mile came to 5 cents.


The company transports coal from its own mines and sells it at the transfer landing at Port Clinton. In 1839 its price was $2.50 per ton. The greatest quantity delivered in any one year was 40,000 tons. But in recent years the poor condition of the railroad did not allow such large amounts to be carried. For that reason, as well as in consequence of other unfavorable circumstances, the 1839 freight total was only 10,700 tons in all. The supervisor of the coal and transportation business, Mr. Smith, gave the following figures to represent the company's outlays per long ton up to the point of transshipment:


Breaking up of coal in the mines


Carriage of it out of the mines


Cleaning and loading

$ .08-1/2

Motive power on the railroad

$ 0.4



To this is added outlays for shafts, tunnels, etc.


For timber props in the mines



Finally, if the railroad's maintenance costs are added in, including cars, salaries of Officials, and office expenses, one ton of coal costs $1.50 to deliver to Port Clinton. Each ton produced and transported over the road yields a profit to the company of $1.


In 1838, when steam power was being used, it cost $1 to transport one short ton of coal to Port Clinton, as was shown above. If one reckons the transport costs according to the above data to be an additional 86 cents, then a long ton costs $1.98, and the remaining profit is only 52 cents. This suffices to explain why operation with locomotives was not continued. The extent to which the track, which was too lightly built, suffered from steam locomotives is demonstrated by the outlay in 1838 of $5,713 for maintenance of way, which was 40% of all operating expenses. In 1836 it was necessary to replace 2,200 rails on the 17-1/4-mile stretch on which the strap rails were only 0.44 inch thick. Meanwhile, on the remaining 2-1/4 miles where there were 0.6-inch-thick rails, only 15 new ones were needed. This affords the best evidence that the thinner rails were much too weak for locomotive operations.


The company is empowered by its charter to extend the Little Schuylkill Railroad to the foot of Broad Mountain, 7 miles above Tamaqua. At that point is the beginning of the


Little Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad,


for which, in 1830, a stock company with capital of $300,000 was formed. Its purpose was to extend the Little Schuylkill Railroad to Catawissa on the Susquehanna River. This project, however, was later expanded; the stock capital was raised to $2,000,000, and the road may be considered to consist of 3 main sections:


1. A main line extending from the foot Broad Mountain, 7 miles above Tamaqua, to Catawissa on the Susquehanna, a distance of 39 miles;


2. The Beaver Meadow Extension, a branch of the Beaver Meadow Railroad. It goes from a point on that road, 4 miles from the Lehigh River at the mouth of Black Creek, and extends to a junction with the main line at Lindner's Gap. Its length is 12 miles.


3. An extension of the main line northwest from Catawissa to Williamsport on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Length, 45 miles. This last section will not be built for the present; in contrast, the entire 48-mile line from Catawissa to the junction with the Beaver Meadow Railroad is close to completion. It links the Lehigh River with the North Branch of the Susquehanna in a way similar to the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad. The 3-mile stretch beginning at the junction of the first 2 main sections and heading toward Tamaqua will be built once the Little Schuylkill Railroad has been extended to Broad Mountain.


On the entire line the smallest radius of curvature is 500 feet, and the steepest grade is 66 feet per mile (1 in 80). There is also an inclined plane 1,900 feet long and 163 feet high. Two tunnels, one 400 feet long, the other 1,150, are drilled through rock. The numerous deep ravines are spanned by bridges whose superstructures are built according to the lattice plan and which usually consist of three simple lattice walls. One of these is 128 feet high. The longest span of these bridges is 200 feet.


A single track has been laid on the roadbed, which has been designed to accommodate double track. It is built as follows. First, under each line of rail, 3-by-10 inch posts are placed at 3-foot intervals. On them are laid white oak crossties 7 feet long, 8 inches wide, and 7 inches high. The rails have an inverted "T" form. At the base they are 3-3/4 inches wide, and they are 3-1/2 inches high (50 lbs. to the yard). They are recessed 3/10 inch into the crossties and secured with hooked spikes. At their ends, the rails rest on chairs having the same form as those used on the Philadelphia & Reading (see Plate 24, Fig. 3). These chairs are recessed one inch into the crossties. In order to make the tracks strong where the rails abut as in their middle, a piece of wood (one-third the length of a crosstie) is placed under the rail in the space between the crosstie on which the chair rests and the ones on either side of it. In addition, the rails on one side of the track are made to abut opposite the middle of the rail on the other side. The space between the ties and the rails is filled with ballast up to a level 2-1/2 inches below the rails' undersurface. It is reckoned that such a track structure costs $9,000 per mile.

Plate 24, Fig. 3


Until the close of 1839, $850,000 had already been expended for this road, whose roadbed may be considered completely finished. The total costs of the undertaking, that is, the first two main sections comprising 51 miles, will run to $1,850,000. The cost of building the third section from Catawissa to Williamsport, 45 miles in length, is estimated to be $1,220,323 with strap rails, and $1,490,000 with massive ones.


Mine Hill & Schuylkill Haven Railroad


This coal road, also called the West Branch Railroad, begins at Schuylkill Haven, a small village situated 4-1/2 miles below Pottsville. It goes 6 miles along the West Branch of the Schuylkill River and then splits into two branches. One extends 5 miles to Coal Castle, while the other goes along the West Branch for 4 miles. Both lines ramify into yet smaller spurs, totaling 3 miles in length. The aggregate length of all these roads is 18 miles. Sixteen miles are double-tracked, and a single track has been laid on 2 miles. The gauge is 4 feet 8 1/2 inches.


The smallest radius of curvature is 400 feet, and, if the 1-in-21 inclined plane on Broad Mountain is excluded, the steepest grade is 1 in 176. Originally the road was constructed with strap rails and wooden stringers. Subsequently, however, the roadbed was re-equipped with 35-pound-per-yard massive rails on the track used by descending loaded coal cars. The other track, on which empty cars were brought back up, remained unchanged. Construction of the road commenced in 1829 and was completed in 1831. Since that time the line has been made available for use by any and all. Mine owners transport their coal using their own cars, renting the horses. The railroad company simply levies a toll of 2-1/2 cents per ton per mile for using the road, which it maintains. Two cents is paid for motive power, and therefore transportation costs amount to 4-1/2 cents per ton per mile. Nothing has yet been calculated for maintenance of the coal cars.


The company's expenditures up to January 1839 for constructing the road, the required buildings, landings, and so forth came to $240,450. Some $75,000 was still required to complete the new track with massive rails. Therefore the road's full cost was $315,450. The following amounts of coal were carried on the M. H. & S. H. from 1831 to 1839 inclusive:



in 1831,

17,559 tons


in 1836,

107,845 tons



in 1832,

66,120 tons


in 1837,

170,230 tons



in 1833,

77,072 tons


in 1838,

142,485 tons



in 1834,

42,616 tons


in 1839,

161,000 tons


in 1835,

66,130 tons





The line is in operation during the Schuylkill Navigation's season, approximately 8 months out of the year.


In 18,38, tolls collected totaled                                                               $31,545.66

Operating expenses:

                        for maintenance of way                       $ 5,922.18

                        for salaries and office expenses               1,359.22

                                                                                                                           $ 7,281.40

                                                                                Surplus                               $24,264.26


Of this, $2,400 was paid in taxes, and the stockholders received dividends of 10-12%.


The town of Pottsville may be considered the center of the anthracite district on the Schuylkill. Its rise is attributable only to the extraction of that valuable fuel. Having consisted of only 5 houses in 1825, the place has grown from year to year in proportion to the growth in promotion of coal. In 1839 it already had 6,000 inhabitants, and it is now one of the fastest growing towns in Pennsylvania. Hemmed in by high mountains, Pottsville lies on the Schuylkill River, which has been turned into a spacious port at that place. Some of the coal mines are located under the town, others in its immediate vicinity; those that are farther away are linked to it by railroad. Promotion of anthracite coal in this district is done differently than in the Lehigh and Lackawanna districts. Here the coal pits are the property of numerous private parties. Anyone, by paying a fixed toll, may travel with his own cars and horses on the railroads-built by special companies-that go from the mines to the Schuylkill. The free competition in the coal business should contribute much to rapid and continuous flourishing of the town of Pottsville. In contrast, the towns in the other coal districts, where both the mines and the railroads usually belong to the same company, have made much less progress.


In the immediate vicinity of Pottsville, in addition to the already described M. H. & S. H. Railroad and its branches, there are the following coal roads: the Mount Carbon Railroad. Very close to the town it has a junction with the Philadelphia & Reading. The Danville & Pottsville Railroad serves as an extension of it in the opposite direction. Also there are the Schuylkill Valley and Mill Creek & Mine Hill railroads, both of which terminate at Port Carbon. Many of the mines are so close to the Schuylkill that the coal comes out of the mineshafts and is dumped into canal boats directly.


The Mount Carbon Railroad


originates at Mount Carbon, a suburb of Pottsville. It runs through the town and splits 1-1/4miles from its starting point into two branches, both of which terminate on Mine Hill. One branch is 3-1/4miles long, the other 2-1/2, so the entire road is 7 miles long. The road has a double track, and many small spurs and turnouts diverge from it. The maximum gradient is 1 in 29. The track structure consists of crossties laid at 4-foot intervals on ballast that fills 14-inch-deep, 14-inch-wide transverse trenches. On the crossties are 5-by-9-inch longitudinal stringers, and 2-1/4-by-1/8-inch strap rails are nailed to the stringers.


The road has been complete since 1831; its costs came to $108,500. Only horses are used on it. The company levies a toll of 5 cents per ton per mile for coal, and in addition 5 cents for each car transported from the mines to the Schuylkill River. Because the average distance over which coal is transported on this road is 4-1/2 miles, and the average load is 2-1/2 tons per car, the toll per long ton (2,240 lbs.) per mile is 5.47 cents. All cars, while making their way to the Schuylkill, must pass over a weighing bridge, by means of which their weights are determined.


From April 19, 1831, to the end of 1837, 603,228 tons of coal were carried over this road, and $56,533 was collected in tolls for this. Collection costs came to $2,951. The maintenance-of-way expenses were $17,110, and thus the sundry operational outlays were $20,061. Out of that balance, $25,753 was paid in interest, $2,547 in dividends; the remainder was used in other ways. In 1838, 84,000 tons of coal were transported on this road; in 1839, 80,000.


A branch railroad ¼ mile in length goes from the Mount Carbon road along Market Street in Pottsville to the coal mines located outside the town. It is called the Market Street Railroad, and it was built by the owners of the mines in question in 1837 at a cost of $10,000.


The Schuylkill Valley Railroad


extends from Port Carbon up the Schuylkill valley to Tuscarora, in the vicinity of the river's source. Port Carbon is the starting point of the Schuylkill Navigation. The main line is 10 miles long,- however, there are numerous lateral spurs built to the many coal pits in this valley. They have been constructed by the mine owners and they likewise have an aggregate length of at least 10 miles.


The Schuylkill Valley Railroad was opened back in 1830 and cost $65,000 ($6,500 per mile). It has a double track whose gauge is only 40 inches. However, the mode of construction was overall so weak and poor that revenues were almost entirely consumed by expenses of maintenance. The shareholders have never received any dividends. The track structure consists of crossties laid at 5-foot intervals, 4-by6-inch longitudinal timbers, and 1-1/2-by-3/8-inch strap rails nailed onto them. The lateral branches are built the same way and have the same gauge; they cost $4,000 to $5,000 per mile.


According to its charter, this company may charge a toll of only 2-1/2 cents per ton per mile. Each year 70,000 to 80,000 tons of coal are delivered from the mines along the road to the Schuylkill - that is, Port Carbon. In 1839, the quantity was 70,419 tons.


Mill Creek & Mine Hill Railroad


This line goes from Port Carbon 5 miles into the valley of Mill Creek. It was built at the same time as the Schuylkill Valley Railroad and has the same track structure and gauge. Construction costs totaled $45,000. The branches diverging from this road are 2 miles long in all. This company likewise levies a toll of 2-1/2 cents per ton per mile. In 1839, 47,789 tons of coal were carried. However, this railroad is in much better condition than the Schuylkill Valley Railroad.


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Rev. June 2010