In my talks about the Schuylkill River as it flows through Philadelphia, I often mention the so-called "culm" (small pieces of waste coal) that accumulated around the many coal mines, washed into the river with every rainfall, and eventually clogged the river upstream from the Fairmount Dam. The following text provides a fascinating tour, via various Pennsylvania railroads, of the state's coal mining regions, as well as other sites to be seen along the way.
I found an 1873 version of this book on the University of Michigan website, with a rudimentary text recognition done on it. I corrected the many typographical errors in that version and, by doing a page-by-page comparison, updated the text to match my copy of the 1875 edition. Where the 1873 version was substantially different, I retained that text in brackets.
Low-resolution scans of the engravings are
linked throughout the text.
Selected illustrations from the first
section of this volume
The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers
Compiled by Adam Levine
Philadelphia Water Department
PENNSYLVANIA'S railroad system will celebrate its semicentennial in another year or two. Forty-eight years ago this anno domini 1875, some enterprising gentlemen had a coal quarry in the woods, on the top of Mauch Chunk Mountain. It was the best coal in the world, and one hundred miles away was a market waiting for it, but the problem presented itself: How to overcome the hundred miles and get the coal to market? The stately Delaware River presented a natural highway for part of the route; its wild Indian sister, the Lehigh, laughed like any free maiden, "Win me, and I am yours,"--the water-route from Mauch Chunk to Philadelphia, though full of difficulties, was not impracticable. But there still remained nine miles of rock and forest and precipitous mountainside; and how should these be overcome?
Just in time for the puzzled adventurers came from over sea the description of the new English tramways, which, though they had been in use in a small way for a number of years, George Stephenson's wonderful locomotive engine was just bringing into notice. So these Pennsylvania pioneers determined to build a railroad, and in May, 1827, the first railroad in the State, the second in America, was opened. It was a small affair, and, old as it is now, no locomotive has ever yet trodden its tracks; but what a magnificent system of iron highways, grown from this small beginning, now traverses our glorious Commonwealth!
Sit down with a railroad map of Pennsylvania in your hand, and think for ten minutes of the significance of the waved black lines which cross it in so many directions. Here is Philadelphia, sitting like a true commercial queen to receive the tribute which comes to her along these iron avenues from North, South, East, and West. Here is a long iron band-the spinal cord of the State it might almost be called-running through the centre of the Commonwealth and sending out long feeders, uniting the lakes and the ocean, gathering up the products of the teeming West,--the corn of Illinois, the wine of Ohio, the oil of Western Pennsylvania. Here are others which run through grain-fields and orchards spreading wide and fair--over beds of iron and stone and clay and metals of various kinds, which yield their riches to increase the nation's wealth--past the pleasant lowland meadows--into the midst of the mountains--and never stop until, far in the stony hearts of the hills, miles from the fresh air and the sunshine, they find rich masses of glittering coal, and bring them forth to warm and light the dwellings of the people. Others, again, search out the recesses of gloomy forests and bring [PAGE 2] forth treasures of oak and pine and hemlock, and still others are content to end among the fruitful Pennsylvania farms and bring their products to the common mart. Some carry the traveler through peaceful plains and valleys smiling with verdant fields encircling pretty villages; some take him through wild ravines of the mountains and over their wooded crests; some "where queenly Susquehanna smiles," and others still to "springs" and "falls" and "glens," and other places of resort almost innumerable.
Our present purpose is to follow these lines of rail throughout the State, wherever they may take us, catching, as we fly, quick glimpses of the scenery and points of interest along the route. We shall take, as it were, a "way train," and stop at minor points as well as major ones; but yet we shall keep moving pretty briskly, and make short halts, as beseemeth even the slowest and most accommodating of trains. So we shall see all the railroad scenery of Pennsylvania, and having seen that, we shall have seen the State.
May we be permitted to use what is almost a Hibernicism, and say that one of the loveliest continuous stretches of Pennsylvania scenery lies half over its eastern border? And, though it make our offense deeper, we must add that the only way to its beauties lies almost wholly in our sister [PAGE 3] Commonwealth, New Jersey. But the scenery of the Delaware River is too grandly magnificent to be omitted from our description, and though the Belvidere Delaware Railroad runs its entire length on Jersey soil, it nevertheless leads to one of the most picturesque sections of Pennsylvania.
From Philadelphia to Trenton the traveler has choice of routes. He may start from the Pennsylvania Railroad depot in West Philadelphia, or from the once well-known Kensington depot, the glory of which has now departed; or, he may cross the river and take the Camden and Amboy Railroad, from Camden. In either case, the cars of the Pennsylvania Railroad will carry him swiftly and smoothly through a succession of pleasant vistas, where the sunshine lies on leafy groves and rolling farm-lands, with the blue, sail-flecked river sparkling, now in the foreground, now in the distance, until he reaches the ancient city of Trenton, and the Falls of the Delaware, the "farthest boundaries" of Oxenstiern's New Sweden. Here the Belvidere Delaware road will take him up and carry him northward, its track lying close to the riverbank most of the way, and passing through scenery which grows more and more beautiful as he goes on. Up to the Falls he has a deep, placid river, navigated by numerous steamers and sailing-craft, but above this point it becomes a mountain stream, with hilly banks, especially on the Pennsylvania side; its reaches of smooth arid shining water broken every little while by riffles and rocks or perhaps by falls, and the country growing wilder and more broken mile by mile. At Phillipsburg, opposite Easton, he sees the mouth of the Lehigh as it debouches into the Delaware almost at a right angle, sending a current across the bosom of the larger stream which has been fatal to many a luckless raft. On a bold bluff in the obtuse angle of the streams is Lafayette College, with its fine buildings, Easton's greatest "lion," while seen through the gap made by the Lehigh in breaking through the Delaware's lofty bank is the city of Easton, a quiet, pleasant place, pleasantly situated and prettily built. The next place of interest is Manunka Chunk, which will probably leave on the traveler's memory the impression of a broad platform and a flight of steps, up which he goes to take the cars of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad for the Water Gap, Scranton, and Northern Pennsylvania.
The Delaware Water Gap, the Mecca of so many summer pilgrims, is the grandest of those wild gorges by which all the great rivers of Central and Eastern Pennsylvania have forced their passage through the barrier flung in their way by the Kittatinny Mountains. A huge natural [PAGE 4] dyke running northeasterly from Virginia to New York, the Kittatinnys dammed up all the great rivers of Eastern America, from the Hudson to the Potomac, but one and all cleft their passage through, and each left its record in masses of wildly shattered rock and fantastic mountain piles, which are everywhere objects of the greatest interest to the tourist. The gap of the Delaware, with its wildwood scenery, its beetling cliffs, hundreds of feet in height; its expansive views; the romantic scenery which lies all about it, and its strong but quiet river flowing in shining reaches through the giant ruins it has made, is a fitting terminus to the lovely ride along the Delaware; but the traveler, having seen the beauties of this spot, will do well to keep on up the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western road, across the great Appalachian Valley, with its diversified scenery, to Scranton, the heart of the great Northern Anthracite Coal-field, and, if he will, through the sparsely settled northern tier of counties, to Binghamton and the lake region of New York.
The North Pennsylvania Railroad penetrates the rich farming lands of Montgomery and Bucks, and carries to Philadelphia long trains laden with the wheat and corn and hay, the butter and eggs and milk for which this city has a more than local celebrity. A branch to Doylestown, and another to the Schuylkill, gather up the products of the farms through which they run, and at every station on the main road and its branches may be seen farmers' wagons from the " back country" bringing forward the yield of the fertile acres which stretch away on either side for miles. Down this road also comes the coal from Lehigh and Wyoming, and up this road go thousands of tourists yearly, on their way to one of the nearest and most attractive of summer resorts in the State.
The road runs northward, through a rolling, cultivated country, taking the hills as a steamer takes the waves, "bows on," and going either over or through them, with little turning aside to avoid them. Consequently, it is a very straight road as Pennsylvania railroads go, but the grade changes so constantly, now up, now down, now perfectly level, that the traveler, standing on the end of the train and looking back, is almost reminded of a turnpike with its hills and hollows. The changes of grade, however, produce no discomfort. They are not even notice [PAGE 5] able in the cars, and as the track is firm and smooth, and the cars luxurious, the ride from Philadelphia to Bethlehem is easily and quickly done. At Bethlehem the road ends, intersecting here with the Lehigh Valley road and the Lehigh and Susquehanna division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, both of which follow the course of the Lehigh River northward from Easton.
The latter place, the ancient "Forks of the Delaware," has already been mentioned. It is one of the old frontier towns of Pennsylvania, and stands on land secured to the heirs of William Penn by the celebrated "walking purchase," a transaction which the Indians never ratified with good grace, and which led to numerous and fierce Indian fights. Here, at the foot of a bold bluff, the Lehigh debouches into the Delaware, and the railroads above mentioned, crossing from the Jersey side on substantial bridges, continue their course side by side up the narrow Lehigh Valley, until they cross the Wilkesbarre Mountain and descend into the broad and beautiful valley of the Susquehanna. As their tracks lie so close together throughout their entire route, we shall for the purposes of this volume treat this as one route, and either road, as occasion may dictate, will serve our purpose.
The valley of the Lehigh has always been celebrated for its magnificent mountain scenery. Hemmed in between rocky walls from its source almost to its mouth, there are few farming lands on its banks to stain its waters with clay or loam, and they carry to the end the tawny hue derived from the hemlocks about their source. Below the Lehigh Gap, however, the mountains recede, and the view on preceding page, taken near Freemansburg, twenty-three miles above Easton, shows well the picturesque character of the lower valley.
Bethlehem is a queer blending of the old-time quiet and the busy hum of modern enterprise. In Bethlehem proper the visitor sees at every step reminiscences of its Moravian founders and its Revolutionary history; while in South Bethlehem, a flourishing suburb, connected with the old town by a long and elegant bridge, he finds the largest steel works in the State, an enormous iron foundry, and the extensive works of the Lehigh Zinc Company, together with numerous other industrial works; and on the slope of the hill overlooking the place are the handsome buildings and grounds of the Lehigh University, a monument to the wisdom and [PAGE 6] liberality of Asa Packer, its founder. Bethlehem and Nazareth, ten miles north, were both founded by the Moravians, about 1740. Many of their solidly-constructed buildings are still standing, and the seminary which they founded still preserves its reputation as an excellent school. Many families come here from New York and Philadelphia to spend the summer, and surely a pleasanter, as well as more convenient spot, would be hard to find.
Allentown, the county seat of Lehigh County, is the next place of importance above Bethlehem. Then come the furnaces and other iron-works of Catasauqua and Hockendauqua, the slate region, which gives Slatington its name, and soon, at Lehigh Gap, a narrow pass admits to the wild and romantic scenery of the Upper Lehigh. From this point the river narrows, the mountain walls close in, and between river, railways, and canal, there is a hard struggle for elbow-room. There is much to repay the traveler who journeys leisurely through this region, and searches out for himself its beauties of rock and hill and stream and forest, but most tourists content themselves with the passing glimpses caught as the train flies by, and hurry on to Mauch Chunk, the centre of attraction in this region.
If Bethlehem was founded by the Moravians as a haven of peace, Mauch Chunk might have been established by the hermits of the Thebaid as a refuge from all the world. Shut in on all sides by lofty mountains, the only site for a town--if site it might be called--lying at the bottom of a deep and narrow ravine which the winter sun can only find at mid-day, it is almost the last place in Pennsylvania where one would expect to find a flourishing town. But commerce called and labor answered, as it always does, and filled the mountain gorge with comfortable and elegant buildings, and dug and blasted away out to civilization, and compassed ways and means for improving the natural advantages of the place, until the result is a spot unique in the physical history of America.
This place has become, within a few years, the most popular pleasure resort in the State. Easily and quickly accessible from both Philadelphia and New York, and possessing more attractions in a small compass than any other resort within a much greater distance, it is a favorite with the masses, who have little time or money to spare, while its excellent hotels combine with its other attractions to make it equally a favorite with those who wish a prolonged absence from the city.
The Mansion House, the principal hotel, stands close to the bank of the rippling, plashing Lehigh, while at its back the mountain rises so precipitously as to leave but a narrow pass [PAGE 7] between the roof and the ground. This hotel will accommodate nearly five hundred guests. Another, under the same management, is now building on the very summit of the mountain under which the Mansion House stands. An inclined railway and a carriage road are to be built for the convenience of guests. This house will stand near the historic "Flagstaff," shown in our illustration,--which was the dead trunk of a tree, on which some unknown hand was wont to set a flag on all important occasions. As suggested rather than shown in the illustration, the view from this spot is simply magnificent.
Our artist has sketched, as illustrations of the picturesque dwellings of this region, the residence of Hon. Asa Packer, a self-made man, and one more honorable as the founder of Lehigh University than even as the president of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, one of the best-managed roads in the State,-and that of Hon. John Leisenring, a prominent director in the same corporation. The cut gives an idea of the handsome houses and grounds, but the splendid scenery about them is too vast to be portrayed on paper.
Mauch Chunk's greatest attraction to most tourists is "The Switchback," or gravity railroad, mentioned at the beginning of this paper. This was an ingenious device to transport the coal from the great Open Quarry, at Summit Hill, on the top of Sharp Mountain, to the slackwater canal at Mauch Chunk. Originally, it was a single track running from the mines to the canal, with a grade so steep that the loaded cars ran easily of their own accord the entire distance. A gang of mules accompanied each train, in a car built for their special accommodation, and " worked their passage" by hauling the empty cars back to the mines. As the works extended and new mines were opened in Panther Creek Valley, on the other side of the mountain, this simple device no longer answered the purpose, and the present arrangement of planes and gravity roads was introduced. The first plane, on the face of Mount Pisgah, at Mauch Chunk, raised the cars from the level of the " tips," where they discharged their contents into schutes, to the top of that mountain, where the gravity track received them and conveyed them by force of gravity, as before, to the foot of Mount Jefferson. A second plane then raised them to the top of that mountain, and they ran down an easy grade to the Quarry, and thence down the extension of the road into the valley of Panther Creek. This [PAGE 8] was the real "Switchback." The distance was so short, and the descent so steep, that the track was laid in angles, like the letter Z, instead of the ordinary curves, and a switch at each angle changed the course of the train and threw it, rear end foremost, on the other track. A descending grade served all the collieries with cars, and when filled they were raised again to the Summit Hill level by two long planes. Thus the entire distance of about twenty-five miles, crossing two mountains, stopping, starting, shifting, and making up trains, was accomplished without the aid of a locomotive or even of horse-power, except that an occasional horse or mule was employed about the collieries.
The coal on the top of the mountain has long been exhausted, and that of the valley is now drawn through the Nesquehoning tunnel, a mile in length, so that the Switchback is no longer required for its transportation. The Panther Creek part of the route has accordingly been abandoned, and the eastern section, by far the more important and interesting, is devoted exclusively to pleasure travel.
From the lower town, a coach conveys passengers to the foot of the first plane, 215 feet above the Lehigh. Here on a small plateau stands the town of Upper Mauch Chunk, while on a similar plateau, across the river, is seen East Mauch Chunk, both outgrowths of this original town. The coach connects with a train of small, light cars (the Switchback is a" narrow-gauge" road), and these, being pushed to the foot of the plane, are raised by stationary engines at the top up an angle of twenty degrees, 664 feet, to the starting-point of the Gravity Road. This ascent is apt to frighten timid people who make it for the first time; but there is so little danger [PAGE 9] in it that no passenger has ever been hurt on the plane in all the years it has been working. An excellent safety apparatus is attached, which, if the bands which draw the cars should happen to break, would hold them anywhere in the ascent.
Immediately after leaving the head of the plane, the cars pass over a trestling which fills a depression in the mountain, and here magnificent views of the valley are obtained. At the end of the trestling is a short walk leading to the "Pavilion," an airy perch on the peak of the mountain much resorted to by picnic parties, and a great place for moonlight dances on summer nights.
The track now falls at the rate of 60 feet to the mile, and the light cars whirl down it at an exhilarating speed. No dust or steam annoys the passengers, but the soft mountain air blows freshly in their faces (mingled too often, we regret to say, with tobacco smoke, which the in excusable laxity of the company's officials permits the lower classes to puff), and a panoramic landscape unrolls in the distance as they dash down, and finally halt at the foot of Mount Jefferson. Here another plane lifts them 462 vertical feet in a distance Of 2070, and a farther run of one mile brings them into the town of Summit Hill.
Here the traveler sees the birthplace of coal-mining in America. The famous Open Quarry, where the enormous deposit of anthracite discovered by Philip Ginther in 1791 was worked for years in open daylight, is close at hand, the height of its walls still testifying to the thickness of the mass and the value of the [PAGE 10] "find." On his way to the Quarry the visitor passes a tract of scorched and barren soil. And is told, on inquiring, that he is walking over a burning mine. The coal under his feet has been on fire for over thirty years, and is still burning in a slow, smouldering way, consequent on its scanty supply of air and the smothering accumulation of carbonic acid gas formed by its combustion.
Near the Quarry, too, there are wide and deep holes, which show the way the coal is stored in the earth better than a volume of description. These holes, one of which is shown in the cut, are caused by mining away the coal in the vein and leaving the surface unsupported. The consequence is that where the pitch is steep, as in this case, the weight of the surface soil carries it down into the workings below. In the illustration, the dark mass is the vein of coal rising almost perpendicularly from the depths below and widening a little as it reaches upper air. The opening beside it shows where the surface has fallen, leaving a hole about 60o feet deep. This coal has been mined by means of a" slope," a subterranean inclined plane which follows the vein downward a certain distance, generally about 300 feet. Galleries are then cut right and left into the vein, and the miners work upward from these, the coal they dig sliding down to the gallery, or "gangway," as it is termed, and being there loaded into small cars, hauled by mules to the foot of the slope, and then, by means of a wire rope and a stationary engine, dragged up to daylight. When all the coal in the territory belonging to the colliery is exhausted, so far as it can be reached from these gangways, the slope is driven downwards another hundred yards, termed in mining parlance a "lift,"--and the process is repeated. In the above case, the slope must have been two "lifts" deep, a not uncommon depth, as they are frequently sunk four, five, and even six lifts.
We give another illustration showing the method of mining by "drift." This is possible when the coal lies in a hill and can be reached by following the vein from a point in the valley, so as to have a "breast," or workable amount, of coal above the level of the entrance. Here the gangway is continued out to daylight, as shown in the cut. The uncouth building in the same view is a coal breaker, a very useful institution, though built with slight [PAGE 11] regard to architectural effect. The coal is hauled up the inclined plane on the left to the top of the building, whence it descends through a series of rollers and screens, which break and assort it, and past a company of boys, who pick out the slate and other impurities, and finally falls into a series of bins, not shown, where it is stored until drawn off into cars and sent to market. A coal breaker will prepare from three hundred to one thousand tons of coal a day, the quantity depending on its size and the amount furnished by the mine to which it is attached.
Having seen all these objects of interest, the traveler can either take stage for Tamaqua, six miles distant, or can take the next train on the Switchback and go flying down the return track to Mauch Chunk, a run of nine miles, which is usually made in about twenty minutes.
Two miles above Mauch Chunk, from which place it is reached by train on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, is Glen Onoko, formerly " Moore's Ravine," a wild and beautiful place, which the tourist should by no means fail to see. A dashing little torrent, rising on the top of the mountain and falling over its edge, has in the course of ages hollowed out this fantastic path for itself and now goes tumbling down it, here falling over a cliff, there rushing, white with foam, through tortuous passages among the rocks, and again lingering and sparkling in quiet, limpid pools, where its clear waters reflect the boughs of the overhanging trees and the blue sky glimpsing through them. Chameleon Fall, Terrace Fall, and Onoko Fall are the principal falls in the stream; but there are numerous smaller falls and cascades, which add fresh beauties at every turn of the path. Sunrise Point, at the top of Onoko Fall, commands a beautiful view down the Glen and out into the Lehigh Valley, but it is surpassed by Packer's Point, on a projecting cliff, reached by a branch path, from which a wide ranging view down the valley is obtained, giving almost a bird's-eye vista of its intricate system of mountains.
Art has done much to assist [PAGE 12] nature in making the most of her treasures of wood and rock and water in Glen Onoko. It is a delightful place to look and linger through a summer day, and visitors to Mauch Chunk often spend the entire day in its cool recesses.
Among other places of note easily accessible by rail from Mauch Chunk are the Nesquehoning Tunnel, above mentioned, which is traversed by the train from Mauch Chunk to Tamaqua, and the Nesquehoning Bridge, which is on the route to Tamenend and the Catawissa. This is an open trestle bridge crossing the head waters of the Little Schuylkill River, which here flows through a deep gorge in the mountains. The bridge is 1100 feet long, and 168 feet above the stream. It is well worth seeing for its own sake, and no pen can do justice to the magnificent vista of mountain peaks and miniature valleys which stretches away on either hand from its dizzy summit.
The Lehigh Mountains are so rich in romantic scenery, that more places of interest have already been opened to the traveler in this region than in any other of equal extent in Pennsylvania, while much still remains to reward the explorer. " Moore's Ravine," with its wealth of beauty, was all unknown to fame until the summer of 1872, when an article in Lippincott's Magazine called attention to it, and it remained a tangled labyrinth of rock and brush until the following season. The grand scenery of Upper Lehigh was a secret with a chosen few until the same time, and many nooks like Stony Creek, full of the most picturesque scenery, still await name and mention in the mountain fastnesses.
A short ride from Mauch Chunk up the winding valley of the Lehigh brings the traveler to White [PAGE 14] Haven, the seat of an extensive lumber trade, and here a branch road, nine miles long, conveys him to Upper Lehigh, a colliery town on the top of the mountain. The scenery here is wild and rugged in the extreme. A short walk from the hotel leads to the top of Prospect Rock, which hangs over a deep precipice and commands a lovely view of mountain valleys. Facing it, across a narrow but deep gorge, is Cloud Point, the abrupt termination of a singular line of jutting rock which constitutes the backbone of the mountain.
Between these two sentinel peaks lies Amber Glen, or Glen Thomas (for it bears both names), a romantic spot, dark with the shade of tall hemlocks and filled with enormous masses of loose rock, many of them as large as a small house; while between the rocks and round the roots of the hemlocks prattles a beautiful little stream whose tawny waters have given the glen its better name and caused the loveliest bit of the stream to be called Amber Cascade. There are other points of interest about Upper Lehigh, not the least of which, perhaps, is its double coal-breaker, one of the largest in the whole coal region. A day may [PAGE 15] be spent at this point with pleasure and profit.
Upper Lehigh is deep in the woods, and the only way in is likewise the only way out. The visitor retracing his steps to White Haven, may there take the cars back to Philadelphia or New York, or he may go on to the beautiful Wyoming Valley and, if he choose, to Elmira, Buffalo, and the Lakes. The two railroads which we have followed up the valley here begin the ascent of Wilkesbarre Mountain, and on reaching its top diverge and descend into the Wyoming Valley in opposite directions.
As they turn the corner of the mountain and run down its northern side, the valley below unfolds a panorama of beauty which has been admired and praised by every visitor since the first hunter trod the rugged summit of the mountain. The whole valley, with its green fields diversified by towns [PAGE 16] and villages, and the Susquehanna running like a silver ribbon through it all, is spread before the eye, and the cars, as they thunder down the grade, afford all too little chance to feast upon the lovely vista.
If on the Lehigh and Susquehanna road, the traveler should not fail to see the deep glen of Laurel Run, just after passing Laurel Run Station. The train here runs along a [PAGE 17] narrow shelf hewn out of the solid rock, with a wall of rock rising far into the air on one side, and the waving tops of stately trees seen far below on the other.
Soon after, the train reaches Wilkesbarre, a beautifully located and beautifully laid out city, on the bank of the Susquehanna, with wide, well-shaded streets, and tastefully-planned houses and grounds. The Lehigh and Susquehanna road goes on to Scranton, the metropolis of the upper anthracite coal region, and a busy, bustling, thriving place; while the Lehigh Valley follows the beautiful North Branch of the Susquehanna to Waverly, on the line between Pennsylvania and New York, where it intersects the Erie. The whole route is full of interest, and the tourist will be well repaid who follows it to the end.
All parts of Pennsylvania abound in beautiful scenery, but nature seems to have been especially liberal in bestowing its attractions on the northeastern portion, which we have just described.
THE Philadelphia and Reading Railroad has four termini in Philadelphia, and something like half a thousand in the coal regions from which it draws its life. The most important of its Philadelphia depots, in a commercial light, is the gigantic system of wharves and docks constituting the Richmond coal depot, whence this company's immense shipments of coal are made. An auxiliary, but much smaller point of departure, is that at Willow Street wharf, where the Company has a huge freight depot. A passenger depot at Ninth and Green Streets is the city terminus of the Germantown and Norristown branch, a twin pair of roads, short but important; giving access to the lovely scenery of Germantown and Chestnut Hill, to the Wissahickon, and to the flourishing towns of Manayunk, Conshohocken, and Norristown. At the last place, the Norristown branch, which runs up the east bank of the Schuylkill, crosses that stream and connects with the main stem, and also with the Chester Valley branch, which runs westward through a rich farming country and connects with the Pennsylvania Railroad near Downingtown.
The main stem of the Reading--the "Long Road," as its employés term it, in distinction from its innumerable branches--has its passenger depot at Thirteenth and Callowhill Streets. A tour over it will well repay the traveler in search of the romantic and the beautiful. Passing through the farming and pasture lands of Chester, Montgomery, and Berks, and ramifying through every gorge of the Kittatinnys in Schuylkill, with branches covering all the country between Harrisburg and Williamsport, on the Susquehanna, and the whole length of the Schuylkill River, it presents in the compass of a hundred miles what we might call a "synopsis" of all the scenery of Pennsylvania.
The attractions of this route begin even before the city bounds are passed. The road passes through the entire length of Fairmount Park, its elevated track affording an excellent view of the old Park from the Green Street entrance to Lemon Hill; crosses the Schuylkill by means of the Columbia Bridge below Belmont, and at the Falls of Schuylkill intersects the coal branch running to Richmond. The massive stone bridge by which this branch here crosses the Schuylkill is a prominent feature of the landscape as seen from the train. Shortly after leaving the Falls, the traveler catches a glimpse of the mouth of the Wissahickon as it debouches under the high bridge of the Norristown Railroad, and in a few moments more he is plunged into the darkness of the Manayunk Tunnel, to emerge again in a grove of willows and follow the course of the placid river, mile after mile, till Norristown is passed and he arrives at Phoenixville.
The train flies past the historic Valley Forge, once the scene of war's sternest reality, now [PAGE 19] devoted to the mimic camps of summer picnic parties; makes short halt before the blazing forges of Phoenixville; then, with a dash through a dismal covered bridge, another through a gloomy tunnel, and a third across an open, sensible bridge, which gives glorious views of a bold wooded bluff on either side, rising sheer from the river, which curves and nestles like a sleepy kitten at its foot; and then we travel on through a rolling country, passing stations with queer names,--Mingo, Royer's Ford, Aramingo, Monocacy,--past Pottstown, large, sedate, and important; past Birdsboro', the junction of the Wilmington and Reading Railroad, and after two hours and a half of sharp riding we come to Reading, the ancient county seat of ancient Berks, the chief seat of the railroad company's works, and the nucleus of a grand system of [PAGE 20] lines on which trains converge from all points of the compass. The splendid new depot here is worthy of more than passing mention. Superb, complete; of generous size and elaborate appointments; with nothing omitted that can please the taste or add to the comfort of the traveler, from the miniature lawns and sparkling fountains in the three courtyards, to the well-provided and well-served restaurant, the luxurious waiting-rooms, and the spacious platforms,--it is a model depot, and one which might be copied to advantage by many a pretentious corporation throughout the country.
Just before reaching this place, we have struck the first series of hills, and have shuddered, perhaps, at the sharp curves and narrow passes between the river below and the rocks above. But this is only a foretaste. We shall see grander things by-and-by. Now comes another stretch of fertile country, a trifle more broken than that below Reading, but covered with smiling fields and dotted with quiet villages. But the blue line of mountains on the northern horizon rises and grows more distinct as we approach, until we pass Hamburg and penetrate, through the Port Clinton Tunnel, at once into the county of Schuylkill and into the midst of the mountains.
The scenery at this point is romantic in the extreme. Up to this time the traveler has been riding through an open country, where the view was wide and the prospect filled with farms, dotted with an occasional grove of trees or isolated hill; but as the train shoots out from the low archway of the tunnel and stops at Port Clinton Station, he perceives that he has come [PAGE 21] into a new, wild, rugged region. On either hand the mountains rise sheer and high, the river, spurned from one to another, winds like a snake at their feet, and the railroad, following the path marked out by the river, winds in and out of the mountain hollows, and curves until it almost seems to double back upon itself. At Port Clinton the road forks, one branch following up the Little Schuylkill River to Tamaqua and thence running through the Mahanoy Valley; the other, or main stem, continuing up the Schuylkill proper to Pottsville, and then splitting up into so many branches, some longer, some shorter, that its map looks like an oak-tree stripped of its leaves.
Pottsville is the metropolis of the Schuylkill coal trade. Situated on the flank of Sharp Mountain, on the southern edge of the great Schuylkill coal-field, it was the scene of the first mining experiments in this field, and from its ready accessibility and fine location became the chosen home of the great coal princes and the capital of their peculiar province. Their operations were vast. Their units of trade were not dollars but hundreds of thousands; and though many of them failed in the end to grasp the prize they made such giant struggles for, yet when they did make money they made a great deal. And so they built handsome houses and adorned them elegantly, and left their children a heritage not only of wealth but of culture and refinement.
The Lehigh and Wyoming coal regions early fell into the hands of large corporations, which drained their riches for the benefit of non-resident stockholders; but the Schuylkill mines were owned by private firms or individuals, and the wealth they yielded remained to a great extent in the region, much of it being expended in beautifying the town of Pottsville. The coal trade has been, to a great extent, absorbed by a corporation, the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, but the elegance and ease remain to justify Pottsville's poetical title of "The Mountain City."
As the traveler enters the town, on the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, he passes through one of the many picturesque water-gaps for which the Kittatinny Range is noted. Sharp Mountain, the southern rim of the coal basin, is here rent from base to summit, the jagged rocks standing out on either side as fresh and rough as if their cleft had been made by an earthquake yesterday. Our view shows its abrupt bluff on the west side of the Schuylkill, but shows it toned down a little by distance. At its foot nestles the village of Mount Carbon, where the railway company maintains an excellent hotel, a short half-mile from the business centre of Pottsville.
The view from the summit of this bluff is beautiful in the extreme, while the magnificent sheets of conglomerate displayed on its edge are enough to set a geologist wild. There is probably no finer display of this beautiful rock anywhere in the world. At the southern foot of the mountain, and on the east side of the river, is the valley of Tumbling Run, the Fairmount Park of Pottsville. Here the Schuylkill Navigation Company has dammed up a mountain stream, and spread out its waters into two delightful little lakes, which add a great charm to what would be a lovely valley without them. There is a good road running all the length of this beautiful valley, and it is the chief among the many pleasant drives about the town.
Four miles below Pottsville are Schuylkill Haven and Cressona, sister towns built up by the combined influence of the Reading and Minehill Railroads and the Schuylkill Canal, which all meet at the former place, the present shipping-point of that important part of the coal trade which is water-borne to market. The Minehill Railroad is one of the more important arms by which the Reading gathers in its supply of coal. It runs through a narrow valley. that of the West Branch of the Schuylkill, principally wild and lonely, but affording [PAGE 23] some beautiful views, like that at "Germantown," shown in the cut; passes the important coal-town of Minersville, and climbs to the top of Broad Mountain at Gordon, whence it descends by two long inclined planes to the valley of the Mahanoy. Near Minersville it passes the Gap (par excellence) of the Mine Hill, celebrated for its picturesque views and the magnificent anticlinal shown in its fracture,-an arch of rock as smooth and perfect in its sweep as if formed by the hand of art.
A branch of this road runs westward to Tremont, where it intersects still another section of this labyrinthine system. But this is a coal road exclusively, and if we wish to see the beauties of the western end of the region, we must take train to Auburn, and thence proceed to Pinegrove and Tremont by a roundabout way. The first part of the ride is on the main line of the Reading, up which we have come, but at Auburn we take the Schuylkill and Susquehanna branch, which passes through a region of mountain-farms to Pinegrove, and thence through the well-named valley of Stony Creek--the wildest and most rugged stretch of road in all the system--to the Susquehanna at Dauphin, and thence to Harrisburg. At Pinegrove we strike the midst of the mountains again, and run [PAGE 24] along their foot to Tremont, and here begin the ascent of the Broad Mountain, to reach the collieries on its top and on the flank of Big Lick Mountain, beyond it. The grade is heavy, and the engine puffs and pants as it slowly drags the train upward through the woods to the wide plateau on the summit of the mountain. There is a short halt at "Keffer's," where a boy takes off a lean mail-bag, and half a dozen women, who have been to Tremont to purchase supplies, get out; and then, as the train rolls away, a ravine opens on the left of the track and grows rapidly deeper and wider, until it is a valley paved-not filled-with a smooth floor of green, which presently resolves itself into a forest far below, and then, in a moment more, the traveler sees the broad farms of Williams Valley spread out before him, the valley itself divided like some wide river split into two arms by an island-mountain rising abruptly in the midst of it, and finds himself on a narrow shelf hewn out of the mountain, with its rocky wall on one side, a torrent precipice on the other, and beyond the precipice one of the loveliest views he has ever looked upon. It lies beside him all the way to Tower City and on to Brookside,--and at the latter place he reaches Ultima Thule: there is no more beyond. He can come from the opposite direction and approach within four miles of this point; but that four miles is rough with rocks and bristling with bushes. There is no path for the railway, and no means for the mere railway traveler to cross it. His only way to pass the gap is by stage from Tower City, or by that still more antiquated conveyance, Shanks his mare.
Starting again from Pottsville, our engine backs the train past Mount Carbon to the "Intersection Switch," and then, resuming the natural order of progression, crosses the creek which here does duty for the Schuylkill River, and follows its east bank back through the gap and up past the furnaces and forges of Palo Alto; and just as it gets cleverly under way comes another junction and another choice of routes. Let us take the shorter first. This is the left-hand track. It takes us through two flourishing towns, Port Carbon and St. Clair, past mountains of coal-dirt [PAGE 25] and miles of coal cars, and at the latter place is performed one of those curious manoeuvres to which the traveler in this mountain-land must become accustomed. The engine leaves its position at the head of the train and falls to the rear, where it comes against the cars head foremost, and proceeds to push them along. It is a singular procedure and one not suggestive of rapid traveling, to say nothing of collisions, cars on the track, and similar dangers against which the engineer is supposed to provide; but there is a good reason for it. The greatest danger here is one unknown on most roads. The grade is so heavy (179 feet to the mile) that if the train were drawn up in the ordinary way, the weight of the cars would be thrown on the couplings and very probably snap them, in which case the detached portion would go to sure and swift destruction. It is the steepest continuous grade in the world traversed by an ordinary locomotive, and is a triumph of engineering skill.
From the car windows the traveler will notice another road, a series of levels and inclined planes, now used as a wagon road. This is the old Girard Railway, a tramway by which Stephen Girard sought to convey the coal from his mine in the Mahanoy Valley over the mountain to the Schuylkill and so to market. His death put a stop to the work before it was entirely finished, and the introduction of locomotive-engines prevented its ever being completed.
Puffing to the top of this steep ascent, we find ourselves again on the top of Broad Mountain, and our engine trundles us gently into Frackville, a large and rapidly-growing town, where, a dozen or fifteen years ago, stood a solitary wayside tavern in the woods, with one corner resting on a post in a fish-pond filled with the landlady's pets. This is the "head of navigation" on this route; and if the traveler wonders why a railroad should be built up the steep side of a mountain, to end thus in mid-air as it were, the long lines of coal cars waiting to go down and the fresh gangs constantly arriving, answer him. Now let him follow the railway [PAGE 26] track around the curve,--taking care that none of the innumerable engines and trains run over him,--and he will have before him at once a magnificent natural view and a splendid [PAGE 27] triumph of art. Looking from the edge of the mountain plateau, he has the Mahanoy Valley at his feet, a busy, populous territory, full of towns set so close together that their corporate limits--for they are all incorporated--almost touch, and diversified by the black masses of numerous coal-breakers which dot the whole landscape and give life and wealth to what, a few years ago, was a gloomy hemlock swamp.
But the railroad which connects the collieries in the valley is 354 perpendicular feet below the track on which he stands; and the means used to raise the coal to his level will be the first thing to attract his attention. From a spacious engine-house, filled with ponderous but handsome machinery, an inclined plane runs down the mountain-side, not in a straight line like most planes, but with a "vertical curve" like a section of a gigantic wheel, steep at first and easing off as it nears the foot, so that to one looking down the plane it appears to merge in the level track long before the descending "barney" sinks into its stall at the bottom. The plane is 2410 feet long, and its top is 1478 feet above tide. From four to eight loaded coal cars are hoisted at a time by the enormous stationary engines at the top, and the amount of coal thus raised in the course of a year runs into a tonnage of seven figures.
We might spend much time here, pointing out interesting spots and relating anecdotes of the men whom Bret Harte would call "the Argonauts of Anthracite;" we might even get a special permit and risk our necks in the descent of the plane, but we can do no more in this rapid journey than to point out scenes worth seeing, and let the reader, if he so inclines, visit them for himself. Our time is up and our train is waiting; let us go back.
Now we take the longer branch of the road we started on, which, we should have said at the start, is the Schuylkill Valley branch of the Reading. It follows the course of the river, which shrinks and shrinks as we ascend, until the yellow rivulet pouring out from some old mine adds sensibly to its volume, and it degenerates into a mere ditch beside the railroad track; [PAGE 28] and finally, above Tuscarora, we lose it altogether in the marshes around its source. All along the valley are mining settlements, and here and there is a colliery at work, but most of the mines along this route date from the earliest period of the trade, and are now exhausted. There is plenty of coal deep down in the rocks, but it will require large capital and an extensive "plant," like the deep Norwegian shafts of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, near Pottsville, to develop it. These shafts, by the way, are well worth the tourist's attention. They are 1500 feet deep, cost a million of dollars, and have opened coal enough to keep them working for at least a hundred years. They are the pioneers of deep coal-mining in America.
The chief attraction of this valley now, however, is its natural scenery; our now familiar mountains. There are charming nooks in these wooded steeps which seem just made for excursion parties, and one in special, readily accessible from Brockville Station, deserves a passing word. It has not been improved. It still bears the prosaic name of "Big Run" given it by the practical miners, and there are no signboards warning visitors to "Keep off the grass and don't break the shrubbery." A mouldy old road, grown up with bushes until it is nothing but a path, runs through it. There are huge rocks and picturesque cascades and gloomy caverns and shady trees and deep, soft cushions of moss, and everything that makes a glen delightful, but it is still waiting for public fame and favor.
A few miles more and we reach Tamaqua, one of the oldest and most important towns in the region, the terminus of the Little Schuylkill Railroad, of which we saw the other end at Port Clinton. We make short pause here, but hurry on to the Mahanoy Valley, which we enter through a mighty tunnel 3800 feet long,--a plucky undertaking for a road which, when it was built, was only designed to be eight miles in total length. It was long ago absorbed in the [PAGE 29] Reading, though, or rather in its Mahanoy and Shamokin division, and so the tunnel no longer seems disproportionate.
This tunnel is the gateway to a distinct region. It pierces the "divide" as it would be called in California, the "watershed" as eastern geologists term it, between the head-waters of the Schuylkill and the tributaries of the Susquehanna, and admits us to the field whence now comes the great bulk of the Schuylkill coal. The long, straight Mahanoy Valley, from the tunnel to Ashland, is filled with collieries and their attendant towns. Branch railroads run right and left at frequent intervals, and terminate under the black, overhanging masses of uncouth coal-breakers, connecting there with veritable underground railways which pierce to the very hearts of the mountains and dive down far below the bottom of the valley. Trains of coal cars occupy the sidings, groups of grimy miners are seen here and there, and everything betokens the one great industry which occupies the region.
In this and the adjoining Shenandoah Valley, and on the comparatively diminutive Bear Ridge which parts them, lie the Girard lands, Stephen Girard's rich legacy to the city of Philadelphia, mentioned on a preceding page. After his unsuccessful attempt to open the riches of this region to the world, thirty years ago, it was abandoned to the hunters and their game, and it was not until the period of the Rebellion that its mountain walls were scaled and pierced by the railway, and its vast stores of anthracite opened to supply the constantly increasing demand. Now it is one long settlement from end to end, and the amount of money paid out monthly to its hard-working inhabitants would make a princely revenue.
All along this route we notice a peculiar and striking feature of the landscape. The hillside, and, in some places, the valley too, are scarred with "falls," where the mining underneath has taken away the support of the surface soil and has let it down in great masses, leaving yawning chasms where the pure, rich coal is seen standing in its place, brushed by the tops of stately trees whose roots have descended a hundred feet lower than they were ever intended to. Not only trees but houses also, and, saddest of all, men, women, and children have occasionally [PAGE 30] been engulfed in these fearful "crevasses"; but the latter instances are rare. As a rule, the crop of the vein is known and avoided in building, so that when it sinks it does little harm.
Near the foot of the Mahanoy Plane, a branch road curves round the shoulder of Bear Ridge and runs into the Shenandoah district and to the town of Shenandoah, a large and important mining centre, around which eleven large collieries group themselves like a necklace of black diamonds. The main branch goes on to Ashland, another large coal town, prettily seated on a hillside, and then backs--for it has another ridge to cross--and takes a fresh start, a mile or two down the valley, to reach the collieries at Locust Gap, Mount Carmel, and the Shamokin region.
All this country is bristling with collieries and covered with railroads. The slender path of the iron horse is seen everywhere, and in the most unlikely places. Now at the bottom of a gorge, now on the crest of a mountain, now climbing a steep acclivity which makes the engine puff and pant to follow it, now running along a dizzy shelf where a broken rail or a fractured flange would hurl the train hundreds of feet below; wherever it pleased the coal veins to show themselves, there a colliery was located, and where the colliery was planted, there the engine found a way to reach it. The railway engineer who cannot learn some new hints about road-building here must be a master of his profession indeed. As a matter of course, all this climbing and falling, all these curves and doubles, open a constant succession of delightful views, which for number and variety can scarcely be equaled anywhere. The tourist who makes his head-quarters at Pottsville finds within the radius of a two hours' ride, in a dozen different directions, enough to keep him constantly busy and constantly delighted with fresh surprises for days and even weeks. Not only one road but several unite to carry him from point to point of this picturesque country. At Mahanoy City, the flourishing metropolis of that valley, and again at Shenandoah, the Lehigh and Mahanoy road connects with the Reading, [PAGE 31] and will carry him through a series of romantic gorges to Penn Haven Junction and the Lehigh Valley; the Central Railroad of New Jersey sends for him a branch to Tamaqua, and at Mount Carmel and Shamokin he finds a branch of the Northern Central.
The Reading, too, will carry him past Mount Carmel, where we left it last, down to the Susquehanna at Herndon, where it connects with the Northern Central; the whole route lying through a succession of mountain and valley scenery, all alike in plan, all varying in detail, like the selections we present at Lorberry Junction and Ravino Gap.
Picturesque scenery involves bold engineering, and this, in turn, involves the facing of more than ordinary risks to train and track; while these, in their turn, excite to so much more than ordinary care and watchfulness that the real danger is made less than on more commonplace roads. All these points are well displayed in the Catawissa Railroad, the longest and latest acquired branch of the Reading. Built, for the greater part of its course, through a country certainly never designed by nature for a railway, it is a perfect acrobat of roads. It goes over mountains and through them; it hangs beetling on the edges of dizzy precipices hundreds of feet in height; it leaps boldly from summit to summit, its track upheld in mid-air by wooden trestling so tall and slender that from the top the lowest timbers look scarce larger than match-sticks; it [PAGE 32] twists and doubles and winds through a constant succession of seeming perils, until at last it brings the traveler out of the mountain country, at Catawissa, carries him over the North Branch [PAGE 33] of the Susquehanna, crosses the peninsula between the branches, past the roaring iron-works of Danville, to the West Branch and Milton, and thence follows that beautiful stream to Williamsport, where it lands him safely after a ride as exciting as it is delightful. There are trestlings on this road more than 100 feet in height, that near Ringtown being about 130 feet. The curve at "Nigger Hollow"' is as sharp as the celebrated horse-shoe curve on the Pennsylvania road; and there is a tradition to the effect that engineers going over the road with long coal-trains, on dark nights, have been signaled to stop by a red light on the track ahead, which, on investigation, proved to be the customary signal-lamp on the end of their own trains. But no serious accident has ever happened on any portion of this road, and on the more dangerous portion, between Tamaqua and Catawissa, no accident involving loss of life or limb has ever been recorded. It is so well watched that it is perfectly safe, while for grand and beautiful mountain scenery it is surpassed, if equaled, by none in the State. Our illustration of Mainville Gap, near Catawissa, gives an idea of its tamer portions.
At Rupert, opposite Catawissa, this road connects with the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg, now a branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, which follows the North Branch of the Susquehanna to the Wyoming region, Wilkesbarre, and Scranton, connecting with the Lehigh Valley Railroad and with its own main stem, as well as with the Delaware and Hudson Coal Company's road for Carbondale, where there is another picturesque bit of scenery. The last road and also that of the Pennsylvania Coal Company run on to the Delaware, through beautiful scenery all the way, and finally connect through to the Hudson.
SCARCELY had the war-cloud of the Revolution passed over, before the new-born nation began to consider how best to strengthen and maintain the right to be for which it had fought so stubbornly. The State of Pennsylvania, among its first acts, turned its attention to the internal improvement of the Commonwealth, and in 1789 "The Society for Promoting the Improvement of Roads and Inland Navigation" was organized. This was a vigorous as well as useful organization. It was devoted to the objects implied in its name. It had a large membership scattered all over the State, and its way of doing business was, to say the least, energetic. When the Legislature opened, it moved in a body to Harrisburg, took up its residence there for the entire session, and formed itself into a systematic lobby, which worried the honorable Senators and Representatives in season and out of season. Meetings were held "on every Monday evening during the session of the Legislature, in order to suggest information, schemes and proposals, for promoting internal trade, manufactures and population, by facilitating every possible communication between the different parts of the State;" and every member considered it his individual duty to press home the plans of the Society on every law-maker who fell in his way. The unhappy Legislature being thus regularly besieged, a heavy fire of petitions, memorials, etc., was opened on it, and kept up until the honorable members found that their only hope of peace lay in considering favorably the demands of the Society; and this they accordingly hastened to do.
The first assault, which was in the shape of a memorial presented "by order and on behalf of the Society"--by Robert Morris, President, February 7, 1791, was calculated to startle the hardiest nerves among a people so nearly bankrupt as the war had left those of Pennsylvania. It looked to nothing less than the establishment of a grand system of canals and slack-water navigation ramifying throughout the entire State and running up into New York; and the second was like unto it, for it proposed an equally elaborate system of turnpikes, the whole to be constructed at the expense of the State, for though the memorialists did not say so directly, they evidently meant to imply it, and that the Legislature so understood them is shown by its guarded yet encouraging response.
The first of these memorials, and the arguments and plans that accompany it, show considerable knowledge of the topography of the country even at that early day, and a keen appreciation of the importance of a good start in the "happy rivalry" which the memorialists wisely anticipate between Philadelphia and New York for the future trade of the yet to be developed West. "Pennsylvania," it says, "from her situation and extent of territory, is a respectable Commonwealth in the Union. Her soil is fertile, her products various, and her rivers, by the bountiful Author of nature, have been made to flow in every direction, as if on purpose to bear from all parts the wealth and produce of the land, in an easy, cheap, and expeditious manner, to her principal mart and port in the City of Philadelphia."
The reply of the Legislature was, in effect, "Help yourselves and we will help you." It promised to "make liberal appropriations of public money for the improvement of such roads and navigable waters" as the people were unable to improve for themselves. So through the well-directed efforts of the society with the polysyllabic name the improvement of the Delaware River and the construction of the Union, Pennsylvania, West Branch, Lehigh, and Schuylkill [PAGE 36] Canals, as well as of a large number of turnpikes, were begun, the State appropriating for these objects about two hundred thousand dollars in two years, a large sum in those impoverished days.
The impetus thus given to internal improvement had not died away when George Stephenson brought out the Rocket, guaranteed her to run twelve miles an hour, and actually ran her thirty. The State of Pennsylvania was quick to see the value of this new "improvement," and on March 21, 1823, the Legislature passed "an act authorizing Mr. Stevens and others to make a railway from Columbia, on the Susquehanna, to Philadelphia." This was the first act passed in America authorizing a company to build a railway for the general purposes of commerce; and when the company failed, the Commonwealth took up the work and built the road itself. This was the beginning of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was opened in 1834, and was [PAGE 37] eighty-four and a half miles in length. It worked admirably, so far as it went, and for years people were content to go from Philadelphia by rail to Columbia; thence by canal or stage to Huntingdon,--over the Portage Railroad to Johnstown,--and again by canal to Pittsburgh; going, as the " People's Line of Cars and Stages" advertises in the first number of the Public Ledger, March 25, 1836, "through in two and a half days." How this state of things has been changed is too well known to need rehearsing here.
At Thirty-second and Market Streets, in West Philadelphia, is the gateway to Central, Western, and Northern Pennsylvania. Here we may take the swift express train and follow the ponderous Conestoga wagon of [Thomas Buchanan] Read's "Wagoner of the Alleghanies" through nearly or quite the whole of his roving course:--
"Ye knew him well, ye mountain-miles,
"Classic Wyoming" and the Brandywine are best reached by other routes: through all the rest, so graphically apostrophized, this justly celebrated road may take us.
Its opening miles are full of the rich, cultivated beauty of suburban villas and villages. Fairmount Park, with George's Hill and the Centennial Grounds, is full an view on the right, as soon as we have cleared the yards and shops. Then come the multitudinous tracks of Mantua, with the New York Division coming through the Park to join the main stem, and then a succession of pleasant stations, too many to mention here, but all possessing rich attractions and advantages for those who love a blended city and country life. Glimpses like those we give at Hestonville and Wynnewood catch our eye as we fly past, and give us an idea of the scenes to be found by longer stay and stricter search.
Nine miles from the city we reach Bryn Mawr--"the broad hill,"--a new town laid out by [PAGE 38] the railroad Company, which is growing rapidly in popularity. It receives its name from the high plateau on which it is built, the wide, rolling view which it commands being not the least of its attractions. Our first view is limited to the depot buildings, which indicate the elegance of the dwellings erected here, as public buildings are apt to reflect the style of the private edifices by which they are surrounded. Our view of the Bryn Mawr Hotel, however, shows at once a palatial structure and the disposition of the buildings, set down amid wide grounds as beautiful as wealth and taste can make them.
From Philadelphia to Paoli was a day's travel for the Conestoga wagon. It is a short run for the lightly-moving train, and the distance, nineteen miles, is quite convenient for men in business in the city who wish to reside "a little out of town." This is the terminus of the city accommodation trains, which run almost hourly.
Now on "through Chester's storied vales and hills," through a rolling, highly-cultivated country, presenting views like that near Malvern and broken by streams which in the course of ages have worn deep channels for themselves, and are now crossed by splendid structures like the bridge at Coatesville, which we presently reach; on into Lancaster County, "the granary of Pennsylvania;" and at Lancaster City the road divides, one branch going to the right, through Mount Joy and the "back country;" the other running to Columbia and following up the east bank of the Susquehanna to Middletown, where the tracks again unite. This part of the route, and, indeed, the whole course of the Susquehanna, is very beautiful. The wide, placid river with its smoothly shining waters spread out until it seems more like a lake than a flowing stream, the innumerable islands which dot its bosom, and the bold bluffs which in many places form its banks, combine to make a series of magnificent scenes, which, once seen, are ever remembered with pleasure. Seen from a night-train, on a moonlight night, the loveliness of the river views cannot be described in words.
The fires of the extensive works of the Pennsylvania Steel Company, at Baldwin, cast a lurid glow over rail and river as we pass; and ten miles above Middletown we run into the spacious depot at Harrisburg, the capital of the State, remarkable for little beyond the sessions of the Legislature and its importance as a railway centre. Here the Pennsylvania road connects with the Lebanon Valley branch of the Reading, which runs through the fertile Lebanon Valley, and with the Cumberland Valley road, which runs southwest, through Carlisle and Chambersburg and the smiling valley of the Conodoquinet, to Hagerstown and on to a junction with the Baltimore and Ohio. This is not a history, and we cannot stop to rehearse the dramatic story of Lee's invasion and the fearful three-days' fight at Gettysburg. The Monument [PAGE 39] stands as a memento of the battle that culminated the Rebellion, and he who will may spend much time in exploring this and other interesting points of the now peaceful and smiling valley. Its waving grain-fields and nodding orchard boughs are suggestive of the "Pennsylvania plenty," for which this valley, with those of Lebanon, Lancaster, and Chester, has gained the State such an enviable reputation.
At Harrisburg we enter the most picturesque section of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The road now follows the east bank of the river for a few miles, then crosses on the "Five-mile Bridge,"--a splendid structure nearly three-quarters of a mile long, which has received its name from being five miles from Harrisburg, --follows the western bank about ten miles farther, and then enters the romantic valley of the Juniata at the junction of that stream with the Susquehanna. This stream, flowing clear and pure from the summits of the Alleghanies, affords a convenient and most picturesque route for the railroad to climb their formidable barrier-walls. Famous in song, sketch, and story, its name at least must be familiar to every reader, while those who have not yet looked upon its beauties have still a treat in store.
At Lewistown we pass the junction of the Sunbury and Lewistown Railroad, which crosses the country from Sunbury, on the Susquehanna, [PAGE 40] to Lewistown, on the Juniata. At Huntingdon, thirty-eight miles farther, we connect with the Huntingdon and Broad Top Railway, which taps the first bituminous coal-fields and runs on to Bedford Springs, a well-known and liberally-patronized summer resort. We are now well up on the flanks of the Alleghanies and in a wild region, where all the settlements follow the lines of the railroads and where lovers of woods and woodland sports may enjoy them to their hearts' content.
At Tyrone, the centre of an extensive iron industry, the Bald Eagle Valley road comes in from Lock Haven, on the Philadelphia and Erie road, running through and opening to the [PAGE 41] traveler still another section of mountain land, wild, romantic, dotted with sparse settlements and tastefully-situated little towns. At the end of a short branch of this road is Bellefonte, the county seat of Centre County and one of the prettiest towns in the State, and running in an opposite direction from the same intersection is the Snow-Shoe road, one of the few prettily-named roads in America. It runs twenty-six miles to the Moshannon Coal-mines, and is adorned with stations whose names--Green Stump, Beech Creek, Snow-Shoe, etc.--remind one of mining nomenclature on the Pacific Slope.
Few passengers on any train but are interested in its arrival at Altoona; for here, at the Logan House, close beside the iron track, a bountiful meal awaits them, and a liberal time is given them to eat it; while the ride of 237 miles from Philadelphia and the bracing air of the high latitudes to which they have now climbed put them in the best condition to make the most of it. South from Altoona runs the Hollidaysburg Branch to the iron mines, the limestone valleys, and the well-stocked trout streams of Blair County.
Taking our seats again, we begin the final struggle to reach the summit of the mountains. Two engines combine their strength to urge the train up the steep incline; and soon after leaving Altoona they draw it round the far-famed Horseshoe Curve, a difficult pass round the head of a narrow valley where the road has been squeezed into a hollow of the hills till it takes the shape of a perfect horseshoe, and approaching trains on either arm run parallel, though but a stone's throw apart, until at the apex they meet and pass.
Shortly after passing the Horseshoe the culminating summit is reached and pierced by a tunnel 3670 feet long, which takes the place of an elaborate system of zigzags and switchbacks, by which the mountain was formerly crossed.
Here, on the very summit of the Alleghanies, three thousand feet above the sea, stands the town of Cresson, celebrated for its pure air and its attractions as a resort for invalids and others. Business-men who wish to keep within reach of telegraphs and express trains find Cresson just suited to their wants. The track now descends as rapidly as it ascended on the other side, and the steam of the engine is used to control the brakes rather than to propel the train. The remains of the old Portage Railroad, a system of levels and inclined planes, by which the boats of the Pennsylvania Canal were formerly conveyed over the mountains, are frequently seen from the cars as we descend.
Near Johnstown, we cross, without seeing it, one of the latest improvements for facilitating the rapid transit of goods and passengers. It is a long, shallow tank lying between the tracks. This is filled with water, and as the engine flies over it a scoop is let down and forces the water into the tender, which is supplied without stopping the trains.
Johnstown is the most important town in Cambria County, and is the seat of very extensive iron-works; the rolling-mill of the Cambria Works being among the largest in the world.
Our train now rolls along through a broken country thickly studded with towns, which grow more numerous as we near Pittsburgh. At Blairsville Intersection, the Western Pennsylvania road branches off and follows the valley of the Conemaugh to its junction with the Alleghany, and at Pittsburgh our road makes connection with systems of roads running through Northwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and all the Mississippi Valley and the Far West. Pittsburgh, the second city in Pennsylvania, the great manufacturing point of the Mississippi Valley, and the gateway between the East and the West, stands on a point of land at the confluence of the Alleghany and Monongahela Rivers, which here unite to form the Ohio. It is [PAGE 44] picturesquely situated on a plain surrounded by lofty hills; and being at the head of the extensive river navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi, in a region rich in coal and iron and at the outlet of the oil district, it enjoys exceptional facilities for both manufactures and commerce, which it has not been slow to improve. It is pre-eminent in works of iron and steel, oil, glass, metals of various kinds, and coal. The bituminous coal of Pittsburgh is celebrated for its excellent quality and is shipped to all parts of the West, over beds of an inferior quality which might be raised and sold for half what it costs to import the product of the Pittsburgh mines. Fleets of barges continually descend the Ohio River from Pittsburgh laden with wheat, corn, oil, wool, coal, and manufactured articles, shoals of the peculiar stern-wheel steamboats of the Ohio lie constantly at its landings, and sea-going vessels even clear from "the port of Pittsburgh for distant parts of the world. Over $200,000,000 are invested in Pittsburgh's industrial works, the smoke of her furnaces and forges hangs like a cloud over the city all day long, and its legions of grimy workmen exert an influence on the commercial world which is felt to its farthest limits.
This is virtually our western bound. Beyond this, after traveling a few miles through a region broken with high hills and deep ravines, we come to the borders of West Virginia and Ohio, and stepping over these we come at once into a region too vast for us to think of exploring it. Let who will go farther: we have not yet done with Pennsylvania.
The scenery of the Pennsylvania road is quite beautiful enough to warrant us in returning by the same route, but we shall have more variety if, after exploring the short lines in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where there is much that will repay the trip, we take the cars of the Alleghany Valley road and follow the windings of the crooked stream from which it takes its name to Franklin and the oil regions. Here we find a new industry : utterly unknown twenty years ago: then convulsing the nation with the rapid fortunes made and lost in it: now a wilderness of derricks and a labyrinth of wells, where the work of pumping the crude oil from its deep-seated reservoirs may be seen in all its phases. It is a sight that will interest both the scientist and the traveler for mere pleasure.
From Franklin we can go to Erie, by a combination of roads; or we can run up along the western border of the State, by another combination, direct from Pittsburgh. Erie, the ancient Presqu' [now Presque] Isle, is pleasantly located on a bluff overlooking Presqu' Isle Bay, on Lake Erie. The Philadelphia and Erie road will bring us back to the East through the well-wooded and sparsely-settled northern counties. All this region is a sportsman's paradise. Down this road come vast quantities of oil and lumber, and on this road are numerous resorts where the summer vacation may be happily and profitably spent. One of the pleasantest of these is Renovo, in Clinton County, the location of the Railway Company's principal shops. It is in a nook of the mountains, on the West Branch of the Susquehanna, and in the very heart of the woods. It is a resort just suited to the hunter and fisher. There is a good hotel, and the facilities for reaching the place are excellent.
As an illustration of the scenery here, we present a view on Dutchman's Run, near Ralston, a station on the Northern Central Railway, which joins the Philadelphia and Erie at Williamsport, fifty-two miles below Renovo. Ralston is twenty-four miles above Williamsport, and this may seem rather far to go for an illustration; but the country is the same, in general character, all the way through,--for we are back among the Alleghanies again,--and lovely bits of scenery like this may be found anywhere in it. The Northern Central, coming, from Elmira, New York, follows the Lycoming Creek, through a lovely country, to Williamsport, where it connects with the Erie, and also with the Catawissa. This place is the seat of an extensive lumber business. Here the two, roads coalesce and use the same tracks, following the West Branch of the Susquehanna, which, with its tributaries, the Erie has already traced from its springs, a hundred miles back in the woods, to its junction with the North Branch at Northumberland, a dreamy old town lying at the foot of a tall bluff which marks the meeting of the waters. At Lewisburg, the Lewisburg Centre and Spruce Creek road branches off to make connection with the Pennsylvania road,-a connection which is still in the future; at Northumberland we make connection with the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg road, coming down the North Branch; at Sunbury, two miles below Northumberland, is the outlet of the Shamokin coal mines; at Herndon comes in the Mahanoy and Shamokin branch of the Reading, before mentioned; at Millersburg, the Summit Branch Railway, from the celebrated Lykens Valley coal region, makes connection; and at Dauphin we meet still another branch of the Reading, the Schuylkill and Susquehanna. Here we cross the now wide and stately river on a bridge of magnificent proportions, and a run of a few miles more brings us to Harrisburg, which we reach by crossing the river again, on the beautiful platform bridge of the Cumberland Valley road. Our road, however, the Northern Central, follows on down the western bank of the river, the landscape growing smoother and showing wider farmlands as we go southward, and the river vistas widening, until at Conewago, ten miles above York, we leave it and go, across country, on to Baltimore and the Southern system of roads.
NEXT in order after the Pennsylvania road, of those running into Philadelphia, comes the West Chester, a local road which winds around among the "storied vales and hills" and the fat fields of Chester and Delaware Counties, bears tribute to the flourishing suburban town of West Chester, and then curves round until it almost doubles back on itself, to intersect the Pennsylvania road a little beyond Paoli. It is one of the many roads which contribute to extend the city's social limits far beyond its corporate ones by offering pleasant and easily accessible homes for its people beyond, yet not too far beyond, its heat and bustle.
Another road, whose facilities in the same line have been and are continually much improved, is the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore. The old track of this road crossed the Schuylkill at Gray's Ferry and ran over a low, marshy country near the Delaware River until the stream widened into the bay. The first part of the route is now changed, greatly for the better. It now lies on a high plateau, back from the river, healthful, [PAGE 47] well-drained, and offering numerous choice sites for suburban towns, a number of which we note as we pass.
Starting from the "old Baltimore Depot," at Broad Street and Washington Avenue, we steam slowly to the city's edge at Gray's Ferry, and crossing the Schuylkill here,--where the name still lingers though the ferry was superseded long ago,--we take on the cars which have come over the Connecting Railroad from the New York trains, and are borne onward through a pleasant country, which, however, the track is too tantalizingly low to let us see much of.
We are compelled to adopt the philosophy of the Mississippi poet in front of Natchez, which he
"Saw by snatches,
Glenolden, next, a well-named retreat, offers a combination of beauty and comfort, where one instinctively selects his ground first and then builds his house to match it.
Ridley Park, the future garden city, is not far beyond; its favorable location warranting the hope that its projector's beautiful dream of a fair landscape city may soon be realized. The ornamental station, which here is perched directly over the railway tracks, attracts attention as a singular but pleasing innovation in railway architecture.
Crumm Lynne [now Crum Lynne], with its picturesque scenery and its nucleus of a thriving town, is presently passed, and ten miles from the city--which ten miles include all the snug little stations at which we have been lingering--we meet the old track again just before entering the old city of Chester.
Old city, indeed! Chester was an important town when Philadelphia was unknown and unthought of. It is mentioned by Acrelius as a Swedish fort--then named Upland--about 1651, and Mesckopenachan, or Uplandz Kylen, is marked on Engineer Peter Lindstrom's elaborate map of the Delaware,--the "Swenska Revier,"--drawn in 1654-5. It is thus the oldest town in the State, and at least thirty years the senior of Philadelphia. William Penn was hospitably entertained here when on his way to found his future city; and he it was who changed its name to Chester, to oblige his friend Pearson, who came from Chester, in England.
The city now is a thriving, energetic, workaday place, which bears lightly the burden of its years. John Roach & Sons' extensive shipyard, which covers twenty-three acres, and is adapted to building vessels of every description and of the largest size, is located here, and has done much to give the place an active business air.
There are also other large industrial works, and the educational interests of the place are well attended to, in addition to the ever-present common schools, by the Military Institute and Crozier Theological Seminary, both of which appear in our illustrations.
At Lamokin, the next station below Chester, the Philadelphia and Baltimore Central Railroad branches off and opens up a picturesque "back country," striking the Susquehanna midway between the State line and Port Deposit, Md., [PAGE 49] and rejoining the main stem at Perryville. Properly, our journey ends here; but we venture just across the line to pay our respects to the genial artist F. O. C. Darley, with whose works [PAGE 50] everybody is familiar, and whom everybody loves (his picturesque residence is shown in our illustration on a previous page); and now, being warned not to infringe farther on the territory lying beyond Mason and Dixon's line, we withdraw, and close our rambling tour, as we began it, on the banks of the Delaware.
We have now concluded our brief sketch, with "pen and pencil," of the most attractive portions of Pennsylvania that are traversed by the railroads, but it is impossible to do full justice to the subject in a work necessarily so condensed as this, and we can make no better suggestion to our reader, if he be a lover of what is truly beautiful in nature, than to go over the routes we have just described.
It is only by such a trip that the immense resources of the Keystone State can be realized. Its great manufacturing interests manifest themselves in many parts; its agricultural riches in others; its natural beauties in all; while its mineral wealth is unsurpassed by that of any other State.