by Graham R. Lobb
Scranton was the center of the upper northern anthracite coal industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania from the time the Wurtz brothers of Philadelphia began the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company operations at Carbondale and Honesdale in the 1820's. In the 1850's, Scranton became the hub for steam railroads that hauled the ``black diamonds'' to tidewater or New England and Canada for the market.
At the time anthracite became king, Scranton was the third largest city in the Keystone State. The following major steam railroads either terminated or transmitted the city in the Lackawanna Valley: Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad; Delaware and Hudson Canal Company and its D&H Railroad; the Erie Railroad; Central Railroad of New Jersey; Ontario and Western Railway; Wilkes-Barre & Eastern; and the New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad.
All ran on steam, with the D&H operating a Gravity Railroad between Carbondale and Honesdale from 1829, onward until it converted to steam in 1900.
Scranton began after the Revolution as Slocum Hollow, a stop on the Wyoming Road, which brought the early settlers from Connecticut to Wallenpaupack and Wyoming settlements.
``Stone coal'', known to the early Indians in the area, was found to have long-burning properties, useful for heating homes, buildings and the power industry. Following the American Revolution, and after Connecticut and Pennsylvania settled their long land feud, deposits of hard coal were found at Pottsville, not far from Philadelphia.
Early land speculators, including Judge James Wilson, a Scottish lawyer who helped sign the Declaration of Independence and drafted portions of the Constitution, acquired vast tracts of land in northeastern Pennsylvania in Wayne-Pike and other counties. Phineas Goodrich, in his History of Wayne, wrote that at one time, ``Wilson was the chief land owner.'' But Mr. Wilson speculated as others did before him and went broke, fleeing to North Carolina where he died. His lands were sold at Easton to a Mr. Sitgraves, who then sold the land back to many of the early Connecticut settlers at Wallenpaupack in Palmyra Township, now Pike County.
James Fell, a Quaker like the Wurtz brothers, came from Bucks County to Wilkes-Barre in 1785 and opened a store and tavern. He became involved in early politics, and began the manufacture of nails. In 1805, he designed a grate to burn hard coal. Some families began to heat their wooden homes by coal, thus opening an entire industry devoted to home heating in the Northeast.
Two brothers, Obadiah and Daniel Gore, arrived from Connecticut in 1768. They began experimenting with anthracite coal as a source of fuel. The early coal powered forges for the blacksmiths of the region.
Aileen Sallom Freeman's recent Anthracite Trust, a historical book, tells of the men and women who helped make Scranton a center of industrial power with America's coal industry.
The anthracite industry began a growth that would last until after World War II, when cheap Middle Eastern oil changed the world's energy supply.
In 1995, the steam railroads no longer operate commercially at Scranton. But Steamtown, on the site of the DL&W yards and shops, is operating daily steam locomotives for excursions on the old mainline to Moscow, Elmhurst and Cresco. A diesel-hauled line, the Delaware & Lackawanna Railroad, runs between Scranton and Carbondale and also between Scranton and the military base at Tobyhanna. The restored DL&W station on Lackawanna Avenue has been restored to its former glory for tourists, rail buffs and visitors.
The first railroad in northeastern Pennsylvania reached Carbondale from Honesdale in 1820, following the opening of the D&H Canal from Rondout to Honesdale, a distance of 108 miles. The D&H Gravity Railroad engineers and managers had envisaged a steam railroad on the level stretches from Honesdale to Waymart and then steam engines hoisting coal cars over Moosic Mountain for the plunge into Carbondale.
The Gravity was 16 miles long. Four steam locomotives were ordered from England when Horatio Allen, a young Canal engineer, visited in 1828. Two of the locomotives reached Honesdale, but we are only sure of the Stourbridge Lion. The second locomotive was built by Robert Stephenson and named the Pride of New Castle, according to the late Dr. Vernon Leslie. We further know that the Lion ran a trial run on August 8, 1829, and thus became the first steam locomotive to operate in North America. Horatio Allen, who never before had piloted a locomotive, was at the throttle.
The gauge of the Gravity was 4'3" adopted from the English railroads of the time. The early British rails set atop hemlock stringers were not heavy enough to support the Lion.
The Gravity carried coal to the canal until 1877, when it also began to haul passengers to Carbondale. Later, the Gravity extended down the Lackawanna Valley from Carbondale, reaching Providence, now Scranton, in the 1860's. Steam propulsion was introduced on this portion of the Gravity in the Valley, as reported by Jim Shaughnessy in his classic book on the D&H.;
After the D&H Canal was abandoned in 1899, steam locomotives began to run from Honesdale to Carbondale. The first three locomotives were built by Cooke and the fourth by Dickson at Scranton. Both com panies would later become part of the American Locomotive Company (Alco).
From Carbondale northward into New York State, the D&H ran on Erie trackage built using the Jefferson Railroad Charter into Wayne and Susquehanna counties. At the Starrucca stone viaduct, it passed be neath the arches while the Erie pounded along its mainline on the top of the stone viaduct, which still stands. It is a tribute to the engineering design of James Kirkwood, another Scot. But the most credit must go to the laborers who toiled with pick, shovel, and teams of horses and oxen to remove the dirt and lay the stone.
Both the D&H and the Erie used this line near lofty Mt. Ararat to deliver hard coal to their customers in the Northeast.
The Erie Railroad, which began as a wide gauge (six-foot) carrier, reached the Delaware River Valley heading westward, entering Port Jervis in late 1847.
The Erie continued on past Mount Hope, Shohola, Lackawaxen, and Narrowsburg along the Delaware. It entered Pike County, Pennsyl vania, then came back to Sullivan County in New York. At Lacka waxen, a branch line was constructed to Hawley in 1863. It reached East Honesdale in 1867, giving the Erie entrance to the northern coal fields and taking business from the D&H Canal, especially in the winter months.
At Hawley, the Erie, acting as agent for the Pennsylvania Coal Company, built the line and then operated the first coal train in December 1863 to Lackawaxen and on to the mainline to tidewater. The coal came from Pennsylvania Coal Company mines near Pittston, PA. This partnership provided year-round trains to market not possible on the canal.
In the 1880's, the PCC Gravity narrow gauge line between Hawley and Port Griffith on the Susquehanna River was converted to steam. It became known as the Erie & Wyoming Valley Railroad. At the turn of the century, the E&WV was purchased from the Pennsylvania Coal Company with its offices in Dunmore, PA, by the Erie, providing new routes for coal. It then became the Wyoming Division of the Erie.
The Erie now had access to Dunmore-Scranton and Jessup in the Lackawanna Valley. At Hawley, the slow off-loading transfer of coal, requiring a horse-drawn coal car, from the Gravity to the Erie was eliminated. Much of the PCC Gravity operation was then moved to Dunmore, along with its Irish employees.
The E&WV operated several daily trains from Hawley to Dunmore, stopping at Gravity and other villages along the way.
The last railroad to enter the Lackawanna Valley was the New York Ontario & Western Railway, which terminated at Scranton. In the 1890's, it opened its Scranton Division, which ran from Cadosia, New York, near Hancock. The O&W carried coal, passengers, ice shipments and milk from stations at Lakewood, Starlight, Pleasant Mount, Poyntelle and Orson near Mt. Ararat. Two of the stations are still in use, serving as Town Halls at Starlight and Lakewood. The O&W later brought sum mer visitors to northern Wayne County.
At Carbondale, the O&W faced opposition from the D&H and ran on an elevated bridge trestle through town. Its station was accessed by an elevator from street level.
From its mines in the valley, the O&W soon became an important coal carrier to tidewater, and also to New England via its Campbell Hall transfer to the New Haven Railroad. The O&W had a long history, sur viving World War II when it served as a vital link in the victory for the Allies over the Axis. Those days saw a burst of troop trains, coal and freight shipments and military cargo going overseas.
But the O&W paid a price with worn-out equipment and trackage. The O&W had long been in bankruptcy, from which it never recovered. In 1957 the Old and Weary passed into history.
The New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad was organized on June 10, 1881. It ran continuously from the Scranton region to tidewater in New Jersey, along the Hudson River at Jersey City.
From 1881, the NYS&W used DL&W RR trackage to enter Scranton from Analomink, near Stroudsburg. It never extended its line beyond Stroudsburg.
The Central Railroad of New Jersey (Jersey Central) terminated at Scranton. It first entered Scranton on May 1, 1888, using trackage of the Wilkes Barre and Eastern Railway and the D&H at Minooka Junction. It ran utilizing steam locomotives until 1953, when it converted to diesel-electric for all services.
At Scranton, the Jersey Central had a passenger and freight station. Today, only the crumbling brick freight station, inhabited only by pigeons, remains as a reminder of a once-fine railroad.
On April 1, 1976, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) took over operations of the Jersey Central, along with other eastern railroads.
The Delaware Lackawanna & Western Railroad came to Scranton in the 1850's as the Leggett's Gap Railroad. It ran to Great Bend on the Susquehanna River. At Slocum Hollow, George Scranton, an early iron manufacturer, agreed to supply T-type rail for the new six-foot railroad. At Great Bend, the Erie granted trackage rights into Binghamton. From Scranton southward, the railroad which became the DL&W ran to the Delaware Water Gap, and by 1853 it was known as the DL&W.;
Slocum Hollow was later renamed Scranton in honor of the Scranton family. A famous portrait in Washington's National Gallery bears the title, Lackawanna Valley. In the painting by George Innes, a puffing steam locomotive is shown near a massive roundhouse in a rural setting.
The DL&W ran along 998 miles of track from Hoboken to Buffalo. It was proud to be known as one of America's most highly developed railroads. It was hailed as the Route of Phoebe Snow, depict ing in advertising as a young girl in snow white clothes riding the DL&W.;
The DL&W was Scranton's railroad!
In the 1900's, a grand station was erected. It has been restored and is now a hotel, is open for guests, meetings, receptions and confer ences. It was constructed in 1908 and is a 6-story structure in the French Renaissance style. Its limestone is from Indiana.
The structure also contained the offices of the railroad.
Steam railroading has returned to Scranton in recent years in the form of Steamtown, a National Park Service Historic Site.
A turntable and associated buildings have been restored in the old DL&W yards. A Baldwin switcher engine ferries visitors to the site, where volunteers conduct tours. Many of the volunteers are former DL&W railroaders.
Frequent steam excursions will be held through the 1995 season, running down the old mainline of the DL&W to Cresco and return.
The ruins of the Jersey Central freight office can be seen near the Martz and Greyhound Bus Terminal. In the yards of Steamtown rests a Union Pacific ``Big Boy'' steam locomotive, which once hauled loads over the mountains of Wyoming and Utah.
Gone is the D&H station at 37 Lackawanna Avenue. The Erie station at 701 North Washington is another departure from the local scene.
In 1995, the Delaware-Lackawanna, a diesel-powered freight line, operates on the former D&H Carbondale Division, providing service to present-day shippers who prefer the railroad to the big rig haulers.
A Guide to the Delaware-Lackawanna appeared in the November 1994 BLHS Bulletin. It was written by Mike Bischak and Bob Tomaine.
There have been rumors of restoring the Laurel Line electric system between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. This writer twice took the Laurel Line from the Scranton Recruiting Office to camp, in 1942 and 1946.
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