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Thread: The Catawissa Railroad trip from Bloomsburg

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    The Catawissa Railroad trip from Bloomsburg

    A Ride Report from the 2011 National Rally Site

    PENNSYLVANIA has long been celebrated for the magnificence of the scenery afforded by the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge and by the valleys of the Susquehanna, Allegheny, Monongahela, Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. Since the completion of the various lines of railway and highways throughout the State, the facilities for visiting these mountains, valleys, and rivers have become entirely within the reach of all.

    The Catawissa Railroad, with the roads directly connected with it, for one hundred and nineteen miles passes through the valleys and over the mountains of the Blue Ridge; commencing at Port Clinton on the line of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, and terminating at Williamsport, the county seat of Lycoming County. The lower portion of the road is that of the Little Schuylkill Railroad Coal and Navigation Company, which is principally engaged in the transportation of coal from the Tamaqua District, being an important feeder to the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The northern portion has largely aided in the development of the immense lumber traffic of the west branch of the Susquehanna River; Williamsport being surrounded by extensive steam saw-mills, cutting many millions of feet annually of most excellent timber, flooring, scantling, laths, and pickets from the rafts of logs floated down from the forests in the northwest section of the State........Harpers Monthly 1862.

    The Catawissa Railroad idea began with the construction of the north branch of the Pennsylvania Canal during the late 1820's that ushered in a new era for Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Its design brought new industry to the upper Susquehanna Valley and generated a host of local manufacturing concerns. The waterway also linked Bloomsburg to larger communities in the east but saw heavier traffic going to the Chesapeake Bay and the port city of Baltimore thus creating an expansion need to tap the markets of Philadelphia.

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    The convergence of Fishing Creek showing the railroad bridge that was the vision of Christain Brobst


    Christain Brobst a miller and merchant had ambitious plans to have an aquaduct built across the Susquehanna river that would carry commerce to Catawissa. If successful, further plans were in order for a canal on the Catawissa Creek that would cross over its head waters and join the Little Schuylkill River at Summit Station allowing access down to the Schuylkill Canal at Port Clinton then onward to Philadelphia. During this time, venture capitalist were debating a canal project from Tamaqua to Port Clinton and the engineering consultants suggested a railway.

    Surprisingly, Brobst did not reveal his idea about canals or railroads to his neighbors that could cause competition or obstruction. By remaining a silent leader he succeeded in being regarded as a man of much sense, and in due time was elected to the legislature enabling his ambitions. For three years Brobst looked at the river, the canal boats and did much figuring. One day he went down to the village tinker where he ordered a tin tube about three feet long and an inch and a half in diameter. At each end was a hole in the upper side, within the tube he fixed glass bottles by using putty to hold them in place. He went home, half-filled the bottles with water and calling his boys, Sam and Christian, they headed into the woods. Once out of sight of the town his boys assisted their father to make preliminary survey for a railroad from Catawissa to Tamaqua.

    In 1825, Brobst went to the office of Stephen Girard an eccentric capitalist. Mr. Girard was concerned about the economic dominance of Philadelphia that gradually loss power earlier once the nation's capital was moved to Washington D.C.. In his lifetime Girard did everything within his means to have trade, canals and railways delivering strength to his city. Brobst knowing his desire exhibited the papers, and presented so - convincing an array of statistics and arguments establishing the possibility and prospects of his railroad scheme. Girard accompanied by other Philadelphia venture capitalists and Monroe Robinson, the brilliant young engineer, proceeded to Catawissa on horseback. Brobst conducted them over the route of his proposed railroad making the party favorably impressed with the route, with Brobst and his idea. Things moved slowly, for there was extraordinary prejudice in Pennsylvania against railroads since wagon traffic and canals were booming. It was not until March 31, 1831, that the Legislature granted a charter under which Christian Brobst and others were authorized to solicit subscriptions for building the little railroad. The road way was ultimately built along Brobst's location and engineers afterward marveled at the accuracy of the line run by the amateur with his home made level. But setbacks continued, the Philadelphia Bank failed who was financing the operation, the economic times made the project go bankrupt after the road and trestles were laid but the vision was materialized by becoming a component part of the greater Philadelphia and Reading rail system. For many years after it was built it carried more traffic than any in the world. Today it ranks among the foremost in the world but for Brobst unfortunately did not live to realize his dream, because the first train went from Port Clinton through Catawissa to Milton in the fall of 1854. Mr. Brobst died in January of 1849.

    We begin our tour on the southern end of our 2011 Rally site taking the road bordering Fishing Creek. We will pass under the two railroad bridges that served as a finish line for spirited horse races in the early days of the annual fair and agricultural exhibit. We will pass over the creek by way of the covered bridge into the small town of Rupert. In its early days it was a canal and railway center, a place of trade, a hub to move product from the local grist and lumber mills and is best known for its large paint factory and a aquaduct across Fishing Creek, today its an easy ride through sleepy river town.

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    Rupert during the boom era and the fairgrounds evolved from the huge field left of center.
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    For a short time we travel along the west side of the Susquehanna river to reach Catawissa and view the progression of transportation, first the river, then the canal, then came the railroad and at last a highway.

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    Note the profile rock of the Indian Chief who oversaw this progress.
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    The river is pretty looking up stream from Catawissa.

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    Thomas Moran ( 1837-1926) felt the same way On the Catawissa Creek, 1862

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    I did not like the opportunity to take a photo of the Catawissa railroad station so I will add new one later. The Knoebel's Amusement Grove traffic on RT 487 along with the heat and humidity made me side street the town to reach the cooler Old Reading Road, then I crossed the Hollingshead Bridge to reach one of the bumpiest roads in the area whose sole purpose is to test motorcycle shocks. Its called the Mountain Road complete with a 1% grade that runs parallel to the railroad bordering farmland and deep woods. Sadly it does not receive any winter maintenance and the pavement was nothing but dollops and shovel flatten pavement in a come by chance pattern. Passable on any ride, pleasantly short in length, on our historical journey shaded by nature and far from the amusement park crowds.

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    The Hollingshead Bridge

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    Life without the railroad has provided an opportunity for nature to reclaim its glory. I believe a GS can still run the railroad but a stray rail spike may complicate one's tire repair abilities. If you do wish to attempt fate remember to take a riding partner and be mindful that the Catawissa Railroad HAD storied trestles.

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    Yes I too am sad that the GS could not cross this one.



    Rt 339 passes through the Mainville Gap and it will not produce this historical account. At Mainville, there is a gap in the mountain chain, which, although not so grand as the Delaware or Lehigh Gaps, presents a very beautiful view. Approaching the mountain upon the west side of the Gap, the railroad track crosses a narrow ravine upon a substantial bridge supported by stone piers, immediately beneath which, to the eastward, is located the town of Mainville. Looking through the Gap, a most beautiful highly cultivated valley brightens up the picture which at a distance of a mile or more as the train approaches the bridge, seems to be framed by the mountains on either side. The view from the bridge looking toward the Nescopeck and M'Cauley Mountains in the distance, is also very lovely....Harper's MonthlyÔÇö1862
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    Traveling on RT 339 makes a wonderful motorcycle trip, a well kept secret from most with varied farmland and displaying the single mountains that glaciers left behind.


    RT 339 is just 33 miles of sweepers and sweepers.



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    There are places along here that are now State Forest Land that makes one believe that time has stopped. It is also rather dangerous to stop and photograph a twisty sweeper that go into or comes out of the black forest that time forgot. I need a road spotter or flag man on some of the views.

    After passing Beaver Station, some three or four miles distant, there is presented a most striking and characteristic view from Stranger's Hollow. This is of a deep mountain gorge through which the Catawissa is seen hurriedly making its way over its rocky bed. The whole scene is particularly wild and the surroundings give less evidence of the footprints of man than perhaps any other portion of the road...........Harpers Monthly 1862

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    I took a short detour from RT 339 to the town of Nuremberg that offers some nice views before taking you up a tight twisty road to Sheppton. Nuremberg is a quaint town with historical buildings with a very tight switchback on the east side of town. From Sheppton I took an old back way to the Torbet area.

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    Today the area is not as busy but the original barn remains and the land still well tended.

    Torbert was a pleasant hamlet, portions of which were formerly named Girard Manor and Valencia. It is doubtless as well and favorably known from being the residence of Hon. William L. Torbert. The estate of Hon. William L. Torbert covers about seven thousand acres, comprising the eastern side of the Catawissa valley, along which it extends about eight miles from the summit of Mahanoy Mountain westward. Near the eastern boundary of these lands are springs of water that forms a stream which almost immediately is divided into two branches, one of which flows west, down the north slope of the mountain, into the Catawissa; The other, east to the Schuylkill. The Catawissa with its course through the estate for several miles, and grist mills, saw mills and other manufactories standing at intervals on its shores are propelled by its water power.

    Torbert's Glen, a wild, romantic and attractive pleasure resort is visited during the summer and autumn by large numbers of people from various localities. Throughout the entire property but more especially in those sections adapted to the production of grass, fruit and grain, large never failing springs abound, filling streams abundantly supplied with trout, bass, sunfish, whitefish, and Susquehanna salmon. The soil under cultivation is excellent, producing crops of grass, fruit and grain of superior quality and abundant in quantity. The not far distant mining towns in the coal region contain a dense population of non producing consumers of everything in the way of provisions and afford the best of market facilities to the estate while the large number of horses and mules used in and about the collieries cause a demand for hay and feed of various kinds, which can be advantageously supplied by the producers being enabled to furnish these necessaries and be exempt from the heavy freight tariffs at which they are brought from western Pennsylvania, New York and other distant sections. These advantages, together with the fertility of the land, most of which is newly cleared, combine to place the local agricultural interests of the future in the foremost rank of successful enterprises in this part of the State.

    The adjoining properties on the north, south and east are in the anthracite coal measures, and are owned by the city of Philadelphia, the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, Hon. William L. Torbert and the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company. Torbert is proverbial for the good health of its citizens and the attractiveness of its surrounding scenery. It is noted for the generous welcome extended to strangers who tarry there for longer or shorter periods. Senator Torbert's homestead lands are in one body, located in Schuylkill, Carbon and Luzerne counties (a portion in each), Hazelton, Audenried, Delano, Tamaqua, Mahanoy City, Shenandoah and other prominent towns being distant from four to eight miles, while Ashland and Pottsville lie only about sixteen miles away.

    A part of this pleasant hamlet was formerly owned by the famous philanthropist, Stephen Girard, from whom its former name was derived. It came into the possession of his heirs, and in 1854 John A. Girard, John Fabricus Girard, and their sister, Stephanie (Girard) DeLentilhac made a settlement. They came from France, brought mechanics with them and erected buildings and mills. They opened a store in 1856, and conducted a somewhat extensive lumber business, but, owing to their lack of inclination to mix with the people of the adjacent country, and their extreme dislike for the Pennsylvania Dutch patois, the commercial language of the locality, they made few friends, and in 1864 disposed of the entire property to William L. Torbert, of Philadelphia. One of the manor houses was erected by John A. Girard. It is tastefully built in the French Gothic style, covered, in the usual European manner with a profusion of grape vines and finely shaded by handsome trees. Colonel Wynkoop built the Valencia manor house, he being at the time United States marshal for the eastern district of Pennsylvania. Besides these there are nineteen tenant houses, occupied by the workmen's families, and six farm houses with the usual outbuildings. A fine brick schoolhouse was erected in 1880, and it adds materially to the good appearance of the place. HISTORY OF SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, PA 1881

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    The old school made a modest home.

    The religious advantages are good. The healthfulness of the locality is attested by the marked physical improvement of invalids who sojourn there temporarily. Torbert has convenient railways communication, the journey to New York and Philadelphia being made in four of five hours without change of cars, and to Williamsport, Baltimore and Washington in from four to eight hours, via the Philadelphia and Reading, the Lehigh Valley, the Central of New Jersey and the Pennsylvania railroads. Senator Torbert has charge of the Railway station, Telegraph and Express offices. The Post Office was established in 1865, with Mrs. Hester Torbert in charge. HISTORY OF SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, PA 1881
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    The old raidroad map showing connections with the coal fields that fueled the industrial revolution.


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    We travel up the mountain through deep woods to reach the Summit Station that once was an important hub.

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    The summit of the mountain is reached, and here the Little Schuylkill River has its birth. A bit of rude masonry on the west side of the road marks the spot where the young waters come gurgling forth from their dark confinement, and joyously go babbling on their way over snow-white pebbles, and under banks of moss and fern, to swell the great tide of the Delaware. This spot is one of peculiar interest to the tourist: the whole scene is particularly romantic. The spring, surrounded by dark hazel bushes, with here and there a stately pine-tree to relieve the back-ground, makes up a choice picture; while off to the eastward a rocky spur of the mountain, with the entrance to the tunnel in its blackness clearly defined, adds to the wildness of the locality.

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    Passing through this tunnel at the summit, the first view of the beautiful Valley of the Catawissa Creek is obtained—Catawissa, an Indian word, signifying "pure water." The creek has its rise in the tunnel in the form of a freely flowing spring, and is followed by the railroad, through its whole length, to its confluence with the Susquehanna. This occurs at the town of Catawissa, some thirty miles distant. From this point the views from the road present a series of grand panoramic pictures of the highest type of mountain scenery. Looking backward from the curve at Sweet Spring Hollow (a few miles further on) a doable valley is seen, formed by a secondary range of hills intersecting the valley from Summit Tunnel to this point. The mountains here attain their greatest altitude; and their ever-varying forms, with occasional glimpses of the sparkling Catawissa, caught through the light and graceful foliage of the mountain birch, form a series of charming pictures...........Harpers Monthly, 1862

    Summit Station received its name from its situation at the highest point on the Catawissa Railroad, 1,547 feet above the sea level. It is built upon the tract of Messrs. Stauffer and Lindner. A store was kept at this place by John Anderson, civil engineer for the Catawissa Railroad Company to supply those employed in grading the Catawissa Railroad and constructing the tunnel at Summit from 1835 to 1838.
    This was a very important stand in its early days. Previous to the completion of the Quakake Railroad, connecting with the Beaver Meadow and Hazleton roads, Summit was one of the most important points of travel on the Catawissa Railroad. Large quantities of freight were daily shipped at this station for Hazleton and vicinity. A large quantity of freight and coal transported over the Catawissa Railroad is weighed at this station. It contains the only Post Office and store in the township. The postmasters were A. Henrahan and Abraham Focht. The store was built by H.H. Roth, of Philadelphia, in 1879, and has quite a large trade. The most prominent and influential residents are Abraham Focht and Frank Kentner. The former is the present land owner, and in 1879 built an addition to the village of a number of houses...HISTORY OF SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, PA 1881

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    A tempting GS route but with the constant ATV traffic and natural erosion the water level on the south side is thigh deep, or on my GS Adventurer it was a few inches below my air intake while parked so I will return with a riding partner or a snorkel and or hope the late summer heat can drop the level a tad.
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    This tiny spring will become the Little Schuylkill River known to be one of the best trout fishing streams in the state.

    These are the head waters of the Catawissa Creek and the Little Schuylkill River. This area is so rich in springs and streams that Christain Brobst thought it would be a great canal point to go east or west. This mountain is named Spring Mountain, its abundant water supported the rail service workers, allowed the area to have five gunpowder factories between here and Tamaqua that supplied the mining industry and others. Today the Dutch use it for the home and garden industry and further down stream it nourishes the tree farming industry. There are plenty of lakes, parks and reserviors that supply the mining towns that have to be on public water because private wells would be driven into the mines themselves. It appears that water has always been a historical issue at the Summit Station tunnel. Also it is safe to take a cold drink of the Little Schuylkill. But I would avoid the grey water, it looks as if it may corroid a final drive and consider a local warning of mine water drainage that is acidic not far away that flows westward. I know there are a few ADV Riders that went through it so it can be done.

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    The Catawissa Railway soon terminates and the Little Schuylkill Railroad commences. Just be mindful that you may or may not have a right of way.

    The transition from one road to the other is however unknown to the occupant of the cars, the gauge of track being precisely the same and the roads for all traveling and freight intents and purposes one and the same. The grade of the road now becomes steeper than at any portion of it heretofore traversed; and the traveler is reminded by the rapid falls of water of the mountain stream now narrowing on the right as be proceeds that the mountain is being climbed by the engine and train.

    Nearly ten miles of heavy grade, full sixty feet to the mile of such journeying and the Quaquake Valley is spread out far down the mountain side. Extending for many miles far away to the eastward, the valley is enclosed by range upon range of mountains until all is lost in the haze of extreme distance...Harpers Monthly, 1862

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    A view from a direct route of the area we are in.


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    Tamaqua

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    Tamaqua was founded in 1799 by German immigrant Burkhardt Moser. Originally to be named Tuscarora, the name Tamaqua was chosen after it was realized that there already was a community named Tuscarora about four miles to the west. The discovery of anthracite coal in the region in the early 1800s led to the town's rise as a coal producing community. German, Irish, and Welsh immigrants came to the borough in the 1840's and 1850's, followed by a large influx of Italians, Lithuanians, and Poles in the 1890's and early 1900's.

    During the 1860s and 1870s, Tamaqua was the geographic center hub for the Molly Maguires. One murder commonly attributed to the Mollies was that of town policeman Benjamin Yost, who was shot to death early one morning while extinguishing a gas lamp at the corner of West Broad and Lehigh Streets.

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    In 1874, the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad built an elaborate Victorian styled passenger station in Tamaqua to replace an earlier wood structure which had been destroyed by fire. The size, style and elaborate appointments in the new station were evidence of the growing importance of Tamaqua as a major railroad hub in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania with its more than 40 passenger trains stopped at the station daily during its peak years in the first half of the 20th century.

    Arguably Tamaqua's most famous landmark, it has remained standing despite standing idle from the mid 80s after passenger railroad service to the town was discontinued. Initially planned to be demolished in the late 1980s, the non-profit group Save Our Station (S.O.S.) eventually managed to raise enough money to have it refurbished at a cost of $1.5 million. The station reopened in August 2004, now home to a full-service restaurant and gift shop. Rail excursions leave from there during the Tamaqua Historical Society's annual Heritage Festival.

    The town once had grand railroad roundhouse that was considered a scientific marvel in a 1910 edition of Scientific America. Today there are a few family dwellings and a Dollar Store on its former site.

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    The railroad yards that were south of town are now tree covered and part of RT 309

    Tamaqua remained a thriving community throughout the heyday of coal production in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It began declining, along with many other anthracite communities, in the 1950s as coal mines began tapering off. Hurricane Diane caused tremendous damage to Tamaqua's railroad yards to the extent that they never fully recovered.

    In 1971 the borough annexed neighboring Rahn Township and its Owl Creek section, home to the world's first fish hatchery.

    It was Tamaqua resident Chris Fulmer who, while playing for the minor league Baltimore Orioles in 1888 invented baseball's catcher's mitt.

    In the 1940s John E. Morgan invented Thermal Underwear in Tamaqua. Since his death in 2000, the Morgan Trust has donated money to various worthwhile causes in Tamaqua and for cancer research in his wifes memory.
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    Approaching the thriving borough of Tamaqua the traveler obtains in many instances, his first correct impressions with reference to the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania. Vast piles of the refuse coal and dirt from the mines, covering miles in extent are seen upon either hand. They are a source of immense loss to the operator or miner. The valley at and in the immediate vicinity of Tamaqua being so narrow, and the surface of the level land being consequently so circumscribed, it has been necessary to follow down the stream for miles to find a place to dump the large quantities of dirt from the mines. These piles of refuse would appear, to the casual observer, to be of great value, the presence of coal in greater or less quantities being unmistakable. And so they would be fortunes for hundreds of people if in New York or Philadelphia; but the cost of transportation thitherward would far more than absorb the value of the portion of coal which they contain.

    In passing these huge dirt heaps, the question of profit and loss to the mind accustomed to such problems, most naturally comes up and the hardships, the toils, and the losses of the miner are most vividly portrayed, when it is considered that it has cost him full as much to produce each ton of this refuse which is thrown aside as utterly valueless as it has done to produce the ton of coal ready for market and for which be is so sparingly paid.

    About a mile below the town the opening or mouth of a mine, with its out-buildings, machinery, side-tracks, horses, mules, and drivers, furnishes a fair specimen of over one hundred and fifty just such extensive operations as are daily going on within a circuit of fifty miles from Tamaqua......Harpers Monthly, 1862

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    Fifteen miles to the eastward the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company have their extended and varied coal-fields, the thriving borough of Mauch Chunk ( Jim Thorpe ) being its mercantile and shipping point. About the same distance northwardly the Hazelton Coal Company, with other operations of newer organization, produce large quantities of coal; while to the eastward, within a range of twenty-five miles, the Pottsville, Minersville, and Ashland districts are dotted with openings, giving forth annually several hundreds of thousands of tons of anthracite.

    The immediate surroundings of the opening of a coal-mine in full operation present a busy scene. The constant puffing of the pit engine, as it toils and labors in hoisting the coal-buckets from the bottom of the mine, or as it draws up upon the inclined plane the small mine cars loaded with the miner's products, reminds the traveler who has been on the Western waters of the lullaby those high-pressure steamboats afford in their hoarse cough, which never forsakes him while on board.

    The large frame building, which inclines from a considerable elevation toward the tracks, covers the system of screens and "shutes" which clean and separate the different sizes of coals for steam, heating, and household purposes, after the larger lamps have been passed through the rollers or "breakers," as they are called, contained in the tower-like structure which surmounts all.

    The breakers are rapidly driven by a separate engine from the pit machinery, and the crushing of the coals with the revolving of the large iron screw below, the running of the coals from shutes to the cars, the yelling of drivers as they urge their mules at their work, all combine to make a hideous noise entirely peculiar and never to be forgotten.

    The town of Tamaqua is a very thrifty, interesting place, contains a number of churches, school-houses, banks, etc., and its interests, its hopes and fears alike, are dependent upon the coal-trade. The machine shops of the Little Schuylkill Railroad Company are here located; and in these identical shops there stands to-day, exempt from duty, the original engine imported by the Company nearly thirty years agoÔÇöone of the first, if not the very first, locomotive engines brought out from England to this country; and there still lives, in the borough of Tamaqua, the identical machinist who came out along with the wonderful machine to put it together and ran it. The Little Schuylkill Railroad was the pioneer railroad in Pennsylvania, and the boiler of this locomotive was hauled upon a wagon drawn by horses the entire distance, eighty miles, from Philadelphia to Port Clinton, by turnpike; and all this within the memory of man. When we reflect that, to-day, more than four thousand locomotives of American manufacture are in daily use in the United States alone, and over twenty-eight thousand miles of railway are constantly traversed by them, it is surely a matter in itself of great interest to behold the imported engine of thirty years ago, and the man who came along with this great reformer to put it together for use.

    The various coal-mines in the vicinity of Tamaqua will well repay the traveler to sojourn among and carefully visit them. The superintendents of these subterranean scenes of life are generally courteous, and happy to afford every opportunity to those in search of knowledge or pleasure to gratify their desires. True, it requires some nerve, more faith, and a total disregard to a temporary soiling of the hands, face, and clothes. Besides these prerequisites, the seeker for knowledge should have a guide in the person of the superintendent, or some one who is perfectly familiar with the special premises about to be visited.

    Powder in large quantities, of coarse grain, is used in mining coal; and were it not for the perfect system of ventilation connected with every well-regulated mine, the air inside would be entirely insufferable from the impregnation of sulphur fumes arising from the frequent blasts. This ventilation also serves to carry off "the fire-damp" which collects in the mines. It also serves to free the galleries and tunnels of the carbonic acid and other deadly gases. The visitor to the inside of a coal-mine will be struck with the free circulation of pure air away below the surface of the earth.

    In the vicinity of Tamaqua there is a burning mine, which many years ago caught fire in one of the galleries from a fire ignited by some of the workmen to warm themselves by. Through some means or other the fire was left to burn in contact with the coal, which was of a highly combustible character, and communicating with large quantities of coal contiguous to it, the fire became of such magnitude as to be beyond the power or control of man, and no human agency has since been devised to quench it. The exact extent of its bounds is unknown; but like a volcano, it is a dreaded locality, and conjecture alone can approach the amount of the immense loss occasioned by this singular and uncommon accident. The direction from Tamaqua of the "Burning Mine" is known to every urchin of the place; and the traveler will have the opportunity to visitÔÇöat a safe distanceÔÇöthe mouth of the pit..........Harpers Monthly, 1862

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    Today there are few privately owned mines in operation, this one is near RT 443 and RT 309
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    Traveling westward on RT 443 one experiences the same beauty on a well paved and scenic road. West Penn offers nice sweepers and a long hill climb that is never speed monitored so it affords an opportunity to check a boxer engine performance in the triple digit range before reaching the top of the hill were one can air break yourself back into a civil speed before our stop at Port Clinton. In the railroad village of New Ringgold you join RT 895 that takes you through the tree nursery farmland that supplies the major metropolitan centers of New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other Mid-Atlantic hubs.

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    This German old barn met its fate at the hands of young arsons who felt it was their duty to gain experience as volunteer fire fights in the their community. They are now engaged in advanced learning at State Penn.

    Close by is Deer Lake founded as a resort community serving coal barons and other members of the wealthy elite of nearby Pottsville. A small summer stock theatre operated there during the 1920s, in which actors such as John Kenley performed. In 1972 Muhammad Ali set his training camp and it still stands today complete with an indoor boxing ring.

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    The central portion of the Catawissa Road is that which affords the most characteristic scenery. The view of the Schuylkill River at Port Clinton will give the traveler, as he alights from the cars of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, a foretaste of the rich treat in store for him. The river, gracefully winding southwardly from the town, is lost to sight behind the mountain through which the railroad tunnel has been cut. Its waters, of a bright-green color, completely landlocked, and calm as a lake, are only rippled by the slowly-lagging canal-boat laden with coal, which at intervals is dispatched from the coal "shutes" just on the other side, or coming from farther up stream, is bearing its freight of black diamonds to Philadelphia or New York and a market. Looking up stream, a very substantial bridge spans the river over which the Little Schuylkill Railroad crosses; and the route now for twenty miles follows the river of that name in its tortuous windings.

    The banks of this river are fringed with the rank undergrowth peculiar to mountain streams. The tall pine-trees rear their stately forms upon either side, and here and there a bit of cleared land indicates the presence of thrift and industry, the out-buildings and tenement-houses giving evidence of the pursuit of a home under difficulties. At the town of Ringgold, just ten miles on the journey, the tank of the engine is replenished with wood and water. There is nothing special to note other than the reminiscence of the Mexican war and the brave commander of the battery which bore his name, afforded by the mention of this station........Harpers Monthly 1862

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    Port Clinton is well know in the BMW world as the home of Hermys Tire and Cycle Shop.

    However most people believe that Port Clinton is just a small town that was unfortunately on RT 61, then it was cut even smaller when they widened the noisy road. But the town has a larger impact on history and entertained many forms of transportation, its a community served an important role in railroading and the Schuylkill Canal. Port Clinton was the final Schuylkill County stop for the Schuylkill Canal as it made its way from Port Carbon to Philadelphia.Today, it is home to the Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad. The community, along Route 61 at Schuylkill CountyÔÇÖs border with Berks, was laid out in 1829 and incorporated as a borough in 1850. Todays Population is 288 so its easy to think that it is just Hermys, a noisy RT 61 and a few homes.

    For the Civil War historian enjoy this read about tiny Port Clinton.
    If one cannot command attention by one's admirable qualities one can at least be a nuisance

  11. #11
    High & Dry statdawg's Avatar
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    The first form of transportation is walking and Port Clinton has the Appalachian Trail allowing many to say its the most scenic section in Pennsylvania giving you an opportunity to enjoy Hawk Mountain.

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    Next we will move on to the wheel and RT 61. It is still a main road that takes one from the Dutch Borders, through the coal region and the upper Susquehanna Valley. About 30 years ago it was recognised as being one of top scenic touring roads in the USA but since it has declined in popularity due to strip malls, auto dealerships that have ruined charactor everywhere it still remains a great road. It can be slow in the communities it serves but worth a nice drive besides its shortcomings. Prior to this route Port Clinton Hotel served as a stagecoach stop. Today you can take a rest from your travels and enjoy their menu. Please be mindful of their french fries portions are huge so order a small.

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    If you are a hiker or a motorcyclist that primative camp the hotel offers five dollar showers. This service is offered to the Appalachian hikers so don't be offended by the Please leave your dirty boots outside sign. If your energy is low check out the Port Clinton Peanut Shop next door.

    And of course its a canal and railway hub

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    High & Dry statdawg's Avatar
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    A few changes over time, the railway station is still there but the canal basin is now a baseball diamond and town park.



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    The home of the Heridan imports direct from Italy : Dellorto Carburetors, Silver hydraulic motolifts, Bitubo shock absorbers and Paioli fuel taps, Moto Morini Motorcycle spare parts, Herman leathers. Herm Sr. is the owner
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    The old grocery store

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    A boarding house for canal and railway workers next to a small church

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    We reached the end of the line. Here is my GPS route to enjoy the same off the beaten track and none of it is off road enless you wish to get wet in a railway tunnel. Its just a short jaunt through some interesting places with way too much history. I hope you have the road to yourself as I did except for RT 61.

    Last edited by Statdawg; 12-27-2010 at 05:54 AM. Reason: Changed routing.
    If one cannot command attention by one's admirable qualities one can at least be a nuisance

  13. #13
    Low speed, high drag
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    Thumbs up Thanks for the report, Statdawg!

    It looks like we've got another great Rally to look forward to next year!

    As usual, it looks like there's "too much" to see and do. Unfortunately, I'm not yet retired!





    OK, while I'm at it... I'll admit it- I mostly looked at the pictures...

  14. #14
    look out!!! Visian's Avatar
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    awesome report, dawg. you did a lot of research.

    looking forward to your off-pavement research, as well.

    ian
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  15. #15
    High & Dry statdawg's Avatar
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    A great day ride from the Rally Site.
    If one cannot command attention by one's admirable qualities one can at least be a nuisance

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