The Gravity Railroad

The Gravity Railroad (HM1YS1)

Location: Carbondale, PA 18407 Lackawanna County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 33.198', W 75° 29.695'

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Lackawanna Valley Industrial Highway

Moosic Mountain, rising over 1,200 feet above Carbondale's anthracite coal mines, was a formidable barrier to the markets of New York City. The Delaware and Hudson Canal system could be used to move coal from Honesdale to Kingston, New York, but a canal lift lock system over the mountain would have been prohibitively expensive. Instead, the Wurts brothers constructed a "road of rails." In 1827 John Jervis surveyed a route between Carbondale and the D&H canal terminus at Honesdale. Jervis utilized stationary steam engines to pull coal cars up steep inclined planes; between the planes the cars traveled on gently graded levels, drawn by either horses or locomotives or descending by gravity. The first load of coal topped Moosic Mountain on the gravity railroad in October 1829.
Stourbridge Lion
John Jervis hoped for steam-powered locomotives, just introduced in England, to pull coal cars on relatively gentle upgrades. Dubbed the "Stourbridge Lion," this locomotive was transported to Honesdale on the newly-completed canal. The locomotive performed as expected, but was too heavy for the rail system and was never used. A replica of the "Lion" is on display at the Wayne County Historical Society in Honesdale.
The Breaker
This photo, taken about 1896, shows Racket Brook Breaker with the city of Carbondale barely
visible in the distance. In the left side of the picture a small group, or trip, of loaded coal cars is being towed up Plane 4 toward the summit of Moosic Mountain.
Profile of the Carbondale Rail Road
This profile of the gravity railroad in 1831 depicts the barrier posed by Moosic Mountain. Stationary steam engines pulled the coal cars up short steep inclines to the top of the mountain, while the gentle descent into Honesdale was powered almost entirely by gravity.
Horse Power
In its final configuration, the D&H gravity railroad had a total of 28 engine houses. This photograph shows stationary steam engines towing empty coal cars up Plane 14, the first plane on the light track out of Honesdale. These 75-horsepower engines were produced by the Dickson Manufacturing Company of Scranton.
The Planes
This photo, taken about 1890, shows five loaded coal cars being towed up Plane 23 near Olyphant. The riders are "runners" who disconnected the tow cable at the top of each plane. This maneuver required speed and precision to avoid injury as the cars descended down the next level.
HM NumberHM1YS1
Placed ByPennsylvania Dept of Transportation and the Federal Highway Commission
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 at 9:04pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)31N E 166021 N 0
Decimal Degrees41.55330000, -75.49491667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 33.198', W 75° 29.695'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 33' 11.88" N, 75° 29' 41.7" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)570
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling South
Closest Postal AddressAt or near US-6, Carbondale PA 18407, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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