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Selected special features of railroads in the anthracite region are located on the maps, identified by an "S-" number.  See APPENDIX C for a index of these features.  Below are discussed several significant parallel lines, inclined planes and gravity railroads, tunnels, viaducts and stations.


The locations of many features of the anthracite railroads are identified by historical markers as part of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission's Historical Marker Program.  Visit:


A few surviving features are National Historic Landmarks designated by the U.S. National Park Service.Visit:


Parallel lines


An indicator of the degree of competition within the region is the number of parallel systems in which rival railroads essentially shared the same corridor, often on opposite sides of a river or stream.  Notable examples are:

  • D&H/Erie and NYO&W north along the Lackawanna River from Scranton to Carbondale and Forest City

  • DL&W and Erie southeast along Roaring Brook from Scranton to Elmhurst

  • DL&W and PRR southwest along the Susquehanna  River from Wilkes-Barre to Northumberland/Sunbury

  • P&R and PRR northwest along Shamokin Creek from Shamokin to Sunbury

  • P&R and PRR southeast along the Schuylkill River from Pottsville to Port Clinton (and thence south to Reading)

  • LV and CNJ south along the Lehigh River from White Haven through the Lehigh River Gorge to Jim Thorpe (and thence southeast to the Lehigh Valley)

  • P&R and PRR west along Catawissa Creek from Mainville to Catawissa

The "intertwining" of the former CNJ and LV lines along and crossing the Lehigh River, including the 26-mile reach within the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and their juxtaposition with the present D&L Trail (known within the park as the "Lehigh Gorge Trail"), is especially interesting.  APPENDIX E is an attempt to describe this in a tabular format.

Inclined planes and gravity railroads


Numerous inclined planes, some associated with "gravity" railroads, dotted the anthracite region to overcome changes in grade.Some planes were initially operated by water power.Gradually, the planes and gravity railroads were abandoned as locomotive power increased.By the 20th century, none of the "gravities" still operated as such.  The two best-known (and perhaps the only) planes still operating in the early 20th century are:


Ashley Planes.  The largest plane system, these were three steam-powered planes in series constructed to transport coal from the Wyoming Valley to Solomon's Gap and Mountain Top on Penobscot Mountain.  The planes were constructed by the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad (Lehigh Coal & Navigation, Central of New Jersey) and opened in 1843.  In 1865-67, the planes were modified and a "back track" was constructed from Solomon Gap to Wilkes-Barre to supplement the planes.  As modified, the combined plane length was approximately 12,300 ft and the gross lift was approximately 1,060 ft. The planes ceased operation in 1948.


Mahanoy Plane.  The first Mahanoy Plane was the largest of a series of planes constructed in 1834 on the Danville & Pottsville's eastern section.  The plane transported coal from the Mahanoy Valley to the top of Broad Mountain at Frackville, from which it was all downhill to the head of the Schuylkill Canal at Port Carbon.  This plane was 1,625 ft long, with a lift of 345 ft, initially designed to be operated by water power, but a stationary steam engine was quickly found to be required.  The plane and the D&P eastern section were already in disuse by the mid-1840s.  The second Mahanoy Plane was constructed in 1861 by the Mahanoy & Broad Mountain Railroad, eventually absorbed into the Philadelphia & Reading system. {31}  This plane was 2,450 ft.  long with a lift of 524 ft and constructed at right angles to the alignment of the D&P plane.  The hoist engines (6,000 horsepower) were said to be the most powerful in the world at that time.  The plane was reported to lift 800-900 coal cars each day.  It ceased operation in 1932.


Better-known gravity railroads and planes no longer operating by the early 20th century include:


"Switchback" Gravity.  (See Mauch Chunk and Summit Hill Railway, above)  The original one-way mule-ride-down system was expanded with the steam-powered Mt. Pisgah and Mt. Jefferson planes in 1844 to form an 18-mile loop.  The Mt. Pisgah plane was 2,322 ft long with a 664-ft rise; the Mt. Jefferson plane was 2,070 ft long with a 432-ft rise.  In 1872, coal hauling discontinued; the railroad continued operation as a popular recreational facility until 1933. 


D&H Gravity.  (See D&H Canal and D&H Railroad, above)  The initial D&H railroad opened 1829 as a gravity line.  Five planes operated by steam ascended one thousand feet from Carbondale over Moosic Mountain and three descended by gravity to the head of the canal at Honesdale.  The system was extended south to Archbald from Carbondale in 1848 and further to Olyphant in 1858.  The gravity system finally closed in 1899 when the entire D&H canal system was replaced by steam railroads.  


Pennsylvania Coal Company ("The Gravity").  (See Erie & Wyoming Valley, above)  "The Gravity" ran between Port Griffith (near Pittston) and the D&H Canal at Hawley.  It operated from 1850 until 1885.  The system included twelve planes on the loaded track (to Hawley) and ten planes on the light track (returning to Port Griffith).  The high point on Moosic Mountain was 1,400 ft above Port Griffith.  The system included an 800-ft tunnel on the loaded track, just beyond the summit.


Penn Haven Planes.  In 1850, the Hazleton Coal Company constructed the first plane at Penn Haven, fed by the company's "high line."  A second plane in parallel was constructed in 1859 following flooding of the Beaver Meadows tracks and bridges along Black Creek in 1850.  The planes were abandoned when the canal system to Mauch Chunk was destroyed by the Lehigh River flood in 1862.


Gordon Planes.  The Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven RR (leased by the P&R in 1864) constructed two planes in series, ascending from Mahanoy Creek along Rattling Run to cross Broad Mountain into the West Branch Schuylkill River valley north of Minersville.  The two planes were 5,048 feet long and 313 feet high, and 5,124 feet long and 404 feet high, respectively.  These planes were abandoned in 1896.


Buck Mountain Coal Co. Gravity (1840-1862).  The railroad ran 4.3 miles along Laurel Run from the mine near the village of Buck Mountain, Carbon County, to the Lehigh Canal at Rockport.  This line had two inclined planes and a tunnel (see below).  After the 1862 river flood eliminated river navigation access to Rockport, the Hazleton Coal Company replaced the gravity system with a 3-mile line from Buck Mountain to Hazle Creek Junction; this line was operated until 1883.  (See Buck Mtn Gravity Tunnel, below.)




The anthracite region rail system included numerous tunnels.  A very interesting website with photos of several of these tunnels is: Infiltration - "Some NE PA Tunnels:  See also and Wikipedia:


Four especially notable tunnels are:


Buck Mountain (Mahanoy) Tunnel.  Constructed by the East Mahanoy Railroad in  1862, this tunnel may have been the world's longest at that time.  Its length is variously reported as 3,400, 3,500 or 4,000 ft.  The tunnel is still in use, by the Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern RR.


Lansford-Hauto Tunnel.  This tunnel was constructed by Lehigh Coal and Navigation through Nesquehoning Mountain in 1871-72 to join the L&NE  Panther Valley line with the CNJ Nesquehoning Valley line.  Length: 3,800 ft.  The tunnel was last used in 1969 and is closed off for safety.

White Haven Tunnel (at the village of Tunnel, between Mountaintop and White Haven).  Constructed 1841-43 by Lehigh & Susquehanna RR (Lehigh Coal & Navigation, CNJ).  The tunnel is still used by the Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern.  Length: 1,700 ft.

Turn Hole (Glen Onoko) Tunnel.   Constructed by the Lehigh & Susquehanna RR (Lehigh Coal and Navigation) in 1866.  The tunnel was last used in 1912, before being condemned.  Length:  496 ft.

Other tunnels (certainly an incomplete list):

  • Buck Mtn Gravity.  (See Buck Mountain Gravity RR, above.)  Constructed 1839-40.Last used 1862 (Lehigh River flood.  Length: 200 ft (also reported as 135 ft).  May be seen today at Rockport, within Lehigh Gorge State Park.

  • East Mahanoy (Tamaqua).Little Schuylkill RR.Constructed 1853.  Still in use (Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern).  Length: 900 ft.

  • Hazlebrook (Jeddo).Hazleton RR.  Opened in 1859; replaced switchbacks on either side of Sugar Loaf Mountain.  Still in use (Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern).  Length: 1,023 ft.

  • Lofty (Summit Station).  Catawissa, Williamsport and Erie RR (P&R). Constructed 1854 through Broad Mtn.  Abandoned and tracks removed: late 1970s.  Still used by off-road vehicles. Length: 1,035 ft.

  • Pennsylvania Coal Company Gravity.  (See Penna Coal Company, above.)  Constructed 1850 through summit of Moosic Mountain.  Last used 1885.Length: 800 ft.

  • Nay Aug (Scranton).DL&W. Constructed 1856.  Length: 755 ft.  Still used (Delaware-Lackawanna RR, Lackawanna County Rail Authority tracks) .

  • Shumans.Catawissa, Williamsport and Erie (P&R).  Constructed 1854.  Abandoned: 1976.  Length: unknown; judging from Google Earth and maps perhaps as much as 1,200 ft, on a curved alignment.

  • Wadesville.  (See Danville & Pottsville RR, above.)  Constructed 1833; reported to be the second railroad tunnel in the U.S.  Last used 1844.  Later destroyed by strip mining.  Length: 800 ft.

  • Williamstown.  Not a railroad through tunnel, it was constructed through Big Lick (Bear) Mtn to haul coal from two Susquehanna Coal Co. mines in Bear Valley to the eastern terminus of the Summit Branch (PRR) north of Williamstown.  The Summit Branch was constructed in 1866.  The successor Lykens Valley RR running west from Williamstown to Millersburg was abandoned in 1956; the tunnel surely was abandoned earlier, at an unknown date.  Length: 5,000+ ft.


Tunkhannock Creek (Nicholson Bridge).  The Tunkhannock (Creek) Viaduct, at Nicholson, PA, was constructed by the DL&W in 1912-15.  It has 10 spans and is 2,375 feet long and 240 ft above creek bed.  When completed, it was the world's largest concrete structure.  The viaduct remains in use.  (Mention is made of this viaduct for its importance, but it was not constructed for anthracite traffic, and the maps depicted on this website do not extend far enough north to show the location of the viaduct.)

Panther Creek.  In 1893, the WB&E constructed the 161-ft-high, 1,650-foot-long Panther Creek Viaduct near Spring Brook, Lackawanna County.  The structure had 20 iron towers and 42 spans.  The viaduct fell into disuse after 1898 when the Erie diverted traffic from the WB&E line to the east.  It was demolished in 1940; little evidence remains today.


Hometown ("Trestle" or "High Bridge").  The present steel structure was constructed in 1931 and is still in use, crossing the Little Schuylkill River just north of Hometown and west of Rt. 309.  The trestle is 157 ft. high and nearly 1,000 feet long.  It replaced a wooden bridge that carried the line across the river as early as the 1880s. {32}


APPENDIX F is a listing of the stations (freight or passenger) of the anthracite railroads within, adjacent to, or along the rail routes from the anthracite region.  The number of stations and particularly the instances of multiple railroads serving individual communities is indicative of the degree of competition within the region.  Two prime examples: six of the nine major anthracite railroads served locations in or in the vicinity of Scranton and six served locations in or in the vicinity of Wilkes-Barre.


Wilkes-Barre System

        Six of the nine major anthracite railroads served greater Wilkes-Barre.  An excellent discussion of the complex Wilkes-Barre local railroad system, with maps and photographs is presented at "Frank's Photography Site" {33}



{31} Reportedly, the D&P refused to sell its plane to the M&BM.


{32} Source:

{33} Frank's Photography Site: Abandoned (and remaining) rail lines - 2010 - 2013 - Wilkes-Barre, PA area

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