Trainz/Projects/The Anthracite Route

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The Anthracite Route is a large train board count Trainz Route and Session project proposed in the inner sanctum of the user group Yesterdayz-Trainz during the Spring of 2013. It was then discussed on the forum there, and beginning in spring 2016, work is being begun on a third Trans-DEM map developed for the project.


Steamtown and Scranton figure prominently in the Wyoming Valley and US history. The region is often referred to as Scranton-Wilkes-Barre for it is the broad valley and steep slopes in the <A href="">northern</A> anthracite region which are ladened with coal deposits mostly in the broad flat glacier created bowl of the valley. It corresponds to the mid-East-Susquehanna & Lackawanna river valleys and the coal deposits extend up the slopes into the mountain terrains north and northeast of Scranton. Both Scranton, <A href=",_Pennsylvania">Wilkes-Barre</A> , and a smaller city, Hazelton south of Wilkes-barre were industrial centers by the decade before the Civil War because of the Anthracite. But, by the 1780s, even the eastern mountains were largely deforested, so when about 1787-78 people figured or found how to burn anthracite, it became of great interest as an energy source!

(Allegedly, it happened by accident when a hunter bankstopped his camp fire against an anthracite outcrop, only to find the hill on fire when he woke!) 

When the 'rock coal' was discovered in the 1878 around Pottsville, PA and then found again in surface outcrops soon after, to the east much closer to the Lehigh along <A href="">Pisgah_Ridge</A>, near the minor-summit called Summit Hill within months, the <A href="">Lehigh Coal_Mining_Company</A> was formed to exploit it,... but proved ultimately unsuccessful; as managing from a distance and depending upon a mix of animal and small boat trans-shipping down the treacherous Lehigh River, it's absentee management could not make promised deliveries regularly.

Desperate industrial customers, in 1817, offered to take over the management of the mining and then in 1818--inspired by news of the Erie Canal in New York, formed the <A href="">Lehigh Navigation Company</A> to build innovative pseudo-locks on the Lehigh in order to provide reliable coal delivery to themselves. Thus coal built the Lehigh Canal, and in 1822, the two companies' boards combined the now booming companies into the <A href="">Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company</A>. The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company (D&H then DL&W) and the Philadelphia and Reading (Reading RR!) Companies soon followed the example, so history was made by desperate industrialists anxious for fuel to make wire cables. All three railroads (The CNJ leased from LC&N from the 1870s) potentially figure into operating companies we could feature on an Wyoming Valley setting.

The problem in the 1780s-1850s was how to get it out, once found. Especially how to ship it to big eastern cities like Philadelphia, Wilmington, Trenton, New York, etc. Water transport was the only really practical way to transport bulk materials, so the brief American Canal Age came about, and the first railroads either supported it (with underpowered engines) or came about to compete with them or go where canals couldn't and transport was simply needed.

So in transport, 1830-1850 was a very important couple of decades! The Delaware and Hudson Canal and railroad came about because of it and anthracite found near coal, and a gravity road could be built from Carbondale at the northern end of Scranton's site northeasterly to the Delaware and thence to the Hudson Rivers. Meantime, the Lehigh Canal and the Summit Hill and Mauch Chunk Switchback Railroad owners enjoyed a lock on the market and a brief monopoly, having founded the nations second railroad and second major canal, so came about to exploit the eastern reaches of the southern coal region and was in regular operation by 1822, and taking measures to increase production and throughput. By 1827, the SH&MC RR converted to true two way traffic and production zoomed, but the 7 mile road was always a bottleneck, for it was steep in places. It also doubled as a tourist destination, and is recognized as the worlds first roller coaster; so much so, that it operated strictly as a tourist road from ca 1888 into the mid 1930s. Not a bad second life for A COAL ROAD!

That's where the Anthracite Route figures into this. The Main Line of Public Works was a broad legislative act of 1837 with the aim of connecting Pittsburgh via the Susquehanna to Philadelphia by a canal and Railway system. It was the Enabling Act for the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Reading, and a number of others, mainly including all those connecting the Susquehanna valley(s) to Pittsburgh and more importantly, the Ohio! Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware businessmen were looking at all the western settlements as markets for goods, and all subscribed to stocks for companies moving things in that direction--connecting east to west. Same motiviations started the Erie Canal, the B&O, the New York Central, and a couple of southern rail systems. There are only five practical E-W passes through the barrier of the Appalachian Chain, and one of those is the southern plains end  in Georgia and Alabama!

Another part of the act enabled extending the Lehigh Canal (privately built by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, 1822, innovative owners also of the 2nd Railway in the country) through the rough terrain of the Lehigh Gorge from Jim Thorpe, PA (then Mauch Chunk, LC&N HQ) to what is now White Haven, PA-- and for building a mile long combined Cable and Gravity Railroad connection to the Coal deposits in Wilkes-barre (Ashland township) gathering yard with a standard guage railroad graded into the ridgeline dropping from Mountain Top to White Haven. The project came with three yards; one at the foot, another up top for the Ashley Planes at one end of the rail link, and another in White Haven (both the latter yards are on the Delaware watershed side of the divide, unlike the Ashley Planes themselves, where the run off reaches the Cheasepeake!). 

Accordingly, while LC&N practically had a monopoly on shipping antracite at the time, with the act, it formed the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad (LH&S) as a majority stockholder joint venture company to run it's railroads and build the new shortline/Planes system. By then, LC&N had been getting pressure and was making nebulous plans to start a passenger service along the whole length of the canal (Jim Thorpe--Easton, outside Philly on the Delaware via Allentown) and already had built or partnered in building several other difficult terrain shortlines around the southern coal region including ones with tunnels, such as divide crossing ~9-mile run parrallel to Nesquehoning Ridge from Nesquehoning to Hometown and so down to Tamaqua over another divide this time crossed via a tunnel giving a back door into the coal deposits owned by the company in the Panther Creek Valley (Drains to the Cheasepeake via Susquehanna--hundreds of miles from the Delaware mouth!) and connecting to it's 'Panther Creek Railroad' (~7 mi), which ran a back 180 degrees up the other side of the Nesquehonning Ridgeline to LC&N's coal fields.

  •  [This is arguably the most important 16 miles of RR tracks of the 1840s--it opened up many other valleys to coal mining and spurred settlement in the whole region whilst feeding the burgeoning US infant industries of the East] 
  • (A Re-organized modernized LC and N is still mining there! John and I got kicked out of their parking lot entrance within ten yards of entering by a surly guard who didn't like cameras! Couldn't have been us!)

The LH&S's furnicular lift out of Wyoming Valley is the Ashley Planes, which narrowgauge has worked on and has a model which can be tweaked--he couldn't quite get it to run totally asynchronous, he thinks because TS12 software was stepping on a variable instead of being truly reentrant (or could have been a multiple processor threading issue, as some things seem to be in TANE), but we can at least use it as a scenery item if not a one-way interactive industry.

The LC&N/LH&S also gradually built onto

their  rail connection from Pnebscot (now Mountain Top down the gorge to Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe)--the original head end of the Lehigh Canal, but while making steady progress, was in no hurry to parrallel their canal with a railway, even though they surveyed and began building from Easton up past Allentown to Mauch Chunk.  Consequently, with the LH&S railroad works all completed in 1838, and the new longer canal, LC&N was in a commanding position for

many years to come.

 The cable up-lift of about 1000' in elevation was limited to about 3 cars at a time and operated into the 1930s (1937, iirc--just 99 years from completion, again, IIRC!) In the 186os, the canal extension's lock system got badly hammered by ice and ice flows and the railway from White Haven to Mauch Chunk had to take up the slack.

The East Coast experienced coal shortages, and that started a popular push to break the supply monopoly LC&N had via the Lehigh Canal and so subsequently investors and politicos got together and in very short order, the LVRR came about (so we can safely conclude that monopoly was not popular!) and was given rights-of-ways and was grading and laying track parrallel the newly expanded LH&S virtually overnight. In less than two years they'd parralleled the LH&S trackage from the Delaware into Pittston, and into the Southern Hazelton-Wilkes-barre end of of the valley, and kicking the LH&S's butt by the early 1870s!

The Lehigh and Susquehanna was extended to Easton about the same time frame, but LH&S was not a true railroad company, and management knew it. Also the original founders of LC&N were passing or had passed, and so LH&S became a holding company and the CNJ thereafter leased and operated all their railways. It is noteworthy that all the trackage, tunnels, and difficult passages the LH&S built are still mainline roads today. I have heard (from a museum guide), but haven't yet verified the LH&S holding company is still the ower of those rights of ways, and has been happy to lease the trackages to companies who operate and maintain it (such as Conrail!)... currently the RBMN (Reading Blue Mountain and Northern). Who really collects rents for today's CNR and NS use of the Roads is unknown, just that they both have use rights along the N-S corridor of interest and some branches and yards are now managed and maintained by the RBMN.

This history and the rails from Nesquehoning Ridge and north to Ashland are where we hope to begin the Anthracite Route.