One of the first railroads in
America was the
Room Run Railroad.
The following was taken from a book called - Canal History and
Technology Proceedings - it was written by Vincent Hydro, Jr.
HISTORY OF THE LEHIGH COAL AND NAVIGATION COMPANY’S ROOM RUN RAIL ROAD
The 1820’s saw the
rapid growth of one of America’s oldest companies, the Lehigh Coal and
Navigation Company. By 1830, a nine-mile gravity railroad had been built
from the company’s mines at Summit Hill to Mauch Chunk, and the lower
division of the Lehigh Canal was in operation. The stage was set for the
expansion of the anthracite market. The LC&N was looking for ways
and means to accomplish this goal.
The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company was
responsible for another little-known gravity railroad, the Room Run
Railroad, another gravity road that ran through the present-day borough
of Nesquehoning. The LC&N hoped that this railroad would enable the
company to achieve its desired expansion of the anthracite market.
About the Room Run
Railroad little is known and even less has been written. What has
generally been written is, for the most part, either incomplete or
incorrect. With the exception of the Rupp history, the only mention in
the history books on Carbon County is that the railroad was built in
1830; sparse construction details are given.
This paper will detail
the history of the Room Run Railroad starting with the discovery of coal
at Room Run, through the connection of the Room Run mines to the
Nesquehoning Valley Railroad.
The nine- mile
gravity railroad from the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company’s first
open pit coal mine or quarry at Sharp Mountain near present-day Summit
Hill to Mauch Chunk was in operation only three years when the public
was informed of the decision of the company to build a new railroad. The
following ad appeared in the Lehigh Pioneer and Mauch Chunk Courier on
October 4, 1830:
We have the satisfaction to inform the public that the
Board of Managers of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company have passed
a resolution to make a railroad from Mauch Chunk Pond to their extensive
coal quarries and coal mines up Room Run , 5 Miles from this village.
this railroad were being made as early as February 2, 1830, when at a
meeting of the Board of Managers, a letter from Josiah White was read.
White was the acting manager and , along with Erskine Hazard, one of the
founders of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company . This letter
concerned “ extending a railroad across a part of the Lausanne
property, owned by Dr. James and others…” At this meeting Erskine
Hazard was directed to meet with Dr. James and negotiate with him for
“ the privilege of passing through said property.”
Lausanne was a small
settlement once located where the Nesquehoning Creek drains into the
Lehigh River. It had previously been used as a shipping port for Room
Run coal by several Wilkes-Barre entrepreneurs. The first tollhouse for
the Lehigh and Susquehanna Turnpike was located near Lausanne. Lausanne
also boasted the famous Landing Tavern, which was a stop along the early
stage routes between Easton and Berwick, and a special haven for Lehigh
River ark pilots.
A special meeting of
the Board of Managers of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company was
convened on September 20, 1830, to “consider the propriety of
constructing a railroad to the new coal mines at Room Run proposed by
the Acting Manager.
resulted from the “discovery” of large reserves of coal at Room Run,
a small stream that flows through a “cut” or gap in the Nesquehoning
Mountain (also known as Locust Mountain) southwest of the present
borough of Nesquehoning.
In their report to
the stockholders dated January 17, 1831, the Board of Managers of the
Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company enthusiastically reported:
discovery has been made of immense masses of
coal on the north side of the Mauch Chunk Mountain, near Room
Run, at a distance of about four miles from the Lehigh, and after strict
examination as to the quantity and quality of coal contained in these
mines, they have been thought…highly important to the immediate and
future interests of the Company…
Dr. Benjamin Silliman, editor of The American Journal of
Science and Arts, credited Josiah White with the discovery at Room Run
in the October 1830 issue of Samuel Hazard’s Register of Pennsylvania:
discovery of these mines is owing to the sagacity and good judgment of
Mr. White, who, reasoning from the dip and direction of the mines at
Much Chunk was led to believe that the continuation of their beds ought
to be found here, and his success has given a brilliant confirmation to
his prediction, which redounds the more to his honor,
as the surface of this region is very much obscured by enormous
masses of loose rocks and stones, which, in several places where coal
has been found, so entirely cover the surface with piles of fragments,
the fallen ruins of the mountains, that at first view , nothing seems
less probable than the discovery of coal beds beneath…
In the acting
manager’s report to the stockholders dated December 30, 1830, Josiah
White claimed to have located eighteen veins, and that the whole
thickness of the veins discovered at Room Run, measured at right angles
to the veins, was at least 240 feet. With his calculations, he estimated
that “allowing our demand to be one million tons each year from these
mines, one mile would last more than fifty five years.”
The same annual
report included further remarks published by Dr. Silliman in his
journal. Silliman stated that the coal “appears to be of the first
quality, and some of it, in the high lustre and perfection of its
fracture, exceeds anything I have elsewhere seen.” Silliman also did
not hesitate to call the new mines “entirely inexhaustible.”
In his 1845 history
of the five counties, Daniel Rupp included a noteworthy description of
the Room Run mines:
the exhaustless mines of the Mauch Chunk, and the admirable means of
transporting their product, the Company might have reposed in full
confidence of an ultimate and speedy and profitable return for their
great expenditure. But their vigilant and prevoyant and energetic acting
manager, has found means to take a bond of fate, and to hasten this
result by the discovery and development of new mines upon the adjacent
Nesquehoning mountain, four miles nearer to the landing of Mauch Chunk,
and extremely facile of operation…some twenty veins of coal have been
explored, varying in thickness from five to fifty feet, making an
aggregate thickness of more than three hundred feet, nearly five times
the thickness of the great mine. This coal field is supposed to be a
continuation of that of Mauch Chunk, from which it is distant between
four and five miles. Some of these veins have been traced three and a
half miles along the mountain. All of them are accessible above the
water level; some of them have great facilities for drainage and are
provided with the most desirable roofs and floors of slate, which render
them susceptible of cheap excavation. This is especially the case of a
twenty-eight feet vein, into which three openings at different
elevations have been made, whence coal of the first quality and highest
lustre has been taken. Other veins approach so near the surface of the
mountain, particularly the vein of fifty feet, that it may be best
wrought by uncovering, after the manner of the great mine. And this
labor has accordingly been commenced.
descriptions and estimates eventually proved to be wildly optimistic. As
will be shown later, the output of the Room Run mines rarely came up to
“great mine” at Sharp Mountain proved to be an anomaly. The Sharp
Mountain open pit mines and the Room Run veins were part of the Southern
Pennsylvania Anthracite Field. In contrast to the coal seams of the
Northern Field, where veins lay on the horizontal, those of the Southern
Field were convoluted and steeply pitched as to be almost vertical.
quarry of open pit mine at Sharp Mountain was a unique place where the
convoluted Mammoth Vein lay horizontally just below the surface. In
contrast, the veins at Room Run were folded over several times,
resembling a pair of W’s. A horizontal tunnel driven in the 1840’s
pierced the F (Primrose) Vein eight times and the E (Mammoth) Vein four
times. The significance of this is that White, viewing the outcrops of
the veins, counted the same veins several times, greatly exaggerating
also developed that the thickness of some of the veins was greater at
the outcrops, where White had measured the seams, and that some of the
seams had been measured diagonally instead of perpendicularly. This also
served to inflate the estimated reserves.
1844 the Carbon County Gazette reported that the fifty foot vein
“…where first opened, measured fifty feet between what appeared to
be the bottom and top rocks. . .”
but that sometime in the past, the vein had been forced sharply
upward at the point measured, in the shape of an inverted “V,”
giving the vein “. . . a north and south dip, and the opening having
been made in horizontal line across the crown or apex, a stratum of
slates of 50 feet thickness was exposed, and taken for the true
thickness of the vein.” The actual thickness of this vein (E or
Mammoth Vein) measured 39 feet.
some quarrying or surface mining was possible at the Room Run mines,
significant quantities of coal could be obtained only by the digging of
drifts and tunnels and the sinking of slopes and, finally, shafts.
a sense, Josiah White was correct about the large quantities of coal
contained within the seams, but he appears to have had the location
wrong. The continuation of these veins between Lansford and Tamaqua
turned out to be much thicker and deeper than at Room Run. These veins
were later tapped and the coal conveyed to market by the Panther Creek
Railroad and the famous Switchback Railroad. The veins are still being
strip mined near Tamaqua.
himself probably realized that the Room Run veins extended to the
Panther Creek Valley. However, Room Run was certainly the most strategic
location for opening mines, since it was the easiest location from which
to transport coal to market. Tapping the Panther Creek Valley coal seams
would require the use of steam-driven inclined planes.
addition to the exaggerated finds at Room Run, there is also doubt upon
the claim that White was the first to discover coal at Room Run.
Philadelphia's First Fuel Crisis, H. Benjamin Powell states that in 1785
and again in 1787 Jacob Weiss had men in his employ dig coal for him.
Weiss was a former Revolutionary War soldier who purchased land from the
Moravians and settled near the site of Fort Allen along the Lehigh River
at present-day Weissport. Because of the existence of a road across the
Broad Mountain between Beaver Meadows and Weissport, Powell speculates
that the coal was mined at Beaver Meadows.
in an unpublished manuscript, Christopher Baer states that in 1786
either Weiss or someone working for him discovered coal along Room Run
where the stream cut across the beds of coal, exposing them. This find
predates Philip Ginder's discovery of coal at Sharp Mountain.
Weiss had a sawmill near the mouth of the Nesquehoning Creek (the Union
Saw Mill) and it is more than likely he explored the area drained by the
Weiss did nothing to promote his discovery, instead waiting for Philip
Ginder's discovery on Sharp Mountain, is just speculation. Perhaps it
was due to the difficulty of extracting the coal at Room Run.
it appears that he did nothing about his discovery, Weiss apparently
tried to protect his find. On November 11, 1786, Jacob Weiss took out a
warrant on a tract of 400 acres in the name of his wife, Elizabeth. The
1875 Beers Atlas of Carbon County shows this tract of land in the
headwaters of Room Run.'
later participated in the exploration for coal as part of an order to
examine the Lehigh Coal Mine Company's lands along the Nesquehoning
Creek. The LC&N was trying to find coal closer to the Lehigh River
than the Sharp Mountain mines in order to save on transportation costs
which inflated the price of Lehigh coal. “A June 6, 1798 report noted
that coal had been found three miles from the river but was much more
difficult to mine. This is possibly the first exploration of what later
became the Room Run Mines in Nesquehoning.”
did take place at Room Run prior to Josiah White's “discovery.”
1806 several hundred bushels of coal were shipped from Lausanne by
Philadelphian William Turnbull, who had interests in the small store at
Lausanne. This coal was probably Room Run coal.
early as 1814 Isaac Chapman had opened and worked a mine at Room
Run." Chapman opened the Room Run mines while working for Jacob
Cist, a Wilkes-Barre entrepreneur and advocate of the use of anthracite.
Cist, along with Charles Miner and John Robinson, signed a lease with
the Lehigh Coal Mine Company on December 10, 1813, to work the mines. In
August of 1814 they shipped four arks full of Room Run coal down the
Lehigh River from the landings at Lausanne. White and Hazard purchased
some of this coal for use at their Mill at the Falls of the Schuylkill.
It was this shipment that fired their interest in Lehigh anthracite.
part of a commission from the state of Pennsylvania, Isaac Chapman made
a map of Northampton County in 1817. This map located coal at Room Run.
Chapman's diary also indicates that the extent of the coal mines at Room
Run was already well realized. In his diary of April 1815 he states that
he was “examining the new coal-mine; ascertained that there is
undoubtedly a large quantity of I coal.” Chapman's diary also makes
reference to the "Ground Hog Vein" at Room Run.
of the New Railroad
important element of the LC&N's decision to construct the Room Run
Railroad was the company's desire to “get to market” 100,000 tons of
coal in 1831 and subsequent years.
White's notes on the construction of the Room Run Railroad showed that
it would cost less to build a railroad to the new mines and transport
100,000 tons of coal during its first year of operation, than it would
cost to transport 100,000 tons in one year on the gravity railroad from
the "Old Mines" on Sharp Mountain. Savings would be realized
on the shorter distance from mine to river. The distance from the Room
Run mines to the Lehigh River at Lausanne was only four miles, versus
nine miles from the "Old Mines" to the Lehigh River at Mauch
calculated the cost of constructing the Room Run Railroad at $29,123.75.
This estimate included $6,500 for grading; $3,300 for the stone sleepers
(13,200 stone sleepers at 25 cents per stone); $4,000 for rails and
sills; $5,568.75 for iron knees; $255 for nails; $1,500 for “putting
on bars and finishing the road” and $8,000 for additional branches.
expenses brought his estimate of the cost of “100,000 tons from Room
Run Mines & Cost of Rail Road” to $63,073.75.
purposes of comparison, White then estimated the cost of increasing the
amount of coal sent down the old gravity road from 50,000 tons per year
to 100,000 tons per year. This came to $67,200 and included
transportation costs for nine miles on the gravity road at 5 cents per
ton per mile. Transportation costs on the Room Run Railroad were
estimated at 4 cents per ton per mile. No explanation was given for the
lower estimated mileage cost on the Room Run Railroad.
White's calculations demonstrated that to construct the Room Run
Railroad and ship 100,000 tons of coal in its first year would cost
$4,126.25 less than it would cost to increase the shipment of coal to
100,000 tons per year on the old railroad-at least the way White
went on to estimate what it would cost to build the Room Run Railroad
and ship 50,000 tons via this route. This figure came to $49,300. The
cost of shipping 50,000 tons of coal per year from the old mines (5
cents per ton per mile for nine miles) was $24,750.
The Board of Managers examined
these it appears that there will be a very trifling difference between
the cost of operating 100,000 tons from the mines at present worked and
the construction of a railroad to the mines discovered this spring at
Room Run together with the expenses of getting to the river 100,000 tons
of coal say 50,000 tons from each place this the difference of the cost
probably being in favor of the
At a Board of
Managers meeting on September 24, 1830, a resolution was passed calling
for the acting manager, Josiah White, to “make the necessary
arrangements to bring to market 100,000 tons of coal during the year 1831.”
White was further directed to “construct a single track rail road from
the Room Run Mines to the Mauch Chunk Pond and that Moncure Robinson be
requested to join the Acting Manager in determining the route. . .”
Almost a year earlier, Robinson had prepared a report for the LC&N
on the feasibility of adding a backtrack to the old railroad. This
backtrack wasn't built until 1844.
an October 5 meeting, the board was informed that Moncure Robinson had
declined the offer. Robinson was probably occupied with the Little
Schuylkill Railroad. White ended up designing the railroad himself,
selecting Isaac Salkeld to manage the construction. Salkeld was an early
inhabitant of Mauch Chunk, having arrived with his family on March 9,
1823. He was previously affiliated with White and Hazard at their
rolling mill at the Falls of the Schuylkill. While at Mauch Chunk,
Salkeld also superintended the construction of the Mansion House and the
stone grist mill.
originally intended to route the Room Run Railroad from the mines to the
landings at Lausanne. In his calculations, White considered extending
the "river improvements" from Mauch Chunk to Lausanne, but
these costs, estimated at $37,955.08, were not included in his final
estimate of the cost of building the new railroad and doing business on
calculations did include the cost of bringing coal from Lausanne to
Mauch Chunk on the “11 in. plane” which, from his notes, was
apparently already in existence, since he included no computations for
its construction. The 11 -inch plane, which was probably a single-track
railroad, was one mile long and extended from Lausanne to a shipping
wharf located on the west side of the Lehigh River opposite the location
later called East Mauch Chunk (probably located where the Route 903
bridge now crosses the Lehigh).
estimates of the cost of the Room Run Railroad included the expense of a
turnout on the 11 -inch plane to accommodate the foot of inclined plane
No. 1 of the planned railroad. The designation “11 inch” probably
referred to the drop in elevation per one hundred feet of travel. A
10-inch drop in one hundred feet was considered the lowest decline
suitable for a gravity railroad. The 11-inch plane was apparently used
for bringing to Mauch Chunk coal that was currently being mined at Room
Run and taken to Lausanne over a wagon road.
this there is some disagreement. The following statement appeared in the
Board of Managers Report published in the Lehigh Pioneer and Mauch Chunk
Courier on January 16,1832: “The old mines or quarries, from
which we have exclusively drawn our supplies heretofore
[author's emphasis] ... lie near the top of the mountain. . .” This is
a pretty clear statement that no coal was being taken from Room Run.
one year earlier, in the Board of Managers Report to the Stockholders on
January 17, 1831, the following statement was made: "The town
called East Mauch Chunk is located on Company land ... and
directly opposite to the landings of the Company's Room Run Mines.
. .” (author's emphasis). It is important to note that construction of
the railroad had not yet been completed.
of White's calculations also indicate that coal was currently being
transported to Lausanne from Room Run and then to Mauch Chunk over an
“11 inch plane.”
estimating the cost of transporting coal from Room Run, White itemized
the “current expense” and “current business” which he gave as
being 4 cents per mile per ton. He obviously did not mean expenses on
the old gravity road from Sharp Mountain, since that was already given
as being 5 cents per ton per mile.
also gave the “current expense” of transporting coal from Lausanne
to Mauch Chunk on the 11 -inch plane as 2 cents per ton.
1831 map of the village of Lausanne shows a proposed inclined plane from
the Room Run Railroad to the landing at Lausanne as well as the wagon
road from the Room Run mines to Lausanne.
spite of White's calculations and the company's plans, it would be many
years before 50,000 tons of coal were carried on the Room Run Railroad.
This goal was finally reached in the year 1843, when the Room Run mines
and gravity railroad were leased to Asa Packer and his brother Robert W.
Packer. Asa Packer had a part in the mining at Room Run from 1841 until
the early 1850's and later bought controlling interest in what would
become the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
part of his calculations, White had considered the cost of transporting
100,000 tons of coal per year from the Room Run mines. During the
lifetime of the Room Run gravity railroad, the tonnage only exceeded
this figure for the years 1846 through 1849, inclusive.
plans for the Room Run gravity railroad went amiss. The railroad would
not be completed in 1831, as originally proposed.
a Board of Managers meeting on September 19,1831, the acting manager was
directed to discontinue construction of the new railroad and all mining
at Room Run. “This notice to remain in force until completion of the
Delaware and Morris Canals.”
construction of the railroad did take place in 1831. On April 11, 1831,
in its usual lavish praise of the coal company, the Lehigh Pioneer and
Mauch Chunk Courier stated:
We visited one day last week the line of the railroad to the Company's
new mines. We were a little surprised at the amount of work which had
been accomplished in the space of a short time upon this road. Whoever
visits it will hardly doubt the power of man to level mountains and
raise up valleys. It is proceeding, under the vigilant superintendence
of the Company's Acting Manager, with a vigor and rapidity that will
ensure its speedy completion. From our observations upon what has been
done, we presume it will be a superior road.
was not until May of 1832 that the superintendent was directed to
“prosecute to completion, the Room Run Railroad, in such a manner as
he may think most for the interest of the Company, and as soon as
practicable.” It would be another year before construction was
completed. The Room Run Gravity Railroad was completed in the spring of
1833 at a cost of $123,000, almost $100,000 more than the original
estimate. In that year 21,000 tons of coal glided down the new gravity
railroad from the mines at Room Run to the landing on the Lehigh River.
“as built” Room Run Railroad did not run to the Lausanne Landing.
Possibly the owners of the land there, who included Dr. Thomas C. James,
refused to sell or lease the land. Or perhaps it just made better sense
to transport the coal directly to Mauch Chunk on the new railroad.
whatever reason, the original wharves for the Room Run Railroad were
located in the Mauch Chunk Pond, the slackwater pool between the lower
and upper Mauch Chunk dams. An inclined plane (Plane No. 1) connected
the railroad with a location closer to the level of the Lehigh River. A
short span of track connected the foot of Plane No. 1 with the wharves.
after the railroad had been placed in service, the shipping wharves were
moved to a point just above the upper dam along the west side. This
could have occurred in May or June of 1833, when the railroad was
repaired after a freshet washed out a section of track.
is more likely to have taken place in the spring of 1838. On March 26 of
that year the Mauch Chunk Courier reported the raising of the upper dam,
stating that the Room Run Railroad
from the lower plane to the river has been torn away and is now being
raised nine feet higher, which will shorten the plane about 100 feet.
The wharf has been raised in consequence of the raising of the darn and
the only green spot near the dam is now covered with water. Those who
reside at the Northern Liberties in time of a freshet will find some
difficulty in keeping above water.
Board of Managers Report to the Stockholders for January 9, 1832,
presented construction details of the new railroad. The new gravity road
was divided into eight sections, as indicated in Table 1.
Sections of the Room Run Railroad
(Given in Feet)
foot or end of the railway at Chunk elevated above the dam
1, from Mauch Chunk Landing to self-acting Plane
2, self-acting Plane No. 1
3, for horse power, 1 ft. rise in 100 feet
4, for horse power, 10 inch rise in 100 feet
5, self-acting Plane No. 2 at Room Run
6, self-acting Plane No. 3 including the flat part at the head
of Section 5, up Room Run
7, for horse power, 1 ft. rise in 100 feet
8, for horse power
Room Run Railroad was designed and graded for double tracks; but as
originally constructed, the major portion of the railroad, Sections 3
and 4 (a little over four miles in length), was single tracked. The
inclined planes were double tracked. From all indications, the second
track was never added to the main railroad.
3 and 4 were also constructed with stone sills or "sleepers,"
whereas the remaining sections of the railroad rested on wooden sills.
On Sections 3 and 4 "there are about 20 slight curves, with a
uniform radius of about 1600 feet to each, and between the curves, the
road is perfectly straight."
granite blocks rested in wells hollowed out of the ground and filled
with smaller stone. Holes in the stone blocks were drilled with water
power at Mauch Chunk. These sleepers were then hauled to the site, where
the holes were plugged with pegs of locust wood. Cast iron
"knees," six inches wide, were then attached to the blocks by
iron spikes driven into the locust plugs. The stones were spaced four
feet apart along the railroad right of way. Each of the stone sills had
four holes drilled in it; the method of drilling holes in stone by water
power was invented by Josiah White. The wooden rails for the gravity
route were hewn from oak, five inches wide by seven inches deep and
twenty feet long. The oak rails were then attached to the iron knees by
spikes. Strap-iron rail was then laid along the inside edge of the oak
rails. The iron bars were two and one-half inches wide and five-eighths
of an inch thick and were beveled at each end for continuity between
sections. Iron spikes driven through countersunk holes spaced four
inches apart firmly secured the irons traps to the oak rails.
Earp and Erskine Hazard were appointed by the Board of Managers to
obtain 100 tons of railroad strap iron from England. Josiah White was
given the charge of obtaining the iron knees as well as the
"endless ropes" for the inclined planes. Abiel Abbott was
directed to construct the railroad wagons with wheels two feet, six
inches in diameter. A proposal was accepted from Fatzinger to build the
scales for the Room Run Railroad at a cost of $1,805.
of Way of the Room Run Railroad
understand or visualize the right of way of the Room Run Railroad a
clear image of the lay of the land is necessary.
Pisgah (originally known as Matchunk or Mauch Chunk Mountain) sits at
the apex of a long and narrow triangular basin formed by two mountain
ranges. This basin in the southeastern most tip of Pennsylvania's
anthracite field. The Pisgah Mountain ridge forms the southern edge of
this triangle. It includes Sharp Mountain at Summit Hill and extends
westward to Tamaqua. The northern side of the triangle is formed by the
Nesquehoning Mountain ridge (also known as Locust Mountain) which also
extends westward to a point north of Tamaqua. These two ridges converge
in the east at Mount Pisgah.
the 1800s the Nesquehoning Mountain ridge was broken by two gaps, the
Hell Kitchen Gap and the Room Run Gap, The Hell Kitchen Gap no longer
exists. A solid spoil bank from strip mining bars the way through the
gap. Hell Kitchen Run still manages to find its way through the rubble.
The small stream empties into a pond known as the "loggie"
before dumping into a culvert that runs under the town. Route 209 snakes
through the old Room Run Gap. Most Nesquehoning residents would not
recognize the name "Room Run Gap," but instead know the area
as "Wash Shanty Curve."
spite of its name the Nesquehoning Valley was wide enough to support the
laying out of a village, as well as the bed of a railroad,' The north
side of Nesquehoning Mountain was especially suited for this purpose.
self-acting planes (Planes No. 2 and No. 3) were constructed within the
Room Run Gap. Where the foot of the lower plane rested would later bear
the name Railroad Street. From here the gravity railroad descended
gently in an easterly direction along the base of the Nesquehoning
Mountain toward Mauch Chunk.
to the east, and the closer the approach to the base of Mount Pisgah,
the steeper the mountainside becomes. When the builders of the Room Run
Railroad reached the base of Mount Pisgah, they encountered an almost
sheer drop. This required the construction of a wooden trestle
approximately 500 feet long, which was built on a stone base constructed
into the mountainside. The far end of the trestle became the head of the
river plane (Plane No. 1).
stone abutments and laboriously constructed base of the trestle are
still visible (undergoing deterioration) although camouflaged by
concrete bridge work for the current highway.
originally constructed, the Room Run Railroad had three self-acting
inclined planes. These planes were designed such that loaded coal
cars descending each plane would haul empty cars up another track.
Plane No.1 or the "river plane" was located above the
Lehigh River on the north face of Mount Pisgah slightly below the level
of present Route 209 as it passes that comer. Connecting the head of
this plane with the main part of the railroad was a double set of tracks
on a wooden trestle that spanned 500 feet. After 1849, the area at the
foot of the river plane became a lumber yard and the location for the
foot of the "lumber plane," a "hauling up" plane
that used a turbine water wheel to raise cars carrying iron and lumber
to the foot of the Mount Pisgah plane.
LC&N constructed two planes within the Room Run Gap instead of just
one. This was necessary, due to the curvature of the gap. Building a
second plane was probably much easier than the earth-moving that would
have been required to straighten out the cut through the ridge. The
planes that passed through the Room Run Gap were Planes No.2 and No.3.
The head of Plane No.2 was
located within the Room Run Gap, while the length of the plane dropped
through an area that lay between the present Little League field and the
Wash Shanty Hill (Route 209). The foot of this plane was at the west end
of Railroad Street, close to the present location of the Nesquehoning
Recreation Center, which was once used as a mule stable for the mules on
As an indication of how
slight was the decline of the main railroad, although more than four
miles apart the foot of Plane No.2 was only 200 feet in elevation above
the head of Plane No.1. The head of Plane No.2 was located several yards
west of where the Nesquehoning Wash Shanty now stands.
Plane No. 3 picked up where
Plane No. 2 left off and ended above the Room Run Gap near the 28-foot
vein (probably located under the present highway just above the Wash
Shanty Curve). Various sidings and spurs connected the railroad with the
drifts where coal was mined.
leaving the mines, loaded coal cars first descended Plane No.3 and then
Plane No.2, the weight of the descending cars being used to advantage to
raise returning empties to the head of the planes. From the head of
Plane No.3, mules hauled the empty cars back to the mines along a slight
at the foot of Plane No. 2, the loaded coal wagons drifted four miles in
trains to the top of the river plane. This trip was eastward along the
western part of Railroad Street, then along what would later become
Center Street. The tracks dropped down along a tree-covered hillside,
passing through what would later become lots between Center and
Catawissa streets. East of Nesquehoning, the railroad passed through the
lower part of present-day Nesquehoning Hose Co. # 1, then behind the
Lantern Restaurant, then alongside present-day Route 209.
Route 209 was constructed between Jim Thorpe and Nesquehoning it cut
across the path of the old gravity railroad near the Lantern Restaurant.
The stone sills were removed and tossed down the embankment where they
can still be seen. The remaining stone sills are probably still
underneath the old red-rock highway that covered the gravity road and
now lies adjacent to the new highway.
the end of the gravity road the coal cars descended Plane No.1 or the
"river plane" to reach the wharves on the Lehigh River, where
the coal was loaded into canal boats and taken to Easton on the Lehigh
Canal and on to Philadelphia via the Delaware Canal.
hitched a ride on the trains, in order to haul returning empties from
the head of Plane No.1 back to the foot of Plane No. 2.
turnout at Dead Man's Spring along present Route 209, approximately 1.5
miles from the head of Plane No.1, allowed mules and cars returning to
the Mines to be sidetracked until descending trains passed.
the foot of the river plane another wooden trestle carried coal cars
from the foot of the plane to the loading docks on the river. The road
from Easton and Mauch Chunk to Lausanne, Nesquehoning and Berwick passed
under this "trestle." From time to time, horses passing
beneath the trestle would be frightened by the rumbling and rattling of
the coal cars on their way to the wharves.
more recent times, when the bed of the Central Railroad of New Jersey
yard was being excavated to reclaim the finer pieces of coal, remains of
this trestle became visible."
of the Room Run Mines and Railroad
Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company handled the Room Run Railroad
differently from the way it handled the gravity road from the "Old
Mines" at Sharp Mountain.
LC&N waited until 1832 before letting mining contracts at the Sharp
Mountain mines. The LC&N did not include the gravity road to Mauch
Chunk in the transactions. From the start, operations at the Room Run
mines were let to contractors.
the November 16, 1833, meeting of the Board of Managers the
superintendent was directed to post handbills and advertise in the Mauch
Chunk Courier and the Pottsville Miners Journal that proposals would be
received by the company for mining coal at Room Run. Interested
individuals could propose to mine the coal and also, if they so chose,
transport the coal on the Room Run Railroad.
original contracts were yearly agreements that specified that the
LC&N would pay contractors for each ton of coal mined and delivered
to a location specified by the LC&N. After it was mined, the coal
belonged to the LC&N. The company was responsible for getting the
coal to market and selling it.
November 10, 1832, the first contract for the Room Run mines was
accepted from Holland, Barber & Company at 88 cents per ton.
Apparently Holland and Barber opted to deliver the coal to canal boats.
Their contract included the provision that the contractors were to
operate and keep the railroad in good repair. This became standard
practice in all subsequent contracts and leases. For their part in the
contract, the LC&N assumed the responsibility for completing the
railroad and branches to the various workings of the mines. The company
also built the stabling for the mules and agreed to furnish the ropes
for the inclined planes,
practice of including the operation and maintenance of the railroad in
the contracts and leases is probably one of the reasons that information
about the Room Run Railroad is so scarce. In many of the annual reports
to the stockholders, under the "Room Run" heading appears the
simple statement: "These mines being under lease to other parties,
no expense has been incurred by the Company in repairs or renewals of
old work." What was true for the mines was true for the gravity
and Lessees of the Room Run Railroad
1833 to 1836
1837 to 1839
Dec, 1839 to Dec. 1841
Dec. 1841 to Dec. 1846
Dec. 1846 to Dec. 1851
Dec, 1851 to Dec. 1856
Dec. 1856 to Dec. 1861
Dec. 1861 to Dec. 1866
1867 to 1873
Dec. 31, 1873
Samuel Holland, Samuel S. Barber, T
Ratcliff, and Nathan Allen
Samuel Holland, James Lamon, Samuel S. Barber, Jacob Able
Asa and Robert W. Packer. (Sometime in 1844
became known as Packer, Harlan and Co. Apparently Robert Packer
had left the business.)
Asa Packer and Andrew A. Douglass
Asa Packer, Andrew A. Douglass, and John
Elisha A. Packer, Andrew A. Douglass,
Charles 0. Skeer, and Robert Lockhart
Elisha A. Packer, Andrew A. Douglass,
Charles 0. Skeer, and Robert Lockhart
A.A. Douglass granted permission to
transfer his interest to G.B. Linderman
Contract with Packer, Skeer and Linderman
was not renewed.
Room Run Mines not leased
Mines leased to Lehigh and Wilkes Barre
Compiled from meeting minutes of the Board of
Managers of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company and annual Board of
Managers Reports to the Stockholders.
for the digging associated with the "Old Tunnel" (later called
the Hacklebernie Mine) the opening of the Room Run mines was the Lehigh
Coal and Navigation Company's first experience with deep mining. Until
then, almost all of the company's coal production came from quarries at
the Old Mines on top of Sharp Mountain, where a large horizontal section
of the Mammoth Vein lay just beneath the surface. There the land "resemb(es)
moist gun powder, which can be removed by cattle with scrapers and
thrown into the valley below, so as never to impede the work…"
at the old mines continued for many years. Eventually windlasses powered
first by mules and then by steam engines were used to haul coal from
deep pits sunk at the Summit Hill mines.
contrast, the veins at Room Run were sloped or even vertical. A few
narrow sections of the veins were horizontal, but they lay at the bottom
of a basin and had to be reached by sinking shafts. All but a few
thousand tons of the coal had to be mined with drifts and then slopes,
tunnels and finally shafts. The company's second tunnel was driven at
type of mining necessitated the use of skilled labor, which had to be
imported, and also required provision for housing. Deep mining also
required higher wages.
was vastly different from the Old Mines, where the LC&N could use
the service of the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, who could return to the
comfort of their family farms when the day's work was completed. The
mountains throughout the area are crisscrossed with paths made by these
farmers walking to and from the mines.
village of Nesquehoning resulted from the necessity of accommodating the
new miners at Room Run. The village was laid out in the fall of 1830.
Although the first ad for land sales in the new village of Nesquehoning
appeared in The Lehigh Pioneer and Mauch Chunk Courier on September 19,
1831, lots were apparently being sold before this. On March 28, 1831,
the Mauch Chunk Courier noted:
the improvements going on at the new town of Nesquehoning. A number of
our English, Welsh, and Irish Miners, have purchased lots in this place,
and have already erected several substantial and comfortable dwellings.
plot for the village of Nesquehoning was surveyed by Enoch Lewis. The
first house in Nesquehoning was built for Thomas Kelly."
first streets laid out in Nesquehoning were Railroad and Catawissa
streets. Railroad Street was so named because the foot of self-acting
Plane No.2 rested at the west end of this street. Few of Nesquehoning's
residents realize why a street south of Catawissa Street (the town's
main street) is named "Railroad Street" while railroad tracks
are currently found only north of Catawissa Street.
1844 the vacant lots between Catawissa Street and Railroad Street were
divided equally and the lots on Railroad Street priced at fifty dollars
for interior lots and sixty-five dollars for corner lots. The lots on
Catawissa Street were sold for ten dollars more than those on Railroad
Street. The lots were sold at the terms of twenty percent upon making
application and thirty percent upon conveyance of the deed. The balance
was to be paid in two annual payments with the Lehigh Coal &
Navigation Company holding a mortgage.
1844 the LC&N had twenty houses, sixteen by twenty-five feet and two
stories high, built in the village of Nesquehoning. When built they were
rented for ten percent of cost.
first mines opened at Room Run were drifts driven along the thrust of
the outcropping coal seams. Two drift tunnels, with the openings caved
in, can still be found near Wash Shanty Curve, on the southwestern
fringe of Nesquehoning.
the company had numerous "tunnels" driven at Room Run. These
were not true tunnels driven on a horizontal plane and perpendicular to
the thrust of the vein, but were actually drifts driven along the vein.
One of the first drifts was contracted to be driven in 1833 by Holland,
Barber and Company, who were responsible for driving the tunnel,
timbering it, cutting the drain, and laying down the road. The tunnel
was to be 9 feet wide and 7 feet high "clear of the rails."
The cost of driving the tunnel was to be $40 per lineal yard.
Barber & Company continued to be awarded contracts for mining Room
Run coal. The 1836 contract was let at 95 cents per ton of coal and the
1837 contract at $1.30 per ton. The contracts continued to include
operation and maintenance of the Room Run Railroad. In 1837, because
"the Room Run Rail Road is not kept in the order required by the
Contract," the superintendent was directed to "give the
Contractors notice to put it in order and keep it so."
1838 the LC&N changed its mining policy. Instead of paying
contractors a specified figure per ton of coal mined, the LC&N
leased the mines, railroad, and shipping wharves for a period of time,
usually three to five years, from December 15 to December 15. The mines
were to be worked under the supervision of the LC&N's mine agent.
the method of leasing, the lessees would pay to the LC&N an amount
of money per ton of coal mined and delivered, called the "mine
leave," in addition to tolls on the navigation. The coal then
belonged to the lessees to sell for whatever price they could.
first contract under this new method was made with Samuel Holland, James
Lamon, Samuel S. Barber, and Jacob Able and ran from 1839 through 1841,
The lessees were to pay the LC&N 95 cents per ton of coal in
addition to canal toll. The money to be paid on the first days of
September, November, and January.
lessees were also given the privilege "of taking any portion of the
refuse coal passing through the meshes of the rolling screens. Perhaps
this is the reason the LC&N had trouble with some of the lessees in
regard to the meshes of the screen being the proper size. In May and
July of 1852 the LC&N, observing that the Room Run screens were not
the proper size as per the contract, ordered the lessees at that time to
modify them or "they will be charged the price of large coal on all
their shipments from the Room Run Mines .
Room Run Railroad underwent frequent changes as repairs were needed, and
as improvements were made to increase efficiency.
the most significant change to the Room Run Railroad, at least
significant to the LC&N, concerned the endless ropes for the
inclined planes. These ropes were made from either hemp or iron chain
and were subject to significant wear.
company and its contractors apparently had much trouble finding ropes or
chains to use on these planes. The leases with the various companies
would sometimes specify that the lessees were responsible for obtaining
the ropes; other agreements would put that chore upon the LC&N.
breaking of a rope or chain could cause considerable damage and possibly
the loss of life when a loaded coal car plummeted down one of the
manmade inclines. The minutes of the LC&N Board of Managers meetings
noted that a link on the chain on the river plane broke on July 4, 1834,
and the LC&N agreed to bear the loss. The report did not state the
nature of this loss.
1838 the LC&N experimented by replacing the endless ropes on one of
the Room Run planes with an iron band one-twelfth of an inch thick and
three inches wide. The Annual Report to the Stockholders on January 14,
1839, reported that "It has been in use three months, and has
passed down 15,784 tons of coal." The use of an iron band in place
of rope or chain was another of Josiah White's ideas.
use of an iron band as replacement for the endless rope was so
successful that the LC&N began using the iron bands on the two other
Room Run planes, thereby lowering maintenance costs by reducing the need
1839 the Nesquehoning mines made news when Messrs. Barber, Lamon and
Company shipped a large "specimen coal" on the Room Run
Railroad. On August 17, 1839, the Mauch Chunk Courier reported that it
weighed four thousand nine hundred and sixty-three pounds. It is said to
be the largest coal ever taken to Philadelphia, and may be seen at their
yards in Kensington.
lease with Asa and Robert W. Packer, beginning in 1842, contained the
condition that one-half of all coal mined at the Room Run mines was to
be given to the LC&N and delivered into canal boats on the river, in
lieu of the lessees paying toll on the navigation for their coal. From
time to time canal tolls would decrease, with the result that the
Packers requested credit for the lower tolls.
during the lease with Asa and R.W. Packer, Robert Packer bowed out of
the picture. By 1844 the firm was known as Packer and Harlan.
April of 1844, Packer and Harlan installed a "coal cracker" at
the shipping wharf on the Lehigh River. The Carbon County Gazette of
April 30 described the operation as follows:
As the cars descend the plane they are
dumped into a chute, in the bottom of which is placed a screen, over
which the lump coal slides directly into the boat, while the small coal
and dirt drops through on to a platform, where the slate and other
impurities are picked out. It then falls into the cracker, and thence-
of its own gravity into a rolling screen, which completes the process of
breaking, screening, and separating into all the sizes known by the name
of broken, egg, stove, nut &c. The coal broken by this machine
presents a beautiful glossy surface, and as it is subject to no handling
or friction from the time it passes the screen until it reaches the
boat, it will necessarily arrive in market free from dust or dirt, and
in the best possible order for sale. The machine is driven by a small
steam engine, and is said to be capable of cracking six or seven hundred
tons per day. The saving in waste of coal as well as in labor, over the
old mode of breaking with hammer, we are not prepared to give; but it is
estimated by some at about two thirds
notice in The Gazette resulted in a letter to The Pottsville Miners
Journal from the Beaver Meadows Railroad and Coal Company claiming to
have used such an arrangement as early as 1842.
first true tunnel at Room Run was driven by Charles Ashley, on contract
to Packer and Harlan, in 1843 and 1844. This tunnel, known as Tunnel No.
1, opened within Room Run Gap near the head of Plane No. 2. The
bulldozed shut entrance to this tunnel can still be seen near the Wash
Shanty, southwest of Nesquehoning.
late 1844 the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company agreed to allow
Packer, Harlan, and Company, to "construct a railroad to avoid the
inclined plane at Room Run," apparently self-acting Plane No. 2.
This work was to also include equipment for processing and loading coal
at Room Run and three coal pockets at the landing, the work to be paid
for in scrip, providing that it did not exceed $4 '000. This processing
"equipment" was the first breaker at Nesquehoning.
1845 Map of the Mount Pisgah Backtrack and the Proposed Panther Creek
Railroad shows the two inclined planes at Room Run as well as the new
tracks installed by Packer bypassing the planes." The new tracks
led to the coal breaker and chutes west of the inclined plane. Tracks
below the chutes connected with the Room Run Railroad at the foot of
self-acting Plane No. 2 on Railroad Street.
piece of information creates several questions. It is possible that the
coal cars traveled by the force of gravity from the mines at Room Run to
the new coal breaker, but how did the empties get back up the inclined
planes to the mines, if they were still in use and if the planes were
is quite possible that steam engines were then employed for raising back
the empties, although there seem to be no specific information to
support this. Steam engines were being used at Room Run as early as
January 1844, when the company took one of the steam engines at Room Run
to the Summit Hill mines to be used for breaking, slating, and screening
the coal." This was probably the company's first breaker. There is
no indication as to what this engine had been used for at Room Run.
1860 map of Carbon and Monroe counties also shows the Room Run
Railroad." Examination of this map reveals that the inclined planes
at the Room Run Gap were gone by the time this map was made. Plane No.
1, the River Plane, was still in service.
the course of the upper part of the railroad was changed sometime after
1845, passing in a northeast direction alongside the mountain on a
graded trail that would later become the right-of-way for the
Nesquehoning- Lansford trolley. After leaving this path, the railroad
traveled along High Street for approximately one-half block, then headed
down to Railroad Street, passing through what is now the parsonage for
the Baptist Church on the comer of Ratcliff and High streets.
1860 map presents a possible explanation to the problem of getting the
empties back up to the level of the mines. The new graded trail, a less-
steep incline, would allow mules to haul the empties directly from the
railroad through the gap. The planes in the Room Run Gap were probably
abandoned in 1845-46 when the first Nesquehoning breaker was built.
November of 1845 the River Plane at the Room Run wharf was reworked. The
LC&N provided the iron and lumber for a new drum, while the lessees
of the mine and railroad provided the labor. The LC&N accepted a
proposal from Lippincott and Miner for parts for the plane, payable in
scrip or materials. Castings for the drums for the plane cost 3 cents
per pound; wrought iron work was priced at 10 cents per pound; and brass
castings for the drums were proposed at 30 cents per pound. The LC&N
a] so provided iron and lumber for a new coal "shute" at the
'Room Run mines."
No. I at Room Run was sunk into the 28-foot vein in 1848 and included
two 48-horsepower steam engines. The estimated cost of the work was
$17,678.75 This slope was located where the head of Plane No. 3 of the
Room Run Railroad previously stood.
Run Tunnel No. 2 was also driven in 1848. The opening for this tunnel s
located between the place where the old Summit Hill-Nesquehoning Road
intersected with the Lansford-Nesquehoning Road.
December 1851 lease of the Room Run mines to Packer, Douglass and
Company included a clause that the lessees "shall run down at their
own cost and expense within the year 1852 a slope in such one of the
veins in said mines as shall be designated by the Company." The
LC&N chose the 28-foot vein, and Slope No.2 was sunk." The
opening for this slope was very close to the opening for Tunnel No.2.
the anthracite regions of Pennsylvania, events often took place, which
shadowed the demise of the canals and the rise of railroads to take
their place. In 1855 such an event occurred for the Lehigh Navigation.
In early December, 1855, the LC&N received a request from the
lessees of the Room Run mines (Packer and Co.) that surely sent shock
waves rippling through the navigation company's Board of Managers.
the Lehigh Canal was closed for the season and "about two or three
thousand tons of coal "from the Room Run mines lay piled at the
Room Run ding, the lessees asked to be allowed to depart from the
condition of their lease required all coal from the Room Run mines be
shipped via the Lehigh Navigation. Specifically, the lessees asked
permission to ship the coal sitting on the landing via the Lehigh Valley
Railroad. The board lost no time in denying the request.
lessees of the Room Run mines tried again several months later, this
time asking for permission to "remove some of the coal upon the
Room Run wharf by paying canal tolls in addition to the mine rent"
and also agreeing that "if sold on the line of the Lehigh Canal,
tolls to be paid to the place of delivery."
Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company relented, requiring that, in
addition to the usual mine leave (rent), the lessees pay 57 cents per
ton of coal transported via the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The LC&N
also required that the lessees of the Room Run mines sign an agreement
which "stipulated that the permission now given, shall not impair
in any degree, the condition or provision of the lease, that the coal
from the Room Run Mines shall be carried to market by the Company's
naturally brings up the question as to how the coal on the Room Run
wharves, located on the west side of the Lehigh River, was transferred
to the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which followed the Lehigh River along the
east side. It wasn't until the late 1860s that a rail connection was
made between LC&N's shipping wharves on the west side of the Lehigh,
with the Lehigh Valley Railroad at the Packerton Junction below Mauch
Chunk. Perhaps the same surprising method was used in 1856 as was used
later in 1862.
flood of June 1862 caused considerable damage to the Lehigh Navigation,
including the Room Run wharf. The lessees of the Room Run mines, anxious
to keep their coal moving to market, "by a special arrangement with
the Company, have constructed a temporary rail road across this dam
(author's note: Packer's Dam or Dam No.1 of Upper Division), by which
they have been enabled to ship their coal ... by the Lehigh Valley
Railroad, and may continue to do so until this part of the navigation
has been restored. This may explain why this dam is called
lessees of the Room Run mines were given permission to send coal via the
Lehigh Valley Railroad until April 1 of the following year, paying canal
tolls of 50 cents for the privilege, in addition to the mine
the lessees of the Room Run mines were given permission to ship coal on
the Lehigh Valley Railroad "until further notice."
from the Room Run mines would continue to be shipped via the Lehigh
Valley Railroad for several years:
order to expedite shipment of coal from the Room Run mines to market by
the Lehigh Valley Railroad, one hundred fifty 10-ton coal cars were
conveyed from the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad by a roundabout route
to Mauch Chunk. The cars were "hauled over the bridge across the
Susquehanna at Wilkesbarre, placed on the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg
Railroad, run down to Rupert, and thence turned on to the Catawissa Road
by which they were conveyed to this place." The company boasted a
handsome profit from renting out these cars.
for sinking the first vertical shaft on the 50-foot vein at Room Run
were submitted by the company superintendent and engineer, John
Leisenring. On January 23, 1861, the Board of Managers resolved to
accept proposals for the work, which was estimated at $33,197.45, and
included the necessary equipment for pumping and hoisting. The cost of
extending the Room Run Railroad from Slope No.2 to the shaft was
estimated at $2,063.30.
Production (in tons) of the Room Run Mines
50,000 dec. to25,000*
25,000 inc. to 30,000*
60,000 - 70,000
102,784 (Note 1)
required by contract, actual figures not available.
from Board of Managers Annual Reports to the Stockholders and Minutes of
Board of Managers Meetings.
1: Contract for 1849 called for 240,000 tons.
contract for Shaft No.1 at Room Run was let in 1861, and the job was
completed in 1863. Work was performed by Messrs. M'Nish, Murray and
Company. Shaft No.1 included a mine pump powered by a Cornish engine,
which the LC&N boasted was the largest pump in the state. In 1868 at
the recommendation of the mining engineer, this shaft was allowed to
fill with water. The shaft was eventually abandoned, considered too
expensive to work. This shaft was located along the road from
Nesquehoning to Summit Hill near the location that would later become
the village site known as "Little Italy."
No. 3 was sunk in 1867, during the period when the Room Run mines were
not being worked. Slope No. 3 was located approximately one hundred feet
west of Slope No. 2.
lease of the Room Run mines and railroad expired on December 15, 1866.
The company received several offers, but chose not to accept any, and
took possession of the mines and railroad. The May 7, 1867, annual
report noted that the former lessees had worked out all the easily
accessible coal, and that major improvements would have to be made
before more coal could be produced. "The timbering of the mines,
the Rail Road, and the breaker are all in such a dilapidated condition
as to require extensive repairs." The report stated that 1,313 tons
of coal were produced from the Room Run mines in 1867, but this was
probably coal in storage that had been previously mined.
needed repairs were made, using machinery from the abandoned Tamaqua
mines." A new lease was signed on December 31, 1873, with the
Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company. This lease included the Room Run
at the Mines and on the Railroad
first accident of record at the Room Run mines occurred on July 27,
1834. The Mauch Chunk Courier called this a "melancholy
incident" and noted that two of four men working in a drift were
crushed to death when
large mass of slate very unexpectedly and without any previous warning,
fell from overhead, which instantly killed two, and caught a third by
the legs. The fourth gave the alarm, and they were extricated as soon as
possible. The names of the deceased were Jonathan Marsden (who was
survived by a wife and six children) and John Llewellyn, a man without
relatives in the United States.
fatal accident occurred on March 19, 1836, when a laborer named John
Quin, employed by Holland, Barber and Company was instantly killed by a
slip in the drift in which he was working. An inquest was held, attended
by Samuel S. Barber and Dr. M'Connell. The verdict was proclaimed to be
accidental death. John Quin was survived by a widow and two young
1833 Volume of Hazards Register of Pennsylvania reported the first
accident on the Room Run Railroad:
accident. It becomes our unpleasant task to record a fatal accident,
which occurred at Nesquehoning last evening, August 23rd, by which the
death of one man was occasioned, and another was badly hurt. We are
informed that Mr. Barber, the engineer with three other men, (miners)
were descending the second inclined plane from the Room Run Mines in
some empty cars, when the miners became alarmed at their velocity and
imprudently undertook to jump out, in doing which, one was precipitated
with great violence into a gutter which passes under the plane, and so
shockingly bruised and mangled that he died soon after. His name was
Thomas Barrett. Another miner was severely bruised but the third escaped
with out material injury. Mr. Barber was left to hold the friction brake
alone, but succeeded in arresting the progress of the cars at the foot
of the plane, and escaped injury entirely.
October 17, 1836, John Wilson was severely injured by the mule wagons on
the Room Run Railroad and had to have his right leg amputated by Dr.
M'Connell. The Mauch Chunk Courier reported that "we are glad to
hear he is doing well. He is an industrious and sober man with a
helpless family; and he had only been in the employ of Messrs. Holland,
Barber & Company a short time and was last from Philadelphia."
August 22, 1837, an intoxicated man attempted to climb into an empty car
"while it was rapidly ascending the lower plane" on the Room
Run Railroad. The man fell under the wagon and it passed over him,
breaking one of his legs.'
Demise of the Room Run Railroad
the June 1862 flood devastated the navigation along the Lehigh River,
the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company abandoned the Upper Division of
the Lehigh Navigation and extended the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad
from White Haven to Mauch Chunk. This had implications for the Room Run
the LC&N was beginning to realize the necessity of transporting coal
over railroads in addition to the canal navigation. In 1867, the Room
Run Railroad was linked to the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad via a
4500-foot connection between the lower part of the Room Run Railroad and
the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad near Lausanne. This branch road
connected with the Nesquehoning gravity railroad approximately 1.5 miles
above the head of the river plane. The Annual Report to the Stockholders
on May 5, 1868, stated "The lower end of the Old Room Run Rail Road
has been abandoned, together with the inclined plane and shipping
this was in preparation for reopening the Room Run mines, which had been
shut down since December 1866. The area at the foot of the River Plane
was then utilized for constructing an engine house and turntable for the
L. & S. Railroad.
1868 a set of coal pockets was built at the connection of the Room Run
Railroad with the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad. This location would
later become known as the Nesquehoning Junction, when the Nesquehoning
Valley Branch Railroad was connected to the Lehigh and Susquehanna
Railroad near Lausanne.
of unloading at shipping wharves along the river, the coal cars from the
Room Run mines coasted down to the level of the L. & S. Railroad on
the new branch road. The coal cars stopped at a point on the side of the
mountain above the L. & S. Railroad where the coal was dumped into
pockets. The pockets were then used to load cars on the Lehigh and
1868 approximately 56,000 tons of coal were mined at Room Run. Of this,
only 14,584 tons were shipped by the Lehigh Canal; 41,534 tons were
shipped by railroad.
the Room Run mines could be reopened, there was much that would have to
be done. At a March 18, 1868, meeting of the Board of Managers, the
president reported that the breaker at Room Run was unfit for further
use, whereupon the superintendent and engineer was authorized to build a
new breaker with enough capacity for the probable future production of
October 10, 1868, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company advertised for
proposals to erect this new breaker at Nesquehoning." Less than a
year later, on August 6, 1869, this new double breaker "with all
the modem improvements for screening and preparing coal" was in
service." This breaker would serve as the connection between the
Room Run mines and a new railroad.
abandonment of the remaining sections of the Room Run Railroad was tied
to the construction of the Nesquehoning Valley Branch Railroad, which
would eventually extend from the mouth of the Nesquehoning Creek to the
Mahanoy coal region. The completion of this railroad would also affect
the old gravity railroad from Summit Hill to Mauch Chunk. But this had
already been planned.
Nesquehoning Valley Branch Railroad Company had its beginnings on April
12, 1861, when an act chartering the corporation passed the Pennsylvania
State Senate. The Act passed the House on April 16, but was disapproved
and returned by Governor Andrew G. Curtin. The Senate passed it over the
governor's objection on May 8 and the House followed suit on May 14.
the beginning, this corporation was tied intimately to the LC&N. One
of the "incorporators" was John Leisenring, superintendent and
engineer for the LC&N. Other "incorporators" and members
of the Board of Managers of the LC&N were Jacob P. Jones, Samuel E.
Stokes, Andrew Manderson, and James S. Cox. The capital stock for the
Nesquehoning Valley Railroad was made up of ten thousand shares at fifty
dollars per share."
the early part of 1862 the Nesquehoning Valley Railroad Company
requested that the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company subscribe for a
portion of their bonds. The LC&N subscribed to $ 100,000
LC&N was very interested in the new railroad because of a planned
link between the Panther Creek mines and the new railroad, which would
provide an easier way of getting the Panther Valley's coal to market. At
the Board of Managers meeting on November 18, 1863, the superintendent
and engineer submitted a letter recommending a change in the method of
transporting coal from the company's mines. He suggested using
locomotive power via a tunnel through the Nesquehoning Mountain north of
the Panther Creek Valley, the railroad tracks to connect with those of
the proposed Nesquehoning Valley Railroad. This to be done in lieu of
"the system now in use of inclined planes and gravity roads."
The Board of Managers approved the proposed tunnel.
LC&N continued to increase its involvement with the Nesquehoning
Valley Railroad Company. On April 11, 1864, the LC&N Board of
Managers resolved "unanimously that the President be authorized to
subscribe for $200,000 of the bonds and $200,000 of the stock of the
Nesquehoning Valley Railroad ... "
July 31, 1868, the president of the LC&N reported to the board the
transfer of 80 shares of Nesquehoning Valley Railroad stock to members
of the board to allow them to qualify for membership on the Board of
Directors of the Nesquehoning Valley Railroad Company.
on November 3, 1868, a lease of the Nesquehoning Valley Railroad the
Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company was approved for execution under
corporate seal. Ground was broken for the connection of the new railroad
with the L. & S. Railroad on January 11, 1869, near the Lausanne
May of 1870 the event occurred for which all of the preparatory work had
taken place. During that month the Nesquehoning Valley Railroad was
turned over the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. The Room Run mines
were connected to the Nesquehoning Valley Railroad at the new breaker,
constructed outside of town on the west end. The remainder of the Room
Run Railroad was abandoned and the "old material" was pulled
up and used inside the Room Run Mines and those of the Panther Creek
Valley. The coal transfer pockets at the Nesquehoning Junction were
"turned over to the railroad department, and are now being used to
coal the locomotives" of the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad. The
gravity road mules were replaced by a wood-burning locomotive
"laboriously hauled over the mountains from Tamaqua.
the abandonment of the lower section of the Room Run Railroad, the
company constructed an engine house and turntable for the Lehigh and
Susquehanna Railroad at the foot of the River Plane.
bed of the old gravity railroad also proved to be useful. When the
trolley tracks were laid between Mauch Chunk and Nesquehoning, they were
laid along much of the right of way of the Room Run Railroad.
reaching Mauch Chunk, the trolley tracks did not descend the River
Plane. Instead, part of the mountainside was cut away to make a special
track for the trolley, which curved away from the river toward Mauch
Chunk. The road between Nesquehoning and Mauch Chunk took advantage of
the River Plane, and the hill here became known as "plane house
late Pete Schmauch, a Tamaqua resident who frequently contributed
articles to the Valley Gazette, described a trip he made on a truck down
during the 1920s when I was riding through this area (author's note: the
area of Route 209 directly north of the Mauch Chunk Liberties) on the M
& G ice cream trucks and when you approached Mauch Chunk from
Nesquehoning, the road went straight ahead instead of the curve that is
there now. The driver, Red Sparks, always shifted into second gear to
descend a rather steep hill here. The hill was very evenly graded and on
the North side of it was a very sturdy wall built up from slabs of heavy
red shale rock. This wall was about two feet wide and about 4 feet high.
It was very well made and I can still picture this road and the wall as
if it were just yesterday. When you got to the bottom of this hill,
which was about 250 yards in length, then you made a gentle turn and
headed upgrade to Mauch Chunk ... I can still remember very clearly that
there were several of the big old wooden coal chutes.
even the trolley tracks between Mauch Chunk and Nesquehoning were torn
up. The highway between the two towns was then laid over the old trolley
route. Plane House Hill was abandoned.
the village of Nesquehoning expanded, lots were laid out along the path
of the abandoned gravity railroad. Some of the stone sleepers were left
in place, and they can still be found in backyards and empty lots.
The Room Run Railroad would be forgotten.
only would the name "Room Run" never become as famous as that
of Mauch Chunk," it would not even retain its original form. The
LC&N records to the name as "Room" Run and not "Rhume"
Run, yet three of the four books Carbon County history all use the
spelling "Rhume", the history of the counties Rupp being the
first time "Rhume" appears to have been used was in the table
of weekly shipments from Mauch Chunk in the Carbon County Transit on May
23, 1843. It is interesting to note that when Asa Lansford Foster took
over this press in April 1844, changing its name to the Carbon County
Gazette, the original spelling of "Room"
was restored to the list of weekly coal shipments.
1869, R.P. Rothwell, the mining engineer for the LC&N, developed a
map of the company's coal lands. On this map he labeled the Room Run
stream as " Rhume" Run, and this time the name stuck.
their History of the Counties of Lehigh and Carbon, Mathews and
Hungerford retained the spelling that Rothwell used. This was repeated
by A.E. Wagner in his history of the county, as well as by that written
by Fred Brenckman. A street on the northern side of Nesquehoning now
bears the name Rhume Street.
1875 Beers Atlas of Carton County mistakenly labeled Room Run as Creek.
Another stream shown flowing south from the Broad Mountain into the
Nesquehoning Creek is mysteriously labeled "Rum Run."
Room Run mines later became known as the Nesquehoning mines. The area
where Room Run originated has been strip mined. However, the stream
still manages to briefly find its way to the surface near the Wash
Shanty Curve, before being channeled beneath the town through a steel
Room Run mines and railroad never lived up to the expectations of the
Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. Nevertheless, they were important.
The LC&N's experience with deep mining at Room Run probably proved
useful when the deep mines in the Panther Creek Valley were opened in
the 1840s. And, although the output of the mines rarely was as high as
the LC&N desired, this production did, along with the sale of lots
in Nesquehoning, provide the LC&N with much needed income.
spite of the extensive strip mining, the "bounding and sparkling
rivulet" is still surprisingly clear. But its name has been
forgotten, and the part it played in the development of the anthracite
industry has passed into obscurity.