Room Run Railroad
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The Room Run Railroad and Mines


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. 




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:

New Railroad
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.

Preparations for 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.

This consideration 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:

a 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:

The 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:

With 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.

These 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 company expectations.

The “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.

The 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 the find.

It 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.

In 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.

While 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.

In 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.

White 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.

In 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.

In 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.

However, 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.

Jacob 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 Nesquehoning Creek.

Why 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.

While 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.'

Weiss 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.”

Mining did take place at Room Run prior to Josiah White's “discovery.”

In 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.

As 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.

As 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.

Isaac 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.


Construction of the New Railroad

An 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.

Josiah 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 Chunk.

White 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.

Other expenses brought his estimate of the cost of “100,000 tons from Room Run Mines & Cost of Rail Road” to $63,073.75.

For 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.

Josiah 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 calculated it.

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 White's estimates:

From 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 latter.

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.

            At 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.

White 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 it.

White's 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).

White's 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.

Concerning 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.

Yet 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.

Other aspects 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.”

While 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.

White also gave the “current expense” of transporting coal from Lausanne to Mauch Chunk on the 11 -inch plane as 2 cents per ton.

An 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.

In 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.

As 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.

Other plans for the Room Run gravity railroad went amiss. The railroad would not be completed in 1831, as originally proposed.

At 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.”

Some 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.

It 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.

The “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.

For 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.

Sometime 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.

It 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.

The 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. 

Table 1
Sections of the Room Run Railroad
(Given in Feet)




The foot or end of the railway at Chunk elevated above the dam



Section 1, from Mauch Chunk Landing to self-acting Plane    No. 1



Section 2, self-acting Plane No. 1



Section 3, for horse power, 1 ft. rise in 100 feet



Section 4, for horse power, 10 inch rise in 100 feet           



Section 5, self-acting Plane No. 2 at Room Run



Section 6, self-acting Plane No. 3 including the flat part at the head of Section 5, up Room Run



Section 7, for horse power, 1 ft. rise in 100 feet



Section 8, for horse power







The 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.

Sections 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."

The 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.

Thomas 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.

Right of Way of the Room Run Railroad

To understand or visualize the right of way of the Room Run Railroad a clear image of the lay of the land is necessary.

Mount 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.

In 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."

In 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.

Two 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.

Farther 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).

The stone abutments and laboriously constructed base of the trestle are still visible (undergoing deterioration) although camouflaged by concrete bridge work for the current highway.

         As 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.

      The 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 the railroad.

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.

After 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 grade.

Once 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.

When 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.

At 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.

Mules 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.

A 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.

At 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.

In 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."

Operation of the Room Run Mines and Railroad

The 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.

The 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.

At 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.

The 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.

On 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,

This 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 railroad.


Contractors 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

March 8,1865


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 Carter

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 expired     and was not renewed.

Room Run Mines not leased

Mines leased to Lehigh and Wilkes Barre Coal Company


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.


Except 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…"

Quarrying 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.

In 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 Room Run.

This 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.

This 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.

The 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.

The plot for the village of Nesquehoning was surveyed by Enoch Lewis. The first house in Nesquehoning was built for Thomas Kelly."

The 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.

In 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.

In 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.

The 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.

Initially 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.

Holland, 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."

In 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.

With 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.

The 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.

The 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 .

The Room Run Railroad underwent frequent changes as repairs were needed, and as improvements were made to increase efficiency.

Perhaps 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.

The 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.

The 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.

In 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.

The 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 for replacements.

In 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.

The 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.

Sometime 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.

In 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

This 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.

The 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.

In 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.

The 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.

This 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 still self-acting?

It 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.

An 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.

Apparently 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.

This 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.

In 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."

Slope 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.

Room 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Since 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.

The 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."

The 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 Navigation.

This 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.

The 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 "Packer's Dam."

The 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 leave."

Eventually the lessees of the Room Run mines were given permission to ship coal on the Lehigh Valley Railroad "until further notice."

Coal from the Room Run mines would continue to be shipped via the Lehigh Valley Railroad for several years:






Shipped by LVRR

8,049 tons

25,983 tons

5,656 tons

Shipped by Canal

20,952 tons

53,744 tons

86,705 tons


        In 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.

Plans 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.


Coal Production (in tons) of the Room Run Mines



50,000 dec. to25,000*
25,000 inc. to 30,000*
(not available)         
60,000 - 70,000
(not available)
102,784 (Note 1)       





*Production required by contract, actual figures not available.

Compiled from Board of Managers Annual Reports to the Stockholders and Minutes of Board of Managers Meetings.

Note 1: Contract for 1849 called for 240,000 tons.  


The 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."

Slope 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.

The 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.

The 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 mines.

Accidents at the Mines and on the Railroad

The 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

…..a 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.

Another 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 children.

The 1833 Volume of Hazards Register of Pennsylvania reported the first accident on the Room Run Railroad:

Serious 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.

On 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."

On 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.'

The Demise of the Room Run Railroad

After 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 Railroad.

Perhaps 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 fixtures."

All 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.

In 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.

Instead 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 Susquehanna Railroad.

In 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.

Before 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 the mines.

On 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.

The 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.

The 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.

From 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."

In 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 worth."

The 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.

The 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 ... "

On 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.

Finally, 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 landing.

In 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.


After 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.

The 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.

Upon 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 hill."

The late Pete Schmauch, a Tamaqua resident who frequently contributed articles to the Valley Gazette, described a trip he made on a truck down this hill:

... 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.

Eventually 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.

As 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.

Not 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 exception.

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.

In 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.

In 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.

The 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."

The 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 culvert.

The 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.

In 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.


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