John Pritiskutch Reproductions

History of Lebanon County - Philadelphia and Reading Railroad

The following is reproduced from the 1875 Atlas of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania

May well be called the pioneer Railroad of Pennsylvania. The company was chartered by the Legislature of Pennsylvania, April 4th, 1833, to build a road from Philadelphia to Reading a distance of 58 miles. In 1835 work was commenced and portions of the road were open for travel in 1838. During this year authority was given to extend the road to Mount Carbon and to Pottsville. These points were already connected by the Mount Carbon Railroad, and it was decided to extend the road to connect therewith. The Mount Carbon Railroad was leased in 1872, when it became a part of the main line. The first through trains between Philadelphia and Pottsville, -93 miles,-were run early in 1842, although local trains were run in 1838. The branch from the Falls of the Schuylkill to Port Richmond, from which shipments of Coal are made, was completed in 1842. Since then over 53,000,000 tons of coal have been shipped from that point, principally for consumption in the Eastern and Middle States. In 1850 the company bought extensive properties of the Commonwealth, situated in Philadelphia.

The Lebanon Valley Railroad, 54 miles long, extending from Reading to Harrisburg, came under their control in 1858. This road passes through the entire County of Lebanon, east and west, and since it came under the management of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, has been extensively improved, and is in a very prosperous condition. Not only has it become a great thorough fare for a constantly increasing travel, but it has done much to improve and benefit the country through which it passes. With the increased facilities for rapid transportation which it has given Lebanon, has become an important manufacturing town, with an increased and increasing population. Villages have sprung up around its stations. Richland, Avon; and Prescott perhaps owe their existence as villages, and certainly their thrift and prosperity to the Lebanon Valley Branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. Palmyra, Annville, Myerstown, and Sheridan are rapidly becoming business places of much importance, and their increased trade passing over the lines of this Company is yearly increasing Tremont Railroad, 42 miles in length, extending its already immense traffic. The Lebanon and Tremont Railroad, 42 miles in length, extending from Lebanon to Tremont, is also under their management, and over its lines the large quantities of coal pass, which are annually needed in the manufacture of Iron, Lime and Brick, as well as for domestic uses, and various other manufacturing purposes. The country along its line is also rapidly improving, although not so long a time having elapsed since it was open to travel, the improvements are not so marked as along the Lebanon Valley line, which has been open a much longer time. Both the Lebanon and Tremont and the Lebanon Valley Railroads connect at Lebanon with the Cornwall Railroad, extending to Cornwall, where large furnaces exist, which annually consume large quantities of Anthracite Coal, brought over the line of the Lebanon and Tremont Railroad.

At Jonestown this road intersects the South Mountain Railroad, from which it will undoubtedly obtain large quantities of freight.

The Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, now own no less than ten railroads, with a total length of 327 miles; they also lease fifteen railroads, with a total length of 355.4 miles; two roads are also controlled by them, the length of which are 42.9 miles, making a total length of road of 725.3 miles: the aggregate of whose tracks and sidings amounts to 1451.8 miles. The Company also has a perpetual lease on the Canal of the Schuylkill Navigation Co., 108 miles in length. Also, on the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, on the Susquehanna River. Their chief business is the transportation of coal, from the first and second Anthracite Coal Fields of Pennsylvania to Tidewater, in the Delaware River at Port Richmond, Philadelphia.

At this eastern terminus, extensive wharves extending from 300 to 800 feet into the Delaware River have been erected, allowing a direct discharge of Coal into the Vessels. The P. & R. Coal and Iron Company now own and control about 100,000 acres of Anthracite Coal lands. The tonnage of these lands last year`was 3,006,774 tons. The Company conduct a large express business on the railroad, and have no less than 143 offices, which realize them a fine profit each year.

Their immense business required, in 1874, 405 locomotive engines, an increase of 151 in the last nine years.

Space however forbids us to linger in giving the details of the immense business of this great Company which is to day exerting a beneficial influence on the sections through which it passes, which is only equaled by its well deserved prosperity.

The following are the officers:

President, Franklin B. Gowen
1st. Vice-President, J. W. Jones
2d. Vice-President, G. A. Nicolls
Secretary, D. J. Brown
Treasurer, S. Bradford
Gen'l Superintendent, J. E. Wooten
Chief Engineer, W. Lorenz