John Pritiskutch Reproductions

History of Lebanon County - South Mountain Railroad

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

Among the great enterprises of the present decade, the South Mountain Railroad is deservedly entitled to a high rank. And when we consider that it was in the County of Lebanon, near the flourishing Borough of Jonestown, that the first shovel-full of earth was thrown, and that from such a small beginning, has grown steadily and surely, each new feature of this great undertaking, until from possibility has grown probability, and from probability, certainty, until all along through the fertile valleys of Dauphin and Lebanon, the rich agricultural lands of Berks and Lehigh, the exhaustless slate regions of Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and still on through the great deposits of iron and zinc in Northern New Jersey and Southern New York, with the rich dairy country stretching from the Delaware to the Hudson, already extend at a greater or less stage of completion, the links of that great chain, which, when finished, is destined to join together with its iron links the commercial destinies of the Eastern and Middle States, in bonds stronger than ever before; and to bring Boston and her sister cities, nearer by many miles and hours to Harrisburg and the South and West, thus giving to the great manufacturing centres of the East, a ready means of reaching their great market, freed from the tolls, of those great cities which thus far have exacted their tribute from both consumer and producer, and have grown rich and powerful on the spoils. When this is taken into consideration, the citizens of Lebanon may well be proud of that public spirit which placed within her borders the honor of laying the "corner stone" of this great work.

When this route shall be completed, when over its iron rails shall be passing the great freights of Anthracite and Bituminous Coals, Zinc and Iron Ore, Slate, Grain, Stock and manufactured articles, which will naturally gravitate to as their common outlet to market; when the East and the West shall meet and exchange products in a days less time, and many miles less distance than at present; when manufactories are drawing trade and population, and that trade and population seeking their natural centres are building towns and villages, which more and more, as the years go by, shall give all the advantages of excellent schools and churches, and profitable home markets to the surrounding farming population. Then the beholder gazing on this beneficial, prosperous, and paying line, with its few curvatures and slight grades, in many places with no grade or curvature at all, easily kept in repair, and improved each year, will do justice to the farseeing foresight of the man who planed it all, and whose fate and ability, with that of his colleagues, carried the project on from infancy to its gigantic maturity. Well may Central and Eastern Pennsylvania be proud of the future which such works as these are opening before them.

But the results just spoken of are rather National in character, and we must confine our attention to the effect on Lebanon county. It must be vastly beneficial. To the manufacturing industries it will acid a new stimulus, as it passes through what is, undoubtedly, by far the best natural manufacturing part of the county.

A diversified country gives naturally an increased amount of water, and generally speaking, material for manufacturing purposes.

There can be no doubt in the mind of any person acquainted with the section refered to, and with the industrious character of its people, that the next ten years will witness a vast change. An added population will increase the relative commercial and political importance of the towns and villages along the line, and the hills and valleys, will resound with the hum of many a varied industry as yet undeveloped or unknown.

The President of this road, Win. H. Bell, Esq., is well and widely known as a man of great financial and administrative ability, and of untiring patience and perseverance: and among the directors are some of the leading men of Lebanon county. That no difficulties can daunt; no obstacles overcome then, can be seen from the proud results they have accomplished in the past three years, in the face of great difficulties, and in a time of great financial distress. In their great achievements, they have the good wishes of all.

Nor are the advantages confined to any particular section; for it must, as soon as opened to the public, save millions of dollars to the manufacturing; industries of the East, from the superior facilities it will give them to reach their markets in the South and West, free from the vexatious ferriage delays, and charges of New York City, and the attendant changes. It will, in the same manner, confer great benefits on the great grain-producing territory lying at its Western end; for it offers the producers a new and direct means of reaching the East with their produce, and brings it over one hundred miles nearer to them.

The South Mountain Railroad, the principal office of which is at Jonestown, commences at Harrisburg, and pursues a North-easterly course. Part of the way as the South Mountain, and part of the way, under other names, but all of the way under the Jonestown management, to Poughkeepsie, in New York, where it connects with the direct Eastern roads for Boston.

A branch extends from Straustown to Reading in Berks county, and is far advanced towards completion.

An elegant and costly bridge is being built at Poughkeepsie, across the Hudson, to connect the road with the East. Of the great future, this road must open up to the County of Lebanon, one can judge, when told that it saves, between Harrisburg and Boston, no less than 90 miles, over any route now in existence ; that there will be no ferry delays whatever to embarass transportation, and no shipping bills across Treat cities. But that freight can be put on a through train, and never changed or delayed from Harrisburg, not only to Springfield, Boston, and all New England cities, but as well to Montreal, Quebec, and all of the Eastern cities of the English possessions. For the inland cities of the objective region, this is destined to become one of the great coal routes of the United States.

And it is already conceded, even by its enemies, that it must do an immense slate trade, as it is the only road which passes through the very heart of the slate region.