Historical Markers
Corning and Blossburg Railroad Historical Marker
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Corning and Blossburg Railroad

Allegheny National Forest Region


Marker Location:
S. Main St. (Business US 15), Mansfield

Dedication Date:
June 6, 1983

Behind the Marker

Tioga County's pioneer railroad was one of many Pennsylvania railroads whose fortunes rose and fell with the coal industry. But Tioga's existence offered a twist. Although its mainstay was coal, the company began and ended because of water. Too little navigable water prompted its construction; too much water caused its demise.

In the early 1820s, local industrialists knew they had plenty of timber and semi-bituminous coal to sell to outside markets, but they lacked the means to move them. Canal fever was running high throughout New York and Pennsylvania, and in 1826, the Pennsylvania Legislature authorized the Tioga Navigation Company to make the Tioga River navigable. The goal was to funnel coal northward to connect with the Chemung Canal at Corning, New York, and from there to buyers in Syracuse, New York. But the initial flotilla of coal-heavy barges reportedly sank, thus ending the venture. In 1828, the company amended its charter to allow it to build a railroad along the same route.

Image of Erie Railroad
Image of Erie Railroad
The amendment was valid only in Pennsylvania, so the twenty-five-mile-long line could run only from Blossburg to Lawrenceville on the New York state line. To continue on to Corning, investors started a separate corporation under a New York charter for the Corning and Blossburg Railroad, which covered the 15.6 miles from Lawrenceville to Corning. Opened in 1839-40, the two lines together totaled 40.6 miles.
Unlike earlier railroads, Tioga began with locomotives rather than horse or mule power. Its first steam engine was the Tioga, built in 1839 by Philadelphia's markerBaldwin Locomotive Works. In 1851, the company formally changed its name to Tioga Railroad and again revised its charter. In 1852-53, the company built a four-mile branch to Morris Run to tap additional coal mines there.

The New York segment, known as the Corning and Blossburg, did not thrive and was sold in 1854. Reorganized as the Blossburg and Corning Railroad - in those days, names were simply transposed to signify reorganization - the railroad was taken over by The Fall Brook Coal Company, which ran coal trains from its mines near Tioga up to Corning. Fall Brook eventually leased more than 165 miles of other lines, extending southward through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon to markerWilliamsport in Lycoming County.

Throughout the nineteenth century, coal and railroads were mutually dependent, growing hand-in-hand as the mineral fueled the Industrial Revolution. In the 1860s, the mines near Blossburg produced about 2,000 tons of coal a day. By the 1880s, 700,000 to 900,000 tons of coal and coke passed through Blossburg each year. The Tioga line also handled milled lumber and glass products produced by the factories at Blossburg and nearby Covington.

When investors opened new coal mines and timberlands southwest of Blossburg, the company built another fifteen miles of line to Hoytsville. On the other end, the company extended twenty-four miles north to Elmira, New York, so that it was no longer reliant on the B and C and Corning for a northern outlet. When this new line opened in October, 1876, a seven-car inaugural special traveled the entire route. Along the way, crowds cheered at every station as officials stopped to give speeches, drink toasts, inspect mines, and listen to a cornet band.

Map showing original line and extensions.
Map showing original line and extensions of the Tioga Railroad, and the Blossburg...
The Tioga Railroad also hauled passengers - excursionists traveling to the Great Mansfield Fair, and students headed to and from Mansfield state teachers' college. Tioga County residents could ride north to Elmira and connect with trains for New York or Chicago. But the driving force for the line's construction and extension was always the shipment of goods. The roundhouse and car shops at its Blossburg headquarters employed between 260 and 300 machinists, boilermakers, carpenters, and other workers who maintained its seventeen to twenty-two engines and one thousand cars.

In 1882, the Tioga Railroad was taken over by New York, Lake Erie and Western (another name for the Erie Railroad). It was a natural fit - the prosperity of the line had always been dependent upon coal shipments, and the Erie hauled plenty of coal from other mines elsewhere in Pennsylvania. The Erie simply renamed the line its Tioga Division. When the mines started to play out in the early 1900s, the volume of traffic declined. Though enough business remained to keep the trains running, the Blossburg shops were closed and work was consolidated at other Erie shops. In 1960, the company merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad to become Erie Lackawanna (EL), the first of the Eastern railroad mergers.

In June 1972, floods caused by Tropical Storm Agnes washed out key portions of EL's New York-Chicago main line, and forced the line into bankruptcy. The swollen Tioga River also washed out the surviving remnant of the branch into Blossburg, the onetime Tioga Railroad. With no money for repairs and no hope for a return to the coal-boom years, EL abandoned and dismantled the line. Today, the Wellsboro and Corning Railroad, a freight short line, operates on the tracks of the former Corning and Blossburg Railroad, from Corning to Lawrenceville, and then on to Wellsboro, Pa. The Tioga Central Railroad offers passenger excursions over the same tracks.
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