Historical Markers
Pennsylvania Gravity Railroad Historical Marker
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Pennsylvania Gravity Railroad

Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
Tigue Street (Across from Holiday Inn)

Dedication Date:
May 7, 1999

Behind the Marker

The Pennsylvania Gravity Railroad carried both passengers and coal along its 47-mile route. Shown here is a Pennsylvania Gravity Railroad passenger car.
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Pennsylvania Gravity Railroad passenger car, circa 1895.
Gravity railroads preceded steam locomotives in commercial application by about a decade. The term refers to cars moving along wood and iron tracks, descending by the forces of gravity and switching back, or returning, by a cable or pulley system. Naturally, gravity railroads used no motive power on their descent; gravity pulled cars down inclined planes. They were used most notably in the transportation of anthracite coal from northeastern Pennsylvania mountaintops. Initially, horses or mules powered the return trip up the various summits. Later, steam engines fired the system. The earliest gravity railroads had single tracks, which limited traffic, and rope or hemp cables that broke frequently. Over time, engineers learned to employ parallel tracks and steel suspension cables that proved far more durable.

The success of the earliest gravity railroads - the Lehigh Canal Company's markerSwitchback and the D&H's markergravity railroad - convinced the Pennsylvania Coal Co. to create a gravity operation at Paupack Eddy (Hawley) and Port Griffith (Pittston). The 47-mile route made it possible to ship Pennsylvania Coal Company's anthracite directly from its mines to Delaware and Hudson Canal, and ultimately to New York markets.

The Pennsylvania Gravity line eventually gave way to the Erie and Wyoming Valley Railroad, which not only shipped coal but also carried passengers.
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