Original Document
Original Document
Mauch Chunk's Gravity Railroad, 1873

But the most unique feature which distinguishes Mauch Chunk from all other places of resort in the world is the Gravity Railroad, also called the "Switch Back," as its primitive construction was such that in going down the sides of the steep hills the cars moved in a zigzag direction. The road had switches at the corners, and the periodic stoppage of the cars prevented the too great and uncontrollable velocity necessarily resulting from a direct descent along a steep incline...

At present this road is one of the greatest attractions for tourists. It earned last season many thousand dollars, while the prospect for this summer is that it will far surpass any previous performance. In order to give our readers an idea about this highly interesting excursion, we will describe the successive steps of the trip, which at the same time is the most diversified, unique, exciting, and cheapest that any one can make in a short period of time...

As an incline appears always much steeper than it really is, the effect when riding in one of the closed cars, with a door behind, is very peculiar; it looks as if the car was set on end, with the door below, while many persons are afraid to look down through this opened door as soon as the car has ascended a considerable height. But for those who courageously dare to look down the site is magnificent; the hills which at first were above us sink into insignificance, and the whole surrounding country in an immense circuit opens under us like one vast flower-bed glittering in the sunlight. Novel emotions crowd upon the mind as the enchanting and exciting scene unfolds itself with new and almost appalling grandeur as the summit is approached. We have now reached the summit of Mount Pisgah, and attained at elevation of 1,370 feet above tide water. To the east the Blue Mountains, the Lehigh Water Gap through which may be seen far distant hills, including Schooley's Mountain, distinctly visible on a clear day. In all direction mountains in ling ranges piled on other mountains; beneath; the town, which looks like groups of toy-houses, but from which ascends the busy sounds of industry.

Everything seems to have been twisted and scrunched and hurled and piled together, as if the elements of nature have been in rebellion when this part of the country was finished or perfected, if we may call this rugged, broken grandeur below us and far outreaching the perfection of nature...

The trip to Mauch Chunk, the ride on the Switch Back, and return to the neighborhood of New York or Philadelphia, may be done in one day, leaving in the morning trains, costing about $5, and is one of the most pleasant excursions one can take. Whirling at great elevation around mountains with locomotive speed, without anything to pull or drive you, no smoke or dust, nothing in the way in front to obstruct your view, on every side are stretching out numerous landscapes with bold mountains above and smiling valleys below far below, changing as rapidly and more charmingly than the views of the kaleidoscope; indeed the impression left after this trip, especially when it is made during a clear moon light night, as is occasionally done when parties of excursionists desire it, is that of having visited some enchanted fairy-land.

Credit: "The Gravity Road at Mauch Chunk," Manufacturer and Builder, Vol 5, no. 6 (June 1873).
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