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Gravity Railroad

The Delaware & Hudson Canal Co.'s Gravity Railroad

The Gravity Railroad was suggested by engineer Benjamin Wright, engineer of the company, as a more practical means of hauling coal over the Moosic Mountains than sleds and wagons used previously. It was on the tracks of this railroad that the first commercial locomotive - the Stourbridge Lion -turned a wheel by steam in America.

Extending from Carbondale in Lackawanna County to Honesdale, the Gravity was sixteen miles long. Starting from the coal fields at
Behing the current museum
Carbondale, an elevation of 1,200 feet, the Gravity rose to 1,907 feet at Rix's Gap by means of five planes. From this elevation the road descended on the east side of the Moosic Mountains by three planes and levels to Honesdale, elevation 975 feet.

Stationary steam engines operated the cars on each plane by means of two drums and a huge chain. On the three planes descending to Honesdale, the loaded cars required no motive power. The chains were not practical and soon were discarded in favor of hemp cables, which were 7 1/2 inches in circumference and presented difficulties because of slipping. Finally they were replaced by the first steel cables - made by John Roebling.

The passenger cars were entirely open, similar to a flat car with a roof. The seats were long benches across the car. When the cars started from Honesdale, a large grey horse pulled the cars to the foot of the plane where the cables were attached for the first ascent. After pulling a car along the level, "Old Dobbin" rode back in an "empty." The horses grown old in this service always refused to walk the return trip.

Hawley also had a Gravity Railroad, built by the Pennsylvania Coal Co., and completed in 1850. A canal basin was built there and the shipping of coal and its attending industries played an important part in the development and progress of this community.

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Pennsylvania Coal Co.'s Gravity Railroad

The D&H Canal had been in use long enough to prove its value, so in 1847 the plan for a similar gravity road was considered to take the Pennsylvania Coal Company's coal to Paupack Eddy (Hawley). for shipment to the Hudson River and New York by canal. The railroad was completed in May 1850. Hawley was named for Irad Hawley, the first president of the Pennsylvania Coal Co.

In 1885 the gravity was abandoned and a locomotive road was run through. This was about 47 miles running from Pittston (Port Griffith) to Hawley. Coal trains made about fifteen miles per hour down grade, and a head-on collision was impossible, as the traffic was all one way.

The time came when it was too costly to ship coal over the mountain. The Gravity was superseded by the Erie and Wyoming Valley Railroad, and in 1885 the first passenger train made a trip from Hawley to Dunmore.

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