Monday, April 19, 2010

Pennsylvania Canal Society Visits Carbon County

Carbon County was the site of the 2010 Pennsylvania Canal Society's Field Trip.  The weekend included touring the Upper Grand section, from Stoddartsville above White Haven on down to old Mauch Chunk, Jim Thorpe.

The friday evening orientation included a presentation of the Richardson glass plate slides by Lance Metz, and a presentation of modern views by Gordon Perry.  American Canal Society President David G. Barber also attended.
Sunday morning, a group of over 30 descended on the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center (MCMCC) for a 15 minute video on the history of Carbon County and a presentation by Mike Nunemacher on the Switchback Railroad model.  They then proceeded back to the Upper Grand terminus at Stoddartsville.
Late Spring on top of Mt Pisgah - The green notch at the 1:00 O'Clock position is the Glen Onoko Falls. 
Members were led by John Drury meet Saturday morning
before the hike.
Hiking up the Wagon Road, the old service
road to the top of the Mt Pisgah Plane.

Among the most spectacular views in Carbon County between the Mt Pisgah
Engine House and the Trestle.  Seen below: the Nesquehoning Trestle traversing
the Lehigh Gorge, Lehigh Gorge access road, at least one of the three turntables
are also visible.  (And don't forget those Turkey Vultures!)
On Sunday afternoon, a smaller group pictured here, including PA Canal Society officers and Field Trip co-odinator Bill Lampert, made the ascent of Mt Pisgah up the Wagon Road to view the ruins of the engine house.  (Check out my YouTube video from opposing mountain...Mount Pisgah plane is quite visible .)

John Drury, founder and director of the MCMCC, lead the group on a detailed tour of the area.  Mr. Drury discussed the house foundation built for the engine house operator, the pipeline from Indian Spring, the orignial stone cistern and how it was replaced by the smaller cement cistern inside.  At the engine house itself, the group found the remains of the smokestack and the large cinder pile that cascaded down the hill side.

John Drury explains the 90-year-in-the-making ash pile
seen as a bulge in the mountain directly below the Engine House.

The group was awestruck by their birdseye views, particularly looking toward the Lehigh Gorge, and the vantage point of Coalport's Turntable and Lock #2 of the Upper Grand.  

Mr. Drury even entertained the group with an interesting turn of the century newspaper story that related an evening's stay atop the mountain.  At one time, a restaurant was located just over on the other side of the Mt Pisgah Trestle.  The Victorians enjoyed a night of dancing in the moonlight, fueled by clear hard beverages, and descended from the mountain by train at 6 AM.  A trail leads to the location, though no trace of the building remains.

John Drury explains the use of the cement cistern
used for a steady water supply to the engine.  Water
was piped in from "Indian Spring" about a mile west
along the ridge.  That's then PA Canal Society
President Bill Lampert in his trademark hat.

The Pennsylvania Canal Society is associated with the National Canal Museum in Easton, PA (

A beautiful view from the west end of the trestle looking
down on "the Hill" or upper Mauch Chunk.  The cemetery is
the final home of many of Switchback and Mauch Chunk
notables such as Chapman, Packer, Liesenring and others.
The Society has tentatively planned on returning here next year to continue down the Lower Section of the Lehigh Canal.  For further information about future events, contact Bill Lampert at or call 215-262- 5506.

Drury points out the engine house foundation.

When walking up the Pisgah Plane, it is known as the
"Direct Assault."  When walking down it, it's known
as a knee-killer.  The Engine house would have been just out
of view at the top.  This shot taken about halfway down of the
over 2,500 feet of plane, giving a 660 foot elevation rise.  The
barney pits were buried when fill was added
to create Sam Miller field.  The pits are about 30-40 feet below
third base.  The Mt Jefferson barney pits were recently excavated
at the bottom of Summit Hill at the stop sign from Lentz Trail.


  1. Can you show an apples to apples picture comparison of how it looks today from the same vantage point as the old photographs from old times?

  2. Dear Richard,

    I do have other pages with much more info and pics on it about the Switchback...if you pick through it and with some study, you can achieve what you are looking for...For example, the there is definitely a good old pic of the basin/reservoir you see the Canal folks looking into...also when you see the people coming down the steep hillside, that is the Mt Pisgah plane where the cars were pushed up by the barney cars, there is a good old time shot of people (a woman in a striking white dress) waiting at the bottom...When you see the bridge in the old shots: there are a lot of people pics of people standing high on a rock abuttment...where you see people walking today across a narrow rock ledge, that is Hacklebernie Tunnel, the oldest coal mine in the US; it was driven in the 1820s...the narrow walkwway once had a short bridge tansversing it, as the return or backtrack wasnt complete until the 1840s, so the tracks went right over the head of the mine...hope this helps...Ron

    Here is another link to another Switchback post of mine: