Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad
|Dates of operation||1862–1866|
|Successor||Lehigh Valley Railroad|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad, originally the Quakake Railroad (pronounced quake-ache), was an independently financed railroad planned and built at almost the same time as the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR), when in part, some of its backers were also of the backers (and perhaps officers) of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.[a] The railroad is mentioned as part of the engineering report following the survey of 1846 by Robert H. Sayre, at the time chief engineer of the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, where the branch is described as part of the overall scheme to connect New York Harbor via the Central Railroad of New Jersey[b] to the frontiers via Lake Erie and the Susquehanna River valley. The official incorporated name on the report is the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill, & Susquehanna Railroad Co. where the Schuylkill name is the Quakake Creek climb out of the Lehigh Valley and drop down into Delano Junction which has a descent path to Tamaqua, Pennsylvania in the Little Schuylkill River basin. Accordingly, the Quakake Railroad would become part of the Mahanoy Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in northeastern to north-central Pennsylvania. The Catawissa region was an important source of iron ores and developed into an Anthracite pig iron smelting center, as did Catasauqua, Pennsylvania also on the line of the Lehigh Valley.
The Quakake Railroad was chartered on April 25, 1857 to build a connection between the Beaver Meadow Railroad (later part of the Lehigh Valley Railroad's Hazleton Branch) and the Catawissa, Williamsport and Erie Railroad. The original plan took it to the Catawissa near the Lofty Tunnel, and an inclined plane was graded near the hairpin curve on the Catawissa, south of the tunnel. However, that plan and the inclined plane were abandoned prior to completion, and instead the junction was moved to the south to Quakake Junction, near Tamanend. The full line opened on August 25, 1858 from Black Creek Junction on the Beaver Meadow Railroad west to Quakake Junction on the Catawissa, and was at first operated by the Catawissa.
A charter supplement issued on March 21, 1860 allowed an extension to Delano, the headwaters of Mahanoy Creek, and down the creek into Mount Carmel, where it would connect to the Northern Central Railway's Shamokin Valley and Pottsville Railroad. The extension was built later that year. The company went into foreclosure on September 30, 1862, and was reorganized as the Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad on October 11. In 1865 a branch was built from Park Place to Mahanoy City. On June 30, 1866 the company was merged into the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
Under the Lehigh & Mahanoy, the line between Raven Run and Centralia was completed in 1865. In 1866 it was built to Mount Carmel and connected to the Shamokin Valley and Pottsville Railroad owned by the Northern Central Railway.
- In 1884 the line, which lay low in the valley, was rebuilt higher up on the mountainside by the Lehigh Valley. This avoided flooding from Mine Run. A branch extended from Centralia eastward to the LVRR's Continental Colliery. It was abandoned when the colliery closed in 1954.
- A branch was built in 1877 from Kohinoor Junction via Girardville to Ashland.
- A two-mile switchback was built in 1939 from Logan Junction, west of Centralia to the Germantown Colliery. It as used until 1960 when that operation closed down. Two other extensions were built. In 1890 a one-mile line was constructed from Morris Ridge Junction, east of Mt. Carmel to the Midvalley No. 1 Colliery. In 1892 a three-mile line was built from Montana junction, east of Centralia, to Midvalley Colliery No. 2. These lines were abandoned by 1965 when the fine coal plant at Midvalley closed.
The decline of coal mining brought about the piecemeal abandonment of these lines. The Ashland Branch was cut back to Girardville in 1951, and in 1953, from Girardville to Weston Colliery. One mile of the Mahanoy City Branch was abandoned in 1957, and the line from Delano to about Gerhards in 1963. The line to Mt. Carmel was cut back to Aristes Junction in 1965, and from there to Raven Run in 1971. The remaining trackage was all abandoned by 1976.
- This is an unverified fact that reading the engineers reports and President's cover letters of the LVRR of 1846-1858 is hard to dismiss. Sayre spends time and mentions in each report to the overall scheme to link the CNJ (and so New York... to the Lehigh, Beaver Meadow, and Quakake, etc. via Catawissa valley to the Susquehanna), which implies many investors were interested in threading railways together into a continuous linked system, and addresses that point specifically with respect to the use of wheels with a broader flange than usual to stay compatible with one feeder system and customer — the Belvidere Delaware Railroad linking Phillipsburg to Trenton and connections by ferrys to Philadelphia.
- The LVRR was to connect to New York via the CNJ, with whom they shared terminal space at Easton, PA and the bridge. The Belvidere Delaware Railroad funneled passenger traffic from Philadelphia, and the North Pennsylvania Railroad and the Morris Canal in New Jersey were to take coal.
- Annual Report of the Secretary of Internal Affairs of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Wm. Stanley Ray. 1900. p. 147.
- "Klein Township and East Union Township." History of Schuylkill County, PA. (New York: W. W. Munsell & Co., 1881).
- Taber, Thomas T., III (1987). Railroads of Pennsylvania Encyclopedia and Atlas. Thomas T. Taber III. ISBN 0-9603398-5-X.