This is a story of Cresson Railroad. In Central Pennsylvania sets the remains of an engineering marvel of the 19th century. The Cresson railroad. As with most engineering. It is a solution to a major problem that needed solving.
If you dig a canal from Philadelphia and the Delaware Bay and you dig your trench for 200 miles and then come to a mountain, what you do them? What do you do with this problem, a mountain that is judged to be too big to tunnel through. If the waterway that you are following to feed your canal is on the other side of the mountain. How do you get there? So we devised a solution. We will build a railway up the side of the mountain that will draw the railcars up by steam winch. We will take the canalboat out of the water, slide it onto the railcar and pull it to the top of the mountain. We will build a station at the top of the mountain to give the passengers some relief and repast. Without unloading the canalboat we use the brakes on the winch and let the cars down the other side. We will then put the boat back in the canal and send it on to its destination Pittsburgh. Because canal boats were built with flat bottoms. We will need small supports to keep them level on the railcar. The magic of this whole operation was that we never unloaded anybody or anything from the canal boats.
You can see the original equipment and a restored station at the top of Cresson Mountain today. This solution to this mountain was the key to the Pennsylvania canal. The whole operation lasted about 20 years, but without the Cresson railroad, nothing would’ve happened.
It was later abandoned when the railroad company took over the canal and used it, after it was filled in as the roadway for the railroad. The railroad went around the mountain on dry land and eliminated the need to go over the mountain. This is part of the history of the mainline Philadelphia to Pittsburgh railway.