A RAILWAY-OPENING IN EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA
[TO THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] [The following extract from a letter of a young English girl gives a bright and clear account of a trip through one of the loveliest portions of Pennsylvania, just as the forests everywhere were in their autumn glory.
The region thus visited is one in which English capital has been largely invested. It contains the great anthracite coal-bed of the United States,—deposit deemed inexhaustible, and already a source of vast wealth to Pennsylvania
"We told you in our last letters of the invitation which came for me last Tuesday, to go with a party of directors and their friends up the Lehigh and Susquehanna Valley Railway ? Mrs. W—, of German- town, wrote most politely inviting me to sleep at her house, so that I might start with them in the morning, and offering to take charge of me during the expedition. We started early on Wednesday morning. 17p rolled the train ; at the end of it was our gorgeous directors' carriage, with its new fittings, ita platform at either end, its water-filter, and stove ; in this spacious saloon carriage we found the rest of our party, and after bidding E— good-bye, away I was whirled with this carload of strangers for weal or for woe, for three days and nights. Only one, Mr. W—, had I ever seen before. Fanny Kemble said of him that he is only second in wit and humorous repartee to Sidney Smith. I WAS soon introduced, and everyone was as kind and good to me as they could be. The beat seat was given to me, and every- thing of interest was pointed out to me. We passed through Bethlehem, where the Moravian settlement is; that part of the town, however, is some distance from the station. Here we came upon the Lehigh for the first time ; we left the open country, and followed the windinga of this lovely valley. Oh! how beautiful it is! Very narrow ; the railway and the canal are cut out from the side of the hills,— squeezed in, one on the right bank, the other on the left, between the rushing, frothing, brown stream and the high, thickly-wooded hills. The river winds and curves incessantly, and again and again the hills seem to enclose it round like a lake. And oh ! the wonder of the trees! —dark evergreens, bright yellow limes, golden-brown oaks, scarlet, crim- son, rose-coloured, flame-coloured maples, and all this glowing hillside beauty reflected in the water. The directors had supplied us each with a map of the Lehigh Valley Line, so we could watch our course. I shall send one of these maps with my letter, as it may interest P—. We arrived at Manch Chunk, a small mining town, consisting of one street close by the edge of the river, at one o'clock. Manch Chunk is at the beginning of the coal region, and on the steep hill behind the little town is the famous Switchbock Railroad. Up this we were to go after we had had our dinner. From the road we could see the line we were to ascend, running straight up the steep side of the hill. We walked and drove to the mounting-place, and there found three cars awaiting us,— two like omnibuses with tops, one open like a big sledge. We mounted into the cars and put on all our warm wraps, as they told us it was very cold at the top. The cars are pulled up by means of a broad iron band, which passes over rollers, and is wound up on an immense wheel at the top by a stationary engine. We were attached to this iron band, the word was given, and then up we went, the angle was awfully sharp, and we could scarcely keep our seats, and we all slipped down into a heap at the lower end of the cars. We went gliding through the air at a great rate, and were soon landed safely in the shed at the top. We got out of the cars, and walked to the end of the shed and looked forth. What a view it was, and so entirely nn-English! At our feet curved the river, and out and away wave above wave of hills all covered with trees, yellow and green and red, a very ocean of trees ; at our feet lay one little town, but besides, not a village, not a house to be seen. A sort of mystery the country looked, untrodden, unknown, all covered over with beautiful colour. The cars were pulled to the other end of the long shed for us to look down into a lovely valley on the other side of the hill. Here the view was not so extensive, for the hills were close round us. And now the men pulled round the wheels of our cars to set us in motion, and we were off again, slowly at first, but soon our speed quickened and quickened till we flew through the air, winding down, down tho mountain side. Everywhere were trees, trees round us, no break but our pathway, that lay like a ribbon through the hillside. It was a glorious feeling, a sort of magical flight,—no engine, no horses, nothing to pull or to push us, we seemed to fly through the forest by the mere wish for movement. We stopped for a few minutes at a mining village right away in the hollow of the hills, a disorderly-looking place ; the houses, of wood, seemed to have been built in a violent hurry. Though it was a good-sized place, and boasted an hotel and various shops, it looked to me like a bit of the diggings.' About the centre of the place stood a grey stone fortress or armoury,— a suggestive fact! We were dragged up a second hill, again whirled over the top, and again round and down the mountain side, till at last we found ourselves, with almost a feeling of regret at having to leave our airy seats, at the hotel, where we remained until six o'clock in the evening. When we again mounted the railway cars, the day-light faded and the moon came out, and the rushing river, and the dark sides of the mountain, which before were so bright and glowing, seemed now only mysterious and awesome. Here we left the glittering river, and slowly ascended a frightful ' grade ' over a high, lonely ridge that divides the valleys of the Lehigh and the Susquehanna, and we were told that before us stretched the famous Wyoming Valley. We reached Wilkes- bane, our night resting-place, at nine o'clock, and very glad we were to have supper and retire. And oh ! how delicious it was to lie down between the nice clean sheets in the dark ! Thursday was a glorious morning. I opened the shutters of my bedroom window to let in the bright sun- light, and then before me lay the bright, wide waters of the silver Susquehanna, the wooded banks beyond being reflected in the clear waters. There was a slight haze over everything, which added to the loveliness of the river. After breakfast we were introduced to a tall handsome girl, a Miss W—, whose father owned a good part of the line we were to pass over that day, and at whose house we were to be enter- tained that evening. She had been staying at New York, but her father had telegraphed to her to come down to Athens, a 'distance of some 250 miles, for the one night we were to be his guests. She was a most dignified, lady-like girl, tall and upright, with handsome features, a sort of Roman face, well-dressed, and entirely self-possessed. The father, a railway magnate, met us at a station further down the line. He has made his fortune as a railway contefictor, has bought land and formed new lines, and is now the great man of the place. He eat by me in the cars for a while and pointed out the beauties of the country, the rich fields that lie between the river and the hill-sides—for the valley of the Susque- hanna is very broad,—he told me about the splendid country it was for farming, how 'we ship from Athens between three and four tons of butter of a morning,' and how a few weeks before he had entertained Goldwin Smith at his house, and what a pleasant, intelligent fellow he had found him. I was struck with the exactness of his information. He rattled off the various distances that the company's lines ran from point to point, the dates of the laying of these lines, the various cost of coal, butter, the price of land, /z.z. Through the whole day we flew through this lovely river valley ; it is much wider and is more cultivated and finished-looking than the Lehigh. We passed a number of thriving towns, small farms, or large villages, but each had a look of growth and industry. Everywhere in the clifts of the hills and away up to their summits were to be seen the black shafts of the coal-pits, and by the water side we saw mills, tanneries, breweries, manufactories,—such a look of plenty everywhere, timber lying everywhere, and coal showing itself in every railway cutting. We stopped for a couple of hours at a bright little river-side town with a pretty Indian name, Towanda, and had such a delightful dinner ! Part of the charm was that we were waited on by Yankee girls ; such neat, clean, intelligent-looking young people ; each in a print dress and the national apron and bib. All the afternoon we travelled, some of us antivenin our journey by mounting the engine. Oar escort was young Mr. P—, Judge P—'s son. Judge P-
is a wealthy man, who owns nearlyhalf the American shares of the Lehigh Valley line here, besides a large stretch of country. He was then 'running' for the Governorship of the State. The election was being decided while
we were travelling, and at every stopping-place there was a great rush for
newspapers ; but we all, the whole party of us, were Republicans, and
our candidate was Geary, who, since our arrival at home, we learn was at that moment being returned ; we were travelling beyond tele- graphs, and, therefore, only learnt the news later. Young P— holds some official position on the line, and when with us, took command of our special train, and stopped the engine to speak to a friend, and showed us how they took in water, let off steam, rang the bell, with a sort of monarch-of-all-I-survey ' tone which was enchanting. An American engine is by no means an uncomfortable location.' We were under cover, and sat on a leather-covered seat and watched the unfolding view and the driving of the locomotive with equal delight. 'Tis true, the seat was somewhat narrow, and all the time of our drive we had the pleasing consciousness that at the next sharp tarn we might be hurled down among the cinders, or perhaps out on to the line. At Athens Miss W- and her father and brother descended to prepare for us, while we went a little further to the last station on the line, just over the border of New York State. In about an hour we returned, and found numerous carriages awaiting us, to take us through Athens to the large square house of our kind host and hostess. Miss W— stood at the door, the bright ruddy light behind her, ready to welcome us out of the cold and darkness ; she handed us in, and one by one introduced us to her mother,—which, aa there were twenty-nine of us, and she had seen none of us before that day, showed some intelligence and force of mind ! All the young ladies and some of the gentlemen were to sleep at W—'s mansion, the rest had beds found for them at the hotel and neighbours' houses. We were handed up into our neat comfortable rooms, and with some considerable joy some of us took off our hats and 'sacks' and put on clean collars and cuffs. The house was large and very prettily furnished, the hall carpeted with crimson, and comfortably heated with a stove. A number of Athenians were invited to meet us, and so we were quite a large party, and filled the large double drawing-room, library, and hall. About nine o'clock a handsome supper was served ; after it we had music, singing, and even some dancing and games. The hospitality and kindliness are not to be told! The next morning we sat down, a somewhat large party of girls, to a most substantial breakfast. The sun shone brightly as we bade our kind friends good-bye, and started on our long homeward journey. We only stopped twenty minutes to get some dinner, and sped on,—on all day. In the afternoon we passed the exquisite Wyoming Valley. I stood with one or two others out on the platform at the end of our car, through the whole of the afternoon, enthralled by all the loveliness around me. The trees were even brighter than they had been on the first day of our trip ; and oh ! how exquisite they wore. I looked at the line and listened to all I could hoar about its success with deep interest. Every- one spoke encouragingly at the prospects of the new line, and every- where I thought I saw signs of vigorous life. This river-valley runs into the heart of a piece of country hitherto uncultivated, rich in coal, timber, iron, and this line of railway connecting it with Philadelphia and the Eastern Coast. The company are said to be most economical in all their arrangements, and yet have first-rate men in their employ- ment."
—I am Sir, &c., A. F. H.
Philadelphia, October 17, 1869.