A marvelous glimpse of Hawley's heady railroad days is offered from a close-up photograph of the old Erie Signal Tower. Several men line the front and another man is in the window up high. In back are what may be high trestles of the former Pennsylvania Coal Company Gravity Railroad.
Notice the man at left holding a piece of paper; he seems to be reading it to the man next to him. He looks like he is smiling; perhaps it was a letter that the train had just brought, with some good news.
The young fellow at far right appears to hold his lunch pail.
This picture was found in a January 1957 edition of The Pike Wayne Eagle. Editor J. Vance Hunt frequently ran old pictures of Hawley on page one and invited readers to let him know more about it. From this we have identified most of the people shown.
Walter Lynch, who worked for the Erie Railroad as a telegrapher, provided names. He also said that the signal tower was erected on the west end of Hawley in 1905. It was torn down in 1929, when it was sold by the Erie to a man named Seeley.
The man in the light buttoned jacket, in center, is Pat Hughes, whose daughter was married to Postmaster John Sheridan (1957). Pat worked as a yardmaster. Cornelius Schaffer, in the checkered coat, is the yard brakeman. For on the left is section gang foreman Pat Murray. Second man from the left- with the paper- is Pat Haggarty and the third from the left is possibly Peter Lynch, uncle of Walter. Second from the right is Mike Hines, a fireman on one of the many trains that stopped in Hawley. Addison Vicker is the man in the tower, and it was said to be very likely that the lad with the dinner bucket is Addison's son Harold.
Census records show that Addison Vicker and his wife Matilda E. (Rollison) lived in Hawley and had one son, Harold A. Their son was 13 in 1910. The 1912 Hawley street directory only lists Eva Vicker, a sister of Addison, living at Church Street and Penn Avenue.
Cornelius Schaffer lived on Keystone near Chestnut.
Editor Hunt stated in 1957 that all of the railroaders identified here are now deceased.
Thousands of people every day go by the spot where this water tower stood. Another picture clearly shows the signal tower, at least 13 sets of tracks a railroad depot and a steaming passenger train. The tower stood on what is now the lawn of the Post Office, near the corner of Main Avenue and Columbus Avenue. the parallel tracks crossed where the Post Office was built in 1965. The West Hawley Depot sat to the left of the Hawley Public Library, built in 1966.
It is not yet clear if the high trestles in back were from the old gravity railroad or were built afterward for unloading coal. In back may be seen massive piles of coal. Anthracite was stored along what is today Old Gravity Road, across the Lackawaxen from the area where Borough Hall sits. Not shown but nearby stood a huge coal pockets building where coal was emptied and sorted by size.This must have been a very noisy and dusty operation.
Page 2 of 2 - New Covenant Fellowship Church, along Columbus Avenue, stands at about the site of the coal pockets.
One may scarcely imagine what earlier generations took for granted of Hawley's rail heritage. Stourbridge Railroad track still crosses through Hawley (2013), without an excursion train passing over since December of 2011. Its fate is still pending.
The Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC) brought the first tracks to Hawley, a narrow gauge gravity system that began operation in 1850 Its assembly of tracks bearing incoming loaded cars and outgoing light cars, brought the coal from the Wyoming Valley mines to the waiting canal boats at the basin constructed in what is now the park.
This gravity system came in from the west, around the settlement of Marble Hill along Middle Creek. Passenger coaches also rode the PCC line, connecting Hawley to Dunmore and the railroad hub to the outside world.
In 1863, the PCC began transferring its coal to the newly established Erie steam railroad line that came up from Lackawaxen. In 1868 a rail line was set up to Honesdale. The PCC closed its gravity line in 1885. Steam trains then carried in the coal on the Erie Wyoming Division, which roughly paralleled the gravity rail line.
The West Hawley Erie Depot was used into the 1930's. A second depot at the Eddy Section was closed earlier. The Erie Wyoming Division was closed approximately late 1961. The exact date is being researched.
The Pioneer Gravity Railroad coach, which sits next to the Library and was rededicated on June 15, 2013 after a restoration project, is a tangible reminder of the PCC Gravity Railroad.
Anyone with memories to share about railroading in and near Hawley is welcome to contact the writer. Pictures are also welcome. E-mail email@example.com or call Peter Becker at (570)226-4547.
The Wallenpaupack Historical Society maintains a collection of vintage newspapers from the Hawley area, which were donated at one time by The News Eagle.