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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Canal, railroad topics of discussion

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    HONESDALE - The Wayne County Tourism Promotion Committee held the first of two ambassador tours visiting the northern part of the county.
    The guided bus tour was led by local historian Tom Kennedy.
    We want to share the wonderful history, heritage and culture of Northeastern Pennsylvania,” he said. “The intent of these tours is to acquaint you with all the great places we have. Our hope is that you can inform people [about these places].”
    The day started with a tour of the Wayne County Historical Society (WCHS). Kennedy also talked about the Delaware Hudson Canal and the Gravity Railroad.
    Brothers Maurice and William Wurts demonstrated that anthracite coal is great for heat, which helped start the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company in 1825.
    We had to get coal out of the valley to New York City,” Kennedy said. “They [Wurts brothers}realized if they could get coal to New York that they could make a lot of money.
    According to the WCHS, the company purchased the Wurts' interest in their Lackawanna coal mines. Benjamin Wright became the chief engineer of the project.
    Coal was already getting to Philadephia by the Schuylkill, Lehigh and Delaware Rivers,” Kennedy stated. “Coal was never discovered in Honesdale.
    It was discovered over the mountain in the Scranton and Carbondale area.”
    He added the first deep coal mine in America was less than 100 feet behind the Ben Mar Restaurant in Carbondale.
    Construction of the canal began in 1825, with approximately 25,000 men and 200 teams of mules and horses working on it.
    The WCHS says the first packet boat left Rondout, NY on Oct. 1, 1828. It arrived in Dyberry Forks, now Honesdale.
    We didn't have the railroad yet, but we had steam power,” Kennedy said. “They could have built the canal from Carbondale to Honesdale, but we didn't because of Farview Mountain. They had to figure out a different way.”
    He added that they decided to build a gravity railroad from Carbondale to Honesdale.
    From the Ben Mar Restaurant they would take the coal out of the mine, pull it to the bottom of the mountain, hook it up to twisted wire rope invented by John Augustus Roebling, pull the cars to the top of Farview Mountain and then they would coast down,” Kennedy explained.
    Page 2 of 2 - “They would be hooked up to mules and would eventually get to Honesdale.”
    He added a chain was used originally, followed by hemp rope, before the twisted wire rope was used.
    Coal was brought over from the Lackawanna mines by use of the Delaware and Hudson Gravity Railroad, transported to Rondout and delivered to New York City by 1828.
    The Delaware and Hudson Canal had 108 locks. It was four feet deep and 20 feet wide on the bottom and 32 feet wide on the top. It was 108 miles long.
    According to the WCHS, the canal was enlarged between 1845 and 1847, making the depth six feet and the width 32 feet at the top and bottom.
    Kennedy said Honesdale had the largest coal pile in the world.
    The canal would freeze in the winter, but they could still run the Gravity Railroad,” he said.
    Over 100,000 tons of coal were transported on the canal in 1850, in 1851 there was 300,000 tons and by 1852 there were over 500,000 tons transported.
    According to the WCHS the last coal-laden canal boat left Honesdale on Nov. 5, 1898 and on June 13, 1899 it was sold for $10,000 to the president of the Cornel Steamboat Company.
    The canal was right behind what is now the Wayne County Community Center.
    Kennedy also talked about the engine that is in the WCHS.
    It's an exact replica of the first railroad to travel in America, called the Stourbridge Lion,” he said. “It came from Stourbridge, England.”
    That engine operated on Aug. 8, 1829 and went from Honesdale to Seelyville.
    That's the only time it ever operated because it was supposed to be built with a total weight of four tons, but it was five tons and was too heavy for the track.”
    Kennedy added at its height in the 1880s, over four million tons of coal came through Honesdale each year.

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