HONESDALE—A grand celebration commemorated the joint anniversaries of the 190th year since the Stourbridge Lion's inaugural expedition and the 150th year since the golden spike was driven into Utah soil, completing the Transcontinental Railroad.
Celebrants gathered at the railroad station Thursday, August 8, to share in the historic event, commemorated with a special post card, limited edition railroad spikes, and pictorial postmark designed by local artist Jerry DeCrotie.
The commemorative items will still be available throughout August, but will be gone within the first week in September.
Those who missed the celebration but still wish to collect a piece of Wayne County and American history can do so by visiting the station at 32 Commercial Street, Suite 3 in Honesdale.
One hundred eighty-seven attendees boarded the Stourbridge Line for a celebratory rail excursion, stated train enthusiast and Line representative Jeffrey Hiller. “That's the most people we've had on the train all summer,” he added.
The ceremony started at noon with a recounting of the Lion's history and that of its chief supporter and importer, Horatio Allen, from local historian Albert Rutherford.
As noted in a press release, Rutherford explained Allen was recruited by Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Canal Company Engineer, John B. Jervis, to represent the company on a trip to the Foster, Rastrick & Co. Foundry in England.
At the foundry, Allen commissioned two locomotive engines intended to be used to carry anthracite over the Moosic Mountains from the mines in Carbondale.
D&H instead opted to use stationary steam-powered engines to haul the loads up the mountains on the Gravity Railroad.
To reach Honesdale, the Stourbridge Lion traveled in pieces by canal to Liverpool, England, then sailed to New York where it was assembled.
It boarded the D&H Canal in Rondout, New York in July 1828.
The press release further notes the Lion's inaugural run was met with hesitation by the Honesdaleans who witnessed it.
It was uncertain whether Allen's six-mile run on the wooden rails and trestle bridge over the Lackawaxen River would be successful or end in catastrophe.
Allen returned triumphant, but the Stourbridge Lion was deemed too heavy for use on the rails, states the release.
The Stourbridge Lion's historic achievement was commended by more than train enthusiasts and history buffs last Thursday.
The Wayne County Board of Commissioners issued a certificate of recognition naming the Lion “a source of pride to all Wayne Countians” which “represents an important contribution to our nation's Industrial Revolution.”
Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith also commended Tom Myles, owner of the Delaware, Lackawaxen & Stourbridge Railroad, for his role in reviving the Stourbridge Line a few years ago.
“I believe some day we will have some kind of freight to haul and having a rail line gives us an advantage,” Smith said in a press release.
State Representative Jonathan Fritz (R-111) and State Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) also presented citations in honor of the anniversary.
“It feels wonderful,” to celebrate so momentous an occasion said Tom Myles. “We're going to celebrate all year.”
Myles revived rail expeditions in the area a few years ago when he reinstated travel along the Stourbridge Line.
At Thursday's celebration, Myles handed out commemorative refrigerator magnets to children in the crowd encouraging them to pursue their risks and dreams.
“When you look at this magnet, I want you to remember that if there is something you want to do or achieve, take the risk,” he stated in a press release.
Noting the day was “crazy, absolutely crazy,” Hiller said of the celebration, “It was neat to get the community involved.”
Hiller explained when he'd heard the Post Office planned to issue commemorative stamps this year, “We had to do something.”
Excited by the public's reception last Thursday, Hiller is already looking ahead to the bicentennial celebration in ten years.
He's hoping to start as soon as possible and get as much of the community involved as possible.
Those interested can get in touch with Hiller via phone, 570-470-9532, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Riding the rails
The Stourbridge Line runs myriad excursions throughout the summer, connecting downtown Honesdale, Hawley and Lackawaxen in a scenic ride ripe with local history and hometown shopping experiences.
For the upcoming Steampunk Honesdale event, the Stourbridge Lion will host a train-in movie on Saturday, September 14.
The train will leave the station at 6:14 p.m. for a unique full-length feature film experience.
Seating is limited and those interested are advised to contact Hiller at 570-470-2697 and book early.
More information about the Stourbridge Line Rail Excursions is available by visiting the train station (32 Commercial Street, Suite 3, Honesdale) or website: https://www.thestourbridgeline.net.
More information about the historic Stourbridge Lion is available at: HistoricHonesdale.com.
—Information from a release was used in this story.