The First Steam Locomotive in America

| November/December 1972

722 East End Ave., Lancaster, Pa. 17602.

We wish to thank Mr. William M. Bernard, Director, Public Relations, of the Baltimore Sun for his permission to reprint the following article.

Prior to the War of 1812 little was known about the large coal deposits of Pennsylvania, and the United States had imported some bituminous coal from England. Tradition states that some Indians learned that the black stones (anthracite would burn, and some old records tell of coal being sent down the Susquehanna in 1776 to the Colonial Government Arsenal at Carlisle (now the U.S. War College) to be used in the manufacture of arms. Then too, some local blacksmiths found the stone coal useful in the forge.

In 1814 William and Maurice Wurtz discovered the great anthracite deposits at Carbondale, Pa. The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company quickly bought the claims of the Wurtz brothers, but the problem arose'How do we get the coal over the mountain to the Hudson River ready for sale in New York'? Sleds and wagons proved too slow and laborious. A gravity-cable car to run on tracks was adopted but still was not satisfactory.

The canal from Honesdale to the Lackawaxen River to the Hudson River was decided upon and in 1925 John Roebling (who was later to build the Brooklyn Bridge) started the project to be 108 miles long. The canal was to cross four rivers, with the aid of 109 locks, and span 137 bridges ending at Kingston, New York on the Hudson River. The first coal was shipped from Honesdale in November, 1828 in canal boats which carried 25 tons each.

All was well from Honesdale, but the terrible 16 mile trip over the mountain to Carbondale was not possible by canal. Some thoughts were then turned to the steam engine. True, they produced unlimited power, but they were stationary, large, and cumbersome. But perhaps the steam engine could be made to run on rails as the gravity-cable car, and perhaps it could even pull the car.