“Guide for the Pennsylvania Railroad”

A quaint, little, faded book, its pages brittle with age, has recently come into my temporary possession through the courtesy of Herbert S. Casey. Printed in 1855 by T. K. and P. G. Collins, of Philadelphia, it is entitled, “Guide for the Pennsylvania Railroad, with an Extensive Map; including the Entire Route, with all its Windings, Objects of Interest, and Information Useful to the Traveler.” It is indeed an extensive map . . . its pages, too frail for this writer to dare to unfold many times, measures some two yards in length! Those two yards of map cover the route of the railroad from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Going back as it does to a period now almost one hundred years past, those entire two yards are of vast interest to the historian. But of particular interest to the writer and to her readers are the first few inches which include that part of the railroad between Philadelphia and Paoli, our own “Main Line” of the present day! The book is a first edition, and obviously very rare.

Even one hundred and more years ago, the Pennsylvania Railroad was recognized as n almost indispensable link between “the eastern or Atlantic cities and those situated on the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers”. Back in the 1830’s there seemed some doubt, however, whether the Allegheny Mountains could be passed on a direct route to Pittsburgh, without an inclined plane. In 1838, the first survey was made by William E. Morris, an engineer, while in 1841 Charles L. Schlatter was appointed by the Board of Canal Commissioners to make a full survey for a railway from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh.

Our “Guide for the Pennsylvania Railroad” relates that “The first meeting of the Citizens of Philadelphia in relation to building the road, was held at the Chinese Museum, on the 10th of December, 1842. It was an unusually large meeting, at which a determined spirit was manifested to prosecute this great work. Thomas P. Cope was called to the chair. A preamble and resolutions urging the importance of the work, were offered by William M. Meredith, and unanimously adopted. A large committee on memorials to the Legislature, praying for an act of incorporation, and a committee of nine to prepare and publish an address to the citizens of Pennsylvania, setting forth the views and objects of the meeting, were appointed.”

At this meeting, Thomas P. Cope was chosen president. He was the great-great-grandfather of Herbert S. Casey, president of our Radnor Historical Society, and long a well-known citizen of Radnor Township. Mr. Cope was a close friend of Stephen Girard and one of the executors of his famous will. Of Girard College, our “Guide” States, “it is principally composed of marble, is the grandest building in America, and the most richly endowed charitable institution, by a single individual, in the world”. Stephen Girard’s will took care of this endowment, of course. Thomas Cope was one of the three Cope brothers who organized the first group of packet ships between England and America.

As soon as the act to incorporate the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was passed on April 13, 1846, a large town meeting was called in Philadelphia for the purpose of taking measures to bring the corporation into existence. A specially appointed committee prepared an address to be issued in pamphlet form. Private and corporate subscriptions soon rose to a total of two and a half million dollars. From this meeting in April, construction of the road was authorized and begun with a charter bearing the date, April 13, 1846.

By the time the first “Guide of the Pennsylvania Railroad” was published in 1855, the line of road between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh was complete. At that time it had three owners. The State of Pennsylvania owned that part extending from the city to Dillersville, one mile above Lancaster, consisting of a double track, in length 69 miles. From Dillersville to Harrisburg, the Portsmouth Mount Joy and Lancaster Railroad took over that distance of 36 miles. The remaining 248 miles between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh was the property of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

According to our two yard map the old depot seems to have been on the Delaware River at the foot of Market street. According to the description given in 1855, “The cars are drawn from the depot by horse or mule power, out Market Street, and across the Schuylkill Permanent Bridge, at the west end of which they take the locomotive . . . After taking steam we pass up the Schuylkill in full view of the light and graceful Wire Bridge on the right, the Fairmount Water Works, and the beautiful fall of water over the Dam, as well as the placid sheet which it makes as far as the eye can reach. The new bridge at Girard Avenue may also be seen, and the Girard College, with snowy Whiteness and its magnificent marble columns and marble roof, overlooking the city and surrounding country for miles.

“The State locomotive engine house is immediately on the road to the right, a few hundred yards from the place of starting. Thence passing through a deep cut, we curve round and pursue nearly a westerly course, leaving the city and its busy multitudes behind. In rounding the curve to the left, we may observe the West Philadelphia Water Works, being a very high iron column cylinder, encircled by a neat and tasty iron stairway, winding around it from its base to its summit. At a distance of 3 miles from the depot we pass Hestonville on our left, then Libertyville, and Athensville, and arrive at White Hall, 10 miles from the city.”

Hestonville, Mr. Casey tells us, was a little village near what is now 52nd Street in Philadelphia. His grandfather, Francis Cope Yarnall, was much interested in the well-known little Episcopalian Church in this section. Libertyville is our present suburb of Narberth, while Athensville later became Ardmore. Athens Avenue still commemorates the old name. White Hall later became Bryn Mawr, although the location of the Railroad station was considerably changed from its original site near the present Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Just before arriving at White Hall “we may observe to the left”, to continue with our description of the route, “a large building with an extensive lawn, and a handsome wood between it and the railroad. This is the Haverford College, belonging to an association of Friends, and conducted by them, where a classical education may be obtained by the youth of that denomination, but which is not confined exclusively to them. This College is in Delaware County . . . we next pass on to the stations of Villa Nova (a Roman Catholic College), Morgan’s Corner, and the Eagle, and arrive at the Paoli, 20 miles on our journey. The train frequently stops here for refreshments. Near this place 150 Americans, under General Wayne, were killed and wounded on the night of the 20th of December, 1777, by a detachment of English under General Gray. This action is frequently called the Paoli Massacre”.

Villanova retains its original name, while Morgan’s Corner has now become Radnor. In regard to the name of “The Eagle”, now Strafford, the writer of this column has recently had a letter from Mrs. Charles Carrol Suffern, of Strafford, who says that since she is “over ninety-one years of age”, she can remember much of the “old set-up”. Mrs. Suffern writes, in regard to a reference to old taverns, “You tell of ‘the Eagle’ – it was known as “The Spread Eagle’, and the post office at the old Eagle Station, midway between Strafford and Devon, was also so called, taking its name from the old tavern”.

Wayne is not on this 1855 map. It may have been a little later that trains began to stop to take on milk at the Cleaver Farm, now known to most of us as the old William Wood property, recently sold as a business site. The milk stop was called “Cleaver’s Gate”, or Cleaver’s Landing”. Later this became Louella, and then Wayne. The first station was a large, square wooden pillar laid on its side where passengers sat while they waited to flag the train. An old wagon bed, which took the place of this pillar, was burned on one Fourth of July. Then a small box-like station was built with a house attached in which the ticket agent lived. J. Henry Askin, one of Wayne’s pioneers, of whom much has been written in this column, is said to have had a private waiting room in this station for his family! The original station still stands, being used now as sleeping quarters for employees of the Wayne Hotel.
(To be continued)