Map of the Sunbury and Erie
Railroad and its connections.
The Pennsylvania Railroad was founded in the 1840's and quickly became a major railroad system connecting Chicago and St. Louis to New York and New Jersey.
The railroad's complex at Altoona employed thousands of workers and was an important Pennsylvania industry in the 1850's. The Pennsylvania Railroad created Altoona’s fire departments and library; and had the town’s hospital moved to a location near the shop gates.
Carbondale, situated along the Lackawanna River was a major mining and railroad community in the 1800's. The first commercially successful railroad, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Hudson Railroad, maintained an important terminal there. The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, based in nearby Scranton, owned and operated an underground anthracite coal mine and breaker at Carbondale.
Early trains that met in Erie were of much concern during the mid-1800's as their varying gauged tracks made it necessary for railway cargos and passengers to change trains at that location. This caused many delays. Erie citizens considered the practice good for the local economy, while railroad companies viewed it as bad for business. The Erie Gauge War of 1854 had Erie citizens battling the railroad’s plan to standardize the rail.
Erie had enjoyed several years of serving hungry and marooned passengers, and the employment of hundreds to unload and reload cargo. The town wasn’t going to give that up easily. Many citizens sabotaged railroad tracks and railroad bridges. Horace Greeley (who was personally delayed by the conflict) wrote of the event:
“Let Erie be avoided by all travelers until grass shall grow in her streets, and till her pie-men in despair shall move away to some other city.” – New York Tribune.
Erie citizens gave up their cause soon after and the tracks were converted to standard Ohio gauge.
Philadelphia grew rapidly, with its port location and by 1850, had become not only a busy trade center and port town, but also was a major railroad hub. Philadelphia was served by several railroads that all converged there. The West Chester & Philadelphia and North Pennsylvania Railroads were added in the early 1850's.
This outline map of the northeastern and north-central United States was drawn in 1850 by Robert Faries. It is overprinted in red to show the railroad network.
The Sunbury & Erie Railroad was constructed in the 1850's as a standard gauge railway. Later the line was absorbed into the Pennsylvania Railroad system.