Map of the Sunbury and Erie
Railroad and its connections.
The Sunbury & Erie Railroad Company was organized in 1837 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The plan was to connect the Great Lake port town of Erie with Philadelphia.
Philadelphia grew rapidly due to its port location, and by 1850 it had become not only a busy trade center, but also was a major railroad hub. 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 included Erie citizens battling the railroad’s plans 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. During the conflict many citizens sabotaged railroad tracks and bridges. Famed newspaper editor Horace Greeley, who was personally delayed by the conflict, bitterly commented on the event in the New-York Tribune thusly:
“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”.
Erie citizens soon gave up their cause and the tracks were converted to standard (4ft, 81/2 in) gauge. Construction of the standard-gauge Sunbury & Erie Railroad was delayed numerous times due to financial concerns. By 1854 just 30 miles of track between Milton and Williamsport had been laid. The line was extended into Sunbury in 1855. Later, in 1861, the line was absorbed into the popular Pennsylvania Railroad system.
The Pennsylvania Railroad was founded in the 1840's. It quickly became an important railroad system connecting Chicago and St. Louis to New York and New Jersey.
This outline map of the northeastern and north-central United States was published in 1854 by Robert Faries. It shows completed, constructing, and proposed railroads. Major destinations are displayed along with distances between. Included is a list of railroad company officers.