[ Main ] Educator's Guide
Outreach Initiatives
[ Site Map ]
Geology | Lehigh River Watershed Explorations | Weather | Environmental Issues | Data Collection Activities
Jim Thorpe, right after take off
40 51' 57 N
75 44' 00 W

Coal was first mined at Summit Hill, about nine miles west of Jim Thorpe. In 1819, horse drawn wagons would carry the coal back and forth from the mining site to the Lehigh River. In 1827, the first coal railroad was built. It is best known as the Switchback Railroad; but was originally called the Gravity Railroad. A safety car would ride at the front to slow and stop the train. Mules and horses would carry the cars back up after the steep descent. Each car held 1.5 tons of coal. The nine-mile descent to town took about twenty minutes and the cars sometimes reached a speed of fifty miles per hour.

In 1844, stationary steam engines replaced the mules and horses. In 1872, direct railroad service connected to Summit Hill and the Switchback was retired. The 16 miles of trails of the former railroad, beginning in Mauch Chunk State Park, are used as hiking trails today.

View in Google Earth

Click on a thumbnail photo to view a full screen image.

Headwaters to Lehigh Gorge | Jim Thorpe to Walnutport | Triechler's to Allentown | Bethlehem to Easton

Curricular Activities | Lehigh River Photojournal | Water Quality | GIS | History | River Exploration | Fast Facts
LEO EnviroSci Inquiry is brought to you by the Lehigh Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University.
Copyright ©2000-2011 Lehigh Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University. All rights reserved.