|Status||Abandoned except for historic interest|
|Original owner||Union Canal Company|
|Principal engineer||Canvass White|
|Branch(es)||Branch Canal to Pinegrove|
|Connects to||Schuylkill Canal, Pennsylvania Canal (Eastern Division)|
The Union Canal was a towpath canal that existed in southeastern Pennsylvania in the United States during the 19th century. First proposed in 1690 to connect Philadelphia with the Susquehanna River, it ran approximately 82 mi from Middletown on the Susquehanna below Harrisburg to Reading on the Schuylkill River.
Construction began in 1792 during the George Washington Administration, but financial difficulties delayed its completion until 1828. Called the "Golden Link," it provided a critical early transportation route for shipping anthracite coal and lumber eastward to Philadelphia. Closed in the 1880s, remnants of the canal remain, most notably the Union Canal Tunnel, a hand-built engineering marvel that is the oldest existing transportation tunnel in the United States. The tunnel is a National Historic Landmark.
For a detailed discussion on the 18th century canal that was the predecessor to this canal see this article.
The idea of uniting the Schuylkill and Susquehanna rivers by a canal was first proposed and discussed by William Penn in 1690.Penn's plan, conceived a few years after he had founded Philadelphia was to make "a second settlement" on the Susquehanna river, similar in size to that of Philadelphia itself. He made this plan, titled "Some Proposals for a Second Settlement in the Province of Pennsylvania" public in England in 1690. The route envisioned by Penn was a road up the west bank of the Schuylkill to the mouth of French Creek near present-day Phoenixville heading west to the Susquehanna via present day Lancaster and a Susquehanna tributary, Conestoga Creek. Although Penn first proposed the project of continuous water transportation from the Delaware to the Susquehanna, he did not call for the building of a canal.
The canal scheme was first proposed by the Society for the Improvement of Roads and Inland Navigationorganized in 1789 with preeminent, wartime financier Robert Morris as president, David Rittenhouse, William Smith and John Nicolson. In 1791, the Society presented proposals to the State of Pennsylvania proposing to connect the Atlantic seaboard with Lake Erie. This Pennsylvania plan was before the creation of New York's Western and Northern Inland Lock Navigation Companies in 1792. The New York plan took the first steps to improve navigation on the Mohawk river by constructing a canal between the Mohawk and Lake Ontario but that effort with private financing was insufficient. In the Pennsylvania plan, the Society proposed a canal route, 426 miles in length connecting Philadelphia with Pittsburgh by a canal. One part of this project was a canal segment up to the Schuylkill River to Tulpehocken Creek to a summit-level canal near Lebanon and thence by way of the Quitapahilla and Swatara creeks to the Susquehanna River.
This action resulted in the formation of the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Navigation Company incorporated on September 29, 1791,to open a communication between the Schuylkill and Susquehanna rivers from Reading on the Schuylkill to Middletown on the Susquehanna with Robert Morris as the president of companies.
The original engineering concept developed by the Society as well as the navigation company's charter had been to build a canal up to the Schuylkill valley to Norristown, improving the Schuylkill river from there to Reading; while from Reading a canal was to extend to the Susquehanna, via Lebanon. This would have required a four-mile summit crossing between Tulpehocken and the Quitipahilla with an artificial waterway connecting two separate river valleys; namely the Susquehanna and the Schuylkill watersheds. Its successful completion would have made the middle reach, the first summit-level canal in the United States. The term refers to a canal that rises then falls, as opposed to a lateral canal, which has a continuous fall only. In this case, the proposed canal at 80 miles in length would rise 192 feet over 42 miles from the west at the Susquehanna river to the summit and then fall 311 feet over 34 miles to the Schuylkill river to the east. It was to be the "golden link" between Philadelphia and the vast interior of Pennsylvania and beyond.
This proposed summit crossing offered a severe test of 18th-century engineering skills, materials and construction techniques. For both designing and operating a water-conveyance transportation system through an area where sinkholes are common, and surface water is scarce. Ultimately, the 1794 engineering concept was flawed as the water supply for the summit crossing was inadequate and the technology for minimizing supply losses was still another several decades into the future. By 1796 however, the navigation company's project was a commercial failure. The result was that with the onset of the Erie canal still some thirty years into the future, Philadelphia lost the early initiative in water transportation.
Despite the termination of construction in 1796, the company managed to forestall foreclosure on its property and constructed works.In 1802, the company had to fend off such an attempt and was only successful in holding onto its property and water rights through the sale of excess property, often whole farms were sold. Although originally set to expire in 1801, the company's corporate charter was extended in 1806 to 1820. In 1807, Charles Gottfried Paleske (1758-1816) was elected to the Board of Directors of the company and working with James Milnor, Robert Brooke, Isaac Roberdeau, and John Scott walked "... the line of the Schuylkill & Susquehanna Navigation Company from Kruitzer's plantation where the canal ends to the end of the summit near Kucher's mill, about 9 miles; find the work in good condition including the five locks at Ley's, and the bridges decayed or collapsed ..." In 1808, Paleske was elected President and Joseph S. Lewis (1778-1836) treasurer. In 1809, the company's directors appointed a committee to draft articles for a merger with the Delaware and Schuylkill Canal company which was submitted to the State legislature. In 1810, William John Duane (1780-1865) writing as "Franklin" advocates for reviving the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Navigation company as part of a scheme for a canal route to Lake Erie instead of the Ohio Valley in a series of letters in his Aurora and in his published letters- "To the People of Pennsylvania Respecting the Internal Improvement of the Commonwealth by Means of Roads and Canals."
In July,1811, the two corporations (Schuylkill & Susquehanna Navigation Company and Delaware and Schuylkill Canal company) were merged into the Union Canal Company with Paleske as its first president and "...authorized to extend to Lake Erie and to build turnpikes along right of way; company is also given monopoly of lotteries in Pennsylvania until $400,000 is raised ..."
With the establishment of constitutional government in 1789, the financial condition of the country improved.While credit was more plentiful than it had been for a half-century and the population growing ..."came increasing and insistent demands for ... improved transportation facilities." Regular tax revenues to the State were insufficient and could only be remedied by what seemed like at the time to be "abnormal increases in taxation." One remedy that had been used in the past was that of authorizing lotteries to raise funds, but only, for "important public purposes". In 1795, the State had authorized $400,000 for the Union canal's predecessor corporation, the Schuylkill & Susquehanna Navigation and Delaware and Schuylkill Canal companies. While there were numerous abuses of the lottery system in terms of complaints but the biggest problem was that of numerous "foreign" lotteries.
Until the passage of the act for the "entire abolition of lotteries" by the State of Pennsylvania in 1833,
But most importantly, the result was that "...many Pennsylvania authorized lotteries remained uncompleted or underfunded for years."
However, the most important single lottery in terms of number of tickets and in the value of prizes in the early history of State lotteries was the Union Canal Lottery authorized in 1811 but it was to be managed by the Lehigh Navigation Company and the Union Canal Company, respectively.The 1811 acts of authorization prohibited the use of any of the lottery funds as dividends paid to stockholders. The Union canal's incorporation permitted it to raise by means of a lottery $340,000, the exact amount that was left uncompleted by the predecessor companies in 1795.
Between 1811 and 1821, even with this lottery effort, the Company was unable to attract sufficient capital to complete the proposed canals and to keep them in repairs.In 1821, the legislature permitted the Company to continue to raise by lottery for twenty-five years sufficient funds to enable the Company to pay six percent dividends to stockholders.
Between 1811 and December 31, 1833, the company conducted about fifty different lottery schemes and awarded in prizes more than $33,000,000. In 1832 alone, the lottery paid $5,216,240.100 (1832$s).It was not a success for the company though as the lottery had been planned to provide a 15% return, in reality, it was below 5%. Throughout the entire period it was authorized, the lotteries were to be found in nearly every issue of the city and county papers of Pennsylvania as well as throughout the United States. The State lottery to funds the canal construction is "... one of the best-known lotteries in the history of this country."
The largest cities on the East Coast were experiencing an energy crisis —large stands of forest were no longer available near enough to the cities to practically bring in wood for fuel and charcoal production. Cities were beginning to import smoky, sooty Bituminous Coal from England and Virginia and a new source of energy was needed. The project was given a new push by industrialists in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Innovative industrialist, Josiah White had discovered how to properly burn Anthracite circa 1808 and large easily mined deposits were found within 100 miles of Philadelphia over a decade earlier, but overland transportation by Mule train of bulk commodities was extremely costly. Local Rivers were rapids strewn and ran fast, not shallow and well behaved. By the end of the War of 1812 industrialists were getting desperate for fuels—mills and manufacturies were sometimes forced into going quiet for days. White and others pushed for canal funding, applied for rights to improve navigations on the Schuylkill, and eventually split off when he disagreed with other investors as the best way to proceed.
Construction resumed in 1821, probably in response to the successful improvements along the Lehigh designed by Joshiah White's and the Lehigh Navigation Company —which had begun in 1818 to regularly deliver growing amounts of anthracite coal from Summit Hill, PA to the fuel starved coastal cities. One of the principal challenges was the construction of a 729-foot (222 m) tunnel through the ridge separating the headwaters of Quittapahilla Creek and Clarks Run. The drilling of the tunnel was by hand, using gunpowder to blast though argillaceous slate with veins of hard flinty limestone 80 feet (24 m) below the summit of the ridge. The progress of the tunnel was approximately 15 ft (4.5 m) per week, requiring over two years to complete. Another engineering difficulty was the lack of a sufficient continual supply of water at the summit level, a task that was compounded by leakage and required an elaborate pumping mechanism.
Although the initial design called for the construction of a canal from the Susquehanna to the Delaware, the 1825 opening of the rival Schuylkill Navigation from Reading to Philadelphia prompted the Union Canal Company to focus solely on the Middletown-Reading portion of the canal, which when connected would complete the longer conveyance west to the Susquehanna.
The canal was completed in 1828 under the direction of Canvass White, the preeminent canal engineer of the day. Upon its completion it was 8-1/2 ft (2.6 m) wide and had 93 locks. In 1832 a 22-mile (35 km) branch canal was constructed northward from the water works along the Swatara Creek to Pine Grove. The branch canal served as feeder for the summit level as well as allowing the transport of anthracite from the mountains, which became the principal revenue source for the canal operation.
The charter of the canal company allowed it to build lateral railroad lines from the canal to reach coal mines. It built a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) line from the end of the branch canal to Lorberry Junction in 1830, which was operated by horse power. This connected it to the Lorberry Creek Railroad and brought coal traffic to the canal. In 1844, the track was leased to the Swatara Railroad, which extensively refurbished the right-of-way and began to operate it by steam locomotive in about 1850.
By the 1840s the narrow size of the canal locks prevented the passage of the larger barges that were adopted for use on the Pennsylvania Main Line and Schuylkill Navigation. The existing width restricted barges to 25 short tons (23 t ). From 1841 to 1858, under the direction of chief engineer Loammi Baldwin, Jr., the canal was widened to 17 ft (5.2 m) to allow the passage of the larger boats carrying 75 short tons (68 t) to 80 short tons (73 t). In the process of the rebuilding, the tunnel through the summit ridge was shortened to 600 ft (180 m). The widening of the canal allowed for a brief period of prosperity in the late 1850s and early 1860s.
In June 1862 a flood on Swatara Creek damaged the western portion of the canal, completely destroying the Pine Grove feeder upon which the canal company depended for revenue. The flood prompted costly repairs that were compounded with continual water supply problems. The connecting railroad was leased to the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad on July 26, 1862, and sold outright in January 1866.The completion of the Lebanon Valley Railroad in 1857 from Reading to Harrisburg cut into the canal revenues, forcing its closure in 1881.
Union Canal Tunnel
|Nearest city||Lebanon, Pennsylvania|
|Architect||Canvass White, John B. Ives|
|NRHP reference No.||74001792|
|Added to NRHP||October 1, 1974|
|Designated NHL||April 19, 1994|
|Designated PHMC||March 01, 1948 and April 01, 1950|
In April 1950, the Union Canal Tunnel was purchased by the Lebanon County Historical Society. The tunnel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 1, 1974. It was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1970. On April 19, 1994, the tunnel was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. The tunnel is open to visitors in the Union Canal Tunnel Park.
A restored portion of the canal along Tulpehocken Creek is maintained by the Berks County Parks System at the Union Canal Towpath Park in Wyomissing west of Reading. This portion contains one previously restored lock (Lock 49E) https://www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/Parks/Pages/Stop6Lock49E.aspx along a towpath now used as a recreational trail. A portion of the canal along Swatara Creek is also preserved at Swatara State Park where there are remains of 7 locks, a towpath bridge, major sections of the towpath, and three dams are still visible in Swatara State Park. The canal was never rebuilt because the railroad soon went into operation on the opposite bank of the Swatara Creek.
|Reading||City at the eastern terminus|
|Pine Grove||Borough at the northern terminus of the feeder canal|
|Lebanon||City near the midpoint of the canal|
|Middletown||Borough at the western terminus|
Swatara Creek is a 72-mile-long (116 km) tributary of the Susquehanna River in east-central Pennsylvania in the United States. It rises in the Appalachian Mountains in central Schuylkill County and passes through northwest Lebanon County before draining into the Susquehanna at Middletown in Dauphin County.
Tulpehocken Creek is a 39.5-mile-long (63.6 km) tributary of the Schuylkill River in southeastern Pennsylvania in the United States, and during the American Canal Age, once provided nearly half the length of the Union Canal linking the port of Philadelphia, the largest American city and the other communities of Delaware Valley with the Susquehanna basin and the Pennsylvania Canal System connecting the Eastern seaboard to Lake Erie and the new settlements of the Northwest Territory via the Allegheny}, Monongahela. and Ohio Rivers at Pittsburgh.
The Delaware and Hudson Railway (D&H) is a railroad that operated in the Northeastern United States. In 1991, after more than 150 years as an independent railroad, the D&H was purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). CP operated D&H under its subsidiary Soo Line Corporation, which also operates Soo Line Railroad, until Norfolk Southern bought it from CP in 2015.
This is a list of the earliest railroads in North America, including various railroad-like precursors to the general modern form of a company or government agency operating locomotive-drawn trains on metal tracks.
The Main Line of Public Works was a package of legislation supporting a vision passed in 1826—a collection of various long proposed canal and road projects that became a canal system and later added railroads designed to cross the breadth of Pennsylvania with the visionary goal of providing the best commercial means of transportation between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Built between 1826 and 1834 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it established the Pennsylvania Canal System, the Allegheny Portage Railroad, and the Pennsylvania Canal System administrated under a new Commission.
The Schuylkill Canal, or Schuylkill Navigation, was a system of interconnected canals and slack-water pools along the Schuylkill River in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, built as a commercial waterway in the early 19th-century. Chartered in 1815, the navigation opened in 1825 to provide transportation and water power. At the time, the river was the least expensive and most efficient method of transporting bulk cargo, and the eastern seaboard cities of the U.S. were experiencing an energy crisis due to deforestation. It fostered the mining of anthracite coal as the major source of industry between Pottsville and eastern markets. Along the tow-paths, mules pulled barges of coal from Port Carbon through the water gaps to Pottsville; locally to the port and markets of Philadelphia; and some then by ship or through additional New Jersey waterways, to New York City markets.
Union Water Works, commonly known as Water Works, is an unincorporated community in North Annville Township, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, United States.
The Delaware Division of the Pennsylvania Canal, more commonly called the Delaware Canal, runs for 60 miles (97 km) parallel to the right bank of the Delaware River from the entry locks near the mouth of the Lehigh River and terminal end of the Lehigh Canal at Easton south to Bristol. At Easton, which today is the home of The National Canal Museum, the Delaware Canal also connected with the Morris Canal built to carry anthracite coal to energy starved New Jersey industries. Later, with a crossing-lock constructed at New Hope, the New Hope 'outlet lock' (1847) connected by Cable Ferry to enter at Lambertville, NJ; where it connected to a feeder navigation/canal that began at Bull's Island opposite Lumberville; which then ran over 22 miles (35 km) south along the New Jersey bank of the Delaware River through Trenton to Bordentown, the west end of the Delaware and Raritan Canal (1834) to New York City via New Brunswick. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania built the Delaware canal to feed anthracite stone coal to energy-hungry Philadelphia as part of its transportation infrastructure building plan known as the Main Line of Public Works—a legislative initiative creating a collection of self-reinforcing internal improvements to commercial transportation capabilities.
Swatara State Park is a 3,515-acre (1,422 ha) Pennsylvania state park in Bethel, Swatara and Union Townships, Lebanon and Pine Grove Township, Schuylkill Counties in Pennsylvania in the United States. 8 miles (13 km) of Swatara Creek lie within the park's boundaries, which are roughly formed by Pennsylvania Route 443 to the north and Interstate 81 to the south. The park is in a valley in the ridge and valley region of Pennsylvania between Second Mountain (north) and Blue Mountain (south).
The Lebanon and Tremont Branch of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad was a railroad line in Lebanon and Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, built to tap the coal fields in the West End of Schuylkill County and send coal southward to Lebanon.
The Lehigh Canal or the Lehigh Navigation Canal is a navigable canal, beginning at the mouth of Nesquehoning Creek on the Lehigh River in Eastern Pennsylvania. It was built in two sections over a span of twenty years, beginning in 1818. The lower section spanned the distance between Easton, Pennsylvania and the town of Mauch Chunk, present-day Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. In Easton the canal met the Delaware and Morris Canals, with which goods could be brought further up the east coast. At its height, the Lehigh Canal was 72 miles (116 km) long.
Lehigh Gorge State Park is a 4,548 acres (1,841 ha) Pennsylvania state park in Luzerne and Carbon Counties, Pennsylvania in the United States. The park encompasses the Lehigh Gorge, which stretches along the Lehigh River from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control dam in Luzerne County to Jim Thorpe in Carbon County. The primary recreational activity at Lehigh Gorge State Park is white water rafting.
The Pennsylvania Canal was a complex system of transportation infrastructure improvements including canals, dams, locks, tow paths, aqueducts, and viaducts. The Canal and Works were constructed and assembled over several decades beginning in 1824, the year of the first enabling act and budget items. It should be understood the first use of any railway in North America was the year 1826, so the newspapers and the Pennsylvania Assembly of 1824 applied the term then to the proposed rights of way mainly for the canals of the Main Line of Public Works to be built across the southern part of Pennsylvania.
The Susquehanna Canal of the Pennsylvania Canal System was funded and authorized as part of the 1826 Main Line of Public Works enabling act, and would later become the Susquehanna Division of the Pennsylvania Canal under the Pennsylvania Canal Commission. Constructed early on in America's brief canal age, it formed an integral segment of the water focused transportation system which cut Philadelphia-Pittsburgh (pre-railroad) travel time from nearly a month to just four days. One of the system's navigations, the Susquehanna Canal/division created a mule-towed navigable channel 41 miles (66 km) along the west bank of the main stem of the Susquehanna River between a lock terminus near the mouth of the Juniata Tributary River and the canal basin at Northumberland. Meeting the West Branch Canal and the North Branch Canal at Northumberland, it formed a link between the public and private canals upriver and the main east–west Pennsylvania Canal route known as the Main Line of Public Works which was devised to connect Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, southern New York, northern Pennsylvania and Lake Erie using most of the far reaches of the Susquehanna's tributaries.
The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company (LCAN) (1988–2010) was a modern-day anthracite coal mining company headquartered in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, U.S. which acquired many of the 'Old Company' (LC&N) properties and re-launched the Lehigh Coal Companies brand in 1988. The LCAN ran strip mining operations in the Panther Creek Valley east of Lansford along U.S. Route 209; with vast properties dominating the coal areas of Tamaqua, Coaldale, and Lansford. These properties are largely the same real estate assets as were acquired in the Panther Creek Valley by the predecessors: the haphazard Lehigh Coal Mine Company (1792-1822) and the builders of the Lehigh Canal and first American blast furnaces, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, which spearheaded the U.S. Industrial revolution. The new company was incorporated in 1988 acquiring LC&N assets after bankruptcy proceedings, taking the name of the original.
The Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company was a mining and transportation company that operated in Pennsylvania from 1818 to 1964. It ultimately encompassed source industries, transport, and manufacturing, making it the first vertically integrated company in the United States.
The Nesquehoning Valley Railroad Company, herein called the Nesquehoning Valley Railroad (NVRR), is now a fallen flag standard-gauge, steam era shortline railroad built as a coal road to ship the Anthracite mined in the Southeastern Coal Region on either side of the Little Schuylkill River tributary Panther Creek and the history making coal towns of the Panther Creek Valley down the Lehigh River transportation corridor to the Eastern seaboard.
The Schuylkill and Susquehanna Navigation Company was a limited liability corporation founded in Pennsylvania on September 29, 1791. The company was founded for the purpose of improving river navigation which in the post-colonial United States era of the 1790s meant improving river systems, not canals. In this Pennsylvania scheme, however, two rivers, a large river, the Susquehanna and a smaller one, the Schuylkill were to be improved by clearing channels through obstructions and building dams where needed. To connect the two watersheds, the company proposed a four-mile summit level crossing at Lebanon Pennsylvania, a length of almost eighty miles between the two rivers. The completed project was intended to be part of a navigable water route from Philadelphia to Lake Erie and the Ohio valley.
The Canal Age is a term of art used by historians of Science, Technology, and Industry. Various parts of the world have had various canal ages; the main ones belong to civilizations, dynastic Empires of India, China, Southeast Asia, and mercantile Europe. Cultures make canals as they make other engineering works, and canals make cultures. They make industry, and until the era when steam locomotives attained high speeds and power, the canal was by far the fastest way to travel long distances quickly. Commercial canals generally had boatmen shifts that kept the barges moving behind mule teams 24 hours a day. Like many North American canals of the 1820s-1840s, the canal operating companies partnered with or founded short feeder railroads to connect to their sources or markets. Two good examples of this were funded by private enterprise:
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