Another Saturday roadtrip - destination - Jim Thorpe, PA, formerly known as Mauch Chunk. This nifty little town is nestled in the Lehigh River Gorge only a few hours from home. The town has a rich industrial and railroad history, making it an appealing destination for me, and for my better half, lots of unique little shops. We left a bit early as we thought there might be some crowds as it was their Winter Festival weekend - for naught - as the town was mostly empty on a very blustery and cold February day. Arriving early we first cased the joint, with my Weapon of Mass Consumption choosing her targets, and then sat down for a coffee and muffin waiting for the stores to open at 10am. The plan was to separate - me visiting the Mauch Chunk Museum, and her, hitting the shops. The extent of my historical knowledge of the town was: I knew that it was an important anthracite coal center; Asa Packer, the founder of the Lehigh Valley Railroad lived there; the Lehigh Valley ran along the east bank of the Lehigh River, and the Central of New Jersey along the west bank; and the whole history of the name change and continuing controversy over that. Some interesting other things I learned at the museum -
- The town was the original transshipment point for anthracite coal in the region
- The coal was transported to the Lehigh River via a gravity railroad, one of the first railroads in America
- Originally the coal was transported to Philadelphia in ark like boats - using a crude system of locks - the canal was a one way deal so the boats were dismantled in Philadelphia and the wood sold and the hardware brought back to Mauch Chunk for new boats - Much of historic Philadelphia is supposed to be built with this lumber.
- Eventually a two way canal system was built
- Once the Lehigh Valley and CNJ and others reached the mines directly, the Gravity Railroad was turned into a tourist attraction.
- A variety of hotels and the Gravity Railroad and the reputation of the town as the Switzerland of America made it into the second most visited tourist attraction in America, behind Niagra Falls
- Some of the Molly McQuires were tried in the court house (see pictured) and sentenced to death.