The Pocono Mountains region has a rich railroading history. After hosting the maiden run of the first steam engine brought to America, the town of Honesdale was hailed the “Birthplace of the American railroad.” In the second half of the 19th century, Pennsylvania was home to more railroad mileage than any other state in the country, and industry blossomed in the Pocono Mountains.
During the later part of the 19th century, railroads initially constructed to transport coal were transformed into passenger lines. They carried sightseers and vacationers to scenic spots throughout the Poconos. Today, the region’s spectacular rail lines preserve the centuries-old railroading history. These railroads provide a glimpse into the past and offer a unique way to soak up the scenery, especially during the region’s colorful fall transition.
The Stourbridge Line
Shortly after arriving from England in 1829, the first steam engine in the United States, the Stourbridge Lion, made its inaugural voyage. It departed the town of Honesdale and ushered in a new era of American railroading. Almost two centuries later, trains are still departing from Honesdale, now part of The Stourbridge Line. The railroad offers passengers a variety of scenic and seasonally-themed train journeys, including several excursions showcasing the region’s fall colors.
Trips on The Stourbridge Line depart from Honesdale and Hawley. For a short-but-sweet outing, leaf-peepers can take the Pocono Foliage Express, a 20-mile ride between Honesdale and Hawley. They can also make the hour-long ride on the Glen Eyre Foliage Express, or join the two-hour journey on the Lackawaxen Foliage Express. Visitors can also opt for a more extended fall tour, such as the 2.5-hour hour trip on the Glen Eyre Foliage Limited. An even longer option is the 3.5-hour ride on the Lackawaxen Foliage Limited, which runs along the Lackawaxen River and showcases the remains of the historic Delaware & Hudson Canal.
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
Providing breathtaking views of the Lehigh Gorge, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway also taps into the region’s unique rail history. Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, vacationers and day-trippers from cities throughout the East rode the rails to the scenic town of Jim Thorpe. They rode rail lines that were also used to transport anthracite coal. Today, visitors can still hop a train in the heart of historic Jim Thorpe, which was once dubbed the “Switzerland of America.”
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, a sister company to the Reading & Northern Railroad, offers an array of train tours that depart from Jim Thorpe, including special seasonal trips. During October, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway offers the two-hour Hometown High Bridge Tour. The route includes the towns of Nesquehoning, Hauto, and Greenwood Lakes. Passengers also cross Hometown High Bridge, which stands 168 feet high and provides a bird’s-eye view of the Little Schuylkill River Valley.
No. 9 Mine and Museum
In 1855, the Lehigh Canal and Navigation Company opened the No. 9 Mine in the Panther Valley to extract coal from a deposit known as the Mammoth Vein. Operations continued until 1972, making the No. 9 Mine the longest continually operated anthracite coal mine on the planet. Two decades after mining operations ceased, the Panther Creek Valley Foundation took over the management of the location, determined to preserve the property’s rich history.
Today, the No. 9 Mine & Museum offers visitors a firsthand glimpse of life as a coal miner over the last two centuries. The property includes a 900-foot mine shaft, a mule way, a miner’s hospital, and a museum loaded with historical artifacts. Visitors can even ride the rails 1,600 feet into the mountain for a guided walking tour of the mine.
Steamtown National Historic Site
The Steamtown National Historic Site occupies about 40 acres of the former railroad yard for the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad in Scranton. Visitors to Steamtown can explore a museum that chronicles the region’s industrial history. Plus, a heritage railroad offers seasonal train excursions throughout the year, including rail tours in the Pocono Mountains region during October.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha.