Exploring The Remains Of The Mahanoy Plane: A Hike Into Our Coal Mining Past
I have been re-reading a book about the anthracite coal mining history of our area, “The Miners” by Mary Siegel Tyson. The book is about her ancestors who worked in these deep and dangerous anthracite coal mines in the Hazleton area of Luzerne County. In the first chapter of the book reference was made to an amazing engineering feat that was built in nearby Schuylkill County in 1861, The Mahanoy plane.
I did some research and learned that this incline plane rose 524 feet over the course of 2460 feet from the town now know as Mahanoy Plane in Gilberton to the top of the Broad Mountain in present day Frackville. I located the sight of some ruins on Google maps . On the Friday after Thanksgiving I left my home in Hazle Township and drove south on I 81 for approximately 26 miles I parked near some baseball fields in Frackville.
Here I found a collapsed tunnel. My guess was it was another railroad that ran under the inclined plane. At least I knew I was on the right track and continued to follow the trail I thought was the inclined plane down the mountainside.
and telephone or telegraph poles I had seen in old photos. The trail was raised and consisted of coal waste, culm and slate so is was man made. 600 to 800 cars filled with anthracite coal were hauled up the dual tracks each day.
I saw a house along the tracks and walked into the town of Mahanoy Plane. Again I imagined the people who lived here while the inclined plane was in operation. Noise and dust must have been part of their lives. Most of the residents lived in poverty.
I followed a road into the patch town and came to a bridge over the Mahanoy Creek, Now rust colored from acid mine drainage, I had learned this was once on of the best trout fishing streams in Pennsylvania before the coal mining operations polluted it in the 1860’s.
and continued to explore the old concrete and stone structures. I imagined the noise, smoke, dust and hustle and bustle of the hundreds of coal cars being unloaded and shipped to the markets in New York and Philadelphia via railroad and canals.
It was now afternoon and I was hungry and tired and decided to leave. I hope to return and learn more about this once critical hub of the coal industry in the anthracite region. Both of my grandfathers worked in the coal mines. It was a hard life. Both developed black lung, and my dad’s father died from it when he was 54 years old. I hope to share more blogs on our coal mining heritage. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photographs of my hike on the Mahanoy Plane. Mahanoy Plane Hike November 27 2020.
When I was a boy said my daddy to me:
“Stay out of the mines, take my warning,” said he ,
“Or with dust you’ll be choked and a pauper you’ll be,
Broken down, down, down………..” William E. Keating