Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad
|Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad|
|Dates of operation||1857 – 1944|
|Successor line||Reading Company|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8½ in (1435 mm) (standard gauge)|
The Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad was built in the 1850s to transport iron ore from local mines in Lehigh and later Berks County to furnaces along the Lehigh River. Originally owned by two iron companies, the Catasauqua & Fogelsville later became part of the Reading system, and parts of it remain in operation today.
From its founding in 1834 until the 1890s, the Crane Iron Company obtained much of its ore supply from limonite deposits in southern Lehigh County. The ore had to be hauled over rural roads to reach the company's furnaces at Catasauqua. The wagons used to carry the heavy ore did great damage to the roads, and as the furnaces expanded, the deficiencies of this method of transportation became clear.
The initial application to the Pennsylvania Legislature for a railroad charter, around 1853, was met with fierce resistance by local farmers, who feared that trains would frighten livestock, set fires, and destroy the local farming districts. The iron company was forced to compromise and charter the Catasauqua and Fogelsville Plank Road on July 2 1853. While plank roads were a popular improvement in transportation at the time, the short stretch that was constructed was found wholly inadequate for the haulage of ore. The heavily-loaded wagons rapidly damaged the road and rendered it dangerous for travel. The Crane Iron Company persevered, and on April 20, 1854, the plank road was issued a modified charter to operate as the Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad. The newly-chartered Thomas Iron Company partnered with Crane in support of the railroad in March 1856, and construction began shortly thereafter. Crane Iron owned 60% of the railroad stock, and Thomas Iron 40%.
The eastern terminus of the line was in West Catasauqua. Here, it connected with the private railroad of the Thomas Iron Company, which ran a short distance north to its furnaces at Hokendauqua, and that of Crane Iron, which crossed the Lehigh River to that company's furnaces at Catasauqua. It also connected with the Lehigh Valley Railroad, newly completed through the area. It ran westward through Whitehall Township, with stations at Mickley's and Seiple. It then turned southwestward to enter South Whitehall Township. The line crossed a high bridge over Jordan Creek to reach Guth's Station (later Guth), where there was a short spur to a local limestone quarry and ore pits. Leaving Guth, the railroad turned west, then south to climb across the shoulder of Huckleberry Ridge and reach Wulbert's Station (later Walbert), then ran southwestward into Upper Macungie Township. At Chapman's Station (named for Charles W. Chapman, superintendent of the railroad), it turned south again to reach Rupp's Station, a short distance southward. This was the extent of the first stage of the line, opened on July 14 1857. Fogelsville was never directly reached by the line, but lay about 1.5 miles west of Rupp's Station.
The desire of the Thomas Iron Company to build a furnace in the southern part of the county resulted in a further extension in 1864. Construction continued southward from Rupp's Station, through Crane Station (named for the iron company) and Trexlertown. Entering Lower Macungie Township, the Catasauqua & Foglesville made a connection with the East Pennsylvania Railroad, completed 1859, at Alburtis. It crossed over the East Penn and passed alongside the proposed furnace site, just south of Alburtis at Lock Ridge. In 1865, the line was extended south into the mountains. Climbing southeast and then running southwest along the side of the ridge, the line entered Longswamp Township, Berks County. It entered Red Lion from the northeast and passed on to Rittenhouse Gap and the Thomas Iron Company's magnetite mines there. A turntable was built at the end of the line. In 1868, the furnaces at Lock Ridge did indeed go into operation, shipping and receiving over both the Catasauqua & Fogelsville and the East Penn.
Ore spurs and wharves
The railroad could not run a spur to every mine site, and a number of "ore wharves" were constructed along the right-of-way. At the wharves, ore could be dumped from wagons into piles, and later transferred to railcars to be shipped to the furnaces.
Important mines did, however, warrant the expense of constructing branch lines, authorized by a charter supplement of April 8 1861. The longest of these diverged at Trexlertown, and ran as far as Breinigsville on the unfinished Allentown Railroad right-of-way. There it diverged, and continued to Farmington, the site of a large ore wharf, and ended at the ore pits in the vicinity of Klines Corner. A shorter branch, originating at Crane, ran west and then turned sharply north to end at the Wallner iron mine near Haafsville. Finally, a switchback was built from the main line between Red Lion and Rittenhouse Gap in the late 1880s, which served the hematite mines near Siesholtsville. Another charter amendment of May 26 1863, allowing it to extend to Bath (northeast of Catasauqua and terminus of the Bangor and Portland Railroad) was never utilized.
Most of the stock of the Catasauqua & Fogelsville was bought by the Reading in 1890, as iron ore from the Mesabi Range began to put pressure on local iron mining operations. It was leased to the Reading on December 8 1893. Between 1916 and 1919, furnace slag was dumped under the Jordan Creek high bridge so that it could be replaced by a fill and culvert. Iron ore traffic continued to decline, and the local mines had all been shut down by the end of World War I. The mine branches remained in place, derelict, until the 1940s, when the three spurs and the main line south of Lock Ridge were abandoned. The Catasauqua and Fogelsville was formally merged into the Reading on August 10 1944.
The line from Alburtis to the now-derelict furnaces at Lock Ridge remained in place to haul furnace slag until 1959, when it was abandoned. Otherwise, the line remained largely intact until after passing to Conrail. The connection in West Catasauqua with the Lehigh and New England Railroad (formerly the Crane Iron Company tracks) had been abandoned in 1961. Anticipating the abandonment of the former Lehigh Valley main line in February 1982, leaving only the moribund Ironton Railroad connection, the line east of Seiple was abandoned on December 21 1981. The remainder survived the breakup of Conrail to become the Norfolk Southern C&F Secondary. It is operated as a branchline from Alburtis, principally serving a number of industrial customers in the Chapman area.
- Bartholomew, Craig L.; Metz, Lance E. (1988). Bartholomew, Ann (ed.): The Anthracite Iron Industry of the Lehigh Valley. Center for Canal History and Technology. ISBN 0-930973-08-9.
- Taber, Thomas T., III (1987). Railroads of Pennsylvania Encyclopedia and Atlas. Thomas T. Taber III. ISBN 0-9603398-5-X.