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Old King Coal: 1900

Scranton, Pennsylvania, circa 1900. "Delaware, Lackawanna and Western R.R. yards." Dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Scranton, Pennsylvania, circa 1900. "Delaware, Lackawanna and Western R.R. yards." Dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Great job, Shorpy, on this image

I found this on the LOC website and grabbed the 170mb TIFF scan. You-all have done a truly impressive job sharpening and extracting the content of the image from what's on the LOC website!


There's a couple interesting things in this picture. First you're facing the "coach" yard, where passenger trains were made up. Looking at those cars, on the far left you can see a handful of wooden open end cars, as well as that curious round roofed structure in the middle of the yard. That looks to be a caboose, in particular a short wooden "coupla" [cupola?] free caboose. Would have dated from the 1800s. There's a couple more of those in that yard. Perhaps the most interesting thing is the locomotive at the head of the short freight. It looks like it's a tank engine of some sort, probably more likely a porter 0-4-4.

Mother Hubbards

Those locomotives are more properly known as Camelbacks. There was no communication between the engineer up in the cab, and the fireman down below. There were stories of the firemen having enough of the heat on a tough trip and jumping off to walk home. The engineer never knew it until the pressure dropped and he had to go see why.

Historic Scranton

I believe the structure with the missile-like turret off in the distance is the Scranton Municipal Building. Scranton has a number of gorgeous old buildings that escaped the wrecking ball. I lived there in the early '80s, too late to enjoy the boom times of King Coal (and too soon to work at Dunder-Mifflin).

Old Mother Hubbard

The style of locomotive at the right in the picture (808, 812, 811, and a couple farther right) is called a 'Mother Hubbard' -- the cab is at the middle of the boiler with just a small, dangerous platform for the fireman, because the loco used a very wide firebox. "In the summer the engineer roasted, in the winter the fireman froze" was a period quote. The picture is from the Willard Library.

Phoebe Snow's Road

The Delaware Lackawanna Western was famous for its advertising campaign featuring a character called Phoebe Snow, a 1900s period lady dressed in white, which touted the cleanliness of the line's trains because of the fuel they burned (and which the company mined):

Says Phoebe Snow
about to go
upon a trip to Buffalo,
"My gown stays white
from morn till night
upon the Road of Anthracite."


I believe this is the site of the present day Steamtown. The coal ramp is now the site of the pedestrian walkway to the nearby Steamtown Mall, to the right. I make the trip there at least once a year, so I'll have to compare my photographs with this one. Everyone whines about the "pollution" in this photograph, but this country was built with the help of "Old King Coal."

Progress Indeed!

Yes, this was progress! Because without crawling first, we would have never developed the clean energy technologies of today. Don't forget that before coal, we burned wood, and just about deforested the entire Eastern seaboard.

The old king is NOT dead! Long live the king!

Coal-burning locomotives are making a comeback in Britain!

Brand-new steam loco rescues passengers when electric trains are paralyzed by snow:

A Breath of Fresh Air

Not to be found at this time and place.

Sooty City

The pollution is truly impressive. Was this progress?

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