Brief History of the Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad

The Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad ran through the heart of Stony Valley on its way from the Reading Railroad's mainline at Auburn on the Schuylkill River to its terminus at the Pennsylvania Railroad's Rockville Bridge on the Susquehanna River. Winding through 54 miles of farmland and coal lands, servicing 27 communities and dozens of businesses and industries, the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad's history lies locked in the ruins of businesses, homes and lifestyles of generations past.

Ties still remain on a railroad siding in Schuylkill County.
Photograph by Brandy M. Watts Martin

First opened in 1854, the entire mainline of the then-Dauphin & Susquehanna Railroad, was originally constructed to haul coal from the mines in Stony Valley. The mines; however, had other ideas. Being the southernmost section of the Anthracite Coal Region, the coal was of poorer quality than the mines to north. The strange coal seams in the valley produced an impure coal - neither anthracite (hard coal) or bituminous (soft coal) - it appeared to be a mixture of both. Due to this, at the time, it could only be used for limited purposes. When the mines begun to fail in 1855, so did the railroad.

In 1859, it was reorganized under the guise of the Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad Company, although many of its officers remained the same. Yet the S&S, as it became known, was soon out of luck as well. Finally the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad officially took over the line in June 1872; the same time the railroad's headquarters were removed from Rausch Gap and placed down the line in Pine Grove.

From here on out the company remained in the red. The original industries of the 19th century - coal, iron and lumber - were dying out in the soon-to-be "Rust Belt of America." New industries took their place like ice, rock and sand, but it was not enough business to save the line. When Red Bridge, a covered bridge outside of Pine Grove, burned down in 1939, the Reading Company decided it was time to abandon the line.

The abandoned Schuylkill & Susquehanna Branch today exists in segments. Visitors can explore the abandon railroad in Dauphin and Lebanon counties via the Stony Valley Rail-Trail, whereas those in Schuylkill County, don't have to go any further than the Schuylkill County Fairgrounds. Some of the buildings remain as well, such as those pictured below. was created and is maintained by Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad Historian, Brandy M. Watts Martin. Copyright 2013.
Information and photographs found on this website cannot be reproduced without her written consent.