The Shohola Glen Switchback Gravity Railroad was constructed in 1886 by
John Kilgour to provide transportation to the Shohola Glen Amusement
Park from the Shohola depot on the Erie Railroad about a mile from the
main entrance of the
railroad was constructed on a
gauge of 4 foot 3 inches, using track, four coaches and cables
salvaged from the
Coal Company Gravity Railroad which had closed a year earlier after
being replaced by a standard gauge Wyoming Division of the Erie
lift was powered by water from a large wheel in the old 1790 saw
mill built across the creek. Coaches passed over a 200 foot
wooden trestle, and passengers were treated to a thrilling ride in one
coaches carrying 25 to 40 passengers each. Three of the four coaches
remain. The "Dobson" has been restored and is located at Nay Aug park
in Scranton near the western terminus of the original PCC gravity
railroad. Another was used as a construction company office trailer for
years and is now a back yard shed. The third was left to rot beside the
tracks just beyond the upper switch and the fourth and largest coach,
the "Pioneer" was returned in 1915 to the eastern terminus of the PCC
gravity railroad in Hawley, and sits next to the library protected by a
The map on the left shows the location of the railroad in 1886 as designed and constructed. The upper track was switched on to the lower track about five hundred feet from the village station. There was a slight inclined slope constructed on a bank at the village station that slowed the coached as they approached the station. This slope then allowed the coaches to return to the glen without any propulsion other than gravity. The two switches (turnouts) were spring loaded and allowed the coaches to travel on the correct track without operator intervention. There was also a slight up slope as the coaches approached the glen station that slowed them. The lower switch, pictured above was located at the glen station just below the lift plane. In 1908, the rails were removed from the lift plane and the upper track and then relocated to the new lumber mill constructed in the glen. A portion of the berm was removed to allow the lower track to be routed directly to the Erie Railroad siding in Shohola as pictured on the section of a 1935 surver map on the right. This allowed transportation of lumber from the Shohola Lumber Company sawmill to the Shohola depot until abandonment in 1936. As the narrow gauge of the Shohola Glen Gravity Railroad was retained, there was no actual rail connection to the Erie Railroad siding at Shohola. There are many small stone culverts remaining along the gravity right-of-way with ties, bridge abutments, clinkers, and many unknown metal fragments scattered along the coal company line.
The survey map on the right is dated 1935 and shows
the relocated rails running to the mill. You can see a number of
sidings to allow freight cars to be shuffled by a small steam
locomotive purchased from the recently abandon, Delaware and Hudson
Gravity Railroad depot in Honesdale. Lumber had to be removed from the
flat cars of the Shohola Glen Railroad and reloaded onto Erie Cars.
The photograph on the left was taken in 1886 and shows two coaches waiting to be lifted up the plane for the ride to Shohola Village.
The Photograph on the right, also taken in 1886 and shows the coaches "Dobson" and "Pioneer" stopped on the trestle on the way to Shohola Village.
You can view the preserved Pennsylvania Coal Company Gravity Railroad Coach, "Pioneer" in Hawley, Pennsylvania.
Below is an actual 1998 aerial photograph of the
Village and Glen showing the location of the Switchback Railroad.
The railroad bed is plainly visible in this late winter picture with a
light snow on the ground. Unfortunately there was a recent
landslide just above part of the lift plane that buried a section of
railroad right of way. Also a portion of the elevated berm
section of the railroad
approaching the village station was recently removed. Compare the
photograph with the maps above to located the railroad bed. Click on
any picture or map for a full view. The Shohola Barryville bridge will
be replaced in 2006 with a new nine
million dollar structure located just upstream from the present
Shohola and Shohola Glen are located in the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania in Shohola Township, Pike County. The word Shohola is from the Lenni Lenape Indian nation and translates to "Place of Peace" or "Peaceful Waters". The area was first occupied more than ten thousand years ago by the Paleo-Indian people. Tom Quick of Milford, PA who built a cabin on the Shohola Creek in 1741, was the first European to settle in the area. The township was formed as a municipality of the Commonwealth on September 25, 1852.
The Shohola Glen Summer Resort was first envisioned by Chauncy Thomas in 1879 after building the Shohola Suspension Bridge, the Shohola Glen Hotel and the Shohola Depot on the Erie Railroad.
Unfortunately he never saw is dream come to fruition as he died in 1882 of a stroke before any part of the "Queen of Summer Resorts" was built. The property was sold to the "Blue Stone King" John Fletcher Kilgour in 1882, who developed the site into prominence as an unrivaled wilderness summer resort.
In the lower glen, Kilgour constructed a large lake, pavilions, galleries, amusement rides including a carousel, a huge dancing and roller-skating platform under the Shohola Viaduct on the Erie Railroad, and a large dining hall and kitchen. He also convinced the Erie Railroad to place the caboose that Commodore Perry used for shelter during his exploration of the Arctic.
In the upper glen he constructed paths and rustic bridges across the Shohola Creek and through out the park to showcase the natural beauty of the Glen. Pools of water and formations named Cascade Cavern, Bell Rock, Devil's Pass, Hell Gate, Terror Grotto, Satan's Nose, and The Spirit of Dark Waters were some of the names given to these places of natural beauty. He also constructed an "Aerial Tramway" that spanned the glen at a height of more than 100 feet above the Shohola creek. This was probably the first "cable car" ever constructed and was also water powered. It sloped toward the mill and only required power to move the car in the opposite direction.
The dance floor deserves special mention due
to its location under the
Shohola Viaduct built by Jacob Perschbacher in 1870. The floor
was 25 feet
above the water of the Shohola Creek and 15 feet below a balcony where
the bands played. The viaduct was built with hand cut stone to
a wooden trestle to carry the Erie Railroad over the Shohola
Creek. Although damaged by hurricane Diane in August of 1955, the
viaduct remains today.
Some of the outings at the Glen were wild and raucous. A group of coal miners from the Scranton area arrived on a thirty cars excursion train. When a sudden Pocono thunderstorm rained down, the large boisterous, inebriated crowd overturned stands, stole money and goods, and damaged park property. With swinging sticks they turned on the manager who escaped to the Shohola Glen Hotel with a large money bag of the day's receipts. Gambling and drinking occurred frequently in the Glen when the park was reserved by private groups and gave the Glen a bad reputation locally.
The park contained a large lake for swimming, boating and fishing, a bath house with pools for the medicinal effect of a dip in the fresh mountain waters.This link will take you to a file of many other photographs, drawings and maps of the Glen and gravity railroad.
Please join the Pennsylvania Gravity Railroads discussion group.
In eighty years nature has reclaimed the Glen and very little remains of the park or sawmill. The Gravity RR coach "Pioneer" was preserved and resides in Hawley, the eastern terminus of its original run.
The steep rocky walls of the Glen exceed 500 feet in places and the natural beauty of the park was arresting. During the peak years the park attracted almost 10,000 visitors per day. There were more than 80 hotels and rooming houses in the area for overnight guests. The park was lighted by colored electric lights, lanterns and electric torches with power being generated on site from a turbine in the old mill. A similar 100 year old turbine exists along the creek in nearby Greeley. Check the link at the bottom of the page for pictures and descriptions.
There are many legends that John Kilgour created or expanded upon to
to the park. One tells of a silver mine used by the Lenni Lenape
that had an entrance in the Glen. It opened into subterranean caverns
extended more than a mile to an exit near the Panther Creek north of
Shohola. My son Jonathan and I searched for the entrance to the cave.
We found many small caves through out the upper glen, but unfortunately
no silver mine. Another legend tells of a large rock called Lover's
Leap where a distraught
maiden jumped to her death.
One large flat stone known as
the Shohola Stone was considered by the Lenni Lenape to be the center
of the universe and provides super natural powers to all who stand on
The beautiful Shohola Depot trimmed in gingerbread, welcomed thousands of visitors per day to the Shohola Glen Resort and the Shohola area. From 1882 until 1907 the Erie Railroad ran excursion trains from New York City and Scranton, Pa. to Shohola.
Hundreds of injured and dead soldiers ware brought here on on July 15, 1864 after one of the worst railroad accidents in the history of the the iron rail. There were seven significant Erie railroad accidents in Shohola Township including the Great Shohola Train Wreck of the American Civil War.
With the death of John Kilgour in
1904 and the discontinuation of the
excursion trains from New York City and Scranton, the park closed in
1907. Ironically, the Pennsylvania Coal Company leased the property and
constructed a second large sawmill on the creek and
clear cut the forest until the 1930's.
A visitor to the glen today has to look carefully to find remnants of the Grand Amusement Park. The foundation of the switchback trestle and a portion of the 150 year old wire rope invented by John Roebling that lifted the cars up the mountain, remain covered in leaves, grass and vines on the side of Twin Lakes Road. The railroad right of way is still very visible with the rotted remains of ties and even a few spikes along the path. There are even some remaining rails if you look carefully. A skilled explorer can find remains of the paths, bridge foundations, railings and grottos in the upper glen and the foundation of the carousel and other structures throughout out the lower park. The Great Shohola Viaduct, damaged by hurricane Diane on August 22, 1955 still contains remnants of the large dance platform and balcony that provided entertained for millions of visitors more than 100 years ago.
I have hundreds of images (some recently taken in August of 2005), with maps of the glen and the Shohola area on my College Web Site . Please take a few minutes and browse through the files. There are pictures of remains of the glen, images of old flyers and pamphlets that I have collected, copies of old postcards, photos and maps of the area and photographs of Jonathan, my youngest son and I, as we explored the glen. We even discovered a few old caves as we searched for the Lenni Lenape Silver Mine and found many old iron objects that we have no idea of the original purpose. We did not disturb or remove anything from the glen. I tried to take pictures from the same angle and position of the old postcards that I own. Check out the old and new views looking up the plane on the gravity railroad and you will see that it really hasn't changed very much in 120 years.
The Shohola Township web page.
The Shohola Glen Amusement Park Web Page.
The Greeley Lumber Company Web Page.
The Great Shohola Train Wreck
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
WB3DGR, The Camp Shohola Amateur Radio Club
The Camp Shohola Communications and Technology Program.
Welcome to WVYC from York College of PA.
Welcome to the York College Telecommunications Department Home Page.
Camp Shohola for Boys Inc.,. in Greeley, PA
Pictures provided by Tom and Jon Gibson, Dick Makse and Dan Rifkin.
The text was written by Tom Gibson, April 8, 2001
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