A $20,000 restoration of the historic Pioneer railroad coach owned by the Hawley Public Library was capped with a rededication ceremony June 15th.
Tom Kennedy, Library Board member and historian, oversaw the two year project and was the host at the ribbon cutting. He wore a Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Railroad cap as he briefed the crowd of well wishers on the library lawn about the heritage of the coach.
A unique artifact for Hawley, the passenger coach is sometimes mistaken for a caboose by passerby, but an interpretative sign put out near the sidewalk is expected to hep explain the significance of the coach and its place in local history. A handicapped accessible ramp and platform was installed in back, for greater convenience to the public. The canopy received a new roof. The coach itself was upgraded with tempered window glass, replacement of floor boards and exterior painting in its original shade.
Hawley as a community grew rapidly with the advent of the D&H Canal in the 1820's. For 70 years the canal, which began in Honesdale, took loads of coals from the Lackawanna mines to market, hauled in canal boats 108 miles to the Hudson River.
Coal was carried to the canal boats in Honesdale by way of a gravity railroad over Farview Mountain.
In 1850 a subsidiary of the D&H, the Pennsylvania Coal Company (PCC), built a second gravity rail system from mines near Pittston to Hawley. The purpose was to transport more coal for the thriving D&H Company. Coal was loaded onto waiting canal boats at Hawley, positioned in a basin where Bingham Park is today.
Rivalry developed between the PCC and D&H; the PCC went its own way and in 1863 brought a new Erie steam rail line from Lackawaxen to Hawley. From that point on the PCC bypassed the slower canal, loading coal here on waiting steam trains. The PCC finally closed in 1885; the canal business ended in 1898.
The coach was one of several passenger cars used by the PCC, which took people between Hawley and Dunmore. For decades this was Hawley's link to the outside world for travelers heading to the rail hub at Scranton.
Kennedy pointed out that this was a worker's car, with simple wooden benches. The Wayne County Historical Society in Honesdale has a plush passenger coach, used on the D&H Gravity Railroad Only one other PCC passenger coach is on public display, located in Scranton behind the Everhart Museum.
Margot Clauss, president of the Hawley Public Library, said this was an important project and thanked both Tom Kennedy and the many community supporters and friends. Without the support, she said the coach would be in jeopardy of ruin.
A special guest in attendance was Dick Hunter, a World War II veteran, former Palmyra Twp. -Pike County Supervisor and retired carpenter. Hunter oversaw the major restoration done to the coach in 1975. At that time, the coach was moved back further from the road and the canopy built over it.
Page 2 of 2 - Hunter told The News Eagle, "I just couldn't see it go downhill." He said he was glad the coach wasn't repainted green. For a period of time while on display the coach was redone in green.
Kennedy said that $20,000 was raised in grants and donations for the project. Clauss Construction was the general contractor. B&L Interiors painted the coach just for the cost of the paint. Steamtown National Historic Site assisted with paint analysis to determine the original color.
At a reception following in the library, Juan Espino presented a framed water color painting of the Pioneer coach created and donated by artist Marilyn Foley, now of Savannah, Georgia.
Sal Mecca, founder of the Dunmore Historical Society and well versed on PCC history, shared historic pictures. He offered to come back and do a presentation on the PCC.
George Fluhr, Pike County Historian, spoke about the connection this coach had with Shohola Glen, an early amusement park in Shohola Township. One of four PCC cars acquired by the park after the PCC shut down the gravity railroad, the coach was used to bring visitors into the park. After the park closed in 1907, the Erie Railroad took back the Pioneer coach for display in Hawley. The others were left to rot away in a field. It has been on exhibit in Hawley ever since.
He noted that the heritage of Hawley's railroad coach stretches from Dunmore to Shohola.
It sits directly in front of where the West Hawley Depot was located.
The coach was finally transferred to the Hawley Public Library in 1966, when the library was founded.
SEE THE RELATED PHOTO GALLERY.