The Creation of Pennsylvania’s Main Line of Public Works

By Phin Upham

In the early 1800s, transportation was rather limited. Trains existed, but moving goods to anything other than other train stations wasn’t possible. For trips to and from the station and city, storeowners relied on horse-drawn carts that carried roughly 250 pounds of goods per trip. In New York, the construction of the Erie Canal was already well underway and the rest of the East coast was beginning to wonder what might happen if New York became a flourishing port.

Pennsylvania’s response to this impending dilemma was to construct a system of railroads and canals that would help facilitate travel through the region. The final project would include the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad system, the Alleghany Portage Railroad and the Pennsylvania Canal system.

The system gave access to the budding coal country that was sprouting in the Wyoming Valley, which had become a major source of anthracite coal.

The final project was nearly double the length of the Erie Canal, but it didn’t open the country up in quite the same fashion. While the Erie Canal had provided access to England, which the Midwest took advantage of, but the canal system planned for the Public Works Main Line was eventually scrapped in its entirety.

While the project allowed these cities to move goods with agility, they could not trump the Erie Canal simply because of real estate. New York pioneered the canal craze that swept the nation and drove production all throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Twitter page.