First Posted: 1/20/2013
Why isn’t Pittston the Electric City? John Quinn asked at a history presentation at the Pittston Library last Thursday night.
Quinn, a retired teacher and the president of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board, and Pat Conway, retired railroad engineer, spoke to an audience of 15 local history buffs which included Mike Savokinas, John Dziak, Jim Zarra and PA school directors Mark Singer and Tony Guariglia.
While Quinn and Conway – with a 15-foot map of the Anthracite coal regions as a backdrop – talked about the local history all over the region they emphasized the Pittston area.
Quinn, who has deep roots in Pittston and Avoca through large families of McHales and Murphys, said Pittston could have dubbed itself the Electric City just as legitimately as Scranton because the Laurel Line was first laid out from here to Scranton by George Westinghouse and that the line was the first inter-urban electric rail line in the Unites States.
Quinn said that while Wilkes-Barre and Scranton became better known because they are bigger, Pittston had an incredible amount of mines and it was these mines which helped fuel the growth of, first, Philadelphia when coal was shipped by canal and, later, New York City, when the railroads supplanted the canal.
Coal wasn’t the only NEPA commodity that helped the major cities of the East grow. Lumber, ice and flour and corn meal were essential, too. Quinn said that in the 1800s Luzerne County had more gristmills than churches.
Conway explained how The Great Flood of 1864 destroyed the North Branch Canal in the Pittston area leading to the rise of the railroads. The Lehigh Valley built tracks on the canal tow path.
The men noted that workers in this area were highly-skilled and prized, due to the self-sufficiency of the coal companies which built their own power plants and rail lines.
Conway said Coxton was more than just a rail yard. It was an important East Coast hub which had its own accommodations and restaurant.
The men are touring the area with their presentation and maps, some more than a century old, of rail and canal lines and coalfields.
They are especially interested in getting into schools. Kids and even their teachers don’t know enough local history, Quinn said. We have to pass it on.
Quinn, who has deep roots in Pittston and
Avoca, said Pittston could have dubbed itself the Electric City because the Laurel Line was first laid out from here to Scranton by George Westinghouse and that the line was the first inter-urban electric rail line in the Unites States.