Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ripping Up the Railroad Tracks in Erie

Old Time Erie illustration by A. Hintenach.
Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7th, 1941. This is one event that our nation will never forget. Although far less tragic, few people are aware of an event that happened on December 7th, 1853 that put Erie, PA in the national spotlight. This is the story of the Gauge War.

"There had been haggling between the citizens and transfer men. Two changes of cargo between Erie and the New York line became unbearable…trackage was ripped up at Erie and Harborcreek on dark nights, to be stubbornly replaced the next day. Tempers flared. Action was demanded. 

Enraged citizens dropped their work and rushed to the public square at the summons of the court house bell…the old brass cannon, readied for an alert, careened up State Street until it stuck in a mud hole…and stuck. Helmeted figures with ropes and cables pushed on to the North East and Erie Railroad bridge on State Street. Armed with clubs, small arms, rotten eggs and terrific determination they stormed their objective, secured their ropes and cables…

Down came the bridge. Not a shot was fired and casualties from rocks, rotten eggs and clubs were few. The guerrilla warfare between the North East and Erie Railroad transfer men and the citizenry started thus and continued for over six months to end in a fanfare of flying debris. The 'Railroad War' passed into the musty archives of Erieana. And all because this connecting link between Ohio and New York was too wide between tracks to run through trains." -Landmarks of Old Erieland by Security-Peoples Trust Co.

Learn more forgotten facts about the history of Erie, Pennsylvania at: Old Time Erie

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