Jul 10, 2011

The World of Mirth

Allentown at one time had two very productive railroad branch lines; The West End, and the Barber Quarry. The Barber Quarry, for the most part, ran along the Little Lehigh Creek. It serviced the Mack Truck plants on South 10th, and continued west until it turned north along Union Terrace, ending at Wenz's tombstone at 20th and Hamilton Streets. The West End, for the most part, ran along Sumner Avenue, turning south and looping past 17th and Liberty Streets.

The Allentown Economic and Development Corporation has received a $1.8 million grant, toward a $4 million dollar project, to restore a portion of the Barber Quarry branch to service it's industrial building on South 10th Street. This building housed Traylor Engineering, which was a giant back in the day. Recently it housed a fabricator who President Obama visited on his Allentown photo opportunity mission. The business has since closed, but let's not have that reality stand in the way of grants. Last summer, I fought against Allentown's Trail Network Plan, which catered to the spandex cyclist crowd. The new trail was to be built on the Barber Quarry track line. Not only didn't the AEDC oppose the plan, it's director was an advocate. Now they will be funded to develop that which they wanted to destroy. Where do I begin in Allentown's World of Mirth?

The wonderful photograph above shows the World of Mirth train at 17th and Liberty. World of Mirth was the midway operator at the Allentown Fair during the 40's and 50's. In the background is Trexler Lumber Yard, which burnt down in the early 1970's. The B'nai B'rith Apartment houses now occupy the location.
photograph from the collection of Mark Rabenold

UPDATE: The Barber Quarry branch was not the primary railroad access to the Mack plants on South 10th Street. The branch only provided service to Mack Plant #2 on South 10th and Mack Plant #1 on 7th and Mill Streets which both closed for manufacturing in 1924 in favor of Mack #3,3A,4 and 4A on South 10th. These were served by the Reading Railroad Mack Branch. There was a switchback that connected the Barber Quarry to the Reading west of Traylor Engineering and Manufacturing Co. Yet, that was built by the Reading to serve Traylor and did not provide access for the LVRR to Mack #3,3A, 4 and 4A.

Also the western terminus was not wenz's on Hamliton Street. The branch crossed Hamilton and served several businesses including Yeager Fuel on North St Elmo, several silk mills and Pepsi Bottling at 2100 Linden Street. The bottling plant closed in 1963 which then became a city parks department building. The LVRR sold and removed the track north of Hamilton street in 1969. Accordingly, in 1970, the Wenz company became the western most shipper and receiver on the branch. update information from anonymous comment in November of 2010

reprinted from November 29, 2010


  1. Molovinskli your against everything.

  2. Not everything, just the act of repeating big mistakes ad infinitum.

  3. anon 10:41, the previous comment is from the cyberstalker, who spends his time insulting others and writing comments to his own blog, anonymously. why would anybody want to restore a spur line to industry that no longer exists? when i say restore, even the track itself was removed many years ago. it would have to be rebuilt from union and S. third street, all the way to s. 10th street. If Allentown Metal Works was still in business, it would still not be justified. it was simply a bureaucratic idea by people with no idea of business.

  4. So, you were against an abandoned railroad bed full of garbage, glass and used condoms be turned into something people might use and love and cherish as a part of Allentown's wonderful park system. You're against reusing it as railroad( which, btw, i applaud . A ridiculous idea) . What would you have done with it? Anything?

  5. dirtyape, i see you just created this identity now to comment here. i was opposed to paving the cinder paths. i was opposed to creating new paths joining the parks. i never opposed a path, even paved, being made of the former barber quarry bed; however, i would prefer those resources being used to preserve the WPA stone structures. we have less park workers than ever. they are hard pressed to maintain the current parks and features, much less new ones. there's not much glamour or ribbon cutting in maintenance, but it's what made our park system what it is today, not endless new projects.

  6. dirtyape:

    Here is a blog that I am sure would be more to your liking: http://allentowngoodnews.blogspot.com/ BTW - it has a very active comment section that should suit you better.

    Do not like what you find here and feel the only way to comment is by being condescending, offensive, and dismissive then I would suggest blogging in another sphere.

    You must truly be challenged by MMs comments since they seem to "move" you to such a great degree.

    Wake up and look at what is going on in the world. Take you head out of the butt of the eminent domain king. A lot of people dislike the spandex crowd. So.

    Shoo! go away! Come back another day from your land of Oz when your sanity has returned.

  7. MM -

    Where is the outcry from our supposedly independent City Council for this new plan that goes against the trail plan that they approved, being perpetrated by the supposedly independent AEDC?

    Does City Council have any shame or decency left? How does any one of them look themselves in the mirror each day?

    Perhaps they cast no reflection.

  8. i must point out that this post was written in november of 2010. i have not heard anything recently about the grant for restoring the barber quarry spur route. i chose this post as an introduction to former and new posts on allentown's railroad history.

  9. It seems initiatives, especially in Allentown, have a way of being highly contentious when they are first introduced.

    They then languish for a period of time, with little heard or discussed and then finally the arrival of the bulldozers with no further discussion.

    Agree with PH on city council but what about ASD SB as well? What is the point of these bodies?

    They seem thoroughly powerless and consequentially pointless.

  10. Anon 1:36- i was aski g a question. I'll comment and read what i like. Thanks anyway.

  11. MM -

    I understand about it being a reprint, but that was my point and I think that makes it even worse than when it was first announced.

    They've had nine months now, and not a peep out of anyone on council that I'm aware of.

    I can only hope that the grant is somehow rescinded and the money saved for a useful purpose. Thank you for keeping the issue in front of your readers and not allowing us to forget.

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Anonymous comments are not permitted. Comment by name or establish a pseudonym. Comments only represent the view of the commenter.