Apr 7, 2013

The Fountain Park Flood Wall

Last week I used this photo in regard to the water lease controversy. It shows the rear of the Allentown water plant on Martin Luther King Drive. Although I identified the railroad track as part of the former Barber Quarry Spur route, a mystery remained. The rail line itself was on the south side of the Little Lehigh Creek. It would past Schreibers Bridge, and end up past Union Terrace, behind the present day Hamilton Family Dinner. An inquiry to Mark Rabenold, local train historian, was in order. Wow... that's a rare photo, indeed! What you have there is the remnant of the siding that used to cross a short trestle/bridge over the Little Lehigh creek and once serviced the city's water works. You're right in that it came off the Barber branch. According to Dave R. Latshaw's article on the Barber branch in the 1988 Proceedings of the Lehigh County Historical Society.
"Initially coal was unloaded from hopper cars standing on a siding located along the south bank of Little Lehigh Creek and was carried across the creek by donkeys pulling two-wheel carts over a bridge built by Col. Harry C. Trexler directly behind the pump station. In later years a conveyor operated by electricity hauled coal from cars spotted on branch track to storage bins at the pump station. Circa 1910, the water department constructed a railroad bridge from the branch to the pump station. This bridge allowed the movement of coal in hopper cars directly to the boiler house....In August 1936, because flooding of Little Lehigh creek on occasion threatened the pump station and filtration plant, municipal authorities approved construction of a flood wall along the creek's north bank. In addition, a pit was built to allow dumping coal between the tracks and a conveyor then lifted coal from the pit to a coal pile on the east side of the boiler house." "Because only one car could be dumped at a time, the branch train pushed a car loaded with pea coal to the dump pit at least twice per week." "Railroad service to the water department ended in the 1946-1947 era."
The wall, which still protects Fountain Park from flooding, was another project of the WPA.


Anonymous said...

Nice! I used to play fast pitch rubber ball off that wall. We'd have a painted box on the wall for a strike zone, and have at it.

Anonymous said...

How did your park walk go? Sure hope you and your guests saw the recent seeding near the Lehigh Parkway North small parking lot that includes the broken, leaning wooden pole once part of the Lights in the Parkway project. This outlet easily could be removed but why bother?

michael molovinsky said...

@11:45, i thought the walk went well. sorry, i was too preoccupied with my agenda and questions to notice.

Anonymous said...

Keep it up Michael and soon you'll be competing with Frank Whelan for "Top Allentown Historian" HA! The rich history of this area should never be forgotten, nor dismissed as insignificant. Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton all played enormous roles in shaping this part of the Mid-Atlantic Region into what we are today.
Thanks for all that you do in reminding us.....PJF