May 24, 2022

The Dinosaurs Of Sumner Avenue

Up to the early 1950's, Allentown was heated by coal, and much of it came from Sumner Avenue. Sumner was a unique street, because it was served by the West End Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The spur route ran along Sumner, until it crossed Tilghman at 17th Street, and then looped back East along Liberty Street, ending at 12th. Coal trucks would elevate up, and the coal would be pushed down chutes into the basement coal bins, usually under the front porches of the row houses. Several times a day coal would need to be shoveled into the boiler or furnace. By the early 1970's, although most of the coal yards were closed for over a decade, the machines of that industry still stood on Sumner Avenue. Eventually, they took a short trip to one of the scrap yards, which are still on the same avenue, but not before I photographed them.

reprinted from 2011



  1. Always nice to see historical photographs. Thanks.

  2. I remember there were railroad tracks along Sumner Avenue when I was a child. Nobody ever agreed with me. Thanks for the post. Now I know I’m not going crazy.

  3. My Grandmother purchased her coal from Ralph D. Weaver, still in the fuel business at the same location next to Morris Greenberg Hay and Grain, along Sumner Avenue. It was always a special day when the coal truck would arrive and I would have a bird's eye view of the coal funneling down the shute into the coal bin in the basement. Weaver's trucks were dark brown or black as I remember. And then the end result was the Ash that needed to be shoveled into buckets to be put out for the Ash man to collect. Wonderful memories!