Although the Switchback Gravity Railroad has been gone as an operating entity for more than a half century, there are lots of places to experience the physical artifacts and memories in the region the railroad served between Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) and Summit Hill, Pennsylvania. A good place to start is in downtown Jim Thorpe.
The best place to begin your search for information is on the town's chamber of commerce website, www.jimthorpe.org. It will provide you with everything from shopping to dining to entertainment to lodging and has many other useful links to organizations inside Jim Thorpe and Carbon County.
On an introductory visit, be sure to visit the Old Mauch Chunk Landing, the home of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau and an official Landing of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. The Old Mauch Chunk Landing is located in the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Station in downtown Jim Thorpe. It can't be missed! The Landing is staffed by knowledgeable people , and you can pick up brochures and general information there. Displays in the Landing will assist you in planning your visit in the Jim Thorpe and Panther Valley area. Stop again on your way out to prepare for your next visit.
The Old Mauch Chunk Landing, opened in 1998, was the second to be opened among eleven planned in the Corridor, which extends 150 miles from Wilkes-Barre to Bristol in Bucks County. The Landing's displays include a Living Landscape, an interactive map and audio presentation that explains Carbon County's history, including its role in coal mining and coal and railroad transportation.
And, if your timing is right and someone is in, stop by the Switchback Foundation office on the second floor of the south end of the station.
|The Landing at Jim Thorpe|
The Switchback Trail -- Following the actual roadbed of the historic gravity railroad, the Switchback Trail provides a recreational corridor and pedestrian link to the recreational facilities of the valley. It provides a wonderful variety of experiences for both the casual walker and experienced hiker. Long stretches of the trail have been developed by the Carbon County Parks and Recreation Department, which maintains an office at Mauch Chunk Lake. Stop by for information on camping, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor recreational opportunities.
|Looking north to the Lehigh River Gorge from the site of the Mt. Pisgah engine house.
Photo courtesy of Gordon and Karen Lindahl.
The Mauch Chunk Museum -- a five minute walk west on Broadway. (Enjoy Jim Thorpe's Victorian architecture during your stroll.) The museum is a must for Switchback afficionados because it features a 28-foot long operating model representing the Switchback in its tourist hey day with a good personalized overview of its route and its operation. The museum is housed in the former St. Paul's Methodist Church building on West Broadway in Jim Thorpe's Historic District.
Mauch Chunk Historical Society -- Located at 14 West Broadway, the Opera House was designed by Addison Hutton in 1881 and was constructed with funds donated by some of Mauch Chunk's most prestigious citizens. Al Jolson made one of his first public appearances on the stage here, and performances by John Philip Sousa were an annual event. The Opera House continues to be a cultural center for the performing arts.
Getting to Jim Thorpe is not difficult. It's less than ten miles north of the Mahoning Valley Exit of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. From the Mahoning Valley Exit, take Rt. 209 west. Pass straight through the first traffic light (at the eastern end of the long concrete bridge), cross the bridge, and turn right (north) onto Rt. 209S. (Yes, at this point, Rt. 209S runs north for several miles!) Drive north through Lehighton. Within four miles, on your approach to Jim Thorpe through "The Narrows," you'll understand why this area was once known widely as "The Switzerland of America."
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