Library plans unveiled in Pine Grove
by Kenneth Lehman
At the May meeting of the Pine Grove Borough Council, Paraclete Foundation President
Robert Harris and Frank Fox, President of Greenfield Architects, Ltd, Lancaster,
presented the members with their first look at the proposed library. Using the former
Reading Railroad station that stood in the vicinity of the proposed library location as
inspiration, Fox has designed at substantial modern structure that evokes the memory of
a rail road station.

For more than one hundred years, Pine Grove was a major railroad hub to ship coal
from the collieries to the north to the markets in the south, notably Philadelphia and
Harrisburg. The borough was at the intersection of the Lebanon and Tremont Railroad
Company (L&T) and the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad (S&S). Both railroads
were later absorbed into the Reading Railroad Company.

According to the book Railroads of Lebanon County, researched and written by Donald
L. Rhoades, Jr. and Robert A. Heilman, published by the Lebanon County Historical
Society, the L&T began as a result of a merger between the Good Spring Railroad
Company, the Lorberry Creek Railroad Company, the Pine Grove and Lebanon
Railroad Company, and the Lebanon and Pine Grove Branch of the Philadelphia and
reading Railroad Company. It opened to traffic on March 7, 1870. The Philadelphia and
Reading Railroad Company sent seven coaches to Lebanon where 300 dignitaries and
prominent citizens of the community boarded the train for the trip to Pine Grove. At
Jonestown, Lebanon County, 50 more people boarded the train.

When the train arrived in Pine Grove, there was a parade through the streets of the
town led by Lebanon County's Perseverance Band. On April 12, 1871, the Lebanon and
Tremont Railroad Company was acquired by the Philadelphia and Reading (P&R)
Railroad and consolidated with it as the Lebanon and Tremont Branch of the P&R.

It was once noted the L&R had almost as many stops as a trolley line. The train stopped
at 11 stops between Lebanon and Suedberg, the first stop in Schuylkill County. The
train then stopped at Irving, Exmoor, Pine Grove (where it connected with the S&S
Railroad), North Pine Grove, and north to Tremont. Recently, the Pinegrove Historical
Society dismantled the Irving train station, the last remaining one, for removal to its
property in North Pine Grove.

The history of the Pine Grove Branch of S&S Railroad is fully documented in the book
Pine Grove Area Railroad Pictorial: Volume I, compiled by Donald R. Behney, published
by the Pinegrove Historical Society. The S&S was built in 1851 to gain access to the coal
mines along the Second Mountain in northern Lebanon and Dauphin Counties. The first
branch ran eastward from Dauphin on the Susquehanna to Coal Spring, the later site of
a vast resort complex in the valley between the mountains of northern Lebanon County.
By 1854, the line was extended east to Auburn on the Schuylkill. By 1872, the S&S was
also absorbed into the P&R Railroad. The most prominent feature of the S&S was the
High Bridge near Outwood, a one hundred foot high architectural marvel that attracted
visitors for nearly 100 years until it was demolished in 1949. Much of the railroad was
dismantled by the 1940's, and the final section was dismantled in the late 1970's.

Many of the stations were dismantled or moved. The Pine Gove Station was dismantled
in the late 1970's and replaced by the senior citizen complex run by the county at the
intersection of Conrad Richter and Snyder Streets. In the 1990's, Pine Grove Borough
erected its municipal building near the site, facing south towards Snyder Street. The
proposed library is to be built on leased land behind the municipal building, running
parallel to the former railroad tracks near where the S&S and the L&T railroads
intersected.

The Paraclete Foundation members will begin planning fundraising activities at their
June meeting. The foundation has about $17,000 so far, plus donations of books.
Someone has asked about leasing the coffee shop that is part of the proposed library
complex. Harris plans to raise the money to build the library over a five-year period,
seeking both public and private corporate partnership funds upfront, to be accompanied
by private individual donations that would be made in quarterly payments for a three or
five year period.

Once approximately 75% of the required funding has been raised, Fox will complete the
interior specifications and develop architectural blue prints for construction to begin.
This project will convert the former railroad yards into a vital and bustling area within the
borough. Currently, the property is a gravel strewn area used for squatter parking. It is a
desolate area, without sidewalks or trees to shade those walking along Christ Street. It
will face the fairly newly built H. H. & L. No. 1 Fire House complex that was built along the
east side of where the railroad lines ran, on the site of a former brick manufacturing
plant.
“Printed by permission from the Pottsville Free Press.”