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Conestoga Township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

The Cost of Dynamite

The Atglen & Susquehanna in Conestoga Township

 
 
The Cost of Dynamite Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, August 30, 2018
1. The Cost of Dynamite Marker
Inscription.  
Dynamite was essential for expedient construction of the A&S. Rock cliffs on the Susquehanna River were blasted for months to create shelves that carried the rails northward, a lower route for the older Port Road and an upper route for the new A&S (lower right images). Both crossed the mouth of the Conestoga River at Safe Harbor on sweeping curves and new tandem bridges. Compressed air from a converted rolling mill in Safe Harbor was piped up the cliffs to drill pilot holes for filling with explosives. Boxed dynamite was passed by hand along the treacherous river face (upper right images). Hundreds of pilot holes were detonated simultaneously, debris removed, and the process repeated.

Local manufacture of dynamite employed local residents, unlike the PRR construction crews, which engaged thousands of transient immigrant laborers (lower left images). A dynamite factory explosion on June 9, 1906, near Colemanville occurred a few weeks before public dedication of the A&S. The accident claimed eleven lives, eight between the ages of 16 and 25. Decimation of the bodies was extreme; mostly unidentified fragments were collected. Such
Marker detail: Rock cliffs on the Susquehanna River were blasted for months to create shelves image. Click for full size.
Columbia Historic Preservation Society, Columbia, PA
2. Marker detail: Rock cliffs on the Susquehanna River were blasted for months to create shelves
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instantaneous death and destruction was a modern horror, unfamiliar to the rural community.

Funeral services were held at the Colemanville United Methodist Church. A single casket was interred for the remains of ten of the victims (lower center image). Although the factory was no longer producing dynamite for the A&S, the PRR would not escape association with the event then reported by the Lancaster New Era as “the most horrible accident that ever occurred in Lancaster County.”
 
Erected by Amtrak.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Bridges & ViaductsDisastersMan-Made FeaturesRailroads & Streetcars. A significant historical date for this entry is June 9, 1906.
 
Location. 39° 54.472′ N, 76° 20.21′ W. Marker is in Conestoga Township, Pennsylvania, in Lancaster County. Marker is on Colemanville Church Road 0.2 miles west of River Road when traveling west. Marker is located within the trailhead kiosk at the Colemanville Church Road parking lot for access to the Enola Low Grade Trail. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 145 Colemanville Church Rd, Conestoga PA 17516, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Colemanville Covered Bridge (approx. 0.7 miles away); Conestoga (approx. 2.7 miles away); Baumgardner's Mill Covered Bridge (1860)
Marker detail: Construction of tandem bridges crossing the mouth of the Conestoga River image. Click for full size.
Columbia Historic Preservation Society, Columbia, PA
3. Marker detail: Construction of tandem bridges crossing the mouth of the Conestoga River
(approx. 2.7 miles away); Port of Lancaster (approx. 2.8 miles away); Bird Watching Platform (approx. 2.9 miles away); Houses for Employees of the Safe Harbor Iron Works (approx. 3.1 miles away); Iron Works (approx. 3.2 miles away); Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal (approx. 3.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Conestoga Township.
 
More about this marker. This is a large, "billboard-style" marker, mounted on the south-facing side of the trailhead kiosk for the Enola Low Grade Rail Trail.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. The Atglen & Susquehanna Low Grade
 
Also see . . .  Scene of Carnage at Powder Mills of McAbee Co. near Lancaster - Surving Employees Driven Insane. (Link to The Scranton Republican front page newspaper article from June 10, 1906, reporting on the disastrous factory explosion.) As a result of the explosion of the dynamite factory owned by the C. R. McAbee company of Pittsburg, near Pequea, this afternoon, eleven men were killed and five injured. The sickening sight drove some of the surviving girls employed at the plant insane. The victims were literally blown to pieces. Nearly all were residents of Lancaster County. Two were from York County. The McAbee company's factory was built by the Pennsylvania railroad to keep H. S. Kerbaugh & Co., the contractors, supplied with an ample
Marker detail: Drilling pilot holes for dynamite image. Click for full size.
Columbia Historic Preservation Society, Columbia, PA
4. Marker detail: Drilling pilot holes for dynamite
quantity of explosives. The work involved some of the heaviest railroad blasting that the country has witnessed since the construction of the continental lines to the Pacific. How many tons exploded will never be known, but the detonation was heard for a distance of fifteen miles. All of the buildings save one were completely destroyed and the structure that escaped was occupied by female employees. For great distances the landscape was laid waste, while the scene of carnage at the plant was sickening. The forty girls escaped as if by a miracle, as the building they occupied was in the immediate vicinity. All are prostrated and deaf from the shock and it will be days before some recover. Of the dead scarcely any of the bodies are recognizable by reason of the horrible mutilations. Windows in the houses a mile away were shattered. Immense holes were torn in the ground. This is the second explosion at the Kerbaugh factory, but the first was accompanied by the loss of only one life, a watchman, the accident having happened at night. (Submitted on August 31, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Marker detail: Boxed dynamite was passed by hand along the treacherous river face image. Click for full size.
Columbia Historic Preservation Society, Columbia, PA
5. Marker detail: Boxed dynamite was passed by hand along the treacherous river face
Marker detail: Local manufacture of dynamite employed local residents & immigrant laborers image. Click for full size.
Conestoga Area Historical Society, Conestoga, PA
6. Marker detail: Local manufacture of dynamite employed local residents & immigrant laborers
Marker detail: Funeral services were held at the Colemanville United Methodist Church image. Click for full size.
By Personal collection of Charles R. Heim, Columbia, PA
7. Marker detail: Funeral services were held at the Colemanville United Methodist Church
The Cost of Dynamite Marker (<i>wide view; south side of kiosk; Colemanville Church Rd behind</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, August 30, 2018
8. The Cost of Dynamite Marker (wide view; south side of kiosk; Colemanville Church Rd behind)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 3, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 30, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 250 times since then and 38 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 31, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   6, 7. submitted on September 5, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   8. submitted on August 31, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.

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Aug. 3, 2021