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A Very Rare Print of a Highly Unusual American Railroad Line Across the Frozen Susquehanna.

This is a fabulous two-stone lithograph recording a cold 1852 winter when the Susquehanna River froze at its mouth on the Chesapeake. The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad had yet to build a bridge across the river and still used ferries to ship goods across, so the freezing over of the river presented major issues to operations along this all-important line.

The transport mechanism that was used to transport goods across the ice was ingenious. While a locomotive on the bridge would have caused the ice to give way, engineers simply extended a line from a locomotive based in the station to drag the goods across a rail. This allowed for all the strength a steam engine could provide without overloading the makeshift bridge. The image shows the locomotive on the right-hand side and its connection to the cars being pulled across the frozen river through a series of blocks.

This would not be the last time such a problem would present itself at the Susquehanna River crossing at Havre de Grace. A New York Times article indicates that in the winter of 1865 the passage again became impassable to boats, though conditions were too poor to rebuild the structure here described. A railroad bridge would be built soon after.

The print includes three images showing scenes of construction and transport during this long winter. A note in the center bottom describes the operation, stating that 1378 loaded cars transported in the month-long period when this bridge was in use. In all, this is a lovely image capturing a mostly forgotten era in the development of modern American transportation.


We locate a single example in institutional collections - at the Huntington (hand-colored), and a later photographic facsimile at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Maryland (stamped in red letters "The Adams Express Company 1852").

Untraced in OCLC. No other examples located in RBH, nor in general Google searches.

Condition Description
Corners rounded, faint staining, small marginal losses, and repairs.