Mount Gretna Narrow Gauge
Text and Map from "Little Railways of the World"
by Fredeic Shaw

Only one 2-foot-gauge railroad in American history ever possessed American type 4-4-0 locomotives and that was the Mount Gretna Narrow Gauge in Pennsylvania. The little line was essentially a project for a recreational area, an amusement park on a grander scale, and was not precisely a common carrier as were its sister two-footers in the Maine woods. The Mount Gretna was, in fact, an offshoot of the standard-gauge Cornwall and Lebanon Railroad which opened a picnic ground at Mount Gretna, Lebanon County. The opening of the ground was almost immediately followed by the designation of the territory west of Mount Gretna as a military reservation for the summer camps of the Pennsylvania National Guard. With Lake, Conewago and the impressive peak of Governor Dick, it became a paradise for hikers; and early in the spring of 1889 Robert H. Coleman, who controlled the Cornwall and Lebanon, authorized the survey and construction of the road.

When built, the road was approximately four miles long from Mount Gretna to Governor Dick, with a branch to the National Guard Rifle Range. The motive power of the little road was quite outstanding. Two locomotives were ordered, one from the H. K. Porter Company and one from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The Porter engine was a 0-4-4 Forney type hallowed by George Mansfield, the builder of the "two-foot empire". The Baldwin engine, a 4-4-0, carried the road number 12 and was a miniature version of the Cornwall and Lebanon engines, even to the bright green paintwork and gleaming red driving wheels. The Forney's wheel base was too rigid for the sharp curves of the Mount Gretna line and it was retired. Baldwin turned out triplets in the 4-4-0 type locomotives; and the little system, after a busy five years of operation, went down in history as having owned and operated the only 2-foot-gauge, American type, live steamers in the United States.

Although abandoned as a recreational railroad, the Mount Gretna did operate to the Rifle Range (see map) at the behest of the Pennsylvania National Guard until 1915 when a curious accident finally gave it the quietus. A large number of guardsmen had climbed on to the footboard of the little cars which overturned on a sharp curve and resulted in some serious injuries. The line never recovered from an undeserved stigma. It was abandoned by all traffic from that time.

But long will the vacationers remember the Mount Gretna Railroad and the haul up the 2-foot-gauge track to the slopes of Governor Dick!

Oddities | Contents Page

Do you have any information you'd like to share on this subject? Please email me!
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery