Halls to Bernice

The Williamsport and North Branch Railroad

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The Williamsport and North Branch Railroad started out as the Muncy Creek Railway, which was chartered in May of 1864. At the time, the town of Laporte had been newly-named the county seat of Sullivan County, and in order to give prominence to the growing town, railroad service was sought. The railroad that came to that calling was the Muncy Creek Railway, with the intent of building its line along the Muncy Creek valley; however, the company was ill-fated due to short funds, and the venture quickly died.

In 1871, the Catawissa Railroad had completed its line along the Susquehanna River to Muncy, located at the mouth of Muncy Creek on the Susquehanna, to the south of Laporte. This renewed interest in the Muncy Creek Railway, as it seemed only natural that the railroad line out of Laporte should connect to the Catawissa, at the time a subsidiary of the Reading Railroad. Grading and building of the Muncy Creek Railway began in earnest in 1872 north out of the town of Halls (also on the Catawissa Railroad, next to the town of Muncy, who declined the offer of serving as the Muncy Creek Railroad's southern terminus) with a final destination of Laporte. Construction of the line continued northward along Muncy Creek until the MCRR foreclosed in August of 1882. It was then reorganized as the Williamsport and North Branch Railroad.

The owners of the W&NB, while seeing the town of Laporte a worthy destination, ultimately decided that the coal fields of Bernice, beyond Laporte, would be a feasible/profitable goal. And in the late 1880s, the great Pennsylvania Railroad took notice, for they had been considering accessing those very coal fields since their competitor, the Lehigh Valley Railroad, had already started tapping the resources there. Thus the PRR took over the W&NB in 1888, and continued operating it as a subsidiary. All the while, construction on the line continued northward, reaching Laporte in 1893, and finally reaching Bernice the following year.

The W&NB flourished in the ensuing years, as both passenger and freight traffic earned considerable revenues. Lineside customers included furniture factories, wood/logging sawmills, chemical industries, limestone mills, and anthracite coal mined in and around Bernice. Passenger traffic thrived along the line, as it served a number of tourist destinations and picnic areas in the mountains.

However, times grew tough in the 1910s, as mills and factories began shutting their doors. Decline followed throughout the 1920s, and the Great Depression spelled doom for the struggling W&NB (which had reorganized once again as the W&NB Railway in 1921). Abandonment of the entire W&NB came in 1937, with the tracks pulled up a year later.

Today, little remains of the line. A few passenger stations remain, and part of the right-of-way serves the Loyalsock Trail.

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