The Leiper Railroad was first borne out of the need for a canal.
The Leiper family owned a number of rock quarries in the area surrounding Ridley and Nether townships in Pennsylvania, and Thomas Leiper, the head of the family at the time, decided that a water canal was needed to transport the mined rocks and stone from nearby Crum Creek to Ridley Creek, which would allow access to the Delaware River and beyond. Thomas submitted the plans for the canal to the Pennsylvania state legislature, who refused; additionally, Thomas met with local opposition when he proposed the canal. So he decided to build what he thought was the next best thing to a canal: a horse-drawn railroad.
The Leiper Railroad was built to take the place of the canal, with a length of 3/4 mile, and started operations in 1809. This date is significant in the history of the United States, as the Leiper Railroad represented both the first permanent railroad and the first railroad to be officially surveyed, within the U.S.
The Leiper Railroad continued operations until 1828, when the Leiper family finally built the canal they originally intended (minus Thomas, who was deceased). The railroad was shuttered, as mined rocks were now ferried from Crum Creek to Ridley Creek via the new Leiper Canal, which was about 2 miles in length.
In 1852, the canal was once again superseded by a railroad of the Leiper family. This line then became The Crum Creek Branch of the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad (part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) in 1887. This line was abandoned in the 1950s.
Today, a single historical marker, located on Bullens Lane just east of PA Route 320, marks the location of where the original Leiper Railroad passed. Remnants of the canal reside on private property, and therefore cannot be easily viewed or visited. The canal itself was filled in around 1940.
The map above shows a very rough routing of the original Leiper Railroad, plotted from a hand-drawn map from 1971. The tracks itself were no more than two wooden rails on wooden ties at 8-foot spacing. Single cars being drawn by a horse lends itself to straight yet angular paths, as seen on the map above.