Main Line

From HistoryWiki

Main Line Soundex Code L500

Wikipedia page about the Philadelphia Main Line

Paoli, Pennsylvania is a bustling town that anchors the west end of the upscale suburban area known to Philadelphians as the "Main Line." The town traces its history to an inn opened in 1769 as a way station on the original Lancaster Turnpike and in turn the inn derived its name from an otherwise obscure 18th Century Corsican patriot Pasquale di Paoli.

American growth was westward, and when neighboring New York completed the Erie Canal in 1825, Pennsylvania, to be competitive for traffic to and from "the West," decided to create its own cross-state transportation corridor. Officially known as the "Main Line of Public Works", this 395-mile system from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh included two long sections of canal and, spanning the geographic obstacles between river valleys, two segments of railroad. At the east end, the 82-mile Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad was the surveyors' answer to the dilemma of crossing territory inhospitable to canals.

Paoli, Pennsylvania sits atop a long grade that, until 1850, included the Belmont inclined plane, which hoisted railroad cars out of the Schuylkill River valley in Philadelphia. Through rail service on the P&C began April 1, 1834, hauled either by horses or locomotives, though some isolated operations had started in 1832. The P&C was a toll road open to all comers who had their own equipment, but in 1844 the authorities banned all horse-drawn traffic and, by default, steam became the sole motive power.

Before long, the P&C portion of the "Main Line of Public Works" had become the commercial spine of a rural area just west of Philadelphia. Merchants and villagers eventually the eventually adopted the name "Main Line" to identify and unify the series of small towns and settlements to Paoli.