The Hauto Tunnel is an abandoned tunnel bored under the Nesquehoning Mountain near Lansford, Pennsylvania.
In 1849, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company (LC&N) constructed the Panther Creek Railroad between Lansford and the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad in Tamaqua. 4 Planners saw the possibilities of a direct route to take Panther Valley coal to eastern markets, and a tunnel connecting Lansford to Hauto would open up possibilities with the Nesquehoning Valley Railroad.
The tunnel would be a joint venture by the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) and landlord Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company (LC&N) shortly after the LC&N board of directors decided to opt-out of the rail transportation industry and leased the railroads it owned or controlled under the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad to the CNJ. 1
The tunnel would be advantageous for three reasons: to cut 15 mountainous miles off of a trip to the Lehigh Canal terminal, shorten the distance to other anthracite coalfields, and to drain water from a higher mine gallery under the Panther Creek valley into the coal beds under Lansford. It also allowed the CNJ to cease coal shipments to the canal on the Summit Hill & Mauch Chunk Railroad, and to sell off the asset as a common carrier and tourist railway. 2
Work on the 1.1-mile, single-track Hauto Tunnel began in early 1871 and the two tunnel headings met on September 15. 4 The first train passed through on February 1, 1872. Thirty-three men lost their lives in the boring of the Hauto Tunnel; their memories were honored with the boring of 33 holes over the tunnel’s opening on the Lansford side.
As envisioned, the Hauto Tunnel meant that coal from Panther Valley could travel through Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) without having to be shipped up mountain planes via the gravity railroad to Summit Hill. 4 The tunnel was such an improvement that the LC&N moved its main offices to Lansford just yards from the tunnel opening.
Maintenance of the tunnel had been an ongoing issue because of extensive water infiltration throughout the unlined tunnel. With traffic on the decline and after a major collapse in 1969, the Hauto Tunnel was abandoned. 3
On the night of March 24, 1994, a portion of PA Route 54 collapsed into the north portal of the Hauto Tunnel. 4 The roadway was closed for several weeks as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) filled in the north portal of the tunnel and reconstructed the roadway at the cost of $834,500.
- State: Pennsylvania
- Route: Central Railroad of New Jersey
- Type: Tunnel
- Status: Abandoned / Closed
- Total Length: 3,800 feet
- “Lehigh Navigation Company Annual Report 1871.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 8 May 1872, p. 2.
- Drury, John H. and Joan Gilbert. Jim Thorpe (Mauch Chunk), Arcadia Publishing, 2001, p. 44.
- “Hauto Tunnel.” Railroad.net.
- Serfass, Donald R. “3,800-ft. Lansford-Hauto Tunnel an engineering marvel.” Times News [Lehighton], 13 Jul. 2012.