Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Coal Pockets, 1929
Jamestown & Cresson Streets, 11 Shurs Lane, Philadelphia PA

Sara Jane Elk, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

When the Reading Railroad Company elevated the tracks of its Norristown Line, the former Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Line, (PG&N) in 1929-30, access to coal yards in Manayunk from the railroad tracks had to change significantly. The coal pockets for Hare and Cute, built on a short spur off the tracks above Jamestown and Cresson Streets, and on Shurs Lane above Main Street at Station Street for C.O. Struse and Son, were constructed c.1929 for these anthracite dealers. 1
The Reading Railroad Company shipped a great deal coal from the anthracite regions near Pottstown to small coal merchants, especially in urban areas. At one time several thousand coal dealers lined the 1,200 miles of Reading tracks.
2 Before anti-trust legislation, the company owned the Reading Anthracite Coal Company, which undoubtedly contributed to the large number of coal pockets along its lines. When the railroad company elevated its tracks through Manayunk, it became involved in the construction of these pockets, as specifications were undoubtedly needed to attach them to the railroad's tracks. Perhaps as compensation to the dealers, the railroad built the spurs and the pockets.
Coal pockets, once a common feature of the railroad landscape, provided receiving and storage facilities for coal yards. The Hare and Cute pocket could accommodate loads of up to three, 55 ton railroad hopper cars, unloading a variety of grades of coal, such as stove, rice, pea, etc. The Struse and Son's pocket held a much larger volume. Coal, segregated into bins, dropped to the street level for retail sale. At the time of the construction of the Manayunk pockets, most dealers were largely supplying residential customers and as well as the surrounding small industry.
Few enclosed pockets constructed like the Hare and Cute remain standing along the Reading Railroad lines. This one has a concrete foundation, a pitched roof, and is sided with corrugated metal. The roof kept out the rain, a particularly useful feature during the winter months, preventing the coal from freezing. It could also be equipped with heaters for thawing carloads of coal that arrived frozen. Although abandoned and in questionable condition, the advertizing lettered just under the roof helps interpret the site. Hare and Cute were succeeded by James Cute and Sons. The Reading Anthracite Company logo on either end of Cute’s name indicates its relationship to the coal yard.
The C.O. Struse and Sons pocket remains largely intact and presently retails fuel and building materials. From its size, its location and the hint of its painted signs, it appears that this pocket supplied a number of the nearby mills.

1  Frank Kline, Atlas of Philadelphia , (Lansdale, PA, 1929), 21st Ward.
2  Stuart and Co, Inc., Report On The Reading , (1945), p. 9.

Update May 2007 (by Sara Jane Elk):
No change.