Harborcreek Historical Society Commemorates The Gauge War - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Harborcreek Historical Society Commemorates The Gauge War

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HARBORCREEK- It's a little known war that happened right here in Erie County, and although no cannons were fired and no casualties occurred, it did create quite a conflict. It's called the Gauge War, and while not too many people are aware of it, it's a huge part of Erie County's history. On Saturday, the Harborcreek Historical Society recognized that by dedicating a historical marker to commemorate the war. 

It was 1853 and the railroad lines in Erie were flourishing. There were three different rail lines connecting Buffalo, Erie, and Cleveland, bringing both travelers and business to the community. 

"At that time, in the 1850's, there was no standardized gauge, so the track size from Erie to New York Line was wider," said President of the Harborcreek Historical Society, Lori Sheridan.

That meant with no standard size, travelers had to stop and hop onto another train. 

Sheridan explained, "During that transportation, locals would be able to sell food and housing. So at that time, it benefited the local economy."

But when the railroad companies wanted to standardize the size of the track gauges to prevent interruptions for travelers, local establishments feared they would lose business. That began the Gauge War. 

"So as the standard gauge was laid down, they would rip it up and it led to several confrontations in Erie, and a huge one out in Harborcreek."

Violence erupted and the Gauge War finally came to an end when it was settled in court that the standardization gauge would be laid down. 

"You don't find much mention of this in textbooks and even in local history of Erie County," said Paul Foust, who spoke at the commemoration ceremony. "So to focus attention on a rather unusual event in this area is very good." Creator of the historical marker, Bryan Tom said, "Anytime you can share history with anyone, it's worthwhile, people need to know this stuff." 

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