Irvona Borough, like many communities in the southeastern regions of Clearfield County, sustained its families with an economy based mostly on coal mining.
The U.S. economy was, for better or for worse, fired by coal. Trains, electrical power generation, steel mills and factories all relied on coal.
Coal doesn’t transport itself and railroads expanded to where the coal was mined.
Irvona was located along Clearfield Creek and its low-lying banks had room for two rail lines operated by two competing corporate giants of the early 20th century, the Pennsylvania and the New York Central Railroads.
The photo shows the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Witmer Run Branch Bridge. It also shows the bridge of the Pine Run Branch of the New York Central.
Both were conveniently located in sight of what was the Swank Refractory (brickyard) works. Locally-mined, high-quality clay, coupled with coal as a high-heat energy source, made for a thriving brick production industry in Clearfield County.
Today, some stone piers of the New York Central line remain like stark monuments in the creek bed.