New book explores Tacony roots

A new historical book about the founding of Tacony also highlighted the 2015 Northeast Philadelphia History Fair on Saturday at Holy Family University.

About 50 people attended an hour-long lecture by retired Police Officer Charles McCloskey, who released his book, Tacony: Era of William H. Gatzmer and the Philadelphia & Trenton Rail Road, in October. McCloskey spent about 5,000 hours over two years researching the subject and has produced a definitive chronology of the neighborhood’s early development before the arrival of Disston Saw Works and creation of the Disston Estate in the late 19th century.

Tacony’s early history has often been overlooked by historians, but prior to Disston, it was an important transportation hub, according to McCloskey.

“Gatzmer was the general manager of the Camden and Amboy Railroad who brought the railroad into Tacony and built the Tacony Depot,” the author said.

At the time, there was no direct rail link between Philadelphia and points north because the residents of Kensington refused to allow trains to pass through their community. So, travelers rode steam ferries between Walnut Street and Tacony, where they could board the railroad to Trenton and New York. The depot was completed in 1847 and a community soon grew around it.

By the 1860s, Gatzmer’s railroad reached an agreement with the younger Pennsylvania Railroad that led to the construction of the Frankford Junction. That route circumvented Kensington and established continuous travel between New York and Washington, D.C., for the first time. It was also the beginning of the end for the Delaware River steam ferries and Gatzmer’s Tacony.

In the book, McCloskey has compiled information from a myriad of remote sources.

“What I talk about was virtually unknown, obscure information that I’ve found on the Internet. Prior to the Internet, this information was impossible to access,” the author said. “I hope it will be a reference material for years to come.”

McCloskey is selling printed copies of the book for $20 each. Proceeds will benefit the Historical Society of Tacony. The book is 176 pages, has 144 illustrations and references 200 sources.

Send an email to the author at to request a copy. ••