The Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mount Joy and Lancaster Rail Road Company was built to connect three main population centers in east central Pennsylvania. The early road followed the Union Canal (Pennsylvania), and was laid out in 1837 to connect the Susquehanna River valley communities of Harris Ferry (now Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), Portsmouth (now a part of Middletown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania), Mount Joy, Pennsylvania and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
In 1837, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania chartered the railroad, only the sixth railroad ever chartered in the United States (third in Pennsylvania) having been charted only nine years after the first railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. R.D. Carson of Lancaster was the Railroad’s first President.
The first line of the new railroad ran from Harris Ferry to the Portsmouth section of Middletown. This was one of the first sections of the Pennsylvania Railroad built. Simon Cameron, of Middletown, and later Secretary of War under President Abraham Lincoln, and James Buchanan, of Lancaster, and later President of the United States, were among the group of founders.
The line opened with horse-drawn cars between Harrisburg and Portsmouth.
On January 2, 1917, the Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mount Joy and Lancaster Rail Road merged with the