Lehigh Valley Railroad

lehighvalleyblackdiamond

The closest that the Lehigh Valley came to anyplace I have ever lived was one of its least busy branches – their line to Canastota NY that had once extended to Camden NY. It carried no passengers and very little freight.This line was originally part of the Elmira, Cortland & Northern which started in Elmira and ran through East Ithaca to Cortland. The continuation to Camden had originally been planned to extend to Watertown.

The Lehigh Valley did have a busier and (at one time) more profitable main line. The flagship of passenger service was the “Black Diamond”. This New York – Buffalo service lasted from 1896 to 1959. The name “Black Diamond” was picked by a Toledo hotel clerk who received $25. The name referred to the road’s principal commodity hauled. By the 1950’s, the “Black Diamond” consisted of a Railway Post Office car, a mail storage car, a parlor-diner, two or more coaches, plus a coach and parlor car which would be cut off at Lehighton (or added in a Buffalo – New York direction).

Since 1918, Lehigh Valley passenger runs originated in Pennsylvania Station and were hauled to/from Newark by Pennsylvania’s electric motors. Interchange was made at Meeker Avenue in Newark. No other road approaching New York from the west was ever given the right to use Pennsylvania Station. In the diesel age, power from Newark to Buffalo was usually a pair of Cornell-red-and-black ALCO-GE PAs. Lehigh Valley owned 14 of these units and used them for most passenger service. Before World War I, the Lehigh Valley used the Jersey Central depot with Manhattan a ferry ride away. The Valley had its own Newark terminal at one time. It was even in the commuter business with five trains carrying 300 daily commuters from the South Plainfield – Flemington area. Freight operations were centered in Jersey City and Oak Island, where several 0-6-0 Camelback switchers worked. A branch line to Perth Amboy left the main at South Plainfield, NJ.

Valley commuter runs utilized two-car motor trains which made one round trip five days a week. Gas-electrics were purchased from Electro-Motive and Brill beginning in the 1920’s. At one point, over thirty gas-electrics handled local passenger service and some freight. They averaged 105 miles a day with one local making a 359-mile round trip between Sayre and Buffalo. There were also some short shuttles such as between Rochester and Rochester Junction (13 miles) and the much shorter Flemington (NJ) shuttle (1.7 miles). Four cars on the Auburn and Elmira & Cortland branches in upstate New York met each night at Freeville to exchange passengers. At least two cars were “redecorated” by Otto Kuhler for main line service. This two-car train from the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania to New York was advertised as ideal for shoppers. The trailer even featured a dining section seating eight and featuring a low cost lunch.

Highway competition was the reason gas electrics were bought and ended up the reason they died. 1945 saw the roster shrunk to 12. Some of them were sold to Sperry to become roving detector cars.

Chartered in 1853, the Lehigh Valley opened from Easton PA to Mouch Chunk (since renamed Jim Thorpe) by 1855. It had begun in 1846 as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad (how would you like to have to write that on a check?). Nothing was done until 1851 when financing was secured from Asa Packer. The idea had been to break a canal monopoly on anthracite held by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company (later to own the Lehigh & New England Railroad).

Growth was both new construction and mergers. While building up the Wyoming Valley to Wilkes-Barre, the Lehigh Valley bought the Lehigh & Mahoney.

After 1865, Asa Packer built the Pennsylvania & New York along an old canal towpath to Waverly NY and a connection with the Erie. The Lehigh Valley leased the P&NY in 1888. In 1876 the LV paid the Erie to lay a third rail to accommodate standard gauge trains from Waverly to Buffalo.

In an easterly direction, the Lehigh Valley reached Perth Amboy in 1875 but couldn’t reach Jersey City until 1899. Competition across New Jersey was stiff. The DL&W acquired the Morris & Essex while Central of New Jersey took over the Lehigh & Susquehanna from Easton to Wilkes-Barre.

The Lehigh Valley had some problems going to Buffalo on the Erie, so a long range plan of a line to Buffalo was developed. In 1876 the Lehigh Valley took over the Geneva, Ithaca & Sayre Railroad. By 1892 a line from Geneva to Buffalo was opened as well as a freight bypass to avoid steep grades between Sayre and Geneva. The Lehigh Valley established a Great Lakes shipping lines in the 1880’s,

The Lehigh Valley had several other branches in New York State: from the mail line to Rochester; the former Southern Central Railroad from Sayre to Lake Ontario; a Buffalo bypass; and the Elmira, Cortland & Northern. Opened from Cortland to Ithaca in 1872 as the Utica, Ithaca & Elmira, this old road was once 139 miles (including the leased Canastota Northern to Camden).

In 1892, the Reading leased the Lehigh Valley, but this deal fell through in 1893.

J.P. Morgan bankrolled the line around 1900 and several “Morgan roads” like the New York Central bought substantial stock. Government regulations forced the Lehigh Valley to divest its shipping company and coal mines.

The “Valley” was always a “bit player” in the various merger attempts of the 1920’s. Leonor F. Loree of the D&H purchased a large amount of stock in attempting to create a “fifth system”. He later sold his stock to the Pennsylvania. Pennsy bought the rest of the stock in 1961 to protect its investment.

In the 1930’s, passenger steam was distinctly streamlined by Otto Kuhler. Although a coal road, Lehigh Valley experimented with some 60-ton and less non-steam switchers around 1930. Beginning with an ALCO switcher in 1932, the road had dieselized by 1952 with representative units from ALCO, EMD and Baldwin. Several FT’s came in 1945 and F-3’s came in 1948. FA’s, PA’s F-7’s, and others completed the picture that killed steam. The Lehigh Valley owned two Rail Diesel Cars. I have read conflicting research material that they were a RDC-1 and a RDC-2 or two RDC-1’s. The RDC’s were built in 1951 at Budd’s Red Lion plant near Philadelphia. They were sold to the Reading in 1962 after passenger service was discontinued. After passing to CONRAIL, then to SEPTA, one ended up in the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum in Strasburg.

Shown below is a comparison between one of the Valley’s peak years and one when the road was almost finished:

 


1929 1974
Mileage 1,362 988
Locomotives 725 149
Passenger cars 673 0
Freight cars 26,443 3,966

I’d now like to describe some of the more important points along the Lehigh Valley beginning in Newark. At South Plainfield NJ there was a junction with the branch from South Amboy. This was an important branch when coal was a big commodity because it ran into the Pennsylvania hills. At Middlesex there was an important GATX tank-car repair shop. After this point, the Lehigh Valley paralleled Reading’s Port Reading branch and the Central of New Jersey’s Central branch. The Reading diverged at Bound Brook but the Jersey Central followed the same route to Wilkes-Barre. There was a six-mile climb from Landsdowne to Musconetcong Tunnel on which many freights required helpers.

Easton was formerly the location of the Lehigh Valley steam locomotive shops. It was a junction with the Pennsylvania’s Belvider – Delaware branch and with the Lehigh & Hudson River. Lehigh Valley dining cars were serviced at Easton. Next was the Lehigh River valley where freight and passenger lines separated through Bethlehem and Allentown. Lehighton was a division point and had a junction with the line to Hazelton PA. Passenger service on this branch was provided by the RDC’s which connected with main line passenger runs.

Glen Summit Springs was the highest point on the mainline at 1,739 feet. The road leveled out from Wilkes-Barre to Sayre as it followed the Susquehanna River. This portion of the main line had little on-line business. An exception was the Charmin Paper Co. at Mehoopany which once handed over 50 cars a day and kept a switch crew busy around the clock.

Sayre, Pennsylvania (1970 population of 7,473) had always depended on the Lehigh since the day it was named after LV’s first chief engineer, Robert Sayre. It remained an important division point right up until the last of the Lehigh.

After Van Etten Junction, the passenger route included Ithaca while the freight route sought easier grades before they rejoined again at Geneva Junction. After Rochester Junction, The Valley crossed the B&O at P&L Junction. There was also a connection with the old New York Central “Peanut Line”. Depew was a junction with the branch to Suspension Bridge. The Lehigh Valley operated the “Maple Leaf” between New York and Toronto over this route.

Highways, hurricanes and a drop in coal traffic made 1956 the last profitable year. Most passenger service was discontinued by 1959. Bankruptcy came in 1972 (3 days after Penn-Central). A substantial amount of trackage was declared redundant when CONRAIL took over the property in 1976. Between Sayre and Buffalo the only trackage remaining is that which serves local industry.

towanda-monroetonSW1

One section of the Valley still running is the Towanda-Monroeton Shippers Lifeline. This six-mile section is operated by a feed mill using an SW1 built in 1939 (painted in Lehigh Valley colors). The Pocono Northeast operates the section from Wilkes-Barre to Pittston and even had a passenger excursion for a while.

 

Lehigh Valley – Elmira & Cortland Branch Mileage
Station Mile
Elmira 0
Elmira Heights 2.4
Horseheads 5.1
Breesport 10.0
Erin 13.4
Park Station 17.2
Swartwood 21.0
Van Etten 24.7
Spencer 27.2
West Candor 32.1
Willseyville 37.7
White Church 41.5
Brooktondale 44.2
Besemers 45.5
East Ithaca 50.2
Varna 52.9
Etna 56.4
Freeville 59.2
McLean 63.1
Cortland 69.6
Cortland Jct. 70.3
River 74.9
East Homer 76.5
Truxton 81.5
Cuyler 86.3
Shed’s 94.5
New Woodstock 97.7
Delphi Falls 99.2
Rippleton 102.1
Cazenovia 103.8
Chittenango Falls 107.5
Blakeslee(Perryville) 110.6
Clockville 113.4
Canastota 118.4
Oneida Creek 125.3
Sylvan Beach 127.2
Vienna 131.0
McConnellsville 134.0
Camden 139.2
Source:
Lehigh Valley Railroad Public Timetable – Effective September 28, 1924

Employee Timetables

Abandonments:

Van Etten to Spencer (parallel with mainline 1932)
Spencer to East Ithaca – 27 May 1935
Horseheads to Van Etten – 14 May 1938 Last train 25 June 1938
Canastota to Camden – abandoned 6 Aug. 1938
Freeville to Cortland – Out of service 1 April 1976. Dismantled 1978; retained about three miles to serve industries in Cortland.
River to Canastota 30 Dec. 1967
Cortland Jct. to River – 1972
East Ithaca to Freeville – Embargoed 1972. Dismantled 1978
Elmira to Horseheads – 4 Dec. 1975

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lv_combine_05_61420002

Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennslyvania in the 1920’s and 1930’s included extensive milk train operations. The LV owned at least 135 refregerated milk cars and operated two heavy fast first class milk trains from Sayre, PA to New York city each day. These trains were somewhere between 20 and 30 cars each. Also at least 8 local and branch line trains in New York and Pennslyvania that carried milk cars in the 20’s and 30’s before the cutback in rail service started.

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Geneva Times, Friday, Feb. 3, 1961

Last of the Railroad – Era Passes Tonight as Lehigh Ends Service

Alllll aboard – last train for Buffalo forevermore.

The 4:03 a.m. will round the bend tomorrow and become a part of history. The era of Lehigh Valley Railroad passenger service in Geneva and New York State is over when the early-morning train completes its run to Buffalo. Next to last will be the eastbound passenger train scheduled to leave here for New York City at 12:45 a.m. The latest of the “name” trains to fall into oblivion will be the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s Maple Leaf and the John Wilkes. Their last runs mark the end of 115 years of Lehigh Valley passenger service in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The John Wilkes was scheduled to leave Pennsylvania Station at 5:33 p.m., completing a round trip from Lehighton, pa. The Maple leaf was to depart at 7:55 p.m. for Buffalo, N.Y. Another Maple leaf was to leave Buffalo for New York at 10:50 p.m.

Primarily, a heavy freight railroad – anthracite and steel – the line has found passenger traffic an unprofitable burden for years. And on Wednesday it announced that Interstate Commerce Commission approval had been granted for the line to end all passenger service, effective after today.

The Maple Leaf was so named because it was the railroad’s connection with Canada, which uses the Maple Leaf as a national symbol. The John Wilkes was named after the English defender of the American colonies. Wilkes-Barre, Pa., which the road serves, got its name from him and Col. Isaac Barre, another supporter of the colonies. Another name train of the Lehigh Valley was dropped a year and a half ago. It was the Black Diamond, so named because it ran through Pennsylvania’ s anthracite coal regions. Other name trains that have disappeared over the years from the New York terminals include the Baltimore & Ohio’s Royal blue, Capital Limited and National Limited; the New Haven Railroad’s State of Maine, the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Red Arrow, American and Trailblazer. The New York Central has combined the 20th Century and the Commodore Vanderbilt, and the latter name is fast fading from use. J.R. de Capriles, vice president and general counsel of the Lehigh Valley, attributed the decrease in the Lehigh Valley’s passenger traffic to increased motor and air travel – and competition from the New York Central and the Erie-Lackawanna Railroads. These railroads also connect New York and Buffalo, and their routes are shorter, requiring one and a half to two hours less than the Lehigh Valley, he said. Not more than 100 persons will lose their jobs as a result of the service suspension, de Capriles said, adding that the number may be even lower.

St.Catharines Standard, St. Catharines, Ont., Canada

February 2, 1961 Direct Link To N.Y. CN Link To Be Cut

Direct rail connection for passengers from here to New York City will cease after tomorrow night’s train. Curtailing of the run by the Canadian National Railway was forced by a decision of the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission to allow the Lehigh Valley Railroad to withdraw from all its passenger operations. The Lehigh Valley route carred the CNR passenger cars from Niagara Falls to New York City. Service will continue along the CNR route through here from Toronto to Niagara Falls, according to a CNR announcement.

Officials in the St.Catharines ticket office said passengers for New York can still find trains at Welland or Hamilton. Those with heavy baggage wanting to catch a ship at the Port Of New York can board a train in St.Catharines and check their baggage through CNR via Toronto; Canadian Pacific Railroad to Hamilton; Toronto, Hamilton And Buffalo Railroad to Welland; and New York Central Railroad to New York City.

The commission’s decision stated that negotiations are under way between CNR and the Erie Lackawanna Railway for institution of join service between Toronto and New York City over their lines through the Niagara Frontier. It did not specify whether the proposed service would connect through Niagara Falls. Passenger operations on the Lehigh Valley route had been continued on a trail basis in 1959 and 1960. About 700 passengers a day used the four trains and ICC stated the loads were inadequate. Loss suffered by the railway in 1958 was estimated at $3,570,933 and in 1959 $1,583,999.

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ORGANIZATIONS

Cornell Railroad Historical Society
Another Great Lehigh Valley Site

List of Defunct U.S. Railroads
List of New York Railroads
List of Pennsylvania Railroads
Lehigh Valley Map
Railroad Tunnels and Bridges Interesting Railway Stations
Lehigh Valley Steam Locomotives Railroads and Trolley Lines of
Geneva, New York
Lehigh Valley Historical Information Lehigh Valley Photos
Lehigh Valley Diesel Roster LEHIGH VALLEY Archive Photographs
Collection of John Rust
The Black Diamond on the Lehigh The Ghost Trains of New Woodstock
Naples Branch Hemlock Branch
Lehigh Valley Survivors Lehigh Valley at the Joe Korner
Railroad and Trolley Lines of Geneva, NY Our favorite Short Lines

 

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RailwayStation.com has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.
Here’s some interesting questions and answers:

When was the locomotive cab introduced?

The first locomotive equipped with a cab, a very crude cab, was the “Samuel D. Ingham” built by Eastwick & Harrison of Philadelphia, for the Beaver Meadow Railroad (now the Lehigh Valley) in Pennsylvania in 1835-36. This was the first locomotive to be operated on what is now the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

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starrettlehigh2

Starret-Lehigh Building

Lehigh Valley Railroad was proud of its New York City building.

Rising above the ordinary commercial structures along the waterfront is the Starrett-Lehigh Building, a much heralded modernist experiment in industrial architecture. Completed in 1931, this massive factory-warehouse offered a novel solution to freight distribution and a dramatic example of curtain wall construction. With tracks leading directly from the piers into the building, freight cars carried by boat from New Jersey could be moved in 30-foot elevators to truck pits on upper floors. The horizontal bands of windows and cantilevered concrete floors sweeping around the perimeter of a huge city block gave New Yorkers an indigenous example of the new International Style in architecture.

Although architecturally innovative, the Starrett-Lehigh Building never fulfilled its promise. With the Holland Tunnel (1927), Lincoln Tunnel (1937), and George Washington Bridge (1931), the Hudson River waterfront yielded its commercial activity to long-distance trucking.

starrettlehighbuilding

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buddlvfromcab

Cab view from a Lehigh Valley RDC

This view from the cab of Lehigh Valley Railroad No. 40. No, it is not on The Lehigh Valley, it is 2007 and it is at the

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
This Budd RDC-1 was built in 1951. It was a gift 4/1984 of PennDot. Ex-Reading No. 9163. Last operated 11/1988.

Looking out the window, there are some great sights

To the right is Amtrak No. 603 (originally No. 964). This Class E60 electric locomotive was built by General Electric in 1976. It ran in high-speed service on the Northeast Corridor.

Straight ahead is Conrail No. 45210 built by Industrial Brownhoist in 1955.
This 250 Ton Wreck Derrick is ex- Erie Railway No. 03302 and is serviceable.

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sayre_dcp_0047

sayrepostcard2

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LVRR Wrecking Cranes


as of Oct. 17, 1941

LV # Ser. # Capty Builder Date Blt Location
96503 636 50 ton Ind. Brownhoist 4-1900 Auburn, NY
96504 716 50 ton Ind. Brownhoist 10-1900 to be dismantled
96505 1191 60 ton Ind. Brownhoist 11-1903 Sayre, Pa
96511 1526 100 ton Ind. Brownhoist 5-1906 Oak Island, NJ
96517 2189 100 ton Ind. Brownhoist 4-1910 Ashmore, Pa
96518 2190 100 ton Ind. Brownhoist 4-1910 Oak Island, NJ
96522 2335 100 ton Ind. Brownhoist 12-1911 Manchester, NY
96523A 2866 120 ton Ind. Brownhoist 11-1913 Packerton, Pa
96532 196 150 ton Bucyrus Co. 3-1915 Sayre, Pa
96533 197 150 ton Bucyrus Co. 3-1915 Coxton, Pa
96534 3456 150 ton Bucyrus Co. 5-1920 E. Buffalo, NY
info from G. M. Leilich papers
By Rich Jahn, ARHSARHS

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LehighValleyMilkTrain

Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennslyvania in the 1920’s and 1930’s included extensive milk train operations. The LV owned at least 135 refregerated milk cars and operated two heavy fast first class milk trains from Sayre, PA to New York city each day. These trains were somewhere between 20 and 30 cars each. Also at least 8 local and branch line trains in New York and Pennslyvania that carried milk cars in the 20’s and 30’s before the cutback in rail service started.

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