Category Archives: Lackawanna Railroad

Erie-Lackawanna Railroad

The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad’s Hoboken Terminal is the only active surviving railroad terminal alongside the Hudson River and is a nationally recognized historical site.

The Erie Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad were merged on October 17, 1960. The new Erie-Lackawanna adopted the rectangular Lackawanna logo and added the Erie diamond. The result was an encircled broken “E” within a diamond. The hyphen later dropped in the name to become Erie Lackawanna. The black and yellow Erie paint scheme prevailed on locomotives at the merger, but within a few years, the old Lackawanna colors – maroon, yellow and grey – returned.

The new railroad was a 3031-mile route between Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo and New York. Merger talks had begun in 1956. William White, Delaware & Hudson president in 1956 had worked for the Erie for 25 years. Original discussions had included the D&H. In 1955, Hurricane Diane had put the DL&W out of business for 29 days. There were other problems with the railroads – for instance, commuters. The DL&W used to be profitable but the Erie had numerous bankruptcies over the years. In 1959, D&H got out of the merger picture. Following the recent history of its parents, Erie Lackawanna had a lifetime of deficit operation except 1965 and 1966.

Other actions had been taken before 1960. The Erie had shifted its terminal from Jersey City to Hoboken in 1956.

The merger was opposed by railroads operating into Buffalo because a combined Erie and Lackawanna could bypass them. One road was the Nickel Plate. NKP had once controlled 54% of Erie but lost it in 1930’s. DL&W had held 15% of NKP but sold in 1959. Seeing formerly friendly connections drying up, it opposed the merger. The merger saw 2199 miles of Erie plus 918 miles of DL&W less 86 miles abandoned equalling 3031 miles. The new road was organized into two districts – the western was all-Erie while the eastern a mix. “Friendly Service Route” was slogan for the new road. It had 31,747 freight cars, 1,158 passenger cars, 695 diesels, 20,000 employees. Erie was the “surviving” entity in merger and the new headquarters was located in Cleveland. The new road had a series of leaders until William White took over in 1963. Before D&H, he had been New York Central president until Robert Young won his famous proxy battle in 1953.

Both roads were a combination of numerous once-independent lines. In the 1940’s, the DL&W had acquired, either by purchase of stock or merger, all 18 of its leased lines. Similar action had occurred on the Erie.

The Delaware Division of the Erie became the Delaware Subdivision of the Susquehanna Division. Over a century old, Port Jervis to Susquehanna, Pennsylvania was opened by 1848. Construction had begun in 1835 near Deposit but was held up by financial problems. A New York City fire and a national business panic bankrupt many supporters. The fact that much construction was on low trestlework rather than on the ground made construction expensive.

A famous point on the Erie route was Gulf Summit. It was 1373 feet high. Pusher locomotives were used until 1963. Erie used Mallet Triplex 2-8-8-8-2’s built in 1914. Also used was the “Matt H. Shay”. The route included Starucca Viaduct and the old station-hotel at Susquehanna. Built in 1865, it was 3 stories high and had also served as the old division office. The former Erie R.R. car shops were located here. The Delaware & Hudson Penn Division between Nineveh, NY and Wilkes-Barre ran under the Starucca Viaduct. There was a connection between the two roads at Jefferson Junction.

The NY & Erie was granted its charter in 1832. It was intended to be a New York State-only road to connect Dunkirk on Lake Erie with the eastern portion of the state and to bolster the Southern Tier which had been hurt economically by the Erie Canal. The whole road from Piermont to Dunkirk opened in 1851. Originally it had been 6-foot guage. The original charter had specified a railhead at Piermont-on-Hudson. There was a 19 mile branch Greycourt to Newburgh. The New York & Erie reached Jersey City by 1861 (Pavonia Terminal). Two early New Jersey roads connected with the Erie at Suffern and eventually were leased by the Erie and finally becoming the main line. Other roads into Jersey City fell under the Erie as time went on. One was the New Jersey & New York to Nanuet and Haverstraw (42 miles). Another was the Pascack Valley Line to Spring Valley. New York & Greenwood Lake and the Bergen County Railroad were added as well as the Northern Railroad of NJ from Nyack.

In 1874 the Erie expanded westward from Salamanaca to Dayton, OH by leasing the Atlantic and Great Western. In 1880, the six-foot guage finally went standard. About this time, Erie got its Chicago access as well as a line to Cincinnati. The Erie also reached Indianapolis and Cleveland by the acquisition route. The Erie had always been eyed by other railroads. James Hill, E.H. Harriman and the Van Sweringen brothers were all stockholders at one time. Erie never electrified its New York commuter operations but did so to its branch between Rochester and Mt. Morris. Erie owned the New York, Susquehanna & Western and the Bath & Hammondsport but lost both.

1909 saw construction of the 43 mile Graham cutoff. Running from Newburgh Junction, it passed under Moodna Viaduct and through Campbell Hall (Maybrook). It rejoins the main at Howells Junction. The Graham cutoff was good for freight as it had low grades.

The Lackawanna began with the Cayuga & Susquehanna in 1834 between Cayuga and Ithaca then with the Morris & Essex in 1836. 1849 marked the beginning of the parent Delaware, Lackawanna & Western when the Liggetts’s Gap Railroad connected Scranton with the Erie at Great Bend, PA. This line consolidated in 1853 with the Delaware & Cobbs Gap which connected Scranton with the Delaware River. Very important was the Scranton Division of the DL&W. The headquarters here had offices and shops. This division included the Tunkhannock Viaduct which was 2375 feet long and 240 feet high. It was completed in 1915 as part of DL&W president William Truesdale’s improvement program. After the 1960 merger, most EL traffic used the old Erie.

DL&W had the shortest passenger route between New York and Buffalo. Erie’s was the longest. In 1960, passengers could reach Erie Lackawanna’s passenger terminal at Hoboken by bus from Rockefeller Center, ferry, or tube (now PATH). The lines famous PHOEBE SNOW left at 10:35 a.m. and arrived in Buffalo 7:15 p.m. Passenger service was eliminated 1970 and most equipment was scrapped. The observation cars went to the Long Island for Montauk service. Later they became business cars for Metro-North.

Some coaches went to the D&H. Four 62-seat lightweight coaches were acquired in September, 1970. Some of these were refurbished for “Adirondack” service and later were used by the New York MTA for Poughkeepsie service. A pair of ex-Erie heavyweight coaches were also used in the 1970’s.

Other Erie Lackawanna equipment went to the New York MTA and saw service on the New Haven. A string of these cars, still in EL markings, ran between Harrison and Grand Central behind FL-9’s.

White died in 1967. In 1968, Erie Lackawanna came under Dereco (A Norfolk & Western “arms length” subsidiary which also picked up D&H). The road went to CONRAIL in 1976. In 1972 Hurricane Agnes flooded 135 miles of the Erie Lackawanna. It caused millions of dollars in losses and brought bankruptcy. More damage was done when the Penn Central merger eliminated interchange at Maybrook. The Penn Central merger had certain conditions that were designed to protect Erie Lackawanna by maintaining trains over the New Haven via Maybrook. Erie Lackawanna claimed its service from Chicago to New England had been slowed by 22 hours. PC countered that EL trains were usually late and improperly blocked for fast addition to PC trains.

Erie had survived Jay Gould (a 19th Century Ivan Boesky) but couldn’t cope with changes in the economy

Built in 1907, Hoboken Terminal still serves. It has six ferry slips (now unused) as DL&W operated ferries to 23rd Street, Christopher Street and Barkley Street. It also connects with PATH trains. 18 tracks served both commuter and long distance traffic.

Lackawanna’s New Jersey territory became a major commuter carrier. A lot of money was spent on grade crossing elimination, track elevation and new stations before electrification in 1930 to Dover, Gladstone and Montclair. Electrification was viewed as the best way to squeeze more trains onto existing tracks.

Erie Lackawanna handled about half of the New Jersey/New York commuter volume with over 35,000 daily passengers riding over 200 trains. Much of the ex-DL&W work was done with equipment that was already over thirty years old at the time of the merger. Ex-Erie diesel routes used World War I-vintage coaches. Erie Lackawanna’s brief life saw both the end of Hudson River ferry service (1967) and long distance passenger service (1970). It also saw the rise of government subsidy for commuter service and the introduction of new equipment with this help. During this period, Erie Lackawanna also ran a commuter service in the Cleveland area.

The Lackawanna cutoff was built in 1911 as part of William H. Trusdale’s improvement program. This 28-mile cutoff between Slateford and Port Morris bypassed some 40 miles of slow, curved, hilly track. After the formation of CONRAIL, Scranton’s future in railroading appeared bleak. However, the D&H struck a deal to take over the former Lackawanna main line to Binghamton plus Taylor Yard on the Bloomsburg Branch. The downtown property also saw a rebirth as the old station was transformed into a 150-room hotel. Finally, Scranton was fortunate to have Steamtown relocate there.

At East Binghamton, the remains of a coal tower and a roundhouse are still there. The yard is now used by the D&H. Binghamton passenger terminal (DL&W) remains as restored offices. Before the merger, the Erie Limited and the Lackawanna Limited met side-by-side only at Binghamton. The Erie’s terminal has long since been wrecked. Binghamton was a major interchange point with the D&H. It was also the junction with the Syracuse and Utica branches. Branchline trains arrived and departed from platforms at the end of the station.

Buffalo-bound trains follow the old Erie main west from Binghamton. The DL&W line is a dead-end spur, as it has been since the 1960 consolidation. In 1869, the Lackawanna built its own line into Binghamton to avoid using the Erie from Great Bend. The road became a New York-Buffalo trunk line in 1882 when it leased the New York, Lackawanna & Western between Binghamton and Buffalo.

Leaving the main at Binghamton, the Utica branch also included a line to Richfield Springs. Around 1870, the Greene Railroad and the Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley Railroad were built. In 1882, this line was leased to the DL&W.

The Syracuse branch went its own way at Chenango Forks and continued to Oswego. Lackawanna had acquired the Syracuse & Binghamton Railroad as an outlet for its anthracite coal. It continued as a prosperous line until declared redundant with the creation of CONRAIL. The S&B had been organized in 1851 and was leased to the DL&W in 1870. Also leased about the same time was the Oswego & Syracuse.

Expansion kept pace with the economic growth of the area. Many areas were double tracked. The 1920’s saw seven or eight daily freights in each direction plus five passenger runs. North of Syracuse, the line passed in front of the New York State Fair Grounds. Before 1938, this led to a huge shuttle business each year. Another big business was hauling limestone for Solvay Process. By the merger, three round trip freights ran to Binghamton. This dropped to two by 1970. Coal trains ran to Oswego until 1963.

Cortland had the largest station between Binghamton and Syracuse. An 18-mile branch to Cincinnatus connected here. Like many other branches, it was abandoned before the Erie Lackawanna merger. Hills near Jamesville required helper locomotives for southbound traffic. Trains for Solvay ran uphill empty and downhill loaded. In Syracuse, both the Lackawanna and the New York Central ran in the middle of city streets. DL&W tracks were elevated in 1940 and a new station was built. Passenger service to Oswego went bus in 1949. Syracuse passenger service lasted until 1958 at which time the station became a bus terminal.

CONRAIL utilizes the north end of the Syracuse branch from Fulton to Oswego for winter month oil shipments to the Niagara-Mohawk power plant. It is named the Baldwinsville Secondary.

Another branch that never made it to the merger was Owego to Ithaca. There was even a genuine switchback on this branch.

Continuing west on the Lackawanna, stations at Apalachin and Nichols still stand but no tracks are nearby. Bath to Wayland became part of the Bath & Hammondsport. There is a 14-mile hiking trail west of Wayland. No more trains climb Dansville hill. The Groveland yard is all grown over. Groveland to Greigsville became part of the Genesee & Wyoming. The Dansville & Mount Morris also runs into Groveland.

Bison Yard in Buffalo was completed in 1963 under joint ownership with the Nickel Plate. In 1971, Erie Lackawanna and Norfolk & Western formed the Buffalo Terminal Division. Before CONRAIL, almost 100 trains per day from six railroads used its facilities. Interchange connections were made with seven others. It was the main connection between EL and Lehigh Valley lines to the east and C&O and N&W lines to the west. Buffalo Terminal lines crossed one another at numerous points and transfer runs with other lines had a choice of routes. Interchanges with Canadian National added an international flavor.

In its heyday, Bison dispatched as many as 4000 cars per day. Hump crews shoved cars through the retarders on a round-the-clock basis. As many as 80 engines per day were fueled, sanded and cleaned.

Bison Yard is gone; it is now an industrial park. The Lackawanna station in Buffalo has been demolished but the trainshed is utilized by the local light rail facility. Buffalo, in general, was decimated by the CONRAIL consolidation.

Read more about the Erie-Lackawanna



The Richfield Springs branch of the The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Company extended through Bridgewater, where it connected with the Unadilla Valley Railroad, a shortline that served Edmeston and New Berlin to Richfield Springs on Canadarago Lake, once a rather fashionable resort. Here, from 1905 until 1940, the DL&W had a passenger and freight connection with the Southern New York Railway, an interurban to Oneonta. Milk and light freight were the chief sources of revenue on this branch. Delaware Otsego subsidiary Central New York Railroad acquired this branch from Richfield Jct. to Richfield Springs, 22 miles, in 1973. Enginehouse was at Richfield Springs. Became part of NYS&W northern division after NYS&W bought the DL&W Syracuse & Utica branches from Conrail in 1982. Traffic on line gradually dropped off. Line east from Bridgewater embargoed in 1990. Abandoned and track removed in 1995, westerly 2-3 miles left in place for stone trains. In 2009: This old railroad is now owned by the Utica, Chenango and Susquehanna Valley LLC in Richfield Springs. They also own the 1930 Newark Milk and Cream Company creamery in South Columbia.

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Revitalization work continues on New York regional’s Utica main line

A multiyear effort to restore service along New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway‘s (NYSW) Utica main line will continue this year starting with the removal of brush and other obstacles along 45.5 miles of right of way in Chenango County, N.Y.

Frontier Railroad Services LLC of New Stanton, Pa., will begin the brush clearance today, which will allow access to damaged sections of track that are scheduled for repair during the 2016 construction season, said Chenango County Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA) officials in a press release.

Starting in the Sherburne area, workers will fill washouts, resurface bridge decks, and make other repairs. The project’s final phase will involve replacing several thousand crossties and reactivating crossing signals, agency officials said.

When completed, the project will allow restoration of NYSW service between Binghamton and Utica, and will provide freight customers with access to both the Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX lines.

NYSW’s Utica Main Line was taken out of service after flooding in 2006 ruined the track. In 2011, the CCIDA obtained $772,000 in funding from the New York State Department of Transportation toward the rail line’s repairs. That funding leveraged an additional $4.7 million in federal funds.

The NYSW, Chenango County, Development Chenango Corp. and CCIDA are providing a total of more than $400,000 to complete the nonfederal match.

Construction is expected to continue through June 2017.

Old destination? Utica, New York


All aboard! Iconic Lackawanna Railroad character Phoebe Snow to be celebrated at gala this weekend

Above: Diana Pohl, assistant director of public safety at Cabrini College has portrayed Phoebe Snow since 2005.

It all started with a girl in a white dress.

In 1900, Lackawanna Railroad became the premier means of travel in the Northeast, thanks to Phoebe Snow, a fictional New York socialite and habitual passenger of the railroad.

Phoebe Snow was said to exclusively ride Lackawanna Railroad trains because they were powered by clean-burning anthracite coal, which was found in abundance in Scranton, the site of Lackawanna Railroad’s operating headquarters, as well as the city’s surrounding regions.

The Electric City honors Lackawanna Railroad’s leading lady Saturday during The Phoebe Snow Gala at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, 700 Lackawanna Ave.

“Phoebe Snow ties together so many themes from our area in particular,” said Dominic Keating, chairman of Pennsylvania Regional Railroad Authority and a part of Friends of Northeast Railroading Association. “Footprint of Lackawanna Railroad is everywhere in Scranton.”

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., folks will learn the history of Phoebe Snow, her preferred way of travel, and the streamline passenger train that was named after her, through lectures, artifact and photo displays, and informational tours of the original Lackawanna Railroad mosaics in the hotel lobby.

Guests can get up close and personal with the namesake of the event as Diana Pohl, a Phoebe Snow impersonator, mingles with the crowd. A “Little Miss Phoebe Snow” contest will take place at noon, featuring a group of girls ages three to six, decked out in their best all-white ensemble.

There is a $10 suggested donation at the door which will benefit restoration of Boston & Maine steam locomotive No. 3713 and Erie Lackawanna Dining Car Preservation Society. Admission is free for children under 12.

Advertising executive Earnest Elmo Calkins first came up with the idea of Phoebe Snow while working on an ad campaign for Lackwanna Railroad.

At the time, trains were powered by bituminous coal that emitted thick, black smoke and covered passengers with soot.

Lackawanna Railroad trains used anthracite coal that was mined in surrounding regions and burned cleaned. Passengers’ clothing would remain spotless throughout the trip on an anthracite-powered train, and Phoebe Snow’s bright white dress was proof.

Phoebe Snow also was a role model for women at the time. Young women in their 20s in the early 1900s had more money and more freedom. They traveled unescorted, played tennis, and went boating and canoeing.

“Phoebe Snow really set the stage for liberating the image of women from ‘stay-at-homes’ to enjoying healthy and active lives,” Mr. Keating said. “She could get to the places they wanted to go to.”

Though she was a fictional character, Phoebe Snow was a celebrity during her time. Charles Libretto, owner of an electrical lighting business and former Reading Railroad conductor, said about 10,000 people gathered to catch a glimpse of Marion Murray, a professional model who portrayed Phoebe Snow her entire life, when she came to Scranton.

“She was quite popular and brought a lot of fame to the area,” said Mr. Libretto, who also is a part of Friends of Northeast Railroading Association. “She became a big hit wherever she went.”

Ms. Pohl has portrayed Phoebe Snow ever since she entered a look-a-like contest in 2005. Today, she attends many events throughout the year as the character, including Railfest at Steamtown National Historic Site.

She enjoys to be a part of the historical significance of Phoebe Snow and stir up nostalgia for people at events. Ms. Pohl is happy to lend her talents to events that give back, too.

“It’s an honor to be able to portray her and to help for a cause,” she said. “I enjoy helping out.”

Both Mr. Libretto and Mr. Keating agree the likeness between Phoebe Snow and Ms. Pohl is uncanny.

“I feel like I’m with Phoebe Snow,” Mr. Keating said. “I have trouble calling her ‘Diana.’”

Mr. Libretto believes Phoebe Snow is important to the history of the railroad and influenced the growth of Scranton. It’s something he is eager to share with residents at the gala.

“There’s a story there to be told,” he said.

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If you go

What: The Phoebe Snow Gala

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, 700 Lackawanna Ave.

Details: Lectures, walking tours and refreshments will be available throughout the day. There is a $10 suggested donation at the door. Proceeds will benefit restoration of Boston & Maine steam locomotive No. 3713 and Erie Lackawanna Dining Car Preservation Societublished: April 14, 2016

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