Tag Archives: Lehigh Valley

What is wrong with the railroads? The Lehigh Valley!

As you may know, our company promotes RAILROADs. We also cover the “supply chain”. Recently I read a story in “Supply Chain Dive” about “How to become the next big logistics hub”.

I thought longingly about the old Lehigh Valley Railroad

Now it is long gone, but all the stories in the article and all pictures of fullfillment centers DID NOT INCLUDE RAILROADS.

Think I found my answer:
A warehouse in Allentown can offer same-day delivery to five cities
City Estimated travel time by Truck
Baltimore 2 hours and 40 minutes
Philadelphia 1 hour and 15 minutes
Pittsburgh 4 hours and 30 minutes
New York City Between 2 and 2.5 hours
Washington 3 hours and 30 minutes

The area served by the companies in the Lehigh Valley is very short transit. But it is ALL SERVED BY HUGE TRUCKS. Guzzeling all kinds of diesel fuel. Making roads IMPOSSIBLE.

Would think that a “short line” capable of running 5 trains a day could cover all this turf without without fouling the environment forever.

Part of the problem is the five receiving rail yards in the five cities mentioned are not geared for TODAY. They cannot even handle what they could 50 years ago! Sidings are gone! Access tracks have been ripped up. The whole infrastructure has been fouled up and handed over to the evil “18-wheelers”.

Most of what is shipped out of the Lehigh Valley comes out of “industrial parks”. Easy to lay new track! Most everything shipped is in CONTAINERS anyway.

How to get these five old and tired cities to handle incoming rail traffic??? Build new terminals! Yes, New York is a problem. Cross-harbor car ferries never were the “idea of the century” anyway.

Amtrak eyes Lehigh Valley passenger rail test run to NYC metro area

Passenger rail will likely return to the Lehigh Valley next spring for the first time in close to three decades, but it’ll only be here for a day.

Amtrak is working on bringing an “inspection train” to the Lehigh Valley that would use existing freight lines to run passengers from the Valley to the New York City metro area, according to an Amtrak executive.

Amtrak has done this in the past in other parts of the country that, like the Lehigh Valley, have shown an interest in restoring passenger rail.

It’s helped bolster public support for such initiatives, and in some cases has served as a catalyst for restoring long-abandoned passenger rail routes, said Joe McHugh, Amrtrak’s vice president of governmental affairs.

“An inspection train would gather up people who are interested in this,” McHugh said, noting the round-trip excursion would give policymakers and others in the community a chance to see what passenger rail looks like. “Sometimes the best way to do it is to see it up close.”

The idea of bringing an Amtrak train up to the Lehigh Valley for the one-day trip was borne out of the RenewLV Summit for Smart Growth last Friday, according to Joyce Marin, executive director of Renew LV, an organization with a mission of promoting smart growth in the region. Exploring ways to improve transportation is part of what RenewLV does, she said.

McHugh attended to give a speech and later participated in a roundtable discussion. He suggested the inspection train during that discussion. The idea was met with applause from summit attendees, Marin said.

Among those in attendance who were particularly excited was Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. He, along with Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez and Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr., have been leading a recent charge to advance plans to bring passenger rail back to the region.

In October, the three mayors announced their support for a new Road to Rail initiative being led by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. The initiative will study connecting the Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and Harrisburg through passenger rail.

Pawlowski said his initial thinking was that any restoration of passenger rail service to the Lehigh Valley would be a monumental investment that would take more than a decade to come to fruition. McHugh debunked that theory and indicated that a less costly investment and a quicker timeline are both real possibilities, the mayor said.

“We talked about trying to reengage rail service and how we can start really getting people to understand it,” Pawlowski said, adding that he learned from McHugh that much of Amtrak’s services run on existing freight lines.

The Lehigh Valley, he said, has plenty of those.

“People forget – this is the Northeast,” the mayor said. “We’ve got more rail lines going through here than any part of the country.”

McHugh also pointed to an abundance of freight lines in the region, but added that Amtrak doesn’t own them and would need permission from the owner – both to run the inspection train and for any regular service in the future.

In the case of the Lehigh Valley, most of the lines belong to Norfolk Southern. Amtrak would need the company to give it right-of-way.

McHugh said Amtrak has a strong relationship with Norfolk Southern and believes something could be worked out.

A Norfolk Southern spokesman also said the company has a history of working with Amtrak.

“In some respects, we are each other’s landlords in that every day Amtrak passenger trains use large portions of NS track, and in turn NS uses Amtrak territory to move freight,” Norfolk Southern spokesman Dave Pidgeon said in an email. “We do work with Amtrak on special train movements if Amtrak makes such a request, but I can’t comment further at this time.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would also need to play a major role in any plans to restore service, as would the regional planning commission, the Amtrak executive said.

For the inspection train run, McHugh said he thinks a date as early as next spring is feasible.

Logistics still need to be worked out in addition to the right-of-way and other clearances, but McHugh tentatively envisions bringing an Amtrak train up to Allentown from Philadelphia.

It would depart from Allentown on a freight line with stops in Bethlehem, Easton, and possibly Phillipsburg. Under a scenario McHugh suggested, the train would continue east on freight lines and eventually connect with NJ Transit’s commuter rail lines. The train would then travel on NJ Transit’s lines into the New York City metro area.

Marin, of RenewLV, said Jersey City is one possibility for a final destination. Passengers from there could then get on the Port Authority’s PATH trains to get into Manhattan.

Pawlowski, Allentown’s mayor, said going straight into Manhattan was also discussed at the summit. A final destination of Hoboken, which has a PATH train stop, was also considered, he said.

Whatever the final destination, Pawlowski said he sees the inspection train as a way to “get from point A to point B” in the ongoing effort to bring back passenger rail, which ceased operations in the Lehigh Valley in the 1980s.

“I think it is a great way to energize the discussion and bring it to the next level,” he said. ” … One of the things we’ve struggled with is getting people to understand the rail system as well as getting people to understand (bringing back passenger rail) is not an impossible task. The rails are there. We need to build up the political will.”

Nick Falsone may be reached at nfalsone@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickfalsone. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.

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Owasco River Railway


Shay Locomotive Picture (from KC Jones) on the West Side Freight Line. Some of these went to the Owasco River Railway.

I found some information on the Owasco River Railway. It was 4 miles long and located in Auburn, NY.The RR was controlled by the NY Central. They had their own power early on eventually having the NYC supply its engines, most noteably the shroaded shays from New York City (also served on the Genesee Falls Railway). In diesel years it was a small GE 70 ton centercab engine and then regular NYC power. The road also provided interchange with the Lehigh Valley in Auburn.

When Penn Central conveyed much of its rail property to Conrail in 1976 there were some segments, such as the Metro-North Hudson Line from MO to CP75 above Poughkeepsie, that were not conveyed as they were subject to long term leases. Those properties were conveyed to the Owasco River Railway, Inc. Thus Owasco is the fee owner of the Hudson Line and the New York & Harlem RR is the owner of the Harlem Line. Both, of course, are leased to MTA and operated/maintained by Metro-North.

Some interesting things (to me anyway) about NY Central/Penn Central land stuff.

Timetable West from Poughkeepsie, Conrail didn’t just take ALL the land. NY Central had bought a lot of land both sides of the main and the Hudson River Connecting Railroad (those tracks that connected to the B&A and Castleton Bridge). Conrail didn’t take them and there used to be a lot of Penn Central FOR SALE signs on them. Owaso was the actual owner.

Yes there was an attempt to separate rail versus nonrail.  Was difficulty especially in NY City. Hard to separate land that carried one of the busiest 4-track mains from land that had extremely expensive value (like Waldof Astoria hotel plus a lot of Kentuky Fried Chickens equaled a lot of money)

New York & Harlem Railroad Co. is responsible for $7.8 million in (redeemable in gold) 3 ½ bonds due in 2043. These bonds are legally secured by the 127-mile right-of-way from New York City to Chatham AND by GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL!  Currently, these borrowings are rated “Baa1” by Moody’s (not too bad since Penn Central seems to have sold off some of this property).

American Premier Underwriters, Inc. is now the direct descendant of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which was founded in 1846 and the New York Central Railroad Company, founded in 1853, but tracing its roots back to 1826. They merged in 1968 to form the Penn Central Transportation Company and developed into a highly diversified conglomerate. In March, 1994,
Penn Central dropped its well known rail-related name in favor of a title that more accurately described its business activities – property and casualty insurance. Today it employs 5,400 people, has sales of $1.8 billion and is publicly traded on five stock exchanges.

American Premier Underwriters is part of American Financial Group.  which, as the successor entity to Penn Central,  is the largest holder of common stock in the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Amtrak”). American Financial holds roughly 55% or 5,200,000 shares of outstanding Amtrak Common Stock, out of a total of about 9,000,000 shares.

In 1994, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority gained long-term control of Grand Central Terminal in the form of a 110-year lease from American Premier Underwriters, Inc.,
In 2004, American Premier Underwriters sold 1.3 million previously issued and outstanding American Financial Group common shares. These shares were held for the benefit of creditors of APU’s predecessor, The Penn Central Transportation Company. Proceeds from that sale ($41.5 million) were placed in escrow to be used to pay APU environmental claims related to its former railroad operations.

Have heard that something like Midtown TDR Ventures, LLC purchased Grand Central Terminal from American Financial in December, 2006. Midtown TDR Ventures, LLC is, in turn, controlled by Argent Ventures (Andrew Penson, President). But frankly, all these corporations that followed Penn Central sound more like AIG or Bernard Madoff. We are unable to find out how much any of these corporations received in Federal Bail Out Funds (except AIG). NOTE: Mr. Madoff needs BAIL not bailout.

I don’t think you can necessarily say that one company “owns” the entirety of GCT. GCT and its various appurtenances and buildings constitute one large property “block” (no. 1280, if you care to look it up on the nyc.gov ACRIS search divided into a handful of lots. The two biggest lots (nos. 1 and 10) take up the entire west half of the GCT block.While it gets complicated — particularly given various exceptions to title, consent agreements, leases, assignment of leases, easements, subterranean rights, and air rights — to suss out anything that might resemble ownership of these lots as a whole, looking at the deeds for the two large lots gives an overview of ownership history.

This funny company that resulted from Penn Central is extremely wealthy. Read more about the Owasco River Railway and other interesting shortlines.