Historical Note

The Erie Lackawanna Railroad resulted from the merger of two companies in 1960. These were the Erie Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (known as the Lackawanna). Both roads were based primarily in the Northeastern states of Pennsylvania and New York. The Erie offered service from Jersey City, N.J. (metropolitan New York) to Hammond, IN. (metropolitan Chicago).

The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) was known as the "Road of Anthracite" and popularized the mythical Phoebe Snow . It also operated the Hoboken Ferry Company which carried passengers from Hoboken to Manhattan. The road ran from Northern New Jersey (Denville and Port Morris) to Scranton, PA. One branch went Southwest from Scranton to Northumberland, PA. North of Scranton the line continued to Binhamton and Buffalo, New York, with branches to Ithaca, Utica, and Syracuse/Oswego. Both the Erie and the DL&W provided freight transshipment services from Northern New Jersey to Manhattan and Long Island through their marine divisions, which made use of harbor tugs, barges, and ferry boats.

The original Lackawanna and Western was organized as a going concern in 1851 and ran from Scranton to a connecting point with the Erie. It was merged with the Delaware and Cobb's Gap Railroad to become the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western. Branch lines were often leased on a long term basis to provide service to important markets. Leasing the Morris and Essex line for instance, gave the Lackawanna access to New York City. Through the years the railroad never went bankrupt, but post World War II losses prompted the merger with the rival Erie in 1960. A great deal of physical as well as financial damage was done by Hurricane Diane in 1955. With both roads losing money, the Erie and DL&W began sharing track, first at Elmira and Binghamton, New York. In 1959 the two roads submitted their merger proposal to the ICC.

Some points of interest on the Lackawanna lines were:

The Delaware Water Gap - The gorge of the Delaware River near Stroudsburg, PA. The track here ran along the river bank through the narrow gorge and was subject to washouts and rock slides.

Tunkhannock Viaduct - Near Nicholson, PA. This was the largest viaduct on the DL&W. It was built of reinforced concrete. Completed in 1915, it was 2375 ft. long and 240 ft. high.

Delaware River Viaduct - Near Columbia NJ. Constructed of reinforced concrete, it was 1,450 ft. long and completed in 1911.

Paulins Kill Viaduct - Near Hainesburg, NJ. The first of the reinforced concrete viaducts, built in 1910.

The Erie Railroad used as a major selling point its "High and Wide" clearance as a shipper of freight. Like the DL&W, (whose lines ran nearly parallel to the Erie in parts of New York) it was originally a broad guage road. The Erie offered service to Newark and Jersey City from points West. It also served commuters in suburban New York City. Several suburban branches, including the Greenwood Lake, Caldwell , Orange, and Dundee, carried traffic to Jersey City.

At Port Jervis NJ, the line crossed the Delaware River. The main line continued through Lackawaxen, PA. and on to Binghamton, NY. The Wyoming and Jefferson divisions handled traffic to Scranton, Carbondale, and Susquehanna, crossing the famous Starucca Viaduct. From Binghamton the line ran to Elmira, NY with a line branching off to serve Avon and Rochester. At Hornell the road branched again, North to Buffalo. The Dunkirk branch left the main line at Salamanca. From there the main line continued through Jamestown to Meadville PA. Another branch line served Johnsonburg and Dubois PA. From Meadville, the line ran West to Pymatuning and Warren, OH. Branches in Western PA. ran to New Castle and Oil City. In Ohio, the Mahoning division served Cleveland, Lisbon, and Niles carrying both passenger traffic as well as freight. From Warren the main line continued West through Akron, Mansfield, and Marion, OH. Branching off at Marion was the Cincinnati division, serving Dayton, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. From Marion, the main line continued through Decatur, Huntington, and North Judson IN. en route to Hammond. Traffic to and from Chicago was serviced through various trackage agreements.

Chartered in 1832 as the New York and Erie Railway, the initial track on the Hudson River to Great Lakes route was laid in 1841. Completed to Dunkirk NY on Lake Erie by 1851, the opening ceremonies were attended by Millard Fillmore and Daniel Webster. The road reached Chicago with completion of the Marion to Hammond section in 1883.

The railroad was plagued by money problems. Throughout its history, the Erie was bankrupted on five separate occasions. The railroad generally profitted during wartime and suffered during economic downturns, like the panic of 1893 and the Great Depression. During the 1920's the road was controlled by the Van Sweringen brothers of Cleveland, who sought to merge the Pere Marquette and the C&O with the Erie. By 1937 the railroad sought reorganization, and during the process acquired the Cleveland and Mahoning Valley division (formerly the Nypano railroad). Emerging from bankruptcy in 1941, the Erie paid dividends to shareholders during the prosperous war years. For a decade after the war the railroad made money and completed the shift to dieselization. During the 1950's several factors changed the face of railroading in the Northeast and throughout the industry. This time the Erie sought relief via a merger with the DL&W. The Delaware and Hudson was also included in the initial talks but later dropped out. The transportation consulting firm of Wyer, Dick, and Company was hired to study and prepare a report on the proposed merger. Following hearings before the Interstate Commerce Commission, the merger took place on October 17, 1960. The two railroads would be known henceforth as the Erie Lackawanna.

The new railroad was plagued by money problems throughout its history. President William White was able to upgrade rolling stock by bringing on line a new car repair shop at Meadville. The railroad also abandoned duplicate lines and aging facilities. Long distance passenger service was also phased out, with the last runs of the marquee trains Phoebe Snow in 1969 and The Lake Cities in the 1970's. The road also fought the ICC over the discontinuance of commuter service, long an unprofitable sector of company operations. While eliminating its passenger services, the EL expanded its piggybacking freight service. Nonetheless, the financial drain could not be stopped, and in 1968 the Erie Lackawanna became a part of Dereco, a holding company owned by the Norfolk and Western. This company included other Northeastern roads such as the Delaware and Hudson, Reading, and the Jersey Central.

In 1972 Hurricane Agnes did considerable damage to track and bridges in New York and Pennsylvania. On June 26, 1972 the EL again petitioned for bankruptcy. Judge Robert B. Krupansky of the U.S. District Court named Cleveland businessmen Ralph S. Tyler and Thomas F. Patton trustees during the reorganization proceedings. With the passage of the Rail Reorganization Act of 1973, the stage was set for the absorption of the EL into the Conrail System. This officially took place in April of 1976.

From 1977 thru 1992, the Conrail restructuring of the former EL took place. EL properties abandoned by Conrail were sold by the Erie Lackawanna trustees. Collapsing the estate of the former railroad into a corporation known as Erie Lackawanna Inc., the process of selling real estate, equipment, and even memorabilia continued in an effort to pay tax liabilities, creditors, and shareholders. Upon completion of the liquidation process, Erie Lackawanna Inc. dissolved itself, bringing the history of the Erie and Lackawanna Railroads to a close.

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