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…

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Starucca Viaduct

The view up the Susquehanna River valley is one of surpassing beauty. It has been an inspiration to painter and poet alike through the years. The Starrucca Viaduct stands as a monument to the instinctive artistry of its builders. Constructed of native stone it nestles in the Starrucca Valley between the foothills of the Blue Ridge and Catskill Mountains; and looks as if it belongs.

This structure is a historic landmark bridge, 1040 feet long, comprised of 17 Roman arches and constructed of blocks of cut sandstone. Begun in 1847, it was completed in record time in November, 1848. It is in active use today, over which many trains run on a regular, daily basis.

The building of the Starrucca Viaduct and the history of the building of the Erie Railroad in this vicinity has been an interesting one.

Beginning in 1831, Governor Marcy appointed James Seymour to survey a rail route in southern New York and through Pennsylvania. The surveying parties, trying to locate a way for the railroad, found the nine miles from Gulf Summit PA to Susquehanna PA, most forbidding. The obstacles of nature appeared insurmountable to everyone.

Various routes were tried and given up. In 1840 a survey party discovered the remarkable glen at Gulf Summit, between the waters of the Cascade Creek, going to the Susquehanna, and McClure Brook, going to the Delaware. An engineer named John Anderson traced a line from Deposit NY to Lanesboro PA passing through the rocks and just wide enough for the road. Finding a way through this rocky glen enabled them to get over on the Susquehanna River side, which would allow them a good grade to Elmira and west. The grade of this route was 66 feet on the Delaware side and 70 feet on the Susquehanna side, a distance of 16 miles.

The 1834 survey was also unsatisfactory in that the line missed Binghamton. The 1840 survey passed directly through the village. Legislation was passed and it was decided to overcome the obstacles of nature and build the road over the Randolph hills to Susquehanna. This was the most difficult and expensive nine miles of railroad ever built up to that time. A monument still stands in Deposit where ground was broken for the line.

The cost to carve a roadbed (wide enough for one track) through the glen of rocks at Gulf Summit was the then-enormous sum of $200,000. A strong current of air was constantly sweeping through it, and the temperature on the hottest days was uncomfortably cool. Winter snow blockages resulted whenever a wintry storm swept over the mountain. The cut ended up 150 feet deep.

Nearby a gulf 184 feet deep and 250 feet wide over the Cascade Creek had to be bridged. Three miles beyond, at Lanesboro, a bridge over the Starrucca Creek was needed. This proved to be especially difficult as the distance was over a quarter of a mile and more than 110 feet deep. The Canawacta Creek valley at the lower end of Lanesboro also required bridging.

The first contract for building the Starrucca viaduct was let in 1847 for $375,000. The builders went belly up. Two other contractors failed. A proposition was submitted to James P. Kirkwood, a Scotchman. He visited the site and carefully investigated it before telling the Erie he could do it provided cost was no object. He got the go-ahead.

Three miles up the Starrucca Creek he opened quarries to get the stone. Next he constructed a wooden track on each side of the stream which brought the material to the work in cars. Stone was also brought from a quarry near Cascade. A city of tents arose to house the 800 workers he hired. A half million feet of lumber was used in the false work which was extended across the valley. Operations were conducted both day and night and the viaduct was completed ahead of schedule. Laborers received a wage of $1.00 a day.

The historic bridge appears to be everlasting and proved the Erie motto “Old Reliable”. It even outlasted the Erie! Sometimes called the “Stone Bridge”, it stands today as a monument to the engineering science and stone masons of that day.

Some statistics on the viaduct:

Built to accommodate only one track (broad gauge) and the 1848 engines of 100,000 pounds, it has long carried two tracks and engines of over 800,000 pounds. Only lime and sand mortar were used in building the bridge. The more weight running over it, the more compact and solid it becomes. Every pier stands today just as it did when completed, and the gigantic top stones on top of the bridge are a tribute to the skill of the builders.

After completing the bridge, there was another worthwhile spectacle in the job of removing the falsework. It had to be done in the winter because of the danger of fire which would have ruined the whole bridge. Men were suspended 100 feet above the valley prying out beams and timbers and lowering them to the ground.

Brawls were quite common outside of working hours, as would be expected of any army composed of so many nationalities. Remarkably, no man was killed or injured until the removal of the temporary false work when one man was injured. It is thought he died afterwards.

The first engine to cross the viaduct was named “Orange”. Nobody dared ride it so everybody got off. They gave it enough steam to keep it moving. Men reboarded it on the other side.

Also in northeastern Pennsylvania is the Tunkhannock Viaduct. Inspired by, and modeled after, the incredible ancient Roman aqueduct at what is today Nimes, France, this viaduct is a magnificent, landmark structure which helped propel American engineering skills into a world class. This railroad bridge was completed in 1915; is constructed entirely of formed concrete, displacing 4.5 million cubic feet; is 2,375 feet long and stands 240 feet high.

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In earlier articles I have written about the Lackawanna, mention is made of the 34-mile former branch to Ithaca. Not only was it significant historically, but it was also a very interesting operationally. It ran between Owego on the DL&W main line and the college town of Ithaca on Cayuga Lake.

It was the second oldest railroad in the state and was constructed in 1833-34 by the Ithaca and Owego Railroad. This road had originally been chartered in 1828. In 1843 the Cayuga & Susquehanna Railroad acquired it through a mortgage foreclosure. In 1855 it was leased to the Lackawanna but did not become officially owned by the DL&W until July 23, 1946.

Into the 1920’s Ithaca was busy with several passenger trains pulled by 4-4-0 camelbacks, a daily freight, and a yard switcher which doubled as a pusher on the switchback leading out of Ithaca. There were even automatic block semaphore signals. Passenger service ended in 1942 and steam gave way to diesels in 1951. Passenger service was more popular on the Lehigh Valley (which also served Ithaca) because of the direct Pennsylvania Station connection in New York City. Until 1933 there was a New York sleeper serving Ithaca. It arrived at 7:30am and left at 11:05pm. When passenger service ceased, there were two scheduled passenger runs left (12:20pm and 6:00pm arrivals/9:30am and 1:25pm departures). In addition, student specials ran to Cornell University.

A trip over the branch featured a long bridge over the Susquehanna River leaving Owego. Intermediate stops were at Catatonk (5.4 miles from Owego); Candor (10.7 miles from Owego); and Willseyville (16 miles from Owego and 18 from Ithaca). The real feature of the ride began on the approach to Ithaca. At that point, the line was about 500 feet above the city. Originally, an inclined plane had been used, but it had been replaced by a switchback in 1850. There was a sensational view of the city and the lake. The track between the upper and lower switches of the switchback was 1.1 miles with a gradient of 100 feet per mile. It took five and a half miles to cover what a crow did in one and a half miles. One street crossed the line three times.

The end of passenger service was the beginning of the end of the branch. Signals were removed and there was no longer a switcher in Ithaca. LCL business remained only at Ithaca and Candor. The track between Ithaca and Candor was abandoned in 1956 and the Owego-Candor section in 1957. The branch was in bad condition as no maintenance had been done since passenger trains quit and the bridge at Owego needed heavy repairs.

The Lehigh Valley bought the trackage in Ithaca and operated it as an industrial siding.

Ithaca Branch

Originally, Ithaca & Owego, later Cayuga & Susquehanna.

Station Mile Note
Ithaca 0
Lower Switch 4.51 Switchback, originally incline plane up South Hill.
Upper Switch 5.62 as above
Conover 5.82
Summit 9.73
Caroline 12.24
Wilseyville 18.06
Candor 23.37
Catatonk 28.70
Owego 34.03


Passenger service discontinued March 29, 1942

Abandonment authorized Oct. 25, 1956

Discontinued Ithaca-Candor, Dec. 4, 1956;

Candor to Oswego, May 25, 1957.

Bridge over Susquehanna River in Owego River removed in 1959.

Last locomotive on line: #409, Alco #69257 600 HP switcher. Became Erie-Lackawanna #325.

Did you know Robbie Robertson even sang a song about Buffalo Central Terminal?

Did you know Robbie Robertson even sang a song about Buffalo Central Terminal?

Buffalo, New York, is a lucky city. True, the weather is terrible, crime is high, the economy is dead and the suburbs are usually on fire, but Buffalo still has a lot going for it. The city’s main attraction is a tall, dark tower that bursts forth from otherwise flat land in the middle of a residential subdivision and soars 20 storeys up into the air.

In 1929: The New York Central held dedication ceremonies for its new “Central Terminal” at Buffalo. The modified Art Deco style terminal included seven platforms serving fourteen station tracks.

You can find a lot out about New York Central’s Buffalo Central Terminal plus Buffalo history at Buffalo History Works

Robert Long from Maryland has donated some slides to the Central Terminal Restoration Corp. from the 60s and 70s of train trips he took to and from Buffalo and the area. The photos include some beautiful shots of the building along with a bunch from the DL&W terminal. The photos are part of the CTRC’s growing collection of historical archives.

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Metro-North New Haven Line in the Winter

It’s old wiring, and some of the catenary support towers are original century-old installations.

The ancient infrastructure is way past end of useful life even with Metro North’s excellent maintenance practices. You get more frequent breakdowns with old mechanical systems and the old supports than the newer installations on the line. Do not forget shoreline weather factor. Winter unleashes steady punishment on all shoreline-facing structures during peak storm season. The differences between light/fluffy snow and heavy caked-on snow or sleet/ice are dramatic shoreline vs. just a couple miles inland during most Noreasters, and there’s often a stiff sea breeze even in less-severe weather and even with Long Island Sound somewhat more protected from the worst of the Atlantic elements than other places. Pressure + time takes its toll more rapidly than with inland electrification, and if the weather alone doesn’t bring down a wire here and there it corrodes it enough that you get more pantograph downings on brittle stretches. There’s also a lot of new-growth trees along the ROW that were allowed to sprout and grow above catenary height during the deferred maintenance era. Lot of downed limbs from wind and heavy snow/ice, and MNRR has limited options for clearing a wide swath around the ROW when it runs through people’s backyards… the trees are a natural sound and sight barrier that the neighbors would go ballistic if cut down.

That’s the price the NH line has to pay for being the most congested passenger rail corridor in the country, running high-speed service on one of the oldest ROW’s and the single oldest still-operating electric installation in North America (other extant ones may have been older, but they completely scrapped and changed their type of electric collection method after early experimentation).

And with all due respect, the new, improved, high-tech crap doesn’t perform as well or as long as the old stuff did. It may run faster, when it runs, and it may look prettier, but the simpler the design, the fewer the problems.

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Read Now: 12 Things Men Do That Make Women Fall Deeper in Love | The Huffington Post

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