Lehigh Valley Railroad

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Lehigh Valley Railroad
Reporting marks LV
Locale New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania
Dates of operation 1846 – 1976
Successor line Conrail
Track gauge ft 8½ in (1435 mm) (standard gauge)
Headquarters Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
File:1884 PRR RDG LVRR.jpg
1884 map of the Pennsylvania, Reading and Lehigh Valley Railroads

The Lehigh Valley Railroad (AAR reporting marks LV) was one of a number of railroads built in the northeastern United States primarily to haul anthracite coal.

It was incorporated April 21 1846 in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company. On January 7 1853, the name was changed to Lehigh Valley Railroad. It was sometimes known as the Route of the Black Diamond, named after the anthracite it transported. At the time, anthracite was transported by boat down the Lehigh River. The railroad was meant to be a faster means of transportation.


1852: Construction of the original line from Easton, Pennsylvania to Mauch Chunk, a distance of 45.50 miles, is begun in December.[1]

1855: Construction of the original line is completed and opened for business in October.[2]

1864: Acquires Beaver Meadow Railroad (map) and Penn Haven and White Haven Railroad.

1866: Acquires Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad which included the original Quakake Railroad.

1867: The LV subsidiary, the Pennsylvania & New York Railroad, reached Waverly, New York to interchange coal with the Erie Railroad, a broad gauge line. LV coal was then transferred to Erie trains at Waverly, and the coal continued to Buffalo, New York, via Lake Erie.

1868: Acquires Lehigh and Luzerne Railroad, Hazleton Luzerne Railroad and Hazleton Railroad which included the original Hazleton and Lehigh Railroad(map).

1870: The LV financed a third rail to be laid inside the Erie's broad gauge trackage so that LV coal trains could run all the way to Buffalo without being transferred to Erie cars at Waverly.

1870: the Southern Central reaches Waverly to interchange with the LV and Erie. This railroad would later become the LV's Auburn division, and was mainly used to transport coal to Lake Ontario ships at Fair Haven, New York.

1895: The LV completed its own mainline between Waverly and Buffalo, transfer to the Erie at Waverly was no longer needed.

1901: The huge erecting shops are completed at Sayre, Pennsylvania. Sayre becomes the heart of the LV.

1945: The first mainline diesels arrive, in the form of EMD FT locomotives.

1948: ALCO PA passenger diesels replace steam on all passenger runs.

1951: September 14 - Last day of steam on the LV as Mikado 432 drops her fire in Delano, Pennsylvania.

By the 1890s, the Lehigh Valley Railroad stretched from New York Harbor to Tifft Terminal in Buffalo, passing through the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, and the Finger Lakes region of New York state.

In 1916, land owned by the Lehigh Valley Railroad in New York Harbor was the site of the Black Tom explosion.

Coal traffic declined steadily after the 1940s and, by 1962, the Pennsylvania Railroad had acquired majority stock control of the railroad.

On June 21, 1970, the Penn Central declared bankruptcy and sought bankruptcy protection. As a result, the PC was relieved of its obligation to pay fees to various Northeastern railroads---the Lehigh Valley included---for the use of their railcars and other operations. Conversely, the other railroads' obligations to pay those fees to the Penn Central were not waived. This imbalance in payments would prove fatal to the financially frail Lehigh Valley, and it declared bankruptcy three days after the Penn Central, on June 24 1970.

The Lehigh Valley remained in operation during the 1970 bankruptcy, as was the common practice of the time. In 1972, the Lehigh Valley assumed the remaining Pennsylvania trackage of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, a competing anthracite railroad which had entered bankruptcy as well. The two roads had entered a shared trackage agreement in this area in 1965 to reduce costs as both had parallel routes from Wilkes-Barre virtually all the way to New York, often on adjoining grades through Pennsylvania.

In 1976, major portions of the assets of the bankrupt Lehigh Valley Railroad were acquired by Conrail. This primarily consisted of the main line and related branches from Van Etten Jct. (north/RR west of Sayre) to Oak Island, the Ithaca branch from Van Etten Jct. to Ithaca, connecting to the Cayuga Lake line and on to the Milliken power station in Lake Ridge, NY, and small segments in Geneva, Batavia, Auburn and Cortland. Additionally, a segment from Geneva to Victor, later cut back to Shortsville to Victor, plus a small segment west from Van Etten Jct., remained with the Lehigh Valley Estate under subsidized Conrail operation. The Shortsville to Victor segment became the Ontario Central Railroad in 1979. Most of the rail equipment went to Conrail as well, but 24 locomotives (units GP-38-2 314-325 and C420 404-415) went to the Delaware & Hudson instead. The remainder of the assets were disposed of by the estate until it was folded into Penn Central in the early 1980s.

The mainline across New Jersey and Oak Island Yard remain important to Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Conrail Shared Assets today. This section became important to Conrail as an alternate route to avoid Amtrak's former PRR/PC Northeast Corridor electrified route. Most of the other remaining Lehigh Valley track serves as branch lines, or has been sold to shortline and regional operators. These operators include, in no particular order: Reading & Northern; Genesee Valley Transportation (Depew, Lancaster & Western); Finger Lakes Railway; New York, Susquehanna & Western; and Livonia, Avon & Lakeville (Ontario Central).

Passenger operations

The LVRR operated several named trains in the post-World War II era. Among them:

  • No. 4/11 The Star
  • No. 7/8 The Maple Leaf
  • No. 9/10 The Black Diamond
  • No. 23/24 The Lehighton Express
  • No. 25/26 The Asa Packer, named for the LVRR's best-known president
  • No. 28/29 The John Wilkes

The primary passenger motive power for the LVRR in the diesel era was the ALCO PA-1 car body diesel-electric locomotive, of which the LVRR had fourteen. These locomotives were also used in freight service during and after the era of LVRR passenger service. A pair of ALCO FA-2 FB-2 car body diesel-electric locomotives were also purchased to augment the PAs when necessary. These were FAs with steam generators, but they were not designated as FPA-2 units.

Due to declining passenger patronage, the Lehigh Valley successfully petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to terminate all passenger service. This took effect on February 4, 1961. Budd Rail Diesel Car service would continue on a branch line for an additional four days. The majority of passenger equipment is believed to have been scrapped some time after February 1961. Most serviceable equipment not retained for company service was sold to other roads.

Presidents of the Lehigh Valley Railroad


External links

de:Lehigh Valley Railroad

  1. Railroads and Canals of the United States of America, by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co (1860), page 452 [1]
  2. Railroads and Canals of the United States of America, by Henry V. Poor (New York: John H. Schultz & Co (1860), page 452 [2]