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Lehigh Valley Railroad
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The Lehigh Valley was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on April 21, 1846. Its original name, Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company, was changed to the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company on January 7, 1853.

James M. Porter was the first President of the railroad, with Robert H. Sayre as the first Chief Engineer and Asa Packer as the first Secretary/Treasurer. The original purpose was to build a railroad for the transportation of anthracite (coal) between Mauch Chunk (PA) and the Delaware river at Easton (PA).

On May 18, 1896, the "Black Diamond Express" made its first run in each direction Between Jersey City and Buffalo. Its description can best be described through the words of an advertisement appearing in a Lehigh Valley timetable for 1900 under the modest heading "Handsomest Train In The World."

From its initial run, the "Black Diamond Express" became a symbol for modern railroading. People referred to the train as the "Honeymoon Express" because of its appeal to newly-married couples en route to Niagara Falls.

In later years, the Lehigh Valley gave other distinguished names to passenger trains. The "John Wilkes" (New York-Pittston, PA) was named for a member of Parliament during Revolutionary days (also the same "Wilkes" honored with the city name of Wilkes-Barre). The "Asa Packer" was named for the guiding spirit of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and founder of Lehigh University. The "Maple Leaf" honored the Canadian neighbors to the north, whose Dominion was served by "through" sleeping cars between New York, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Key Railroad Dates:

1895: The LV completed its own mainline between Waverly (NY) and Buffalo (NY), whereby, transfer to the Erie Railroad at Waverly was no longer required.

1901: The huge erecting shops are completed at Sayre (PA), becoming the main facility for the railroad.

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

1948: Alco "PA" diesels replace steam on all passenger runs.

1951: September 14 was the last day of steam operation on the LV, as Mikado #432 drops her fire in Delano (PA).

Coal traffic declined steadily after the 1940's and by 1962, the Pennsylvania Railroad had acquired a majority of stock in the railroad. On June 24, 1970, the Lehigh Valley Railroad declared bankruptcy, three days following the bankruptcy of the Pennsylvania Railroad's successor (Penn Central). On April 1, 1976, the assets of the bankrupt Lehigh Valley Railroad were acquired by Conrail.

Steam & Diesel Vignettes

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LV #5105 4-8-4 at Lancaster (NY) 11/26/48

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The Lehigh Valley gave their 4-8-4 type locomotives a local name, rather than the "Northern" designation. The name "Wyoming" was selected to represent the historic section of the Susquehanna Valley served by the railroad.
 
 
Lehigh Valley 4-8-4 roster:

Class

Road #

Builder

Year Built

T-1a

5100 - 5110

Baldwin

1931, 1932

T-2a

5200 - 5210

ALCO

1931, 1932

T-2b

5211 - 5220

ALCO

1943

T-3

5125 - 5129

Baldwin

1934, 1935

 
 

LV #5214 4-8-4 (Lehighton, PA)
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The first Alco "PA-1" and "PB-1" were released for testing on the Lehigh Valley Railroad on June 26, 1946 and were eventually sold to the Santa Fe Railway.

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LV #637 (ex-Monon) & units (Sayre, PA)

 
ALCO Century 628, Class AF-27 (C-C, 2750 hp)
Prime Mover: 4-cycle, Model 251C, V16

Total

Railroad

Numbers

Built

Notes

7

LV

#625-631

11/65

 - Became Conrail #6721-6727

1

LV

#632

1/67

 - Became Conrail #6728

9

Monon

Became

LV

#400-408

Became

#633-641

3/64

 

 

 - Traded to ALCO (1967)
 - Resold to LV (12/67)

 - Became Conrail #6729-6737

 
C628 Notes:
  • All 17 units were received in the white "Snowbird" color scheme.
  • The ex-Monon units had two sand fillers on the short hood and a squared-off front handrail (options ordered by Monon).
  • The units built originally for Lehigh Valley had only one sand filler and the more typical angled front handrails.
  • The ex-Monon units were "Phase 1" built (with rain shield over generator compartment air intake in long hood and smaller two doors on right side of long hood below the exhaust stack).
  • The Lehigh Valley units were "Phase IIb" built (with no rain shield over air intake and the two doors on right side of long hood below the exhaust stack are full height).
 

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"Snowbird" Memories...
 
The Lehigh Valley removed the C628's from West End service (west of Sayre) in the early 1970's. I remember seeing my last C628's on an eastbound coming off the Niagara Falls branch circa 1973/74. I loved photographing these units, so I was forced to visit Sayre (PA) and points east to see these locomotives at work.
 
One visit to the Wilkes-Barre (PA) area during the summer of 1975, found C628's stationed as "pushers" on Mountain Top (PA), assisting westbound freights over Penobscot Mountain, through Solomon's Gap and finally cutting-off at Coxton yards. One set of "pushers" consisted of units #638 and #641, however, after returning later in the day to Coxton, I found #641 derailed in the yards. The next day, #638 was teamed up with #640. I did not see #641 again until two weeks later when I returned to Sayre. I caught a westbound entering Sayre with three GP38-2's and #641 in tow (dead), oil strewn over the carbody side from a blown turbocharger. The unit was headed to Sayre's backshop for repair. I never saw #641 again. As costly repairs mounted, units were simply stored alongside the shops at Sayre until Conrail days (April 1). After Conrail took over, the LV C628's and other six-axle ALCO's would pass through Frontier yards (Buffalo), however, this was brief, as they were later assigned to Conway yards (home base for ALCO power) for coal runs to Mingo Jct. (OH).
 
I had the opportunity to visit the ex-Pennsy Conway yards (west of Pittsburgh) during 1977 as a guest of the yardmaster. I spent most of the day photographing ALCO's (LV C628's, Reading C630's and Penn Central C636's) in the roundhouse, on the turntable, on service tracks or being "hostled" for trains. Though most headed west toward Mingo Jct., I did catch three LV C628's and a Penn Central Geep leaving (eastbound) for Pittsburgh. All with original paint and no Conrail markings! By 1979, they were all but retired and later scrapped.

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LV #544 at Lancaster (NY) 11/26/48

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Lehigh Valley 1891 Pass

 

Railroad Passes were issued by company officials to allow free travel to employees, their families and special guests. These passes were usually made of heavy card stock with the railroad's name and travel dates (year), then signed and numbered. People riding on a pass were often called "Deadheads."

 

 

 

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Lehigh Valley's Finest "John Wilkes" and "Wyomings"

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Goodbye Old Friend

On March 31, 1976, I was at Niagara Jct. (Depew, NY) with a few other railfans witnessing the final hours of operation on the Lehigh Valley prior to Conrail commencing on April 1 (12:01am).

At 9:13pm, we caught symbol freight "COJ32" (the former Chesapeake & Ohio connection at Niagara Falls to New Jersey) passing under the old NYC bridge on the Niagara Branch, entering the mainline for an eastbound run to Sayre. The train consisted of 3 units (GP38-2 #322, #321, #323) and 2 cabooses. The engineer stopped the train at the junction for one last photo of "LV" operations in Western New York. We parked our cars and turned on the headlights to illuminate the train. The resulting photograph painted a very ghostly image. Soon the train left into the darkness and the Lehigh Valley disappeared forever. I received a copy of the last train order (#326) and clearance card from the tower operator.
 

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Lehigh Valley #323 & units (Sayre, PA)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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