Erie Lackawanna Railway

Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Erie Lackawanna Railway
logo_filename=Erie Lackawanna Herald.pnglogo_size=100
locale=New Jersey to Chicago, Illinois
start_year=October 17, 1960
end_year=April 1, 1976
hq_city=Cleveland, Ohio
The Erie Lackawanna Railway reporting mark|EL, known as the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad until 1968, was formed from the 1960 merger of the Erie Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The official motto of the line was "The Friendly Service Route".

The EL struggled for most of the 16 years it existed. The two railroads that created it were steadily losing passengers, freight traffic and money, and were heavily burdened by years of accumulated debt. These two historic lines, the Erie and the DL&W, started to consolidate facilities on the Hudson River waterfront and across southern New York State in 1956, four years before formal corporate merger. The Lackawanna route was severely affected by the decline of anthracite and cement traffic from Pennsylvania by the 1940s. The Erie was burdened by the continuing loss of high-tariff fruit and vegetable traffic from the western states into the New York City region as highways improved in the 1950s. Both lines were also impacted by the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959, which allowed ocean-going cargo ships to travel between European, African and South American ports and cities on the Great Lakes, such as Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, etc. The DL&W had previously carried much traffic to and from ocean ships, having its own port facilities on the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The northeast's railroads, including the EL, were all beginning to decline because of over-regulation, subsidized highway and waterway competition, high rates of urban property taxation, and market saturation (i.e., too many railroad lines competing for what market was remaining). The closure in the 1960s of old multi-story factories in the eastern cities, followed by the decline of the domestic automobile and steel industry in the 1970s, eroded much of the EL's traditional traffic base. Also, due to government regulation policy formulated in the late 19th Century, the EL and other railroads could not immediately abandon long-distance passenger runs, despite the fact that competition from airlines, bus lines and the private automobile made them unprofitable.

However, the EL did post profits in the mid and late sixties through heavy cost-cutting (reduction of parallel services), equipment modernization, suburban industrial development, increased piggyback trailer traffic, and steady reduction of long-distance passenger train service, which ended on January 6, 1970. Also, additional rail traffic was temporarily diverted to the EL because of service problems on the troubled Penn Central lines, which the EL largely paralleled. The EL built a state of the art diesel engine repair facility in Marion, Ohio, and upgraded a large car repair shop in Meadville, Pennsylvania. As to its money-losing suburban passenger train services in the New York City metropolitan region, the EL had come to terms with the State of New Jersey during the late 1960s for adequate subsidy and for the purchase of new engines and coaches. The EL also gained a lucrative contract with United Parcel Service in 1970, which led to the operation of five dedicated intermodal trains daily between New Jersey and Chicago.

Into the Seventies

The EL was purchased by the Norfolk and Western Railway through its holding company Dereco in 1968, as a condition of the proposed but never consummated merger between the N&W and Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Dereco also owned the Delaware & Hudson.

In 1972, Hurricane Agnes destroyed many miles of track and related assets, especially in southwestern New York State. The costs of repairs and the effect of lost revenues forced the company into bankruptcy, filing for Chapter 7 on June 26. The completion of the Interstate 80 highway across Pennsylvania and New Jersey by 1971 added to the Erie Lackawanna's financial problems, as it diverted piggyback traffic previously garnered from less than truckload shipping companies such as Navajo and Cooper-Jarrett. On the flipside, EL was able to land large contracts with UPS because of its ability to move piggyback traffic between Chicago and Metro New York more reliably, although not faster than Penn Central (and formerly, New York Central). For example, in 1971, the Penn Central advertised a 24 and 1/2 hour piggyback service from Metro New York to Metro Chicago in the Official Guide of the Railways, while the EL's Employees Timetable Number 3, New York Division, showed its fastest comparable schedule to be 28 hours and 45 minutes. By 1973, the Penn Central's fastest piggyback service between these points was shown in the Official Guide to be 26 hours and 15 minutes, while the EL's Employees Timetable Number 4 showed that the EL's fastest comparable schedule was 29 and 1/2 hours.

After its 1972 bankruptcy, EL management attempted to plot an independent course, anticipating financial reorganization without a heavy debt burden. Therefore, it initially declined interest in joining the Consolidated Rail (Conrail) takeover of the other major bankrupt eastern lines. The preliminary (PSP) and final (FSP) system plans for Conrail showed the EL being merged into the Chessie System. However, the operating unions could not reach a compromise. Also, by 1975 the economy in the eastern United States was gravely affected by the 1973 oil crisis, quashing any hopes of the EL being able to independently compete with government-rehabilitated Conrail lines. Therefore, the EL petitioned and was accepted into Conrail at the last minute.

In 1976 much of the company's railroad assets were thus purchased by the federal government and combined with other companies' railroad assets to form Conrail. An independent Erie Lackawanna Estate continued in existence for several years thereafter. This Estate liquidated the EL's marginal non-railroad assets and distributed the railroad purchase funds to satisfy much of the large debt burden that the EL and its predecessors had accumulated. The EL's creditors gained more by selling the line's assets than by continuing its traditional business operations. Thus, the EL was an example of a business enterprise that became worth more dead than alive.

Noted Passenger Trains

*Nos. 1 and 2, The Phoebe Snow, New York-Chicago, discontinued Nov.27-28,1966.
*No.7 The Pacific Express, No.8 The Atlantic Express, both discontinued in August, 1965.
*Nos. 5 and 6, The Lake Cities, discontinued, January 5-6, 1970.
*No.10 The New York Mail, No.15 The Owl, discontinued May 23,1969.
*There were also Cleveland-Youngstown commuter trains 28 and 29, discontinued January 14,1977. Though they were operated by Conrail after April 1976, they were the last remnant of Erie Lackawanna passenger trains outside the New York-New Jersey commuter zone. These trains used the same EL locomotives and coaches formerly used on through line passenger trains.
*The Erie Lackawanna operated an extensive commuter rail system for the New York Metropolitan Area that was conveyed to Conrail and is now owned and operated by both New Jersey Transit and Metro North since 1982. The "Main Line" of New Jersey Transit is the former Erie Lackawanna Main Line, as well as what became the Port Jervis Line of Metro North.

Lines in operation today

In the east, much of the EL remains as extensive commuter railroad routes in New Jersey and New York (see NJ Transit and Metro North articles for details), and as freight lines in New York (north of the last still-active passenger station at Port Jervis), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The former mainline between Hornell, New York, and Meadville, Pennsylvania is operated by Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad, through lease agreement with Norfolk Southern. The section of former mainline between Binghamton and Port Jervis is operated by Central New York Railroad, a subsidiary of the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad, through lease agreement with Norfolk Southern. Metro-North Railroad leases the section from Port Jervis to the state line at Suffern, New York. The former Northern Division is operated by the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad between Binghamton and Syracuse, while the Utica Branch from Chenango Forks to Utica, New York is out-of-service due to washouts and little traffic. West of Youngstown, Ohio, most of the route is gone, having been abandoned and removed before 1980 in favor of parallel former Penn Central lines. However, a short portion of the original western line is still in operation today between Lima, Ohio and Glenmore, Ohio, known as the Spencerville and Elgin Railroad, part of the R.J. Corman Railway Company's Western Ohio Lines.

Corporate history

The Interstate Commerce Commission approved the merger on September 13, 1960, and on October 17 the Erie Railroad and Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad merged to form the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. The Erie Lackawanna Railway was formed March 1, 1968 as a subsidiary of Dereco, the holding company of the Norfolk and Western Railway, and on April 1 the assets were transferred. It was merged into the Consolidated Rail Corporation on April 1, 1976.

External links

* [ Erie Lackawanna Historical Society]
* [ Erie Lackawanna Historical & Technical Society]
* [ Erie Lackawanna Dining Car Preservation Society]


*Grant, H. Roger. "Erie Lackawanna: Death of an American Railroad." Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1994
* [ PRR Chronology]

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