• e-l last days

  • Discussion relating to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the Erie, and the resulting 1960 merger creating the Erie Lackawanna. Visit the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society at http://www.erielackhs.org/.
Discussion relating to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the Erie, and the resulting 1960 merger creating the Erie Lackawanna. Visit the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society at http://www.erielackhs.org/.

Moderator: blockline4180

  by railbird steve
does anyone have any stories (true!), of e-l last days any district is cool, Im most interested in the st line(born in corning, now live in hornell n.y.) thanks!!!!
  by Cactus Jack
I don't have much info regarding the Tier.

Things were very busy or so it seemed right to the end and into very early Conrail in that area.

The D&H RS-3m's rebuilt by M-K including the Red / White / Blue 508 were delievered very close to the end into Binghamton and the EL Bi-Centennials were frequent. EL also ran an inspection train with E-8 #833 if I recall correctly and some business cars. At one time someone had a scene of it in the Tier (near Erwins I think) made into a post card that may still be found somewhere.

Up the Utica side we lost NE97-74 which last ran under that symbol on March 30, the train on the 31st being an Extra Utica to Sherburne with the 1274 & 1283. The Norwich and Sherburne locals ran as usual and lasted to the last day of CR operation before NYSW.

On March 27, 1976 there were four or five detours run south "fleet style" due to a wreck on the PC near Rome. Big time railroading that day as trains went south from Utica to Chenango Forks, got pulled by with a pull by engine up from Binghamton and then went north on the Syracuse Branch and back to the PC mainline.

Everyone had thought for a while that the EL lines would go into MARC-EL and be operated by Chessie. The unions turned it down but alot of the guys in rank and file thought it would have been a good thing.

Out west Marion to Chicago alot of guys made their last runs. Guys went up to the PC lines as the seniority rosters were dovetailed.

It was a sad time, alot changed for many people and no one really knew what to expect from Conrail. I remember driving through Hornell about 1978 and seeing dozens of houses up for sale as the shops were closed.

Basically I remember alot of uncertainty in the minds of the railroaders I spoke with back then and for a long time after as EL operations gradually closed down and morphed into what we know today under NS. One rumor that persisted into at least Fall 1978 was that the EL might pull out of Conrail and reclaim their railroad. As far as I know there was no basis other than perhaps some stipulation that EL lines would not be torn up for a year or some such. It was hard to separate reality from rumor (still is in today's railroad world). One thing was certain whether you were a LV guy, PC, EL or CNJ or whomever ... things would never be the same again and the game was changing. Alot of speculation on what color the engines would be too before they introduced the blue GP40 out of Collinwood.
  by 23kexpress
One question that I have is why was so much of the EL west of Marion abandoned? I understand that with Conrail there was an enormous amount of redundant track that was eliminated. Were there still customers being serviced that way or had most of the local traffic dried up by that point? Were the western lines transferred to Conrail or did they stay with the EL estate as the company wound down through bankruptcy?
  by Cactus Jack
I am not an expert but from what I have seen, local traffic was pretty sparse out there. Mostly was grain elevators and I imagine pretty seasonal. I think the lines went with the trustee and maybe to the State ? There were / are several shortlines like the Spencerville & Elgin and Erie Western that served the local customers. Some stuff was served off other connecting lines like the ex PRR at Decauter, IN but really there was no reason to keep the EL west of Marion as it was pretty much a sling-shot run from Marion right into Chicago Land terminals like Bensenville, the Belt at Clearing and the IHB. Track conditions had deteriorated terribly by late 1975 also. The whole area if you drive along the old EL west of Marion is pretty rural.

East of Marion was the joint line with Big 4 to Galion and into the heart of Ohio Manufacturing at Mansfield, Ashland, Akron - Youngstown and Cleveland which had various viability until big manufacturing crashed in the late '70's and early 1980's and lines were thined out and consolidated.

Other casualtites (torn up) after a while were:

The 2nd sub from Latimer, OH where the old LS&MS crossed to Pymatuning Jct. where connection was made to the 1st sub from Youngstown to Meadville

The Bear Lake line over the hill between Columbus PA and Niobe NY

The River Line from Cuba Junction to River Junction

Obviously other lines were sold off such as the ex DL&W main Binghamton to Scranton and on to Dover, NJ area; the S&U in Upstate NY to the NYSW and the Hornell to Meadville line either shut down or operated by a shortline operator between Corry & Meadville until operationally taken over by WNYP.

The decline of heavy manufacturing and agriculture and shifting demographics coupled with excess capacity (and many times better alternative through routes) rather doomed the EL.

Little of this was foreseen in 1975 - 1976 and like I said there was alot of uncertainty of what would happen and how it would happen and how long or where anyone would have a job. The Tier of NY was not hit as hard or deep as other places like Marion west but there were many gradual changes and down gradings that were not reversed until NS took over after the CR split in 1999 when in my opinion there has been more of a stabilization and commitment. Certainly the track is far better now than in 1976 and there is not the uncertainty of whether rail service would continue either at all or with a Class I.
  by scottychaos
railbird steve wrote:does anyone have any stories (true!), of e-l last days any district is cool, Im most interested in the st line(born in corning, now live in hornell n.y.) thanks!!!!
just FYI, there are three things wrong with the way you spelled e-l ;)
e, -, and l
The reporting marks were always EL

  by granton junction
Yes, the reporting marks had always been 'EL'. But for a while right after the merger repaints came out as 'Erie-Lackawanna'. Eventually though the hyphen disappeared, and it became 'Erie Lackawanna' without the hyphen. Just some trivia as I remember it.
  by XC Tower
It was a sad time to watch the colorful, high-speed Erie Lackawanna descend into the "Conrail Blues":
Meadville Yard going from a bustling location to most of tracks being filled with the old cars of CR predecessor roads, awaiting repair, but never seeming to move. The EL motive power disappearing, replaced by black Penn Central "junk" power. The yard jobs going, then eventually most of the tracks themselves. I remember looking at various locations in Pennsylvania along the line, where it looked just like old pre-CR days: a high-speed double track main, but now without trains. It was a both sad and ominious feeling for the future.
What happened brought to my mind the words of the friendly tower operator ("Denny"), who said as a wb CR train rolled below, pulling one gondola load of track signals from the Youngstown to Cleveland line as it was being ripped out, "The Erie Railroad, historically, was always a thorn in the side of the PRR and the NYC. Now that they've got control, the plan is to make sure its route will never again be a competitor." Before leaving, I drove to the west end of the Marion Yard, where the double-track main just went from rusted rails into a weed encroached ballasted road bed. Denny's words came to mind in a vivid way.)
I know that the economic times had changed in the Northeastern U.S.A., but it was still sad to see the EL of my boyhood disappear in such a way.

  by XC Tower
Just a note regarding an omission in my previous reply: The tower at Marion, Ohio, was "AC" (I was told the letters stood for "Atlantic Crossing", dating back to the days of the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad).

  by Cactus Jack
Yes, what XC Tower states was very true. It was sad. There was something majestic about the EL and it had a "can do" attitude. There is not much left of the EL in Marion in the sense of operations. The diesel shop is still there but is a contract car repair shop. The yard has been truncated and dead ended on the west end and AC tower moved across the tracks and is now preserved next to the depot. You can barely tell where the Dayton Branch diverged south (about the area of the Moto Mart) and the Dayton Branch is pretty segmented up with most of it gone but remaining business served by connecting routes (NYC & DT&I I think).

Much of the lower end of the Cleveland Line is gone but you can still pick out iron ore pellets from the grassy weed grown ballast and think back to when Big U boats, SD45's and GPs come blasting through with heavy ore trains and the commuter run went west in the AM and back to Youngstown in the evening out of CUT.

Some real big time railroading that is simpkly gone, gone , gone.

And XC's point is well taken about the dislike between the PC and EL. That was prevalent for many years and after it was determined that EL was going into Conrail at what seemed the last minute the EL guys knew that they were screwed. Whether true or objectively proveable I don't know but it seemed all the good EL power went to the PC guys who in the eyes if the EL ran junk. EL guys who were dovetailed did not get a warm welcome in many ex PC terminals and that went on for years afterwards. The first day of CR I was jolted by seeing a PC RS-3m on the Sherburne Local from Utica .... damn ... Day 1 and there was not a familiar 1200 GP-7 but a dowdy ugly dirty PC unit. I was devastated ! I do recall that 31March in Central NY was cloudy and dreary but Thursday April 1 was a beautiful day with sun and blue skies that foretold spring. Perhaps the blue sky foretold Conrail blue but we didn't know that then.

Sure do miss the EL and EL people.
  by XC Tower
Please do allow some more EL pre-Conrail Blues and post memories: Before it was riding in the family car on the way to see relatives on the alert for any trains, when we were riding along PA Rt6 just east of Erie/Warren County line, where the EL's double-track main was right next to the roadway on the south side. To the east, suddenly seemingly, a headlight, then two GP35's pulling a wb trailertrain just blew by us with a red bay window caboose on the end, going by in a blur! Farther east, past the underpass east of Columbus Milling (the "CM" for the junction near there), on another trip was a stopped eb mixed freight stopped at CM Junction with mixed EL 1st and 2nd generation power. Imagine, seeing F's and Rs-3's in a lash-up with SD's and U-boats! Another time at Union City, PA, driving to the tracks near Cherry Hill Manufacturing (funiture manufacturer) during one of the nightmare winters of the early 1970's, after pleading with my Dad to "check out the Erie Lackawanna", to see a lone GP7 idling, complete with a green antifreeze icicle hanging from it, coupled to some boxcars with a huge ex-DL&W cupola caboose on the tail, parked on the siding, outlawed probably from its Meadville to Jamestown, NY, way-freight duty. Or seeing a wb, west of where the mains split in Union City to Cambridge Springs, PA (through Mill Village and Miller's Station) with U33C's on the front. These were some images of the EL that are emblazoned on my memory from the "before Conrail" time.
Post-April 1st, 1976, things just went down in a slow, steady fashion. My first tip that things were going to get real bad was on a visit to the EL tower operator (my memory is bit hazy as I remember a B&LE tower plus another closed one where an old PRR line crossed) at Shenango, PA, in 1977, when he told me that the railroad had already been "segmented" somewhere in western Ohio and Indiana. I remember being told that there were only four trains each direction going out of Meadville at the time.
Road power was mostly PC black with Precision National then CN lease power mixed in. Meadville Yard had a GP7 or SW's in EL colors to be seen in switching duties there at the time. One time, there was an old EL ALCO C-424 parked with other power at the engine house next to the monsterous concrete coaling tower that stil bore the "ERIE" diamond on it (Conrail probably couldn't figure out how to get that off there without knocking the huge structure down). What told the motive power story was seeing one EL GE U25B couple to three PC ones across from the engine house on another visit.
The Meadville Car Shops stayed open for a while until Conrail found a way to close them. Railroad employment of the former EL in Meadville, PA, went the way of Hornell, NY, Marion, OH, and other locations along the line. It was as a operator at MS Tower in Corry, PA, told me, "Conrail wanted the EL's business, but not the railroad." All the actions of then and the future along the line seemed to be in harmony with his words.
I'll end this with one more conversation with an ex-EL brakeman in Meadville regarding the changes, which reflects what Cactus Jack said was the feeling of many of the employees. This guy was a real "free spirit" of a person (sort of a wild man in a way), who told me that one hot day, he was switching in Meadville Yard without a shirt on. A supervisor spotted him from the yard tower, then came out telling him that "Penn Central" doesn't allow working without a shirt. The brakeman said, "You mean Conrail doesn't". The answer back was, "No. I mean Penn Central. Who do you think is running this show!"
I understood the EL employees feelings as their railroad and jobs disappeared, because watching how things went for the EL compared to most of the Penn Central, it became my belief also. Looking back, it sure made for a sad spiral down of a fascinating railroad with really friendly people.

  by Matt Langworthy
One of my memories of late EL/CR is the ultra-rare #1060. She was the only RS3m completed by EL (although another was being assembled at Hornell on C-Day and would be finished by CR elsewhere). Number 1060 operated around the Corning-Elmira area, since she was usually based at Gang Mills. My family was preparing a move to Hammondsport in the spring of '76 and I recall seeing an eastbound EL local on the Wayland Branch near Campbell in late winter during one of our trips on Route 17.
  by Engineer Spike
Some guys did not stay with Conrail. There weren't enough jobs left. D&H hired many to operate the new trackage rights Binghamton to Buffalo. These guys would have gotten cut off if not for this.
  by railbird steve
keep them comming I got this idea from a post about the last days of l-v . one of the men that volenters atthe e-l museum in hornell, left e-l in 76 and worked the d&h when they started up with expanded(?) trackage rights boy I wish he would come on line to share his stories! --- the manager of our O.T.B. branch in hornell worked in the diesel shop , she said that they got called back to work to fix locos in hornell in spring summer 76 before g-e bought the shops.
  by Fanatic5
When was the other Erie mainline that split in Union City to Cambridge Springs (PA) abandoned? The bridge over French Creek shows an elevated bridge crossing the current mainline at Miller's Station.
  by NiobeJCT
I lived in Cambridge Springs in the 70's and 80's. Trains stopped running on the eastbound line between Cambridge Springs and Union City sometime in late 1980 or early 1981. In 1982, many empty gondolas were parked for several years on the unused former eastbound tracks about a mile east of Cambridge Springs. The former eastbound tracks and ties were torn out in 1990. Between Union City and Corry, as one progresses eastward, the former westbound line crosses over to use the former eastbound line (GPS coordinates 41.890536, -79.739688).

Even though the former eastbound line is newer, with less curves and less grades, it was abandoned because of excessive rust on many of the trestles caused by saltwater dripping out of cars using salted ice to keep produce from the western US cold on its trip to the east coast. The rust was so bad that even back in the 1980's, a support beam on a trestle over French Creek near Cambridge Springs had rusted through and partially fallen off.