• Erie RR and DL&W Lines to Buffalo

  • 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 CPF363
After the creation of the Erie Lackawanna, why did the EL management choose to use the Erie Railroad' s line to Buffalo verses DL&W's? The routes are roughly the same distance from Corning to Buffalo. Was the Erie's line in better physical shape than the DL&W's at the time the decision was made? Did both lines have CTC? Did DL&W's line have grades? Did one or the other have more on-line customers? Would using DL&W's line to avoid the Portageville bridge been a better option?
  by charlie6017
Probably the biggest factor was Dansville Hill between Dansville and Groveland, NY. Those were
pretty stiff grades each way and the Erie line's profile was less strenuous.

Not totally sure, but I think the on-line industries may have been better as well. The Morton
Salt plant was and is a good customer.

  by poppyl
Charlie has certainly outlined a couple of good reasons. Not sure how relevant these were to the ultimate decision but the Erie's shop infrastrucuture in Hornell as well as the better location for "filleting" traffic going to Buffalo versus west (and the reverse on the eastbounds, of course) may have been factors, too. Regarding my second point, I don't see how Corning/Gang Mills could have offered the equivalent traffic management capabilities that Hornell had at the time. I guess that splitting traffic could have been done in Binghamton but to my way of thinking, Hornell just looked like the better location. BTW, I rode the Erie and then the E/L from Corning to Cambridge Springs, PA several times in my youth and distinctly remember equipment and crew changes in Hornell as well as cutting or adding Buffalo passenger coaches while sitting in Hornell.

  by Matt Langworthy
Excellent points, guys. Poppyl hits on something really important- the connection to Buffalo was a key point in the decision to keep the Erie over the DL&W. Besides the facilities in Hornell, the River Line was very useful, too. Without the ex-Erie Buffalo Division/River Line, EL would have faced a difficult situation for freight outbound from Buffalo. Westbound freight would have had to face the 2+% grade on the B&SW , with alternative being the DL&W main to Corning- much longer than the Erie route to Hornell, as well as the steep grade Dansville.
  by s4ny
At the time of the merger, the DL&W was no longer a coal hauler but a bridge line. With the
Erie as a Chicago - New York competitor, the Nickel Plate switched some freight to the Lehigh

The hill was a factor too. And very little freight originated between Corning and Buffalo.

The Erie already had major operations in Hornell and don't forget
this was an Erie takeover of the DL&W. With a DL&W abandonment, more
trackage could be removed.

Both were sick companies and the combined operation did not survive for long.
  by XC Tower
I'm very late to this topic, but feel sharing this memory would be of some interest to some. Back in the mid-80's, while waiting at Buffalo's Exchange Street Station to board Amtrak's Maple Leaf to Toronto , a Conrail switching job crew came into the building to use the vending machines. Talking to them about the Erie and DL&W lines to Buffalo, one told me that originally there was a plan rotate use of each line to Buffalo. Does anyone know if this was the case or even actually done?

  by Greg
Another factor was the Erie's wider ROW due to it being a 6' gauge system. The wider clearances were considered a benefit when the larger railcars began coming into service.
  by lvrr325
I'd imagine the primary factor was simply the connections further west were all on the Erie side.
  by NKP1155
At Conrail, I had the good fortune to work with R F "Bob" Bush, who was one of the last Chief Engineers of the Lackawanna. Sadly, one our tasks at CR was to help figure out what rail lines Conrail would abandon next. Bob pointed out that the DL&W has modernized its line to Buffalo with single tracking, signaling and welded rail. That said, the Erie had the traffic and better profile, so the DL&W got axed.
  by s4ny
I don't recall the DL&W Corning to Buffalo line being single tracked prior to the merger.

After the merger, it was briefly single tracked before it was removed between Wayland and Groveland.
  by dlandw
I think the main factor was not railroad-related at all: the state (and likely federal) departments of transportation were eager to use the ex-DL&W right-of-way for highway construction. The former Erie route from Binghamton westward had tighter curves, limited clearance between the tracks and adjacent roads or rivers, and ran through the center of the various towns. The DL&W main offered the possibility of broad, sweeping highway curves without running through the central business district of the towns (although this was inevitable in some areas, such as Waverly). In the end, the need to acquire land to build the Southern Tier Expressway and I-390 sealed the fate of the Lackawanna west of Binghamton.

Another factor is, of course, that the Erie side did have more online customers in the towns that it served. As much as I'd have loved to have seen the DL&W retained between Binghamton and Painted Post based on engineering characteristics, doing so would have resulted in the loss of far more online customers. It's also unfortunate that the DL&W 's high-speed trackage across the flatlands of Western New York couldn't be saved, but it wouldn't have made sense to build a connection to shift from the Erie route via Hornell back to DL&W for the last 50 or so miles into Buffalo.

The third factor is, given the high rate of taxation in NY State, railroads are quick to abandon unused or duplicate trackage. Clearly, from an economic standpoint, one of the parallel routes had to go. R.I.P., DL&W.

"dlandw" on railroad.net
  by jaash5
I am later to this topic, but was just doing a lot of research this past summer about the DL&W routes and why it was originally only abandoned by the EL from Groveland to Way;and, why only take out such a small section of line. In reading up on the Phoebe snow, when it was shifted to the Erie from the DL7W to Binghamton and then back to the DL&W the running time was significantly longer. The DL&W was actually a faster route. Dansville hill was formidable but was not the factor in the decision (from what I have read)

The section from Groveland to Wayland was on a very sandy foundation and was prone to washouts. The DL&W was constantly working on the roadbed and rebuilding and solidifying it. So in the late 50s as the EL was formed and traffic was dwindling they made the decision to shift to the Erie and not continue the expense of maintaining the right of way.

Once that section was abandoned, the DL&W became nothing more than a route of local traffic as it was no longer a through route. Then times became even tougher and the routes were sold off to NYS for parts of 86 and eventually cut off right outside of Buffalo with only a few pieces left. Depew NY, Greisgvills to Groveland (from there it uses the Dansville and Mt Morris tracks to get to the former Foster Wheeler plant in Dansville), and Wayland to Painted Post (I think).
  by s4ny
The 1960 merger was more of an Erie takeover of the DL&W.

The Erie used Hornell to Hunts on the Buffalo Division for almost all freight (avoiding Tip Top).

The former DL&W line had very few customers, it was built to haul westbound coal.

The DL&W moved from their E Corning to Binghamton line to the Erie in 1959, prior to the merger.
Many years later, some of that ROW was used for I-86. I don't know who owned that
land in the almost 50 year interim.
  by Train Detainer
Many years later, some of that ROW was used for I-86. I don't know who owned that
land in the almost 50 year interim.
'That land' was NYS Route 17. I86 is just an upgraded 17 with improvements here and there to bring it up to interstate standards. Some of the DL&W grade is used for a trail between Elmira and Lowman and some sections have never been touched by the highway, some of the ROW was disposed of (between 9-mile bridge and Waverly) some grade that remained as of the I86 project were obliterated by the upgrades.

This photo is Wilawanna in 1959, east of the depot site and looking east, after all traffic was shifted to the Erie from DL&W, not long before track was removed. Taken by my grandfather, who was a section man here in the 30's. Note the rusty rail - no trains in a while, but ballast is still manicured, even at the end.
  by charlie6017
That's a great photo, Mr. Train Detainer. I have to hand it to the Lackawanna, high standards right up until
the very end. Thanks for posting it! :-D