I'll take a shot.
In Jim Thorpe, NS is on the East side of the river, and the RBM&N ( Lehigh Scenic Gorge Railway) is on the West side?
yes on the west side. On the east, there are 2 tracks, I THINK one is NS and one is RBM&N. So RBM&N can get to the yard in Packerton (Lehighton?) just south of Jim Thorpe on their own, where they interchange with NS. (I am not 100% sure about RBM&N owning one of those 2 tracks - someone correct or confirm please.)
In the history section of the RBM&N Website, it talks about in 2003 restoring two bridges, are they the two bridges over the Leigh River just north of Jim Thorpe, that we rode over on the bikes?
Before these bridges were restored, did the RBM&N go up through the gorge?
Yes, I think that is it. There is one bridge over the river and another over the ex LV track (now 1 NS and 1 RBMN as above].
In Penn Haven, CP Independence, there was a sign that said something like, in 2003 we connected to the world, what did that mean
Who owns the track north of Penn Haven to White Haven and beyond, NS or RBM&N?
RBM&N owns the track from CP independence north to the Wilkes Barre -Scranton area, and beyond (along the east branch of the Susquehanna River up to around Mehoopany.) They can interchange with others in the WB area. I believe before 2003, RMBN trains from the western part of the system , for example coming up from Reading through Port Clinton and then over through Hometown and along the Nesquehoning river to Jim Thorpe, could not get to the tracks north of CP independence, without going past the station in West Jim THorpe down to the yard in Lehighton, and then back up along the other side of the river. This involved going on NS tracks for one of 3 reasons - I am not sure which:
a. They would have had to enter the NS yard before leaving on the RBMN track which then crossed over to the east side of the river and went through east Jim THorpe
b. I was wrong in the first point about one of the tracks on the east side of the river between East Jim THorpe and Lehighton belonging to RBMN
c. Maybe before 2003, there was only one track north of the restored bridges in river valley up to CP Indepence and it belonged to NS
In any case it would not have been possible to run the passenger excursions as they run now (going north from west Jim Thorpe station to cross the bridges and then get right on RBMN tracks going north. TODAY one of the 2 tracks north of the restored bridges is RBMN, (the east one I think), so RBMN can get from the passenger station in west Jim Thorpe, or from one half of their system to the other, by using the bridge and not having to deal with NS at all.
In Glen Okno, there was a sign that said, Shortcut ahead, gave miles to Taylor, Sunbury and others, and said tell your boss. I assume this was the RBM&N trying to get NS trains to use their track
Yes. Suppose a train from Binghamton is coming down through Scranton heading to Allentown or NJ. An NS routing would take it along the eastern branch of the Susquehanna to the Sunbury area (actually on Canadian Pacific) then down along the river to the Harrisburg area on NS and then east back through Reading and then Allentown and NJ along the NS mainline. It is much shorter if they just go from the WB-Scranton area right to Allentown using the RBM&N down to the Lehighton Yard I mentioned and then getting on NS down to Allentown. I think there are 4 trains per day (2 NS and 2 CP, although it might only be one pair) that do this, to go from the Binghamton area (and New England before that?) to Allentown/NJ.
I'll also add, the way the restored bridges are oriented, if a train is coming from Reading/Port CLinton, it would have to reverse to go over the bridges and head north in the gorge. I believe "Phase II" of the RBMN plan is to build another bridge so that trains heading east along the Nesquehoning River can go north in the gorge without reversing. Then their system would be better connected and perhaps there would be others wanting to run through traffic from WIlkes Barre-Scranton to Reading, for example.