• Remnants of the Erie mainline

  • 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 Buffalobillho
Your forgetting one thing, the Ben Gilman factor. The Influential Congressman from Middletown, and the City of Middletown, wanted the old Erie Main removed through the downtown section along Railroad Avenue. As a result there was pressure brought on Conrail to abandon the "excess" old main line, and use the Graham line. The state provided grants to up grade the trackage and signaling. One of the issues with the West of the Hudson service on the old main in the late 1970s and early 1980's was in fact lack of commuter parking, and the Graham Line, being in a more rural setting helped. As the land was available for the park and ride lots. From a two railroad town of old, the Erie and O & W, Middletown became a no railroad town, just M&NJ.
  by Suburbanite
"The Ben Gilman factor."
Aha!! Just as I suspected: someone had his eyes on the ROW.
Also, if PC, then Conrail didn't know if the states were going to take over the expense of running commuter trains, they probably also wanted to make the line as unattractive for commuters as possible, to get rid of them. (A few years before, the NYS&W had offered to pay off their last few commuters if they would stop using the trains, so they could get the Public Utilities Commission to let them abandon the service. The last few riders said "Nothing doing," but a year or two later, the railroad had its way.) Back then, the states wanted no obligations to provide mass transit; just tax revenues from the "rich" railroads to spend on other things (highways, graft . . .) It was really a mass abdication of responsibility.
  by ExCon90
Didn't know about the Ben Gilman factor. Sounds like Passaic all over again. As an aside, did removal of the railroad help the downtown any? I passed through Passaic some 20 years or so after the Main Line was removed, and their downtown was certainly not enhanced by getting rid of the tracks.
  by Tommy Meehan
There is actually some very interesting history here. The major decisions on which line to keep and which line to shut down were made by New York State DOT. Starting in the early 1970s, NYS became very involved in these lines.

The problems with the Graham line vs. the 'Old Main' predate Metro-North. Back in the early 1970s NYSDOT agreed to fund some improvements to the EL's Southern Tier route with the stated goal of keeping it in service as a freight mainline. Erie Lackawanna had begun rerouting traffic off the old Erie main line between New Jersey and Binghamton in favor of routing traffic via the Lackawanna route via Scranton. (This was also when EL began to regret abandoning the Boonton section through Paterson; instead they used the Greenwood Lake line and it was never really suitable because of the stiff grade at Great Notch which proved to be a continuing operational headache.) Most if not all of the money spent east of Port Jervis went to the Graham Line.

When Conrail came into being the road really didn't want either route -- the passenger line via Middletown or the Graham Line -- but agreed to continue service on the Graham Line in exchange for NYS providing funds for a maintenance upgrade. In 1982 during the planning for the start of Metro-North, NYSDOT decided they did not want to be responsible for two routes between Arden NY and Port Jervis NY (Otisville). Since the Old Main was unsuitable for freight service -- and with NYS&W operating a new stack train service on a portion of the Graham Line -- the decision was made to abandon the passenger route and have Metro-North operate on the Graham Line. There was so little Conrail freight traffic on the route -- one train a day each way I think -- that interference with freight trains was not an issue.

By the time Metro-North service started on January 1, 1983 trains still operated via the old line but station construction was already underway on the Graham Line. Then the operating unions struck Metro-North in early March. When the strike was settled on April 18, 1983 (after a six-week strike) the changeover was made to the Graham Line.

It's been quite a while since I researched this, and I may have a few details wrong or mixed up, but I think this account is pretty close to accurate.
Suburbanite wrote:...And the trip to Port Jervis takes at least an hour longer via the Graham Line...
I don't know where you heard that but back in 1959 No. 59 to Port Jervis departed Hoboken at 5:42 PM for Port Jervis, arriving there via Goshen and Middletown two hours and twenty three minutes later at 8:05 PM. Today Metro-North 59 departs Hoboken at 6:11 PM and arrives at Port Jervis two hours and five minutes later at 8:16.
  by Engineer Spike
When the commuter agencies took over the service, MTA formed MNCR, as it already had the knowhow from running Long Island. You're right though about some agencies contracting the service out, like ConnDOT to MNCR, and MBTA to Boston and Maine.
  by peterde
I have always felt that the abandoning the main line in favor of the Graham line struck a blow to the villages that they still have never recoverd from, (at least west of Harriman). The economic loss was great, and most of he downtowns are still empty of business and traffic.
  by TDowling
Tommy Meehan , I don't know the exact date that the strike was settled but it was not in April. Trains (both freight and passenger) were operating in April. Posts I've seen say that the strike was settled in March. The date that you pointed out was the first official day that the new alignment was used by mncr. There was one day prior to April 18th (Easter Sunday) on which a freight derailed by south st in Goshen and resulted in accidental service on the Graham for that day. Indeed, route 17 was the major thing that rendered the main line obsolete. There was and is plenty of surplus space on the highway and traffic jams on it are quite rare, even 30+ years later.
What I still don't understand is why mncr instituted the shuttle service on the old main line in 1982 if they were going to abandon it anyway.
  by Tommy Meehan
I lived through the strike, though back then I was living in Manhattan and (trying) to commute to White Plains. The strike began in March and ended April 18th. [See below] There are also -- if you search Railroad Net's archives -- some posts made by at least one Metro-North employee who was working both before and after the strike. He recalled some details about the way West of Hudson service was changed from the old main to the Graham Line during the transition to Metro-North. People I know who worked for Conrail back then say there was very little freight moving over the former EL in Orange County NY by 1983. Conrail mostly wanted to get rid of it.


You know you might want to check some of your facts before posting: Easter was on April 3rd in 1983. April calendar link
  by Tommy Meehan
I think the confusion is over the fact there were two separate strikes, both precipitated by Conrail exiting the commuter train business. Both NJ Transit and Metro-North were struck on March 7, 1983. (Crew size was the major issue in both strikes.) NJ Transit's strike was settled first on April 4th; MNR's on the 18th.

Due to the Conrail freight derailment in Goshen on Sunday April 3rd (Easter Sunday), when NJ Transit service resumed the next morning, Port Jervis trains operated via the Graham Line despite the line's new stations not being completely finished. On Tuesday April 5th, the derailment having been cleaned up, the trains again operated via the former EL's 'old main' via Goshen. But that lasted only until Monday April 18th when the trains formally switched over to the Graham Line.

This is from a thread from back in 2008.
Erie-Lackawanna wrote:OK, a little digging in the archive found me this single-sided sheet:


Service via the Graham Line, which had begun accidentally for one day on April 4, 1983, was formally and permanently inaugurated effective April 18, 1983. Jim
  by Suburbanite
OK, for comparison, does anyone have a timetable from shortly before the strike and abandonment of the old Erie main?
  by Tommy Meehan
I have a scan from an April 1971 EL ETT (No. 3) showing westbound Erie Lackawanna service to Port Jervis on weekdays.


At the time westbound weekday service consisted of just two trains, Nos. 57 and 59, both of which I rode though not all the way to Port Jervis (there was no way to get back the same evening).

Eastbound weekday service consisted of three trains.
  • No. 50 Dpt Monroe at 6:30 AM and arr Hoboken at 7:53 AM.
  • No. 52 Dpt Port Jervis at 6:07 AM and arr Hoboken at 8:21 AM
  • No. 54 Dpt Port Jervis at 6:58 AM and arr Hoboken at 9:12 AM.
MTA expanded service in the late 1970s, at first by using rehabbed RDC cars that proved less than reliable. But since this is the DL&W, Erie, EL forum maybe we should leave that for discussion elsewhere. :wink:
  by TDowling
The rdcs were implemented by the metro north commuter rail council in August of 82 which strikes me as interesting as the last day of service on the mainline was in April of the following year. In other words the rdcs were only used for about 8 months on the main line. I guess the rationale for using them almost immediately before abandonment was as an unofficial "test" run to see how reliable they were. Typical Mta move ;)
As for politics, I was told that the county executive at the time, Lou Heimbach, had land in Campbell Hall that would have increased in value if passenger service were to be routed there.
  by TDowling
About halfway between chester and goshen on the row there is a small telephone booth like structure still intact. It is large enough to hold one person. Any idea what this is?
  by ExCon90
If it's made of cast concrete, the Erie had a lot of them, used to house wayside telephones to enable train and engine crews to communicate with towers before the days of radios. Many railroads at the time provided only a wooden box on a post; that was way back in the days when a padlock was sufficient to protect the phone from vandalism.
  by s4ny
I read one time that the Graham Line has no (or far fewer) grade crossings.