• The EL and the Southern Tier- Rich or Poor?

  • 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 gearhead
The Southern Tier was declared by Gov. Rockefeller to be part of Applalacia in the 1970s. On the other hand the EL from what I can see had a lot of on line industries from all the factories existant and abandoned in Binghamton and Elmira. So what was the knockout punch that took the southern tier from a industriall powerhouse to the poorhouse? Was it the closing of IBM?
  by frank754
Others will have to join in, but I know a big operation in Horseheads was the A&P warehouse and canning/milk facility which shut down in the early 80's. The was also a fire truck mfg plant, American La France. I'm not from Elmira, but lived at one time near Norwich. Up there they had 2 railroads at one time (the DL&W and the O&W), and the O&W (until abandonment in '57) was a big employer. Norwich also was a big pharmaceutical town at one time, and also had a shoe factory, among other industries. The people are ethnically mostly English of New England origin, similar to the stock in the Appalachians all the way down to Tennessee, so I've heard that comparison made before. In, general, the region-wide industries included quite a bit of agricultural and dairy, and there are still sour cream & yogurt processors in the region. The Erie at one time hauled quite a bit of milk down to NYC. There was also coal coming from branch lines from PA. Sidney also had a big Bendix plant at one time. If you check out the wikipedia (and other history) pages for each town and county in the region, you can get a feel for the history of industry in the region. In fact it mentions Binghamton even made cigars at one time. I don't think IBM would have much of an impact on rail, but they were founded in Endicott in the late 19th century and certainly were huge employers. The Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company had over 20,000 employees at its peak, too, with tanneries using cattle (leather) from the region. Much of America has now slid from its industrial peak for various reasons and after the 60's became a ghost of their former past. In NEPA which was more a coal economy, the decline began much earlier. Just wanted to share my limited knowledge as a starting point for this discussion. It would be cool if a lot more folks added memories of other industries related to rail and the decline of industry.
  by gearhead
The Bingahmaton Press in its acrhives had a story in its Sunday magazine about the local freight agent for the Erie/Laccawanna in the 1970s.
Even after passenger stopped running the freight agent was still busy at the station manning phone calls inbound to tell industrys that there freight had come in and even calling on custumers to get them rate quotes. Customers would even come in and chat with the old man. The Erie was known as the Nieghboorhood Railroad. What happened was Conrail. Conrail centralised the customer service and the agents were replaced by Sales Managers in far away Philly who had no idea where Elmira was on a map. The local trucking companys could still provide the personlised service and chances are the truck driver and the agent went to the same church that the buisnessman/shipper did. Binghamton was also still a major produce terminal in the 1970s but when they turned 17 into the southern tier Interstate Expressway I believd that that changed the game.
  by Aa3rt
To put in my 2 cents worth on this topic-I was born in Jamestown, NY in the early 1950's and grew up just across the state line in northwestern Pennsylvania. My maternal grandparents lived in Jamestown-we visited them frequently and we did all of our shopping in Jamestown as well. Jamestown was quite a bustling city in the 1950's and early 1960's and there was a large yard there. In fact, there was a switcher based in Jamestown to service all of the industries in the Jamestown/Falconer area. However, much like the rest of the industrial northeast, I started noticing the economic downturn around the time I entered high school. By the time I graduated in 1971 there were few, if any, employment opportunities available for a teenager with no experience or job skills.

Conrail was formed in 1976 consolidating a number of bankrupt railroads in the northeast including the ErieLackawanna. Fast forward to 1978-I returned home after a stint in the US Coast Guard. Conrail was no longer making use of the EL main through Jamestown, the local was dispatched out of Olean, NY and only came west a couple of days a week and freight cars were left parked on the main near the Jamestown/Falconer city line. A little further to the west, there was a long line of hopper cars from Conrail predecessor lines parked on the main line in Columbus, PA, just east of Corry. It's only been in the last decade or so that the line was revived under the operation of the Western New York & Pennsylvania.

Here's a vintage photo of the Jamestown yard, showing the local and freight cars in the yard:


To echo what Frank754 stated:
frank754 wrote:Much of America has now slid from its industrial peak for various reasons and after the 60's became a ghost of their former past.
My father still lives in the town where I grew up about 12 miles south of Jamestown. For a couple of years I went to visit him using Amtrak from Washington, DC to Erie, PA. One thing that struck me on the train ride was the number of abandoned factories and rail sidings from Baltimore north to New York and across New York State into Erie. The whole former industrial northeast is in a state of decay. When I visit my father I'm always struck by how the downturn has affected Jamestown and surrounding environs-it's definitely NOT the vibrant city I remember growing up in the 1960's.

I remember very well Governor Rockefeller's declaration that New York State was a part of Appalachia. (Are you sure it wasn't in the 1960's?) While his words were met with derision when they were made, they were prophetic. The whole area seems to be in a downward economic spiral that I don't expect to see end in my lifetime.

Here's a photo of an eastbound NS coal train traveling on the old eastbound main (The only track left.). The track where the local was sitting in the previous photo is the westbound main, now torn up. Note that the yard tracks in the previous photo, which would be in the foreground of this picture, are all gone as well.

http://forums.railfan.net/forums.cgi?bo ... 1310335399
  by gearhead
Damn they removed the overhead walkway on the EL Station!What a great trainspotting location that would have been.
Do you remember the Dunkirk Allegheny and Pittsburgh line N/S thru Falconer? Part of it is a bike trail in Warren PA
As far as the Economy goes...If you think about it from 1939 ( start of WW2) to 1950s(Korea) to the end of Vietnam (1974) we were in a constant state of a wartime economy keeping the Military-Industrial Complex going(Which the railroads were part of). It seems that in most of the 20th Century the USA has been in some sort of hot war with somebody or another with short periods of cold war peace. From 1975 to 9/11 were times of relative peace . Keynesian Economics only seems to work in a wartime economy.
  by Aa3rt
1. Yes, I remember to old DAV&P (NYC) very well. I was in a model railroad/railfan group that included members from Warren, PA and Jamestown. One of the members was an absolute PennCentral fanatic and was always railfanning the DAV&P. In fact, some of his super-8 movies of riding with a crew from Falconer to Dunkirk were included in a video on the line that's available from the Dunkirk Historical Society.

2. I'd suggest that the war time production for the Vietnam conflict actually started winding down sometime earlier. The "Vietnamization" of the war (Putting the South Vietnamese in charge of the defense of their country and gradual pullout of U.S. troops.) was in full swing well before 1974. Regardless, I'll never forget that the Art Metal plant shut down the same week I graduated from high school, laying off over 600 workers. Not a whole lot of prospects in a job market like that.
  by gearhead
The DAVP had a NRHS railfan ride in 1950 found that out this past weekend at a history convention
  by Aa3rt
I don't want to stray too far from the topic of the EL and the Southern Tier, however here's a link to another forum where I posted images of a ticket and trip itinerary from an excursion over the DAV&P in 1951:

http://forums.railfan.net/forums.cgi?bo ... tart=17#17

Incidentally, the station at the Erie/DAV&P crossing in Falconer, NY was destroyed by an Erie derailment. I was discussing this with my father last week and we're uncertain of the date this wreck occurred. Does anyone have this information?
  by Schafer
Corning, NY: Major industries that shipped Erie included Corning Glass/Stubenware and Ingersol Rand.
  by scottychaos
The Southern Tier is not part of Appalachia..
thats ridiculous..
sure, it might have economic similarities to Appalachia, but so does Detroit, Cleveland, probably parts of California, etc.
just being "similar" does not mean "the same place"..
Absolutely no one in the Southern Tier thinks they live in Appalachia, because they don't! ;)

Im a Southern Tier native, from Waverly, and I come from 200 years of Southern Tier natives..
My Dad was with the very last group of people at the A&P plant in Horseheads..he started working there
in the mid-70's, and helped clear the place out when it shut down a decade later..he was then unemployed for two years when I was a teenager.

I think what caused the economic decline of the Southern Tier was simply changing transportation..

In the 1840's New York State had two primary east-west transportation corridors, the Erie Canal across the top of the state,
and the Erie Railroad across the Southern Tier..
The Erie Railroad was, for a time, a larger and stronger railroad than the various embryonic railroads that would eventually form the New York Central..
But in the 1840's, the Erie Railroad was essentially the equal of the Erie canal, and the two "corridors" were on equal footing, from a transportation perspective..

This created an early boom in the Southern Tier cities, Binghamton, Elmira, Corning, even Waverly, where LV coal interchanged with the Erie to get to Buffalo.
But this "equality" didn't last long..

Eventually the New York Central railroad far surpassed the Erie in size and influence, and the early Erie Canal, combined with the new New York Central,
caused the "upper" cities, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, to far outgrow and outpace the Southern Tier cities..
The large size of Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, compared to the smaller size of Binghamton, Elmira and Corning is a direct result of these differences in transportation..

By 1900 it was already over, and the "fading" of the Southern Tier was set to begin.
The southern tier railroads lost power and influence, reducing their capacity to fuel an industrial base, and the major industries faded along with the railroads.
The most important rail corridor in the state remained the New York Central mainline, which is still FAR busier and important than the old Erie main today.

So..IMO the southern tier faded because its industrial corridor neighbor to the north was simply stronger.
The Erie Canal and the New York Central both benefited from better geography..the "Water Level Route" and the Mohawk River passage between the mountains..
and it was also directly connected to the states North-South transportation corridor, the Hudson River..while the Southern Tier corridor was not.
It was simply a better transportation route than the Southern Tier..better transportation equals better growth and better economic health.

The Southern Tier gave it a shot, and early on things looked good with the new Erie railroad, and early cities grew because of it..
but in the end it was "second best" and couldn't compete.

  by Cactus Jack
I travel several times / month across The Tier between Binghamton and Olean or further west .... Jameston, NY / Corry, PA
and also Rochester - Syracuse - Utica - Mohawk Valley Routes 5 and 5S towards Amsterdam / Schenectady.

I truly believe the economy in the Southern Tier to be much more vibrant than the Mohawk Valley and the towns west of Syracuse. Just my two cents worth and whether it is the oil / gas industry or other factors I don't know. For sure train density on the former NYC is much greater and Amtrak travels the route but has anyone compared Corning to Canajoharie or Amsterdam lately? Ever try to find a place to eat along Route 5 west of Herkimer other than Stewarts (which does have great ice cream and milk shakes) or McDonald's ? Shopping.... check out Horseheads / Big Flats area and the redeveloped A&P site near Horseheads. Nothing like that through the Mohawk Valley.

It just looks more alive in the Tier. I cannot say that after railfanning it in the early - mid 1980's...... that was bad with the BUOI OIBU and the ELOI OIEL trains and a few locals and the decaying remains the the rest of the EL infrastructure vs. CWR up on "The Central" and what even then seemed endless industry in Syracuse with the likes of GE and Crouse Hinds, Gould Pumps, New Process Gear, Solvay, Rome Cable and Revere Copper in Rome and GE in Utica with various industry etc.

I don't know but I always thought the Tier had a hard time bouncing back from Agnes in '72. Places like Elmira that seemed to have life and a throwback to their 1950's downtoen prosperity seemed to have literally washed out and never returned.

It might have been the newspaper article mentioned earlier in the thread but one article in the Binghamton paper cited 56 trains / day into, out of or through Binghamton in the year or so before Conrail.
  by scottychaos
Elmira and Corning are interesting cases..
Hurricane Agnes took out half of downtown Elmira, the remains were bulldozed flat, and the city never recovered.
today it is too big to support itself, and it remains a shadow of its former self.

Corning on the other hand is thriving..
No doubt Corning glass is a large part of that..
Corning has a large employer, a college (up on the hill outside of town, but it still provides employment and students to the community)
and several museums to draw in tourists..
and the downtown business district has remained a destination in itself, with lots of nice shops..
The flood also hit Corning, but because its downtown was not flattened, it could bounce back.
Corning is probably the most "well off" of the Southern tier cities..while Elmira is the worst.

thanks for the comparisons to the Mohawk Valley..I hadnt considered Amsterdam and that region..
you are right, they arent thriving..
but overall I think my main premise still holds, that Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo are doing better, overall,
than the Southern Tier cities..that's not to say Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo are doing great! ;) just better..

I moved from Waverly to Rochester for the industry..my first job out of college was with Kodak..
the Southern Tier had nothing for me..
of course Kodak is now dead, but I was able to re-train for something different..which also happened
because of Rochester's resources..

so yeah, things are not perfect anywhere in the state, I agree with that..
but overall, I think the Southern Tier has fared the worst, as a region of the state, over the past 40 years..

  by Engineer Spike
The deindustrialization of all of the northeast certainly hurt cities like Binghamton, Corning, and Elmira. Even the overhead traffic to the New York metro area, and Connecticut caused EL traffic to decrease, as the New Haven was EL's gateway to southern New England.

The northeastern states have high tax rates. This was a contributing factor. It caused high prices for goods, and higher wages, which are required for workers to be able to afford to live there. The companies first moved south. Now with globalization, the goods are produced in third world countries, where the prevailing wages are nearly nil.

I think Conrail's lack of service certainly didn't help. On the other hand, I have traveled the old NYC many times. There is very little online industry. Most of the trains are full of trailers full of goods produced elsewhere, but distributed here. That's a fact, Jack!

The real question is how do we solve this? New York is giving tax breaks to companies that set up here. What happens when the tax break ends? To they move to the next place which gives them one? I don't like the whole right to work movement. Workers should have a voice to fight for fair wages. Even so, how do we compete against Chinese and Mexican labor? One is higher tariffs on third world goods. I think free trade should be confined to other industrialized countries, such as Canada, UK, Germany, and Japan.

One last thought is that if service was an issue, what would have happened if EL didn't go into Conrail? This is based on the original USRA plan for a viable class I system to buy EL. Do you think the decline may have been slower?
  by Missyg24
Growing up in HELMIRA but in CR years missed EL, PRR, LV, etc.. I was born in 1990 (sorry if i made anyone feel older lol). But i learned from my views as an Elmiran that the city makes things but ruins them few years later. We could of had a lot of stuff back then but the city turned their head and said no. Corning is way better then Elmira Corning Inc my aunt works at but at the Erwins plant. Corning Inc made that town. Elmira on the other had had American LaFrance (now officially closed as of March 2014 (sad to think of to this day), Kennedy Valve, and the 2 prisons (Elmira & Southport) besides that theres nothing for Elmira, drugs, violence (As bad as Williamsport, lived near Williamsport for 2 1/2 yrs). If the politicians of Ny focused more on other sections of the state BESIDES NYC then their would be better things for the Southern Tier.

I do say Im proud to be from Elmira but won't live there ever again, I left for good. EL line which is now owned by NS is still around thank god, but its not what it should and can be. There was talks of NS putting in a Truck To Train place near the yard, that would of brought jobs... CAF is building cars where once was ABB who built the Amtrak X2000 & previously the American Bridge Company, Tons of bridges here near Altoona PA have the Builder plate thing with it on them. I smile & say ELMIRA/ELMIRA HEIGHTS BUILT!
  by wdburt1
Elmira had a thriving industrial base, of which American LaFrance was but a part. Four of those plants were located between, and served by, both Erie and DL&W. In addition, you had the PRR operating over the Erie and enjoying rights to serve some customers. And you also had the Lehigh Valley sneaking in on Erie trackage rights and reaching as far as Holding Point. These competitive options gave Elmira rail service unmatched almost anywhere, and it resulted in a lot of industrial activity. A useful survey is the Lackawanna's 1952 customer guide, if you can find it.