s4ny wrote:The best route into Buffalo is the former New York Central, of course. The best other route was
the Lehigh Valley. Better than the Erie because of no crumbling bridge. Better than the DL&W because of
better grades. Remember the DL&W was built to haul coal westward (downhill) and empties back up the hill from
Groveland to Wayland.
The DL&W was the shortest route and worked will for the Nickel Plate, but when the Erie Lackawanna was
formed the merged company, run by Erie men, quickly severed and downgraded that line in order to
push more activity to their facilities in Hornell. They even shifted the Phoebe Snow onto the Erie
which immediately prior to the merger had no Buffalo to Hoboken service.
When Conrail took over the bankrupt railroads they tore up the LV as soon as they could in order to
keep a competing RR from acquiring the LV or rights to use it.
The best route was Buffalo to Waverly on LV, Erie to Binghamton, DL&W to Scranton, LV/CNJ to eastern terminus.
Now, they are stuck with a bridge that will either be rebuilt as part of some government pork project, or the route will be
Bad railroad management combined with bad politics.
Nope. LV had its own grade issues- on the east side of Seneca Lake. As fond as I am of LV, Conrail did not need it. In fact, they didn't even tear it up. The LV main between Buffalo and Van Etten (except for a few sections used for local service) remained in the hands of the LV estate... which in turn was folded into the PC estate. The PC estate tore up the LV main in upstate NY because they didn't need it, either.
While I do have some pretty serious criticisms of Conrail and its planning, its decision to not use the LV main west of Van Etten makes sense to me. I don't know if the LV main was longer or shorter than the Erie main/Buffalo Extension but that was not relevant to the planners. The EL main west of Waverly had alot more customers and connections than LV did. The LV main could be dismembered without losing alot of customers. Simply put, the EL main was generating a modest amount of local traffic, which was more than the LV.
Also, the former Lackawanna main was a definite liability in Dansville. Pushers were needed for eastbound bridge traffic (read: eastbound loads!) at Dansville, which became very important as the anthracite market collapsed. The Erie route did not need pushers between Buffalo and Binghamton in the diesel era. On top of that, local history books also noted a serious drainage problem developed on the hill at Dansville in the early '60s, which made for frequent (and thus expensive) maintenance. Old Shaky did not have any serious repair issues at the time. BTW, CEO Bill White
was involved in the decision to sever the Lackawanna main in 1963... and he did not have the pro-Erie bias of the McInnis era.
The Erie route made and makes the most sense as an alternative to the Water Level Route. Of course, the Water Level Route has the least grades and best traffic base between Buffalo and the New York City metro region... but having a viable competitor just makes good business sense. There was no grand conspiracy to gut the LV or DL&W. Practical decisions were made with the goal of having as much traffic as possible. Looking at the overall condition of the former Erie between Buffalo and Binghamton today, it seems pretty good to me. There's nothing bad about the railroading or politics at all. The amount of state money going into the Portageville bridge replacement is pretty modest in comparison to the overall size of the state budget... so I have no preblem with NY partnering with NS on the project.
P.S. Shifting the route of the Phoebe Snow
is a non sequitor, as few passengers boarded the train between Buffalo and Binghamton.