Post number 50...yay!
OK then, since my life circumstances mostly keep me from being trackside, I can reply to TuckertonRR
with findings from my former adventures in and around Bethlehem.
As for walking from Hellertown to Bethlehem, my thoughts are mostly identical to those of jevans
I have to admit I have found that going on foot into Norfolk Southern's Saucon Yard site at the south end (near I-78) to the north end (near the Lynn St. bridge) is a little creepy. It's due to 2 combined influences: my sense of history concerning all that was once there, and the stark desolation of how nearly none of it is there now. Allow me to explain.
If you enter NS property near the south end of the yard, you rapidly come into an area with almost no other way in or out except for the opposite ends of the yard. Despite the great width of the property, it is isolated by geography; a PB&NE connecting track on the east side that is atop a high retaining wall, and a very dense thicket of trees along the west side. As you go north, Saucon Yard narrows considerably, making the wild overgrown vegetation practically surround you.
This is just about all that will surround you, due to all (and I mean ALL) of the tracks being removed from Saucon's south end. It is a bizarre sight. This was once a huge, very busy facility. Now it is just ghostly desolation. The only exceptions are the butchered-up roundhouse and the coal dock near I-78. The old powerhouse has already been torn down, and the turntable pit is filled in. That immediate area has been leased by a construction supply company, and I think that those structures are really on borrowed time.
At this point, the yard's width "funnels" down to just a few tracks, which actually stem from that PB&NE connecting track - which has now sloped downgrade to your level. You also see that you are now atop a rather high fill above ground level. Then you cross above Saucon Creek, which is about 60 feet down!
On the other side of the bridge, you can see PB&NE's Iron Hill Yard on the right side, immediately next to where the north half of Saucon Yard used to be. I say "used to be" because, like the south half, it has also been completely destroyed. All yard tracks have been pulled up, and nothing but long grass remains. It is eerie. All the more so because of the elevation above ground level, and the sight of Bethlehem Steel's empty buildings along the entire horizon ahead of you.
PB&NE's Iron Hill Yard is active, though it may just look like it's being used for railcar storage. Be aware of the possibility of a switcher engine or crew on the ground seeing you. Most of their activity seems concentrated at the north end and northeast corner of their yard, so if you stick to the western side of the ex-Saucon Yard you should remain unseen.
At Iron Hill, the two adjacent yard properties curve around from north to west. Immediately to the left (west), the elevation quickly goes from below grade to a high, steep hill well above grade, "walling in" that side of the property until you reach the Daly Ave. bridge at 4th Street. The Bethlehem Branch single main (good luck finding it there; a backhoe is needed!) then runs nearly due west all the way to New Street (Fahy Bridge across the river) before curving northwest towards the ex-Union Station building.
I'm somewhat reluctant to venture through the yard(s) again if by myself. I did it twice before, and once in the company of others (much better!). I just don't like the possibility of meeting someone by chance while by myself, deep inside the yard - it is so very hard to safely get off the property in a hurry, because of the lay of the land.
Please don't consider this a story to scare you. Rather, I think you should know in advance that it's quiet and isolated in there, so expect that if you go. If you run into trouble, be sure you at least have a cellphone. That''s just common sense. If the yard was not adjacent to economically depressed reisdential areas, I would feel differently. If the yard was also not on the edge of a medium-sized city, I would also feel differently. I'm much more comfortable doing my "railfanning" out in the countryside.
I agree about not feeling real secure in the Hayes-to-Webster Sts. area of South Bethlehem. You'll attract attention if you take photos of the old automatic block signal near Hayes St., due to the busy intersection nearby and the exposed area of the rail right-of-way (next to Daly Avenue [Route 412], which is heavily travelled).
Along the single, former main track, it feels safest near the Union Station area. St. Luke's Hospital has a nice big parking lot there, but using it on a weekend makes your car very conspicuous. I always park across the street in the lot at Perkins' Restaurant. I have never had a problem taking photos at or around Union Station. Then again, I only go on weekends, and I stay well away from any trains coming through on NS. Being on the ground around the east, south, and west sides of the building seems OK. But you really should think twice about crossing the tracks to see Union Station from the north. There is a strip of land between the NS Lehigh Line (ex-LV mains) and the river, but NS does not like non-rr folks using it. Conversely, staying along the south side of the tracks while east of the station (basically, at CP-88) seems ok with NS as long as you remain well away from the tracks.
I have previously
taken photos from atop the Hill-to-Hill Bridge at Union Station. However, in the present
security-conscious climate (i.e., f---ing hysteria on the part of non-railfans), no way!
Here's why. With the huge amount of auto traffic on the bridge, it is a near certainty that someone will eventually drive by who doesn't like your appearance, or sees you're still at the same place on the walkway later during their return drive, or jumps to conclusions because you have a camera. It was stressful enough when I did this back in February. I freely admit that, while the views are excellent, I am not willing to risk it now.
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