Luzerne County PAGenWeb

Lehigh Valley Railroad


One Hundred Years of The Lehigh Valley





The Lehigh Valley railroad has reached its hundredth birthday!


Few railroads today can look back one hundred years to their birthday-yet that is what the Lehigh Valley Railroad does on April 21, 1946. Survival of a public service enterprise during one full century can only be the result of its patrons' faith in the competence of management and the individual efforts of its employees, who have devoted themselves to the development of their railroad and the regions which it serves.


One has merely to scan our nation's history to ascertain the importance of railroads in the growth of our American way of life. In observing their centennial, men and women of the Lehigh Valley Railroad can look back to the weathering of wars, depressions, floods and vicissitudes borne so courageously by those hardy pioneers who faced an uncertain future in a wilderness that was an unknown quantity.


With the thought that our patrons, to whom we owe our existence, might like to know more about us, this booklet has been prepared in commemoration of our 100th birthday.


The Lehigh Valley Railroad today extends from New York City to Buffalo and Niagara Falls on the west; has extensive branches in the anthracite fields in Pennsylvania, and reaches Rochester and other important cities and towns in western and central New York State. the story of the LVRR is the story of the growth of a line originally planned to be 46 miles long but which now extends 458 miles, with 796 miles of branches.


A Railroad Is Born


The LVRR, projected by Asa Packer, was incorporated in pursuance of an act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on April 21, 1846. Its original name, Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company, was changed to the Lehigh Valley Railroad company on January 7, 1853.


James M. Porter was its first President--Asa Packer its first Secretary and Treasurer and Robert H. Sayre its first Chief Engineer. The original purpose of its founders was to build a railroad for the transportation of anthracite and, incidentally perhaps, passengers between the mines then being operated near Mauch Chunk, Pa., and the Delaware river at Easton, Pa. Anthracite at that time was moved down the Lehigh River, by canal boat, and the railroad was planned to give it faster, more efficient movement.


Work actually was begun in 1851 and during the next 3 years considerable was accomplished. Late in 1855, four locomotives were ordered and authority was given for erection of stations at Easton, Allentown, and Mauch Chunk. September witnessed completion of the road from Mauch Chunk to Easton.


Almost immediately the railroad began to expand. Additional privileges for extension into the Schuylkill anthracite fields were granted by legislative enactment during 1856. On January 1, 1857, a junction with the North Pennsylvania RR (now Reading Company) was established at Freemansburg, Pa. Later this connection was changed to Bethlehem. This made the LVRR an important factor in both freight and passenger traffic from the interior of Pennsylvania to the great seaboard city of Philadelphia and via that city to New York. Various branch lines were later established effecting connections with other railroads in central Pennsylvania.


Wartime Construction


The records for 1861 show "a general cleaning up along the whole line and a determination to be ready for the increase in business which it was manifest would accrue". Whether this was intended as an indication of the approach of the war between the States is not recorded.


Asa Packer was elected President on January 13, 1862. This year was a disastrous one for the valley of the Lehigh, and the railroad did not escape damage from the "great freshet" on the night of the 4th and the morning of the 5th of June, but the road was quickly restored to operation.


The war between the States apparently had little effect upon the Lehigh Valley, although the opposing armies fought a great battle only 90 miles from its rails.


On July 8, 1864, the management acquired the Beaver Meadow Railroad Company, a double track line, 24 miles in length, extending from its junction with the Lehigh Valley Railroad at East Mauch Chunk up the Lehigh River to Penn Haven, thence on to Beaver Meadow and adjoining anthracite mines in Carbon County.The Beaver Meadow, which had begun operation in 1836, was the first steam railroad in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, and became the oldest portion of the present Lehigh Valley System. This acquisition, which was originally projected for the purpose of carrying anthacite to the Lehigh River for loading on boats on the Lehigh Canal for shipment to Easton, Philadelphia and New York, now contributed heavy coal tonnage for movement direct by rail. The grade was favorable to the loaded or eastbound movement and coal cars used at this time were of 7,000 lbs. capacity. Contrast this with today's steel gondolas with capacity up to 140,000 lbs.


The Penn Haven and White Haven Railroad became the property of Lehigh Valley in 1864, adding another 17 miles extending to White Haven. Main line trackage now totaled 71 miles, with 17 miles of branch track. Shortly afterward stock control of the Lehigh and Mahnoy Railroad company in the anthracite fields was acquired.


During this period, shops, engine-houses, offices, water tanks, stations and bridges were erected. At the end of 1864, the Company owned 53 locomotives, 1127 eight-wheel coal cars, 2845 four-wheel coal cars, 155 eight-wheel flat cars, 11 passenger cars, 4 baggage crs, 4 house cars, and 50 dump crs and trucks. All freight other than anthracite was handled under contract with the Lehigh Valley Freight Transportation Company, an independent concern, which provided its own equipment. Later this company was acquired by the railroad.


The Railroad grows in Stature


In the following year extension of the road from White Haven to Wilkes-Barre was projected and during 1866, in addition to adquiring the Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad, running 41 miles from Black Creek Junction to Mt. Carmel, Judge Packer, with an eye to greater expansion, also purchased a controlling interest in the North Branch Canal, extending from Wilkes-Barre to the New York State line, a distance of over 100 miles. This route paralleled the Susquehanna River through the Wyoming Valley, the history of which is rich in Indian lore and tales of adventures in pioneer days.


Wilkes-Barre is named after John Wilkes and Colonel Isaac Barre, members of Parliament in George III's regime, who denounced the oppression of the American colonies. Historically, the region is known as the scene of the Wyoming Massacre, also a headquarters of the famous Sullivan Expedition which finally destroyed the backbone of the Six Indian Nations, who for years had been the terror of all Pennsylvania and New York frontier towns. Eastward from Towanda is the site of Azilum (Asylum), which was built in 1795 as a refuge for Queen Marie Antoinette and the young Dauphin from the violence of the French Revolution.


The right of way of the North Branch Canal became the Pennsylvania and New York Canal and Railroad Company owned by the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the canal was replaced by railroad. Late in 1867, this line reached Waverly, New York., where connection was made with the Erie railroad. In the following year the Lehigh Valley--a standard gauge railroad--completed arrangements with the Erie Railroad, at that time having a six-foot gauge, for a third rail within its tracks to enable Lehigh Valley equipment to run through to Elmira and later to Buffalo.


On the evening of December 24, 1868, at a gathering of officials of the railroad at the residence of robert H. Sayre, then General superintendent and Chief Engineer, at Bethlehem, Pa., Mr. Sayre said-"The Lehigh Valley Railroad's popularity is due to a steady, determined, persistent and combined effort of all the officers and employees; from its honored President, Hon. Asa Packer, to the humblest laborer, our aim, ambition and efforts have been directed to one end. We have worked through sunshine and storm; through good and evil report; with hearts and feelings enlisted, without envy, strife or petty jealousies, to produce this result... This combined effort toward a single purpose is indeed the secret of the success that has crowned the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company with the laurels of public acclaim".


Twenty new locomotives and other rolling stock were acquired in 1869. More steel rails replaced iron rails. Many new coal cars and other equipment were built at the road's shops at south Easton, Waverly, Delano, Hazleton and Packerton.


The following year, 1870, witnessed commencement of extension of the road in a new direction-from Phillipsburg to Bound Brook, N.J. In the same year arrangements were consummated by which Lehigh Valley acquired trackage rights to Auburn, N. Y., over the newly completed Southern Central Railroad, now part of the Lehigh Valley.


During its period of "growing pains" with attendant acquisitions, legal fights and construction difficulties, the management of the Lehigh Valley Railroad never lost sight of ultimately having a direct outlet to the Atlantic seaboard. With this thought in view, the property of the Morris Canal and Banking Company, including extensive water rights on the Hudson River directly opposite New York, was purchased. The canal extended from Phillipsburg, N. J., on the Delaware River, across New Jersey to Newark on the Passaic River, and to Jersey City on the Hudson. Having long outlived its usefulness, the Morris Canal and Banking Company was conveyed in 1923 to the State of New Jersey, the Lehigh Valley Railroad however, retaining the water Basins at Jersey City on the Hudson River.


In 1871 the Lehigh Valley extended its Hazleton Division to Tomhicken, where it connected with the Danville, Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre Railroad (now part of the Pennsylvania Railroad), thus establishing an alternate route to Sunbury as well as affording means of transportation for undeveloped anthracite on this branch.


The completion of the tracks of the Southern Central Railroad to Fair Haven, on Lake Ontario, during 1871 afforded another outlet for the coal carried by the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Other lines were building--all of them eventually to become part of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. A narrow gauge line, the Montrose Railroad Company, operating from Tunkhannock, Pa., to Montrose, Pa., was acquired and the Buffalo Creek R ailroad, a switching line in Buffalo, was built by the Pennsylvania and New York Canal and Railroad Company.


The prospect of steadily increasing business and the additional facilities required made it necessary to increase the road's capital stock. The new stock was eagerly sought after and quickly sold.

In 1872, through an act passed by the State of New Jersey, the Lehigh Valley's New Jersey lines were consolidated under the name of the Easton and Amboy Railroad Company and the railroad was at last in position to reach Tidewater at Perth Amboy.


In 1873 came the crushing financial debacle which resulted in the postponement of many new improvements. However, the management ordered the tunnel and other heavy work on the Easton and Amboy vigorously pushed, and construction work proceeded on depots, dams, water stations and bridges. The Easton and Amboy Railroad was opened for business on June 28, 1875 as the New Jersey Division of the Lehigh Valley railroad. The Company had already completed large docks and facilities for shipping coal at Perth Amboy upon an extensive tract of land fronting the Arthur Kill. Approximately 350,000 tons of anthracite moved to Perth Amboy during that year for transshipment by water.


With the United States centennial year of 1876 came a revival in business and the "Valley" received its share. Travel incidental to the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia doubled that of any preceding year.

While the third rail on the Erie Railroad between Waverly and Buffalo gave the Lehigh Valley an unbroken connection to Buffalo, the road's management desired its own line into that city. The Geneva, Ithaca and Athens Railroad passed into the hands of the Lehigh Valley during October 1876, which extended from the New York state line near Sayre, Pa., named for one of the "Valley's" outstanding pioneers, to Geneva, N.Y., a distance of 75 miles.


In 1877 a branch was extended to Girardville, Pa., and new offices at Sayre were completed and occupied in June of that year. As freight traffic continued to increase, sidings were extended. All wooden bridges had now been replaced by iron structures. Completion of the Ashland (Pa.) Branch gave the road a total of 640 miles of track.


The Founder Passes


The company's annual report for 1879 revealed that a familiar name no longer appeared as President. the man of "iron nerve, whose life was one of purity and uprightness, simple in habit, dignified in demeanor, fervent, earnest, free of all forms of ostentation, liberal beyond measure, to whose magnanimity of soul hundreds of living witnesses pay heartfelt tribute, had passed away May 17, 1879." His associates issued the following statement at a meeting of the Board of Directors held June 10, 1879:"The Directors of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company have heard with profound sorrow of the death of their President, the Hon. Asa Packer, by which each one of the Directors has lost a true and valued friend, the company has lost its founder and its sagacious leader, the laboring man has lost a sympathizing benefactor, and our country has lost a useful and patriotic citizen."


In 1880 the Lehigh Valley Transportation Line was established to operate a fleet of ships on the Great Lakes. In the years which followed this line became an important factor in the movement of anthracite, grain and package freight between Buffalo and Chicago, Milwaukee, Duluth, Superior and other midwestern cities. Following Federal legislation which stopped the operation of such service the lake line was sold to private interests in 1920.


Substitutuion of steel rails for iron was ordered in 1880 and the rebuilding of bridges to accommodate heavier loads was pushed. Seventeen locomotives, eleven of which were built at the Lehigh Valley shops, and many cars of all classes were added to the list of rolling stock. In addition, the Lehigh's shops were turning out a large number of cars for other railroads. Attention was given to more double-tracking, both on the main line and branches. A towing and freight line from Perth Amboy to the New York City area was functioning smoothly.


Lehigh Valley Progress Cited


The review and recapitulation in the report of the General Superintendent for the year 1880 is exceedingly interesting. It reads: "In 1856 we had a single track road extending from Phillipsburg to Mauch Chunk, forty-six miles, with a capital and debt of $2,500,000; we owned ten locomotives and not a single coal or freight car; our coal tonnage was 165,740 tons; the gross receipts of the road were $242,512.61, the net receipts $98,928.65, and our payroll amounted to $41,233.30." The report continues: "Our main line now, from Perth Amboy to Wilkes-Barre, is 161 miles, and with 119 miles of branch lines, we have a total of 280 miles. Coal tonnage for the year was 4,606,415 tons; gross receipts $7,762,990.90; we have 255 locomotives, 24,465 coal cars and 3,139 freight, passenger and other cars. The capital and debt amount to $53,000,000.00 included in which is the ownership or control of about 30,000 acres of coal lands with their collieries, the ownership of the Pennsylvania and New York Canal and Railroad, 105 miles in length, with its equipment, and a large majority interest in the Geneva, Ithaca and Sayre Railroad (formerly the Geneva, Ithaca and Athens Railroad), 114 miles long..."


The reference to coal land ownership warrants mention that the railroad was an important factor in the early development of the anthracite industry. Subsequently, legislation made it impossible for a railroad to continue its ownership of mines and transport their products. As a result the Lehigh Valley disposed of these holdings.

In 1883, the road obtained a charter for the Lehigh Valley Railway Company, to construct a line extending from the business center of Buffalo to Lancaster, N.Y., a distance of ten miles. This was the second step toward establishment of a direct route from Waverly to Buffalo, the first being the acquisition of the Geneva, Ithaca & Sayre R.R.


As time went on, the company acquired other railroad properties and extended its lines to effect junctions with roads which became important contributors of freight and passenger traffic. A charter was secured for the Loyalsock Railroad running south from Bernice, Pa. The New Boston Branch was built. Vosburg Tunnel was completed and opened for service on July 25, 1886.


The "Mountain Cut-Off", extending from Fairview, Pa., to the outskirts of Pittston, a distance of sixteen miles, was completed in November, 1888. By it the eastbound grade was reduced and a shorter route for handling through traffic established. The Roselle & South Plainfield Branch, connecting the company's main line on the New Jersey Division with the Central Railroad of New Jersey at Roselle, was opened for traffic on December 17th, 1888. Through this, the facilities of the Morris Canal basin on the Hudson River and other property in Jersey City at once became available.


In 1889 the Geneva, Ithaca & Sayre Railroad was operated as the Geneva and Sayre Division and later as the Ithaca branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Part of the Ithaca, Auburn & Western Railroad was acquired. Extension of the Roselle Branch through Newark to the road's Jersey City waterfront properties gave the "Valley" a main line extending from Jersey City to Geneva, N.Y., leaving 97 miles to be covered by the Buffalo & Geneva Railroad, now in progress of construction, to complete the line from New York to Buffalo. The dream of Asa Packer was close to reality.


By 1890 extensive freight depots and yards were in process of construction at Newark and Jersey City. On July 12th, the last spike was driven on that portion of the Schuylkill Haven, Pa., which was opened to traffic on August 18th. This branch tapped anthracite fields and furnished additional freight and passenger revenues. The Lehigh Valley now had the shortest route to New York from this region. The next plan of the management contemplated a route to Rochester, N. Y., and Suspension Bridge, N. Y. The main line of the Lehigh Valley had no grade exceeding 21 feet per mile in either direction, with the exception of Wilkes-Barre Mountain, making it the best for heavy traffic of any railroad across the State of New York.


Trains of the Nineties


The historian of 1890 records: "The equipment of the Lehigh Valley Railroad is ample and of the most modern, affording its patrons every convenience consistent with railroad service. Its coaches, heated by steam, thoroughly constructed, are chaste and neat in decoration. Its parlor cars, at exceedingly moderate charges, afford additional comforts and conveniences in seats and toilet rooms. Its palace-car and sleeper accomodations are of the latest and most thoroughly equipped Pullman service. Its freight and stock cars are well and substantially built, the refrigerator class have the Tiffany or Wickes patent attachment, and all are handled under lock and seal. The gondola pattern is supplanting all others in cars of that class used in the coal traffic. Its tracks and beds are exceedingly superior in all points. The hard stone and slag ballast assures solidity and firmness, and the steel rails guarantee a smoothness not possible on iron rails".


The historian relates, under the heading of SERVICE:"The courtesy of the officers and employees of the Lehigh Valley Railroad has passed into a proverb. Considerate, careful and obliging, the trainmen strive with each other to have their train considered the banner train in the eyes of the travelling public, as well as in the estimation of their superiors."


Line of Many Industries


Much could be said about the industrial growth along the line, but the purpose of this booklet is to relate the story of the birth and first one hundred years of development of a public service enterprise. Anthracite, alrhough of major importance, was not the only commodity found in the territory served by the "Valley". Large deposits of slate, salt, limestone, clays, sand and sypsum were developed commercially. David O. Saylor, of Allentown, Pa., manufactured the first portland cement in America in 1872 at Coplay, Pa., on the line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The region today is one of the most important cement production areas in the world. All types of industry abound along the Lehigh Valley, from huge steel plants to silk mills. The territory, with its many natural resources, lends itself to diversification.


With the extension of the Lehigh Valley's rails from Easton, Pa., to Perth Amboy, N. J., completed in 1875, Lehigh Valley passenger trains were operated over the Pennsylvania Railroad between Metuchen, N. J., and Jersey City, with access to the ferries to New York and Brooklyn. This arrangement continued until 1887. Completion of the Roselle & South Plainfield Railway, branching off from the Easton & Amboy Railroad at South Plainfield, and connecting with the Central Railroad of New Jersey at Roselle, however, provided advantage over the Metuchen route via the Pennsylvania.


In 1887 a trackage agreement was made with the Central Railroad of New Jersey under the terms of which all traffic of the Lehigh Valley, destined New York Harbor, passed over the tracks of the Central from Roselle to Jersey City. Two years later the Newark & Roselle Railway was incorporated by the Lehigh Valley and a line was built from the Roselle & South Plainfield Railroad, near Roselle, to a point in the City of Newark, a distance of six and one-half miles. During 1890 a short line, called the Newark Railway, was incorporated and finished the following year. This furnished a connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad just west of Newark, thus giving the Lehigh Valley its own line thence to South Plainfield. All New York and Jersey City passenger traffic was again transferred to the Pennsylvania Railroad, and an arrangement was made for the use of its Jersey City Terminal and ferry service. Freight traffic moved over the Central Railroad, via Roselle, until the close of 1893.


With the project of reaching New York Bay still in view, the management was pushing its lines with all diligence. In 1889 the Jersey City, Newark & Western Railway had been incorporated to build a line from Newark across Newark Bay to a connection with the National Docks Railway. The Lehigh Valley had purchased an interest in this road and later obtained complete ownership. When this project was completed in 1893, the freight traffic which theretofore moved over the Jersey Central from Rosettl was transferred to this new line. The new route did not reach the terminal at Jersey City entirely over its own lines, however, but had access thereto by using a portion of the National Diocks Railway. The Lehigh Valley consequently incorporated the Greenville & Hudson Railway to build a railroad about three miles in length from the western end of the Jersey City Terminal, crossing the main line and Newark branch of the Central Railroad overhead, and thence to a connection with one of the Lehigh Valley's lines near Brown Place on Bergen Neck. Completion of this final link, in 1899, to form a direct and continous line of wholly Lehigh Valley ownership, from its original railroad to the waterfront on New York Bay, was a consummation of its efforts, beginning in 1871 and prosecuted diligently for twenty-eight years.


Early in 1894 arrangements were effected whereby loaded freight cars were delivered without transfer of lading to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad at Jersey City Terminal, for movement by car-float lines of the New Haven at Harlem River. Piers and yards were acquired by the Lehigh Valley in New York strategically situated on the North River and East River sides of Manhattan as well as in the Bronx.

In 1892 the Lehigh Valley was leased to The Reading Railway for a period of 999 years. Actually the arrangement lasted for approximately a year, for in 1893 a nation-wide depression occurred and the lease was cancelled by agreement. Following the depression it was apparent that a reorganization was necessary and this was accomplished without receivership.


The "Black Diamond Express"


The last years of the old century and the early part of the new saw a different conception of passenger travel by railroad. It was the era of construction and invention which pointed to modern rail transportation as we know it today. Roads vied with each other in presenting new passenger equipment to the public, fired its imagination with distinctive names for its trains.


The Lehigh Valley had plans, too, and they centered about a fast, daylight train between Jersey City and Buffalo. The skills of the designer and car builder were called upon to provide cars which would truly represent the last word-for the times-of travel, comfort and luxury. The attendant publicity surrounding the forthcoming train was given national value by the institution of a contest to determine a suitable name for it. Out of 35,000 suggestions the name submitted by Charles M. Montgomery, a hotel clerk of Toledo, Ohio, seemed most applicable. It was "The Black Diamond Express", the name , of course, symbolizing the wealth of "black diamonds", or anthracite, which had been so closely bound to the Lehigh Valley Railroad's destiny ever since its first trains were operated.


It was on May 18, 1896--just fifty years ago this year--that the Black Diamond Express made its first run in each direction Between Jersey City and Buffalo. Its description can best be made through the words of an advertisement appearing in a Lehigh Valley timetable for 1900 under the modest heading "Handsomest Train In The World":


"The first car of the train is a mammoth combination baggage and cafe car, sixty-seven feet in length, and surpasses in style and finish anything of its kind ever built.


"To the rear of the baggage compartment is the combined cafe, library, writing and smoking room for gentlemen.


"The kitchen is presided over by a corps of competent chefs, skilled in the culinary art, and is complete with every facility at hand for preparing and serving substantials and delicacies in most appetizing fashion.


"The regular dining compartment in the rear of the car is furnished with the most complete appointments.


"The day coaches are Pullman built, after the latest models. Each car contains ladies' and gentlemen's lavatories and large and comfortable smoking rooms.


"The last car of the train is a magnificent Pullman Palace Car, with seating capacity for twenty-eight persons. This is an observation car, having plate glass windows at the rear end, and wicker chairs which are so arranged as to be placed at the pleasure of the passenger.


"The train is lighted throughout (including vestibules) by Pintsch gas, heated by steam, and protected by the Westinghouse automatic brake system, and with Pullman extension vestibules (which project the full width of the car) fitted with nontelescoping device.


"Each car on the train is finished in polished Mexican mahogany, with figured mahogany panels and inlaid beveled French plate mirrors. The ceilings are of the new style Empire dome pattern, finished in white and gold."


From the day of its initial run, the Black Diamond Express became a symbol of up-to-date railroading. One of the earliest of the flickering motion pictures bore its name; while everywhere people referred to it as the "Honeymoon Express", because of its appeal to newly-married couples en route to Niagara Falls.


In the coming years, the Lehigh Valley was to give distinguished names to other ot its trains. Here are some of them-- The John Wilkes, in honor of a member of Parliament during Revolutionary days, who led a losing cause in support of the rights of the American colonists, and who is the the same Wilkes honored in the name of the city of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.


The Asa Packer, named for the guiding spirit of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, a pioneer in railroading philanthropist and founder of Lehigh University.


The Maple Leaf, honoring our Canadian neighbors to the north, whose Dominion is served by through sleeping cars between New York, Philadelphia and Toronto.


Modern Passenger and Freight Terminals


The Lehigh Valley undertook construction of new passenger and freight stations in the downtown section of Buffalo, in 1915. The passenger station is among the outstanding structures of Buffalo. The Scott Street freight terminal, immediately adjacent was opened for service in 1916. Also in 1916 Claremont Terminal, one of the most important freight handling facilities in New York harbor, was constructed in Jersey City on the shores of New York Bay. It accommodates steamships up to 35-foot draft.


As the clouds of World War I gathered, the railroad which had already aided the nation during the crises of two major wars was faced with another wartime task. For several years, before the United States actually entered the war, the Lehigh Valley hauled vast quantities of foodstuffs and munitions destined for the Allies. It was while engaged in this task that the Railroad became the center of an international cause celebre, due to an explosion at its Black Tom terminal in New York Harbor.


Since America's participation inWorld War I, Lehigh Valley passenger trains have used the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, in the heart of Manhattan.


Lehigh Valley Role in World War II


During the war which ended so recently, the Naval Training Station at Sampson, N. Y., was built. Hundreds of thousands of recruits had their "boot training" at this installation. Until recently Sampson was used as a Navy Separation Center, and the Lehigh had the pleasant task of speeding thousands of Navy veterans toward their homes. At present it is a Naval Hospital.


Another installation-this time the Army's-became a strategic place on the Lehigh Valley line of wartime service. This is Camp Kilmer, N.J., adjacent to South Plainfield. During the war Kilmer was an assembly point for the New York Port of Embarkation, and many thousands of soldiers, who were to see service on our world fronts,traveled in and out of Kilmer in Lehigh Valley trains on their way overseas. Today Kilmer has a happier role, for its reversed duty is as a separation and distribution center. A great proportion of all troops returning from overseas have spent their first night back on American soil at Kilmer. Here again, the Lehigh Valley synchronized its military train movements with the arrival of transports from abroad, to speed the homecoming Americans on their way toward civilian life. Replacements for the Army of Occupation in Europe today are processed at Camp Kilmer, thus placing it in the strategic position of aiding in maintenance of world peace.


But the installations mentioned above were only a small part of the total role played by Lehigh Valley in aiding the war effort. Always there were the freight trains--miles of them---day in and day out, hastening the implements of war toward the Atlantic Seaboard. Like all other American railroads, the Lehigh Valley was part of the greatest assembly line of material ever conceived, feeding the fabulous volume of supplies to world-wide battle fronts.


The strategic position of the Lehigh Valley fitted in well with the general design of Army plans for expediting ammunition and supplies to ships at the Atlantic seaboaard. At Caven Point, immediately adjacent to Claremont Terminal on the shores of New York Bay in Jersey City, a 3600-foot pier was built for the quick transfer of war freight from cars to ships. At Kendaia, Seneca Ordnance Depot covering 11,000 acres, adjacent to the Sampson Naval Training Station, became one of the most important storage points for explosives, ammunition and battlefield equipment. At Horseheads, N. Y., adjacent to Elmira and at Read Valley, N. J., near Somerville, large holding and reconsigning depots were constructed and the Quartermaster Corps established an important depot at Royce, N. J. All these installations were served directly by Lehigh Valley side track. In addition, open storage grounds, operated by the Lehigh Valley on behalf of the Army Service Forces, were arranged at Buffalo, Sayre, Coxton, Wilkes-Barre, Packerton, Easton and South Plainfield. At Bayonne the Navy built a base, one of its largest, and this also was served directly by Lehigh.


Still this was not all, for the civilian ecomony had to be supplied too-with food and fuel and the multitude of goods necessary to maintain the home front adequately.


Somehow, even though so many of its skilled railroaders were in uniform, in spite of shortages of material for repair and maintenance, up against every one of the operating problems faced by railroads during the most difficult period of their existence, the Lehigh Valley did its wartime job with never a falter or break in service.


With the successful termination of hostilities Lehigh Valley did its wartime job with never a falter or break in service.


With the successful termination of hostilities Lehigh Valley resumed its normal task in the transportation field. Felix R. Gerard, President of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, summed it up this way:--


"The Lehigh Valley went to war overnight and returned to peacetime operation just as quickly. The average citizen noticed little or no difference between the last trainload of war freight and the first trainload of peacetime freight".


And so, on April 21st this year, the Lehigh Valley can look back upon a volume of American history; can find itself in its pages, and be proud of what it sees.


But looking back isn't enough. It is the future that really counts.


That is why the management and employees of the Lehigh Valley Railroad look upon its Hundredth Anniversary as a milestone--a point from which to view the future with the confidence expressed in the words, "Entering a Second Century of Service."


This booklet was donated to the Wyoming Historical Society by Joseph A Brolley.

Contributed for use on the Luzerne County PAGenWeb site by Deirdre Fescina Griffith



Luzerne County PAGenWeb



1997-2023 by Mary Ann Lubinsky for the PAGenWeb Project, and by Individual Contributors


County Coordinator
Mary Ann Lubinsky