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Rail History Guide to
Scranton 1997

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Ahead of the Torch

The Online Journal of Railroad and Industrial Preservation

This AOTT article is being archived here with the Author's Permission. It was written in 1997, so it may contain information that is out of date.

Ahead of the Torch: Special Issue Rail History Scranton Update 1997

By Rob Davis

Editor's Note

Scranton, PA has long been a mecca for railfans and industrial history buffs. I have prepared a guide to some of the rail and industrial highlights of the Scranton area. With the recent detouring of CR coal trains through Scranton, there is addtional interest. Therefore, I have updated and improved this article from the original version which is still posted in various places around the web.

In This Issue:

  • An Overview of Scranton Railraods in 1950
  • The St. Lawrence & Hudson (CPR)
  • The Delaware-Lackawanna
  • Steamtown's Site

    An Overview of Scranton Railroads in 1950

    Map of Scranton Railroads in 1950

    Map of Scranton Railroads in 1997

    To set the stage for a look at Scranton railroading in the 1990's, let's turn back the clock to 1950 and see what kind of rail service the "Electric City" had at the twilight of the region's anthracite coal mining industry.

    Four mainlines connected Scranton with the New Jersey tidewater of New York Harbor. The Erie came in from the northeast side of town via the Wyoming Divison. This route left the Erie's NY-Chicago mainlne at Lackawaxen, PA and came to Scranton via Hawley. The Wyoming Division continued south to Avoca, by-passing downtown Scranton, which was served via a branch from Dunmore. The Erie maintained car shops in Dunmore, part of which still stand. The Erie's Scranton station is now heavily modifed as Cooper's fish restaurant. None of the Erie in Scranton is currently operated, though much of it exists.

    The New York, Ontario and Western came late to the area, and thus had the most cirticuous route. O&W trains headed north from Weehawken, NJ on the New York Central's West Shore and then turned west on their own tracks over the Catskills. The Scranton Division turned south at Hancock, NY and ended at the CNJ station along Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton. The O&W also operated the Cayuga Branch from Dickson City out the Keyser Valley to a connection with the Lehigh Valley and their yard at Coxton (Pittston). A tiny portion of O&W graqde is oerated today. The rest is long gone. Stations remain on the Scranton Division at Providence (North Scranton), Olyphant and Starlight.

    The Jersey Central Lines' Central Railroad of Pennsylvania came into Scranton from the south, passing through Allentown, Mauch Chunk and Wilkes-Barre on the way into the valley. The CNJ ended at the NYO&W interchange under Lackawanna Avenue. Today, none of the CNJ in Scranton is in operation. Bridges remain, as do stations in South Scranton and Scranton (freight).

    Scranton's primary railraod was the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western. The DL&W's Hoboken, NJ - Buffalo, NY mainline passed through the heart of the city, and the line's headquarters were located in the magnificent Scranton station. The DL&W had numerous coal branches about the city along with two more important routes: the Bloomsburg Branch south from Bridge 60 through Taylor Yard and the Keyser Valley Branch between Taylor and Cayuga Junction. Today, the Bloom and the mainline north to Bingahmton are operated as the St. Lawrence & Hudson. The DL&W was folded into the Erie-Lackawanna which was included in Conrail. Conrail sold the Sunbury-Dupont-Binghamton portion to the Delaware & Hudson, which was later purchased by CP Rail. CP then spun off the line along with many of its eastern assets and created the StL&H.

    The mainline east of Scranton is owned by local counties as far as Analomink, where Conrail ownership begins. Steamtown operates excoursion trains on the west end of the route, while the Pocono Mountain Rwy. does so on the eastern end. Frieght service is provided by the Delaware-Lackawanna, which also switches the old DL&W yard and the remaining portion of the Keyser Valley Branch.

    DL&W shop buildings still stand at Keyser Valley, the locomotive shops in Scranton are an ammo plant, Steamtown has the roundhouse and other structures, the station is a hotel and numerous towers and stations still stand between Binghamton and the Delaware Water Gap. Steamtown boasts one of the famous Keyser Valley cabooses. These cars were biult at the KV shops using the frames of old steam locmotive tenders. Several other Keyser Valley cars exist, including one at Long Branch, NJ.

    The Lackawanna and Wyoming Valley, better known as the Laurel Line, was a third-rail electric line connecting Scranton with Pittston and Wilkes-Barre. The Laurel Line ended electric operatiosn in 1952, though portions were operated by the Lackawanna, EL and Conrail for frieght service into the 1990's. Today, the Delaware-Lackawanna operates the LL's DL&W interchange track at Steamtown, as well as a short portion of the main down to the old car shops builsing along Roaring Brook. Steamtown occasionally operates a steam shuttle down this line and up the old LL frieght house track to the Scranton Iron Furnace historic site.

    Sleuths will find the floor of the old Scranton station is a parking lot next to the ex. DL&W main. Close inspection will reveal the curved platform which hugged the LL's curved station track. Portions of the frieght house remain, as do the car shops, the bridge over Roaring Brook and the South Scranton tunnel. Track is in place as far as Moosic. Intertest has been expressed in running trolley cars oevr this route, perhaps up to the baseball stadium via the switchbacks to the Erie grade at Virginia.

    The Delaware & Hudson's history in the Lackawanna Valley has been a point of confusion for many buffs becasue of the wholesale line/ownership changes which have occured. Since the early 1980's, the D&H main has actually been the old DL&W Bloomsburg Branch and Mainline from Moosic north. Prior to that, the D&H's route from Wilkes-Barre north was a combination of trackage shared with the Jersey Central to Moosic (portions of which are now operated by the StL&H (Canadian Pacific Railway). At Moosic, the Penn Division (as the D&H's line was known) stayed on the east side of the Lackawanna River, hugging the river bank at the west edge of the city. At Green Ridge, a large engine house seviced the D&H's locomotives. A branch diverged to the southeast here to climb into town and serve the D&H frieghthouse on Wyoming Avenue and the station on Lackawanna Avenue. Portions of the Penn Division were biult by the Erie Railroad. North of Carbondale, Eire trains were quite numerous. The Penn Division joined the Erie main at Lanesboro, went under the Erie's famous Starrucca Viaduct and joined the D&H's Binghamton-Albany main at Ninevah, NY.

    Today, the Penn Division from Carbondale to Moosic and portions of the branch into the city are operated by the Delaware-Lackawanna. Teh freight house is still standing, and was the subject of a Walthers scale model kit a few years back. Some interesting street-side industry remains along Wyoming Avenue.


    The St. Lawrence & Hudson (CPR)

    Canadaian Pacific Railway spin-off St. Lawernce & Hudson operations are based out of Taylor Yard, south of Scranton on Route 11 in the town of Taylor. Note to Buffs: DO NOT GO IN THE YARD. Just south of the yard, turn on Church Street and you will find the railfan bench with a great view of everything! The CNJ mainline was along the river next to the yard. The ex: D&H Penn Division, now the D-L, is across the river. The D-L and Andy Muller's Reading and Northern come here to interchange

    Trains go north to Binghamton, south to Newark (via trackage rights on R&N at Dupont and CR at Allentown) and to Harrisburg via Wilkes-Barre/Kingston and ĒR south of Sunbury. The R&N/D-L line to Pittston goes off here. This is the old DL&W Bloomsburg Branch, which Taylor Yard was a part of. The south end of the Keyser Valley Branch joins the Bloom. This is served by the D-L, which goes to an industrial park. Remains of the DL&W's Keyser Valley Shops are used by various industries.

    South of Taylor on Route 11 is Dupont, a great place to watch trains. Stand on the Route 11 bridge and face north. The D&H takes the old CNJ in from the right. R&N comes down the old LV straight ahead. They cross the creek and each other right under the bridge you are on! On the hillsides to your left and right abutments show where the old Laurel Line electrics crossed above it all! A clearing to your left and down at the site of the Heidelberg Colliery. On the other side of the bridge, a connecting track lets D&H trains veer off the Harrisburg line and onto the R&N for the run to Allentown and Newark. Trains going straight on the D&H are headed for Wilkes-Barre.

    Heading north from Taylor, the StL&H passes the restored wye at Bridge 60.This area is called Bridge 60 on the StL&H, though their trains stay on this side of the river and do not cross it. Thus, crews and dispatchers call it the "phantom bridge". D-L trains bound for Scranton and the Poconos head east here. The next spot of interest is Cayuga Junction.This is where the Keyser Valley Branch diverged from the main. Also note the O&W's "tunnel" under the StL&H near the end of the Morgan Highway. This wehre the Old & Weary's Cayuga Branch once ran. Fans of the O&W can find footings for the big bridge over Leggett's Creek in backyards just north of here.

    To chase a train north, take the Morgan Highway to the back side of Clark's Summit. Also check out Pike Street, a left off of the Morgan Highway. This is a nice phot spot for northbounds. As you head up the very steep Morgan Highway, you will be on the road Harry Chapin sang about in "30,000 Pounds of Bananas"! Shift to low gear when you come back down, or it's a "$50 fine, my friend."

    "Harry Chapin song "30,000 Pounds of Bananas" is referring to an accident where a Halem Hazzouri truck came down Moosic St. in Scranton, not the Morgan Highway. It is still Rt. 307, but the section of 307 on the other side of the city. I remember seeing what it looked like the day after the accident. The entire block on the right side going down Moosic St. from Meadow Avenue was like a war scene. Curiously enough, when Harry appeared in Scranton about two years after he recorded the song, he did not sing it, since the family of the driver requested that he didn't.  They thought he made fun of a serious incident due to the tone of the lyrics. I"m not positive about the year, but I think the accident happened sometime around 1963 or 1964." per J Kosek

    Coming into Clarks Summit, the old Lackawanna grade is above the current route on the west side of the tracks. The station still stands here on the old alignment, with a concrete interlocking tower located below it current line. A scrap yard on the west side of the tracks across from the DL&W tower features boxcars and a wood D&H caboose. A new road past the strip mall north of the scrap yard follows the old main. Note: an 0-6-0 steamer once located here is now at Steamtown, where it has been cut open to expose it's innards to Park visitors.

    From here up through Nicholson, Route 11 is built on the old Lackawanna mainline grade. The "new" main is off in the woods to the east. The next town north of the Summit is Dalton. Turn off Route 11 to find a photo spot near Waverly, or look for the Northern Electric station along the creek in this fantastically quaint town.

    The Northern Electric once connected Montrose with Scranton. Abandoned in 1927, much of this electric interurban is still visible. At Brookside, the Do-It Center east of the hughway occupies the old NE carbarn. On the west side of the highway, a bridge abutment marks where the NE climbed over the DL&W main... which you are still driving on.

    Coming into Factoryville, note the beautiful Lackawanna Creamery along the west side of the road. A wooden station stood on the side of the highway a couple of miles north of here until a fire claimed in the late 1980's. Coming into the hill above Factoryville, look for the Northern Electric grade running through town. The small station stands as a garage. You may turn here to photograph StL&H trains at La Plume, the new line station which replaced Factoryville.

    North of Factoryville, Routes 6 and 11 split. The Northern Electric grade is very apparent as it climbs out of the valley to join Route 11 on the way to Tunnel Hill. As you appraoch Tunnel Hill look into the trees to the west, This is where the original DL&W main tunnel was. Today the portal is covered with a berm of dirt. StL&H trians use the new Nicholson Tunnel and appear on a shelf above the highway north of the crest of Tunnel Hill. Here you rejoin the old main alignemnt into Nicholson.

    Take a moment to enjoy the massive Ncholson Bridge (also known as the Tunkhannock Viaduct! The Northern Electric station is uptown, while the DL&W freight house remains along Route 11. The cemetery to the right and up from Route 11 is an afternoon favorite, but please be respectful! I have seen many who haven't. Early day shots are best from the other side of the bridge. Go under, make a right, and find your hillside angle.

    North of Nicholson, Martens Creek and the NE right-of-way are to the west, while st Stl&H are up on the hillside to the east. At Hop Bottom the grades reamin from switchbacks used to get from the new line down to the old main at highway level.

    South of the Kingsley station, you'll cross the beautiful Marten's Creek viaduct. South of the bridge, make a right and backtrack up the hill side for a dramatic valley-wide shot of the bridge. Bring a long lens.

    Kingsley station stands a couple of miles north of the bridge. The Alford tower and station stand a few miles further north.

    At Hallstead you might spot where the old and new mains were parallel to each other. The station here is nicely restored. Across the Susquehanna River, Conrail's ex Erie main heads east to Starrucca Viaduct (a bout ten miles from ehre) and west to Binghamton and Buffalo. The StL&H continues on to Binghamton, following Route 7 to the yard at Conklin.

    The Delaware-Lackawanna

    One of the GVT shortlines, this great railroad runs from it's South Scranton Shops (behind Notorianni's produce warehouse on Route 11 in South Scranton) to Carbondale, Mount Pocono, and Pittston. The Moosic to Carbondale line is the D&H's old Penn Division, the line to Pittston is the ex DL&W Bloomsburg Branch and the Pocono Route is the DL&W main. D-L also switches the Steamtown are industries and the Laurel Line stub in Scranton.

    Check out the bit of street trackage the D-L serves on the old D&H in Scranton. From the mall on Lackawanna Avenue, go north a few blocks to the tracks. The Lackwanna Cold Storage building is on your right, and the wonderful D&H freight house is on the left. Look familiar modelers? It is the prototype for the Walther's Water Street Station! The Walther's kit as a bit shorter. This was once a trolley museum. This line joins up in Green Ridge with the Carbondale line. Also, one block up behind the warehouse is the old Erie Station, now a fish restaurant and heavily remodeled.

    The D-L's roster includes a varitey of Alcos, and some privately owned units are also on the property. Among the most historic pieces are a DL&W EMC switcher (one of the first diesel-electric GMs), a NYC E-8, the Alco shop switcher and a pair of Alco Centuries built for the Lackawanna.

    While the D-L is considered a friendly road, please do not tresspass on D-L or Notorianni property in South Scranton. There are plenty of public areas to view their diverse operations.

    Steamtown's Site

    The Steamtown National Historic Site is located in the middle of downtown Scranton, immediately to the southwest of Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton's main drag. The main entrance is off of Lackawanna Avenue at the north end of the site, along the Lackwanna River. When you make the turn into the site, take a moment to look around. Straight ahead of you is the former DL&W mainline and interlocking tower at Bridge 60 (now Steamtown's dispatching center.) The bridge is to your right, and is now part of a wye of the St. Lawrence & Hudson mainline (formerly DL&W/CR/D&H/CP). From here you will see Steamtown trains, StL&H trains across the river on thier main and frieghts of the Delaware-Lackawanna.

    If you turn to look over your right shoulder, you will see the former Jersey Central freight house along Lackawanna Avenue. The passenger station sat on the other side of the Avenue.

    The freight house was at the top of a switchback. The main track came in along the river bank where some bridges remain south of Lackawanna Avenue. Just on the northeast side of Lackawanna Avenue, the track became the New York, Ontario, and Western's Scranton Division, and continued up to Cadosia, New York. As an aside, an O&W station still stands at a junk yard in the Providence section of Scranton.

    On this side of the Lackawanna River under Bridge 60 is the Delaware-Lackawanna shortline's ex: Delaware & Hudson Penn Division, which (with Erie trackage rights) connected up to Ninevah, New York, running under Starucca Viaduct.

    The track immediately in front of you curving to the left through the parking lot (well, it used to) and across Lackawanna Avenue is the old DL&W/D&H interchange track. This proceeded through town, roughly parallel to Wyoming Avenue, through Olive Street Junction. The D&H station sat where the bus station is now. Careful observers will note along the river behind you where the passenger line's steep ascent to the station began.

    To your left is the government office building, which sits on the site of the original Lackawanna Station. Steamtown's station in front of you has no historical merit, though it is near where to original DL&W platforms were.

    Now pull into the parking lot. As you park your car and step out on the asphalt, you are standing where the historic Dickson Locomotive Works once built some of the most famous steam locomotives in the anthracite region. Unfortunately, the National Park Service tore down the remaining large brick locomotive works building in 1994 to create this parking lot. Oh....... (sorry, it still pains me)

    I will not describe the in-park buildings, they are self-explanatory. From the roundhouse side of the parking lot, look in to the park. On your left is the Steamtown shopping mall. The rear of the mall occupies the former DL&W mainline. Known as the China Wall, this incredible fill brought the passenger tracks up to the station. The two remaining tracks are part of the parallel freight main, which stayed lower than the station platforms. If you park behind the station/hotel, you can clearly see how the freight tracks were a low grade route. The pedestrian bridge from the mall is located where the coal dock used to sit.

    The large brick and glass building way ahead is the DL&W's locomotive erecting/heavy repair shop. Today it is used by a government contractor to make ammunition. Don't smoke to close to this building! Other DL&W shop buildings exist at that end of the park, and they are connected by a series of underground tunnels.

    Well, enjoy your park time, and please, if you see Rangers Kenny Ganz, John Mucha, or Carolyn, say "Hi". If you see Ranger Tim O'Malley, thank him, for he is the main man behind Steamtown's 1995 Fourth of July event.

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