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The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western

The DL&W will always be my favorite railroad. As I began commuting into New York along the Gladstone branch only 4 years ago, I just barely realized that there were no more CNJ, Lehigh Valley & Pennsy that I grew up with. During the commute into the city I saw the various DL&W brands on structures. I began to become extremely interested in the DL&W and then NJ Railroading in general. It is this experience that prompted me to start this page back in 1996.

1) The Company

The DL&W was chartered in 1851 as the Lackawanna and Western to become an anthracite carrier. Construction was completely quickly and the broad gauge railroad was in business. In 1853 when the Delaware & Cobbs Gap railroad was merged into the L&W, the new railroad became the DL&W. This gave the railroad a route to the Delaware River.

Soon the DL&W set its sites on the markets in New York. Its first lease was the Warren Railroad in 1855. This railroad ran from the water gap to a connection with the CNJ at Hampton Jct. The DL&W then negotiated trackage rights with the CNJ and had an outlet for its Lackawanna county anthracite.

This arrangement lasted 13 years. In 1868, the DL&W leased the Morris and Essex. The Morris and Essex allowed the DL&W to stop using the CNJ and opened up its own Hudson terminal. Shortly after this, the DL&W started to change from broad to standard gauge. By using a third rail, they could run both type simultaneously, but this would come in an end on 05/27/1876. On that day, the entire system was standardized.

While activity in NJ was focused on reached the Hudson, the other end starting looking toward the "Western" in the name. The DL&W leased the following NY railroads:

The Cayuga & Susquehanna Railroad
The Lackawanna & Bloomsburg
The New York, Lackawanna & Western (Binghamton, NY- Buffalo, NY)
The Valley Railroad (Great Bend, PA - Binghamton, NY)
The Syracuse, Binghamton & NY (Binghamton, NY - Syracuse, NY)

This completed most of the modern day Lackawanna in first years of the 20th century.

In 1899, the most important event in the Lackawanna's history occurred, William Truesdale became president of the line. He immediately started running Sunday trains for the first time in the DL&W's history. And, he built a new terminal in Hoboken.

This is also the time that the famous Phoebe Snow was introduced to extol the virtues of buring hard Anthracite Coal in its locomotives.

But, his biggest claim to fame is the Lackawanna Cut-Off an other engineering projects that the DL&W undertook.

The Cut-Off is remarkable even today. It only saved 11 miles, but grades were almost non-existent following the work. Miles of fill and bridges cross Sussex County, NJ. The most visible reminder is the viaduct (1,450 ft long) crossing Rt. 80 a few mile before the gap. The Paulin's Kill Viaduct is another bridge almost as large.

The largest bridge built during this time was the Tunkhannock viaduct in Pennsylvania. This bridge is the largest concrete structure in the world. It is almost 300 feet from the floor of the valley to the top of the arches.

It was around this time, that the DL&W was called "mile for mile, the most advanced railroad in America"

Following the cut-off the Lackawanna did not rest on its Laurels. Next, the DL&W set out to electrify all its suburban commuter runs. Hoboken to Dover and down the Gladstone branch were electrified. This service began operating in 1931, with Thomas Edison at the throttle of the first engine.

Construction slowed down at this time and only two more stations were constructed: A new Syracuse station (now NYS&W) and the last was a station in Basking Ridge, NJ (Lyons - now NJT).

The Lackawanna enjoyed the war-time boon as did the other railroads. By this time, the Lackawanna was much more then an Anthracite railroad. In spite of the slogans, the DL&W was less dependant on the coal then most of its neighbors.

The Lackawanna was watching traffic drop and profits erode in the post war economy. While there did not appear to be any immediate problem, the management was looking ahead. This started with consolidating passenger facilities with the Erie in Jersey City. Piggy back service was introduced in 1954. The DL&W was very well suited to this due to the wide road bed from the broad gauge days. A fact that was later lost on Conrail.

When hurricane Dianne hit in 1955, the DL&W was hit very hard and even shifted to Lehigh Valley tracks in parts of Pennsylvania.

This started talks between the Erie, Delaware & Hudson and the Lackawanna. All three railroad shared trackage within line of site of each other for long stretches. The D&H later bowed out, but in 1959 the merger details were worked out. And, on 10/17/1960, the DL&W died and the Erie-Lackawanna was born.

One item of note, the DL&W alone never filed for bankruptcy in its existence. The merger with the Erie, had it worked smoother, came very close to allowing the Erie-Lackawanna to go at it alone, but that's another story.

2) The Equipment

The Electric MUs gained some fame. This was mainly due to the fact that they ran in service for a very long time due to the DL&W's non-standard voltage.

In steam service, Camelbacks were used, of course. Although the DL&W stopped using them much quicker then the Reading & CNJ, having converted them to standard engines. The DL&W Pocono's are among the most powerful Northern class (4-8-4) ever built. In fact, some books rate them as the most powerful.

When the DL&W Dieselized, they bought some GE switchers and EMD F and E units and then a few GP-7s and GP-9s just before the merger. They also seemed to be the only railroad that really liked have the Fairbanks Morse Trainmasters. Finally, a few Alco RS-3s were also on the roster.

3) Named Trains

The Lackawanna Limited (Hoboken-Buffalo)

The Phoebe Snow (Hoboken-Buffalo)

The Merchant's Express (Hoboken-Scranton)

The Pocono Express (Hoboken-Pocono)

4) What's Left

Where to start? The Hoboken terminal is the finest train station ever built in New Jersey and one of the most attractive in the country.

The main line is used by NJT from Hoboken to Dover. The ROW west of Dover is intact and a possible candidate for commuter service.

The Gladstone branch has changed very little. Only one station, Minebrook, and some siding are missing since the merger.

The DL&W Roundhouse in Scranton is now Steamtown and another impressive station and former corporate offices is now a hotel a few blocks away.

There are many more stations and facilities scattered throughout Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

There are a few passenger cars remaining. But, only two steam engines, both non-operational exist. One is in Scranton: Mogul (2-6-0) #565. The other, in St. Louis, had become a personal crusade for Perry Shoemaker to bring back east. 

Mr. Shoemaker was the last president for the DL&W and recently passed away in Florida, on Christmas day - 1999, he was 93.

Very little of the diesel power survived into Conrail. Most of it appears to have been scrapped. I don't know of any road diesels left, although they have been some repainted. Including this pair of F9s and the GP-7. The only remaining DL&W original that I have seen is a small GE-44 tonner.

Of course, the DL&W never painted a GP-7 like this (they were Green) and the DL&W never owned an F9. But, they do look nice!

5) For more information

Only one name comes to mind: Thomas Taber. His books are the bible of the Lackawanna. The original set demands a high price, but they are currently available in reprints at the Steamtown gift shop and other places.

Morning Sun has a good book called "Lackawanna Trackside" which has some nice color photos.

The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western: 1851-1960

(c) 1997 - Phil Paone