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Erie Lackawanna Railroad

1) The Company

The company was formed by a merger between long-time rivals the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western and the Erie.  On October 17th, 1960 the Erie-Lackawanna was formed.   On paper this was a very nice plan.  The two railroads had duplicate trackage that could be consolidated.  They had already consolidated passenger operations to the DL&W Hoboken Terminal before the merger.  Each side had a strength: The DL&W had a nice balance sheet, an efficient operation and good facilities.  The Erie had good online traffic sources and a gateway into Chicago.  In spite of the operational superiority of the DL&W, the Erie was the senior partner. 

The combination of operations was bumpy, but did work.  Both companies had posted pre-merger losses.  However, in 1965, the EL did what the Penn-Central only dreamed about; they turned a profit.  The plan seemed to be working as a strong, wide-clearance route was formed from the Hudson Waterfront to Buffalo and through to Chicago, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

However, in spite of the good intentions, the environment was working against them.  There was simply too much trackage and too little traffic in the North East.   Money losing passenger operations were cut back over the 60s until only the New York to Chicago Erie Lackawanna Limited survived.  That too made its last run in 1970.  Because of this, the EL elected not to participate in Amtrak.

Commuter Operations were a slightly different story.  From the share amount of stations, it looks like the Erie Lackawanna handled more commuters in the Garden State then all other railroads combined.    After some efforts to shock the state into action, New Jersey started subsidizing commuter service in New Jersey.  This aid was minimal at first, but slowly the aid increased to a high of $80 Million in the early 70s.  This money was used to operate as well as repair or replace aging facilities and equipment.   The MU units operating on the electrified portions stilled remained from the DL&W days and would outlive the EL.

In spite of the efficiency gains and passenger subsidies the EL continued to struggle, losing money every year. However, unlike its neighbors, the EL wasn't bleeding quite as fast.  The EL actually had a fair chance of going it alone.  After negotiations to merge with the Norfolk & Western broke down, the EL still functioned.  However, it was not to be, on June 26th, 1972 disaster struck.  Hurricane Agnus crippled large parts of the Railroad causing almost $10 Million in damages.  The EL filled for bankruptcy, becoming the last of the major railroads to fall. 

However, even though the bankruptcy was declared, the EL was still a comparatively strong road.  In fact, the courts had recommended that the EL attempt to reorganize and go it alone.  But, the EL decided to fall into Conrail instead.  In hindsight, its tough to say what could have happened.  But, with the relaxing of FRA regulations, if the EL had held on into the late 70s, it might have survived. But....

With the Ann Arbor, Jersey Central, Lehigh & New England, Lehigh Valley, Penn Central and Reading, the EL joined
Conrail on April 1, 1976. 

2) The Equipment

EMD: RS-2, RS-3, GP-7, GP-9, E-8, F-3,F-7, SW-7, SD-45
Fairbanks-Morse: Trainmaster & Baby Trainmaster
Alco: FA 
GE: U33, U34, U36
Electric MU

3) The Named Trains

Phoebe Snow (Hoboken - Buffalo)
Erie Lackawanna Limited (Hoboken - Chicago)
Lake Cities 
Pocono Express (Hoboken - Chicago)
Atlantic & Pacific
New Yorker

4) What's Left

I don't know of anything that exists in NJ that is really Erie Lackawanna.  All the structures and tracks were from the DL&W or Erie.  

5) For More Information

"Erie Lackawanna: Death of an American Railroad", by H. Roger Grant

Erie Lackawanna Home Page - The first railroad home page that I ever read

Erie Lackawanna Railroad: 1960-1976

(c) 2000 - Phil Paone