A brief History of the Lackawanna Terminal Railway

The Lackawanna Terminal Railway was formed in 1875 by the founders of the Morris and Essex Railroad. The management of the M&E knew the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western and the Jersey Central Railroad were excluding them from the coal traffic coming from the newly developed anthracite coal fields around Scranton, in Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania. Thousands of tons of coal were interchanged between the Lackawanna and CNJ at Hampton Junction, in Warren county, NJ destined to fire the coal furnaces of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. To assure themselves of a piece of this profitable coal traffic, two railroads were formed under one corporate name, The Lackawanna Terminal Railway Company.


The first railroad, chartered in Pennsylvania, was constructed in and around the city of Scranton to tap the coal fields and arrange transport of the coal across the Delaware River to connect with the M&E near Phillipsburg, NJ. The second railroad was chartered in New Jersey and built in Hoboken. This company was assigned to construct and serve the car floats, literage piers, and coal docks at various points along the lower Hudson River for shipment of finished goods and raw materials to points in New York City, Long Island, and Connecticut. The railroad known as the Hoboken Shore was once part of the Lackawanna Terminal operation.


Eventually, when the Morris and Essex and the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western were combined into one company, the two portions of the Lackawanna Terminal were absorbed in a perpetual lease agreement that remained in effect through the merger of the Erie and the Lackawanna railroads up to the formation of Conrail in 1976. At this time, two enterprising businessmen, researching properties in Hudson county, New Jersey, found a loophole in the lease that allowed them to take over the old Lackawanna Terminal properties. Since Conrail had many preferred routes over which to move traffic, the LT was able to purchase much of the track once owned by the DL&W between Buffalo, NY. and Conrail's abandoned yard in Secaucus, NJ. Most of this route was still intact except for a few short sections which were rebuilt. Trackage rights over other portions completed the system. (A route map includes the old DL&W right of way from Buffalo to Corning, NY where trackage rights are exercised between Corning and Binghamton, NY over Conrail's ex-Erie mainline. The old DL&W right of way is again used from Binghamton through Scranton, PA, over the Pocono mountains and the "Lackawanna cut-off", down the Boonton Line to Croxton Yard in Secaucus). Conrail, in its effort to rid itself of local terminal costs and concentrate on intermodal and overhead traffic, has sold the local switching rights in the area to the Lackawanna Terminal.

Customers served by the Lackawanna Terminal Railway

Major industries along the Buffalo Division such as the enormous National Chemical and Refining Company complex in Depew, New York, when approached by the new owners, offered the necessary encouragement and traffic guarantees. Other customers along the right of way include the Central New York Power Authority, whose newly built coal fired power plant accounts for several Norfolk Southern and Burlington Northern run-through coal trains a week through the Buffalo gateway. Sulphex Chemical Corporation, a Division of Lucent Technologies, a newly constructed coal modification plant which increases the BTU value of coal while eliminating much of the sulfur content (using new and highly sophisticated technology) has been built in conjunction with the Power Authority's plant and accounts for several coal trains a week. This process is necessary for power plants on the east coast to comply with the strict pollution regulations now in effect and has become a large money maker for the railroad. The Stradivarius Steel Corporation's metal fabricating plant near Corning, NY, which reclaims electrical generators and transformers and manufactures diverse steel products in various parts of its enormous mill requires a plant switcher assigned six days a week. The Amalgamated Processed Food Corporation near Atlanta, New York has been another online customer that has seen enormous growth since returning to rail from trucks for its inbound necessities such as ground corn and wheat, liquid sugar, and propane and other types of gas needed in the plant's increased production schedule. Another customer that has since returned to the fold has been the Leicester Building Materials Reload Center which unloads boxcars and flats of building materials and trucks them to approximately one hundred smaller offline customers and building sites throughout the southern tier including several nationally known "Big Box" home improvement centers. Another customer in Leicester is the Calamari Brothers Frozen Foods Warehouse which receives carloads of frozen food products to be delivered to supermarket distribution warehouses throughout the area. Last, hut not least, is the Perfection Plastic Products Corporation , in Greigsville, New York, which manufacturers everything from plastic pen barrels to plastic packaging according to orders received. Several difference types of plastic is required and some cars sit in their siding for months while others move in and out more frequently. Several years ago the Lackawanna Terminal Railway built a repair shop in East Buffalo for light maintenance of freight cars and locomotives. This facility has since been leased to an outside contractor who has taken over the light repairs formally done by the Lackawanna terminal Railway's employees. A trans-load center has been constructed at East Buffalo Junction and is used as a rail/truck transfer site for plastics, agricultural products, and heavy machinery.

Encouraged by the Lackawanna Terminal's customer oriented service, several Japanese and Korean container companies have pooled their resources into a large container yards in Secaucus, New Jersey and Mount Morris, New York to handle traffic including, but not limited to, auto parts, oriental noodles, and electronic components. Transcontinental "Land Bridge" container shipments to Secaucus give easy access to New Jersey's port-side terminals and have become a daily event. Piggyback service to Mount Morris and Secaucus with run through and pool power is also increasing in frequency. A large lumber and building materials reload center in the finger lakes region of New York State was started on what used to be a farm that bordered the right of way. Several on-line industries which were ready to move to other parts of the country because of poor rail service have promised to stay, encouraged by the railroad's new attitude.


Interchange agreements are in effect with Conrail at South Kearny, NJ, Binghamton and Buffalo, NY, CSX and Norfolk Southern in Buffalo, the Rochester and Southern at P&L Junction in Caledonia, NY, and the Delaware and Hudson/CP Rail in Binghamton. Run through agreements, including D&H grain trains to Albany and Burlington Northern and Union Pacific Powder River coal trains for export to Europe, provide a variety of motive power on line at any time. Favorable union work rules and creative tariffs allowed the LT to siphon enough overhead traffic from the competition to maintain a healthy profit margin.


From the very beginning, Lackawanna Terminal management considered the upgrading of the right of way of prime importance in maintaining the competitive edge and in the first year alone over 200,000 ties were replaced. As traffic increased, a program to replace old and worn 105 pound stick rail with 132 pound continuously welded rail was initiated. The program continues today as frequent and heavy trains keep the tie and rail gangs busy upgrading and maintaining the fixed plant. To help keep costs down and, in part, finance early maintenance, old classification yards were streamlined and the excess property sold to potential customers. In the late 1970's, the D&H Railroad, faced with the expensive rehabilitation of their mountainous mainline from Nineveh, NY into Scranton, PA, over Ararat Summit, petitioned for and received trackage rights into East Binghamton and over the Lackawanna Terminal Railway into Taylor yard in Scranton. Efficient dispatching, run-through service, and labor/ management co-operation have made the large yards unnecessary and the new customers which moved on-line created more business for the railroad.


While the Lackawanna Terminal discouraged trespassing on it's property, it's early motive power requirements made it a mecca for first generation locomotive enthusiasts. Part of the original sales agreement with Conrail provided for the transfer of forty eight locomotives. Unfortunately, for the LT, the agreement gave Conrail the pick of the "litter" and the LT had less than optimum choices. They did, however, choose wisely and ex-Lackawanna power was a favorite choice. Well maintained F-7's and GP-7's were the first to be taken as well as some of the GP-35's which had the obsolete "567" prime movers and therefore were not in Conrail's long-range plans. Ex-Reading and Penn Central SW-1500's were next. Some ex-Lackawanna C-424's and U-25B's were added to the growing list of engines. As tonnage and train frequency increased, the LT purchased used GP-40 locomotives to power their through container and piggy back trains. Ex-Burlington Northern SD-45's, were later purchased to fill a growing need for high horsepower, six axle locomotives.


All engines went through the LT shops in East Binghamton for mechanical work to ensure their reliability on the mountainous eastern portion of the railroad.


One of the more delightful surprises for the railfan is the preservation of two of the Lackawanna's most famous steam engines which the original Lackawanna had used for many years as boilers for their roundhouse in East Buffalo. An ex- Lackawanna Pocono and Mikado had been left in the roundhouse in a slowly deteriorating condition and were forgotten by management until the sale to the new owners. Since the auditors sent by Conrail to list the assets did not know what they were looking at, the two engines were designated as "boilers" in the sales contract.


The new owners, knowing the significance of what they had acquired, slowly refurbished the engines as time and money permitted. On occasions such as town anniversaries and other historical events, the railroad would pull them out of storage and run them on excursions. For the railfan, trains are designated by their direction and lead engine number. Before a CTC system was installed, the priority of trains was controlled by schedule through the dispatchers in Buffalo for the Buffalo Division (Buffalo to Binghamton), Binghamton for the Middle Division (Binghamton to Slatefort Jct.), and Croxton yard for the New Jersey Division (Slatefort Jct. to the Hudson River). Since the installation of a CTC system, dispatcher operations have been consolidated in Binghamton, New York with the railroad operating as one division. Radio conversations through the numerous repeater stations on the system give the railfan with a scanner ample information as to where to find the many trains which ply the system each day.


As you can see, from what was once two small terminal operations started in the last century has emerged a strong regional railroad with a solid industrial base in the east and numerous connections with class I railroads throughout it's system. The future appears bright, so drop by our offices, sign a release, and capture the action on the Lackawanna Terminal.

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