The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad: The Route of Phoebe Snow


The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (better known as simply the Lackawanna and not to be confused with the current shortline, Delaware-Lackawanna), while never one of the Northeast’s largest railroads (like most, it was dwarfed by bitter railroad rivals New York Central and Pennsylvania) it was perhaps the grandest, which it is likely best remembered for; builder of the New Jersey Cutoff (between Port Morris, New Jersey and Slateford, Pennsylvania) and the Nicholson-Hallstead Cutoff these magnificent feats of engineering were home to several stunning viaducts (made from reinforced concrete), the most notable of which was Tunkhannock Viaduct (also known as Nicholson Viaduct).

An Erie Lackawanna freight is traveling past the signals at Marion, Ohio powered by RS3 #1045 as the train exits the yard during March of 1976 just days before the official start of Conrail. Note to the center of the photo and behind the train is AC Tower.

The DL&W officially has its beginnings in 1851 when in October 20th of that year the Lackawanna & Western Railroad operated its first scheduled train between Scranton and Great Bend, Pennsylvania (originally the L&W was known as the Liggetts Gap Railroad until it changed its name in 1851). The Lackawanna gained its name in March of 1853 when it merged with the Delaware & Cobbs Gap Railroad (which constructed a line south of Scranton) to form the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.  Although the DL&W would have a number of smaller railroads making up its system the final integral pieces of the railroad was the Morris & Essex (which built a line between Newark and Morristown, New Jersey) and New York, Lackawanna & Western (which built a line between Binghamton and Buffalo, New York).

Two EL GP7s, #1243 and #1213, along with several other units behind them are at the Bison Yard's servicing facilities located in Attica, New York on September 6, 1972.

With the ownership of these lines the DL&W’s main line was basically complete and, in all, stretched from Buffalo, New York to Hoboken, New Jersey just across the Hudson River from downtown New York City (Manhattan).  Along with its renowned Hoboken Terminal train station the DL&W is famous for its two cutoffs and the impressive viaducts that were found along both. Although both cutoffs featured several viaducts including Martins Creek Viaduct and Paulins Kill Viaduct (Paulins Kill and Slateford Viaduct are located along the now-defunct New Jersey Cutoff), Tunkhannock dwarfs them all (named for the small creek which runs below it). Topping out at 240 feet above the valley floor and roughly a half-mile long at 2,375 feet the structure is a striking sight (made all the more impressive by Lackawanna R.R. located across the center arch).

Obviously, because the Lackawanna was not a large railroad it likewise did not have a large, notable passenger train fleet. However, its premier passenger train between Buffalo and Hoboken, the Phoebe Snow should most certainly be mentioned (the train would replace the railroad’s former flagship run, the Lackawanna Limited). This train was a marketing sensation (to promote the train’s clean ride because of its use of anthracite coal, prior to the days of diesel motive power) and the use of an artistic-rendition of a woman as its centerpiece was also a hit (the railroad would even go on to hire a model to promote the train and she became one of the most popular in New York City at the time!).  The DL&W was also a very well managed company; beginning with president Samuel Sloan who led the company from 1867 to 1899 the railroad would never fall into receivership during its entire lifetime.

This closeup, side-profile shows two EL E8As laying over at the Marion Yard during March of 1976. By this date the passenger locomotives had been relegated to freight assignments.

Part of this success was due to the DL&W having a diverse traffic base and tapped the once lucrative anthracite coal found in the region.   The end for the DL&W began in the 1950s when it began discussing a possible merger with rival Erie Railroad, and the two would later formally merge in the fall of 1960 forming another now classic fallen flag the Erie Lackawanna Railroad (EL). While somewhat successful the merger and the savings it brought could not stave off the Northeast’s biggest problem starting in the 1960s, simply too many railroads vying for a smaller and smaller traffic base as manufacturing centers slowly began to dry up in the region.

While the railroad soldiered on and attempted to become part of the Norfolk & Western Railway’s system, Hurricane Agnes of 1972 changed everything and the storm caused havoc to EL’s lines forcing it into bankruptcy. Already in a precarious financial situation and being turned down by a possible purchase by the Chessie System the company eventually opted to be included in the new Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), which already was being formed to pick up the pieces of several other bankrupt lines in the region, most notably the disastrous Penn Central Corporation.

An example of the Lackawanna's original livery, worn by Norfolk Southern heritage unit SD70ACe #1074 during the 30th Anniversary celebration in Spencer, North Carolina on July 3, 2012. The scheme is actually quite close to what the EL would adopt as its own.

Diesel Locomotive Roster

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
HH600401-4081933-19348
HH660409-41119403
S2475-4911945-194917
RS3901-9181950-195218

The Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
SW1427-437194011
NW2461-46519455
SW8501-5111951-195311
SW9551-5601951-195310
SW1200561-56819578
FTA601A-604A, 601C-604C, 651A-654A194512
FTB601B-604B, 651B-654B19458
F3A605A-606A, 605C-606C, 621A-621C, 655A-662A, 801A-805A, 801C-805C1946-194722
F3B605B-606B, 621B, 655B-662B, 801B-805B1946-194715
F7A611A-611C, 631A-636A, 631C19499
F7B611B, 632B-636B19496
E8A810-820195111
GP7951-9701951-195320

Fairbanks Morse

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
H24-66 (Train Master)850-8611953-195612
H16-44930-93519526

General Electric

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
44-Tonner51-5319483

One of the Lackawanna's powerful Class Q-2 4-8-4 Poconos #1616 sits at the engine terminal in Buffalo, New York awaiting its next assignment during May of 1928.

Steam Locomotive Roster

Road Number Type Wheel Arrangement
4, 7Switcher0-4-0T
8Switcher0-6-0T
13-146Switcher0-6-0
151-185, 201-260Switcher0-8-0
301-399, 740-799, 821-899Consolidation2-8-0
501-589Mogul2-6-0
801-820Twelve-Wheeler4-8-0
933-999American4-4-0
1001-1052Ten-Wheeler4-6-0
1101-1193Pacific4-6-2
1151-1154Hudson4-6-4
1201-1262, 2101-2150Mikado2-8-2
1401-1454, 2201-2235Mountain4-8-2
1501-1505, 1601-1650Poconos4-8-4

Heading up an eastbound local is EL GP7 #1225 as it travels along the Buffalo Division near Attica on March 29, 1976.

Notable Lackawanna Passenger Trains

Phoebe Snow

Interstate Express: (Syracuse - Philadelphia)

Owl: (Hoboken - Buffalo)

New Yorker: (Chicago - Hoboken)

New York Mail: (Buffalo - Hoboken)

Pocono Express: (Hoboken - Buffalo)

Twilight: (Hoboken - Buffalo)

Westerner:  (Hoboken - Chicago)


An EL bay-window caboose rolls by AC Tower in Marion as it brings up the end of a freight train during March of 1976.

While the railroad soldiered on and attempted to become part of the Norfolk & Western Railway’s system, Hurricane Agnes of 1972 changed everything and the storm caused havoc to Erie Lackawanna's lines, forcing it into bankruptcy following an already shaky financial situation.  Interestingly, the EL had been eyed by the Chessie System for possible inclusion into its system, giving a more direct access into the Northeast.  However, in the end the company eventually opted for inclusion into the new Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), already in the process of being formed by picking up pieces of several other bankrupt lines in the region, most notably the disastrous Penn Central system.  Unfortunately, looking back Conrail abandoned hundreds of miles that could still be viable today, such as DL&W's Lackawanna/New Jersey Cutoff.

Share Your Thoughts

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below. Please note that while I strive to present the information as accurately as possible I am aware that there may be errors. If you have potential corrections the help is greatly appreciated.