The Erie Railroad

The Erie Railroad is sometimes forgotten as a classic fallen flag because of its disappearance over a decade before most other lines began to fall. Until its merger in 1960 with the Lackawanna (to form the Erie Lackawanna) the railroad was another mid-sized Class I in the East Coast-Midwest market stretching from New York/Jersey City to Chicago. Throughout its existence the company was troubled with bankruptcies and organizations but it was able, through the 1950s, to find a degree of success in a market extremely saturated with many other, and larger carries (such as the New York Central, Pennsylvania, and Baltimore & Ohio just to name a few).

During the early EL era a former Erie FA-1 rests at the yard in Chicago with several other units on April 21, 1964.

The Erie has its beginnings dating all of the way back to 1832, just five years after the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, when it was chartered that year by the Governor of New York, De Witt Clinton as the New York & Erie Railroad to build a rail line in the southern part of the state linking Piermont, New York with Dunkirk on Lake Erie. It was finally able to complete this main line by 1851. Over the years it acquired, leased, or built new lines and by the late 19th century it had reached points such as Buffalo, Rochester, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis.   Having said that, gaining access to these new markets was a very labor intensive and difficult task because of two reorganizations (as the Erie Railway in 1859 and Erie Railroad in 1895) and a proxy fight by Cornelius Vanderbilt (of New York Central fame) to take over the company in the mid 1860s (which ultimately failed and the Commodore lost all of his holdings in the railroad).

By the turn of the 20th century things began to look up for the Erie although it did suffer one final reorganization (in 1941). Under the guidance of Frederick Underwood the railroad carved out a living in the hotly contested New York-Chicago market and after the Van Sweringen brothers (of Chesapeake & Ohio and Denver & Rio Grande Western railroad fame) gained ownership of the railroad in the mid-1920s, propelling the railroad to even further heights. Unfortunately the brothers passed away in the 1930s so it is hard to tell just what the Northeast rail map would have looked like had they lived and been allowed to foresee whatever plans they had for the many properties under their control (they were excellent railroad managers).

Unfortunately for the railroad while the period during World War II traffic was prosperous, this was short-lived and by the 1950s an already competitive New York-Chicago market began to become even more so when other modes of transportation such as trucks and planes began to eat away at traffic. – As a side note about its passenger operations, they were meager at best because the railroad was much slower in nearly every major market to the likes of its larger competitors, although many of its trains soldiered on until nearly 1970 under the Erie Lackawanna banner. - During this time along with its long-time competitor, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the two railroads began to see a benefit of merger and thus started to merge duplicate operations in the 1950s resulting in a joint merger in 1960 as the Erie Lackawanna.

Since color photos of the railroad's original livery are somewhat difficult to come by due to the early date of the EL merger, here is an example of what it looked like, featured on Norfolk Southern heritage unit SD70Ace #1068 at the 30th Anniversary celebration in Spencer, North Carolina on July 3, 2012.

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. Despite the fact that the new railroad soldiered on and attempted to become part of the Norfolk & Western Railway’s system, Hurricane Agnes of 1972 changed everything and the storm wreaked havoc to EL’s lines and forcing it into bankruptcy.

Diesel Locomotive Roster

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
Boxcab2019261
HH-660302-30519394
S1306-3211946-195016
S2500-5251946-194926
S4526-5291951-19524
FA-1725A-735A, 725D-735D1947-194922
FB-1725B-735B, 725C-735C1948-194922
FA-2736A-739A, 736D-739D1950-19518
FB-2736B-739B, 736C-739C1950-19518
PA-1850-861194912
PA-2862-86319512
RS2900-913, 950-954194919
RS3914-933, 1005-10381950-195354

EL Alco S2 #524 doesn't appear to be exerting too much effort as it hums along at Hammond, Indiana during a cold spring day on March 31, 1964.

The Baldwin Locomotive Works/Lima Locomotive Works



Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
DS-4-4-660381-3851946-19495
DS-4-4-750386-38919494
DS-4-4-1000600-60119462
S12617-6281951-195212
LS-1000650-659194910
DRS-4-4-15001100-110519496
AS161106-1120, 11401951-195216
DRS-6-6-15001150-1161195012

Class K-1 4-6-2 Pacific #2557 leads a passenger train under the signal tower at CNJ's Jersey City Terminal on December 13, 1948.

The Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
SW136019481
NW2401-4271939-194927
SW7428-4401950-195213
FTA700A-705A, 700D-705D194412
FBA700B-705B, 700C-705C194412
F3A706A-710A, 706D-710D, 800A-806A, 800D-806D1947-194924
F3B706B-710B, 706C-710C, 800B-806B1947-194917
F7A711A-712A, 711D-712D, 807A, 807D1950-19516
F7B711B-712B, 711C-713C, 807B1950-19526
E8A820-833195114
GP71200-1246, 1400-14041950-195252
GP91260-126519566

General Electric

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
44-Tonner2619461

One of the railroad's hefty 2-8-4 Berkshires, Class S-2 #3327, leads a freight train into Chicago on August 24, 1948.

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
C1 Through C3Switcher0-8-0
H20 Through H22 (Various)Consolidation2-8-0
J1, J2Decapod2-10-0
K1 Through K5 (Various)Pacific4-6-2
L1Articulated0-8-8-0, 2-8-8-2
M1Articulated2-6-8-0
N1 Through N3Mikado2-8-2
P1Articulated2-8-8-8-2T (Triplex)
R1 Through R3Santa Fe2-10-2
S1 Through S4Berkshire2-8-4

Two EL RS3s and other units take a break in Chicago on April 21, 1964.

Notable Passenger Trains

Erie Limited: Connected Jersey City with both Buffalo and Chicago.

Lake Cities: Connected Jersey City with Cleveland, Buffalo, and Chicago.

Pacific Express: (Jersey City - Chicago)

Atlantic Express: (Chicago - Jersey City)

Midlander: (Jersey City - Chicago)

Southern Tier Express: Connected Buffalo with Hornell and Jersey City.

Mountain Express: (Jersey City - Hornell)

Tuxedo: (Jersey City - Port Jervis)



An EL SD45-2, #3676, and SDP45 #3646 head westbound through the yard in Marion, Ohio with a freight in tow during March of 1976.

Already in a precarious financial situation and being turned down by a possible purchase by the Chessie System the company eventually entered bankruptcy protection and 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. Sadly, after the EL folded into the Conrail system most of the Erie through Ohio and points west were outright abandoned in favor of PRR and NYC routes.  Today few traces of the railroad's superior double-track main line through these areas can be found.

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