The Lehigh and New England Railroad, Anthracite Coal Hauler


The Lehigh and New England Railroad was likely the least known of the great anthracite coal lines of the Northeast which included names like the Reading Railroad, Lehigh Valley, Erie Railroad, Central Railroad of New Jersey (Jersey Central), and Lehigh & Hudson River. The L&NE had a very tumultuous history prior to its final organization in 1895 and due to its small size, few markets served, and circuitous main line (which was even slower than the nearby Lehigh & Hudson River) it had a very hard time for much of its existence staying solvent let alone earning healthy profits. By the late 1950s with anthracite demand drying up and no other significant means of traffic to replace these losses,the L&NE called it quits in 1961 with the Jersey Central picking up the remaining pieces of the railroad.  Today, few remnants of this classic road still exist.


The L&NE’s history prior to 1895 is very confusing and difficult to decipher; only a brief summary will be provided here. The original predecessor to the system was the South Mountain & Boston Railroad which had grand dreams of connecting Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with Boston, Massachusetts via a connection with the Massachusetts Central Railroad at the state line. Alas, these hopes would not come to pass. After numerous bankruptcies, foreclosures, and name changes some of which included the Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie & New England Railroad of 1879; the Pennsylvania & New England Railroad of 1880; Delaware & Slatington Railroad of 1881; Pennsylvania, Slatington & New England Railroad (1882-1887); and the Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie & Boston Railroad from 1887 and 1895 the Lehigh & New England Railroad was formed in 1895 following receivership of the Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie & Boston.

By the time the L&NE was formed the founder’s original plans had fallen far short of either Boston or Harrisburg. Worse still was the fact that the railroad served almost no cities of importance except for the Allentown/Bethlehem area. At its peak the L&NE’s system stretched a little over 170 miles with a connection at Tamaqua, Pennsylvania with the Central Railroad New Jersey running to the northeast and interchanging with the New York, New Haven & Hartford (New Haven) at Maybrook, New York over the famous Poughkeepsie Bridge. There were also an important nearby interchange with the New York, Ontario & Western at Campbell Hall along with the New York Central and New Haven at that location.  Additionally, just to the south the Erie Railroad provided another connection at Goshen, New York. 

Other connections at the following locations included the Erie at Pine Island, New York; New York, Susquehanna & Western at Hainesburg Junction and Swartswood Junction; Pennsylvania at Martins Creek, Pennsylvania; Lehigh Valley at Stockertown, Catasauqua, and Lizard Creek Junction, Pennsylvania; Delaware, Lackawanna & Western at Portland and Bath Junction, Pennsylvania; Jersey Central at Bethlehem and Hauto, Pennsylvania; Chestnut Ridge Railway at Palmerton, Pennsylvania; and the Reading at Tamaqua, Pennsylvania.  The L&NE also had a branch extending south from Benders Junction, a few miles north of Slatington which ran south to Bath, Pennsylvania splitting off as three different branch lines (one of which connected with the L&HR again at Martins Creek to the east). For a complete, more detailed map of the railroad’s web-like system please click here.

(The below system map is dated 1938.)

While the L&NE served as a bridge line similar to that of neighbor L&HR as well as predominantly moving anthracite coal the road also moved a large amount of cement from its branch lines around Bath. Still, the railroad’s reliance on coal and its softening demand, particularly following World War II forced the company to call it quits on October 31, 1961.  This move saw the network's remnants acquired by the Jersey Central, which managed it under the subsidiary name of Lehigh & New England Railway. The Central Railroad of New Jersey has gone by a number of different names from CRRNJ and CNJ to Jersey Central and its aforementioned official designation.  Regardless of its many names the CNJ was a New Jersey institution for years although it was only regional in operation and at its peak boasted a system of just over 700 miles.


The Jersey Central served much of New Jersey along with northwestern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. via a partnership with the B&O. The demise of the CNJ was the result of a number of factors including a region too saturated with railroads, stiff government regulation, and markets already served by more efficient competitors (such as the Pennsylvania/Penn Central). However, for all of these issues a heavy tax burden by the state of New Jersey only worsened the railroad's situation over the years and ultimately led to the railroad’s bankruptcy and inclusion into Conrail during the spring of 1976. After Conrail took over the CNJ much of the L&NE, along with the Jersey Central itself, was abandoned its tackage considered excess, redundant, and not meeting the required profit margin.

While the Lehigh & New England never operated a large diesel locomotive roster it did own a near all-Alco fleet including S-2s, RS-2s, and FAs/FBs. After the CNJ took over operations the railroad began using a small fleet of GP7s, RS-3s, and a single RSD-4. One final mention about the L&NE’s steam locomotive fleet is that its largest examples used in service were 2-8-2 Mikados and 2-10-0 Decapods. While the L&NE is often a forgotten Northeastern system a result of its cessation of operations in 1961 the company has an interesting and colorful history as poignant as the elegant paint scheme worn by its locomotives (black with white pinstriping). 

Diesel Locomotive Roster

Lastly, there is one former L&NE diesel locomotive known to exist, S-2 #611 owned by the Emporia Grain Elevator in Emporia, Indiana but currently is listed as for sale with a weak generator. There are three others which possibly exist, RS2s #653, #660, and #663.

The American Locomotive Company

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
S2611-6161948-19496
RS2651-663194913
FA-1701-7101948-194910
FB-1751-7531948-19493

Whitcomb Locomotive Works

Model Type Road Number Date Built Quantity
65DE19a601 (Ex-U.S. Army)19441

Steam Locomotive Roster

Class Type Wheel Arrangement
B-5Switcher0-6-0
E-14Consolidation2-8-0
F-1Decapod2-10-0
G-1Mikado2-8-2
I-5Switcher0-8-0

(Thanks to Don Dorflinger for help with the information on this page.)



For more on the fallen flag railroads like the Lehigh & New England consider one (or all) of Mike Schafer's Classic American Railroads books (listed below is the first in the series). He has published three thus far covering virtually all of the most well known fallen flags. I have all three in my collection and highly recommend them, the photography is excellent and every railroad is covered in brief albeit thorough detail (included are system maps and, when applicable, notable passenger trains each system operate). If you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.

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