The Lehigh and New England Railroad, "Industry's Freight Route"
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. For more information about the L&NE please click here.
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.
(Thanks to Don Dorflinger for help with the information on this page.)
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.
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.
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).