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Allentown branchlines
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   Author  Topic: Allentown branchlines  (Read 42059 times)
A-townbranchfan
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Allentown branchlines
 
« on: Nov 4th, 2010, 6:13pm »
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I'm a new member, but old to Allentown, PA branchlines... especially the Valley's Barber and West End.  Have a good collection of slides covering both former branches and will share some images in future postings... once I get the hang of my new computer.  Reading through older postings, I'm happy to see those lines still pop up in conversation from time to time, though some of the data reported was not correct.  Looking forward to helping clarify some things, especially about the WEB.
 
I'm also interested in the former L&NE branch (later operated by the Valley) from Bethlehem to Allentown, though I only once shot action (by Martin Tower) along that line myself.  I can still remember the freight cars parked along the former Freihofer's Bakery siding, visible from Union Blvd.  Would love to hear more about that line from anyone who remembers it well.  I knew most of the sidings from walking parts of the branch when it was still in service, but rarely saw action.  Hope to learn some things (and see some pictures) of locals on the East Side of town.
 
The yellow at top was the West End branch.  The pink at bottom was the Barber Quarry branch.  Below the Barber branch was the RDG's Mack Branch.  The blue to the right was the Valley main.  The blue cutting in to the left then back to the right was the Jordan Loop.  The dotted blue/yellow was initially Jordan Loop track, then became the West End branch lead after the JL was taken out of service.  The pinkish mass of tracks was the Linden St. yard, now R.J.Corman.  Also shown in purple was the CNJ/RDG "Allentown Terminal" trackage... as well as parts of the former CNJ & RDG mains.  Hope this gives you a clearer image of the way things used to look about 45 to 50 years ago.
 



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davidyur
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #1 on: Nov 5th, 2010, 1:21pm »
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I'm originally from Allentown and remember as a child watching the 1:18 Black Diamond go by Allentown station.  
 
A while back (November 17, 200 I posted a topic "LV Trackage/Allentown  
PA Station", and there are many interesting replies in there, including old maps showing the Foundary Branch of the LV that went from the freight main over to the passenger line in front of the station, crossing the Jersey Central.  I think if you go back a few pages in the forum and find that topic you'll find the info in that post very interesting.
 
I would very much like to see your photos when you're able to post them.
 
davidyur


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BlackDiamondRR
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #2 on: Nov 5th, 2010, 4:46pm »
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   If I'm not mistaken, I thought I once saw reference to a "J. Harry Jones Coal Co." on one of the Allentown branches. Can anyone tell me if a known photo exists?
A kit for a J. Harry Jones facility exists in S scale, but I can't authenticate its accuracy.
     Bud


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ClearBoard
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #3 on: Nov 6th, 2010, 7:00am »
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Welcome Aboard A-townbranchfan.  Hope you enjoy the ride.  
 
Many years have passed since my boots walked the west end and quarry branches – plenty of stuff to see between the 50s & 70s.  And there's a jewel or two left, if one knows were to look.  As for the LNE branch....typically caught an occasional car at PP&L and the bakery - just off Union Blvd.  Activity at the A-town LNE station area was hard to catch.  Glad the station was preserved - great example of adaptive reuse.  
 
As for Harry Jones - it's pretty decent.  The real McCoy sat along N. 13th Street near Gordon.  Ritter & Smith - a big, old, red weather-beaten lumber storage building – sat to the east, the streets ran along the south and west sides, and the west end yard sat to the north (see Bing maps).  A siding swung off the branch, entering the bunker property from the north – will check maps regarding trailing or facing point switch when I get home.  The roof line of the bunker ran north-south, paralleling 13th.  FYI, the model is also available in HO and O scale, too.  If I recall, the gentlemen may also come out with a compressed version of the lumber shed, too.  Spoke with him at TCA York – he may be at First Frost.  
 
Looking forward to seeing your photos. See if I can blow-off dust from maps (and memory) when I get back home.  Davidyur was right, we had a nice time gas-bagging about the branches a year or two ago - came across a few things since then.  Kicked around the notion of organizing a field trip if there was enough interest, grab a Yocco or two, but first things first.  
 
Best regards,
 
ClearBoard


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #4 on: Nov 6th, 2010, 12:58pm »
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Happy to see some interest still exists regarding the lines that produced or received the freight off of the well-ballasted Valley mains.
 
davidyur: Thanks for the information regarding what I knew as the "Jordan Loop".  I'll try to find your posting from a few years back and see what I missed.
 
BlackDiamondRR: My grandparents used to live at 1324 Gordon Street, less than 1/2 block from Harry Jones Coal Pocket.  I've got a couple of slides in my collection that show mostly the north, south and west sides.  It was quite a structure.  Again, I'll share an image in the weeks ahead.  Regarding a model version, ClearBoard talks of the person who has such a structure available, and I've seen his products at the First Frost and Spring Thaw meets in Allentown in the past.  I'm currently building a Campbell kit (you know, those all-wood kits that take a lifetime to put together) for "Quick's Coal".  While it only slightly resembles the Harry Jones' building, it will become Jones Coal Pocket on my fully designed but yet-to-be built HO layout.
 
ClearBoard: Your message sparked my interest the most for it seems like you and I shared common interest in what was happening off the main tracks.  The switch to service Jones' Coal Pocket was a points-facing switch which sat just west of the 13th Street crossing.  Due to the closeness of the 12th Street Yard to my grandparents' house, I spent countless hours in that area from the early 60s on.  I never saw service to that siding, but I still remember the wooden planks which covered the space between the rails (over the coal pit) on the short siding which had once serviced Jones.
 
And to clarify a couple of mistakes I saw in earlier postings.  The West End Branch was last serviced by Conrail in June of 1982 when a Penn Central gondola was hauled away from Compressed Steel at 13th & Sumner Avenues.  Trexler Lumber at 16th & Liberty (also Shelly's Lumber) were no longer serviced by rail when the huge fire hit those buildings on March 31st, 1973.  The last car in the 12th Street yard was an ACY boxcar placed next to the ramp which used to be on the southern end of the yard.  The track leading to the center tracks previously used for most truck/train interchange at the 12th St. Yard had a broken railhead at the 13th street crossing a year or so before actual abandonment of the line and was never repaired by Conrail.  The same problem later occured at the Allen Street (west of 17th St) crossing in the final year of service.  While I tend to remember that rail being repaired shortly before abandonement, I never saw a train head that far up the line again.    
 
Thanks for the input, guys.  Be patient with me regarding posting some pictures.  As soon as I get the hang of this new PC, I'll share some great stuff.


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The Scyther
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #5 on: Nov 6th, 2010, 4:55pm »
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One of my favorite monents from the 80's and early 90's in my railfanning was seeing the blue railcrane at E. Schneider and Sons scrap yard along Sumner Avenue. From what I have read in that chapter on the Barbers Quarry and West End branches in that one book. The Crane was there from 1986 (Schneider acquired it probably right when the track was getting torn out) to 1993. The rail crane sat on a small amount of track that no longer connected to any railroad track. Pictures of it can be seen on railroad.net. Thanks to the guy who posted those. The isolated railroad track reminds me of the center cab switcher used by FL Smidth in Allentown along the former Barbers Quarry branch which is on track that runs in the plant and the little bit of the Barbers main that exists but is no longer connected to any other track.

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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #6 on: Nov 7th, 2010, 1:08am »
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Ironton: Yes. the crane at Schneider's Junk Yard was always something to look at while driving under the 7th Street bridge along sumner avenue.  I just checked my slide collection and found that the blue & red crane is partially visible in a June, 1986 slide I took while track was being removed along the WEB's "main".  Unfortunately, a van moved into view and partially blocked the crane as I snapped my shutter.  I think your date as to when that crane arrived is off by several years, being that the line last saw service in June of 1982.  I'm certain they had it a few years before the abandonement  While the line wasn't torn out until 1986, the track at the crossing at Gordon Street (just east of Jordan St) was removed some time before 1986 (I don't remember the exact date).  When those rails were removed, no crane shipment out onto the WEB would have been possible, being that all industries (Schneider's included) were far beyond the Gordon Street crossing.
 
I also have a slide a friend took around 1970 which shows the former yellow crane Schneider used.
 
Just checked the wonderful article my friend, Dave Latshaw, wrote about the WEB in the Lehigh County Historical Society's proceedings from 1992.  I was correct.  The blue crane was aquired by Schneider in the late 1970s.  It was a "Model 5" Brownhoist diesel powered rail crane.  The earlier yellow model was a lighter "Model 3".  I remember towards the end of it's life, the blue Model 5 was obviously suffering from mechanical failure.  I'd see it sitting unused for weeks while truck-mounted cranes did the work, then all of a sudden, it would be back in service again.  I guess it finally got to the point where it couldn't be fixed any more.  It was scrapped on site.


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ClearBoard
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #7 on: Nov 7th, 2010, 9:55am »
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It’s always good to have a few good maps around.  Here’s a few to jog memories.  
 
Map 1 - Some may remember that I shared this blue line of the West End Branch some time ago.  I purchased it from an old Valley employee years ago to keep memories alive.  Although not to scale, it puts general locations and businesses in perspective.  
 
ClearBoard



Image exceeds display size of 900 pixels wide. (89029 bytes, 995x743 pixels)


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ClearBoard
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #8 on: Nov 7th, 2010, 9:59am »
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Map 2 - The next map shields light on branchline engineering.  I found this one – and one for the Quarry Branch – on “fleaBay”.  Hopefully enough detail is captured by the scanner.
 
CB


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ClearBoard
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #9 on: Nov 7th, 2010, 10:05am »
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Map 3 – The West End Branch – a.k.a Sumner Avenue Branch – culminated in a small yard adjacent to 12th and Liberty Streets.  This map (published by Latshaw, 1992) was composed from Sanborn Insurance maps and shows build-out circa 1932.  I always thought the branch - or the 12th Street Yard alone – would provide many modeling ideas.  Hope the copy / scan provides enough clear detail.  Talk about memories next time.
 
ClearBoard


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #10 on: Nov 7th, 2010, 11:07am »
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CB: Thanks for taking the time to post the maps.  I already had a copy of the track blueprint and, as you stated, the last was printed with Dave L's article.  I'd seen a blueprint at city hall one time of the elevations and grades of the line, though it was different from the one you posted.  Again, thanks.
 
You're right, the 12th St Yard would have been fun to model, though the "flying switch" manuever the crew used during Valley operation of the line would be nearly impossible to pull off due to the grades needed to get model freight cars rolling... and stopping.
 
Just a bit more about my memories.  I was born in 1955, so I figure I was about 7 or 8  when I was allowed to play in that area, unsupervised.  (The good old days.)  My earliest memories, therefore, would have been from 1962 or 1963.  At that time, the switch to Jones' Coal Pocket was still in place and the structure still standing.  Per Latshaw's article, Jones stopped receiving coal shipments by 1960, thus my inability to remember any cars on their siding.  I also cannot remember when the structure was demolished.
 
Also, my earliest memories do not include any presence of tracks 5 or 6 in the yard.  In fact, when I first saw this map, I was shocked that there ever were two additional tracks in that part of the yard.  I suppose that was because the "laddar track" leading over to Liberty St (M.S. Young, later (in my memories) Ritter & Smith Truss Co.) was so little used and covered with thick weeds that I wouldn't have had a clear view of the ties to see where the lead to tracks 5 & 6 began.  The ladder track was where many of the World of Mirth flatcars were stored during fair week.  The kids in the "hood" and I would climb up on the end car and run across the tops of the connected flats from one end to the other.  I can also only ever remember seeing one boxcar sitting on the stretch of track between what's listed as "Ed Bartholomew" and "Kline & Sacks".  It may have been on the National Biscuit siding, though I tend to picture it more on the lead to the track that once served the Trexler Lumber Co planing mill on the west side of 13th St.  I mention all of this because -- while I saw plenty of action in the 12th Street Yard during the 60s and 70s -- very few of the businesses once serviced in that area were still getting cars by the time I came along.
 
One always wonders what it is that draws many of us into the world of railroading.  It's often said that it's exposure as a child which sets the hook, though my father spent all of his childhood at 1324 Gordon Street, seeing sometimes two or three trains a day servicing the WEB -- as well has having the LVT traction cars rolling down Gordon St directly in front of his house -- and he never became interested in trains.  Go figure!


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photoman475
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #11 on: Nov 7th, 2010, 2:14pm »
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Clear Board:
 
Thanks for posting the maps-#2 looks like a good model railroad project for a diorama.


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #12 on: Nov 11th, 2010, 2:20pm »
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Sorry for the delay.  Not skilled at posting pictures from my new PC so I hope this works.  This is a slide aquired from a friend showing the Harry Jones' Coal Pocket at 13th & Gordon Streets.  The slide (date unknown) was damaged when found, but it still gives a good idea of what a large structure this was.  You are looking south-east along 13th Street (north of Gordon) and the open door was where the coal trucks entered (or exited) the building.  Look closely at the lower left corner (to the left of the door) and you can see the rails which led to the open pit where the hoppers were dumped, just feet beyond the corner of the photo.  The old wooden crossing sign was at the corner of 13th and Scott Streets.
 
If this works, more pictures will follow shortly.


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #13 on: Nov 11th, 2010, 2:52pm »
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Okay gang, think I'm getting the hang of this.
Next, the picture I shot in June, 1986 at N. 8th St, looking east towards the 7th Street bridge.  The van parked along Sumner Avenue blocked most of the Model 5 Brownhoist rail crane, but look closely and you'll see part of the blue cab.  The remains of the turnout in the foreground is what led from the WEB main track, across Sumner Avenue, to Schneider's facility on the north side of Sumner.  (Years ago, the track continued under the 7th St. bridge and onto a coal trestle owned by Koehler Brothers.  It remained there until shortly before the auto transmission repair shop was built near 6th & Sumner a number of years ago.)  The remnants of the track at the right of the picture was a passing siding that began under the 7th Street bridge and ran west for over two blocks, servicing several industries along the way.  As they do now, Schneider occupied both sides of Sumner Ave, though the part on the south side of Sumner was much more narrow than it is today, due to the WEB's right-of-way.


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #14 on: Nov 11th, 2010, 3:07pm »
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Next, a picture taken by a friend in the summer of 1969 or 1970.  While on the dark side, look to the far right on the other side of Sumner Ave and you can see the cab of Schneider's earlier Model 3 Brownhoist rail crane, painted yellow.  My buddy (who owned a 35mm camera years before I and shot many more pictures of the WEB) was standing in a gondola situated on the passing siding south of the WEB's main.  He was just west of the 7th Street bridge, shooting north, north-west.  Looks like there must have been a lot of rain that spring being that the shrubs and trees on the hillside look rather lush.

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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #15 on: Nov 11th, 2010, 3:26pm »
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Now one of the rarer images in my collection, taken by the same friend who took the previous shot... as is evident from the light leak he had in his camera at that time.  This rare shot was taken also in '69 or '70 and shows an empty box being pulled from the C.Y. Schelly Hardware Company's shed located on the south-east corner of 17th & Libery Streets in Allentown.  Fire destroyed this facility in March, 1973, but the rails leading to this shed (as well as the remaining shed of Trexler Lumber Company directly south of this building) had already been pulled in '71 or '72.  
 
It was rare that cars were delivered to Schelly/Trexler in final years, so the fact that my buddy had his camera this particular day was true luck, indeed.  Oh, by the way, that kid with the swooping bangs leaning out of the cab window is me, age 14.  I was lucky enough to get to know the crew in 1968 (long story) and got many a ride during the late 60s and very early 70s.  T'was a dream come true!


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #16 on: Nov 11th, 2010, 3:47pm »
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Sorry, the previous shot was at 17th & LIBERTY (not "Libery") Sts.  It's where the two yellowish B'nai B'rith House towers stand today.
 
Now, look closely at this picture.  I took it a number of years ago and it has changed in the years since I took it.  I'm standing in the lower (west end) driveway of the American Drycleaners (17th & Allen Streets), looking north, north-west across Allen St.  At the time I took this shot, ICE CITY had moved their showroom to the distant building located along N. St. George St, between Allen & Tilghman Sts.  Please look closely at the lower left corner and you'll see a bit of white guardrail sticking out.  Also, check out the building on the distant hillside, above the red truck parked to the right of the parked cars.  These will be of big help when viewing the next picture I post after this.  Ice City used to have a short siding at this location.  The points-trailing turnout was just south of the Allen Street crossing and the siding ran north across Allen St.  It was about 3 or 4 car lenghts long, though finding cars spotted on this siding was quite rare in the 60s and 70s.  The next image will show you the same scene, some 20 years earlier.  By the way, there is now an auto parts store just to the right of what you see in this picture.


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #17 on: Nov 11th, 2010, 4:02pm »
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And now, for my last posting today, one of my favorite shots, taken by me in the summer of 1969.  Ice City was receiving two boxcars of pooltables via the Lehigh Valley Railroad!  I wasn't riding with the crew this day, but happened to have been riding my bike with my Kodak Pony 828 camera in hand when I found this rare move happening.  Notice the white guardrail in the lower left and the building on the hillside (above the small white shed) on the right side of the picture??  Compare to the previous posting of the way things looked 20-years later.  Change may be inevitable, but how I wish some things (like this scene) had stayed the same forever!  
 
Hope you've enjoyed the first 6 pictures.  I'll be posting a lot more things in future days/weeks, if the interest is there.  Next time I'll share some Barber Branch images.


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« Last Edit: Jul 11th, 2011, 12:09am by A-townbranchfan » Logged
IRR
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #18 on: Nov 11th, 2010, 4:28pm »
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Let me be the first to say AWESOME SHOTS!!!! My earliest memories of the West End Branch were passing all the crossbucks along Sumner Ave when my Grandfather and i would visit his sister in who lived in the western end of Allentown...This would've been in the early 80's..Pretty sure the track was abandoned by the time i saw it.   Here's a modern view of one of the few railroad artifacts still in place along the West End Branch..The bumper at the end of the former George A Bell siding. This is a view showing  the rail car loading doors still in place on the vacant building.

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IRR
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #19 on: Nov 11th, 2010, 4:30pm »
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Up close shot of the bumper...Why they removed all the track yet left this is beyond me..LOL

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