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Allentown branchlines
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   Author  Topic: Allentown branchlines  (Read 43013 times)
A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #420 on: Jan 26th, 2011, 2:01pm »
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geep39: Thank you!!  It's nice to see some great shots from yesteryear that I've never seen before!  In all the years I followed action along the WEB, I never saw any cars on the siding pictured in your post, located between 12th & 13th Sts.  For those not familiar with the area, the view posted is looking east from the south-east corner of the intersection of Sumner Avenue, Roth Avenue and N. 13th Sts.
I'll take the liberty of posting one of the other views from the set of pictures which geep39 uncovered.  It took me a few seconds to realize what I was looking at because of how much has changed since then, even though I've passed the location hundreds of times over the years.  This view was taken from the south-west side of the same intersection, looking west along what was yet to become the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Sumner Avenue.  The passing siding is that which would later serve United Compressed Steel.  In the distance (to the right of the barn-like structure (which is long gone)) sits the group of buildings which would later be used by Sheftel & Sons, located on the south-east corner of 15th & Sumner Ave.  These are amazing photos which not only show the long-gone WEB ROW, but show just how rural this part of Allentown was at the time.  I, again, thank geep39 for uncovering this rare find!  I now know how you younger railfans feel when you look at many of the older pictures I've posted.  Hopefully others will be as generous with shots they have in their collections.  --Mark


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100lbrail
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #421 on: Jan 26th, 2011, 11:47pm »
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great photos 13th & Sumner,the Gulf oil pic looking east shows a coal yard ? and a bit further is Penna supply bldg and behind it out of sighjt is another coal yard further east shows a building that is still there today,maybe DL can shed light on it

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DAVE-39
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #422 on: Jan 27th, 2011, 11:09am »
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geep39; Thank you for those terrific old pictures. How did you find them?
The tank car is sitting on the siding at the Gulf Refining Co. building at 1228-1232 Sumner Ave. The tank car is marked GATX and on the side is the Gulf insignia (I believe it was blue and orange) and the lettering, "Gulf Refining Company". Moving east, the coal trestle was at the Victor Frey coal yard (1222-1226 Sumner Ave.). The next building is Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) which had a siding on the north side. Both PPG and Victor Frey were served by the same siding. The PPG building was built in 1927. The next coal yard had a number of owners over the years (Haas & Weiser, Schlicker, Grim, Mattern, Brader, Hunsicker and Weaver). Today you can still see the remains of that coal yard along Sumner Ave. The next building east was originally the Donecker Oil Co. Later it became Sheftel & Molinowsky and later became Hummel Warehouse #2.  
The other picture looking WSW shows an old barn. The barn at one time was owned by Frank Mras who was a junk dealer. United Compressed Steel built on this site in 1940. See the old RR crossing sign. They used these signs on both branches before the standard crossbuck signs that we know today.  
Using the dates for building construction, I would conclude these pictures were taken sometime between 1927 and 1940.  
 
Dave


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Dave-39
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #423 on: Jan 28th, 2011, 8:19am »
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A friend of mine got these from someone.  They are stamped with a "form" stamp noting date, direction, location, etc.  He gave me these Xerox copies that he thought I would appreciate.  I will try to get the data from the backs when I see him next.
 
What is amazing is that most of the Gulf Oil buildings are still there.
 
Sumner Ave. was always a "washboard" until the City finally got serious and completely rebuilt it.  I swear the only paving done was when they filled in the potholes with cold patch, particularly around the scrapyard under the 7th St. overpass.  Fill in enough potholes, and the road is paved, eventually.  You'd think I was disparaging someone's mother or something!


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ClearBoard
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #424 on: Jan 28th, 2011, 10:46am »
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Back in the day, Sumner Avenue was a popular, well maintained, handy short-cut for travel between Allentown’s west end and the North side of the city.  In many ways the 1940-50s Sumner Avenue was similar to today’s American Parkway, Martin Luther King Drive, or other well maintained routes recently developed in the area.  Interestingly enough, many locals knew the rail line as the “Sumner Avenue Branch”.    
 
Like everything else, Sumner Avenue suffered the ravages of time as Allentown grew-up around it.  As development of the railroad and its branches span a considerable amount of time and as changes associated with regional growth are quite evident, it seems important to be as succinct and accurate as possible especial for the benefit of those not familiar with a particular area or time.  
 
If there is one thing constant, it’s change; and it’s on that framework we arrange the tapestry of our memories.  
 
Thanks,
 
CB


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #425 on: Jan 28th, 2011, 4:35pm »
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geep39: Again I must thank you (and your friend) for sharing such rare photographs with all who view this forum.  It seems many older railfans who were around to witness action in this area are willing to share memories more than photographs, and those memories often vary greatly depending upon one's age and how important the subjects of those memories were at the time the memories were formed.  The implication in the comment you posted the other day was that Sumner Avenue was a "dirt road" until the 1970s which, as Clear Board pointed out maybe a bit too emphatically, was not the case.  Obviously, you didn't mean that, but meant that it was hardly of highway caliber.  As many photos from the 50s and 60s show, parts of Sumner were fairly smooth during those decades, while other parts were most certainly not.  Here's another 09/1958 shot of Bruce Kleppinger's showing the double-headed drill used to pull the World of Mirth fair train into position for unloading along the 1000 block of Sumner Ave.  A few asphalt patches are visible along the edge of the road and, as you can see, no curbing existed back then.  Anyway guys... in my opinion, the condition of Sumner Ave. in those days isn't what's important here.  What's truly important is the fact that geep39 shared rare photos which allow us all to look back and see how things once were.  THAT's what matters most and I thank you again, geep39, for being so very generous.  And, by the way... I was laughing to myself a bit earlier today when I ran into 3 people I know while shopping and told each of them about this forum and the pictures I've posted.  Two of the three live (and have lived for many years) within 4 blocks of where the WEB crossed 17th & Tilghman Sts.  The other was my 8th grade history teacher at Trexler Jr. High.  In each case, they told me they had little or no memory of railroad tracks ever having run through that part of town... and each of these people is at least 10 years older than I am!  Just goes to show... everybody remembers different things, depending upon what was or wasn't important to them at the time.
Moving on... if anybody else has any photos they're willing to share, please do!  I know you're out there!   --Mark


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #426 on: Jan 28th, 2011, 4:56pm »
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I know I said I was finished posting... but what the heck!  Here's a more winter-appropriate shot taken along Sumner Ave. by Bob Wilt.  Bob shot the Ironton Baldwin heading inbound along the 1100 block of Sumner.  The view is looking north-west from the south side of the WEB ROW and the date was 12/29/1976.  The engine is sitting on the turnout which served the PPG warehouse.

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Andy_S
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #427 on: Jan 28th, 2011, 9:02pm »
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Thank you for posting all those photos, and the descriptions that accompany them.  I wouldn't know the area depicted at all, except that back in the late 90's we were visiting some friends on S10th, but it being a nice day, I took a walk down Jackson St to the park, then towards the tracks.  I didn't know if they were used at that time or not, and I have never been back.  But at least I have an idea of where some of pix were taken.  Thanks again.  
 
BTW are you related to Cory Rabenold, the racer?


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #428 on: Jan 29th, 2011, 1:08am »
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Andy_S: Glad to hear you could at least relate a bit to the Barber branch due to your S. 10th St. visit a number of years ago.  If you were there in the late 90s, the line was most likely out of service at the time you explored the area.  And no, I'm not related to Cory as far as I know... unless very distantly.

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henryS
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #429 on: Jan 29th, 2011, 9:47pm »
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I moved to the Valley in 1968, and I don't remember Sumner Ave. as anything but a paved street from that time 'til now. My long-time oil dealer Ralph D. Weaver (now Weaver Fuels) is at 1008 Sumner, and I used to buy anthracite as well as oil from him, back when I had a coal stove. I crossed Sumner on 15th Street fairly often going to Dan's Camera, after he moved from Highland St. to his present location on Fairview St. I remember the West End Branch curving past Trexler Lumber behind the Allentown Hospital, the Tilghman St. crossing past Peterson's Seafood, and heading back east to end of track at 12th St. near Ritter & Smith hardware and lumber co. Occasionally I would head east on Sumner toward 7th St., mainly to observe the Industrial Brownhoist at the scrap dealer under the bridge. My only regret is that I didn't have much time to hang out trackside in those early years, what with a young family at home and the demands of a new job. So it's been fun and educational to read all these posts and view the great photos to see all that I missed. Thanks, everyone!

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100lbrail
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #430 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 12:39am »
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looking again sumner ave pic looking wst there is a building in distance with large smoke stack again DL may know what it was.
also behind barn was a siding which went almost to Allen st. served swoyers brick yard
there was a baseball field where present shopping center is at 15th and Allen.
in 50s while playing a ball game there ,was running to catch a long fly ball and tripped over buried rairoad tie,looking closely could see other buried ties curving up from Sumner Ave.


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DAVE-39
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #431 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 3:29pm »
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To 100lbrail.
I believe the large smokestack in the distance on the right of the WEB track was Allentown Rapid Service which was a coal and ice dealer located at 717-725 N. 17th St. Parts of the building are still standing.  
I too was looking for the Swoyer Brothers Brick Co. siding on the photograph. I thought it might have been the ground line in the distance seen between the barn and the crossing sign, but I am not sure. I have a map, dated 10-29-1901, that shows the proposed siding @ Swoyer Brothers Brick Co. Since Tilghman St. was not yet layed out in that area, the siding ran from the WEB track @ Sumner Ave. up to 14th and Allen. The map lists the grade @ 4.5% with a coal trestle at the end that had an additional 4.0% grade. Who wouldn't have liked to have seen a 0-6-0 switcher pushing two loaded hopper cars up that grade. Although Swoyer Brothers only lasted until circa 1928, and then Tilghman St. was cut through, the lower part of the siding (appropriately then called Swoyer's Hill), was used until at least the mid 50's. The WEB train used the hill siding to move cars from the rear of the locomotive to the front of the locomotive. They would push cars from the rear of the westbound train up the hill through the trailing point switch, set the car brakes, uncouple the locomotive, back the locomotive down to the switch and run the locomotive east of the switch. The brakeman then released the car brakes and the cars coasted down to the WEB main track. The locomotive then ran west, coupled to the cars and pushed them into sidings (like GE Supply Co.) that had facing point switches. In 1954 or 55, an accident occured when the brakes on two loaded box cars didn't hold and the cars coasted down the hill and into the side of the locomotive before the locomotive cleared the switch at the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately Henry Deibert, the brakeman desparately trying to apply the breaks on the first car lost an arm and a leg in the accident. The railroad then stopped use of the siding and it was removed soon after.  
I too played baseball on the Amicus baseball fields located at 15th and Allen. The hardball field was on the NE corner of 15th and Allen while the softball field was close to 14th and Allen. I played 1st base, so I never had the opportunity of coming across buried ties while chasing flyballs in the outfield.
 
Dave


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100lbrail
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #432 on: Jan 31st, 2011, 12:41am »
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another customer at 12th st yard was Warren Ehret roofing co.,
located at 13th & Liberty st. I know they had RR service at one time.
my wife worked in office and found a bunch of LV RR damge forms.
building is Now Allen Supply co.


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #433 on: Jan 31st, 2011, 2:15am »
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100lbrail: I'm enjoying your tidbits of information about former businesses along the WEB and BQB, but I'd even more enjoy seeing the other pictures you previously stated you have which were taken along the WEB back in the 1960s/1970s.  How about sharing those photos with us?  I enjoyed the one shot you posted many pages back.
 
To anyone interested: I've started another forum, this one of shots taken along the former Reading Perkiomen branch, between Emmaus and Pennsburg, PA.  Go to Fallen Flags / Reading / Perkiomen Branch photos.  --Mark


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one87th
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #434 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 12:08am »
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In the fall of 1984 I biked along the then abandoned West End branch, taking photos of track and buildings before the inevitable scrapping took place. I previously posted most of the following photos on a different website, but I have received several email requests to repost them here on railfan.net.
I've also gained a lot of knowledge through Mark's (A-townbranchfan) postings and by reading the fantastic WEB article by David Latshaw in the 1992 Lehigh County Historical Proceedings. So here are the photos, with updated and more accurate captions, of the branch as it existed at the very end. Forgive the soft focus... I was a young teenager using a 110 Instamatic camera to take these photos. I'll work my way west from the 7th Street area.
 
Looking eastward from 8th street at the siding that crossed Sumner Avenue and ran to the E. Schneider & Sons Iron & Steel scrap yard in Whitehall Township. In 1920 the scrap yard located here on the site of the abandoned Weaver Quarry Company. There was a short spur that branched off the siding and ran to the left of the photo. The siding continued past the rail crane and ran under the Seventh Street bridge and split into two spurs, one serving a coal trestle and the other the Koehler Bros. Coal Elevator at 6th and Sumner Avenue.


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one87th
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #435 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 12:10am »
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A 1908 photo looking north at the large Koehler Bros. Coal Elevator at 6th & Sumner Avenue. The elevator had a capacity of 2,400 tons and measured 120 x 40 feet, with a height of 30 feet above the concrete support pillars. The home in the background just to the right of the coal elevator still stands along 6th street.
According to David Latshaw's WEB History, in 1926 there were 20 coal yards on the branch, each with their own private siding. In addition, 12 industries received coal at their sidings for use in their boilers. By 1960 coal traffic had DISAPPEARED from the branch as a result of trucking delivery and conversion to oil fuels.
 
Photo was given to/is property of the Whitehall Historical Preservation Society and appears in the book "Whitehall Pennsylvania: the golden strip of the Lehigh Valley" by Karen L. Gensey (Kutztown Publishing Co.). Used with permission of the author.


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one87th
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #436 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 12:14am »
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An aerial comparison between 1938 and 2010 of the area of 7th and Sumner Avenue. Note the location of the former Koehler Bros elevator. In 1938 most roads in the city were paved, but Sumner Avenue is still dirt. Also note in the 2010 photo how Sumner Avenue was extended to the east, and built on top of the railroad right-of-way.

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one87th
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #437 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 12:25am »
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The rail crane which serviced the E. Schneider & Sons scrap yard. Originally they used a steam crane and later replaced it with a Brownhoist Model 3 diesel powered crane. That was replaced by this Model 5 Brownhoist (which was once owned by Traylor Engineering and used on the Barbers Quarry Branch) in the 1970's. Schneider shipped 51 cars in 1969, but was down to 13 cars in 1974. In 1975 they stopped shipping by rail and used trucks exclusively due to the lower costs. After the West End Branch was torn up in 1986 this siding remained intact for several more years with the crane remaining active until 1992, until it too was finally scrapped and the siding removed in 1993.

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one87th
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #438 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 12:29am »
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Here is a shot looking at the buildings/track between New Street and 9th Street. The red building in the background is F.W. Armatage (now occupied by Euro Marble & Granite). Next were some really neat old large wooden sheds (torn down in the late 80s?). The Lehigh Valley Oil Company once occupied this location. The grey building at right was once a silk mill, and later occupied by Sheftel & Molenovsky (textile waste), and finally as Hummel Warehouse #2.
 
The branch was two tracks wide at this point... a long passing siding that began at 7th Street and ended at 11th Street. There was a set of crossovers just in front of F.W. Armitage (visible in an earlier photo of the loaded gondola posted by A-townbranchfan). Beyond that crossover, the second track had been in disuse in the last years of the branch's life...it's buried under the gravel and would be where the American Family Services van is parked in the photo.


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one87th
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #439 on: Feb 2nd, 2011, 12:31am »
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Here is a 2010 photo of the same location showing how much has changed.

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