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Allentown branchlines
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   Author  Topic: Allentown branchlines  (Read 42894 times)
A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #80 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 12:44am »
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It's almost midnight so I won't post the next set of pictures until tomorrow.  I did, however, want to take a minute to thank those who posted comments today.
 
robertjohndavis: Regarding the company-owned flatcars at the former Traylor site, I haven't walked back that way since the day R.J. Corman tore out the Barber branch tracks and left a string of cars stranded inside the Traylor complex.  David Latshaw told me within the last year that he spotted their switcher sitting on one of the tracks one day.  I'm sure they must still have a number of cars on site, though I'm also sure the number is significantly less than it was back when I shot these pictures.  Anybody been back there looking around lately?
 
FFW-1: Offering to tear out your model layout and start all over because of what you've viewed so far is a high compliment, indeed.  However, as one who has spent the last several years designing a full-sized template of the layout I want to build but has yet to cut the first piece of benchwork for that layout, PLEASE... keep what you have!     Seriously, thanks for your kind words.
 
irn750: Glad to hear from another former (current?) railroader who once worked the area and happy to hear you're enjoying the slide show.  I will admit that I've always been one who spent many more hours waiting to photograph locals servicing the sidings along the mains or along weed-covered branch lines than I did shooting fast-moving, high horsepower engines on well-ballasted mains.  While I may not have come home with the amount of slides most railfans did after a day at trackside, I'm happy to have things which -- as you said -- most others overlooked.
 
F3_4_me/Micah: While I wasn't an economics major in college, I'd have to say that all of what you mentioned regarding reasons for the downfall of these branchlines was probably true... along with one or two other reasons.  You have to remember that when these lines were constructed in the late 1800s, Allentown and it's surrounding communities were nothing like they are today.  If you look at the 2-volume History of Allentown set from the Lehigh County Historical Society, you'll see that Tilghman St, in the block west of 17th, was a dirt road when a 1927 picture of the area was taken from a plane.  In other words, the branches were built to haul coal and building supplies and food to the areas where most of the city's population lived.  As roads improved and expanded and cars became more numerous, many people began moving out to the suburbs.  Since trucks could get to those newly populated areas using city, county and state built roads instead of having to lay miles of track, it was only a matter of time before freight demands shifted and railroads lost out in the process.  Having said that, I'll also point out that my father used to serve on the Allentown Planning Commission back in the 1970s and 80s.  He got to know the Schneider who owned both Schneider's junkyard and Compressed Steel at that time and during one of their conversations about my love of trains and the West End branch, Mr. Schneider told my father that Conrail had imposed a $400 (in 1980 dollars) per car surcharge on all freight shipped via the WEB.  Needless to say, he ended shipments by rail shortly thereafter.  It basically came down to the fact that the lines had few customers in those final years and the railroad needed to turn a profit which just wasn't happening at the end.  Time brings change and change is not always good... especially when you love trains and see so many of them disappearing year after year.  THAT's why I decided to share a part of my collection at this time via this website... and will continue to do so in the morning.  -- Mark  


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A-townbranchfan
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Re: Allentown branchlines
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« Reply #81 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 9:51am »
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I'll resume our West End branch tour with the second of two shots I took during the 06/86 removal of track along my favorite branchline.  (The other was the second image posted in this forum.)  Standing near 9th & Sumner Ave, I'm again facing east.  The building to the right still stands, though its color has changed.  The small tan building on the left is the Sumner Avenue car wash, and the 7th St. bridge stands in the distance.  Look closely to the left of the left bridge support and you'll see Schneider's blue and red diesel rail crane.  I'm standing where the main track previously ran.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #82 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 9:59am »
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In the 1950s and 1960s, the Allentown fair arrived each year by rail.  The World of Mirth's train would be taken out on the WEB and unloaded along Sumner Avenue.  From there, the wagons would be pulled by truck to the fairgrounds and the empty flatcars, stockcars and old passenger coaches used by some of the fair workers would be stored on little used sidings along the branch, many of which were at the end-of-line 12th St. Terminal.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #83 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 10:12am »
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I'm a part-time musician and one day, years ago, I was chatting with the man who did my instrument repairs.  I told him of my interest in trains and he surprised me when he said he used to live near the WEB's 12th St yard.  He was kind enough to share some slides he'd taken during the late 1950s of the unloading of the World of Mirth fair train along Sumner Avenue.  The following three shots were taken by Mr. Kleppinger, the first is looking south-east near 9th & Sumner.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #84 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 10:25am »
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The building marked Sheftel & Molenovsky sits at N. New St. and Sumner Avenue and later became a second warehouse for the Hummel Furniture Co. located at 15th & Sumner.  (To be covered in future postings as we head west.)  Today this building is used by American Family Services.  The grain storage bins visible to the right belonged to Morris Greenberg.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #85 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 10:32am »
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The Valley's two SWs sit with their special train in the distance as the fair wagons roll west along Sumner Avenue.  The rails crossing the street in the foreground lead to the Charles Bell Co. siding.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #86 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 10:41am »
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One more shot of action at the Charles Bell Co. siding, this time a purchsed slide from the Houser Collection showing LV Baldwin #145 doing the work on 11/10/64.  The track in the lower right led to a siding for Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #87 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 10:51am »
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My buddy took this shot of a P&LE boxcar on the Pittsburgh Plate Glass siding around 1970, mainly because we rarely saw cars on this siding.  You're looking south on Sumner Ave., just east of N. 12th St.  The building still stands today.
Mike (one_87th) -- this one's for you!  


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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #88 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 11:17am »
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On 09/23/76, Dave Latshaw caught the West End drill untouched by Conrail painters as it headed east along Sumner Avenue.  Dave was standing on the hillside overlooking Sumner Avenue at N. 12th St.  The long, low yellowish structure to the right is the Charles Bell warehouse.  You're looking north, north-west.
Tidbit:  I read an article a number of years ago that said the Morning Call newspaper company had considered moving its operations to this location (the field in the foreground) at one point because it would have given them direct access to rail instead of having to truck their newsprint from the yard at Race & Linden Sts. (Now R.J. Corman's yard.)  In the end, they opted to stay at 6th & Linden Sts.


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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #89 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 11:36am »
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The next major industry serviced along the WEB on the outbound run was United Compressed Steel.  They received many empty gondolas from the Valley and Conrail and were the last industry to receive rail service on the WEB in June of 1982.  The siding which serviced Compressed was a passing siding which ran from a points-facing turnout just west of the 13th St / Roth Avenue crossing  to a points-trailing turnout situated about midway between 14th and 15th Sts.  The drill would most often back empties in on the outbound run, then leave the loads sit there until the inbound run at which time they'd back in from the east.  I remember one Sunday morning bowling at the Rose Bowl (15th & Sumner) and noticing upon arrival that no cars were spotted on that siding.  By the time I left that morning, four gondolas had been placed there.  The drill had made a special run just to deliver those empties to Compressed so they'd be there for loading first thing Monday morning.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #90 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 11:55am »
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Another slide purchased from the Houser Collection shows probably the last open hopper car ever to be found on the WEB.  What's even more unusual about it was that it had been delivered to United Compressed Steel in October of 1968!  I remember seeing the delivery of that unusual car while I was outside running with my gym class on Trexler Jr. High School's athlethic field (15th & Greenleaf Sts).  I couldn't believe my eyes, having never myself seen a coalcar spotted along the WEB.  The next time I saw my engineer friend, Harold Barwick, I asked him about it.  He said the Valley had a shortage of gondolas at that time and Compressed needed a car to ship some scrap metal.  Unfortunately, Mr. Houser didn't include the whole car in his shot, but my memory tells me it was a Lehigh Valley hopper.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #91 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 12:08pm »
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Another shot I took around 1969 or 1970 was this special load of transformers shipped to 14th & Sumner Ave. for delivery to PP&L's then-new sub station being built in that area.  While the city was in the process of opening 14th Street between Green St. and Sumner Ave., it was a number of months before the road was actually opened to traffic.  Engineer Harold Barwick told me the Valley wanted the city to pay for crossing signals at that location before they'd grant permission for the road to travel across their right-of-way.  The city argued against the cost of such crossing signals, saying that the branch only saw one slow-moving train, 5 or 6 days a week at that time.  An agreement between the two parties was reached by having the stretch of 14th St. between Green St. and Sumner Ave. made one-way, heading north.  This changed to two-way traffic once the line was abandoned.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #92 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 12:35pm »
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Dave Latshaw took this north-west facing shot of the West End drill heading east by 14th & Sumner Ave. on 12/19/1975.  The stop sign on the left side of 14th St. verifies the one-way traffic in that block (explained in previous posting).  The Rose Bowl bowling alley sits on the hill above the caboose and boxcar.  The brick building sitting to the upper right was Trexler Jr. High School, now Trexler Middle School.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #93 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 12:46pm »
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Another shot by my school chum looking south-west from the Rose Bowl's parking lot shows two boxcars sitting on the west end of the passing siding that serviced United Compressed Steel.  These were extra cars for the Hummel Furniture Company's siding at 15th & Sumner.  Sometimes the cars were placed here until there was room on Hummel's own siding.  Other times, Hummel would use their trucks to unload the cars right here, then move the freight one block west to their warehouse.  The large, light gray building to the right was a Sheftel & Molenovsky warehouse at the time.  It still stands today.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #94 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 12:57pm »
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The same day as the previous posting, this NYC double-door boxcar sat on the Sheftel siding.  Again, you're looking to the south from the Rose Bowl parking lot.  This is now an area covered by used autos.  The upper section of this siding can still be seen sticking through the asphalt car lot from 15th St, just south of Sumner Ave.

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A-townbranchfan
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« Reply #95 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 1:14pm »
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The westbound West End drill prepares to cross N. 15th St. by the Sheftel warehouse (with partially viewable boxcar on siding -- look to right of caboose cupola) on 06/20/1966 in this purchased Houser slide.  Due to heavier traffic, the 15th St. crossings (both at Sumner Ave. and at the more southern crossing along Scott St.) were always flagged by a brakeman.

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« Reply #96 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 1:43pm »
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Today's last posting from the early months of 1969 shows the crew who befriended me during my 8th-grade year at Trexler Jr. High.  Posing after breaking for lunch at the Rose Bowl from left to right are: Conductor, Eddie Kropf; Engineer, Harold Barwick; Brakeman #1, Bill ? (last name was something like "Croll" if I remember correctly.  Any help, darktown2?); Brakeman #2, LeRoy Hunsicker.  I rode with these guys about a half-dozen times during the late 60s and very early 70s and many other times followed them on my bike.  Eddie lived but two blocks from me and gave me rides home on some of the days I rode along.  Harold was a great buddy, often spending his lunch breaks telling me tales of things that happened to him while working on the railroad... or having water fights with me in and around the engine.  Many great memories of these guys who have now all passed.
 
That's it for today.  Next time (which may not be until Thursday or Friday), we'll continue west, then south along the WEB.   -- Mark


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F3_4_me
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #97 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 5:10pm »
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An outstanding set of photos for us to digest!  Many thanks!    
 
I'm fairly sure if the carwash on sumner isn't the building i worked in this summer, than the one that would be directly to your left in that photo would be it..  Damnit I'm trying to recall if we were in the first place west of the 7th St bridge or the second one..  (along sumner..)
 
You raise a good point about the development of Allentown and the first uses of the branch in that regard..  I am aware of the damage suburbanization has done to boxcar railroading, there's no way in hell anyone's gonna run a siding to a mall..  It just doesn't work that way, in many many ways..
 
Reading what you wrote about the $400/car surcharge confirmed what I thought about Conrail and the 'change of attitude'...  I can't say I blame them when they had a 20,000+ mile railroad to run, and the times were a-changin', but it still seems heavy-handed..  I know it played out like that on branches in city after city...  
 
Again, thanks for sharing!  
 
-Micah


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When I joined the ARHS in '92, my occupation was listed as '3rd Grade'.
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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #98 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 9:05pm »
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on Nov 15th, 2010, 10:01am, A-townbranchfan wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Matthew_L:  I know there's a lot of text to read since I started this forum so let me take a minute to repeat some things for clarification.  There are no remaining rail customers on either the West End or the Barber branches in Allentown, PA.  Both lines were abandoned under Conrail ownership.  The WEB was last serviced in 06/82 and was torn up about 4 years later.  The Barber branch lasted roughly 10 years longer and was torn up in the early 2000s under R.J. Corman's ownership.  (See the earlier posting by One_87th regarding the possibility that R.J. Corman may re-lay part of the Barber branch up to the former Traylor Engineering plant at S. 10th St.)

 
Thanks for explaining it to me. There is alot of good to stuff to digest in this thread, so I'm learning something new each time I come back to visit it.  


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Re: Allentown branchlines
 
« Reply #99 on: Nov 16th, 2010, 9:17pm »
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You are correct about Bill Croll, but I too am not sure if it was spelled with a C or a K. Both Bill and Leroy were great guys to work with. I never got to work with Harold that much, or Eddie as  I could not hold that job. Later held the 1st trick for a short time with Earl "the pearl" Reinert. I worked the 2nd trick job with Cond. Tom Whiteman, Motz Benkovic, and Ken Dougherty as the engineer. Not sure if I spelled any of those right. Motz's brother Al was the signal maintainer at Union St. They were a RR family. The other brother Charlie was a CNJ brakeman and it was a pleasure to work with them all.   Keith

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