Posts Tagged ‘Erie Railroad’

Relics of the Erie

November 7, 2015
Looking eastward toward Brady Lake on the former Erie Railroad near Kent.

Looking eastward toward Brady Lake on the former Erie Railroad near Kent. The Portage Hike and Bike trail is to the left.

I was hiking on the Portage County Hike and Bike trail recently on a nice fall day. The sun was out and the leaves were at their peak color.

A portion of the former Erie Railroad mainline that once ran between Chicago and New York runs parallel to the trail for much of its path between Brady Lake and Kent.

If you know where to look, you can find a few relics of the Erie, although none of are functional any more.

They include a six-side former telephone shanty that was once used to call the dispatcher, the control box of a former yard light tower and a bridge over Breakneck Creek.

The telephone shanty lies on its side off the trail. I’ve seen it before, but on this day I noticed that vegetation is growing over it.

Built of concrete, the shanty was designed to last a long time, but the forces of nature are slowly breaking it down.

The control box for the light tower is in good condition, having been painted a few years ago. But the light tower itself is gone.

The tower was one of three that illuminated the yard and Akron Railroad Club member Bob Rohal said he used to climb those towers to change the light bulbs when he worked for the Erie back in the 1950s.

The bridge over Breakneck Creek is in the same situation as the telephone shanty. It was built to last and is likely to be standing for some time to come. But the wood is rotting and the metal structure rusting away.

Then there is the track itself. From what I’ve observed in photographs, it is the former eastbound main, the westbound main having been removed in the 1970s.

When walking on the trail I try to imagine what it must have looked like when Erie and Erie Lackawanna trains used those rails. Conrail also used it for a time and it was during Conrail ownership that the infrastructure of the ex-Erie was greatly reduced.

Today, the Akron Barberton Cluster Railways uses the tracks, which are owned by Portage County. Service is infrequent and I’ve seldom seen trains on the line while out walking. I’ve never seen one on weekends when I am most likely to be on the trail.

It would be nice to see trains more often on the ex-Erie, but that is not likely to happen. So I rely mostly on my knowledge of railroad history and imagination to “see” what used to be while enjoying what is there now.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The phone to call the dispatcher has been removed. In time, the shanty will succumb to the forces of nature.

The phone to call the dispatcher has been removed. In time, the shanty will succumb to the forces of nature.

No one uses the bridge over Breakneck Creek.

No one uses the bridge over Breakneck Creek.

The light tower is gone, but at least the control box has received a new coat of paint.

The light tower is gone, but at least the control box has received a new coat of paint.

Oh, to see a train come down these rails some day.

Oh, to see a train come down these rails some day.


Distinguished Career on the Erie Began Here

September 2, 2015
Peter Bowler stands at the site of the Atlantic passenger station of the Erie Railroad. His grandfather went to work here in the 19th century as a telegraph operator.

Peter Bowler stands at the site of the Atlantic passenger station of the Erie Railroad. His grandfather went to work here in the 19th century as a telegraph operator.

It was getting to be late afternoon and fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler and I were heading north on Pennsylvania Route 18 after having finished a successful chase of a train on the adjacent Bessemer Subdivision of Canadian National.

Peter was telling a story about how his grandfather got his start in the railroad business as a telegrapher for the Erie Railroad in Atlantic, Pennsylvania.

Ralph H. Wallace

Ralph H. Wallace

Atlantic is a mile east of Route 18 so I decided to drive over there to see it.

The station is long gone and Peter said the last time he was there all that remained of the depot was a concrete pad.

We pulled into town, parked in a driveway just short of the tracks and started walking next to the tracks, which today are owned by Norfolk Southern as far as Meadville, Pennsylvania.

The concrete pad that Peter had seen years before was gone. We reached what we concluded was the station site, which sits at the end of a street that dead ends near the tracks.

There isn’t much to Atlantic, just five streets total.

Peter’s story about how his grandfather began on the Erie in the late 19th century and rose to the position of passenger traffic manager for the railroad intrigued me.

A biography published in a Who’s Who in Railroading of North American noted that Ralph H. Wallace had entered railway service on March 1, 1875.

He would later hold positions as a passenger agent in Geneva, Pennsylvania; Lakewood, New York; Atlantic; and Oil City, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Wallace would be promoted to traveling passenger agent based out of Akron and worked in the Cleveland office before being transferred to New York.

He retired effective Dec. 1, 1927, after serving the Erie for nearly 53 years. He died at 74 on April 5, 1930.

After making a photo of Peter standing near the station where his grandfather had begun his railroad career, we took a swing through town and found the street that led to the station.

There were no street signs but I found out later that it was named Depot Street.

An obituary that I found about Mr. Wallace noted that he had an interest in railroad history and enjoyed sharing it with others.

Oh, the tales he could have told about working in the depot in Atlantic and what used to be here decades ago.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Another Touch of Erie Heritage in Kent

August 19, 2015

Erie car in Kent-x

Kent was an Erie Railroad town for many decades. It was a crew change point, the home of a large classification yard, and the location of a roundhouse and shops.

Over time, the railroad cut back its facilities and activities in Kent and by the time the Erie Lackawanna had turned into Conrail in 1976 there wasn’t much left.

Today, the Erie yard and shops are gone but the former passenger station remains as restaurant.

There are other reminders of the Erie. A local student painted a mural of the Lake Cities passenger train on a wall in downtown Kent.

Now another paean to the heritage of the Erie has come to Kent. For the past several years, there has been a passenger car sitting next to the former Erie station.

It was painted Pullman green and used as a meeting room. When passing through town recently I noticed that the car has gotten some new paint to reflect the passenger livery of the Erie.

On the day that I was there, the paint job had been completed on just one side of the car. So here is to the memory of the Erie Railroad.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Peaceful Rails In Late Afternoon Sunlight

March 3, 2015

Tracks snow sun 01a

Several years ago Trains magazine asked the question of whether railroad photographs must have a train in them. The magazine then proceeded to publish a page of railroad images without trains.

Apparently it wasn’t something that the publication thought that it needed to do frequently because I don’t recall it ever publishing such a page again.

But then again the title of the magazine is “trains” and not “tracks.”

I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of images made by railfan photographers have a train in them and that the vast majority of those feature the lead locomotive. That describes much of my railroad photographs portfolio, too.

But I like to make it a point, particularly in the winter, to make images of rails sans trains. Shown is the former Erie Lackawanna (nee Erie railroad) at the crossing of Lake Rockwell Road near Kent.

It’s late on Saturday afternoon and these rails are inactive during the weekend. The Akron Barberton Cluster Railway only uses these tracks on weekdays and even then it doesn’t travel over these rails every day.

Today it is sunny with only a few clouds in the sky. But tomorrow will bring another winter storm and more snow. For the moment all is peaceful here and the rails glisten in the late day sunlight.

Article and Photograph by Craig Sanders

Iconic Southern Tier Rail Bridge to be Replaced

January 4, 2015

An iconic bridge on the Southern Tier route will be replaced soon after the Federal Highway Administration approved the design and construction of the replacement span.

The Portageville Viaduct over the Genesee River on the former Erie Railroad has been a favorite of photographers almost since it was built in the 1870s. It features waterfalls crashing beneath it.

Located in Letchworth State Park, the bridge soars about 245 feet above the river gorge. The wrought iron viaduct is 820 feet long and sits on six steel towers constructed in 1875.

Three spans of pin-locked deck trusses and 10 spans of deck plate girders were built in 1903.

The bridge is at milepost SR 361.66 in the Town of Portage and the Town of Genesee Falls. It will be removed once the new bridge is completed in three years.

Norfolk Southern acquired the Southern Tier route in 1999 as part of the Conrail breakup.

Construction of the new bridge will begin this year with the new span located just south of the existing bridge.

The New York Department of Transportation is paying $3 million in design costs and landed secured $12.5 million in state and federal funds for construction. The balance will be provided by Norfolk Southern.

The bridge was been labeled as one of the 10 most significant rail bottlenecks in New York.

Once completed, trains on the bridge will operate at Federal Railroad Administration Class 4 speeds. NS also expects to reduce ongoing maintenance efforts and costs.



Group Seeks to Buy Knox & Kane ROW

September 1, 2014

A Pennsylvania non-profit organization is seeking funding to purchase the right of way of the defunct Knox & Kane Railroad with plans to convert it into a trail.

The right of way and tracks are now owned by Kovalchick Corp. of Indiana, Pa., which is a scrap dealer that is in the process of removing rails and ties between Knox in Clarion County and the Kinzua Bridge State Park near Mt. Jewett.

The Headwaters Charitable Trust and the Headwater Resource Conservation and Development Council of DuBois, Pa., wants to buy the 73.8-mile former rail corridor.

The Knox & Kane operated excursion trains over the Kinzua viaduct between 1987 and 2002 when the bridge was closed.

Built in 1900, the bridge was owned by the Erie Railroad and carried freight trains through 1959. After obtaining trackage rights on a nearby Baltimore & Ohio route, the Erie sold the bridge to the Kovalchick company, but owner Nick Kovalchick couldn’t bear to dismantle the bridge.

The state later agreed to buy the bridge and establish a state park that opened in 1970.

Even after ceasing to cross the bridge, which spanned the valley of Kinzua Creek, the Knox & Kane continued to operate excursion trains to the western end of the bridge.

A tornado on July 21, 2003, caused 11 of the bridge’s 20 towers to collapse. At the time, an Ohio company had been working to restore the bridge.

The state decided that the high cost of rebuilding the bridge was too much and the bridge remains still stand.

The Knox & Kane excursions ceased in October 2004 after ridership had fallen by 75 percent.

Teen Charged in Salamanca Depot Fire

August 14, 2014

A teenager has been charged with fourth-degree arson in connection with a late July fire that destroyed the former Erie Railroad station in Salamanca, N.Y.

The apprehension of the 14-year-old boy came after investigators eliminated “everything but human hand” as a potential cause, according to Salamanca Fire Chief Nicholas Bochrski. The boy was also charged with second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree reckless endangerment, and third-degree burglary. He will appear in family court to face the charges.

The station had been vacant since Conrail ceased using it in the late 1970s. Plans to renovate it for use as a railroad museum in the 1980s fell through.

The property had been under the jurisdiction of the Seneca Nation of Indians since a city lease expired in 1990. The depot was built in 1904.

Seneca Nation Treasurer Rodney Pierce called the fire “a tragic chapter in the proud railroad history of this region.” Erie Lackawanna’s Lake Cities was the last passenger train to call at the depot in early January 1970.

Some Conrail and Erie Heritage in Akron

August 3, 2014

Despite the clouds and it’s trailing position I ventured out to see the NS Conrail heritage unit pass through Akron on CSX.





It had led going east but went through Akron in darkness. CSX train Q359 is shown from the Miller Avenue overpass in Akron, a spot where I saw many a blue unit pass underneath on the then joint Chessie/Conrail line from AY to Warwick.

The dirt path off to the left is where the Erie was. Speaking of the Erie, the new dorm facility and parking deck located off Broadway near Exchange Street is almost complete.

In a nice nod to the heritage of the property the “E in diamond” stone/cement logos that were on top of the old Erie freight house that was torn down were saved.

They now are located on a monument outside of the new “Depot” building. I wonder how many of today’s students will even know what that “E” stands for?

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee

Fire Destroys Ex-Erie Depot in Salamanca, N.Y.

July 31, 2014

A fire suspected of being arson destroyed the vacant former Erie Railroad passenger station in Salamanca, N.Y. , on Tuesday.

The station had been vacant since the late 1970s and had no power. Firefighters were called to the scene at about 3 p.m.

The fire, which was brought under control at about 5:30 p.m. is being investigated by the Cattaraugus County Fire Investigation Team and the Salamanca Police Department. Police said that young people might have been in and out of the building in recent days.

The two-story structure at one time housed dispatchers and division offices, as well as the Railway Express Agency office. The building and property are currently owned by the Seneca Nation.

Richard Jacobs showed a photo of an Erie Lackawanna train passing the station during his program last Friday at the July Akron Railroad Club meeting.



Recreating the Erie and Lackawanna Merger

June 8, 2014



While most people were content with getting photos of their favorite cab units, myself included, I would occasionally try some different views during my time at the Spencer streamliner festival.

When the Erie and the Lackawanna merged in October 1960 to form the EL, they did a publicity photo of two units from each road side by side to announce the combination of the two companies.

Once “Erie 833’s” attendance was announced, the wheels in my head started turning, wondering if it and the Lackawanna Fs might be paired up or spotted next to each other.

Unless I missed it while out seeing other things on the museum grounds, the pairing didn’t happen. For a time they were one track apart, separated by one of the NS Fs.

I did manage a couple of photos with them close to each other, a poor man’s recreation of that merger day advertisement of so many years ago.

Article and Photographs by Roger Durfee


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