"Queen of the Valley"

Discussion of the CNJ (aka the Jersey Central) and predecessors Elizabethtown and Somerville, and Somerville and Easton, for the period 1831 to its inclusion in ConRail in 1976. The historical society site is here: http://www.jcrhs.org/

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"Queen of the Valley"

Postby John Johnstone » Fri Apr 16, 2010 11:19 am

NJC's "Lily of the Valley" used to run from Newark to Harrisburg via Franklin St. Station in Reading. When did this train cease to operate and why? Did it end before or after Reading's Harrisburg service ended and I'm wondering when Reading's Harrisburg Station closed?


( Note: train-name error in thread title corrected by moderator. ~FG )
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Re: Lily of the Valley

Postby Bethlehem Jct. » Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:04 pm

John Johnstone wrote:NJC's "Lily of the Valley" used to run from Newark to Harrisburg via Franklin St. Station in Reading. When did this train cease to operate and why? Did it end before or after Reading's Harrisburg service ended and I'm wondering when Reading's Harrisburg Station closed?


I believe you're thinking of the "Queen of the Valley." It ran from Jersey City to Harrisburg and bypassed Newark as that city was on a branch line on the CNJ. At one time, there were probably connections to and from Newark. It was still being run as of Oct. 1957. I'm not sure when the RDG discontinued Harrisburg service. I've read 1963 and I've also read "late 50's." I don't know if the Queen ended as a through train to Harrisburg before then either. I know that the name continued to be used on the CNJ's Jersey City-Allentown train up until the closure of their Jersey City terminal and subsequent shift to Newark Penn Station as the terminus of passenger trains in April 1967.
After 1955, the Queen was the Jersey City-Harrisburg train. It's eastbound Harrisburg - Jersey City counterpart continued to use the "Harrisburg Special" name, but by Oct. 1957 was called "New York Clocker." As was often the case in the 50's, the demise of the Allentown-Harrisburg portion was due to the loss of mail contracts.
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Re: Queen of the Valley

Postby Franklin Gowen » Fri Apr 16, 2010 4:59 pm

Trains 199 westward and 194 eastward (formerly the "Queen of the Valley" and "Harrisburg Special") were discontinued over the Reading Company portion of their route effective June 30, 1963. It was a through train up until that time. Since I'm more focused on their history and signifigance to Reading Co. operations, I'm not really conversant with what the CNJ did with the Jersey City-Allentown portions which remained to them afterwards, nor what the CNJ branded them as in public timetables after this major cutback.

At one time they were the best-quality trains on that run. What needs mentioning here is that by that final date, that round-trip pair was, itself, the last set of RDG Harrisburg trains. Once they were discontinued, the Lebanon Valley Branch became freight-only from Reading to the state capitol. RDG sold its enourmous and now-unnecessary 1902 Harrisburg passenger terminal to the US Postal Deptartment in 1956, to be torn down and the land re-used for a postal sorting facility. After that date trackage was truncated slightly; I believe that there was no smaller replacement or temporary structure in use for what was only two trains per weekday. I have seen photographs clearly showing that after that date, the trains now ended their run in a parking lot without overhead platform awnings or services of any kind; an arrangement sadly similar to what would happen in 1961 to Main Line trains in Pottsville once the 1887 station on Norwegian St. was torn down.

The announced total withdrawal of mail from Reading Co. RPO cars by the US Postal Dept. was the event which finally killed whatever remaining financial viability those two trains had held onto. Employe timetables show that in 1952 there were still three round-trip trains each weekday (with additional Sat.-only and Sun.-only trains), but by 1963 only the Queen and the Special remained as the final halves of the final round-trip train. Improvements to competing roads (Rt.422 Hbg.-Rdg., and Rt. 222 Rdg.-A'town) reduced travel time by auto and made elapsed time via train uncompetitive over longer distances. The loss of additional individual trains from the schedule led to the effect of remaining trains having major problems in offering departure and arrival times that were useful for attracting would-be passengers.

For example, Train 194 eastward had some partial benefit for persons living in Reading or points east who held jobs at the various state buildings in Harrisburg (4:05PM departure Hbg.), while Train 199 westward left Allentown after 8pm and didn't even arrive in Hbg. until nearly 11pm! (Great for Jersey City/Bound Brook folks who headed west after their workday, though.) The final two trains together really were no more than a commuter operation at best. That's a sad finale for what was once very comfortable (if not exactly "Crusader"-level) intercity, interstate service.

Highway trucking of local mail in the 1950s (as referred to in Bethlehem Jct.'s linked article) badly damaged the finances of the already weak and under-used Harrisburg-Allentown trains. By then, those postal revenues were usually the only thing keeping a train's "revenues earned" in the black.The 1963 announcement removing remaining local mail and all longer-distance mail was simply the final blow to a service which was already well into terminal decline.

As an aside, the RDG's Allentown-Harrisburg trains did not operate via Franklin Street Station in Reading. It was at the tremendous wye complex in Reading's Outer Station where passenger runs off of the East Penn Branch from Allentown swung west onto the Lebanon Valley Branch. Franklin St. was 1.9 miles south of the busy wye and situated largely for the convenience of Main Line trains up from Philadelphia on commuter schedules. While one could transfer between Main Line trains and East Penn/Leb. Vly. trains at Outer Station (and was often advertised as the main station in Reading for its long-distance trains), Franklin St. served a different travel market oriented much more along the Philadelphia-Reading axis, and to a lesser extent Reading-Pottsville.
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Re: Queen of the Valley

Postby delvyrails » Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:41 am

A might-have-been curiosity came in July, 1992 when Amtrak revealed a study it made for 13 new routes in its system. New York-Bethlehem-Allentown-Reading-Harrisburg was among them. Although it was one of the better-performing routes assessed, nothing came of it.

About a decade earlier, there was some state interest in an Easton-Harrisburg commuter service.
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Re: Queen of the Valley

Postby RDGTRANSMUSEUM » Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:44 am

The Reading wanted to pull those trains off for many years, as no one was riding them. The RAILROAD told the POST OFFICE they were not going to haul the mail anymore,NOT the other way around.This has been wrongly told for many years . Again the Railroad cancelled the mail contracts not the Post Office.
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Re: Queen of the Valley

Postby westernfalls » Tue Apr 20, 2010 10:07 pm

RDGTRANSMUSEUM wrote:The Reading wanted to pull those trains off for many years, as no one was riding them. The RAILROAD told the POST OFFICE they were not going to haul the mail anymore,NOT the other way around.This has been wrongly told for many years . Again the Railroad cancelled the mail contracts not the Post Office.


That description is a little bit stark. Over a period of years and around the country, both the railroads and the Post Office were looking for better ways to do business. Sometimes the railroad was anxious to get rid of the mail faster than the Post Office was willing to switch to highway and air; sometimes it was the other way around. These things didn't happen with a phone call saying "cancel the contract"; they were negotiated and planned, and surely not without some agonizing, pleading and threatening. When the mail and the Reading Company parted ways, the Reading had new schedules and equipment ready for the Main Line and Bethlehem service, and smooth sailing with the PUC to discontinue the Harrisburg and Shamokin service.
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Re: Queen of the Valley

Postby RDGTRANSMUSEUM » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:48 am

Believe me, the RDG would have just made that call dropping mail service, if they could have. The PUC and Government control in the years after both wars strangled the Reading Company and the whole northeast allowing Con rail to happen. Do a little company history research and this becomes apparent,the Reading presidents were predicting the future in many old statements and speaches. The same thing continues today in many US industries,with the problem only getting worse. Stark as it may be...........it is what it is.
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