EL: What If The Hurricane Never Happened

Discussion relating to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the Erie, and the resulting 1960 merger creating the Erie Lackawanna. Visit the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society at http://www.erielackhs.org/.

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Postby GOLDEN-ARM » Mon Aug 13, 2007 11:16 pm

No need to ask "what if'. Where are the D&H and the B&M now? As with the pre-ConRail routes, how many trains can be run from NYC to Chicago, and on how many roads? Coal, steel and autos were businesses that made up huge portions of those roads revenues. They died, right along with the carriers. No amount of pining, will bring anything back. (except for, maybe, the LV...... :P ) Just my .02 cents.
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Postby Spin » Sun Sep 02, 2007 2:16 pm

There may have been excess capacity between NY and Chi in the 80's, but there sure isn't now. If you look at the NS main from Cleveland to Chicago (one of the busiest mainlines in North America) and the CSX mainlines, they WISH they had some excess capacity and they still had some of the secondaries that were yanked up by Conrail.

Depending on Conrail or Chessie for trackage rights would be a huge mistake. One of their biggest customers, UPS, and their biggest interchange partner, ATSF, had the EL running on tight schedules. The road would never survive sitting at Sterling waiting for hours to get onto the CSX like the W&LE does now (at Greenwich).

A Kansas City or if that wasn't possible a St Louis gateway would have been mandatory to stay competitive. A KC-NY corridor would give it something nobody else had, and give it a smoother connection with the Santa Fe. KC also gives it connections with the Rio Grande and KCS.

Equal use of, or ownership of the old NYC line from Marion, Ohio and St Louis would have been a nice feather in it's cap.

The P&LE was seperated from Penn Central and given independance because it was so profitable. It could have been a revenue source and added another market.

When the auto traffic resurged, the Mansfield GM plant would have been a big traffic producer, as it is for NS now. It would have been the first eastern road to run double stacks. And it's small town mainline prevented the congestion and lockjams CR, and now CSX and NS are seeing in big cities/junctions.

It would have been a miracle if it could have stayed independant until now. But the KCS made it.

I don't remember anyone bringing up the Santa Fe's offer of a buyout. IMO that would have been the best case scenario. I could be sitting on my porch watching warbonnet AC's instead of 2 trains a week behind SW1500's...
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Postby BlockLine_4111 » Mon Oct 08, 2007 8:22 pm

I believe the EL could have survived outside of PR/CR well into Y2K. For starters the EL would need to be stripped down of the commuter ops with some of the dormant branch lines (e.g. northern valley, ny&gl) donated to NYS&W.

From the CNJ side, toss E-Port yards and the Chemical Coast to the EL, toss the rest to the PC. From the LV side toss Oak Island yards and the mainline to Allentown/Waverly/Buffalo to the EL. Toss any reminants to PC. From the RDG side toss the Allentown-Philly and Allentown-HBurg lines to the EL. Toss any reminants to PC.

I'd add the D&H/B&M/B&A to the EL for a Boston and Albany domain and also add the P&LE to the EL too.

What do you think? This would be a competitive EL.
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Postby washingtonsecondary » Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:51 am

Why would EL need the LV main to Allentown? They had the phillipsburg branch (today's washington secondary) to phillipsburg, which joins the CNJ main, and then proceeds to A-Town.
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Postby thebigc » Tue Oct 30, 2007 6:37 pm

I just read this whole thread and only one person acknowledged how crucial the Mahoning Valley steel traffic was to the EL as a whole. All anyone wants to talk about is the UPS traffic and what-if the advent of the double stack. Remember when CR first implemented their double stack service and how most of it ran on the Erie side? Yeah, it ran on the Erie side until the clearances on the River line were increased to accommodate the traffic. Then it was goodbye Erie and hello West Shore.

At any rate, and commuter losses notwithstanding, I wonder how the EL would have fared if they and not PC took over the New Haven in 1969? As I recall, the PC siphoned off most of EL's New England/Canada traffic when they took over the NH. Remember Maybrook?
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EL survival

Postby wdburt1 » Wed Oct 31, 2007 5:09 pm

Part of what gets lost in 20/20 hindsight exercises is how much depends on what went before, and how much of that in turn depends on whether there was some person or persons at the critical moments trying to make it come out a particular way. It's easy to imply, with perfect hindsight, that the stacks "belonged" on the West Shore all along and their operation on the former EL was just a transient phenomenon; but more accurate to realize that if there had been an independent MARC-EL with strong leadership, it would have been moving heaven and earth to keep that business, consolidate their position in the market, deny state funding for improvements to competing routes, and so on. Mostly, Conrail was blessed with strong leadership, and "smite mine enemies" was their plan.

More than we usually admit depends on the quality of the leadership involved.

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Postby BlockLine_4111 » Wed Oct 31, 2007 5:35 pm

thebigc wrote:I just read this whole thread and only one person acknowledged how crucial the Mahoning Valley steel traffic was to the EL as a whole.

At any rate, and commuter losses notwithstanding, I wonder how the EL would have fared if they and not PC took over the New Haven in 1969? As I recall, the PC siphoned off most of EL's New England/Canada traffic when they took over the NH. Remember Maybrook?


Are you saying that the Mahoning Valley steel traffic and NH "bridge traffic" were essential the steak and potatoes of EL's ops?
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Postby JoeG » Wed Oct 31, 2007 5:48 pm

The trouble is, to get the New Haven bridge traffic, EL would have had to take the rest of the New Haven. And the rest of the railroad was hopelessly bankrupt.

Could EL have made some kind of deal, as part of the Penn Central merger, that it would get the Maybrook line and PC would have to take the rest of the NH? Would that have helped EL or would PC still have figured out some way to deprive EL of the bridge traffic?
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Postby thebigc » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:10 am

JoeG wrote:The trouble is, to get the New Haven bridge traffic, EL would have had to take the rest of the New Haven. And the rest of the railroad was hopelessly bankrupt.

Could EL have made some kind of deal, as part of the Penn Central merger, that it would get the Maybrook line and PC would have to take the rest of the NH? Would that have helped EL or would PC still have figured out some way to deprive EL of the bridge traffic?


Like I stated, commuter operations notwithstanding with their inherent losses. You're right about one thing; the NH didn't bring much to the table as far as PC was concerned.

Sure, Marc-EL would have had a head start, clearance-wise, with the stack traffic but do you think that the PC would have stood around with their hands in their pockets while Marc-EL was raking in this traffic? Remember how the NYS&W was in the catbird seat 10 years ago and then they lost both the SeaLand and the Hanjin contracts? Those trains run on the River Line now. Not that there's anything wrong with the Erie side as a through route and I'm sure that our Marc-EL would have done a fine job of moving those stacks but remember NYC practically invented intermodal and I'm sure they would have bent over backwards to improve clearances to accommodate stacks.

The Mahoning Valley? Not much is better for traffic than having a couple comprehensive steel mills as consignees. Look at the P&LE. When J&L Steel closed in Aliquippa (1985?), so went the P&LE. That was the final straw.
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Postby Spin » Thu Nov 01, 2007 8:48 pm

OK, without Maybrook, could the EL have gotten some of that NE traffic back through interchange with the unified D&H/B&M at Binghamton?

Could the mainlines have been bought at liquidation, and operated by a new non-union corporation? That happened where I use to work. Or bought a non-union shortline and have it first take over the branchlines, and then absorb the whole railroad on paper Guilford-style? Or just plain broke the union Florida East Coast style? Payroll was the biggest drain, and the reason Chessie balked.

You are right about having the right management. A good salesman could have landed more deals like the UPS deal, got more customers to build online (power plants, auto works), and might have gotten a much bigger share of traffic coming from existing plants like the steel mills in Cleveland after one of their sales.

Don't forget just how bad PC was. It lost an entire train for a week. Cars were derailing in yards without being moved. It took years to get it back in any kind of shape. Not that the EL was that great of shape, but it could have been patched up and running strong long before Conrail.

Someone brought up Philadelphia, would that be a better port than Hoboken for stacks? unit grain trains from Ohio and Indiana?

It might be a pipe dream, but you land one of the new Honda plants, or a new power plant taking unit trains of Powder River coal, get a jump on the land bridge container biz, you never know. The KCS is doing fine without that stuff.

Just some thoughts to ponder.
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Postby SooLineRob » Thu Nov 01, 2007 11:06 pm

Spin wrote:OK, without Maybrook, could the EL have gotten some of that NE traffic back through interchange with the unified D&H/B&M at Binghamton?

No.

Could the mainlines have been bought at liquidation, and operated by a new non-union corporation?

No.

Or bought a non-union shortline and have it first take over the branchlines, and then absorb the whole railroad on paper Guilford-style?

No.

Or just plain broke the union Florida East Coast style?

No.

Someone brought up Philadelphia, would that be a better port than Hoboken for stacks?

No.

unit grain trains from Ohio and Indiana?

No.

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Postby NYC27 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 8:25 am

Spin wrote: It might be a pipe dream, but you land one of the new Honda plants, or a new power plant taking unit trains of Powder River coal, get a jump on the land bridge container biz, you never know. The KCS is doing fine without that stuff.

Not necessarily a pipe dream. Honda located the Marysville, OH complex off of the EL Dayton Branch during CR years. Probably would have gone to another point on CR if EL was still independent, but you never know.

As for the KCS....they participate in Powder River Coal (south out of KC), land bridge traffic (Dallas-Meridian) and autos (out of Mexico).
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Postby Work Extra » Sun Feb 10, 2008 12:27 pm

I have seen a lot on this forum about the failed EL C&O merger and read that It was not profitable and what not. My question is If CSX is the merger of the C&O and Seaboard railroads and it worked out. Had the Labor disputes not happen the C&O and EL merge then later on taking on the Seaboard There is a slight chance the EL would still be around today.

any thoughts on this?
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THERE IS A BIT OF

Postby henry6 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 4:49 pm

There is a bit of confusion in your post, Work Extra. The C&O-B&O-Family Lines mergers happened. The EL-C&O or CSX didn't. Therefore it did't fail; EL unions just did accept C&O conditions, so it wasn't pursued.

So now, the question should be, if the EL had been successfully absorbed into the CSX fold what would have happened? What would be the current state of EL properties today? Remember, Conrail would have also had a different composition so there would be so many variables and scenerios different than today, I wonder where to begin the answer!
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Postby Work Extra » Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:20 am

Henry6,

thanks for clearing that up for me.
Now on the other hand along the lines of the "what ifs"
Was there any hope of survival if EL leased it's Commuter lines to the State of NJ while they were paid by the state to operate these lines?

I'm new to the EL as far as history and it's demise goes I just started an interest in the road.
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