The EL and the Southern Tier- Rich or Poor?

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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Re: The EL and the Southern Tier- Rich or Poor?

Postby johnpbarlow » Fri Jul 01, 2016 6:06 am

GulfRail wrote:Overhead traffic is all well and good, but a railroad needs online sources of traffic to sustain it. In that respect, the Southern Tier was at a distinct disadvantage when compared to the Pennsylvania's Philadelphia-Pittsburgh or the Central's Albany-Buffalo mainlines.


Agreed that significant on-line business is important to a RR line's long term viability (and likely makes it a superior option relative to a bridge route) but there are exceptions where a line can sustain itself with overhead traffic such as the D&H line between Scranton and Montreal ("The Bridge Line to New England and Canada") which continues to operate 8 +/- daily trains today for NS/CP with relatively little on-line business.

But in comparing EL lines between NJ and Buffalo/Jamestown to the ex-NYC Water Level Route, EL was not simply a bridge line and it served shippers in most of the same major industrial cities as the NYC: Buffalo via a mainline and Buffalo Creek RR jointly owned with LV, Niagara Falls via branch and jointly owned Niagara Jct RR, Rochester (branch), Syracuse (branch), Oswego (branch), and Utica (branch). I don't have data but EL's traffic to Buffalo, NF, and Syracuse/Oswego was significant while traffic to/from Rochester was paltry.

One more opinion: on-line carload business Albany to Buffalo is way down in 2016 due to loss of manufacturing across NY state making CSX's ex-NYC route more similar to a bridge line but it still hosts a whopping number of daily intermodal/manifest/unit trains (fiftyish?).
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Re: The EL and the Southern Tier- Rich or Poor?

Postby GulfRail » Sat Jul 02, 2016 12:13 am

johnpbarlow wrote:Agreed that significant on-line business is important to a RR line's long term viability (and likely makes it a superior option relative to a bridge route) but there are exceptions where a line can sustain itself with overhead traffic such as the D&H line between Scranton and Montreal ("The Bridge Line to New England and Canada") which continues to operate 8 +/- daily trains today for NS/CP with relatively little on-line business.

Point taken.

johnpbarlow wrote:But in comparing EL lines between NJ and Buffalo/Jamestown to the ex-NYC Water Level Route, EL was not simply a bridge line and it served shippers in most of the same major industrial cities as the NYC: Buffalo via a mainline and Buffalo Creek RR jointly owned with LV, Niagara Falls via branch and jointly owned Niagara Jct RR, Rochester (branch), Syracuse (branch), Oswego (branch), and Utica (branch). I don't have data but EL's traffic to Buffalo, NF, and Syracuse/Oswego was significant while traffic to/from Rochester was paltry.

I have no doubt the Erie did significant business on its branches to Buffalo and Syracuse. With that said, I stand by my earlier statement that the Southern Tier (I.E. the route from Port Jervis to Hornell) was poor, since it had a dearth of online customers when compared to the Central's route and also had to compete with the Lehigh Valley and (prior to 1960) Lackawanna. While mainlines, the Lehigh, Erie and Lackawanna lines had nowhere near as many customers as the Central's line. Moreover, they were all fighting amongst themselves for traffic. There were a lot of factors that led to the Erie Lackawanna's bankruptcy: rate regulation, excessive taxation, skyrocketing commuter deficits, featherbedding, the Oil Crisis, Hurricane Agnes, stagflation, competition with trucks and other railroads and a debt load dating back to the days when Gould and Fisk controlled the Erie. The fact the Southern Tier (and the Erie's mainline in general) had fewer customers than the Central or the Pennsylvania's mainlines was just another nail in the coffin.

johnpbarlow wrote:One more opinion: on-line carload business Albany to Buffalo is way down in 2016 due to loss of manufacturing across NY state making CSX's ex-NYC route more similar to a bridge line but it still hosts a whopping number of daily intermodal/manifest/unit trains (fiftyish?).

Manufacturing in New York State consists of things like electronics and apparel, which tend to travel in trailers, not boxcars. Chances are some of those trailers you see are filled with products that were produced locally.
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Re: The EL and the Southern Tier- Rich or Poor?

Postby Mike Horton » Sun Jan 01, 2017 9:27 pm

Remember that the southern tier was and is still sparsely populated compared to the Buffalo/Albany corridor,so online customers would also be less. And railroads were not looking as hard for small on-line customers, some were even discouraging it by the later sixties.
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Re: The EL and the Southern Tier- Rich or Poor?

Postby john56 » Tue Jan 17, 2017 3:56 pm

I think it was the overall business climate,taxes,and imports .I grew up in the Southern Tier and as bad as the poverty and poor economy has become there I don't see it as any worse than what happened to cities along the Buffalo Albany corridor.Buffalo went from almost 600,000 in the 50's to 260,000 today.Rochester and Utica also imploded.They went from rich to poor.Transportation played a part but it wasn't the main reason.It happened all over upstate.
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Re: The EL and the Southern Tier- Rich or Poor?

Postby s4ny » Mon Apr 24, 2017 1:51 pm

I remember growing up in Wayland. We joked that we lived in the northernmost village
in Appalachia.

In 1956, as a Cub Scout, I took a DL&W trip to visit the Endicott Johnson shoe factory.
It was a same day round trip. Is anything there now?

As the US economy transitioned from manufacturing to services, the Southern Tier
was left behind. The same is true for all of NY state once you get 50 miles north of
NY City.

Rochester is not a Southern Tier city, but now suffers from many of the same symptoms.
In the 1950 census, Rochester was ranked #32 in population. #31 was San Diego, #33 was Atlanta.
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