• Allentown - West End Branch LVRR

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania

Moderator: bwparker1

  by one87th
Last of West End Branch photos:
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Last edited by one87th on Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by one87th
Some final thoughts on the Lehigh Valley West End Branch:

A list of freight shippers on the branch from 1969-1972 can be found at http://www.anthraciterailroads.org/lvrr ... branch.htm

Towards the end of operations, the track was in deplorable condition. I remember there was a derailment of a boxcar bound for Ritter and Smith which tied up a major intersection in Allentown for the better part of a day.

If you have access to them, Sanborn Insurance Maps show all spurs and names of industries served at the early part of the 20th century.

For an invaluable resource about the branch, see the video tape of the LV West End and Barber Quarry Branches presented by David Latchaw (slide presentation filmed in 1999), available through the Anthracite Roads Historical Society.

The branch also saw passenger service: in the early 20th century the Lehigh Valley ran trains to 17th and Liberty Streets for the Allentown Fair. And when the circus was in town in the 1950's, the unloaded circus cars were often parked on the branch for the duration of the show.
Last edited by one87th on Mon Mar 22, 2010 1:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by carajul
Wow I love those pics. Absolutely incredibe the amount of industry we've lost in this country. The 1969,70,71,72 car loading for the west end branch don't appear to be that great. But this was the time when the RR would serve you if you had 1 car a month. Not like their current mentality of blowing off potential customers or telling them to use trucks.

I can see why CR abandoned and sold the line... $420,000 in 1981 was an incredible amount of money. And with all but one of the online customer still operating they wanted to take the $ and run!

One other item of interest. If you wonder why they'd build a rail branch thru city streets it's because this area of A'town was all farm land until the 1950s. The penn pilot photos show the west end branch in the middle of nowhere in 1939. In fact my dad told me he use to hunt in the woods along MacArthur Rd/7th St in Whitehall just north of A'town which is now nothing but shopping malls on each side!

Take a look at the same location as the 2nd photos in front of the white buildings. No sign of the rr at all but you can see the cement sewer drain and now-defunct coal bins!
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source= ... 77,,0,7.76
  by 56-57
Thanks a ton for taking the time to scan and post those photos! Really great record you have there, it's possible no one else took the time to make a record of that just for posterity.. Awesome stuff!

  by rwk
it's a shame the rr is all gone. If it were there RJ Corman could have used it, if there were at least one customer like the Ritter and Smith at the end, but there's no hope at all building it back ever again, as the ROW was sold to the city, and Walgreens built their store right on the ROW, Sumner Av. was relocated on top of the ROW, and a new extension of Sumner Av. built on the ROW to American Pkwy. over by 6th. It seems almost all traces of the rr have been removed, except for a few places. Is there any rail left anywhere in 2010? I know the main was pulled up, when, 1985-1988? but any pices of rail left anywhere or any spurs left? Also the remains of the Barber Branch were removed as well, as I think the crossing on Lehigh St. was removed we went by there not too long ago and I don't remember seein any rails. No crossbucks, either I think. There was also a Reading branch which followed the Barber Branch where did it go, at Auburn and Lehigh Sts. you can see the raised embankment on both sides where it was, and the bridge over Lehigh St. is long gone. It did go under 8th and 15th st bridges. On satellite maps I confirmed yes, the rails are gone on the Barber Branch. When were they removed? There was track crossing Lehigh St. by the place with all the cars and factories on the other side as recently as several years ago and crossbucks, yellow round RR advance warning signs. Did CR ever use part of the Barber? If the Barber and West End were there, then RJ Corman would have had more track. RJ Corman runs all remaining former LV track north of CP-Burn. The spur crossing Union St. and going under Hamilton and Linden Sts. only goes as far as Gordon St. where it ends. It used to reconnect with the main north of there, but it's gone. It followed next to where the American Parkway is now. So, no track left north of Gordon, including the West End. Thanks for sharing the photos. I remember Ice City. That area around Tilghman has changed so much. So many new things have came about since the tracks were removed. The former drive-in beer place on 17th near Tilghman is now a tv repair, by dad bought beer there sometimes we would drive right through it. My dad passed Mar 8, 1986. He usually got his beer at Budget Beverage, though which is still there on Tilghman near Cedar Crest. He worked for Bethlehem Steel and we had to drive him to work a few times and around 1980, 1981 I saw an RDC train at the 3rd St. crossing! It was idling at the Union Station shelter there, off of 3rd St. The last RDC runs there were on June 30, 1981. Now, the track is gone except for a small piece off of 3rd St. near the Union Station. The former Reading line was torn up from the Lehigh River bridge and LV main all the way to Iron Hill Yard. It is becoming a greenway. No more commuter rail, then, ever, unless the City of Bethlehem lets someone rebuild track through their greenway, which will never happen. The track is gone from Hellertown to south of Coopersburg, as well. it was all cleared about 1 1/2 years ago. Almost nothing remains of the line in Lehigh and Northampton Counties, but the Bucks/Mont section is intact. Track is in as far north as Springfield Rd. overpass south of Coopersburg in Bucks Co. Track is abandoned past Calif. Rd. north of Quakertown.
  by carajul
I exploered the west end branch row last week. There is literally NOTHING left to indicate the RR was ever there. It has been completely obliterated. There are a few crossbuck cement post bases and in the parking lot by the Chevy dealer the pavement is discolored but that's it. I'll post pics soon.
  by 56-57
Near 15th and either Tilghman or Sumner (I don't recall just now) there's rail in the pavement of an auto lot, along the side of the building on the property.. That's all I've ever found..

  by rwk
Why would Conrail tear it up and make it impossible to rebuild it ever again by selling the land so that private owners can build things on it? If only RJ Corman would have gotten it if it had survived. And, the Barber is gone, too, all of it except for a few bridges. Yes, it's hard for me to tell where the track was except for a few spots. About Sumner Av. did they widen it or move it over to cover the ROW? Between Tilghman St and Liberty St the Walgreens was built upon the ROW, and a pizza place at Liberty and 17th Sts. Sumner Av. was extended over to American Pkwy. and built on some of the ROW. At the medical building next to LV Hospital at 17th and Liberty people park where the track was as they extended the parking lot onto the ROW. A shame it's gone, it might have made a nice tourist rr as well.
  by carajul
CR abandoned it because all the industrial customers had closed up shop and the lumber place burned down in 1979-1980, plus they had to pay property tax and maintain the tracks/grade xings? That, combined with the $400,000 that the city of A'town waved in front of their face, was reason enough to sell the row.

Hmmm let's see keep a line that sees a $500/month boxcar movement or take $400,000 cash?

Once all the factories and warehouses were gone the line was defunct.
  by 56-57
In the state of Pennsylvania, for all intents and purposes, railroads don't pay property tax. At least not on property directly related to railroading, i.e. the land under the track.

I don't think Conrail gave a damn about the money the city was willing to give as much as they were concerned with getting rid of little branches like this by the hundreds.. Remember, Conrail had bigger fish to fry. They were an east-west carrier concerned with returning themselves to profitability. Running as many TOFC trains from the east coast to the midwest was a bit higher on their list than the viability of some branches in cities that were running-down..

  by carajul
Didn't care about $400k cash? I doubt that. In 1984 $400k was quite a bit of money.

I agree CR didn't care about branchlines (nor do CXS or NS).

With the west end branch all the rail customers had closed up and the main lumber yard customer at the end burned down. The RR was left with no one to serve. The same thing with the E&N and Ironton.

All those factories/jobs are now in China.
  by Bethlehem Jct.
By the mid 80's the West End Branch was a white elephant. Property taxes aside, they were running tracks along and across city streets with a fair to heavy amount of both auto and pedestrian traffic. I'm willing to guess there were liability concerns about operating trains on deteriorating track through that. The revenues generated were unlikely high enough to justify rebuilding it. Potential rail customers were unlikely to locate along the line either. Why move to center-city Allentown when you could setup in an outlying township? Cheaper all around, and likely more convenient for auto traffic (i.e., employees and shipping). Also, how did the City of Allentown feel about this? I'll bet that they wanted to be rid of the nuisance of the trains running through the area.
$400k in '84 translates to nearly $838k today. That's nothing to sneeze at. It was win-win. Allentown got rid of the trains, Conrail got rid of a marginal line that saw little revenue and was unlikely unprofitable, or at best, marginally so.
Not every rail line makes sense. Heck, some lines never should have been built in the first place. This was a line that had outlived it's usefulness.
  by carajul
Keep in mind that when the west end branch was built, it wasn't running thru city streets. The northern part of A'town was farmland. The 1938 arials show the branch in the middle of farm fields. It served the Hess warehouse at the end. It wasn't until the 1950s suburbian boom when northern A'town was developed. The city simply grew around the rr.
  by rwk
I can still remember the crossing at Tilghman St. and 17th. and the crossbucks (no lights) were still in. It must have been 1982-1983. The track was still in in the late 1980's but crossings were paved over. I don't ever remember seeing a train in 1980-1983. The track was all gone by the 90's I believe. I saw a short piece of track still in near 12th or 13th Sts. several years ago. It might be gone now.
  by valleyfan628
HI, I just ran across these pictures of the West End Branch in Allentown. A friend of mine has recently started a thread on this branch and has posted many pictures of his, mine and others as we both followed this branch very closely back in the late 60's, early 70's.
http://Forums.Railfan.net/forums.cgi?bo ... 17;start=0
If you have interests in the branches that served Allentown you will find a lot of detailed information on this thread as we have had over 360 posts, many with pictures of both the West End and Barber Quarry branchess.