• 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 carajul
 
Does anyone know when the last train ran on the LVRR's west end branch? This branch swung off the passenger main. No trace of it today. The row has been obliterated. You can sort of follow it in that the 100+ yr old buildings along the row kinda are formed around where the track ran.
  by 56-57
 
Conrail, 1983ish... There was a thread on this line in one of the forums a few years back.. That's where I learned this myself.. If anyone has better information, please feel free to correct this.

MJK
  by rwk
 
This branch used to go to the Ritter and Smith Lumber by 13th/12th Sts. just before the big cemetery. I never saw a train on it when I remember it, probably because Conrail hardly used it toward the end. I was born in Jan 1974, so I only remember Conrail. I remember still seeing track along Sumner Av. in the mid-late 1980's althouh all the crossings were paved over by then. By the 1990's, the track was all gone. Just south of Tilghman St, Walgreens built a store right on top of the ROW several years back. The Rich Mar Florist along Tilghman St. by the ROW near the Walgreens used to be something else, as Rich Mar was originally in the Village West shopping center at Tilghman St. and Cedar Crest Blvd, which opened in the early 80's (1982?) with Giant food store. On the other side of Tilghman by Wally's Deli the track went right through the pavement curving. It's hard to follow the rest of it since some of it has been built upon since the 1980's, etc. Also at 17th and Liberty the track went through were cars now park for the medical offices, there used to be a stone path where the track went, but I think the parking lot was expanded to include the former RR ROW. I still remember when there were crossing signs at Tilghman St. and 17th St. intersection in the early 1980's. I think just simple crossbucks. Also, Ice City used to be there between Tilghman and Liberty, now the one spot is an auto place, and the main store is something else, Namco I think. Also, Ruhe Motors at Tilghman and 15th. was torn down recently for an Auto Zone.
  by mrobinson
 
Hi. Relatively new here but lurking for a couple of years.

Know the West End Branch pretty well. The date 1983-ish is probably correct. The City of Allentown bought the ROW from Conrail after service ended. Mostly the purchase was to allow Sumner Avenue to be relocated on top of the ROW. Other pieces got sold off over the years. Tracks were in at least until 1984/1985. Correct that crossings had been removed before. There are still crossbuck bases if you know where to look at some of the crossings like at 13th St. RIch Mar was a pizza place originally and the back of the store is angled because of the RR. Same as the building Wally's is in. The big customer had been Trexler Lumber at 17th & Liberty until it burned around 1979 or 1980. Big, big fire. There was a Hess's warehouse out near there too IIRC. Down along the Jordan Creek, the doubletrack bridge still is there and can be seen from Meadow Street at Allen Street. Under the 4th St. bridge, the ROW is now gone, under rebuilt Sumner Ave. I have some pictures of trains on the Branch, one at 17th & Tilghman for sure.
  by carajul
 
So that's why I've never been able to locate the row...Sumner Ave is built on top of it! I'd love to see those pics of a train on the branch. Please post them! Is that why CR abandoned the branch...the lubmer customer at the end burned down?

I've been walking the row on google street map view and yep, with a good eye you can still make out the rr. In several parking lots around 17th St you can see the blacktop is a different color where the rails were torn out. And I've even found some crossbuck bases!

IIRC I read in a LVRR history book that the branch actually didn't just dead end. It made half an S curve at the end, looping back and there was a LCL freight terminal between 12th and 13th Strees at Gordon St just before the West End Cemetary. Some of the freight station buildings are still there today!

The Walgreens drug store is right in the middle of the loop.

UPDATE: go take a look at the Penn Pilot map in 1939 and 1972 they have an aerial right aboe the end of the ROW! It did loop around at a big warehouse, where 4 spurs went into the warehouse, then it went eastward until stub ending at a freight house where there were 6 tracks or so. Compared to present day you can still make out the loop because of retaining walls and small paved alleys that follow the old row. Most of the old buildings are gone and have been turned into parking lots. Heck even the horse track in the fairgrounds is now a circular shaped parking lot. But looking at an arial view you can clearly make out the row in present day. Amazing!
  by mrobinson
 
I am surprised at the interest in the West End Branch. If I can scan the photos, I'll try to post. though I'm knew at this.

From what I know, Sumner Ave. sits on top of the Branch from Meadow St to 5th St. The tracks actually crossed Sumner twice, IIRC, once at the 4th St bridge and again around 5th St. When Sumner was rebuilt circa 1990, all of that area was totally reworked and the trackbed was removed. From there, it cut aross 6th St, behind the house at 6th & Sumner, and ran thru Schneider's Scrap Yard, under the 7th St bridge along the stone wall and when it reached 8th St, the tracks were alongside Sumner Ave. The whole length of Sumner from 8th out to 15th St had sidings to reach customers. Some crossed Sumner like at Levine's Textile. At 15th, the tracks swung away from Sumner and climbed to 17th & Tilghman. Yes, you are correct that the Walgreen's sits right on top of where the tracks ran. I think there was a coal yard there a long time ago. The tracks swung around and ran along Scott St, between Liberty & Gordon St all the way to 12th St. I don't know of a freight house at 12th St but some of the Ritter & Smith buildings are still there.

I have heard of a proposal to connect the West End Branch with the Barber Quarry Branch to form a "Belt Line" around Allentown.

While not the West End Branch, how about the "tunnel" under Front St?
  by carajul
 
Please get those pics posted! I'd love to see them. Next time I'm in Allentown it'll be an exploration trip for sure.

Yes, I also heard that the LVRR wanted to form a loop around A'town by connecting the WEB and the Barber Quarry branch.
  by ecm4
 
This is a great topic, as I always suspected that a railroad ran along Sumner Ave, but having only moved into the area in the mid '90s, I missed it's actual existence.
On Sumner around 10th or 11th street, there is a business (oil dealer?) that looks to have some old stone coal bins on part of the property -- I assume these were probably restocked via the WEB?

mrobinson: are you referring to the railroad tunnel that is now part of American Parkway, or the old stone bridge/tunnel (filled in now) slightly north on Front St that looks like it used to carry a different rail line towards the river?
  by mrobinson
 
ecm4 wrote:This is a great topic, as I always suspected that a railroad ran along Sumner Ave, but having only moved into the area in the mid '90s, I missed it's actual existence.
On Sumner around 10th or 11th street, there is a business (oil dealer?) that looks to have some old stone coal bins on part of the property -- I assume these were probably restocked via the WEB?

mrobinson: are you referring to the railroad tunnel that is now part of American Parkway, or the old stone bridge/tunnel (filled in now) slightly north on Front St that looks like it used to carry a different rail line towards the river?
Yes, the "tunnel" is a rather long stone culvert under Front St. The east end top part is very visible but the rest of it has been buried under dirt. That was the LV passenger line that the West End branch came off of. It continued to LV Main and joined it at Gap Junction.

I think you're correct that Morris Wisser did get carloads of coal on those piers. At 15th St, there is a car dealer on the southeast corner and last summer his lot was clear and you could see the rails still next to the building where the big doors were.

Once I have some place to save the pictures to, I will post them. I found a slide of a LV switcher next to the car wash at 17th & Liberty. That car wash is now the pizza place.
  by ecm4
 
Here is an old "birds eye" view of that area from 1901 showing the two bridges/tunnels.

Image
  by one87th
 
Below are some photos of the branch in the 1980's. Forgive the soft focus... I was a young teenager pedaling my bike and using a 110 Instamatic camera to take these photos. The photos of the NW2 were taken in 1982 or 83, shortly before service ended. The remainder were taken in 1984, after the branch was abandoned. I do not know the exact date of abandonment, but a 1984 Morning Call article states that Conrail advertised to abandon the line in 1981, and in 1984 the city had agreed to buy the 3.4 miles of line (29.9 acres) for $420,000. Conrail was instructed by the PUC to remove the tracks and restore the streets, but the city agreed to assume responsibility.
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  by one87th
 
More photos in order progressing west from 7th Street:
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  by one87th
 
More photos:
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  by one87th
 
More photos:
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  by one87th
 
More photos:
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