• Buffalo-Portage Section of the Erie/E-L

  • 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/.
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/.

Moderator: blockline4180

  by JoeS
I was looking at Erie ETT 41 of 1953, and found some interesting things about the Buffalo-Portage section that might be worthy of discussion.

According to ETT 41 this line was single-track between Union Road and Portage. I have read that the route was single-tracked in the 1950s, so apparently this happened prior to 1953. The timetable showed passing sidings at Alden (228 cars), Attica (115 cars), Linden (175 cars) and Silver Springs (95 cars). The west ends of Alden and Linden sidings were equipped with spring switches. These two sidings were referred to as controlled sidings, with movements governed by signal indications. The non-spring switches were hand-thrown. Permission to open these switches was given by the dispatcher via an “S” sign on the controlling signal.

West Alden (West ND, or CP-MARILLA today) was located in the same place as it is today, around MP 406.2. East Alden would have been just east of the Sullivan Rd. crossing in Alden, at MP 403.0. Between 1953 and 1964 the siding was extended and East Alden (East ND) was relocated around MP 401.0 where it remains today as CP-ALDEN. I would guess that when the siding was extended the intermediate signals located east of Sullivan Rd. were installed to allow increased siding capacity.

One important fact gleaned out of TT 41 was that there was no mention of two main tracks up the grade out of Attica. Except for the sidings at Attica and Linden there was one track up the hill. In 1953 the Attica siding appears to have run between the present CP-Attica location and MP 391.36, or just west of Stevens Rd. The west end of Linden siding (West Linden) was MP384.9, with East Linden located at MP 383.

Looking at the 1965 track chart it is apparent that sometime between 1953 and 1964 the eastward main track was added from the east end of Attica siding to the west end of Linden siding. The track chart shows a remote controlled #24 RBM equilateral switch at Attica interlocking, which was undoubtedly added with the second track. The former Attica siding shows up on the eastward track rail detail as a section of 1945 Carnegie rail, with the rest of the eastward main showing “131 lb. DL relay 1961”up to MP 384.66. The place where the former Linden siding was located appears to have been replaced by 131 lb DL rail in 1962. The entire eastbound main also shows as being ballasted with reclaimed stone in 1961. Intermediate signals on the now double-track section were installed at (approximately) MPs 386.3 and 389.5. The westward track was signaled in both directions while the eastward main was signaled only for eastbound traffic. The westbound track also had a “home signal repeater” signal just east of the Main St. crossing which kept trains from blocking the village crossings when the westward home signal at Attica interlocking was all red.

Looking at these differences and the fact that DL rail was installed in 1961 leads me to conclude that the E-L beefed up the capacity of this line after the Lackawanna merger, taking rail from the ex-Lackawanna main and putting it into use on the ex-Erie route. The improvement to the Erie main was also evident by the lengthening of Alden siding, the formation of a controlled siding between Rock Glen and Silver Springs, and the addition of remote-controlled switches. Unfortunately my track chart doesn’t show the rail or roadbed details on the sidings, only main track, so I can’t tell when siding improvements were made.

I wonder if these projects were all done at once post-merger or if they were planned by the Erie, prior to the merger. Any comments on this?

Today, the Buffalo-Portage section of former Erie/E-L track is largely the same as it was in 1965. The biggest change was the shortening of the eastward track (and downgrade to siding status) from East Linden (MP 383) to the present location of CP Linden around MP 387.3. This was done by Conrail in 1979 or 1980 as I recall. CR also took the opportunity at some point to re-signal the segments between Rock Glen and Linden, and between Attica and East Alden.

Otherwise, aside from resurfacing and rail replacement this rail line is as the Erie (or E-L) intended it to be. Between CP-DEPEW and CP-ALDEN the signals are original from the 1960’s track work and remain in use. Two signal bridges, one at Sullivan Rd. in Alden and the other at MP 389.5 east of Attica also remain.

If you can’t tell by now, this is one of my favorite stretches of railroad. I try to follow along between Lancaster and Warsaw whenever the opportunity arises, as there are large portions of it plainly visible from nearby, parallel roads.

  by wdburt1
I believe you have drawn the correct inferences from your study of Buffalo Division track charts and timetables.

A 1960 Trains Magazine article concerning the proposed EL merger, citing ICC testimony of company officials, stated that EL planned to lengthen sidings between Buffalo and Portage to accommodate the shift of Buffalo freight and passenger traffic from the Lackawanna to the Erie west of Corning. The siding extensions that you mention were the implementation of that plan, which was also discussed in the 1961 EL annual report.

As part of the same plan, the eastbound manual hump yard at Hornell was rebuilt as a flat switching yard in 1961-62, then closed a couple of years later due to management unhappiness with productivity there.

The Erie Railroad Buffalo Division had been single-tracked west of Portage with the end of passenger service in 1951, so the early 1960s siding extensions represented a minor turnabout, as did the return of passenger trains. The use of equilateral turnouts at East Alden and Attica was in keeping with their use in some single-tracking projects that were implemented in Indiana during the same years; otherwise, they were rare on EL. Despite the fact that EL was broke, Buffalo Division signalization changes were done to Erie standards of the time. Intermediate signals on signal bridges midway along the Attica and Alden sidings/double track were a nice touch.

Concurrently with these improvements, the former DL&W between Painted Post and and Depew was single-tracked. The segment east of Wayland, with which I am familiar, had its control-cooled 131RE and 132RE stick rail replaced by older 130RE and 131RE non-control cooled stick rail cascaded down from other places. (Fit control-cooled rail is generally coveted for re-use as welded rail.) The 132RE remains in some of the crossings today. When the DL was single-tracked, EL recovered the ballast. Whether the salvaged 131 and 132 pound rail and recovered ballast was used in the ex-Erie Buffalo Division improvements, or in other projects carried out in those years (Hornell Yard rebuilding, Bison Yard construction, Pymatuning Reservoir relocation, Kinzua Dam relocation, etc.) I am unable to say.

  by Caseyjim
The interlocking signals at Silver Springs,East Linden, and CP Attica have all been replaced by Southern Railway style signals and the signal bridge that held the westbound home signal at Silver Springs is gone as is the one at Dixon's Crossing near Attica. I have pictures I shot of the changeover being prepped at Silver Springs. This was done by Norfolk Southern. Replacement of the Portage Bridge is likely to be next as is straightening out the curve on the west side of the river. BTW, except for this bridge, the line was double track all the way from Hornell to Buffalo at one time, until the last passenger train was removed in 1951`.
  by TB Diamond
The last passenger trains on the Buffalo-Portage section of the E-L, 10 & 15, lasted until early 1969.
  by erie2521
The last Erie passenger trains were in 1951. There were no passenger trains for ten years or so until after the merger. Then what was left of the Lackawanna trains were brought over (a couple of pairs, I believe).