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.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.
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?).