PB&LE Locomotive #2, 4-4-0 “American Standard” Built by Danforth Machine Co. in 1869. Scrapped at Greenville Shops in 1899.  Note the link-and-pin coupler on the front of the locomotive and the absence of air-brake hoses!



I’m hardly a railroad expert, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the railroad heritage we have in Northwestern Pennsylvania.  My grandfather was a railroad machinist; my uncle a brakeman and conductor for many years. Other family members worked on the railroad in one capacity or another from time to time.  As a kid, I always wanted to be the engineer on a steam locomotive.  Thanks to my mother, I managed to get a ride in the cab of the (REAL!) steam engine that pulled the excursion train at Conneaut Lake Park in the early 1970’s.  I don’t remember the locomotive number or much about the train itself, but I remember the friendly engine crew, the pleasant warmth of the cab, the enormous firebox doors, and the smell of burning coal and hot oil.  I was hooked right then, and I still can’t get enough exposure to live steam. I wanted nothing more than to ride that train forever and learn how to operate the huge iron machine.  Reality intervened – real steam locomotives existed only on the rare tourist excursions and the movies. Most steamers had met the scrapper’s torch a decade before I took my first ride. “Real” trains were diesel-electric road switchers with very little romance.  The economic recession of the late 1970’s meant railroad layoffs, closures, and downsizing.  By the mid-1980’s when I went looking for a job, there was little chance to work locally on the railroad.  The few railroad jobs to be had went to the folks with closer family ties than I could muster.


There’s a lot of railroad action in Erie County and I’m hard pressed to do the topic justice.  I’ll start with a list of the companies from the golden era of railroading and build from there.  I don’t mean to give anybody’s favorite railroad the short end of the stick, but I’ll start with what I know in western Erie County and work from there.


Table of Contents:


  • Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad
  • Pennsylvania Railroad
  • Nickel Plate Road (New York, Chicago, and St. Louis)
  • New York Central
  • Erie Railroad
  • The Great Erie Gauge War
  • The Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster
  • The New York Central Wreck of 1953 (Springfield Township)




Figure 1: The main moving parts of a steam locomotive with Walschaerts valve gear: 1 - Link, 2 - Eccentric crank, 3 - Radius rod, 4 - Lap/lead lever, 5 - Crosshead, 6 - Valve, 7 - Cylinder, 8 - Reach rod


The main moving parts of a steam locomotive with Walschaerts valve gear: 1 - Link, 2 - Eccentric crank, 3 - Radius rod, 4 - Lap/lead lever, 5 - Crosshead, 6 - Valve, 7 - Cylinder, 8 - Reach rod


Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad:


THE local railroad of interest is (was?) the BESSEMER and LAKE ERIE RAILROAD.  Running from North Bessemer near Pittsburgh to the Lake Erie ports of Conneaut, Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania the mainline passed within sight of my home in Albion.  As a child, the two mainline tracks crossing State Street often carried up to twenty trains a day; taconite pellets from Minnesota heading south to the steel mills of Pittsburgh and coal heading north to the Great Lakes.  At the time, the Albion Yards included an engine house with locomotive repair facilities, fuel depot, car shops, and maintenance of way.  There was always activity of some kind.  Besides the coal and iron ore moving through town, there was the occasional mixed freight serving customers like the Albion Mill and a small lumberyard that was once located on South Main Street.


The Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad was a railroad company operating in western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio. The railroad's main route ran from the Lake Erie port of Conneaut, Ohio to North Bessemer, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, a distance of 139 miles. The original rail ancestor of the B&LE, the Shenango and Allegheny Railroad, began operation in October of 1869. Rail operations were maintained continuously by various corporate descendents on the growing system that ultimately became the B&LE in 1900, until it was purchased by Canadian National Railway in 2004. The B&LE and its predecessors offered passenger service but, in 1955, the railroad became strictly a freight hauler.


The Pittsburgh, Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad Company was founded in 1897 by Andrew Carnegie to haul iron ore and other products from the port at Conneaut, Ohio on the Great Lakes to Carnegie Steel Company plants in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. On the return trip, Pennsylvania coal was hauled north to Conneaut Harbor. The company was created largely out of a series of small predecessor companies including the Pittsburgh, Shenango and Lake Erie Railroad, and the Butler and Pittsburgh Railroad Company. The company was renamed the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad in 1900. Carnegie Steel had an exclusive 999 year lease to the PS&LE. This lease was acquired by US Steel when that company acquired Carnegie Steel in 1901.


In 1988, the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad became part of Transtar, Inc. Transtar was a privately-held transportation holding company with principal operations in railroad freight transportation, dock operations, Great Lakes shipping, and inland river barging that were formerly subsidiaries of USX, the holding company that owns U.S. Steel. In 2001, the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad became part of Great Lakes Transportation, LLC. On May 10, 2004, Canadian National Railway acquired the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad. Iron ore and coal are still the route's major freight commodities.


June 19, 2005 BLE #902 EMD SD40T Southbound at XB Interlocking,

North Bessemer, Pennsylvania

Photo by Bryan Bell


The B&LE connects with the Norfolk Southern Railway at Wallace Junction, near Girard, Pennsylvania, and at the Shenango, Pennsylvania yard. The Union Railroad connects at the B&LE's southern terminus at North Bessemer, Pennsylvania. CSX connects at Shenango Yard and the Buffalo and Pittsburgh connects at Butler, Pennsylvania. The B&LE also formerly interchanged at Osgood, PA with the New York Central System, later Penn Central and then Conrail, until the latter abandoned the line in 1988.


The main rail yard and locomotive and car shops are now located in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Although the B&LE acquired some early diesel-electric switching locomotives painted black with yellow trim, the company adopted a locomotive color scheme of bright orange and black in 1950, and it remained so through the CN purchase.


The B&LE mainline divides around Greenville between Osgood ("KO") three miles north of Greenville and Kremis (the waypoint uses this name) three miles south; the original line follows the Little Shenango and Shenango Rivers south into downtown Greenville (where the B&LE shops are located, and then to Kremis en route to Fredonia and Mercer, PA. Some years ago, the B&LE constructed a shortcut cutoff ("KO") line to bypass this winding route through Greenville. It runs between the "KO" junction near Osgood over a massive trestle above the Little Shenango River (and the original B&LE mainline), passes east of Greenville, and rejoins the original line at Kremis, thus shortening the run by several miles (this section was double-tracked for some years but is now single track).


There was originally one tunnel on the B&LE mainline at Culmerville, but it was dug out or "daylighted" in 1922, converting it to an open cut through a hill.



B&LE Locomotive 643, Greenville, Pennsylvania, Bill Navari Photo, Circa 1961

 2-10-4 Type H1G Built in 1943 by Baldwin Locomotive Works – Retired from Service in 1953. Retained for Historical Exhibition.  Still existent in 2001.  Last known location was Pittsburgh yards near the Allegheny River Bridge.






Pennsylvania Railroad:


Barely a mile west of Albion ran a small local branch of  the Pennsylvania Railroad.  This branch line served to connect Erie with the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad near Hartewood, PA and thence to the Pennsylvania RR mainline at Pittsburgh.  This branch is noted on maps of the PRR System dated 1879 and may have been in operation as early as 1850 as the Pittsburgh and Erie RR.  The last passenger train to use this particular branch was the inaugural train of Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer in 1967. 


Pennsylvania Railroad 5823 (DR-12-8-1500/2 "Centipede") An Early Diesel-Electric Passenger Locomotive Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works but designed by the PRR for use in non-electrified track west of the Alleghenies.  The large number of drive wheels allows for greater traction on the steep grades found in Western Pennsylvania.


The Pennsylvania Railroad was founded in 1846 and merged in 1968 into Penn Central Transportation. Commonly referred to as the Pennsy, the company was headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The company's symbol was a keystone (Pennsylvania's symbol) with the letters PRR intertwined inside it. When colored, it was bright red with silver-grey edges and lettering (although it also appears in metal leaf outline on a wooden background on station benches).


The PRR was the largest railroad by traffic and revenue in the US throughout its 20th century existence and for a long while was the largest publicly traded corporation in the world. The corporation still holds the record for the longest continual dividend history: it doled out annual payments to shareholders for more than 100 years in a row.


Like the Reading Railroad, the PRR served Atlantic City, New Jersey; one of the four railroad squares in the board game Monopoly is called Pennsylvania Railroad.


For a long time the PRR called itself the Standard Railroad of the World, meaning that it was the standard to which all other railroads aspired, the "gold standard". For a long time that was literally true; the railroad had an impressive lists of firsts, greatests, biggests and longests. The PRR was the first railroad to rid itself of wooden-bodied passenger cars in favor of the much safer steel-bodied cars. It led the way in many safety and efficiency improvements over the years. This advantage lessened as the years progressed, and the PRR eventually abandoned the use of the phrase.


The Pennsylvania Railroad was standard in another way, too - it was an early proponent of standardization. While other railroads used whatever was to hand or available, the Pennsylvania tested and experimented with solutions until they could decide on one, and then made it standard across the whole company. Other railroads bought locomotives and railroad cars in small lots, taking whatever was available from manufacturers at the time. The PRR produced huge numbers of standardized designs. This gave the railroad a feel of uniformity and greatly reduced costs. The PRR was also an early adopter of standard liveries and color schemes.


The eastern part of the PRR's main line was built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as part of the Main Line of Public Works, a railroad and canal corridor across the state. The system opened in 1834, consisting of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad from Philadelphia west to Columbia on the Susquehanna River, a canal from Columbia to Hollidaysburg, the Allegheny Portage Railroad from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown, and another canal from Johnstown to the terminus in Pittsburgh. The Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad had one inclined plane at each end; the Allegheny Portage Railroad had ten.


The Pennsylvania Railroad Company was chartered by the Pennsylvania legislature on April 13, 1846. Construction began in 1847 and the first section opened from Harrisburg west to Lewistown on September 1, 1849 (including the original Rockville Bridge across the Susquehanna River). Further extensions opened to McVeytown on December 24, Mount Union on April 1, 1850, Huntingdon on June 10, and Duncansville (west of Hollidaysburg) on September 16, 1850, taking it to a connection with the Allegheny Portage Railroad on the east side of the Allegheny Ridge. On the other side of the ridge, the main line opened from Conemaugh (on the Portage Railroad east of Johnstown) west to Lockport on August 25, 1851. On December 10, 1851, sections opened from Lockport west to Beatty (west of Latrobe) and from Pittsburgh east to Brinton, with a temporary stagecoach transfer between via the Southern Turnpike and a short turnpike branch built to Beatty. Part of that gap was filled on July 15, 1852, from Brinton east to Radebaugh, and on November 29 the full line was completed, forming the first all-rail route between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.


Plane Number 1 of the Portage Railroad was bypassed on April 1, 1852. Other planes began to be bypassed by the New Portage Railroad, completed in 1856, but on February 15, 1854 the PRR's new line opened, leaving the old one on the east side of the ridge in Altoona and running west via the Horseshoe Curve and Gallitzin Tunnel, only using a short portion of the old Portage Railroad near South Fork and a longer adjacent section of New Portage Railroad. A reciprocal trackage rights agreement made March 18, 1854 allowed the PRR to use that section for free.


Pennsylvania RR  #4595 Baldwin 2-10-0 Class I1 Decapod

Negotiates Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, Pennsylvania


On March 21, 1849 the PRR contracted with Eagle Line, primarily a steamboat company, for through service over the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad. The PRR obtained trackage rights over the Portsmouth, Mount Joy and Lancaster Railroad, opened in 1838, on April 21, providing a route from Harrisburg to the Philadelphia and Columbia at Dillerville, just west of Lancaster. On September 1 the first section of the PRR opened, with all arrangements in place for service from Philadelphia to Lewistown. On December 20, 1860 the PRR formally leased the line west of Dillerville, renamed the Harrisburg, Portsmouth, Mount Joy and Lancaster Railroad in 1855.


In 1853 the PRR surveyed the Lancaster, Lebanon and Pine Grove Railroad from Philadelphia west via Phoenixville to Salunga on the Portsmouth, Mount Joy and Lancaster Railroad. This was done in order to show the state that the PRR was willing to build its own alignment around the Philadelphia and Columbia. On July 31, 1857, the PRR bought the whole Main Line of Public Works. The Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad was integrated into its system. Most of the New Portage Railroad, just completed the previous year at a cost of $2.14 million, was abandoned, while short sections became local branches. The canals were abandoned, and short sections were filled and covered by rails. In 1904 the New Portage Railroad east of the Gallitzin Tunnels (through the "Muleshoe Curve") was reopened as a freight bypass line.


In the early 1860s the PRR gained control of the Northern Central Railway, giving it access to Baltimore along the Susquehanna River (via connections at Columbia or Harrisburg).


On December 1, 1871 [2] the PRR leased the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Companies, which included the original Camden and Amboy Railroad from Camden, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, to South Amboy, across Raritan Bay from New York City, as well as a newer line from Philadelphia to Jersey City, much closer to New York, via Trenton. Track connection in Philadelphia was made via the United Companies' Connecting Railway and the jointly-owned Junction Railroad.


The PRR's Baltimore and Potomac Rail Road opened on July 2, 1872 between Baltimore and Washington, but with a required transfer via horse car in Baltimore to the other lines heading north from the city. On June 29, 1873, the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel through Baltimore was completed, and the PRR initiated the misleadingly-named Pennsylvania Air Line service via the Northern Central Railway and Columbia. This service was 54.5 miles (87.5 km) longer than the old route via the Washington Branch of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, but avoided a transfer in Baltimore. The Union Railroad opened on July 24, 1873, eliminating the transfer, and the PRR contracted with the Union Railroad and the PW&B. New York-Washington trains began using that route the next day, ending Pennsylvania Air Line service. The PRR acquired a majority of PW&B stock in the early 1880s, forcing the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to build the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad to keep its Philadelphia access.


Around 1900, the PRR built several low-grade lines for freight to bypass areas of steep grades. These included the following:


  • 1892 - Trenton Branch and Trenton Cut-Off Railroad from Glen Loch east to Morrisville (not only a low-grade line but a long-distance bypass of Philadelphia)
  • 1892 - Waverly and Passaic Railroad (finished by the New York Bay Railroad) from Waverly, New Jersey to Kearny
  • 1904 - reopening of the New Portage Railroad from the Gallitzin Tunnels east to New Portage Junction, then continuing north over the Hollidaysburg Branch to Altoona
  • 1906 - Philadelphia and Thorndale Branch from Thorndale east to Glen Loch
  • 1906 - Atglen and Susquehanna Branch from Harrisburg via the Northern Central Railway south to Wago Junction, then east to Parkesburg


The Pennsylvania and Newark Railroad was incorporated in 1905 to build a low-grade line from Morrisville, Pennsylvania to Colonia, New Jersey. It was never completed, but some work was done in the Trenton area, including bridge piers in the Delaware River. North of Colonia, the alignment was going to be separate, but instead two extra tracks were added to the existing line. Work was suspended in 1916.


On February 1, 1968, the PRR merged with arch-rival New York Central to form the Penn Central. The ICC required that ailing New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad be added in 1969. Penn Central declared bankruptcy in June 1970.


Penn Central rail lines were split between Amtrak (Northeast Corridor and Keystone Corridor) and Conrail in the 1970s. After the breakup of Conrail in 1999, the portion which had formerly been PRR territory largely became part of the Norfolk Southern Railway.


PRR colors and paint schemes were very standardized. Locomotives were painted in a shade of green so dark as to be almost black, called DGLE (Dark Green Locomotive Enamel) but often called Brunswick Green. Under parts were painted true black. Passenger cars were painted Tuscan red, a brick-red shade. Lettering and lining was originally real gold leaf on passenger locomotives and cars, but in the post World War II period became Buff, a light yellow shade of paint. Some electric locomotives and most passenger-hauling diesel locomotives were painted in Tuscan also. Freight cars were painted Freight Car Color, an iron-oxide red.


Trackside, the PRR was virtually alone in its exclusive use of position-light signals.


For most of its existence, the PRR pursued a motive power policy of conservatism and standardization. Almost uniquely among American railroads, the Pennsylvania designed most of its steam locomotive classes itself and built a fair proportion of them in its own Altoona Works - in fact, the PRR is believed to have been the 4th greatest builder of steam locomotives in the United States, after the three largest commercial builders.


Outside builders were, of course, used - the sheer numbers of locomotives the PRR ordered were far greater than its own works could produce. Unlike most roads who left the majority of the decision-making and design to the locomotive builder, giving only a broad specification, the PRR generally used a commercial builder as a subcontractor, building exact replicas of an existing PRR design.


When it needed to use a commercial locomotive builder, the Pennsy favored Philadelphia's Baldwin Locomotive Works over all others. Baldwin was a big PRR customer, for one thing -- its raw materials were delivered by the PRR, and its finished products were shipped over PRR metals also. That the two companies were headquartered in the same city certainly had a bearing - PRR and Baldwin management and engineers knew each other well. The second preference, when both the PRR and Baldwin shops were at capacity, was the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio. Only at a last resort, it seems, would the PRR use Alco, the American Locomotive Company, based in Schenectady, New York - serviced by and favorite locomotive supplier to the Pennsy's arch rival, the New York Central Railroad.


The PRR had a definite style that it favored in its locomotives. The square-shouldered Belpaire firebox was a PRR trademark that otherwise found little favor in the United States; almost every PRR locomotive had it. It traded more difficult construction for a greater heating surface and simpler firebox staying. The PRR used track pans extensively to pick up water on the move, so the tenders of their locomotives had a comparatively large proportion of coal (which could not be taken on board while running) compared to water capacity. The PRR was wary of gadgets and its locomotives were not generally festooned with devices; the PRR also favored a neat mounting of such devices when necessary, leaving the lines of the locomotive comparatively clean. Smoke box fronts bore a round locomotive number board (freight) or keystone number board (passenger) and were otherwise uncluttered except for a headlamp mounted at the top, with a steam-driven turbo-generator behind it. In later years the positions of the two were reversed, since the generator needs more maintenance than the lamp.


The PRR, until its final years, preferred a philosophy of smaller locomotives rather than buying the biggest.


Each class of steam locomotive was assigned a class designation. Early on, this was simply an alphabetical letter, but when these began to run out, the scheme was changed so that each wheel arrangement had its own letter, and different types of the same arrangement were defined by a subsequent number. Subtypes were in turn indicated by a lower-case letter; superheating was designated by a "s" until the mid 1920s, by which time all new locomotives were superheated. Thus, for example, a 'K4sa' class was a 4-6-2 "Pacific" type (K) and of the fourth class of Pacifics ordered by the PRR. It was superheated (s) and was of the first variant type (a) after the original (unlettered).


Nickel Plate Road


Nickel Plate Road:


My uncle, Sam McArthur, worked as a brakeman and conductor for the Nickel Plate beginning in the mid-1950’s and ending in the early 1990’s.  Even after the assorted mergers and name-changes, the railroad was always known as the Nickel Plate in my family.  There was a certain air of disrepute given to the name Norfolk and Western and my grandmother, in particular, never liked the name.  As for the “Southern” part of Norfolk Southern, I still find people who won’t acknowledge the transition.


The New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, abbreviated NYC&St.L, was a railroad that operated in the mid-central United States. Commonly referred to as the Nickel Plate Road, the railroad served a large area, including trackage in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Its primary connections included Buffalo, New York, Chicago, Illinois, Cleveland, Ohio, Indianapolis, Indiana, St. Louis, Missouri and Toledo, Ohio.


The Nickel Plate Railroad was constructed in 1881 along the South Shore of the Great Lakes connecting Buffalo, New York and Chicago, Illinois to compete with the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. In 1964, the Nickel Plate Road and several other mid-western carriers were merged into Norfolk and Western Railway and the Nickel Plate Road was no more. The N&W was formed to be a more competitive and successful system serving 14 states and the Canadian province of Ontario on more than 7,000 miles (11,000 km) of railroad. The profitable N&W was itself combined with the Southern Railway, another profitable carrier, to form Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) in 1982.


The 25 years after the American Civil War more than doubled the existing American railroad track miles, changing the face of America forever. American railroads allowed products made in the East to be shipped to the expanding West less expensively than previously. This allowed for an economy of scale - larger, more efficient factories. The agricultural heartland of America was no longer confined to a market of single day's trip by wagon. Railroad and railroad construction became one of the largest industries during that era. By 1881, one out of 32 people in the United States was either employed by a railroad or engaged in railroad construction.


Starting about 1877, two great railroad developers, William H. Vanderbilt and Jay Gould, began competing for the railroad traffic along the south shore of the Great Lakes. By 1878 William Vanderbilt had a monopoly on rail traffic between Buffalo, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois, because he owned the only railroad between those cities - the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. In addition, he was the richest man in America at that time. By 1881 Jay Gould controlled about 15% of all U.S. railroad mileage, most of it west of the Mississippi River and he was considered the most ruthless financial operator in America. Gould's major railroad east of the Mississippi River was the 3350 mile (5400 km) Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway (Wabash). The Wabash mainline ran from St. Louis, Missouri to Toledo, Ohio where it was forced to deliver its railroad traffic to William H. Vanderbilt's Lake Shore Railroad for deliver to the eastern United States.


Conneaut Railroad Museum 2-8-4 Berkshire Nickel Plate #755

A stuffed dinosaur – Severely degraded by outdoor storage



Jay Gould and William Vanderbilt together oversaw all east-west rail traffic in the mid-west. The owners (the Seney Syndicate) of a 350-mile (560 km) railroad, the Lake Erie and Western Railroad, were interested in tapping new sources of revenue. The stage was set for the creation of the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad.


The Seney Syndicate met at Seney's New York bank and organized the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railway Company on 3 February 1881. The original proposal for the NYC&St.L was a 340-mile (550 km) railroad west from Cleveland, Ohio to Chicago, Illinois with a 325-mile (525 km) branch to St. Louis, Missouri.


On 13 April 1881 the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railway Company bought the Buffalo, Cleveland and Chicago Railway, a railroad that been surveyed from the west side of Cleveland, Ohio to Buffalo, New York running parallel to Vanderbilt's Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway.


The idea of an east-west railroad across northern Ohio was very popular with the people of Ohio. They wanted to break the high freight rates charged by Jay Gould and William Henry Vanderbilt. No one was less popular in Ohio than William Vanderbilt since the 29 December 1876 collapse of Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway's Ashtabula River trestle, where 64 people had been injured and 92 were killed or died later from injuries.


Another reason for the popularity of the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railway was the positive economic impact on cities that any new railroad went through at that time. During a newspaper war to attract the New York, Chicago and St. Louis the Norwalk, Ohio Chronicle Newspaper referred to the New York, Chicago and St. Louis as "... double-track nickel-plated railroad." The New York, Chicago and St. Louis adopted the nickname and it became better known as the Nickel Plate Road.


Undated Photo of Unknown Provenance

Caption Reads “Wreck on Nickel Plate”

Reverse of Photo Reads “Girard, Penna.”

Location may be Thornton Junction, West of Girard


It was decided to start building along the surveyed route between Cleveland, Ohio and Buffalo, New York rather than build the branch to St. Louis, Missouri. Five hundred days later the Nickel Plate's 513-mile (825 km) single-track mainline from Buffalo, New York to Chicago, Illinois was complete. The railroad was estimated to require 90,000 long tons (80,000 metric tons) of steel rails, each weighing sixty pounds per yard (30 kg/m) and 1.5 million oak crossties. Additionally, the railroad required forty-nine major bridges. It was characterized by long sections of straight track, mild grades and impressive bridges. The Nickel Plate ran its first trains over the entire system on 16 October 1882.


During construction, Vanderbilt and Gould had watched with great interest. If either of them could acquire the Nickel Plate, they could end the threat to their railroads. If the Nickel Plate remained independent it would be able to create a substantial dent in both entrepreneurs' railroad earnings.


Vanderbilt tried to lower the value of the Nickel Plate by organizing a campaign to smear its reputation before a train ever ran on its tracks. If Vanderbilt was successful he could scare the Seney Syndicate into selling to him or drive the railroad company into bankruptcy. However, Vanderbilt's plan came with two important risks. If he slandered the line he risked chasing the Seney Syndicate into an alliance with Gould. The other risk was that his plan to smear the Nickel Plate's reputation might fail and it could quickly grow. Vanderbilt claimed the road was being built with substandard materials and it would use unsafe practices once completed. He succeeded in creating long-standing rumors about the line, but failed to devalue the company or scare the investors.


The cost of construction was higher than expected and the Seney Syndicate began to negotiate with Gould to purchase the railroad, but unlike Vanderbilt, Gould lacked the capital. Frustrated at the failing talks, Gould broke off negotiations and gave up on his attempt to break Vanderbilt.

In early 1881, Vanderbilt could have had the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (or Nickel Plate) for one million dollars. He realized if he allowed Jay Gould to gain control of the Nickel Plate his monopoly on rail traffic from Toledo, Ohio - east would be broken. He decided he would do anything to keep the Nickel Plate out of Gould's hands.


On 25 October 1882 (a few days after the first trains ran) the Seney Syndicate sold the Nickel Plate to Vanderbilt for 7.2 million dollars. Vanderbilt transferred it to his Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. However, Vanderbilt had a problem: he could not run the business into the ground or it would fall into receivership and someone else would buy it. He could not close the Nickel Plate either because it cost a fortune to buy. So, the Nickel Plate Road did business, but just enough to keep it solvent. By the advent of the 1920s the Nickel Plate was an obscure line that earned its keep through the transfer of freight from other rail connections. During the same period Vanderbilt's Lake Shore and Michigan Southern prospered and expanded.


Vanderbilt kept most of the rail traffic on his Lake Shore and Michigan Southern. Fewer trains on the Nickel Plate meant that they could move faster, so that is the railroad traffic they went after. By 1888 the Nickel Plate had been dubbed "The Meat Express Line." Observers at Fort Wayne, Indiana reported six long meat trains every night and a couple of fruit trains during the day.


Vanderbilt consolidated many of his railroads into the New York Central Railroad. In 1915 Vanderbilt was found to be in violation of the federal antitrust laws because the New York Central had a controlling interest in the Nickel Plate. Over time the Nickel Plate had been reduced as a serious threat to competing lines and in return for operating concessions and access to certain stations, the New York Central sold the Nickel Plate to the Van Sweringen brothers of Cleveland, Ohio.


Oris Paxton Van Sweringen and his younger brother Mantis James Van Sweringen were real estate developers who constructed a rapid transit from their development at Shaker Heights, Ohio to downtown Cleveland. As early as 1909 the Van Sweringen brothers proposed a stub-end terminal on Public Square in downtown Cleveland. The Cleveland interurbans and traction companies were in favor of the new terminal and right-of-ways leading to it.


The Nickel Plate was the key. It transversed Cleveland from east to west, had a high level crossing of the Cuyahoga River Valley, and it was adjacent to the proposed terminal. The Nickel Plate also provided natural route to the proposed terminal for the Van Sweringen's rapid transit and the other traction lines.


Between 1890 and 1913 Cleveland had a four fold increase in population. Cleveland wanted to clean up the city and started many civic projects. Cleveland wanted to consolidate all of its railroad stations. The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, Pennsylvania Railroad, and Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad shared a crowded lakefront Union Station. The Erie Railroad, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Nickel Plate Road, and Lake Erie and Western Railroad all occupied separate stations on the north bluff of the Cuyahoga River, just south of downtown. The city also encouraged the railroads to build grade separation throughout the city. The Nickel Plate started a grade separation project on the East Side of Cleveland in 1909 and finished in 1913. Cleveland approved a bond issue in 1910 to "depress" the Nickel Plate through the most congested part of the West Side.


The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway was controlled by the New York Central Railroad's Alfred H. Smith, a close friend of the Van Sweringens. He had guided the Van Sweringens and even financed their rapid transit to Shaker Heights. The Attorney General of the United States advised the New York Central that its control of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern and the Nickel Plate was in violation of the Federal antitrust laws in late 1915. Alfred Smith called his friends, the Van Sweringens on 1 February 1916 and offered them the Nickel Plate. They bought it for 8.5 million dollars on 13 April 1916. They only put up a little over half a million dollars but they controlled 75% of Nickel Plate's voting stock.


The Van Sweringens had no intention of running the Nickel Plate. Alfred Smith was happy to give the Van Sweringens a vice-president of the New York Central, John Bernet, and some of his top men. Smith wanted to show that the Van Sweringens were not New York Central puppets, and the Nickel Plate needed to earn money to retire the $6.5 million in notes owed to the New York Central.


As the financial situation of American railroading continued to decline after World War II, the Nickel Plate Road together with the Wabash and several smaller carriers merged with the profitable Norfolk and Western on October 16, 1964.


N&W had merged with long-time rival Virginian Railway in the Pocahontas coal region in 1959, and grew through the mergers with other rail carriers including the Nickel Plate and Wabash railroads with operations in adjacent areas of the eastern United States to form a more competitive and successful system serving 14 states and a province of Canada on more than 7,000 miles of road.


The profitable N&W was itself combined with the Southern Railway, another profitable carrier, to form Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) in 1982.

Origin of the Nickel Plate nickname


The following is an excerpt from the book The Nickel Plate Road, A Short History of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis R.R. printed in 1954. The book is a record of an address given by Lynne L. White (a former president of the Nickel Plate) to the Newcomen Society of the United States, held in the ballroom of the Hotel Lawrence, Erie, Pa., November 11, 1954. Mr. White was guest of honor at this "1954 Lake Erie Dinner".


Through northern Ohio, already served by four railroads, location of the line developed intense rivalries among cities. Three routes were surveyed and communities along each proposed route vied in the raising of public subscriptions to donate rights-of-way. The road's general offices at Cleveland frequently were besieged by delegations hoping to bring about the routing of the line through their communities. During these inter-city rivalries was born the nickname for the New York, Chicago and St. Louis - The Nickel Plate Road - which rapidly became the name most commonly used.


Numerous legends have grown about when and how the name "Nickel Plate" was first applied. The accepted version is that it appeared first in an article in the Norwalk, Ohio, Chronicle of March 10, 1881. On that date the Chronicle reported the arrival of a party of engineers to make a survey for the "great New York and St. Louis double track, nickel plated railroad."


Later, while attempting to induce the company to build the line through Norwalk instead of Bellevue, Ohio, the Chronicle again referred to the road as "nickel plated" - a term regarded as indicative of the project's glittering prospects and substantial financial backing.


In 1882, the Nickel Plate recognized F.R. Loomis, owner and editor of the Norwalk Chronicle, as originator of the term and issued him Complimentary Pass No. 1.


Thus Norwalk named the road - but Bellevue finally got it.



Nickel Plate #765, a 2-8-4 S2 Class Berkshire

Built in1944 at Lima Locomotive Works, Lima Ohio

Fully Restored 2000-2004

Operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society

New Haven, Indiana


New York Central Railroad:


Cutting west to east across Erie County along the lakeshore is the line of the New York Central Railroad.  It crosses the Ohio line into Springfield Township a few hundred feet south of Old Lake Road and continues parallel to the lakeshore.  Little more than a mile east of the state line, one finds the remains of a water trough that allowed express trains to take on water by lowering a ram-scoop from the bottom of the tender.  Water was supplied by a pumping station located at the end of Eagley Road.  The site of the pumping station is now a public park.  When I was a young child, the remains of the pumping station still stood at water’s edge.  Today, the only sign of this system is a retaining wall along the lakeshore and a long pier built of cement blocks.


The New York Central Railroad, known simply as the New York Central in its publicity, was a railroad operating in the North-Eastern United States. Headquartered in New York, the railroad served a large proportion of the area, including extensive trackage in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts and much of New England and in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Québec. Its primary connections included Chicago and Boston. The NYC's Grand Central Terminal in New York City is one of its best known extant landmarks.


In 1968 the New York Central merged with its former rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, to form Penn Central (the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad joined in 1969). That company soon went bankrupt and was taken over by the federal government and merged into Conrail in 1976. Conrail was broken up in 1998, and much of its system was transferred to the newly-formed New York Central Lines LLC, a subsidiary of CSX. That company's lines include the original New York Central main line, but outside that area it includes lines that were never part of the New York Central system.


The New York Central was known as the "Water Level Route" as its mainline to New York City ran along the Hudson River. The famous Water Level Route of the NYC, from New York City to upstate New York, was the first four-track long-distance railroad in the world.


NYC #999 Assigned to the “Empire State Express”

4-4-0 Built by American Locomotive Co. of Schenectady, New York

Pre-New York Central: 1826-1853


The oldest part of the New York Central was the first permanent railroad in the state of New York and one of the first railroads in the United States. The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad was chartered in 1826 to connect the Mohawk River at Schenectady to the Hudson River at Albany, providing a way for cargo on steamboats to avoid the Erie Canal. The Mohawk and Hudson opened on September 24, 1831, and changed its name to the Albany and Schenectady Railroad on April 19, 1847.


The Utica and Schenectady Railroad was chartered April 29, 1833; as the railroad paralleled the Erie Canal it was prohibited from carrying freight. Revenue service began August 2, 1836, extending the line of the Albany and Schenectady Railroad west from Schenectady along the north side of the Mohawk River, opposite the Erie Canal, to Utica. On May 7, 1844 the railroad was authorized to carry freight with some restrictions, and on May 12, 1847 the ban was fully dropped, but the company still had to pay the equivalent in canal tolls to the state.


The Syracuse and Utica Railroad was chartered May 1, 1836 and similarly had to pay the state for any freight displaced from the canal. The full line opened July 3, 1839, extending the line further to Syracuse via Rome (and further to Auburn via the already-opened Auburn and Syracuse Railroad). This line was not direct, going out of its way to stay near the Erie Canal and serve Rome, and so the Syracuse and Utica Direct Railroad was chartered January 26, 1853. Nothing of that line was ever built, though the later West Shore Railroad, acquired by the New York Central in 1885, served the same purpose.


The Auburn and Syracuse Railroad was chartered May 1, 1834 and opened mostly in 1838, the remaining 4 miles (6 km) opening on June 4, 1839. A month later, with the opening of the Syracuse and Utica Railroad, this formed a complete line from Albany west via Syracuse to Auburn, about halfway to Geneva. The Auburn and Rochester Railroad was chartered May 13, 1836 as a further extension via Geneva and Canandaigua to Rochester, opening on November 4, 1841. The two lines merged on August 1, 1850 to form the rather indirect Rochester and Syracuse Railroad (known later as the Auburn Road). To fix this, the Rochester and Syracuse Direct Railroad was chartered and immediately merged into the Rochester and Syracuse on August 6, 1850. That line opened June 1, 1853, running much more directly between those two cities, roughly parallel to the Erie Canal.


To the west of Rochester, the Tonawanda Railroad was chartered April 24, 1832 to build from Rochester to Attica. The first section, from Rochester southwest to Batavia, opened May 5, 1837, and the rest of the line to Attica opened on January 8, 1843. The Attica and Buffalo Railroad was chartered in 1836 and opened on November 24, 1842, running from Buffalo east to Attica. When the Auburn and Rochester Railroad opened in 1841, there was no connection at Rochester to the Tonawanda Railroad, but with that exception, there was now an all-rail line between Buffalo and Albany with the completion of the Tonawanda Railroad. On March 19, 1844 the Tonawanda Railroad was authorized to build the connection, and it opened later that year. The Albany and Schenectady Railroad bought all the baggage, mail and emigrant cars of the other railroads between Albany and Buffalo on February 17, 1848 and began operating through cars.


On December 7, 1850 the Tonawanda Railroad and Attica and Buffalo Railroad merged to form the Buffalo and Rochester Railroad. A new direct line opened from Buffalo east to Batavia on April 26, 1852, and the old line between Depew (east of Buffalo) and Attica was sold to the Buffalo and New York City Railroad on November 1. The line was added to the New York and Erie Railroad system and converted to the Erie's 6 foot (1829 mm) wide gauge.


The Schenectady and Troy Railroad was chartered in 1836 and opened in 1842, providing another route between the Hudson River and Schenectady, with its Hudson River terminal at Troy.


The Lockport and Niagara Falls Railroad was chartered in 1834 to build from Lockport on the Erie Canal west to Niagara Falls; it opened in 1838. On December 14, 1850 it was reorganized as the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls Railroad, and an extension east to Rochester opened on July 1, 1852.


The Buffalo and Lockport Railroad was chartered April 27, 1852 to build a branch of the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls from Lockport towards Buffalo. It opened in 1854, running from Lockport to Tonawanda, where it junctioned with the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad, opened 1837, for the rest of the way to Buffalo.


In addition to the Syracuse and Utica Direct, another never-built company - the Mohawk Valley Railroad - was chartered January 21, 1851 and reorganized December 28, 1852, to build a railroad on the south side of the Mohawk River from Schenectady to Utica, next to the Erie Canal and opposite the Utica and Schenectady. The West Shore Railroad later built on that location.


Albany industrialist and Mohawk Valley Railroad owner Erastus Corning got the above railroads together into one system, and on March 17, 1853 they agreed to merge. The merger was approved by the state legislature on April 2, and ten of the remaining companies merged to form the New York Central Railroad on May 17, 1853. The following companies were consolidated into this system, including the main line from Albany to Buffalo:


  1. Albany and Schenectady Railroad
  2. Utica and Schenectady Railroad
  3. Syracuse and Utica Railroad
  4. Rochester and Syracuse Railroad
  5. Buffalo and Rochester Railroad


The Rochester and Syracuse also owned the old alignment via Auburn, Geneva and Canandaigua, known as the "Auburn Road". The Buffalo and Rochester included a branch from Batavia to Attica, part of the main line until 1852. Also included in the merger were three other railroads:


  1. Schenectady and Troy Railroad, a branch from Schenectady east to Troy
  2. Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls Railroad, a major branch from Rochester west to Niagara Falls
  3. Buffalo and Lockport Railroad, a branch from the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls at Lockport south to Buffalo via trackage rights on the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad from Tonawanda


As well as two that had not built any road, and never would:


  1. Mohawk Valley Railroad
  2. Syracuse and Utica Direct Railroad


Soon the Buffalo and State Line Railroad and Erie and North East Railroad converted to standard gauge from 6 foot (1829 mm) broad gauge and connected directly with the NYC in Buffalo, providing a through route to Erie, Pennsylvania.


Erastus Corning years: 1853-1867


The Rochester and Lake Ontario Railroad was organized in 1852 and opened in Fall 1853; it was leased to the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls Railroad, which became part of the New York Central, before opening. In 1855 it was merged into the New York Central, providing a branch from Rochester north to Charlotte on Lake Ontario.


The Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad was also merged into the New York Central in 1855. It had been chartered in 1834 and opened in 1837, providing a line between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. It was leased to the New York Central in 1853 and merged in 1855.


Also in 1855 came the merger of the Lewiston Railroad, running from Niagara Falls north to Lewiston. It was chartered in 1836 and opened in 1837 without connections to other railroads. In 1854 a southern extension opened to the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad and the line was leased to the New York Central; it was merged in 1855.


The Canandaigua and Niagara Falls Railroad was chartered in 1851. The first stage opened in 1853 from Canandaigua on the Auburn Road west to Batavia on the main line. A continuation west to North Tonawanda opened later that year, and in 1854 a section opened in Niagara Falls connecting it to the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge. The New York Central bought the company at bankruptcy in 1858 and reorganized it as the Niagara Bridge and Canandaigua Railroad, merging it into itself in 1890.


The Saratoga and Hudson River Railroad was chartered in 1864 and opened in 1866 as a branch of the New York Central from Athens Junction, southeast of Schenectady, southeast and south to Athens on the west side of the Hudson River. On September 9, 1867 the company was merged into the New York Central, but in 1867 the terminal at Athens burned and the line was abandoned. In the 1880s the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railway leased the line and incorporated it into their main line, taken over by the New York Central in 1885 as the West Shore Railroad.


The Hudson River Railroad


The Troy and Greenbush Railroad was chartered in 1845 and opened later that year, connecting Troy south to East Albany on the east side of the Hudson River. The Hudson River Railroad was chartered May 12, 1846 to extend this line south to New York City; the full line opened October 3, 1851. Prior to completion, on June 1, the Hudson River leased the Troy and Greenbush.


Cornelius Vanderbilt obtained control of the Hudson River Railroad in 1864, soon after he bought the parallel New York and Harlem Railroad.


Along the line of the Hudson River Railroad, the High Line was built in the 1930s in New York City as an elevated bypass to the existing street-running trackage on Eleventh Avenue, at the time called "Death Avenue" due to the large number of accidents involving trains. The elevated section has since been abandoned, and the tunnel to the north, built at the same time, is only used by Amtrak trains to New York Penn Station (all other trains use the Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad to access the New York and Harlem Railroad).


Vanderbilt years: 1867-1954


In 1867 Vanderbilt acquired control of the New York Central, with the help of maneuverings related to the Hudson River Bridge in Albany. On November 1, 1869 he merged the New York Central with his Hudson River Railroad into the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. This extended the system south from Albany along the east bank of the Hudson River to New York City, with the leased Troy and Greenbush Railroad running from Albany north to Troy.


Vanderbilt's other lines were operated as part of the New York Central Railroad; these included the New York and Harlem Railroad, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, Canada Southern Railway and Michigan Central Railroad.


The Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad was chartered in 1869 and opened in 1871, providing a route on the north side of the Harlem River for trains along the Hudson River to head southeast to the New York and Harlem Railroad towards Grand Central Terminal or the freight facilities at Port Morris. From opening it was leased by the New York Central.


The Geneva and Lyons Railroad was organized in 1877 and opened in 1878, leased by the New York Central from opening. This was a north-south connection between Syracuse and Rochester, running from the main line at Lyons south to the Auburn Road at Geneva. It was merged into the New York Central in 1890.


On July 1, 1900, the Boston and Albany Railroad was leased by the New York Central, although it retained a separate identity. In 1914 the name was changed again forming the modern New York Central Railroad.


The New York Central had a distinctive character; unlike its arch rival the Pennsylvania Railroad's mountainous terrain, the NYC was best known as the Water Level Route; most of its major routes, including New York to Chicago, followed rivers and had no significant grades. This influenced many things, including advertising and most notably locomotive design.


Steam locomotives of the New York Central were optimized for speed on that flat raceway of a main line, rather than slow mountain lugging. Famous locomotives of the System included the well-known 4-6-4 Hudsons, and the postwar Niagaras, fast 4-8-4 locomotives often considered the epitome of their breed by steam locomotive aficionados.


The Twentieth Century Limited

Before Streamlining


Despite having some of the most modern steam locomotives anywhere, the NYC dieselized rapidly, conscious of its by then difficult financial position and the potential relief that more economical diesel-electric power could bring. Very few New York Central steam locomotives still exist. All Hudsons and Niagaras were sent to the scrapper's torch. In 2004, the only surviving big modern steam locomotives are two 4-8-2 Mohawk dual-purpose locomotives.


The financial situation of northeastern railroading soon became so dire that not even the economies of the new diesel-electric locomotives could change things.




A number of bypasses and cutoffs were built around congested areas.


The Junction Railroad's Buffalo Belt Line opened in 1871, providing a bypass of Buffalo, New York to the northeast, as well as a loop route for passenger trains via downtown. The West Shore Railroad, acquired in 1885, provided a bypass around Rochester, New York. The Terminal Railway's Gardenville Cutoff, allowing through traffic to bypass Buffalo to the southeast, opened in 1898.


The Schenectady Detour consisted of two connections to the West Shore Railroad, allowing through trains to bypass the steep grades at Schenectady, New York. The full project opened in 1902. The Cleveland Short Line Railway built a bypass of Cleveland, Ohio, completed in 1912. In 1924, the Alfred H. Smith Memorial Bridge was constructed as part of the Hudson River Connecting Railroad's Castleton Cut-Off, a 27.5-mile-long freight bypass of the congested Albany terminal area.


An unrelated realignment was made in the 1910s at Rome, when the Erie Canal was realigned and widened onto a new alignment south of downtown Rome. The NYC main line was shifted south out of downtown to the south bank of the new canal. A bridge was built southeast of downtown, roughly where the old main line crossed the path of the canal, to keep access to Rome from the southeast. West of downtown, the old main line was abandoned, but a brand new railroad line was built, running north from the NYC main line to the NYC's former Watertown and Rome Railroad, allowing all NYC through traffic to bypass Rome.


Robert R. Young: 1954-1958


The Vanderbilt interests, having steadily reduced their shareholdings, lost a proxy fight in 1954 to Robert Ralph Young and his Alleghany Corporation. Unable to keep his promises, Young was forced to suspend dividend payments in January 1958 and committed suicide that month.


Alfred E. Perlman: 1958-1968


After his death, Young's role in NYC management was assumed by Alfred E. Perlman, who had been working with the NYC under Young since 1954. Although much had been accomplished to streamline NYC operations, in those tough economic times, mergers with other railroads were seen as the only possible road to financial stability. The most likely suitor became the NYC's former arch-rival Pennsylvania Railroad.


NYC #6025 with Passenger Train

Locomotive is an ALCO 4-8-4 “Niagara

Bellefontaine, Ohio 1946

Penn Central, Conrail, CSX: 1968-2004


The New York Central became a fallen flag on February 1, 1968 when it joined with its old enemy, the Pennsylvania Railroad, in the ill-fated merger that produced Penn Central. Slightly over two years later, on June 21, 1970, the Penn Central Transportation Company filed for bankruptcy.


Conrail, officially the Consolidated Rail Corporation, was created by the U.S. Government to salvage Penn Central, and several other bankrupt railroads. On April 1, 1976, it began operations.


On June 6, 1998, most of Conrail was split between Norfolk Southern and CSX. New York Central Lines LLC was formed as a subsidiary of Conrail, containing the lines to be operated by CSX; this included the old Water Level Route and many other lines of the New York Central, as well as various lines from other companies. CSX also assumed the NYC reporting mark.



Erie Railroad:


Nearly forgotten (especially in ERIE!), the Erie Railroad was an early transportation resource connecting Jamestown, New York with Corry, Pennsylvania.  The line continued south and west to Union City, Mill Village, Cambridge Springs, and Meadville.  At Meadville, the line branched along the French Creek Feeder of the Erie Extension Canal and connected Cochranton, Utica, Franklin, and Oil City.  South of Franklin, connections were made to the Pennsylvania Railroad and a number of regional lines.  Years later, parts of this line are owned by Norfolk Southern, CSX, and the Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad.


The Erie Railroad  was a railroad that operated in New York State, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, connecting New York City with Lake Erie, and extending west to Cleveland, Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois. In 1960 it merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad to form the Erie Lackawanna Railroad, becoming part of Conrail in 1976.


A Rather Unusual “Camelback” Pusher Locomotive

Erie Railroad Class L-1 here seen at Port Jervis, New York in 1911

The Whyte Classification is 0-8-8-0; this locomotive is articulated to allow for a tighter turning radius and is sometimes referred to as a “Mallet.” Built by ALCO in 1907.

New York and Erie Rail Road: 1832-1861


The New York and Erie Rail Road was chartered April 24, 1832 to connect the Hudson River at Piermont, north of New York City, west to Lake Erie at Dunkirk. On February 16, 1841 the railroad was authorized to cross into the northeast corner of Pennsylvania on the west side of the Delaware River. Construction began in 1836, and it opened from Piermont to Goshen on September 23, 1841. After some financial problems, construction resumed in August 1846, and the next section, to Port Jervis, opened on January 7, 1848. Further extensions opened to Binghamton December 27, 1848, Owego January 1, 1849, and the full length to Dunkirk May 19, 1851. At Dunkirk steamboats continued across Lake Erie to Detroit, Michigan. The line was built as 6 foot (1829 mm) wide gauge; this was believed to be the best way to prevent traffic being lost to other lines.


In 1848 the railroad built the Starrucca Viaduct, a stone railroad bridge over Starrucca Creek in Lanesboro, Pennsylvania which has survived and is still in use today. The viaduct is 1040 feet (317 m) long, 100 feet (30 m) high and 25 feet (8 m) wide at the top. It is the oldest stone rail bridge in Pennsylvania still in use.


The Erie's charter was amended April 8, 1845 to allow the building of the Newburg Branch, running from the main line near Harriman north-northeast to Newburg, also on the Hudson River. The branch opened January 8, 1850. It was later used as a connection to the New York and New England Railroad via a car float operation across the river.


The Paterson and Ramapo Railroad and Union Railroad opened in 1848, providing a connection between the Erie at Ramapo and Jersey City, across the Hudson River from New York City. Through ticketing began in 1851, with a required change of cars at Ramapo due to the gauge break. In 1852 the Erie leased the two companies along with the Paterson and Hudson River Railroad, and Erie trains begin operating to the New Jersey Rail Road's Jersey City terminal on November 1853 after a third rail for wide gauge was finished.


In 1852 the Buffalo and Rochester Railroad, part of the New York Central Railroad system, completed a new alignment between Buffalo and Batavia. The new alignment from Buffalo to Attica was sold to the Erie's Buffalo and New York City Railroad, a reorganization of the Attica and Hornellsville Railroad, and converted to the Erie's wide gauge. The extension from Attica southeast to Hornellsville opened on November 17, 1852, giving the Erie access to Buffalo, a better terminal than Dunkirk.


The Erie began operating the Chemung Railroad in 1850; this provided a branch from Horseheads north to Watkins. The Canandaigua and Elmira Railroad opened in 1851 as a northern extension from Watkins to Canandaigua and was operated by the Erie until 1853. At this point, the Erie subleased the Chemung Railroad to the Canandaigua and Elmira. The C&E went bankrupt in 1857 and was reorganized in 1859 as the Elmira, Canandaigua and Niagara Falls Railroad, at which time the Erie leased it again. The Chemung Railroad reverted to the Erie in 1858 during the bankruptcy.


The Canandaigua and Niagara Falls Railroad continued this line beyond Canandaigua to North Tonawanda with trackage rights over the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad to Niagara Falls and the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge into Ontario. This was leased by the Canandaigua and Elmira from its opening in 1853 to 1858, when it went bankrupt, was reorganized as the Niagara Bridge and Canandaigua Railroad, and was leased by New York Central Railroad. The NYC converted it to standard gauge and blocked the Erie from it.


Erie Railway: 1861-1875


In August 1859 the company went into receivership due to the large costs of building, and on June 25, 1861 it was reorganized as the Erie Railway. This was the first bankruptcy of a major trunk line in the U.S.


In 1863 the Erie leased the Buffalo, New York and Erie Railroad and its subsidiary the Rochester and Genesee Valley Railroad, jointly operating it with the Pennsylvania Railroad's Northern Central Railway. The BNY&E had taken over the Buffalo and New York City Railroad in 1857 due to the Erie's bankruptcy, and the BNY&E used it west of Attica to reach Buffalo from its southeast end at Corning. The R&GV split from the main line at Avon, running north to Rochester. A joint through line was created between Philadelphia and Buffalo. At this time, the Northern Central leased the Elmira and Williamsport Railroad, forming the part of the line from Elmira south into Pennsylvania. After disputes due to charges of the Erie using its own line via Hornellsville (the B&NYC) too much, and problems with the gauge break at Elmira, this contract was cancelled in 1866. The Elmira, Jefferson and Canandaigua Railroad (and its Chemung Railroad) was transferred to the Northern Central, and a third rail was built to allow the Northern Central's standard gauge trains to operate over it.


To restore access to the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, the Erie got the Suspension Bridge and Erie Junction Railroad chartered in 1868. The line opened in 1871, running from eastern Buffalo to Tonawanda and then alongside the New York Central Railroad's Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad to the bridge. The Erie International Railway, chartered 1872 and opened 1874, provided a branch to the International Bridge, and the Lockport and Buffalo Railway, chartered 1871 and opened 1879, provided a branch to Lockport.


Three well-known financiers struggled for control of the company from the 1850s to the 1860s, Daniel Drew, Jay Gould and Cornelius Vanderbilt.


In 1869, the railroad moved its main shops facilities from Dunkirk to Buffalo. Rather than demolishing the shops in Dunkirk, the facility was leased to Horatio G. Brooks, the former chief engineer of the NY&E who was at the controls of the first train into Dunkirk in 1851. Horatio Brooks used the facilities to begin Brooks Locomotive Works, which remained in independent business until 1901 when it was merged with seven other locomotive manufacturing firms to create ALCO. ALCO continued new locomotive production at this facility until 1934, then closed the plant completely in 1962.


New York, Lake Erie and Western Railway: 1875-1893


The Erie still did not see profits and via bankruptcy was sold in 1875 to become the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railway.


Erie Railroad: 1893-1960


In 1893 that railroad also went into bankruptcy reorganization, to emerge as the Erie Railroad.


In 1938, the Erie Railroad was involved in the famous U.S. Supreme Court case of Erie R.R. v. Tompkins. The Erie doctrine, which governs the application of state law in federal diversity cases, is still taught in American law schools today.


The Erie Railroad merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad in 1960. The new company became known as the Erie Lackawanna Railroad.



Erie Railroad Streamliner Diesel-Electric

Alco “F” Units in an A-B-A Configuration

Photographer: Fred C. Stoes – 1949

The Great Erie Gauge War, Pennsylvania, USA:


In the 1850s one railroad route (railway line) to get from New York to Chicago meant disembarking in Erie, Pennsylvania and boarding another train. This was because the railroads which met in Erie had different gauges (the distance between the rails). From Erie to Ohio, the gauge was 4 feet, 10 inches via the Franklin Canal Company's railroad. From New York state to Erie the gauge was 6 feet via the Erie and Northeast Railroad.


When the railroads decided to standardize their gauges, the citizens of Erie became understandably upset; no longer would disembarking train passengers be forced to patronize their businesses. So the city council passed a local ordinance which prohibited the standardizing the gauges. Not to be outdone, the Mayor issued a proclamation calling for citizens to be ready to help 'keep order' if necessary.



Hostilities began between the railroads and the townsfolk on 7 December, 1853, when the railroads started changing their tracks. The Mayor led a force of about 150 townspeople under the guise of 'special police' to 'restore order' to the situation. These police officers tore down railroad bridges and ripped up the tracks, earning them the nickname 'The Rippers'. The Rippers' actions left a nearly eight mile gap in the Erie and Northeast Railroad's rail line. The Rippers threw rotten eggs and spoiled vegetables at railroad officials who attempted to prevent the destruction of the company's property.


The most serious incident occurred on 27 December when a railroad conductor drew a gun and shot a Ripper in the head. Legend has it that the Ripper's skull was so thick that the bullet bounced off it, leaving him unconscious. Enraged by the shooting, the Rippers chased the railroad men onto a waiting train. As the train picked up speed, only two Rippers were able to climb on board. The train didn't stop until it reached the New York state line where it halted long enough to kick off the Rippers before taking the railroad men home. This 'kidnapping' led to the railroad men being called 'Shanghaiers' or 'Shanghais'.



The situation in Erie drew national attention at the time. Many newspapers across the USA nicknamed the troubles the 'Peanut War' because Erie's peanut vendors and pie sellers were among those who would suffer most by the gauge change. New York Tribune newspaper editor Horace Greeley wrote famously that Erie should be avoided by all rail passengers until 'grass shall grow in her streets'.


Three years after the fighting started the politicians at the State Capitol in Harrisburg passed a law which authorized the state to standardize the railroad gauges.


As it turns out, this footnote in the history of Pennsylvania had no real impact on Erie's growth as a city since today it is the state's third-largest city with a population of around 104,000.

The Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster:


The Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster, also called the "Ashtabula Horror", was the worst train disaster in American history when it occurred in Ohio on 29 December 1876 at 7:28 p.m.

West Abuntment looking North.


The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Train No. 5, The Pacific Express left a snowy Erie, Pennsylvania on the afternoon of December 29, 1876. As The Pacific Express plowed through the snow and crossed a trestle over the Ashtabula River, about 100 yards from the railroad station at Ashtabula, Ohio, the passengers heard a terrible cracking sound. In just seconds, the trestle fractured and the train plunged 70 feet into a watery abyss.


The lead engine made it across the trestle, a second engine, two express cars, and part of the baggage car rested with their weight upon the bridge while 11 railcars fell into a raging fire. The wooden cars were set aflame by kerosene-heating stoves.


Bridge Disaster Scene looking South.  Picture taken 12/30/1876.

Of 159 passengers and crew onboard that night, 64 people were injured and 92 were killed or died later from injuries sustained in the crash (48 of the fatalities were unrecognizable or consumed in the flames.) Indeed it was the worst railroad tragedy to that point in American history. Twenty years later, in Ashtabula's Chestnut Grove Cemetery, a monument was erected to all those "unidentified" who perished in the Ashtabula Railroad disaster.


The following is the official recorded summary of this disaster as recorded in the Ashtabula County archives in 1877:


"December 29, 1876, was the date of the occurrence; the time of day about half past seven o'clock in the evening. At that moment the Pacific Express, No. 5, bound westward over the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railway, broke through the iron bridge that spanned the Ashtabula river on the line of the road, and suddenly plunged with a precious cargo of human life into a chasm seventy feet deep. The night was a wild and bitter one. A furious snow-storm had raged all the previous day, and had heaped great masses of snow along and across the track. The wind was a cold, biting one, and was blowing with a velocity of about forty miles per hour. The darkness was dense. On such a night as this the train, composed of eleven coaches, and drawn by two heavy engines, approached the fated bridge, located about one thousand feet east of the Ashtabula station. It was more than two hours behind the time for its arrival. On board there were not less than one hundred and fifty six human souls. There were two express cars, two baggage cars, three passenger coaches, one of them the smoking car, one drawing room coach, and three sleeping coaches. The bridge was an iron structure, and carried a double track. It consisted of two trusses of the Howe truss type, and the length of the span between abutments was one hundred and fifty feet. The train approached the bridge on the south track. At the moment of the crash, one engine, by a sudden plunge forward, had gained the west abutment, while the other engine, two express cars, and part of the baggage car rested with their weight upon the bridge. The remainder of the train was drawn into the gulf. Of the persons on board, at least eighty perished in the wreck; at least sixty three were wounded more or less, but escaped from death; five died after their rescue."

The following is the official recorded account of Miss Marian Shepard of Ripon, Wisconsin; passenger of the sleeper car "Palatine":



"The passengers were grouped about the car in twos, fours, and even larger parties.  Some were lunching, some were chatting, and quite a number were playing cards.  The bell-rope snapped in two, one piece flying against one of the lamp glasses, smashing it, and knocking the burning candle to the floor.  Then the cars ahead of us went bump, bump, bump, as if the wheels were jumping over ties.  Until the bumping sensation was felt, everyone thought the glass globe had been broken by an explosion.  Several jumped up, and some seized the tops of the seats to steady themselves.  Suddenly there was an awful crash.  I can't describe the noise.  There were all sorts of sounds.  I could hear, above all, a sharp, ringing sound, as if all the glass in the train was being shattered in pieces.  Someone cried out, 'We're going down!'  At that moment all the lights in the car went out.  It was utter darkness.  I stood up in the centre of the aisle.  I knew that something awful was happening, and having some experience in railroad accidents, I braced myself as best I knew how.  I felt the car floor sinking under my feet.  The sensation of falling was very apparent.  I thought of a great many things, and I made up my mind I was going to be killed.  For the first few seconds we seemed to be dropping in silence.  I could hear the other passengers breathing.  Then suddenly the car was filled with flying splinters and dust, and we seemed breathing some heavy substance.  For a moment, I was almost suffocated.  We went down, down.  Oh, it was awful!  It seemed to me we had been falling two minutes.  The berths were slipping from their fastenings and falling. upon the passengers.  We heard an awful crash.  It was as dark as the sound died away there were heavy groans all around us.  It was as dark as the grave.  I was thrown down.  Just how I fell is more than I can say.  A gentleman had fallen across me, but we were both on our feet in a moment. Everyone alive was scrambling and struggling to get out.  I heard someone say, 'Hurry out; the car will be on fire in a minute!' Another man shouted, 'The water is coming in, and we will be drowned!'  The car seemed lying partly on one side.  In the scramble a man caught hold of me and cried out, 'Help me; don't leave me!'  A woman, from one corner of the car, cried, 'Help me save my husband!'  He was caught under a berth and some seats.  I was feeling around in the dark, trying to release him, when someone at the other end of the car said they were all right and would help the man out.  I groped along to the door, crawling over the heating arrangement in getting to it.  While I was getting out at the door, others were crawling out the windows.  On the left the cars were on fire. On the right a pile of rubbish, as high as I could see, barred escape.  In front of me were some cars standing on end, or in a sloping position.  I followed a man who was trying to scale the pile of debris.  I got up to a coach which was resting on one edge of the roof.  The side was so slippery and icy I could not walk on it, and so I crawled over it. The car was dark inside, and oh, what heart rending groans issued from it! It seemed filled with people who were dying. Two men, a Mr. White, of Chicago, and a Mr. Tyler, of St. Louis, helped me down from the end of the car.  Then I was in snow up to my knees.  Mr. Tyler was badly gashed about the face, and was covered with blood.  This stain on my sleeve was blood from his wound. Right under our feet lay a man, his head down in a hole and his legs under the corner of a car. He asked help, and Mr. White and Mr. Tyler released his legs somehow, and some other men carried him away.  It was storming terribly.  The wind was blowing a perfect gale.  By this time, the scene was lighted up by the burning cars.  The abutments looked as high as Niagara.  Away above us, I could see a crowd of spectators.  Down in the wreck there was perfect panic.  Some were so badly frightened and panic stricken that they had to be dragged out of the cars to prevent them from burning up. Before we got out of the chasm, the whole train was in a blaze.  The locomotive, the cars, and the bridge were mixed up in one indistinguishable mass.  From the burning heap came shrieks and the most piteous cries for help. I could hear far above me the clangor of bells, alarming the citizens.  We climbed up the deep side of the gorge, floundering in snow two feet deep.  They took us to an engine house, where there was a big furnace fire.  The wounded were brought in and laid on the floor. They were injured in every conceivable way. Some had their legs broken; some had gashed and bleeding faces; and some were so horribly crushed they seemed to be dying."


The Coroner's Jury


A jury was assembled on Saturday, December 30, the day following the accident.  The following Ashtabula citizens of  were chosen: H. L. Morrison, T. D. Faulkner, Edward G. Pierce, George W. Dickinson, Henry H. Perry, and F. A. Pettibone.  Edward W. Richards, justice of the peace, was the acting coroner, and Theodore Hall was chosen as the jury's counsel.  These gentleman immediately began an investigation, which was to last sixty eight days, in search of the facts relavent to the cause of this tragedy.


Verdict of the Coroner's Jury


First.  That at about 7:30 in the evening of Friday, December 29, 1876, the iron bridge in the railroad of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Company, spanning Ashtabula creek near Ashtabula station, on said railroad, gave way under the two locomotives and express car, forming the forward portion of the west bound passenger train on said railroad known as No. 5, and fell as the leading locomotive passed on to the west abutment, leaving a chasm about sixty feet in depth between the abutments of said bridge, into which the baggage and passenger cars in said train following said express car were precipitated.


Second.  That in their fall, the cars were partially destroyed by crushing, and their destruction was completed by a conflagration immediately following, kindled by fire from their stoves.


Third.  That the fall of the bridge was the result of defects and errors made in designing, constructing, and erecting it; that a great defect, and one which appears in many parts of the structure, was the dependence of every member for its efficient action upon the probability that all or nearly all the others would retain their position and do the duty for which they were designed, instead of giving to each member a positive connection with the rest, which nothing but a direct rupture could sever.  The members of each truss were, instead of being fastened together, rested one upon the other, as illustrated by the following particulars: the deficient cross-section of portions of the top chords and some of the main braces, and insufficient lugs or flanges to keep the ends of the main and counter braces from slipping out of place; in the construction of the packing and yokes used in binding together the main and counter braces at the points where they crossed each other in the shimming of the top chords to compensate deficient length of some of their members; in the placing, during the process of erection, of thick beams where the plan required thin ones, and thin ones where it required thick ones.


Fourth.  That the railway company used and continued to use this bridge for about eleven years, during all which time a careful inspection by a competent bridge engineer could not have failed to discover all these defects.  For the neglect of such careful inspection, the railway company alone is responsible.


Fifth.  That the responsibility of this fearful disaster and its consequent loss of life rests upon the railway company, which, by its chief executive officer, planned and erected this bridge.


Sixth.  That the cars in which said deceased passengers were carried into said chasm were not heated by heating apparatus so constructed that the fire in it will be immediately extinguished whenever the cars are thrown from the track and overturned.  That their failure to comply with the plain provisions of the law places the responsibility of the origin of the fire upon the railway company.


Seventh.  That the responsibility for not putting out the fire at the time it first made its appearance in the wreck rests upon those who were the first to arrive at the scene of the disaster, and who seemed to have been so overwhelmed by the fearful calamity that they lost all presence of mind and failed to use the means at hand, consisting of the steam pump in the pumping house and the fire engine "Lake Erie" and its hose, which might have been attached to the steam pump in time to save life.  The steamer belonging to the fire department and also "Protection" fire engine were hauled more than a mile through a blinding snow storm and over roads rendered almost impassable by drifted snow, and arrived on the ground too late to save human life; but nothing should have prevented the chief fireman from making all possible efforts to extinguished what fire then remained.  For his failure to do this he is responsible. 


Eighth.  That the persons deceased, before mentioned, whose bodies were identified, and whose bodies and parts of bodies were unidentified, came to their deaths by the precipitation of the aforesaid cars, in which they were riding, into the chasm in the valley of Ashtabula creek left by the falling of the bridge as aforesaid, and the crushing and burning of said cars aforesaid; for all of which the railway company is responsible.


The New York Central Wreck of 1953 (Springfield Township):

Report by the Interstate Commerce Commission:

This is an investigation by the Commission on its own motion with respect to the facts, conditions, and circumstances connected with an accident which occurred on the New York Central Railroad in Pennsylvania 2.4 miles east of Conneaut, Ohio and 1,861 foot east of the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line, on March 27, 1953. Said investigation and an investigation by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission were heard on a common record. Hearing was had at Erie, Pa., on April 1, 2, and 3, 1953. The accident was the derailment of a passenger train and collisions between this train and a moving freight train and between derailed passenger equipment and another passenger train on an adjacent track. It resulted in the death of 16 passengers, 1 express messenger, 2 train-service employees and 2 other employees and the injury of 30 passengers, 1 Pullman Company employee, 1 person carried under contract, 9 train-service employees and 8 other employees.

Ex Parte No. 186 New York Central Railroad Near Conneaut, Ohio March 27, 1953

Location of Accident and Method of Operation

This accident occurred on that part of the Erie Division extending between BR interlocking, near Cleveland, Ohio, and Bay View, N. Y., 163,4 miles. In the vicinity of the point of accident this is a four-track line, over which trains moving with the current of traffic are operated by signal indications supplemented by an automatic train-stop system. The main tracks from south to north are designated as No. 4, eastward freight; No. 2, eastward passenger; No. 1, westward passenger; end No. 3, westward freight. At Ashtabula, Ohio, 43.7 miles east of BR interlocking, there is a junction with a line which extends southward from Ashtabula to Youngstown, Ohio, 62.8 miles. The initial derailment occurred on track No. 1 at a point 59.3 miles east of BR interlocking, and 2.4 miles east of Conneaut, Ohio. The collisions occurred on tracks No. 3 and No. 2 in close proximity to the point of derailment. From the west on all tracks there are, in succession, a tangent 2.3 miles in length and a 0 degree 30'curve to the left 1,208 feet to the point of accident and 3,059 feet eastward. From the east all tracks arc tangent throughout a considerable distance immediately east of the curve on which the accident occurred. The grade is practically level.

The track structure consists of 127-pound rail, 39 feet in length, laid on an average of 24 treated ties per rail length. It is fully tieplated, double-spiked, provided with 6-hole joint bars and an average of 12 rail anchors per rail length. Tracks Nos. 1 and 2 are ballasted with crushed stone to a depth of 12 inches below the bottom of the ties and tracks Nos. 3 and 4 are similarly ballasted with crushed slag. The distance between the center-lines of adjacent tracks is 13 feet.

Automatic signal 114.2, governing east-bound movements on track No. 2, is 1 mile west of the point of accident. Automatic signals 113.1 and 113.3, governing west-bound movements on tracks No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, are mounted on a bracket mast 610 feet east of the point of accident. These signals are of the 2-unit color-light type and are approach lighted, Each displays four aspects.

Description of Accident

Extra 1736 West, a west-bound freight train, consisted of Diesel-electric units 1736 and 1735, coupled in multiple unit control, 120 cars and a caboose. This train passed Dock Jct., 22.3 miles east of the point of accident and the last open office, at 9:16 p.m., passed signal 113.3 which indicated Proceed and while it was moving on track No. 3 at a speed of 31 miles per hour the seventy-sixth car was struck by the derailed locomotive and equipment of No. 5 and the seventy-fifth to the ninetieth cars, inclusive, were derailed.

No. 5, a west-bound first-class passenger train, consisted of Diesel-electric units 4018 and 4003, coupled in multiple-unit control, one mail car, two express cars, one baggage car, two coaches, one sleeping car, one club-sleeping car, two sleeping cars and one observation-sleeping car, in the order named, All ears were of conventional steel construction, except the fifth car which was of stainless steel construction. The fourth to the seventh cars, inclusive, and the ninth and tenth cars were equipped with tightlock couplers. This train departed from Erie, 25.2 miles east of the point of accident at 9:36 p.m., 4 minutes late, passed Dock Jet. at 9:41 p.m., passed signal 113.1 which indicated proceed and while it was moving on track No. 1 at a speed of 76 miles par hour the locomotive and the first 10 cars were derailed and collided with Extra 1736 West. Immediately after the collision occurred the derailed equipment of No. 5 which obstructed track No. 2 was struck by No. 12.

No. 12, an east-hound first-class passenger train, consisted, of Diesel-electric units 4020 and 4111, coupled in multiple-unit control, one baggage-dormitory car, two coaches, one dining car, two sleeping cars, one coach, four sleeping cars and one observation-sleeping car, in the order named. The first car, the third to the sixth cars, inclusive, and the eleventh and twelfth cars were of stainless steel construction and the other cars were of conventional steel construction. All cars were equipped with tightlock couplers. This train passed ER interlocking at 9:11 p.m., on time, passed OD interlocking at Ashtabula, the last open office, at 9:46 p.m., passed signal 114.2 which indicated Proceed and while moving on track No. 2 at a speed of 71 miles per hour it struck the derailed equipment which obstructed that track.

In the immediate vicinity of the point of accident the four tracks were destroyed. The derailed cars of Extra 1736 West stopped in various positions on or near the westward main tracks. The seventy-eighth, eighty-first, eighty-second and eighty-fourth cars were destroyed. The seventy-sixth, seventy-seventh and eightieth cars were badly damaged and the other derailed cars of this train were somewhat damaged.

A separation occurred between the locomotive and the first car of No. 5. The Diesel-electric units remained couples and stopped about in line with the track and with the front end about 740 feet west of the point of accident. Both Diesel-electric units were badly damaged. A separation occurred at each end of each of the first six cars and these cars Stooped in various positions on and across the tracks and intermingled with the derailed equipment of Extra 1736 West. The seventh ear stopped with the front end against derailed equipment on track No. 3 and the rear end on the train structure of track No. 1 end the other derailed cars stopped in line with that track. The first six cars were destroyed and the other derailed cars of this train were badly damaged.

The locomotive and the first nine cars of No. 12 were derailed. A separation occurred between the locomotive and the first car end between the Diesel-electric units. The units stoned in diagonal positions with the front end of the first unit south of the westward main tracks and about 95 feet east of the point of accident. The second unit stopped at right angles to the tracks and with the front end against the left rear corner of the first unit. Both units were badly damaged. The first four cars stopped in diagonal positions intermingled with the derailed cars of the other two trains and the other derailed cars stopped about in line with the track. The first two cars were destroyed and the other derailed cars of this train were badly damaged.

The assistant conductor and the brakeman of No. 5 were killed. The engineer, the fireman, the baggageman and the flagman of No. 5, and the engineer, the fireman, the conductor, the assistant conductor the assistant conductor and the baggageman of No. 12 were injured.

It was raining at the time of the accident, which occurred about 10:02 p.m.


The investigation disclosed that on the day of the accident, a train which assumed identity as Extra 1871 East at Ashtabula, departed from the Pittsburg and Lake Eric Railroad, yard at East Youngstown, Ohio at 5:34 p.m., and was routed to the New York Central Ashtabula line. This train consisted of a helper engine, a two-unit Diesel-electric road locomotive, 103 oars and a caboose. The train stopped at Hartford, 16.5 miles north of Youngstown, where the helper engine ran detached, and at signal Y3.2 and NP signal station, respectively, 59.6 miles and 61.8 miles north of Youngstown. At OD interlocking at Ashtabula, the train was routed to track No. 4 and departed eastward at 9:18 p.m. As this train was approaching the point where the accident occurred the speed was 36 miles per hour as indicated by the tape of the speed-recording device. The enginemen and the front brakeman were in the control compartment at the front of the locomotive and the conductor and the flagman were in the caboose. The conductor had received and acknowledged a Proceed signal given by the agent at Conneaut to indicate that nor defective condition had been observed as his train passed that station. Immediately east of the point where the accident occurred Extra 1871 East met Extra 1736 West moving on track No. 3. The flagman of Extra 1871 East observed that stop signals were being given with a white light from the rear platform of the caboose of the west-bound train. He acknowledged the signals and immediately informed his conductor. The brakes of the train were then applied from the caboose by the use of the conductor's valve. The train stopped with the front end in the vicinity of Springfield, Pa., 3.2 miles east of the point of accident. The flagman immediately proceeded westward to provide flag protection and the conductor inspected the train. The seventy-third car, Baltimore and Ohio 254645, was loaded with 58 pieces of pipe and the conductor found the side stakes had broken on the north side of the car and part of the lading had fallen from the car. He observed that the ends of high tension bands used to secure the load were trailing over the sides of the car, counted 49 pieces of pipe on the car, end later made a notation on the waybill that nine pieces of pipe were missing. After he completed his examination of the car he uncoupled it from the rear portion of the train and instructed the front brakeman to assist in the movements necessary to set out the car on an adjacent auxiliary track. Before the car was set out he communicated by telephone with the train dispatcher to inform him of the delay to his train and that some pipe were missing from the car. The dispatcher then informed him that the accident had occurred.

Extra 1736 West approached the point of accident on track No. 3 at a speed of 31 miles per hour. The headlight was lighted and had been dimmed because of an approaching east-bound train. The enginemen and the front brakeman were in the control compartment at the front of the locomotive and the conductor and the flagman were in the caboose. When the locomotive passed the point at which the accident occurred the enginemen did not observe any defective condition of the tracks or any obstruction on or rear the tracks. The flagman proceeded to the rear platform of the caboose to inspect Extra 1871 East moving on track No. 4. He observed sparks flying from the vicinity of the running gear of a car about midway of that train. Then its caboose passed he gave stop signals with a white light which were acknowledged. He then entered the caboose and informed his conductor of the defective condition he had observed. Immediately afterwards, No. 5, moving on track No. 1, passed the rear end of his train. The brakes of Extra 1736 West became applied in emergency as a result of the collision with No. 5.

As No. 5 was approaching the point where the accident occurred the speed was 76 miles per hour. The train was moving on a curve to the right and was passing Extra 1736 West moving on track No. 3. The headlight, was lighted brightly. The engineer and the fireman were in the control compartment at the front of the locomotive and the members of the train crew were in various locations in the cars of the train. The engineer had started to operate the switch to dim the headlight for No. 12 which was approaching on track No. 2 when he observed that the track immediate in front of his locomotive had been shifted northward toward track No. 3 a distance of about 18 inches. Before he could move the brake valve to emergency position the locomotive was derailed and collided with Extra 1736 West and about the same time the locomotive of No. 12 passed the locomotive of No. 5.

As No. 12 was approaching the point where the accident occurred the speed was 71 miles per hour. The engineer and the fireman were in the control compartment at, the front of the locomotive and the member of the train crew were in various locations in the cars of the train. The engineer was, injured in the accident and could not be questioned during the Investigation. The fireman called the Proceed indication of signal 113.2 and observed that the engineer had dimmed the headlight for No. 5 which was approaching on, track No. 1. The engineer made an emergency application of the brakes when the locomotive was passing the locomotive of No. 5. The fireman observed fire flying as derailed equipment obstructed track No. 2 immediately in front of the locomotive. The collision occurred before the speed of the train was matrially reduced.

The four tracks were destroyed throughout a distance of approximately 200 feet. Six pieces of pipe which had fallen from Extra 1871 East were found in the wreckage at the point of accident and three pieces of pipe were found on the track structure at a point approximately 2 miles east of the point of accident. Examination of Baltimore and Ohio 254645 disclosed that three pieces of pipe were missing from both the seventh and eighth layers, two pieces from the sixth layer, and one piece from the fifth layer on the north side of the car. The side stakes on the north side of the car were broken off flush with the top of the car side. The top portion of the stake nearest the front end of the car was suspended from the high tension band to which it was fastened but the tops of to other stakes on the north side of the car were missing. All stakes on the south side of the car, except the state nearest the front end, were broken at the top, apparently, as a result of inward pressure on the high tension bands as the lading shifted and fell from the opposite side of the car. The top high tension band was, missing at each stake location except on the pair of stakes at the front end of the car. The intermediate high tension bands had slipped and separated and only the high tension bands which extended through the load immediately above the top of the car sides hold. All high tension bands which encircled the load had slipped and separated. All seals except one were missing from the encircling bands and the seals which remained was not properly crimped. Three seats, none of which had been crimped properly, were found on the high tension bands. All other seals were missing or covered by the load. Four of the high tension bands bore indications of slight crimping where a seal had been applied and had slipped but the other bands showed no indications of crimping. Loading inspectors from, the Association of American Railroads examined the car and found that it had been loaded in conformity with the loading specifications in all repects except that the high tension bands securing the load had not been properly sealed. They examined the seals which remained on the car and were accessible for inspection and found that none had been crimped properly to provide 85 percent of the load strength of the band, as required by the loading rules. It was their opinion that because of the faulty application of the seals, the high tension bands had loosened during the movement of the car and the load had shifted sufficiently to exert excessive pressure on the aide stakes which then broke on the north side of the load and permitted part of the lading to fall from the car. A fresh batter mark, evidently, caused by contact with a heavy metallic object, was found at the corner or the end sill on the north side of the car at the west end. No other defective condition of the car or load was found.

Baltimore and Ohio 254645 is a drop-end gondola type of car, built in July 1925. Its lightweight, capacity and load limit are, respectively, 49,600 pounds, 140,000 pounds, and 160,400 pounds. The height of the car is 6 feet 10 inches above the tops of the rails. The inside length, width and height are, respectively, 46 feet, 9 feet 6 inches and 3 feet. Thc trucks are of the 4-wheel type and are provided with 33-inch multiple-wear wrought steel wheels, solid steel axles with 6-inch by 11-inch journals and a 5 helical spring cluster at each side of each truck. The pipes in thin car were threaded steel casing with outside diameter of 13-3/8 inches and weighed 61 pounds per foot. The average length of the pipe was about 31 feet. The total weight of the oar and lading was 158,575 pounds. The lading rested on four 4-inch by 4-inch bearing pieces laid, in transverse positions on the floor of the car. Four pairs of 4-inch by 4-inch hardwood stakes which extended to a height, of approximately 1 foot above the ton of the load were provided. They were located, respectively, 12 feet 4 inches, 19 feet 2 inches, 27 feet 6 inches and 35 feet front the west end of the car. The pipes were loaded in eight layers. The first layer, on the bearing nieces, and the third, fifth and seventh layers, each consisted of eight pipes. The second, fourth and sixth layers each consisted of seven pipes and the top layer consisted of 5 pipes. Each layer above, the first was nested in the layer beneath and the top of the load was 8 feet 8 inches above the floor of the car and 12 feet 3 inches above the tops of the rails. Four 1-1/4 inch by .035 inch steel high tension bands were fastened between each pair of side stakes and extended through the load above the third, fifth and seventh layers of pipe and across the top of the lost. At each side stake location a high tension band of similar dimensions encircled all of the load except the two pipes at the north end, of the bottom layer of pipe.

When the piper fell from the car one piece became wedged between the track structure of track No. 1 and Canadian National 487579, the next car. As the train was proceeding at a speed of 36 miles per hour the resultant thrust transmitted by the pipe to track No. 1 moved, track No. 1 northward a distance of about 18 inches before the pipe fell clear of the cars. The damaged condition of the track was not observed before No. 5 arrived at the point of accident. Canadian National 487579 is an all-steel box car with corrugated ends. It was loaded with wire nails and destined to Albany, N. Y. This car was inspected at Albany on March 31, 1953 by members of the mechanical force of the carrier. The inspection disclosed that the front end of this car bore marks which indicated that it had been in contact with a piece of the pipe which had fallen to the track structure at the scene of the accident from the preceding car. A triangular shaped, indentation in the corrugated metal extended horizontally inward from a point 1 foot 6-1/2 inches from the north side of the car at the front end. The depression was 1 foot 10 inches long, and 3 inches and 7-1/4 inches high at the outer and inner ends, respectively. The bottom of the indentation was 6-3/4 inches above the bottom of the end sheet of the car. The depression had a maximum depth of 5 inches from a plane over the corrugations and evidently was caused by contact with the periphery of a metallic object to approximately the diameter of the steel pipe. There were two smaller marks above and parallel to the large depressed area in the car end and, small batter marks were found on the end handhold and on the top of the coupler on the same side. All of these marks were of recent origin and from the grouping appeared to have been caused by contact with the same object.

Baltimore and Ohio 254645 was loaded at the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company plant at Aliquippa, Pa., on the Aliquippa and Southern Railroad, and was delivered in interchange in a cut of 34 cars to the fittsburgh and Lake Erie at West, flacks Run yard, 39.7 miles east of Youngstown, at 6:55 p.m., March 24, 1953. The car was destined to New York, N. Y. via Pittsburgh and Lake Erie, the New York Central and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroads. The records of the carrier indicate that the car was inspected by interchange inspectors between 6:55 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. on the day it wan received and no defective condition was found. Several cars in the same cut were loaded with pipe and the inspectors took no exception to the manner in which any car was loaded. It wan their practice to climb on cars to inspect the manner in which the load, was secured whenever they observed that the load had shifted or the side stakes or tie hands were not in place. They could not recall if either of them had climbed this car to inspect the load. The car was moved westward on March 26, 1953 in No. 203 which departed from West Blacks Rim yard at 9:23 p.m. and arrived at East Youngstown at 11:55 p.m. It was inspected after arrival and no defective condition was found. The inspector who made this inspection climbed on the end of the car and observed the load. He took no exceptions to its condition but did not examine the high tension bands or seals. East Youngstown is an interchange point with the New York Central and joint inspections are performed by employees of the mechanical force of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie. This car was assembled in the rear portion of the train of Extra 1871 East on March 27, 1953, and the forward portion of the train was assembled on another track. The car was last inspected by manners of the mechanical force before the train departed from the yard at 5:34 p.m., and no defective condition was observed.

The members of the crew of Extra 1871 East had not noticed any defective condition in their train before stop signals were given by a member of the crew of Extra 1736 West. The members of the crew in the caboose then took action to stop their train for inspection.

We find that:

1. The lading of Baltimore and Ohio 254645 was not properly secured for movement when loaded because the high tension bands were not properly sealed.

2. Baltimore and Ohio 254645 was accepted from the shipper by the Aliquippa and Southern and in turn accepted in interchange by the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie and the New York Central without adequate inspection to determine that the lading was properly secured for movement.

3. Because the lading was not properly secured, a portion fell from the car while in transit, damaged the westward passenger track sufficiently to cause the derailment of No. 5 which in turn caused the derailment of Extra 1736 West.

4. No. 12 struck the derailed equipment of No. 5 before protection could be provided.

By the Commission, Division 3.


Acting Secretary.