ERIE LACKAWANNA FREIGHT TRAIN SYMBOL LISTS & CHARTS|
|"Our Freight Train Service is set up to provide a dependable and fast transportation product ...|
All freight is important and in making up a train the service objectives of the train itself must be kept in mind."
EL Through Freight Classifications, Times and Connections, October, 1973
I have prepared lists of eastbound and westbound EL freight train symbols from just after the merger to the EL's absorption into Conrail in 1976 (use buttons above to view). These lists do NOT purport to include every name that the Erie Lackawanna ever used for a freight train. They only attempt to cover the "symbols" used for the more important and regular freight runs from point A to point B over longer distances. They do not include yard engines, local switching runs (often called "Drills", "Hauls", "Roustabouts", and other names on the EL), extra road trains, coal trains, and irregular road-local trains. Further research will be needed to derive a system-wide list of those runs.
The line between "symbol freights" and "irregular road locals" is a fuzzy one. There were trains with established symbols that ran irregularly, and there were road-locals without formal symbols that ran very regularly (for example, the Croxton Ordinary on the New York Division). In general, though, I have excluded trains with names that end with "Turn Job", "Pickup", "X" [extra], "Ordinary", "Man", "Crew", "Grab" and "Drop" (e.g., BT Man, Buffalo Ordinary, Lima Turn). I have also excluded secondary trains with unique names such as the "Cementer" to Portland, PA and the "Oil Can" out of Lima. However, I have included some trains that were not considered manifests, but were in fact road locals that were given symbols because of their regularity. Some examples would be the X-1, PO-87, SCX and HF-98. These trains did not appear in the published Fast Freight Service schedules, but were usually given somewhat more priority by the EL operating people than trains with less formal names, as discussed above. In fact, some trains that DID appear in the Fast Freight Schedules were actually road locals with slow schedules.
The EL did not use a strictly rational process in naming its frieghts, like Conrail's origin / destination / date scheme. It was often a matter of tradition and personal whim. There were advance sections and second sections (which were not strictly rational; if you saw an Advance 97, you wouldn't necessarily see a regular 97 later that day). There were also freights that were given unique symbols based upon the imagination of the yardmaster, trainmaster and chief dispatcher involved. These would operate now and then, maybe for a month, or maybe only once. During the June, 1972 flood diversions, the EL ran a Buffalo 74 into Port Jervis. Some trainmaster decided that this was a good way to describe the NE-74 train out of Chicago, which was probably diverted over the Penn Central from Buffalo to Syracuse. On the west end, there were occasional "Second 89"s, "Marion 78"s, "Port Jervis 97"s and other ad hoc symbols used when an overflow of cars required that an extra train be run to keep a yard fluid. I also recall a short-lived NY Division freight called Hoboken 77, which ran a few times in 1975 (and never appeared in the published schedules). Someone decided that an old Erie number which hadn't been used since 1966 was a good way to describe a mixed freight (probably mostly empties) from the former DL&W waterfront yard in Hoboken to Meadville or Marion, via the ex-DL&W to Binghamton. A strange mix of Erie and DL&W influences; that was the EL, right up to the end! During the last 6 months of EL operations, as traffic levels severely declined, operating patterns because unstable and symbol innovations included V-98 (Hornell 98), MW-74 (Mahwah 74), a short-term revival of NY-97, the HO-77, etc.
Also, a written operations plan did not precisely determine the trains that actually ran on a given day. Operations west of Marion after 1971 were quite notorious for their "flexibility". The EL's 1972 "Chicago Blue Book" comprehensively described a plan of operations defining non-intermodal freight train operations westbound out of Marion, strictly defining what Chicago area interchange blocks were assigned across a fleet of 8 trains (CO-97, BN-99, SFE-97, CNW-97, RI-99, IC-97, CEI-97, MILW-97). The Blue Book described in detail how each train would deliver those blocks to their interchange points. However, in reality, on any given day the EL would operate perhaps 3 to 5 of those trains, mixing and matching interchange blocks in an ad hoc fashion, sometimes depending on transfer crews out of 51st Street to finally get certain blocks to the right places. One day they might run CNW-97, BN-99 and CEI-97; the next day it might be RI-99, CO-97, IC-97 and SFE-97, depending upon traffic levels, crew and power availability, and the whims of the Marion trainmasters, yardmasters and chief dispatchers. Each day's operating pattern was relatively unique.
EL freight train operations can be better understood if one is aware of the major historical events that affected the Erie Lackawanna. Here is a partial list of some of these events and milestones in EL operating history:
AT THE TIME OF THE MERGER: Prior to the merger, Erie freight symbols were generally two or three digit numbers in the 70s or higher; sometimes there were letters before the number, and sometimes not. E.g., NY-98, 90, 187. Lackawanna symbols were usually alpha-numeric, with a low number. E.g., NE-2, HB-9. Within the first full year after the merger (1961), the EL basically maintained the previous Erie and DL&W schedules and symbols.
BINGHAMTON BLOCK SWAPPING: The first attempt at post-merger operational integration was for ex-Erie and ex-DLW freights to stop in Binghamton NY to exchange blocks; this allowed traditional DLW shippers to route cars to the New Haven RR via Maybrook instead of Port Morris (via the L&HR, the preferred DL&W routing to the NH in pre-merger days), and also allowed Erie service from Chicago and the mid-west to connect to Syracuse, Utica, and Scranton/Taylor (DL&W points). Even hotshot 100 carried a block from Chicago for set-out there.
BUFFALO ROUTE CONSOLIDATION: In 1962, the EL further integrated its operations by eliminating freight service to Buffalo via the former DL&W route west of Corning (via Groveland), moving former DL&W schedules over to the ex-Erie via Hornell. The DL&W routes from Buffalo to Binghamton were downgraded or abandoned, and freight service over the Binghamton - Scranton - Hoboken route was reduced to one or two through freights each way per day by 1964. Also, the eastern terminus for most former DL&W runs was shifted from Hoboken to the ex-EL yard in Croxton (Secaucus/Jersey City).
As 1962 became 1963 and then 1964, EL traffic levels dropped, and freight service was reduced (see note below regarding the St. Lawrence Seaway). East of Buffalo, the EL decided to maintain a mix of both former Erie and DL&W symbols, even though the DLW symbols (such as BH4) now ran via Hornell and Port Jervis and terminated in Croxton Yard instead of Hoboken. At the same time, however, former Erie hotshot NY-98 often ran via Scranton (in 1963-1964). Given that NY-98 traditionally did not handle New England traffic via Maybrook, it made sense to run via Scranton because a Scranton-Croxton crew could have 4 men, while a Port Jervis-Croxton crew still needed 5 due to the New York State full-crew law.
HORNELL SHIFT TO PORT JERVIS: Another post-merger operating change (after 1964) was the downgrading of Hornell Yard, the first of many major yard phase-outs to come over the EL's lifespan. Hornell served the Erie as the consolidation and split-apart point for Buffalo and Chicago traffic to and from the east. By 1964, Port Jervis would be primarily responsible to sort or combine Buffalo and Chicago traffic from or to New York Division runs.
EAST BINGHAMTON NOTE: The initial merger plan called for track rearrangements that would allow Erie trains from Port Jervis and Susquehanna to enter the DL&W yard in East Binghamton, which would be modernized with an automated hump/retarder system. This would have allowed a strategic sorting point between Port Jervis and Scranton to the east, and Buffalo and Meadville / Marion / Chicago to the west. Unfortunately, the high cost of building a river bridge to bring the Erie main into East Binghamton prevented this from happening. If it had, it might have had a major impact on early EL operations, both in terms of efficiency and service improvement.
In lieu of building a centralized East Binghamton terminal, EL management decided to use what capital was available to construct a modern joint terminal with the NKP in Buffalo (Bison Yard). This no doubt streamlined operations in Buffalo and saved money; but it was questionable strategically, as it also helped rival NKP (which became N&W). A modern central yard in Binghamton would have speeded carload traffic to all EL points, strengthening the EL's ability to compete in all of its major markets (especially NY-Chicago).
RAMBLER TRAFFIC: Overall, the early post merger traffic patterns were based on tonnage efficiency, as on the Erie. One of the few major service innovations, however short-lived, was the shipment of Rambler automobiles manufactured in Wisconsin into the New York area via dedicated TOFC trains (the autos were on road trailers atop piggyback flatcars, and were grounded in Croxton like any other truck trailer). These "Rambler 100" runs mostly took place in 1962 and 1963. Otherwise, the general trend in the early years was loss of traffic and traffic base from the old manufacturing cities that the Erie and DL&W relied upon.
THE OPENING OF THE ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY AND THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM: The opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 allowed ships to sail efficiently between Great Lakes ports and Europe. Traffic to the former DL&W pier facilities in Hoboken appeared to be heavily impacted by this event. (For example, in 1961 the EL still listed banana traffic as an important block in its HB-1, HB-3 and HB-5 freights from Hoboken; however in 1962 it no longer listed such traffic, and HB-5 no longer ran). Hoboken was built to accomodate the smaller ocean-going vessels of the 1920s and 1930s. The Seaway allowed much bigger ships to take traffic directly from Europe to points like Buffalo, Cleveland and Chicago. Wheat, corn and other food products grown in the mid-west and bound for export could now be loaded directly onto ships along the Great Lakes, and avoid rail carriage to the east coast.
The steady progress in opening Interstate Route 80 had a big impact on time-sensitive EL traffic. After I-80 was completed across Pennsylvania in late 1970, the EL lost much Plan 1 piggyback traffic from LTL trucking companies such as Cooper-Jarrett and Navajo. In 1973, the last missing link of I-80 between New York and Illinois (in western NJ) was opened, accellerating the EL's traffic decline.
THE WILLIAM WHITE REVIVAL: William White became EL Chairman and CEO in June, 1963. In the first two years of his administration, White managed to stop most of the financial bleeding and service deterioration from the first two EL administrations (Von Willer and McInnes). By 1966, the US economy was growing and freight traffic was increasing, partly due to the expanding military conflict in Vietnam. Between 1966 and 1967 (when White died in office), various service changes and improvements were implemented by EL management to take advantage of the expanding economy. More freights ran through Marion Yard directly to or from the Chicago area, and other innovations, such as the revitalization of direct service between Cleveland and Marion, were put into effect.
THE PENN CENTRAL MERGER: The merger of the Pennsylvania and the New York Central in 1968 (with the addition of the New Haven in 1969) had a major impact on the EL's fate. As expected, the Penn Central offered shippers direct service to a wide variety of points in the East, taking away the opportunity for the EL to compete for a portion of such traffic in cooperation with the PRR, NYC or NH. This was most sorely felt with regard to the Maybrook gateway to New England via the former New Haven. Now the PC could offer direct service to NH points from Chicago and other cities. (See next section).
However, the effects of Penn Central were not all bad. The primary interchange with the Reading from the west was moved from Newberry, NY to Rupert, PA, giving the EL a longer haul; the Reading was no longer interested in serving Newberry with manifest freight service because of the loss of former NYC interchange. It thus agreed to short-haul itself with regard to EL traffic via Rupert. More significantly, the operational problems caused by the PC merger inspired many shippers to move whatever traffic they could to the EL. This allowed additions to the EL's fast freight schedule in 1968 and 1969. Unfortunately, the overall effect of the PC merger was to discourage use of all railroads by eastern shippers, and the trucking industry was the ultimate winner. The growth of traffic on the EL in 1969 because of PC problems would be short lived (see Financial & Statistical Charts).
THE SLOW DEATH OF MAYBROOK: As mentioned above in the PC section, the vigorous interchange between the EL and the New Haven at Maybrook, NY was severly cut back in 1969 due to intentional PC moves to deteriorate service, so as to encourage shippers to use all-PC routes. The ICC issued an order to the PC to restore service levels as to allow the EL (and L&HR) to continue to compete for New England traffic via former New Haven routes. Thus, a fair amount of interchange continued at Maybrook into 1971, including TOFC service from Chicago to Boston via a dedicated Maybrook - Chicago EL train (EL NE-99 from NH/PC CB-1 and EL NE-100 to NH/PC CB-2). However, because of economic factors such as the on-going closure of old factories in New England, traffic from New England continued to diminish. By 1972, there was only one EL freight into and out of Maybrook (NE-74 east and NE-97 west), which were now through trains with pool power from Port Jervis to New Haven in cooperation with PC. In 1974, the Hudson River bridge at Poughkeepsie was damaged by fire, and the PC refused to rebuild it. Instead, the PC and EL set up a through train arrangement from Binghamton to Selkirk. In the end, interchange per day was well under 100 cars, versus around 500 cars per day in the early 60s. (However, some former Maybrook traffic was probably diverted to the D&H - B&M route via Binghamton, espcially if headed for central Massachusetts, the Boston metro area, or northern New England; trains AB-91, ATC-4, PB-99, TC-99, PB-100, and TC-100 were part of this service.)
THE DERECO / N&W TAKEOVER: In late 1968, the N&W took control of the EL and D&H via the DERECO holding company. DERECO/N&W influence was strongly felt in the operating department. Many trains were re-named to reflect N&W service concepts (e.g., the "Transcontinental" series of trains). But there were also new trains that ran through to points on the N&W and/or D&H, such as the Cannonball, East Coast / West Coast Expediter, and TC-99 and TC-100. Although the N&W was not enthusiastic about its relation with the EL and tried to keep the EL at arms length financially, it can be seen that the N&W people did try to improve services to EL shippers.
THE UPS CONTRACT: In 1970, the EL's sales and marketing department pulled off a coup by convincing UPS to ship its trailers on a dedicated EL run from Croxton to Chicago. The westbound CX-99 was reprogrammed as a TOFC only train exclusively for UPS service, and an eastbound Second NY-100 was established in the same vein. As business grew, overflow UPS business supported the EL's standard-bearer TOFC trains, NY-99 and NY-100, and allowed a new westbound train, the Advanced CX-99, to be established.
FORD MAHWAH: The Ford auto plant in Mahwah, NJ was a major EL shipper, and EL operating patterns were strongly influenced by Ford needs. Train 90, later DN-90, was on many days an all-Ford consist, forwarding auto parts from Detroit to Mahwah. Other eastbound symbol trains had solid blocks of cars for set-out at Suffern/Hillburn NY, the holding yard for Ford along the main. Westbound empties and loaded auto racks were picked up by various road locals and sorted to symbol trains made up in Port Jervis. However, in later years, the TC-1 and MW-97 ran from Suffern with almost exculsive Ford consists.
HURRICANE AGNES AND BANKRUPTCY: In June 1972, Hurricane Agnes flooded the EL in New York State. The costs of the damage forced the EL into bankruptcy. At that point, the N&W cut bait; the DERECO era was over, and the EL was on its own. Traffic recovered up to a point once the main line was repaired, but it was the beginning of the end for the EL. It is reported that the EL had planned to upgrade its Marion, OH yard just before Agnes struck, and had to forgo that project to repair the flood damage. Had Marion been upgraded, EL carload service to Chicago might have become faster and more efficient, especially in light of the increasing amount of run-thru service and direct delivery to interchanging lines in Chicago (see Marion Plan note below).
SCRANTON versus PORT JERVIS; THE MOONSHOWER PLAN: By late 1972, the EL started moving some of its through freight runs from the Port Jervis line between Croxton and Binghamton back to the ex-DL&W route via Scranton. The intent was to move all but one or two runs each way from the former Erie route, an almost complete inversion from the early post-merger operating plan. The grades via Scranton were still tougher than via Port Jervis, but the Scranton route maintained its vigorous interchange with the Jersey Central by a run-through freight from Elizabethport to Scranton via the CNJ's High Bridge Branch and Lake Junction. (There was also a smaller Reading interchange out of Scranton via Rupert). By contrast, the former New Haven interchange at Maybrook on the Erie side was dying. There was also more lineside industry along the Scranton route. Furthermore, there was no longer a problem with Pennsylvania having a full crew law, which made freight operations via Scranton more expensive in the early 1960s. (New York State also had a full crew law which laster longer than the Pennsylvania law, into the early 1970s).
The biggest immediate hurdle for the "Moonshower Plan", named for EL operating official J.M. Moonshower, involved clearances. A new track arrangement in Croxton Yard facilitated run-throughs from Suffern to the Boonton Line out to Scranton, thus allowing Ford Mahwah to be served by trains out of Scranton. However, the clearances on the ex-DL&W route had to be improved to allow that. The EL worked diligently to expand clearances, but experienced another financial setback when the Nicholson, PA tunnel on the DL&W route collapsed while being worked on in mid-1974. The EL had to go back to using the ex-Erie route exclusively for about 3 months, delaying its effort to single track that line west of Port Jervis (thus delaying the anticipated track maintenance savings).
Another problem with the Scranton routing involved capacity constraints in New Jersey. There was a 33 mile stretch of single track from Bells Bridge, PA to Port Morris, NJ (along the former Lackawanna Blairstown Cut-Off) with only one controlled passing siding, at Greendell NJ. Adding to the problem here was a long uphill grade eastbound, out of the Delaware River valley. However, after 1970 there weren't any passenger trains along that stretch to further complicate operations. The worse problem occurred further east, between Denville NJ and Great Notch on the Greenwood Lake-Boonton Line. This 18 mile stretch was single track with a short controlled siding at Lincoln Park. However, it was also a commuter train route. Add to that a significant eastbound grade on the single track from Mountain View to Great Notch, and significant delays were experienced by both passenger and freight runs. Further problems involved two structurally deficient bridges east of Great Notch, at WR West Arlington and DB Draw over the Hackensack River, near the entrance to Croxton Yard. These both required 25 MPH speed restrictions. In addition, DB was a single track bridge that had to open several times daily for river traffic. It was designed as a branch line facility (the former Erie Greenwood Lake line), and as such took more time to open and close than other river bridges (e.g. the Upper Hack drawbridge on the former DL&W Boonton Line route and the HX Draw Bridge on the ex-Erie Bergen County Line route).
By 1975, the EL had things the way it wanted them, and tried to operate as many trains via Scranton and as few via Port Jervis as possible. Unfortunately, the capacity constraints in New Jersey did cause significant delays to both freight and passenger customers. Also, heavy trains running over the steep grades near Scranton used more fuel than via Port Jervis, and fuel remained expensive in the mid-70s. The EL thus transferred some of the heavier runs (like TC-4 and MW-97, sometimes HB-1 and NY-98) back to the Port Jervis route. This in turn created other delays, due to the long stretches of the line that had recently been single-tracked; there were only four sidings between Port Jervis and Binghampton, mostly operated by train order authority without signals (EL didn't have the money to install CTC/TCS control). Service levels to shippers obviously declined, and the cost of posting 24-hour train-order operators along the Delaware Subdivision (Port Jervis to Binghamton) used up some of the savings from track reduction. These circumstances, along with a business recession and further factory shut-downs in the east, condemned EL management's efforts to escape the grips of Conrail.
THE MARION PLAN FOR CHICAGO INTERCHANGE: Another EL plan to improve service and save money was fully implemented by late 1974 (although started a few years earlier) between Marion, OH and Chicago. Up until the early 70s, the EL sorted w/b Chicago interchange traffic at yards in Huntington, Hammond, and downtown Chicago. It ran a fleet of trains originating in Croxton, Maybrook, Scranton, Port Jervis and Binghamton through to these points, for final delivery from Hammond and 51st Street Chicago via transfer runs (train 77 also carried a block for the yard at 87th St. for transfer to the Belt Railway of Chicago).
The downtown 51st yard was mostly used for high-priority interchange traffic including meat, perishibles and merchandise; the Santa Fe was an important 51st Street connection. By contrast, Hammond was used more for lower-priority loads and empties. Hammond was also the key interchange point with the Monon and IHB; BRC traffic was interchanged via 87st Street yard in Chicago. TOFC was loaded and unloaded in 51st Street; until after 1970, almost all EL TOFC traffic for Chicago was unloaded and was not rail-interchanged (a trailer going to another line to continue its journey would be "rubber interchanged" by being unloaded and driven to the other railroad's TOFC ramp). Only after the UPS contract in the early 1970s were a significant number of TOFC cars directly interchanged with other lines, including the C&EI / MP (via CX-99) and the BN and Santa Fe (via NY-99 to BN-99 and SFE-97). However in the late 1960s, the EL offered direct-interchange blocks from Croxton on NY-99 that could include TOFC to the BN, Santa Fe and the Rock Island/Union Pacific; however, as RI service deteriorated, the UP service obviously faltered. LCL was handled at the 14th Street freighthouse. Up through 1970, the same operation pattern used in Erie days prevailed in the Chicago region.
In 1969, the EL started running two w/b trains from Marion that ran directly into off-line yards of other lines in Chicago (these were the Q-99 for the CB&Q and the RN-99 for the Rock Island). In 1970, the EL began to close Hammond as a sort and interchange yard, and emphasized Marion, OH as the sorting and mixing point for all traffic to and from other lines at Chicago. (Hammond continued to be used until early 1973 for IHB interchange, although without an assigned yardmaster.) By 1972, seven trains were programmed to leave Marion every day with dedicated interchange mainly for one railroad in Chicago. A train would reach Chicago and make delivery directly to that one railroad's yard. Thus, the Milwaukee, Santa Fe, Illinois Central, Burlington Northern, Belt Railway, C&NW, RI, and C&EI would get one train each day from the EL directly from Marion, versus a series of visits by transfer runs out of Hammond or 51st Street. (However, when traffic levels were down, these trains were often combined from Marion to Huntington, and would even made multiple deliveries between Chicago and Griffith [EJE]; perhaps 3 or 4 of these trains actually operated on a given day.) Hammond became totally irrelevant to westbound traffic, and on the eastbound side, only the low-priority freight 78 was programmed to pickup IHB traffic at Hammond until 1973. All other eastbound interchange had been consolidated downtown at 51st Street; thus, the 98 and 74 freights out of Chicago were now completely made up downtown, versus the previous pattern of having those trains run from 51st Street with a short consist to be filled out at Hammond.
By early 1975, the EL implemented the off-line yard philosophy for eastbound traffic too, with runs for Marion originating on the Belt Railway at Clearing Yard, Santa Fe (Corwith), Milwaukee (via IHB Calumet City), and ICG (Fordham). This arrangement probably caused more train miles west of Marion and may have caused slower service to some shippers; but it saved on expensive yard and transfer crews (and reduced yard maintenance expenses and yard operation costs also, with the closure of Hammond).
However, due to the antiquated design of Marion Yard, e.g. its short classification tracks and its susceptability to flooding, Marion in fact could not always keep up with the classification demands that the new Chicago plan required of it. As such, certain direct delivery trains were originated in Meadville when Marion was overwhelmed by traffic levels. Also, unclassified trains were occasionally sorted out by an extra switch crew at Huntington, and around 1972-1973, various block building and swapping schemes occurred at small yards west of Marion, including Kenton, Lima and Griffith. The EL had planned to rebuild Marion Yard by 1973, so as eliminate the need for these costly stop-gap measures. However, the damage from Hurricane Agnes diverted all of the cash reserved for that effort. Thus, the inefficiencies in the Marion-based Chicago interchange plan caused by capacity constraints at Marion were never resolved.
OIL CRISIS, RECESSION AND CONRAIL: The OPEC oil embargo in 1973-74 was EL's last straw. The big jump in oil prices (and temporary inabilty to get as much as needed) immediately killed some EL service innovations like the SFE-99 run from Croxton and the NE-99 / NE-100 TOFC run to Port Newark via the CNJ. These services were in their first 6 months and were running with under 30 cars. The jump in fuel costs and decrease in availability made it too expensive for the EL to give those runs more time to develop a traffic base. Over the next few months, oil prices caused inflation, which in turn caused unions (including railroad unions) to demand steep pay hikes to maintain standards of living. This in turn contributed to an overall business recession in 1975. For the EL, there was no escape from the financial squeeze of increased costs and decreased revenues; after 4 years of bad luck, i.e. Hurricane Agnes, an investment in the Scranton route that didn't entirely pay off, and a Marion-Chicago interchange plan whose potential efficiencies were never fully realized, the EL had no reserves left for bad times. So, the EL disappeared into Conrail.
COULD IT HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT?: As a result of the Penn Central service collapse in 1968 and 1969, the major shippers in the east started adapting their production and distribution systems away from rail transport, and towards trucks. Even though the EL still offered decent service, most major shippers either had some facilities on the PC, or needed to use PC routes for at least a part of their traffic originating or terminating on the EL. These shippers thus looked at the eastern railroads as an overall system, one that caused them great disruption in the late 60s. Thus, the PC merger fiasco "poisoned the waters" for all eastern railroads, and as the 70's progressed, more and more traffic was lost to trucks.
Even if the EL had somehow stuck it out through 1980, the worst was yet to come: the death of heavy steel production in Youngstown, the loss of Ford Motor and Solvay Process (once a major shipper on the Syracuse line), and the general de-industrialization of New Jersey and Ohio in the early 1980s. Hypothetically, the EL could have done well with double stack container traffic in the mid-1980s, having the clearances to initiate service well before Conrail and Chessie would have been ready. But the EL would have suffered enormous operating losses between 1976 and 1985, and probably couldn't have garnered sufficient federal loans to have stayed alive, even less so to have rebuilt its route so as to have remained competitive with the rejuvinated ex-NYC Water Level route. The EL probably would have lost its UPS contract as service continued to deteriorate, and at best would have broken up into a series of short lines where local service might have been profitably maintained, with perhaps the Croxton to Buffalo line remaining intact for coordinated service with the N&W at Buffalo, the D&H in Binghamton, and the NYS&W in New Jersey. Even that outcome would have been quite unlikely given continued shipper distrust of eastern rail service. (It took Conrail ten years to convince eastern shippers that railroads were reliable enough again to trust with at least some of their business; this set the groundwork for the regional carrier movement, e.g. the NYS&W, the M&E, and later the WP&NY.) By 1980, the real world had radically changed, and no longer had a need for the EL as we knew it. A review of EL history and operations patterns shows quite clearly that entering Conrail and rationally distributing its assets to its debtors was the most intelligent thing that EL management could have done in 1976. Sadly enough, the EL's final decision was the right one.
FINAL NOTE REGARDING SYMBOLS LISTS: These lists are admittedly incomplete and imperfect even with regard to regular symbols. If you find errors or know of other EL frieght symbols that should be listed, please contact me with the e-mail address given on the home page.
|(With thanks for materials & information from Paul Brezicki, Schuyler Larrabee & Stephen Twarogowski)|