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(erielack) Erie Lackawanna Day

I always enjoy reading “favorite EL experiences”, including the recent ones 
commemorating the 46th anniversary of the merger.  So I’ll return the favor 
with a few of my own:

1.) Carlton Hill (NJ) Branch, 1963 – 1966.  I grew up in Carlton Hill, and 
the Branch (which was formerly the Erie Main Line until the big 
rearrangement around downtown Passaic in April 1963) was my “training” 
ground.  You had the two morning and evening commuter trains on weekdays, 
the run-around moves they had to make, and the Rutherford Drill switching 
Royce Chemical and Frommer in mid-afternoon Monday thru Saturday.  It wasn’t 
too hard to strike up a conversation with a crew member on one of those 
runs.  Things were kind of laid back, branch line style, even though it 
still looked a lot like a main line.  It was the best of both worlds, while 
it lasted.  And when I needed a fix of real main line action, BJ Tower and 
the Bergen County Line were hardly a mile away.

2.) I once got to ride NY-98 from Scranton to Croxton.  I climbed on to the 
rear unit (a 3600) with the conductor.  When Bridge 60 gave us an OK to go, 
the engineer up front jammed the throttle back to notch 8 and just left it 
there.  It was quite a ride up thru the Poconos, down into the Water Gap, 
across the Cut Off, and up the Boonton Line where we met HB-1 at Lincoln 
Park. Then there were two mini-scenic wonders on the ex-Erie: somewhere on 
the curves between Little Falls and Great Notch, you could look out the side 
window of the cab and see your train rolling along on the other side of the 
hollow, like a mini-Horseshoe Curve.  And then, as we took the old loop into 
Croxton -- same thing, you could even see the caboose bobbing along on the 
Third track as we entered the yard (wasn’t a very long train, maybe 40 
cars).  Oh, and maybe a third bit of scenery –  a rather comely young woman 
was walking along the platform at one of the stations, and our brakeman 
leaned out of the cab to give her a roll-by.

3.) Can never forget riding those old DL&W MU’s, with their solid ride, 
wicker seats, the clicka-clicka-clicka sound of their air compressors, and 
the grinding and humming of the gears and motors as they got away out of a 

4.) And then there were the Hoboken ferryboats.  Yes, they were boats, not 
trains, but you hardly noticed.  You knew they were firmly rooted in the EL 
tradition (DLW heritage). They were a wonderful place to watch the EL navy 
at work on the Hudson River.  You would see carfloats going by loaded with 
boxcars and hoppers and gons and reefers.  So yes, you were in fact watching 
railroad movements.

5.) During my four summers working for the company, I got to qualify at MQ 
Tower (Campbell Hall, NY).  Never got to work it alone, but did become 
familiar with the place.  I spent two nights there while posting, and the 
memories are like magic.  NY-99 going by around midnight with a BN F-45; 90 
and NY-100, long trains rolling east; going downstairs in the surprisingly 
chilly air at 4 am to use the outhouse, and hearing the NY Cannonball 
rolling through Goshen on the Main Line 5 miles away.  And then there was 
NY-97, which stopped to pick up a cut of loaded auto racks that the Ordinary 
had brought up from Ford Mahwah earlier in the evening.  You worked the 
switches and signals up at “O&W Bridge” (the west end of the interlocking 
plant) to guide 97’s double.  After he got back on his train and was tucked 
behind the westbound signal (having cut back far enough earlier as to allow 
for the pickup), you pushed the small hand lever and looked out of the 
window to watch the little red light out in the darkness blink and become 
green.  Then 97 started notching out, you heard the slack go out on the cars 
in front of you, then you saw the light blink back to red.  97 was on its 
way to Port and points west.

Oh, and one more thing before you headed home.  As the skies started to 
brighten in the east, a low lying fog developed, coating the ground like 
white icing.  On the dispatchers line you heard Croxton 99 get an OS from 
HX, then Ridgewood, then Suffern.  Finally he was on your bell (of course 
you’d already cleared all the signals for him).  The sun was just starting 
to shine thru the trees, and around the curve flew CX-99, slicing thru the 
ground fog. That long line of UPS trailers looked awfully good filing past 
your outpost (you went down to the ground to give him an inspection, as 
required by the local trainmaster).  Then you exchanged the usual greeting 
with the flagman on the caboose – his train looked good.

Well, to be honest – there were bad times along the EL.  There were long hot 
afternoons when nothing was running, no matter how long you waited.  There 
were grouchy employees who tossed you off the property (here and there).  
There were passenger trains that ran very late or were cold.  There were 
workdays when everything went wrong, or the guys you worked with didn’t care 
about the railroad (there were more and more like that over time, 
unfortunately) and you just couldn’t wait to see your relief and go home.  
There were bad vibes from seeing more and more rusty sidings every year, to 
former shippers that had either closed or learned to get by just fine with 
trucks.   There was sadness whenever another tower or station closed, 
whenever another passenger train made its last run, when an interesting 
operation (like the Rock Island power pool) came to an end.  And then the 
last few years, when the road freight operations started to shrink and a lot 
of drill crews were no more.

But nonetheless – it was more fun than not!  Glad I had the privilege to be 
there for some of it.  Always nice to hear other people’s memories of it 

Jim G.
ELRY 241404

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