The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway

Some of the History

The following is from the brochure made available by the Lehigh & Hudson River Railway on the occasion of its centennial celebration in June, 1960. It represents the official history, to that time; a lot of water has passed over the dam since it was written.

The highlights of what happened after 1960 will follow.

Founding of The L&HR

The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway Company is an important bridge line between New England and several of the larger railroad systems of the East. This important link had its beginning as an eleven mile railroad between Warwick, N. Y. and Greycourt, N. Y. to transport the products of the fertile Warwick Valley in the southern part of Orange County, New York, not far from the New Jersey border. The farm products of this prosperous agricultural and dairying region had for many years, prior to transportation by rail, been hauled thirty miles overland in wagons to Newburgh on the Hudson where the shipments were loaded on boats and conveyed to New York City.

In the early 1840's the New York and Erie Railroad was built through Orange County and in 1852 through direct acquisition this was extended into Jersey City which gave a more direct and much quicker route to the New York City market. This through route prompted a meeting of prominent farmers and merchants of Warwick, N. Y. in 1859, and resulted in the organization of the Warwick Valley Railroad Company. The charter to build a railroad from Warwick, N. Y. to Greycourt, N. Y. where a connection could be made with the New York and Erie, as well as its New- burgh branch, was granted in 1860, one hundred years ago.

History and progress of The L&HR

In June of the year 1860, actual construction started, but it was two years, before the road was officially opened. On April 1, 1862, the first trains operated over this line, but they were manned by Erie crews with Erie motive power and equipment under an agreement between the two companies. By 1880, the Warwick Valley Railroad had acquired sufficient equipment to take over its own operation and the arrangement with the Erie to furnish the crews and equipment was discontinued in that year. The Warwick Valley Railroad not only connected with the main line of the New York and Erie at Greycourt, but also ran through to Newburgh over the Erie branch line.

It is interesting to note that the organization meeting held at Warwick in 1859 elected the following Directors: James Burt, James B. Wheeler, John L. Welling, Milton McEwen, Gabril Wisner, Ezra Sanford, William Herrick, Grinnell Burt, Nathan R. Wheeler, James C. Houston of Warwick, N. Y.; and John H. Brown, John Rutherford and Thomas B. DeKay of Vernon, N. J. Many of the descendants of these pioneers in railroading still live in Warwick Valley and their surnames are well-known to the present inhabitants of the villages along the route of the original railroad.

The foresight of the Directors of the small Warwick Valley Railroad is evidenced by the following extract from their First Annual Report to the Stockholders in 1861:

"It was well understood by those who had been mainly instrumental in promoting the construction of the Warwick Valley Railroad, that in all probability it would be but a link in a great chain destined to be one of the most important thoroughfares, and to effect an important influence upon the commerce and manufacturers of an extensive section of our country, embracing a large portion of the States of New York and New Jersey, and also several of the New England States. Accordingly, active measures have been already inaugurated to extend the road through New Jersey to the coal beds in Pennsylvania."

It was not long after the close of the Civil War when extensive iron ore mines were opened near the New York-New Jersey State line, a few miles west of Warwick. The ore was taken by wagon to Warwick, N. Y., thence by rail over the Warwick Valley Railroad and the New York and Erie Railroad to Greenwood Furnace, New York now known as Arden. This was a new source of revenue for the Warwick Valley Railroad and was a favorable addition to the revenue they had been receiving from the transportation of farm and dairy products. Very shortly, large lime kilns were placed in operation at McAfee, N. J. and so that the Warwick Valley Railroad could share in the handling of this additional traffic, the line was extended another eleven miles west to McAfee, N. J., in 1880.

About this time plans were adopted to extend the line southerly to reach the Delaware River. Action on this was hastened by the prospects of competition, a charter having been issued by the State of New Jersey to the Pequest and Wallkill Railroad Company to construct a line from Belvidere easterly to the New York State line, fifty miles. The Warwick Valley people secured a charter for the Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad Company in 1881 to build a road from Belvidere to Great Meadows, N. J. The two interests got together, and the Pequest and Walkill was merged into The Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad. Construction was immediately begun and the new line completed to Hamburg, N. J., and extended to McAfee by purchasing three miles of existing trackage between those two villages from the Sussex Railroad Company.

On April 1, 1882, there was formed The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway Company, a consolidation of the Warwick Valley Railroad Company and The Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad Company, making a line from Belvidere, N. J. to Greycourt, N. Y., of 61 miles.

A portion ofthe freight handled eastward to Greycourt, and thence over the Erie's branch to Newburgh, was floated across the Hudson to Fishkill Landing (now Beacon) to the New York and New England Railroad for transportation to New England. In the latter part of 1885, coal traffic was developed through association with the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, large miners and shippers of anthracite coal, and most of this coal was delivered to New England points via the Newburgh route.

With the advent of the construction of the Poughkeepsie Bridge and the extension of the Central New England and Western Railroad westward to Maybrook, the Lehigh and Hudson River interests organized the Orange County Railroad Company, in 1888, to construct a line from Greycourt to Maybrook, 10.7 miles, passing through Burnside where a connection was also made with the New York, Ontario and Western Railway. This extension opened in 1890, was immediately leased to the Lehigh and Hudson River, and later merged into that company.

In 1889, the Company entered into an agreement with the Pennsylvania Railroad for trackage rights over their Belvidere-Delaware Division between Belvidere, N. J. and Phillipsburg, N. J., 13.3 miles, for a period of ninety-nine years. In the same year, the South Easton and Phillipsburg Railroad Company of New Jersey and the South Easton and Phillipsburg Railroad of Pennsylvania were organized to build a bridge across the Delaware River between the cities of Phillipsburg, N. J. and Easton, Pa., where connections could be made with the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The bridge was opened in January, 1890, and leased to the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway. In 1912, the S.E.& P. Companies were consolidated with the L&H. In September, 1890, through trains began operating between Easton, Pa. and Maybrook, N. Y., thus, the dream of the first Board of Directors of the Warwick Valley Railroad became a reality, with a through route established from the coal fields of Pennsylvania to New England territory.

In 1891, the Mine Hill Railroad Company was organized for the purpose of reaching the large mines and crushing plant of the New Jersey Zinc Company at Franklin, N. J. This short branch line extended 2 3/4 miles south from its collection with the L&H at Franklin Junction and was merged with that Company in 1912. No further extensions were built other than short spurs leading to limestone quarries at various points in Sussex County, N. J.

The acquisition of the Central New England Railway by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad resulted in a considerable increase in through traffic to and from New England. This was further augmented in 1905 by an agreement between the New Haven Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad to reroute traffic interchanged between those roads at Harlem River to the all-rail route via Maybrook. The L&H connected with the Sussex Branch of the Lackawanna at Andover, N. J., but to avoid duplicating at that junction interchange facilities already existing only nine miles distant at Port Morris, N. J., (on the main line of the Lackawanna) and to accelerate the movement of this traffic, an agreement was executed with the Lackawanna granting trackage rights to the L&H between Andover and Port Morris. The traffic was then handled east and westbound in through scheduled trains between Maybrook and Port Morris, as it is now.

Passenger revenue of the Lehigh and Hudson accounted for a relatively small proportion of its gross income, as the railroad traversed an agricultural region and passed through no cities. This traffic reached its peak in the years 1912 to 1916, as in October, 1912, owing to the risk involved in the transfer by float on the East River of the still famous Federal Express (running between Boston and Washington), the Pennsylvania and New Haven Railroads decided to abandon that route, and it was operated over the Poughkeepsie bridge to the L&H at Maybrook, from there to the Pennsylvania Railroad at Belvidere, thence to Philadelphia and Washington, until the completion of the Hell Gate Bridge in 1916. This arrangement hastened the laying of the main track with heavier rail and the installation of automatic block signals over the entire line of the road in 1913.

With the building of improved highways and the ever-increasing use of private automobiles and buses, passenger revenue of the L&H declined from $116,000 in 1914 to $1,380 in 1938. Therefor, in July, 1939, all passenger service was discontinued.

From 1905 to 1909 the passing-over freight traffic of the road, consisting principally of anthracite and bituminous coal to New England and manufactured articles, both east and westbound, had increased to such an extent that large expenditures for equipment and improvements were necessary; new locomotives and cars were purchased; the road was relaid with heavier rail; sidings lengthened; yards enlarged; new shops built at Warwick; and all bridges were strengthened, including the rebuilding of the S.E.&P. bridge over the Delaware River. Those years marked a new era in the history of the L&H, for through traffic developed rapidly, not only between the Lackawanna and the New Haven, but also with other western connections, and from that time onward the road became what it is today, a convenient bridge line for the overhead movement of freight between those connections and New England, instead of being a local line moving only enough traffic to keep itself alive.

It is interesting to note the changes that have occurred in the nature of the traffic handled by the L&H. The original Warwick Valley Railroad was built to handle farm products. It was a pioneer in transporting milk to New York City and was the first road to have specially designed refrigerated milk cars to handle such traffic. In 1880, milk revenue was approximately 50% of the gross and today, no milk is handled by The Lehigh and Hudson, and practically no shipments of other agricultural products from local points. Once the line had been extended west to Pennsylvania, anthracite and bituminous coal became an important source of revenue and for many years prior to 1938, this traffic accounted for nearly 45% of the gross. Since 1938, the introduction of other fuels has reduced this tonnage until today it represents less than 20% of the gross and has begun, through traffic solicitation, to be replaced with manufactured articles, merchandise, perishables, grain and grain products, iron and steel, cement, lumber, and petroleum. These are the principal products handled today by the Lehigh and Hudson through its principal connections, namely, The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad at Maybrook, N. Y.; Erie Rail- road at Greycourt, N. Y.; New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad at Sparta, N. J.; The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad at Port Morris, N. J.; The Pennsylvania Railroad at Belvidere, N. J.; and the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Central Railroad Company of New Jersey at Easton, Pa. A large proportion of the eastbound traffic originating on the Baltimore & Ohio and beyond is handled from Allentown, Pa., under a separate arrangement with the CNJ whereby symbol trains are operated between Allentown and Maybrook to avoid changing of crews and trains at Easton. The manufactured goods made in New England are also handled in scheduled trains westbound to make the same connections.

With some of these connecting carriers, the L&H forms a part of several well-known freight routes, such as the Central States Dispatch, Blue Ridge Dispatch, and Lackawanna Line. These dispatch lines between the Southern and Western States and New England publish day and hour schedules between various points of origin and destinations, and the traffic is handled in scheduled trains over all the railroads that constitute through routes.

During the years constant changes in road and equipment have had to be made to handle more economically and efficiently our overhead and local traffic. The weight of rail has constantly increased, until now a large portion of the main track is laid with 131 lb. rail, and the balance of 100 lb. will be replaced as rapidly as conditions permit. This rail is inspected by a Sperry Rail Detector Car. The main track is now gravel ballasted and color signals have replaced those of the semaphore type.

Diesel Power...

Many equipment changes have been necessary, the most important of which occurred in 1950 when complete conversion from steam to diesel power was accomplished. This necessitated remodeling the shops at Warwick and the retirement of all structures and facilities formerly used in connection with steam locomotives. The type of diesel considered to be best suited for our operation was the 1600 H.P. Road Switcher or "All-purpose" locomotive.

Radio Equipped

Where service is such an important factor, the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway has had to keep abreast of the times and install devices that would improve the running time of their trains, as well as the dependability of their service. Consequently, in 1958, a complete radio installation was made and at such time, The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway Company became the first railroad in the Northeast to be completely radio-equipped. Radios were installed on all locomotives and walkie-talkies provided in all cabooses. The Dispatcher's office was radio equipped as well as four wayside stations so that complete end-to-end, train-to-train, and wayside-to-train communications were provided. Since this installation, it has proved itself a big factor in promoting safety, dependability, and faster operation through the elimination of delays in setting off cars, handling hot boxes, and in times of storms allows communication regardless of the condition of the line wires

From the days of the builder, Grinnell Burt, to the present time, the tenure of office of each President has marked a period of definite progress. Today the company's roadbed, facilities and equipment are in better condition to meet the demands for fast and reliable freight service than at any time in the past. The sound financial and excellent physical condition of the railroad as it exists today is sufficient evidence of the vision and ability of its seven Presidents and the judgment and character of the many prominent men who have served on its Board of Directors.

To Be Continued...