D&H On DL&W: Scranton-Binghamton Before and During Guilford (1980-1988) by Peter Brill with Richard Taylor
Special pre-publication pricing! Expected release date is February 20.
146 pages, glossy paper, soft cover, 212 color images, indexed.
Conrail’s coming consolidated D&H’s friendly connections into a huge competitor. Chessie’s last minute refusal to enter the Northeast as Conrail’s competitor left USRA with no choice but to greatly expand D&H to fill the void, mostly with ex-LV/RDG motive power and trackage rights over its rival.
D&H’s Penn Division freights still battled their way up both sides of Mount Ararat on a main line built well over a century earlier. And then, the former DL&W main between Minooka Jct. and East Binghamton, actually BD interlocking in Binghamton, became available as Conrail preferred other routes. “Superbly engineered” is a term often applied to the Nicholson Cut-Off which opened in 1915 as a major segment of this former DL&W main. The Cut-Off featured monstrous concrete viaducts and a rather level line once the steep grade from Scranton to Clarks Summit was conquered, often with pushers. Of course, D&H trains bound to New England and Canada would often need pushers out of Binghamton up to Belden Hill Tunnel.
So, the D&H acquired the former DL&W main and gradually transferred Penn Division operations to the route between Taylor and East Binghamton yards, both of which, in addition to the main, required investment to bring them up to operating condition. This is when the story begins.
It was probably assumed by most people, that D&H was now set for many years to come, operating over its new Penn Division while coping with the usual stream of important but not “life-threatening” changes to come. Such would not prove to be the case. Yes, symbol freights would come and go. The “Steel Train”, instigated by Bethlehem Steel, ended after a few years with the closing of its Lackawanna works. The high priority Lehigh Valley Oak Island trains, the Apollo’s and Mercury’s, would not last long. Emphasis shifted from north/south traffic to east/west as East Binghamton Yard became the focus of traffic to and from Buffalo via the former Erie/EL route and on to New England.
Moreover D&H itself was threatened by its inability to compete with Conrail and the continued decline of the Northeast’s industrial base. Complicating matters, a new entity had entered the scene as a wealthy Pittsburgh investor sought to assemble a system of New England railroads and apparently had visions of building a Conrail-sized system. Tim Mellon’s Guilford Transportation Industries bought Maine Central. Then it bought Boston & Maine. Finally it bought D&H, just four years after operations commenced over the former DL&W main.
GTI transferred D&H’s GP39-2 fleet to B&M but at least they still operated over the D&H. The U23B’s were transferred to the MEC and went up to Maine. A few MEC U25B’s and GP38’s operated over the Penn Division. D&H’s C424m’s were transferred to GTI’s Springfield Terminal subsidiary. GTI gradually embraced an all-EMD motive power policy and within a few years all Alco’s and GE’s were off the roster but the GE fleet on MEC and the C424m’s.
But GTI was no savior. Traffic on the new Penn Division main line declined. GTI sought expansion to St. Louis and Chicago via a deal with NS depending on its purchase of CR. It was rumored to be bidding for Southern Pacific. Its battle with the entrenched unions on MEC/B&M to reduce labor costs by transferring operations to its Springfield Terminal subsidiary, offering a much lower pay scale, led to a strike. A fatal accident led to another strike and mass intervention by FRA. Federal arbitrators ruled in favor of labor before GTI could transfer much of D&H to Springfield Terminal.
Immediately, GTI cast off the D&H into bankruptcy on June 20, 1988 and ceased its operation. New York State, with a major investment in the D&H, appealed to the ICC for the designation of an operator and in three days, NYS&W began what turned out to be a three year period of operations which brought the D&H back from the brink and made it an attractive purchase for Canadian Pacific.
Our story ends with the NYS&W assuming D&H’s operations. This book only covers about eight years on D&H’s new Penn Division line between Taylor and East Binghamton yards but it was a tumultuous period in the long history of the D&H and marked the end of the D&H as an independent entity.
We begin with industry publications describing the construction of DL&W’s Nicholson Cut-Off, Nicholson Tunnel, Taylor and East Binghamton (Conklin) yards and the upgrading of the signal system. This is followed by a brief look at the infrastructure of the line when the D&H bought it. Two chapters describe D&H operations over the line in the period 1980-1988 and then we take a photographic tour westward with Pete Brill and Richard Taylor along the line from MJ, Minooka Jct., just below Taylor Yard, to BD, just above East Binghamton (Conklin) Yard. This photographic section comprises 60% of the book.