Fallen Flags III
By Jim Herron
Photos courtesy of George Ellwood
In looking at all of the Class I railroads that have vanished since World War II, we will continue our review of the mergers, abandonments, bankruptcies and absorptions of railroads in the past fifty-two years. We have seen the loss of steam, passenger service and finally the railroads that made the U.S. great.
So onward to our last installment of Fallen Flags:
Lehigh Valley (A GREAT RAILROAD) – “The Route of the Black Diamond” (anthracite coal) the 1,100 mile route in the Northeast, filed for bankruptcy in 1970. Lehigh Valley folded into Conrail in April 1976.
Erie Lackawanna – a 1960 merger of Delaware Lackawanna & Western merged into Erie Railroad combining a 3,190-mile route system. It was declared bankrupt in 1972 and went into Conrail in 1976.
Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad – a 95-mile route was forced into Penn Central in 1969 and in 1976 wound up in Conrail.
Penn Central – a 19,000-mile merger of PRR and NYC RR and New Haven RR ended in April of 1976. It was split by Conrail taking up its’ freight system and the formation of Amtrak for its passenger service.
Jersey Central Lines – a 573-mile route (Central RR of NJ) filed for bankruptcy in 1967 and was swept into Conrail in 1976. State-owned NJ Transit took up passenger service.
Reading Lines – a 1,277-mile hodge-podge, the route of John O’Hara’s novels, was a major coal hauler. It went bankrupt in 1971 and lasted until 1976 when it entered the Conrail system.
Louisville & Nashville – this 5,645-mile system overshadowed parent Atlantic Coast Line in size in 1966. It is credited with beginning the modern merger movement when in 1955 it absorbed NC & St Louis. It became a victim of the Seaboard System in 1983.
Seaboard Coast Line – a 9,000-mile route lost passenger lines to Amtrak. Its’ subsidiaries, Clinchfield, L & N and Georgia West Point became a part of CSX in 1983.
Rock Island – a poor man’s Burlington, it had a 700-mile route system. It died a quiet death through liquidation in 1980.
Western Pacific – the California Zephyr route went to Union Pacific in a mega merger with MP in 1982.
Santa Fe – a great route system and probably the most well known railroad in America was taken over by profitable Burlington Northern becoming BNSF.
CSX – a combination of the B&O, C&O, Chessie System, Seaboard Coast Line and a conglomeration of other railroads was formed in 1978, after the mergers.
Burlington Northern – bought out the AT&Santa Fe RR a few years ago becoming one of the largest railroads in the nation behind the Union Pacific.
Conrail and Amtrak are still going. Amtrak is just barely remaining operative through the largesse of US taxpayer subsidies. Conrail was parceled out between CSX & NS RR. Last year, ending the government’s participation in cargo hauling. The Conrail logo and colors will be added to the fallen flags. Considering that 125 railroads existed during World War II, there are few emblems and railroads left. Almost all of those are freight haulers. It looks like Congress is about to downsize Amtrak and eliminate many of the unprofitable long haul routes in the very near future. This will leave Amtrak running the heavily traveled northeast corridor.
So stay tuned for any updates on any further changes.