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New England Gateway, Original Alphabet Route
New England Gateway, The New Alphabet Route

New England Gateway, The New "Alphabet Route"

In recent years, rail freight into and out of New England has been mostly Conrail (now CSX) or Guilford. Another route exists that avoids these carriers.

Other "Alphabet Routes"

There were several "Alphabet Routes" in the past. One of the best-known was:
B&M (Boston & Maine)
NY,NH&H (New Haven)
L&HR (Lehigh & Hudson River)
CRofNJ (Jersey Central)
RDG (Reading)
P&WV (Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad)
W&LE (Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway)
NY,C&SL (Nickel Plate)

A "Truly Transcontinental" Alphabet Route that Did Not Make It

In the early 20th Century, the son of
Jay Gould attempted to assemble numerous railroads into a transcontinental railroad from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. But read more about this huge Alphabet Route. Will anybody ever do this again? Not likely, a transcontinental ( Union Pacific?) would be one-owner all the way.

Ontario & Western "Alphabet Route"

New York, Ontario & Western played a role in an "alphabet Route" between Maybrook and Scranton.

More interestingly, the O&W traffic from the Lehigh Valley and Lackawanna at Scranton was artificially induced by an odd rate division established by the New Haven -- presumably as a way of preserving its interchange options with two roads it would not otherwise have had a connection with, as well as a way to "presere" its investment in Ontario & Western.

Routing of this traffic couldn't have been marketed in its own merits. The route was short for a bridgeline, cobbled together from mine branches and involved back-up moves, etc. That lends credibility that there were outside influences at work.

In the 20th century a huge commodity was Pennsylvania antracite coal for home heating. The New Haven Morgan interests wanted to get control of the Lehigh & Hudson River to maintain connection with the CNJ, DL&W, Reading and Lehigh Valley in the Allenton-Easton area. The reason for these seemingly convoluted rates to DL&W and LV was to keep the LH&R-RDG rates at bay. In other words the NH had another source of coal, probably seldom used, to maintain a competitive edge.

What role did the New Haven, a majority owner of the NYO&W, play in establishing and maintaining the bridge traffic between the LV and DL&W near Scranton to Maybrook?

To tap important coal regions in the Scranton area, the NYO&W built a 54-mile branch from Cadosia in 1889. This opened up the O&W as a mover of anthracite coal to New England and to the New Jersey ports. The mines failed in the late 1930's, forcing a 1937 reorganization.

If the NYO&W connection did not exist, the only two all-rail routes into southern New England would have been the Erie (Maybrook) and the New York Central (State Line). The NYO&W connection enabled the New Haven to access more traffic coming out of Buffalo. If all the shippers were looking for was the cheapest rate, this routing worked. Plus, it protected the New Haven's investment in the NYO&W. It may have sliced the profit pie awfully thin, but any piece of the pie was better than no pie at all. So the NH propped up the NYO&W as insurance to protect rates rather than as a route that was useful. It went away when New England was largely converted from coal to oil for home heating.

It is 1950 and coal revenues are negligible on the New York Ontario & Western. The LNE and L&HR are directly competing for the bridge traffic that is the sole remaining significant revenue source. Despite the competition and the contrived route, merchandise bridge traffic grew and stabilized at about 5 1/2 million dollars for the last ten years of the O&W. Was the O&W taking advantage of rates established much earlier for anthracite reasons or was something special being done by owner New Haven?

Lets speculate what might have happened if NH got the LH&R. It would have given direct land access to may more carriers: PRR, LV, CNJ, DL&W plus good connection to RDG and B&O and three good routes south (PRR, RDG/B&O and PRR or RDG to N&W at Hagerstown. The New York City float operation of the New Haven could have gone away and switching could have been concentrated at Maybrook.

Another possibility? Especially around 1910-1920 the Pennsylvania and NYNH&H were very closely associated in the Hell Gate project and running the Federal Express over the Poughkeepsie Bridge, float interchange etc. Pennsy owned large blocks of NH stock. Did the Pennsylvania ever contemplate acquiring control of the L&H RR as its own gateway into New England, in cooperation with the NH? If not, why not? Or would it have been Morgan's interest to keep the PRR away from NY? Remember the South Penn situation with the West Shore?.

The trip from Cedar Hill to Bay Ridge it was 90 miles while the trip from Cedar Hill to Maybrook was about 126 miles. Even if you add in the miles from Bay Ridge to Greenville you don't get 126 miles. Add in the cost of maintaining car floats, bridges, tugs and all of the labor involved, it was far more costly to float cars than to run the extra miles. Penn Central correctly figured that out immediately after taking over the New Haven and got rid of the floating operation. One opinion is that the floats lasted as long as they did was because the PRR and the NHRR did not want to deal with the Lehigh and Hudson River but eventually they would have had to either buy the L & H R outright or deal with it. Had the New Haven Railroad not been taken over by the Penn Central, the Bay Ridge float operation would have gone and probably sooner rather than later. All of the west and south bound freight would have come through Maybrook except the freight from the former New York Central. Car floats were a very expensive way to move cars.

By Ken Kinlock at

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Delaware & Hudson "Alphabet Route"

It was always assumed that most of the fast freight ftom the West into the Albany-Troy area was handled by the New York Central. However, the Delaware & Hudson, combined with both the Erie and the Lackawanna, was very competitive in timing on traffic from the West. They skinned every minute out of terminal delays, and cooperated in blocking traffic so the system worked very well even with its grades and circuitous routing. West of Buffalo, the DL&W connected with the Nickel Plate.

The D&H operated a perishable train, from Binghamton to Albany every night, with connections from the Erie and the DL&W at Binghamton. It was timed to arrive in Albany in time for the North Albany Switcher to set up the Menands Market (on the west side of the river) for the early morning. It was the only symbol train to operate over the Albany Main via Voorheesville. The southward counterpart ran "around the horn" from Colonie via Mechanicville and Schenectady, mostly because of the steep grades south of Albany on the Albany Main, and because the southward traffic wasn't as hot as the northward perishables.

The D&H served customers in Albany as well as in Troy but did not to serve customers south (east) of Troy. The D&H reached Troy on its own tracks from Albany via Watervliet and Green Island on the west side of the river.

The DL&W was a very highly engineered railroad, which might or might not have been a good business decision in the light of its heavy debt, and they ran a tight operation. The NY Central had a significant share of its ownership (8% in 1953).

The Nickel Plate Road was built parallel to the New York Central for the most part from Buffalo to Cleveland. It's mere presence was enough to scare the Vanderbilt family into buying it and running it as the poor stepchild for about the first 30 years of it's existence. It was only because the ICC required the Vanderbilts' to divest themselves of the property and some other financial shenanigans that the Van Sweringen brothers of Cleveland were able to buy it and turn it into what it eventually became, a high speed bridge route.

By Ken Kinlock at
Nickel Plate Railroad Lackawanna logo Delaware & Hudson

A combination of Nickel Plate, Delaware, Lackawanna & Western and Delaware & Hudson could match the New York Central "Water-Level Route".

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New England Gateway, The New Alphabet Route

MARCH 2011: Baltic is on the line of the Providence & Worcester Railroad now known as the Willimantic Branch. It was originally the mainline of the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill, the longest railroad line in Connecticut. The remaining track forms the Willimantic Branch, which runs from the P&W at Plainfield to a connection with the New England Central at Willimantic. Right now, the line, with its century+ 80 lb. rail, is excepted track, where the occasional train runs at a crawl. But there are big plans in the works-- The several times weekly ethanol train from North Dakota to Providence via the Green Mountain Gateway is to be routed that way, and automobile racks will also travel the route. The line is being upgraded to 115 lb welded rail and speed will be 40 MPH. You can never consider a rail line dead! Work is expected to be completed within the next month or so.

New England Gateway, The New "Alphabet Route"

In recent years, rail freight into and out of New England has been mostly Conrail (now CSX) or Guilford. Another route exists that avoids these carriers.

A test train has run to Johnson City, New York (January 2006). This coal train moved via the New England Gateway Route (P&W-NECR-VRS-D&H-NS)

"P&W" Providence & Worcester Railroad

"NECR" New England Central Railroad

"VRS" Vermont Rail System

"D&H" Canadian Pacific Railway (was Delaware & Hudson once), known as "Le Chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique" where I live.

"NS" Norfolk Southern

A coal ship arrived at Providence, Rhode Island and was unloaded by the P&E to a 50-car train.

The train travels to Worcester, Massachusetts, then to New London, Connecticut on the P&W.

It switches to the NECR for travel, back through Norwich, Connecticut then Palmer, Massachusetts, to Bellows Falls, Vermont.

At Bellows Falls, it is picked up by VRS and heads to Whitehall, Vermont.

From Whitehall, D&H takes it thru Saratoga, Schenectady and Oneonta to Binghampton.

NS carries it the last leg to Johnson City.

Follow the path of the New England Gateway on Google Earth

By Ken Kinlock at
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An "Alphabet Route" that is only Fantasy

There is a lot of "what if" possibilities in the railroad world. One is "What if the New Haven Railroad never merged with Penn Central?"

This scenario also assumes other events did not occur (like CONRAIL). Boston Harbor is a write-off, but what if Halifax, Nova Scotia became THE container port for eastern North America. New Haven could have become part of a major, Penn Central avoiding, through route:
Baltimore & Ohio (to Chicago and other connects to the west and south)
Lehigh & Hudson River
New Haven Railroad from Maybrook to a Boston & Maine connection somewhere in eastern Massachusetts.
Maine Central
Canadian National.

The clearance problems on the New Haven are all on the Shore line. The one possibility for an east-west overdimension route actually was in service on the 60s as such: Maybrook to Derby Jct - north to Waterbury -- then to Hartford (Terryville tunnel could handle the auto racks in use) - - Willimantic -- Plainfield --- Putnam -- then eastward to Boston. This route wasn't as circuitous as it sounds (Look at a map).

A "superport" on the New Haven line would help as in interline settlements, the originating carrier always seems to get the best "piece of the action", delivering carier also does pretty well. But the intermediate "bridge" carriers get the table crumbs.

One possible is the Rhode Island Port of Davisville.

What if the City of New Haven had became a true deepwater port? What if the land which was filled to build the Ct Turnpike (south of New Haven station and facilities) was still truly Long Wharf, not an asphalt flat? What if the containers to and from Europe and the Pacific Rim came to New Haven, not to New Jersey? Maybe the Manufacturers Railway would still be running?

Read more on this topic under a discussion of "What if the Penn Central Merger Did Not Happen?"

By Ken Kinlock at

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affiliate_link The B&O took over the BR&P (Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh) in a merger in 1932, after the growth period of anthracite traffic, so it would seem unlikely that the B&O would have developed anthracite traffic for Charlotte. The BR&P did not connect directly with the Reading.

The B&O, with unusually bad timing, acquired the BR&P and the Buffalo and Susquehanna with the plan of using them as links in a CNJ-Reading- B&O short route between New York/Philadelphia and Chicago. The finances in 1932 did not favor that plan, and it never happened.

Alphabet Route Summary

From Boston over New Haven RR, then either the DL&W/NKP route or the Erie route to Chicago were faster than the routing over the Pennsylvania RR via Bay Ridge/Greenville float service.) The L&HR also ran two round trips to Allentown, PA, using trackage rights on the Belvidere-Delaware branch of the PRR and the Central of New Jersey RR. This was referred to as the "Alphabet Route" to and from the west.

Campbell Hall connection

The history of the Campbell Hall - Maybrook connection is extremely complicated. "BK" cabin was a L&HR facility, and it's where the only line to enter Maybrook Yard proper on its own rails terminated. This marks another New Haven failure. The NH had a theory that it was going to control the L&HR , which when built was controlled by the Lehigh Coal & navigation Company. A consortium: the Pennsylvania, the Reading, the Lehigh Valley, the Erie and the O&W jointly acquired the L&HR instead, to thwart the New Haven's attempt to get into the anthracite fields. This happened in 1905, and, as a result, the NH went out and acquired control of the O&W. In the 1990’s, Campbell Hall was a very active yard. Conrails' come through everyday and several NYS&W stack trains. Locals were running almost everyday down to Warwick on the LH&R ; NY,S&W ran down the LH&R (Hudson Secondary) also. Metro-North (NJT) is the other big user. The past history of Campbell Hall is very interesting. In 1890 the Central New England & Western RR arrived in Campbell Hall. In 1904 the CNE&W was absorbed into the New Haven RR. The giant railroad bridge at Poughkeepsie opened in 1888. The connection at CH allowed traffic to flow to New England. Passenger service ended on the New Haven Danbury to Campbell Hall in 1928. CH junction was also very important to the O&W traffic as well. Up until 1957 or so there were five RR's in CH! The New York Central entered the area via Erie RR trackage rights at Montgomery NY. Between all the Buffalo -Maybrook traffic on the Erie and the Lehigh New England hauling coal and cement into Maybrook. Campbell Hall was a busy place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Early rail service between Campbell Hall and Highland was first called the Hudson Connecting Railroad and construction began in 1887 with completion made in 1890. The line was financed by Pennsylvania interests who were behind the building of the bridge between Highland and Poughkeepsie. The Central New England & Western was formed in July of 1889 and consisted of not only the Hudson Connecting but the Poughkeepsie Bridge Railroad Co., the Poughkeepsie & Connecticut Railroad and the Hartford & Connecticut Western Railroad. The CNE&W only lasted up until August of 1892 when the Philadelphia & Reading Railway took over it's operation and named it the Philadelphia, Reading & New England Railroad. Unfortunately the financial crash of 1893 played havoc with the P&R's far flung empire and the PR&NE went in to receivership which lasted up until 1899 when the Central New England Railway was formed. The CNE at the time was still controlled by Pennsylvania interests (not the Reading, however) but they seem to have lost interest in the line and sold out to the New Haven in early 1904. Passenger service by the CNE between Poughkeepsie and Campbell Hall ended as early as the Spring of 1922; however, a shuttle service between Maybrook and Campbell Hall lasted up until the late 20's. This was primarily run for workers in the yards at Maybrook. A similar shuttle called the "Scoot" ran between Poughkeepsie and Maybrook until December, 1930 and this too was primarily for the benefit of workers in the yard at Maybrook. In Campbell Hall; at the far west end of the Campbell Hall yard, the former Erie's Graham Line bridge over the old NYO&W's main (plainly visible from NY 207 and NY 416 intersection) is still called O&W bridge by Conrail.

Central of New England

In 1907, the Central of New England, probably under instructions from the New Haven, which was about to absorb it started construction of Maybrook Yard. The New Haven, of course, rebuilt the whole line, gauntletting the Bridge so that 2-10-2s and 4 -8-2s could haul trains on it, block signaled the line and generally made it a highly competitive route to the Hell Gate Bridge one. Maybrook was not the Headquarters for the CNE. There was a rather large brick building at the north end of the Maybrook Yard called "XC" office. It was the heart of the Maybrook operations for many years. The CNE has its origins in the 1870's, when a rail line running west from Hartford, Ct. into New York State was built. The railroad was known by several names before setting on Central New England by the 1890's. By then it had acquired ownership of a bridge over the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and a rail line leading west to the vicinity of Maybrook and Campbell Hall, N.Y. Much of the area that the CNE ran through was rural and didn't generate much traffic, and overall it was not a very important or profitable railroad. Its ownership of the massive Poughkeepsie Bridge, completed in 1888, was where its importance lie. At the time that the bridge was completed, it was the only railroad bridge over the Hudson south of Albany. Even after the Pennsylvania Railroad completed its tunnel from New Jersey to Penn Station in Manhattan around 1910, it remained a very important route; the Pennsylvania tunnel was used pretty much exclusively for passenger trains, and the Poughkeepsie Bridge could be used as a freight bypass to avoid New York City congestion. Any freight moving from southern New England for points west or south (unless it really NEEDED to go to the New York City area for some reason) came over the bridge and went through Maybrook. In the late 1800s, the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad became the dominant railroad in southern New England, taking over several other railroads. In 1904, the New Haven bought the CNE in the last of its major acquisitions. The New Haven mainly wanted the CNE for the bridge and the Maybrook line. For a while the New Haven operated the CNE as a subsidiary; according to legend, the New Haven did not want to directly take over the CNE because they were afraid that the CNE (other than the bridge and the Maybrook line) would lose so much money that it would hurt the New Haven’s profits. In 1927, the New Haven finally absorbed the CNE. By 1938, most of its line east of Poughkeepsie had been abandoned. From Poughkeepsie west, over the bridge and on to Maybrook, the line continued to see heavy use. Until 1957, six different railroads all converged in the Maybrook/Campbell Hall area, with the CNE/NH having the most important operations there. Manufactured goods from New England came into Maybrook on the New Haven, then were handed off to other railroads for shipment to points west and south. Coal from Pennsylvania went in the other direction (a lot of people used coal as a home heating fuel in those days). ]Some passenger trains went through Maybrook, too. After World War II, the railroad industry went into decline. Airplanes and interstate highways took traffic away. Demand for coal dropped, and most of New England's manufacturing shut down or moved away. Maybrook wasn't as busy as it once was. By 1961, two of the six railroads in that area had gone out of business, and the New Haven followed them on December 31, 1968. Some activity still went on in Maybrook, but it was less and less, especially after the Poughkeepsie bridge burned in 1974 (it's still standing but hasn't been used since). CONRAIL/Norfolk Southern still have an active rail line into Maybrook, as well as an area just south of Walden,NY. The line runs from "MQ" on the Southern Tier line through Campbell Hall. At Campbell hall it branches to Maybrook over old NH trackage and into Montgomery, NY on the old Erie trackage. It goes about a mile or so beyond Montgomery on the old NYC Wallkill Valley line.

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western (DL&W)

The Erie and the DL&W around 1910 decided that because of the great length of their carfloat hauls up the East River to the Harlem River, later Oak Point, to reroute all of their freight via Maybrook.

Erie RR

The Erie RR originally reached Campbell Hall on the Montgomery branch from Goshen (on the original Erie main line). When the Graham line was constructed, a junction was constructed at the crossing of the Graham line with the Montgomery branch ("MQ" Tower). The Erie Montgomery branch crossed the NYO&W main line immediately west of the NH junction and the NYO&W Campbell Hall station. The Erie's junction with the NH was less than a mile north of its NYO&W crossing. The Erie ran two round trips in and out of Maybrook in the late 1940's and 1950's, In 1942, the Erie was running four eastbounds and three westbounds to and from Maybrook. Of these, one eastbound and two westbounds were through freights from points west of Port Jervis, the others being connected with symbol freights at Port Jervis. The Erie routes were changed with the Erie-Lackawanna merger, eliminating most of the EL service over the L&HR.

Lehigh & Hudson River RR

The only line other than the New Haven that actually ran into the Maybrook yard on its own rails was the Lehigh & Hudson River RR. It had a junction with the New Haven at the west end of the Maybrook yard at "BK" cabin. The NH trackage ended at the New York, Ontario & Western RR main line at Campbell Hall, which is where all of the rest of the connections theoretically took place. In the NH employee timetable, Maybrook is 74.08 miles from Danbury, and Campbell Hall is 76.93 miles from Danbury. The L&HR ran four round trips in and out of Maybrook. Two of these connected with the DL&W at Port Morris, NJ, via trackage rights of the DL&W from Andover Jet. to Port Morris. This gave the DL&W a connection to the NH, (In the l947 NH freight schedule, the Maybrook to Chicago time on the DL&W to Buffalo and the NKP to Chicago was faster than the Erie. The L&HR interchanged with the PRR at Hudson yard, Phillipsburg, NJ. During most of the existence of the Maybrook line, this interchange was not used as part of any scheduled through freight route. However, after the PC merger, as part of the elimination of the New York float service, a symbol freight service from Maybrook via the L&HR and the Belvidere-Delaware branch from Hudson yard to the former PRR main line at Trenton was established. Also, the abandonment of the NYO&W, and the later assumption of CNJ operations in Pennsylvania by the LV brought through service to and from the LV into Maybrook via the L&HR, (The NH freight timetable of 15 April 1968 shows both of these route changes). The L&HR had their own main into Maybrook, about a mile east of the Erie/L&NE line; it wasn't directly part of the Campbell Hall 'complex'. It passed under the former Erie Graham Line at E&J Bridge, between Day Road and Shea Road (in the area of the current 'HJ').

Lehigh & New England

The Montgomery branch reached the Erie main line at Goshen. South of Goshen, the Erie had another branch to Pine Island, NY. Pine Island was the Erie's junction with the Lehigh & New England. The L&NE reached Campbell Hall through trackage rights over the southern portion of the Montgomery branch (16 miles). After the Erie Graham line was built, all Erie freight service to and from Maybrook was routed on this line from Port Jervis to "MQ" leaving the action on the Montgomery branch south of "MQ" to the L&NE. The L&NE participated in no through freight routings. Its service into Maybrook was confined to one daily round trip from Pen Argyle, PA, handling coal and cement eastbound and empties westbound.

Lehigh Valley

The Lehigh Valley didn’t eliminate it’s East River carfloat operation until 1937 when they began an O&W run-through from Coxton via mine branches and Mayfield. In 1947, the LV connection was from Suspension Bridge, meaning cars on the ]Pere Marquette and the Wabash via Canada, and cars from Buffalo connections. The O&W connection to the New Haven arriving in Boston three days out of Chicago. Not all of Lehigh Valley tonnage went to the O&W at Coxton. Another train went on to Jersey City, where they were floated to Oak Point, and arrived in Boston one hour later than if they had gone via the O&W and Maybrook.

Maybrook today

With the exception of the NYC, all of the Maybrook connections, not just the L&NE, carried large amounts of coal. Even after the decline of anthracite shipments in the 1920's, a large amount of bituminous was shipped through Maybrook. Today the L&NE and the NYO&W routes no longer exist, having been abandoned and ripped up. A similar fate has befallen the Erie Montgomery branch between Goshen and Campbell Hall. The only service into Maybrook now is by Conrail over the ex-L&HR. Local service through Maybrook as far east as Highland, NY, close to the west side of the fire ravaged Poughkeepsie Bridge no longer exists. In Maybrook itself, there's a small but nice museum (staffed by old-timers) dedicated to the former Maybrook yard complex. It's on NY 208, in the same building as the Maybrook Library (at the blinking light). Open weekend afternoons, April-October. A few blocks north in Maybrook, on Jewell St., the CNE Maybrook station (not it's original location) is in use as a residence.

New York Central

The Erie’s Montgomery branch continued north to Montgomery, NY, where it connected with the Wallkill Valley branch of the New York Central, from Kingston. The NYC had trackage rights on the Erie as far south as Campbell Hall, thus a connection with the NH. The NYC (Wallkill Valley) interchange with the NH was not a through route. The Conrail Wallkill line runs from Campbell Hall junction to Walden. The line was originally the WallKill valley railroad, then was subsequently owned by the Erie railroad, then the West Shore Railroad. The line eventually became the New York Central's Wallkill Valley Branch. The line ran from Kingston to Goshen. The last regular run over the Wallkill line was in 1977 southbound out of Kingston. There are 3 active industries in Walden requiring as needed service. Steam on the line was a mix of 10 wheelers and consolidations, most built by Alco of Schenectady. First generation diesels consisted mainly of Fairbanks-Morse switchers and Alco RS2's and 3's. Towards the end of regular operation the most commonly seen type of engine on the line were gp35's. ]Conrail had a plan to save the line by having Lehigh and Hudson River traffic funneled onto the Wallkill line after the ]famed Poughkeepsie bridge burned in 1974. The plan failed though because of the rickety Rosendale trestle. Conrail tore up most of the Wallkill track in 1983.

New York, Ontario & Western

The NYO&W ran two scheduled freights in each direction in and out of Maybrook. These trains ran down the Scranton division of the NYO&W to Mayfield yard (near Carbondale, PA). One round trip continued on to the Croxton yard of the Lehigh Valley RR, and during the existence of the NYO&W, this gave the LV scheduled access to Maybrook. The NYO&W also participated in an alternate Delaware, Lackawanna & Western RR through freight route to and from the Scranton gateway. As a reality check, however, the DL&W had another train which left Buffalo about an hour earlier than the O&W connection, running via Port Morris NJ and the L&HR, and arrived in Boston at 11:55 PM Wednesday. There was another DL&W connecting eastbound service, which was probably made up of local cars from Binghamton and Elmira, as well as Buffalo, which connected with the O&W. The CNJ is also shown as a Scranton connection for the O&W, but this was to and from Allentown.

Pennsylvania RR

About 1910, Samuel Rea, of the Pennsylvania, investigated the Maybrook line to see if it could be an alternative to the Greenville - Bay Ridge - Hell Gate Bridge route then under construction from PRR New England traffic. This would, of course, have been a routing from Trenton to the L&HR to Maybrook via the Belvedere & Delaware. Rea's appraisal was "No" because of the limited capacity of the line, in particular because of the low capacity of the Bridge. The Pennsylvania Railroad's Bel-Del (Belvedere-Delaware) division was used by the L&HR via a trackage rights agreement to access Hudson Yard in Phillipsburg, N.J. and it's bridge over the Delaware River- and connections to the west at Easton, Pennsylvania and beyond.

Poughkeepsie Bridge

The reason why it took from 1875 until 1888 to get trains running over the Poughkeepsie Bridge had nothing to do with construction problems; it was because of problems with the financing. Ultimately, the construction was finished, and operation began by an entity called the Central of New England Western. This road established the connection at Campbell Hall.

By Ken Kinlock at

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What was the Central States Dispatch?

A fast-freight route that linked the B&O, WM, RDG, L&HR, and NH to link Cumberland MD and Boston MA.

This train, and other Alphabet Routes, were critical to the survival of the Lehigh & Hudson River Railway. With the merger of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western into Erie-Lackawanna, Lackawanna traffic could move via the Erie connection to Maybrook, and didn't need the L&HR for access any longer. In a way, the loss of the Port Morris Lackawanna traffic was the 'beginning of the end' for the Lehigh and Hudson River Ry.

The Lehigh was principally a bridge route serving as a funnel for freight into and out of New England. It connected the Lackawanna at Port Morris, N, J., the CNJ at Allentown and the Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley at Phillipsburg, N, J. with the New Haven Railroad.
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It is not usually a formal partnership in the legal sense, but instead is an ad hoc “virtual partnership.” Many times this is referred to as ”collaboration.” It is all about sending new customers or other beneficial resources, like cost savings, to your partner; and receiving benefits in return.

Passenger trains could be "Alphabet" too. The Boston Flyer in 1893 was an example.

The southbound train originated on the New York & New England (also Reading controlled) in Boston at 3:30 PM. It went west to Hartford via Willimantic. It departed Hartford at 9:10 PM as Phila. Reading & New England No.11. The train is shown as making 12 stops en route to Maybrook where it became L&HR No 1. L&HR No.1 made 7 stops to Easton, arriving there at 4:45 AM. The Jersey Central schedule shows the train departing immediately for Bethlehem as No.51. The train made no stops to Bethlehem, arriving there at 5:04 AM and arriving Bethlehem Jct. one minute later.

The Phila. & Reading schedule shows the train departing "Bethlehem" at 5:30 AM as No.302. --(This would have required a run-around moove to travel the Bethlehem Branch due to the track configuration where the Reading met the CNJ. The engine would have to travel to the Beth. Engine Terminal for a ride on the turntable.)

The schedule shows 5 stops en route to Philadelphia. In the City of Brotherly Love stops were made at Wayne Jct, Columbia Ave. and finally 9th and Green Sts at 7:10 AM. 9th and Green was the Reading's main Philadelphia passenger terminal at the time, a former North Penn RR facility I think. -- (9th and Green was a Philadelphia, Germmantown and Norristown station. The North Penn's passenger station was at 3rd and Berks St.)

Reading Terminal was not completed until about 1898 or 1899, I believe. --(It was January of 1893.) In later years 9th and Green became the site of a passenger engine terminal.

Next the B&O schedule showed the train departing 24th and Chestnut at 8:15, making 3 stops to Baltimore, arriving there at 10:30, then departing for Washington, reaching the Capitol at 11:20 AM, a mere 19 hours and 50 minutes after leaving Boston.

How did the cars get from 9th and Green to 24th and Chestnut in Philadelphia? The answer is probably in Herb Harwood's "Royal Blue Line" book, but I don't have a copy handy. Via Callowhill Jct. and the City Subway Branch would be my guess, though this would've required a backup move I think. --(Given the track arrangements in Philly,, the train had to backtrack from 9th & Green. It could have run north to 16th St. Jct, up the Norristown branch and then to the Reading's mainline (and Royal Blue Route) between Nicetown and West Falls, since there used to be a connection between the two lines where they cross. The Norristown branch was on a bridge over the Main line. [This is near the intersection of Henry and Hunting Park Aves.] If it used Callowhill Jct., the train would have had to run into Reading Terminal, which wasn't mentioned in the 'Guide', since there wasn't a direct southbound connection to the City Branch from the mainline. Another reverse move would have been necessary at Park Jct, since there was no southbound connection from the City Branch towards 24th and Chestnut.

One other detail. The L&HR listing in the Guide showed a couple additional connections for the train. One was to Mauch Chunk via the CNJ at Bethlehem. This would've required a change of cars -to CNJ 41 from Phillipsburg, departing Bethlehem at 6:57 AM. But Mon-Sat the first CNJ train for Wilkes-Barre and Scranton didn't depart Bethlehem until 11:30 AM. The connection to Scranton was via Phillipsburg and the DL&W.

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Railroads On The Rebound

Over the last 50+ years, railroads have changed a lot. Now they are about to change again.

It is all about a combination of economic factors and climate factors.

Since 1950 , railroads have consolidated. Freight moved from a "box car mentality" to a "unit train,mentality". Passenger went from a robust business to a "caretaker" arrangement called AMTRAK. This happened as everybody could drive for free on the Interstate Highway System or fly on an airline system where the government subsidized both airlines and airports. In the meantime, railroad express and railroad post offices went "down the tubes". The old Post Office Department and the Railway Express Agency could not adjust to the new way. UPS and Fex Ex could.
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Alphabet Routes, the New Haven Railroad, Maybrook versus Oak Point

Certain rairoads had favored routings such as: NKP-DLW-LHR-Maybrook, WAB-LV-Oak Point, B&O-WM-RDG-LHR (or LNE)-Maybrook (Central States Despatch).

PRR, CNJ and LV all had their only direct freight connection to the NH in the NYC area, which usually would have been their preferred interchange as it left out the middle men (LHR & LNE). I have wondered if there was a preference to make coal shipments via Maybrook or whether using car floats for coal movements was just as common.

While I suppose that the CNJ would have preferred a Jersey City-carfloat routing because it got a larger terminal division, I don't see why the Reading would. The CNJ was the terminating road for RDG merchandise shipments to NY. (RDG handled its own harbor and "export" coal (some of it for NE via steamship) through its Port Reading terminal.

It makes sense, though, that shipments to & from the southeast were handled primarily via Greenville-Bay Ridge if on the PRR and Jersey City or St. George for comparable B&O routings. I would guess that a lot of Maybrook traffic originated in eastern Pennsylvania and were most cheaply and expeditiously handled through that gateway.

There were two "premium" merchandise routings between the Midwest and NE that worked through \ Maybrook. One, the so-called CSD Route (for Central States Dispatch) was routed B&O/Cherry Run-WM/Lurgan - RDG-CNJ/Allentown - LHR/Maybrook - NH. The other was the famous "Alphabet Route" (NKP/Bellevue - W&LE/Pittsburgh Jct. - P&WV/Connellsville - WM/Lurgan - RDG & so on. Despite all those connections, it was a fast, dependable service, with run-through trains over some of the lines.

I could never understand why any railroad that had a choice of an all-rail routing vs. NY Harbor carfloating would want to carfloat. It was terribly expensive -- large (and extra) manpower requirements, low productivity, extra time, and extra capital expenditures for tugs and floats. But they did. In any event, though, transferring trainloads of bulk commodities like coal was financial suicide. I'm sure that coal for NE that originated on the RDG, CNJ, L&NE, DL&W and other such lines would have been routed through Maybrook via the L&HR and L&NE.

Through most of Maybrook's history, railroad-owned freight cars were strictly on a per diem basis, and private line cars (such as reefers, tank cars, etc.) were strictly on a mileage basis. This lasted to about the 1960s, when "plain vanilla" carry-anything freight cars were superseded by customer-tailored specially equipped cars, which not only were considerably more expensive, but usually had to be returned empty. To try to cover themselves on this cost, the railroads went to the per diem-mileage combination, with a car-cost factored in too.

On the question of who did the routing, the answer is pretty much everybody. Yes, most typically it was the shipper, but in many cases it was the receiver, who had a greater stake in shipment speed and reliability. And if it were the shipper, he was often heavily influenced by his originating railroad who, after all, supplied the cars for loading, made the rate, and so on. But then, all large railroads (such as the NH) had a lot of off-line salesmen, whose job was to get to those shippers and push for their best routes.

And in addition there was another advantage to Bay Ridge (if the NH had a choice): NH could wind up with lower per diem (car hire) charges for cars via Bay Ridge than via Maybrook. Most per diem has a mileage and a time component, and Maybrook-Cedar Hill was 124 miles. Bay Ridge-Cedar Hill was shorter.

The Maybrook routing was faster but the NH lost on the division of rates, NY Harbor Route was slower but made more on the tarrifs. Shippers usually decided the routing anyway.

the choice of gateway was dependent upon where the shipment was going to or coming from. Southern shipments via connections with the PRR went through Bay Ridge and western shipments went through Maybrook via connections with the Erie. This may be an over-simplification (the NHRR had other lesser freight gateways operated in conjunction with the Boston & Maine, Central Vermont, Boston & Albany, etc.).
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Routes from New York to Chicago

Several routes existed between New York and Chicago. Some of them were a single railroad, while others required multiple railroads.

The New York Central Railroad had major multiple routes. One went from Buffalo along the Lake Shore Route through Cleveland to Chicago while the other went across Southern Ontario to Detroit and on to Chicago.

Pennsylvania Railroad

Erie Railroad

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

Allentown Route

Alphabet Route

Shortening the Connection

In June, 2006: The P&W is continuing its work to reopen its line into Willimantic. The NECR is continuing to drop ties and ballast north of MP 18 ( Yantic / Franklin ). The P&W has also announced a confidential agreement with RailAmerica (now Genesee & Wyoming) (i.e. the NECR) designed to promote the development of through traffic.

Currently the NECR main line south of Palmer is served by a single round trip each morning out of Palmer to Franklin, CT (MP 18) where it hands off its train to a Montville, CT based local. The recent test runs of unit coal trains between the P&W-NECR-VRS-CPR was the first example of the increased traffic potential of the line. Hopefully, more devlopments will follow!
A July 27, 2006, article in the Norwich Bulletin discussed the intent to reopen an old line.

A long-unused stretch of rail from Versailles to Willimantic is expected to reopen for freight service later this year, the Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. said.

The reactivation of the rail line, which runs from Willimantic to Versailles, hasn't been used in 20 years. It is expected to create a network with other regional rail services, and could mean a modest boon to the local economy.

The 10 miles of existing track, which largely parallels the Shetucket River, is being reviewed and maintained. Freight service on the line is expected to begin by the end of the year.

Rail cars are not expected to stop in Willimantic. Because Providence and Worcester's rail service ends in Willimantic. Rail cars traveling farther north would link with New England Central Railroad.


List of Connecticut Railroads
Providence & Worcester Railroad
Connecticut DOT Shore Line East
Metro North Railroad
Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
Railroad archives at the
University of Connecticut Library
Naugatuck Historical Society affiliate_link
Central New England Railway has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.

Here's some interesting questions and answers:

How many freight cars are operated on the American railroads?

At the beginning of 1941, the railroads of United States owned 1,706,387 freight-train and private car companies, industrial firms others owned 281,214 freight-carrying cars, making 1,987,601 freight-train cars in all.

Penn Central kills the Alphabets!

The distance between Boston and Chicago using the New York Central/Boston & Albany routing was 1,026 miles. The distance between Boston and Chicago using the New Haven's traditional routing via the Maybrook Line and a connection with the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad was 1,226 miles. In other words, a freight car hauled between Boston and Chicago using the routing favored by Penn Central after M-Day instead of the New Haven's traditional routing to the west saved 200 miles of running.

Penn Central's favored western routing was an all-PC operation between Boston and Chicago. The traditional New Haven Routing via Maybrook was a partnership between the NHRR and the Erie-Lackawanna. When Penn Central took a car from Chicago to Boston via the old NYC/B&A routing, it kept 100% of the transportation revenue. When the Maybrook routing was employed, the revenues had to be split up between Penn Central and the Erie-Lackawanna.

Furthermore, on the Maybrook routing the Erie-Lackawanna got a more favorable proportion of the revenues due to its portion of the haul being greater (956 miles between Chicago and Maybrook) than the New Haven's (270 miles between Maybrook and Boston).

There were control issues as well. Penn Central had a reputation for providing poor service and for not knowing where all its freight shipments were at any given time but generally speaking PC had more control over shipments that ran 100% over its tracks than shipments that ran 75% or more of the distance using the tracks of another railroad. The latter case, of course, what what happened when shipments were routed between Boston and Chicago using the old Maybrook Line.

As you can see, Penn Central had a number of sound business reasons for disusing the Maybrook gateway. In fact, the only reason that Penn Central continued to use the Maybrook routing at all after M-Day was that the I.C.C. forced them to do so on behalf of the other railroads (i.e. the Erie-Lackawanna, Lehigh & Hudson River, etc.) that depended upon traffic routed through the Maybrook freight terminal.
Providence & Worcester Service Map

Click on the map at left to see the Providence & Worcester Service Map.

Note it doesn't include the "new" route to New York State.
Cedar Hill Yard Driving north from New Haven, Cedar Hill yard cannot be overlooked. Its still used, but not to the extent it was 50 year ago. Imagine, over 9,000 cars handled on one day! Cedar Hill was built between 1910 and 1920. Cedar Hill became in the 1920's the keystone of the whole New Haven Railroad freight operation. It seems to have started out as a more local facility, then grown into that larger role. Or was the idea of making it the center part of the original intention?

New England Central

The New England Central Railroad (NECR) was created from CN's Central Vermont Railway by RailTex in February, 1995. In September, 1996, the Connecticut Southern Railroad (CSOR), formerly Conrail’s line between West Springfield, MA and North Haven, CT, was founded; NECR and CSOR share most management functions.

The NECR operates 366 miles of track between East Alburgh, VT and New London, CT, handling a wide range of commodities with emphasis on forest products and metals/construction materials. NECR connects with CN at East Alburgh; Springfield Terminal Railroad at White River Jct. and Brattleboro, VT ; Vermont Railway at Burlington, VT; Canadian Pacific Railways at Bellows Falls and Burlington, VT; CSX at Palmer, MA; Green Mountain Railroad at Bellows Falls, VT; Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad at Newport, VT; Providence and Worcester Railroad at New London, CT as well as with several other shortline railroads in New England.

The railroad has been quite successful. By most accounts traffic is up. The shops in ST. Albans service NECR equipment as well as equipment from other roads. NECR hosts Amtraks' daily Vermonter as well as a the usual freight trains.

For current updates, operating times, and news about this road, see the NECR Forum.
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What is a Social Supply Chain?

Social supply chain is using "social media technology" all across the entire supply chain : from supplier's suppliers to customer's customers. It means integration of social media technologies (collaboration, sharing) to connect and encompass the participants across the whole supply chain.

The customer-facing side of companies is getting busier. Customers use social media to connect with their peers from a marketing standpoint to promote and advertise their services and capabilities. Social media is now particularly important in customer service environments. Consumers are able to communicate with customer service departments through Twitter and Facebook.
New York & Western The prototype for this excellent scale model railroad embodies many of the great aspects of railroading that we write about: the New York Central System, New York City, "Alphabet Routes", Long Island, car ferries, and more.
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