Former Lehigh Valley in Upstate New York

 

Hello, my name is Joshua Blay.  I was born too late to see the Lehigh Valley in person, but I've been able to explore and photograph some of what's left.  Let's get on with it! 

McLean-Freeville 2003/2004

Auburn Roundhouse 2004 Cortland Roundhouse 2007

 

McLean-Freeville Right of Way

This line was once part of the New York, Oswego, and Midland, later the Lehigh Valley's Auburn Branch which once left the LV mainline in Sayre, PA.  The final thru train between Freeville and Cortland operated on March 31, 1976, the day before Conrail.  Conrail (and the NYS&W today) only operated a three mile segment to service a lumber company, accessed from the former DL&W/EL Syracuse Line.  The remaining track to Freeville, via McLean, was not needed and was torn up by 1978.  Conrail removed most of the remaining Auburn branch, but some segments survive.   

Fall 2003

I believe that this is the northern most substantial Lehigh bridge between Freeville and the end of track in Cortland.  There is one girder bridge (near Sheds) that exists between Cortland and Cazenovia, others may exist.  This bridge is right in the village of McLean, and it passes over Fall Creek.  Only the occasional pedestrian crosses now.  There maybe a small steel bridge north of the village but I am not sure.  Of the five bridges I saw today, they are all of similar construction, and all cross Fall Creek.   

Fall 2003

Of the 6 bridges depicted on this page, this is probably in the second worst condition.  This is due to the fact that someone has removed some of the pilings on the northern end, perhaps for adequate drainage.  In following views, we'll see that debris accumulates easily on the upstream side.

Fall 2003

Like the others, these bridges have a ballasted deck.  This is looking railroad north (geographic east) towards Cortland.

Fall 2003

Approaches at each end of the bridge have been eroded just before the wooden abutments.

Fall 2003

Just south of the bridge, a shallow cut has become a junk pit.  Looking towards Freeville.

Fall 2003

Heading south of McLean, the right of way has become someone's driveway/access road where it used to cross a major highway.  Looking north towards McLean.

Fall 2003

The second bridge in our trek crossing Fall Creek.  In very good shape, it is used for vehicular access.  This bridge is easily seen from Fall Creek Rd., except during summer.  My desire to take a picture of this bridge is what lead me to come out and document what's left 27 years after the last train.  After looking at aerial photographs I "found" other extant bridges not seen from adjacent roads, mainly due to seasonal foliage. 

Fall 2003

Looking north along side the east side of the bridge, a blockage of logs can be seen.

Fall 2003

South of this bridge, the access road leaves the right of way and the right of way is more overgrown, yet still accessible due to the 4-wheeler track.  View looking north.

Fall 2003

The third bridge, once again over Fall Creek.  Unlike any of the bridges depicted on this page, this one is slightly curved.  Looking north.   

Fall 2003

East side of the bridge.  The other side, the upstream side, is cluttered with logs as well.

Fall 2003

The northern abutment of the bridge, from ground level.  This bridge is the last extant railroad structure until the outskirts of Freeville.

Fall 2003

The right-of-way makes a gentle curve south towards Freeville.  Beyond this point, finding the right of way is hard to find until you are just outside of Freeville.

Fall 2003

The forth bridge is just north of Freeville.  And it crosses, of course, Fall Creek.   It is in the middle of a farm field and the right of way on both sides has been graded down.  The book "Rails North" has a picture of an RS-3 crossing this structure, taken by Paul J. Templeton, headed south.

Fall 2003

Not far off is another right of way entering Freeville from north.  This line once came down from Fair Haven and Auburn.  This line was abandoned in segments, the last bit was Locke-Freeville-Dryden-North Harford shortly after April 1, 1978.  Looking north, beyond the fifth bridge.  A major road crossing is right behind me.

Fall 2003

This bridge is probably in the worst shape of the 6.  The deck is heavily deteriorated and the southern abutment (to the right of the picture) is collapsing.

Fall 2003

I am standing in the middle of the right of way with Auburn behind me looking south across the former road crossing, a track branched off and made a HARD left to connect to the line to Cortland.  The houses in the distance (called Lehigh apartments) are on the former junction site.

Fall 2003

The patch in the middle is part of the right of way curving sharply to the left.  This was a 17 1/2 degree curve.

Fall 2003

Probably between me and that pine tree is where the actual diamond crossing was.  In the passenger era, there were 4 diamonds here, as a result of two tracks crossing each other.  Looking north towards Auburn with Dryden, Owego, and Sayre behind me.  The Cortland branch crossed left to right.  To the left- Moravia, Locke, and Auburn.  To the right- McLean, Cortland, Cazenovia.

Fall 2003

Just to right of the previous picture, a pole lacking all but one of its insulators is the only railroad artifact left at the junction itself.  A pathetic tombstone for this once-busy crossroads of commerce.  A unique five-faced freight station, subject of a February 1963 issue of Model Railroader, once occupied the land to the left of the pole. A connection between the lines to Sayre and Cortland was to the right of the pole.

Fall 2003

Looking south along the right of way towards Dryden and Sayre.  A few miles south of Dryden the line is intact and in use as the Owego & Harford, but south of Owego there is no track existing that was once part of the Auburn branch.  A few bridges do survive.

Fall 2003

A concrete base of a former railroad water tower exists adjacent to Railroad Street.  The former EC&N, ex LVRR's East Ithaca - Cortland and beyond right of way is on the other side of the abbreviated structure.

Fall 2003

An old switch stand sits in the weeds about a block away from the ROW to East Ithaca.  The right of way of the line that I followed from McLean has no telephone poles, mileposts or whistle posts.  What poles remained in 1978 were probably salvaged for wood and the hardware was scrapped, landed up in someone's collection, or lays forgotten in the weeds.

January 4, 2004

On January 4, 2004 I stopped briefly in Freeville to get pictures of the right of way that lead to East Ithaca.  Due to the mild temperatures, all the snow had melted, lending to good photography.  This is looking south near the village.  The main customer on this line in later days was the Cornell University heating plant.  When Hurricane Agnes caused a washout between Etna and East Ithaca in 1972, the line was embargoed south of Etna and never saw a train again. 

January 4, 2004

A gate blocks entrance on the right of way that lead to East Ithaca just south of Freeville.  Looking south.

January 4, 2004

The 6th and final bridge, of the same ballasted-deck, wooden construction.

 

Auburn Roundhouse

July 2, 2004

A seven stall roundhouse remains in the city of Auburn, near Clark Street.  Thousands of people see this view everyday, while traveling on Rt. 5 just west of Auburn.  Click here to see an aerial view of this area.  The 'house was located just east of the passenger station.  There's a bit of original Lehigh track left in the area, including a spur right by the roundhouse.  At the time of my visit, it was being used for storage, but I believe the building is going to be preserved.

July 2, 2004

Here's a view from the pit area, the table is long gone.  The four stalls on the right are a bit longer then the three on the left.  I think there were a few more but have not been able to confirm it yet.

July 2, 2004

Something a bit unusual- a retaining wall on south rim of the pit.  Not sure how much of the pit itself remains, probably was filled in.

July 2, 2004

Detail on the retaining wall, constructed 91 years before this photograph was taken.

 

Cortland Roundhouse

July 7, 2007

Down on Owego Street, is a former Elmira, Cortland, and Northern roundhouse dating back to to c. 1885.  There was probably an earlier roundhouse.  There were other facilities located here, such as a car shop, but only four stalls remain now of the original eight.  Half of the roundhouse was demolished in the 1930s.  Here's an aerial photograph.  Some sort of building joined the roundhouse at this point, bits of a foundation can be found.      

March 10, 2004 Let's backtrack to a photo from 2004 to get an exterior shot.  The other four stalls were located to the left, the modern steel building was built on top of the open stalls for additional storage.  DL&W had a small roundhouse a few miles away, and consolidation of facilities was once studied but never enacted.

July 7, 2007

With permission, I was able to get INSIDE the roundhouse after years of being in the area.  The owners and employees were friendly and took a few minutes to show me around.  Amazingly, the building retains its original stall doors and hardware, although modified a bit where wood has rotted and concerns for security and weather.  The building and turntable was used by the Lehigh until sometime in the 1960s. 

July 7, 2007

Inside wall, west side.  Some sort of sign or bulletin board hung here.

July 7, 2007

The woodwork inside is original- and quite massive.  Very sooty still after all these years.

July 7, 2007

The stalls themselves have been filled in and concreted over but it is quite easy to tell where they were.  Happily used for a variety of uses, the building has survived despite its age.

July 7, 2007

The roof has been redone but the rafters are original- look what remains!  The small square framework reveals where a smoke jack once was.  There is one above each stall.

July 7, 2007

Part of the concrete ring has been exposed where a loading dock was added. 

 

 

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This page was lasted updated on 07/09/2007