Frank's Photography Site
Pennsylvania Railroad - Wilkes-Barre area - June, 2013
The Pennsylvania Railroad's Wilkes-Barre branch ran from Sunbury to Wilkes-Barre along the east side of the Susquehanna River.
In 1976, Conrail took over the line, but the D&H gained trackage rights over it. The line was conveyed to the D&H in the early 1980's.
The Canadian Pacific was authorized to purchase the line around 1990, a couple years after the D&H entered bankruptcy.
As the lower leg of its "Sunbury Sub", CP operated it for 25 years and Norfolk Southern also ran trains on the line,
but as of Saturday, September 19, 2015, Norfolk Southern formally took over operations from Sunbury to Schenectady.
Since the 1915 completion of the Wilkes-Barre Connecting Railroad,
(a joint PRR/D&H project) from Buttonwood Yard to Hudson Yard,
this formed a through line to the north (see my separate page on the WBCRR).
In Hanover Township, the PRR Buttonwood Yard was once a busy freight junction point.
Today, all that remains in the area is a single through track and a side track running through what is now
"DMS Shredding", a large scrap dealer occupying the former yard site. Above Buttonwood today, all through service operates
over the WBCRR line to points north. The original PRR line to downtown Wilkes-Barre branches off to the northeast here,
but this is currently operated by the Luzerne Susquehanna for local service only. North of the former Vulcan Iron Works plant
at South Main and Parrish Streets in Wilkes-Barre, the PRR joined the Lehigh Valley ROW and had its own tracks into
the city center. Passenger service from Sunbury to Wilkes-Barre (according to an old newspaper article) ended in 1953,
but when still running, trains terminated at the Lehigh Valley station, as did the D&H trains from the north.
In downtown Wilkes-Barre, the PRR had a freight terminal just south of Northampton Street with a long covered loading platform,
and a small "city yard" just south of that. For some photo history of those days,
please see the bottom of
THIS page on the gingerb.com site.
Today, almost all of the downtown infrastructure is gone. From Market Street south, a single main track runs over the former
Lehigh Valley ROW. Arriving at Parrish and South Main Streets, a single track splits off and heads south towards Ashley
over the former CNJ/LV ROW, while the ex-PRR line (also a single track) splits off to the southwest in front of the former
Vulcan Iron Works plant. This was once a complex junction serving four railroads (including the D&H Plymouth Branch).
Here we're standing at Parrish Street just east of South Main (and Pennsylvania Blvd), looking north.
Behind us is the single track of the line coming north from Ashley. Straight ahead to the left,
the former PRR line splits off and heads southwest. I'll start the tour here.
Turning around, the PRR line passes in front of the Vulcan Iron Works complex. Vulcan built locomotives from 1849-1954,
but the site is now a scrap metal recycler. The Luzerne Susquehanna still serves it by rail (2013).
The name "Vulcan" still appears on this tower:
Looking east at the plant from a bit further west along the line. In the first photo, you can see that there was
a side track heading into the plant. There was also another track entering a gate further ahead (at one time).
Looking west towards Barney Street, which passes in front of the small building you see along the tracks,
and then towards Barney street from west of that point. Not sure if that little building was rail-related.
In the second photo, you can still see Vulcan in the distance to the east. The green building at the right is Barney Inn.
Along Waller Street, adjacent to Horton (looking west), there are huge puddles along the tracks. The bed was raised a bit,
but it's probably wet here often, as water also appears on a recent Google Maps aerial view.
At Brook & Vulcan Streets, the "canal" for Solomon Creek passes through the neighborhood.
In the first photo (looking north), we get a peek at the tracks through the bushes straight ahead. In the second photo
the stonework curves off to right, and you can see that some was replaced after flood damage over the years.
Solomon Creek is an ongoing area of flood concern for the city (looking east towards Waller Street in the distance).
Shortly after this, the line approaches Carey Avenue, paralleling the north side of Solomon Creek the rest of the way.
Here's the Division Street crossing (looking north), just east of Carey Avenue.
The next crossing is at Carey Avenue and Oxford Streets. Looking north, the line is approaching from the north,
and behind us it will cross the busy intersection diagonally. This is also the border between Wilkes-Barre and Hanover Township.
South of here, Carey Ave becomes Sans Souci Pkwy. To the west, Oxford St becomes West End Rd, running to the Carey Ave bridge.
Here we're looking east, back at the Carey Avenue crossing. There's a switch in the forground where a track splits off to the south.
This track continues behind Pizza Hut (diagonally opposite KFC) and shortly enters a chemical plant, dead-ending as industrial spurs.
The main track continues west along West End Road, and then curves to the south before the WBCRR overpass (behind us).
Here, after it curves to the south, the WBCRR line is off to right (unseen) in the trees at a higher elevation.
Then we come to the junction point, as it looks today, of the WBCRR (left) and old PRR line to downtown (right).
In the first photo, the WBCRR runs along the top of the light green grass line (left), but it's barely visible from this angle.
These three photos (all looking north) were taken progressively south of each other.
As was also the case in Hudson, there's a de-rail here to prevent any "county" trains from accessing the CP-owned line.
Starting further up, from where the WBCRR crosses the river to the end of my tour south of Nanticoke,
the line had been upgraded to continuous welded rail, and all crossings were gate-protected.
Just below this point is the Fellows Avenue crossing. Here we're looking east across the crossing.
The area just south of here was once the Buttonwood Yard site, but as mentioned, it's been obliterated by a huge metal scrap
plant (currently DMS Shredding). At Fellows Ave., the CP maintains a radio tower and control boxes next to the plant entrance.
Looking south from Fellows Ave., the main track continues straight ahead, but there's also a parallel track into the scrapyard.
Along the track I found a couple of scales and a conveyor...
... even a huge pile of old fire extinguishers. Then the siding goes out the south gate
and rejoins the main track just past the Breaker Rd. grade crossing.
Back on the main track, looking south, a sign indicating "Buttonwood" faces north. This is at the south end of the former
yard area, but just north of where the junkyard track rejoins the main.
Looking north at the adjacent Breaker Road crossing. There were also a few pieces of abandoned track in the pavement near the crossing.
Walking back north from Breaker Rd. to Fellows Ave. along Ferry St. to get back to my car, a Norfolk Southern freight
of about 20 cars passed me in the bushes off to the right. I didn't have time to get any closer.
About a mile southwest of Breaker Road, the line approaches the river, and from there south (west) stays fairly close to it
to Nanticoke and beyond. In Hanover Township, much of the developed area is at a much higher level than the river.
Here, at the west end of Downing Street, these folks have a million dollar view. The railroad would be much lower down
a fairly steep embankment, so I didn't venture down at that point to have a look.
Looking north at the Route 29 highway overpass (barely seen in the distance), we're now in Nanticoke along Loomis Street.
South from near the same spot:
In Nanticoke, I parked behind the Weis supermarket near the beer store, and took a long walk around the area.
Near here off Walnut Street, perhaps a bit off the second photo to the right, was the site of the PRR Nanticoke Depot.
This is looking west towards the Broadway St. grade crossing, then back east towards town from the crossing.
Then, starting at the crossing, I headed west (downstream) along the line.
After a short distance, there was a junction coming from the east.
This is apparently a rail storage area of recent construction, but is not being used at present.
It runs as far east as North Market Street and Access Road. This is along a very short portion of the former PRR
coal branch ROW which once ran all the way to Glen Lyon. Also, at one time, there were several coal spurs
outside the west (downstream) end of Nanticoke. At one time, too, the CNJ Nanticoke Branch came up
from the Lee Mine area and had its own station as well as a junction with the PRR in Nanticoke.
These next six photos are progressing from the junction end to the Market St. end of the storage area:
Back at the main track, I ended my walk just a little further west. At that point, you can see a signal box
marked "Mile 696.65 Sunbury Sub." and a CP warning sign (seen on most all of their equipment).
Also near here, I climbed down to the river's edge to get a couple pictures of the bridges just upstream. In front of the
Broadway (highway) bridge is an old PRR bridge that has been abandoned at least 45-50 years. It once provided a
connection for the PRR to the DL&W line on the west side of the river. The second pic is zoomed in from the same spot.
There's no rail connection near it on either side of the river, and the old DL&W line had also been removed on the West Nanticoke
side since the late 1970's. So I drove over the river to the west side and found a way to get to the edge of the bridge.
In third photo, I zoomed in from the edge, as the deck was too rotted to risk venturing any further.
Just a hump along a gravel road and some bushes are any indication that rails once passed through here.
That's it for this long set, thanks for visiting !
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