Frank's Photography Site

Wilkes-Barre area notes & discussion

This page is an ongoing effort to organize some historical information on area rail lines.
I've used various sources such as websites, mailing lists, forums, and personal emails/recollections.
While some info may be vague or not entirely accurate, I will update this text as more sources are found.
I've included (if known) the sources or names of who reported the info, often it may be someone's screen name in a forum.
Feel free to contact me if you wish to add to or correct any of the items in this list ( Thanks !

Wilkes-Barre Area railroad abandonment dates (and other information), as reported from various sources...
These notes will be edited on an ongoing basis. Info is gleaned from discussion groups on the web, old news articles,
and personal contacts.

Note: CONRAIL effective date April 1, 1976
CNJ gave up all trackage in Pennsylvania: April 1, 1972, and the LV took over operations
June 22, 1972 - Hurricane Agnes strikes

Downtown notes (this has been gleaned primarily from the website and supporting vintage photos): 
There were 6 tracks leading north from downtown. The westernmost pair was the LV mainline, 
separated a bit from the D&H/CNJ tracks just east.
On the east side, the D&H had 2 tracks, and the CNJ 2 tracks (the CNJ pair was to the right of the D&H looking north).
In earlier coal days, the LV's Mineral Springs branch crossed over the D&H & CNJ tracks on diamonds 
(south of Conyngham Ave).
The CNJ diverged north of Conyngham Ave (near the highway overpass) onto its own mainline through Parsons 
and joined up with the D&H
again south of the D&H Hudson Yard just north of E Main St. Both lines at one time had their own Parsons station.
The second CNJ (eastbound) track on the mainline to Hudson was abandoned (south of Conyngham Ave) before 1967, 
and continued single-track to Parsons.
The D&H had an engine terminal below Scott St. on the west side of the D&H/CNJ tracks, with a roundhouse at the 
north end (Scott St) and 
a yard with a freight house at the lower end, just above the Laurel Line terminal area. The Laurel Line station 
was still standing in 1967.
South of Market St. on the D&H/CNJ side, only the double-tracked CNJ main continued to the CNJ station 
(adjacent to the Stegmaier Brewery).
South of the CNJ Station, the CNJ line expanded to 4 tracks (plus a few sidings) under the South St bridge vicinity, 
and merged back to 2 tracks before Hazle St. The main two tracks were easternmost pair.
The LV yards began south of Market St., just south of the Laurel Line station. Their double-tracked main line 
continued north of Market St separated a bit west of the D&H/CNJ ROW. 
The PRR freight house was on the corner of Northampton St and Pennsylvania Ave. beginning just south of Northampton
 - it had a long covered platform
and there was a small PRR "city yard" just below it. The PRR tracks were to the west of the LV mainline and 
ended at Northampton.
The LV freight station was a wooden structure opposite the PRR freight house, also at Northampton, 
but on the east side of the wide ROW/yard.
The large LV passenger station was north of the freight house near the corner of Pennsylvania Ave and Market St. 
It was torn down in the mid 60's, and was also used by PRR & D&H passenger trains at one time.
The PRR line diverged to the south of downtown, as the current single tracks still do, just above what was once 
Vulcan Iron Works.
The CNJ ROW joined the LV ROW south of Dana St, and parallelled each other to Franklin Junction which was 
just above the CNJ shop/roundhouse 
area in Ashley, and joined again (the CNJ Nanticoke branch) to the southwest of Huber breaker and the 
CNJ Ashley yard, and finally split again just east of Warrior Run where they had two separate stations.

Modern-day operations info: Canadian Pacific operates the ex-D&H line from Montreal to Binghamton, 
the ex-DL&W line from Binghamton to Scranton,
the ex-D&H line from Scranton to Hudson, the ex-Wilkes-Barre Connecting RR line from Hudson to the 
Buttonwood Yard area, and the ex-PRR line from there to a bit north of Harrisburg (their company map shows to Sunbury). 
I noticed quite a bit of welded rails (2013).
Justin Hughes: When I last worked for them in 99, most of the line was welded rail with only a few sections 
of jointed rail here and there.

Branch notes:
These branch lines were still operating in 1967 (from dated photo documentation):
The CNJ Nanticoke branch, from Gardner's switch in Parsons south past the CNJ yard/Huber breaker to the 
Nanticoke junction with the PRR, as well as the line to Wanamie
The CNJ main line, from north of Conyngham Ave through Miners Mills which joined back up 
with the D&H a bit further north.
The CNJ Buttonwood branch from Buttonwood yard to the junction with the mainline in the woods 
west of Gilligan St. - still there in 1968
The CNJ Franklin Branch - Petty's Pond to Franklin breaker - still operating 1968 -
 LV had trackage rights over it (crossed under Hazle S of McLean St
and over Blackman at New Frederick diagonally)
The PRR line from Nanticoke to Glen Lyon (colliery reported still operating in the 70's)

Possibly gone much earlier than 1967:
The D&H Plymouth Branch (possibly still there in 1967 or long gone?) which ran from the Vulcan Iron Works 
and then between Wood/Elizabeth Sts and then
between Beekman/Conwell Sts in W-B to cross a bridge north of Fish Island to connect with the DL&W
The PRR line across its Nanticoke bridge to connect with the DL&W
The CNJ Canal Branch that looped around southwest from Plains (parallelling the WBCRR) to the 
Erie junction at Port Blanchard/Plains Junction near the 8th St bridge

Main Lines gone:

1 LV line from Mountain Top through Warrior Run

This trackage was actually abandoned by the LV in 1965. Last passenger train, the Maple Leaf, ran on February 4, 1961.
The last train down the LV from Gracedale through Warrior Run was November 1965 with LV Alco C-420's. (JhnZ33)
I assume it was torn up shortly thereafter as by that time all LV trains were utilizing the joint LV/CNJ 
trackage arrangement between Fraser Interlocking and Laurel Run. John Evans - Easton, PA
[After 11/1/65, CNJ trackage was used by LV mainline trains between Fraser and Laurel Run, and the orginal LV 
main line from Fraser to Laurel Run was known as the Gracedale Secondary Track. After 4/1/76, 
this was designated part of the L&S Area of the LVRR.] -
The LV main line (passenger line) was abandoned between Wilkes Barre and Mountaintop when 
Interstate 81 was being built.
The portion of the main line between Mountaintop and Fraser remained as the Gracedale Secondary 
until a year or three after Conrail.
1968- Interstate 81 opened from I-80 north to exit 165. (1966 - 165 to 170 and 175-186) - site
Despite the good track condition, Conrail deemed the old LV main superfluous and it was 
removed by the early 1980's. (thebluecomet)

2 CNJ "backtrack" line from Mountain Top to Ashley

Still operating in 1970 - built in 1870 - before that had to use Ashley Planes
 - Ashley Station still there in 1950, gone by 1967
CNJ Engine shop buildings and roundhouse still there in 1982 (thebluecomet) 
There was a loop around the shop area, the east side of the loop was the original mainline which led 
to the Ashley Planes line,
but this is the portion still surviving today. The west side of the loop was the new mainline, 
but this side has been abandoned.
The CNJ Back Track was kept until 72 or 73. I think it was dropped after the interlockings were installed 
at Dupont for the LV / D&H run through trains.
That was mostly traffic the LV gained as a result of taking over the CNJ operations.
By the time I started in 1974 the Back Track was just a stub track at Laurel Run. I wish I could have seen 
the railroad operations in the valley back in the 1950's and 60's. - Tom Craig
The CNJ backtrack from Laurel Run to Ashley became extremely unstable by the Fall of 1972 
due to mine fires on Wilkes-Barre Mountain and was taken out of service around that time. 
Conrail eventually pulled up what was left of the track for scrap, I believe around 1977 or 1978 
after it effectively ended the lease of the Lehigh and Susquehanna line by purchasing it outright 
from the corporate successor to the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company (whose only active business activity 
was the Cella Confection company!). (Andyt293)
The CNJ's backtrack from Ashley to Laurel Run remained in use until the Dupont connection was put in place in 1973. 
After that, the line saw a few moves and was abandoned and removed from Laurel Run down to Allen Scrap Yard 
because of the unstable track from the mine fires. The remaining track out of Ashley to the Scrap yard 
saw short trains every week or two moving material in and out of the scrap yard until 82 or 83 
when Conrail removed track. (JhnZ33)
Wilkes-Barre Record (newspaper article: Feb. 4, 1957) - the CNJ Ashley passenger & freight stations are being razed.

3 DL&W line through Kingston

The Hurricane Agnes flood of 1972 put the line out of service for weeks, and the Final System 
"rationalization" plan drawn up at Conrail's creation found other routes for traffic between 
Philadelphia, Buffalo and points west. Through service was diverted, and the line cut back 
to the PP&L nuclear power plant near Beach Haven, all served from the former PRR connection 
at Northumberland. The rails north of that point came up in the summer of 1978.
(According to 2nd Trip Op on the forum)
The DL&W Bloomsburg Branch was rebuilt by the EL after the 1972 Agnes flood 
only be to cut in half by Conrail. The line was ripped up between Berwick and Edwardsville shortly after 1976. 
The line was eventually sold to Pocono Northeast in 1982 or 1983. After the PNER's bankruptcy in 1993, 
the line was purchased by the Luzerne County Rail Authority and operated by the Delaware-Lackawanna 
and the Luzerne and Susquehanna Railway. Currently it has been at least a year since the line 
has seen any use and the portion from Pittston Junction to Susquehanna River Bridge is used 
to store out of service engines. The portion from Pittston Junction is used by the Reading and Northern 
to access Taylor Yard and their customers in the Stauffer Industrial Park.(Andyt293)
Kingston DL&W roundhouse (Main & Page Streets - Edwardsville) was demolished in 2007.

4 Parallel LV line south of Mountain Top into the Lehigh River gorge

Despite the good track condition, Conrail deemed the old LV main superfluous 
and it was removed by the early 1980's. (thebluecomet)

The LV Cutoff from Laurel Run to Fraser was operated by the LV after the 1965 consolidation 
and was called the "Escape Route" by the crews. It was operated into 1983 or so 
before Conrail ripped up the line. (Andyt293)

5 Parallel CNJ line from Ashley into downtown Wilkes-Barre (only the LV side now exists). 

The CNJ and the LV both ran under the Blackman Street underpass. After the CNJ 
pulled out of Pennsylvania in 1972, the LV and Conrail operated a local to Ashley. 
I believe what was left of the line was pulled up around 1982. (Andyt293)
Probably 4 tracks under the Blackman Street underpass originally, 2 for the CNJ, 2 for the LV.
Historic note from photo evidence: Laurel Line Station still standing in 1967 
as well as the LV yards just south, CNJ trackage still there in 1967,
and into 1967 on both sides of the W-B CNJ station by Stegmaier. The LV & PRR freight houses 
(at Pennsylvania & Northampton still standing in 1967,
the LV passenger station was razed in the mid 60's. The LV station was used by LV, D&H and PRR 
passenger trains. The PRR sent coal trains here which switched to LV crews to head to Coxton. 
PRR had a small city yard southwest of South St Tracks still at CNJ station in 1973 (thebluecomet)

Secondary Lines:

6 CNJ east side line through Wilkes-Barre which paralleled W-B Township Blvd up to 
Gardner's Switch in Parsons -
This was the north end of Nanticoke Branch (probably abandned in the earlier 1960's north of the Coal Street area.
This was before the North Cross Valley expressway was built. Probably ran in an 
underpass under Kidder Street (just east of Scott Street).
According to the Conrail assets map, this was long gone by 1983.

In the 1950's there were two symbol freights that ran nightly between Ashley and Avoca 
over the CNJ and the ERIE. The freights would leave Ashley Yard via the Nanticoke Branch, 
proceed to Gardner's Switch and rejoin the mainline for a short distance before leaving the 
main in Miner's Mills to run over the CNJ's Canal Branch to Plains Junction where a 
connection was made with ERIE. Pocono Northeast ran over the line as far as where Pep Boys 
is located today well into the late 1980's. The ROW was sold to Pennsylvania Power and Light 
for high voltage power line route. (Andyt293)

7 CNJ Nanticoke branch from Ashley to Nanticoke

(Yard behind Huber Breaker still there in 1970.)
Wanamie No. 18 Breaker closed in the late 1950 - line still operating in 1967
Line northward to connect with the PRR in Nanticoke - still operating in 1967
Lines below Route 29 - when were these abandoned? According to the Conrail assets map, 
this was long gone by 1983.

8 CNJ Main through Miners Mills (with a station) which was east of the D&H line still extant

According to the Conrail assets map, this was still there in 1983.
The line you are referring to was actually the CNJ Main and the station on East Main Street 
was actually in the Miner's Mills section of the City of Wilkes-Barre. This is the approximate 
area where the Canal Branch spun off from the main, curved almost 180 degrees and 
paralleled the Wilkes-Barre Connecting Railroad on it way to Plains Junction. (Andyt293)
This was the CNJ Mainline - still there in 1967 - paralleled D&H line just west
 - the D&H roundhouse near Scott St still there in 1968.
Also the CNJ Canal branch to Plains Jn. was still there in 1966
The CNJ had trackage rights over the D&H from Union Jn. (north of Miners Mills) to Minooka Jn. 

9 I think I have enough info on the Laurel Line, WB&H, LV line to Harvey's Lake and the Erie and WB&E, 
but feel free to add to the discussion... (there are detailed histories on the web about these lines)
The Conrail assets map shows the last portion of the L&WV line from downtown Wilkes-Barre to Pittston
was abandoned on 4/5/83, and the Pittston Industrial track on 6/26/82

The Port Bowkley Bridge was dismantled in the late 1930's. The bridge was made of iron 
and needed major upgrades. Due to the decline in timbering and ice harvesting 
on the Bowman's Creek branch there was no need to spend money to replace the bridge 
when a connection was present with LV's West Pittston Branch.
The Port Bowkley Bridge was constructed across the Susquehanna River from Port Bowkley
to Forty-Fort in 1890-91.  It was opened to rail traffic on November 11, 1891.
Employee Timetable #1, in effect April 24, 1932, has the bridge in service with trains 503 (westbound)
and 506 (eastbound) using it.  Employee Timetable # 3 , in effect September 25, 1932,
does not list Port Bowkley and has both trains using the West Pittston Branch.  This was not a temporary
closing as all of the subsequent Employee Timetables omit Port Bowkley. (Bowmans_Creek_Bra on
This information tends to support the story that it was taken out of service quickly, probably due to
mine subsidence. November 3, 1937, article in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader:
The railroad suspended rail service over the bridge four years ago and closed it to foot traffic last year.
In a subsequent article in the Wilkes-Barre Record on January 26, 1938 the process of removal is described:
Demolition of the lengthy steel (?) structure was begun late last year and one span was dropped into the river.(etc.)
From Richard1 on Bowman's Creek Branch,  (Wyoming Division)  Towanda to Coxton, 66.3 miles.
Last regular passenger trains 503, 506, discontinued April 2, 1934.
In 1948, the Interstate Commerce Commission permitted the Lehigh Valley Railroad to close traffic above Noxen,
in 1963 from Dallas to Noxen, and Dallas to Luzerne in September 1963. On Sunday, December 22, 1963,
at 12:01 a.m., the Lehigh Valley Railroad formally abandoned the Bowman’s Creek Branch from Luzerne to Dallas.
Currently this section is a rail trail: It starts at Union & Buckingham in Luzerne - 4.5 mile trail.
Lower portion from Luzerne to east of Wyoming Ave ("Conrail West Side Connector") - still there in April 1983.

10 The LV line from Coxton southwest to Luzerne 

"Pittston Industrial Track" from Coxton through Wyoming to Forty Fort - still there in April 1983

11 The line through West Pittston Branch (south through the cemetary which 
connected with the DL&W east of Exeter Ave)

This was the "West Pittston & Exeter", sold by Conrail to Pocono Northeast on 9/24/82.

Coal or connecting lines:
12 The PRR line across the bridge just south of the Nanticoke Broadway bridge which connected to the DL&W

13 The PRR line to Glen Lyon
The colliery was operating into the 70's, but possibly without use of the railroad (Bill Culverhouse)

14 The CNJ coal line which ran southwest from the Nanticoke branch through Wanamie and towards Shickshinny
Line still operating in 1967 - see 7 above

15 There were also a few lines which ran to the Kingston breakers near the west end of Edwardsville..
   first the WBCRR line from near Vulcan Iron works which ran between Wood and Elizabeth St 
past Fish Island tower and    across a bridge just north of Fish Island then north to the breakers
Actually this seems to have been known as the D&H Plymouth Branch, possibly still there in 1983, 
as it shows on the 1983 Conrail map.
The bridge was removed in the 90's for flood control work (levees, etc.)

16 The LV had a line in Kingston south of Pringle St which connected with the DL&W near Main St, and...
I believe East Boston Colliery was located off Division Street and was abandoned before WW2. 
That was just a culm bank next to the dikes when I was a kid. There were some unused tracks 
there some distance from the dikes (enough for us to play baseball) at the time- probably that line. 
The LV line that ran beside the DL&W in that area had a LV EMD switcher working until maybe the early 60s. 
I don't know what they serviced then, as the only business I recall was a cigar factory 
and maybe a warehouse. (Bill Culverhouse)

17 This DL&W coal line ran from Edwardsville just north of Main St to near Arch & Atlantic Aves, 
where it connected with the WBCRR mentioned in 15 above
(Lines gone long before 1983, but there may have still been a few industrial tracks in the area.)

18 There also seems to have been another bridge and DL&W line which crossed the Susquehanna 
a short distance north of the Rt 29 bridge (north of Nanticoke) and served some 
Hanover Collieries (Loomis breaker, etc.)
This also appears on the 1983 Conrail map, likely should have been labeled 
"estate" (long gone).. no idea when bridge was removed.  

19 Then there were some coal line branches such as these I've seen on an old map, 
have no idea how long they were in service:
     CNJ to Maffet Colliery east of Sugar Notch

20  CNJ crossing south Wilkes-Barre to connect with the PRR near 
Buttonwood Yard (crossing San Souci Pkwy at Elma Dr)
CNJ Buttonwood Branch - still operating in 1968, but shows as "estate" (long gone) by 1983.

21 LV line from Petty's Pond (south W-B) east to Franklin breaker crossing Blackman St at New Frederick.
Actually it was the CNJ Franklin Branch - operating 1968 - LV had trackage rights over it.
According to the Conrail assets map, this was still operating in 1983.
Tracks between Blackman & Main St (Ashley) removed ~1998 for sewer line for Mohegan Sun arena?

22 Two CNJ lines east from near Northampton St to Empire #5 breaker and Hollenbeck #2 breaker.

23 unknown line (probably 19th century) to Baltimore Breaker area at the current site of 
both the WV Mall and Arena Hub Plaza

24  There was also a CNJ line from the D&H Yard in Plains which looped around to near the 
Cross Valley Expy bridge then north to join up with the ex-Erie at Port Blanchard/Plains Jn. 
near the 8th St bridge as well...
This last line was the CNJ Canal Branch (probably still there in the late 60's, 
which did connect with the Erie, it branched off near Miners Mills 

25: an LV line north from Coxton yard to the Kehoe, Babylon & Austin breakers, the latter way up in Taylor. 
That was the LV Austin Branch, which had been the NYO&W (or perhaps joint LV and O&W) 
as I mentioned earlier. There was some discussion about this line in the Anthracite RR group. 
I also should have mentioned that O&W had trackage rights on the DL&W between 
Pittston and Taylor. (Bill Culverhouse)

From the historic Google Earth views:
Port Bowkley Bridge piers still there on 5/9/10, gone by 10/6/11.
On 4/12/99 these were still in place; second Carey Ave bridge (1948), D&H Plymouth Branch bridge.
On 4/7/93, the Breslau Bridge., and the DL&W Hanover/Newport bridge were still there.

Unconfirmed observations (so far):
LV bridge out of Coxton Yard abandoned 1972 (due to pier damage in the '72 flood).
There is about a mile of former Canal Branch trackage that still exists running roughly 
parallel to Hollenback Golf Course in Wilkes-Barre. The track is severed at both ends 
and sits in a mostly wooded area. -Andyt293 (2005 post)
The West Pittston and Exeter was a common carrier railroad that was owned by the 
Scranton Illuminating Company, a predecessor of PP&L and was used to transport coal to a 
power plant in Exeter Township. When the plant shut down, the motive power of the 
line went to other PP&L power plants. -Andyt293

Pocono Northeast Railway (which bought several lines from Conrail in the early 80's:
Excerpt from Times-Leader article dated Wednesday, September 22, 1993:
At least three railroad companies are considering taking over service on the 90 miles 
of rail lines abandoned last week when Pocono Northeast Railway Inc. shut down. 
(note: this did not happen for quite a bit of the trackage)
Pocono Northeast served 17 companies in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, hauling materials 
and products to and from local industrial plants
and the Canadian Pacific Railroad Co.'s yards in Taylor and Conrail's yards in Duryea. 
The company, with six employees, halted the local service because of a 54-percent 
decline in business over three years and a drop in its customer base that once numbered 40, 
said President Robert McNichols.

--- current end of notes ---
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