Frank's Photography Site
West side remnants - Kingston area (PA) - July 2013
On this page, I will cover the remnants of three "miscellaneous" branches on the west side of the Susquehanna River,
the Lehigh Valley Bowman's Creek branch and the DL&W "Pettibone" & "Harry E" branches.
For the record, I've also seen "Pettibone" spelled as "Pettebone", but the former was the spelling Conrail used.
All three ran north and south for a short distance in the Kingston area, fairly close to the 309 Expressway.
As mentioned previously: In 1980-81, Conrail decided to sell off its trackage known as the "Wilkes-Barre Cluster",
and around 1982 the "Pocono Northeast Railway" started up, purchased, and soon began operations
of many of these lines. From a Conrail bulletin dated 11/22/83, the PNER acquired operating responsibility for
the remaining trackage on the west side of the Susquehanna River, among several other lines in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.
Here are the the three lines I'm covering here, along with the mileages:
1) A segment of the ex-LV Bowman's Creek Branch - from Luzerne to Forty Fort (0.5 miles).
Also part of this line (a continuation of it) was the "West Side Connecting Track" (1.2 miles).
2) The ex-DL&W Pettibone Branch (.8 miles), from a switch just west of Route 309 east to a building materials business just off Route 11.
3) The ex-DL&W "Harry E" branch (.5 miles), from the Bloomsburg branch running northwest (just east of Slocum Street) in Kingston.
There were two other spurs as well which I won't cover here, as I believe that little or no trace remains of them:
- Mill Hollow Branch (0.4 miles) - this line was formerly the western part of a triangle which also once connected the Lehigh Valley
West Pittston Branch to the Bowman's Creek Branch (but a bit further west than the main short connector). This ran north along
Toby's Creek, but due to the extensive flood control work done there, no trace would remain of the lower portion. Also, due to
the modernization of the area further up along Union Street, I can't see where any remnants would remain there either.
Due to the mileage (0.4), if a part of this line did remain in 1983, it was probably an isolated portion of it, not the entire
line you see in the map below. If anyone knows more about this segment, the information would be appreciated.
- Exeter Colliery Branch (0.9 miles) - this line branched off the Lehigh Valley West Pittston Branch east of Jean Street and circled
the western and then the southern perimeter of the still-undeveloped former colliery area just to the west of the Fox Hill
Country Club. Conrail shows it as once having served "U.S. Plywood" near Packer Avenue, but I have no idea if this was correct
for the early-1980's timeframe, and I don't see any visible traces of it on the aerial views. This line is off the area
of the map below (further east in Exeter), and if anyone has any further information, please contact me.
The remainder of these spurs appear on this snippet from the April, 1983 Conrail assets map:
On the map above, the numbers you see are the original milepoints of the former "Fallen Flags". The 148, 149 and 150 are mileages
along the former DL&W Bloomsburg Branch, while the mileages 179.5-181.2 are Lehigh Valley milepoints.
PART I - Lehigh Valley Bowman's Creek Branch remnants
The Lehigh Valley Bowman's Creek Branch was actually once an entire secondary line which paralleled the mainline all the way from
Wilkes-Barre to Towanda. For a detailed history of the line, please visit
THIS site. The history is also available as a PDF.
Essentially, the entire line was completed in 1892, and opened in 1893. The purpose of this secondary LV line was to tap the rich
lumber areas in the region it covered, which were bypassed by the main line. The original 12 mile Luzerne-to-Harvey's Lake portion
was opened as an independent shortline in 1887, but sold to the LV within two months. For passengers to get to Harvey's Lake from
Wilkes-Barre, however, the connections were cumbersome. In 1891, the Lehigh Valley opened a direct connection from Wilkes-Barre.
This was the Port Bowkley Bridge across the Susquehanna River, branching off the main line north of Wilkes-Barre and continuing
along new connecting trackage to Luzerne. From 1898-1931, however, a parallel trolley line also took passengers from Wilkes-Barre
to Harvey's Lake much more frequently than the LV's twice-daily service. By 1928, there was only one daily train from Wilkes-Barre
to Towanda. Sometime during the summer of 1932, the Port Bowkley Bridge was closed due to mine subsidence, and from then until the
last passenger train ran from Wilkes-Barre to Towanda on April 2, 1934, the more circuitous path had to be taken: all the way
to Coxton Yard, across the Coxton Bridge, and backtracking along the West Pittston Branch to the Bowman's Creek Branch connection.
The Port Bowkley Bridge itself was demolished in stages beginning in late 1937, but three concrete piers of the bridge remained
in place until they were removed around 2000. The bases of the piers can still be seen north of 309 in low water conditions.
Here's a vintage picture of the bridge, from the Harry Owens collection:
After 1934, as possibly as late as 1936, there may still have been some special passenger excursions on the line to Harvey's Lake,
but even freight service was dwindling by that time. Beginning in 1938, segments of the line north of Harvey's Lake became severed,
and the LV sought to abandon most of the line. In 1948, the ICC finally permitted abandonment of the trackage north of Noxen,
in July 1963 from Dallas to Noxen, and the final segment from Luzerne to Dallas was abandoned on Decemeber 22, 1963.
This left a short industrial segment which Conrail inherited in 1976, and passed on to the Pocono Northeast in 1983,
from Luzerne to Forty Fort (see the map above). Very few remnants remain today, but I will cover what I did find.
Today, from Luzerne north for about 4 1/2 miles, a rail trail follows part of the ROW, and plans are to one day extend it
to Dallas, Harvey's Lake and beyond. For one photo tour of the trail area, please visit
THIS page on nepaview.com
As for me, I started in Luzerne and headed south to see what remnants I could find of the industrial portion which was still extant
in 1983 and possibly some of which was still intact into the 1990's. At the corner of Willard & Kelly Streets, in Luzerne,
looking west, the ROW would have passed through here:
Looking west, then east, along the ROW path just off the corner of North Walnut and Seebold Streets.
Just east of this point, in the distance and on top of the ROW, the large 6 story L-shaped Luzerne County Housing Authority building
is now situated at 590 Bennett Street, with a smaller business built on top of the ROW across the street. The ROW is mostly obliterated
through here due to new construction and encroachment. Finally, at Owen Street, just south of Jackson Street, you can see
the path of the ROW curve off to the right and head southeast towards where it once crossed Chestnut Street.
Looking south from along Chestnut Street near Tener Street, we can see the path of the ROW as it continues south along Pear Street.
At the end of Sly Street (east of Miller Street) there's still a small, active plant known as Luzerne Iron Works, and here
I actually found some track sections remaining. A gentleman I spoke with said that they had removed
"most" of the rails a few years back. Looking north near the north end of the property, a pair of rails in the grass:
Rails at a small stairway leading into the grounds and also one along the main entrance driveway:
Just below the plant grounds was a short stretch of thick woods and weeds. In that area, the Bowman's Creek Branch would have crossed
perpendicularly (on diamond crossings) over both the LV West Pittston Branch and DL&W Bloomsburg Branch. I didn't find any substantial
evidence of either crossing, but on the West Pittston Branch (east/west) ROW I found a short bit of track and this partially buried
culvert dated 1890 (which I already posted on an earlier page), and in the third photo (of the DL&W Bloomsburg Branch ROW),
looking west, the crossing would have been right about at the point where you see the area of deeper gravel.
Also, looking west here towards nearby Slocum Street, the LV West Pittston Branch would have continued straight ahead into the trees
at the left towards its diamond crossing, while a fork to the right was once already split off (going across the street)
and continued to the right on a curve which passed behind Luzerne Iron Works through an area which is now a row of dense trees,
and would have joined the Bowman's Creek Branch a bit north of the plant. This would have been the through route from Coxton
in later years after the Port Bowkley Bridge was dismantled. Refer to the map and aerial photo at the
beginning of Part III (below on this page) for further clarification.
Looking south towards Wyoming Avenue (Route 11), the Bowman's Creek Branch ROW passes through greenhouse property on both sides of
the road, heading south afterwards towards the river. This area (after crossing Route 11) is between Eley and Dilley Streets.
Remember that according to the Conrail map above, most of this trackage was still extant and supposedly active into the 1980's
when the PNER took over, and possibly to some extent after 1993 when the Luzerne Susquehanna took over.
Looking north from Harris & Elizabeth Streets in Forty Fort, with the 309 Expressway embankment at the left.
From there south, the ROW once continued on a curve along the left of this parking lot, in fact one of the buildings still lacks
a square corner piece, due to the curvature of the rail line as it headed towards Welles Street.
On the 1983 Conrail map, it was indicated that the "Acme Warehouse" was in this area and served by rail.
East of Welles Street, the ROW passed through what is now a parking lot and then an area mostly reconfigured by the homeowners.
At the edge of the river, levee construction obliterated any trace of the Port Bowkley Bridge approach. The day I was there,
the river was higher than normal, so I couldn't make out any trace of the bridge pier bases, but I'll end the coverage of this line
with a photo of the piers (photo credit to Hank Rogers - early 1980's), and a Google Earth view showing traces of the piers today:
PART II - Delaware Lackawanna & Western Pettibone Branch remnants
The DL&W Pettibone Branch runs south from a junction on the Bloomsburg Branch just west of the 309 Expressway in Kingston.
The Pettibone Colliery/Breaker was located in Kingston just west of where the 309 Expressway now passes through, between Wyoming Avenue
and the Susquehanna River. It ceased operations in 1930. The Prospect Colliery/Breaker was located in Plains, a short distance northeast
of the current Wilkes-Barre Connecting Railroad bridge. The mine ceased operations in 1951, but the breaker lived on a bit longer.
Early on, going back to the 19th century, the DL&W served both collieries, and the DL&W Pettibone Branch continued east to connect with
the original Wilkes Barre & Eastern Mill Creek bridge over the Susquehanna River so that it could access both collieries.
According to a source, after the Wilkes-Barre Connecting Railroad constructed its new Mill Creek Bridge around 1915, the DL&W was still
able to cross over it well into the 1920's (as the ROW was then still owned by the WB&E), and there may have been dual-gauge track
(both standard and narrow gauge) surviving over the bridge at that time. Here's a repost of an earlier map I posted of the area:
You can see the approximate location of the Pettibone Breaker (leftmost two blue stars) and the Prospect Breaker (bottom center blue stars).
The green lines at the left were the path of the old WB&E alignment into Kingston. The map I took this from has a slight error in the
path of the right fork of the green line at the very left, where it connects with the DL&W at the Pettibone Breaker.
It actually ran a few blocks to the left of the path you see, and through the area of the large silver-roofed building you see
about an inch northwest of the top blue star on the left. This building is still standing today, and is the current end of the
Pettibone Branch ROW, and the switch is to the west of the expressway, rather than the way it shows on the map.
Here's an overview map of what remains of this branch, following the yellow arrows down:
Along the DL&W Bloomsburg Branch ROW, looking east to the 309 Expressway, we can see the switch for the Pettibone Branch
branching off to the right (south). This was taken from West Vaughn Street and Railroad Avenue in Kingston.
Turning around, the ROW enters the area behind these industrial buildings, and the layout of the buildings follows this curvature.
Here we are looking south towards Mercer Avenue, beyond which was an area of dense trees and overgrowth for almost a block.
Looking north at Schuyler Avenue, the tracks and crossbucks still remain, in fact the spur seems to be fairly intact up to this point.
Another view, looking west across the ROW at Schuyler Avenue.
Looking south at Schuyler Avenue, the tracks end shortly after this point. Just ahead is the property of Bonner Chevrolet.
Apparently, the dealership purchased that segment of the ROW outright, and completely paved it over with new asphalt, obliterating
it after that point. Wyoming Avenue (Route 11) is just ahead in the distance, and there is no crossing evidence there either.
Fortunately, one more piece of evidence remains. Just off the south side of Route 11, we can find the single track poking through
the asphalt and splitting up into two tracks which enter this building. This was most likely the long-time terminus of the branch
after the coal and breaker days, when the line once continued further south. This building is currently "Pro Build". Someone told me
that it was once previously a subsidiary Wickes Lumber. A third gentleman (co-worker) also remarked that he believed that
quite a bit earlier it was once the main location of "Northeast Drywall", which was served by rail and also had a very specialized
fleet of trucks that would deliver in the region.
PART III - Delaware Lackawanna & Western "Harry E" Breaker Branch remnants
This branch served the large "Harry E" Colliery in Swoyersville. First, here's a map of the area,
and I've oriented it with northeast at the top, to allow for a better cross-section. The LV lines area (lower right)
may also be useful as additional detail for Part I above (please see notes below on inaccuracies at the left of this map).
Here's a similar aerial view (of part of the same area) cropped from a Penn Pilots photo dated 5/6/59, for comparison:
North of Main Street (left), the former mining area is gated and on a hillside, so I wasn't able to access it. I didn't see
any evidence of a road crossing, but if you look at this aerial view, it appears that a trace of possible ROW may be found along
the hilly escarpment to the right ("A"). Further north up the hill is also a larger mining area you can see in aerial views.
The star on the map indicating the breaker location is incorrect. It was actually south of point "B", as you will see soon.
Also, the ROW path (from the source map I obtained this view from) seems to be a bit misleading. There doesn't seem to have been
rails crossing where you see the gray line crossing Main Street, but rather, the ROW continued along the path of the lower
white dotted line to the east end of the property. If there were a street crossing, it would have been more along the path
of the upper white dotted line (both dotted lines added by me from old aerial evidence) - see below for a view from 1959.
Traveling on Main Street, you can't miss the very large culm pile while passing through the area.
At point "B" on the map above, I found these old structures, which were part of the breaker's conveyors across Main Street.
According to information I found online, the breaker was demolished on April 14 1995. Here's a view of the breaker taken by
Mike Rushton just a couple of years prior to its demise. The second photo is a current Google Earth street view taken from the
same location. The photos I took (just above at point "B") were part of the conveyor mechanism you see here.
Here's an aerial view cropped from a Penn Pilots photo dated 5/6/59. You can see the breaker as well as the associated trackage.
The area from Main Street to Church Street in the culm pile area does not seem to have any rails or specific ROW traces left in it,
judging from aerial views. I didn't go in this main area due to the "no trespassing" signs. It looks like the current owner
removed and sold the rails. I'm sure a lot of folks do trespass there anyway, judging from what looks like a bunch of ATV loops
and wipeouts in some areas. I went north into this property for a short walk off Church Street into the woods, but all I found
were various ties strewn around occasionally. I'm not sure when this branch went defunct, the mine ended operations around 1955,
the breaker in 1963, but a report shows that it was used again in 1969. For information on colliery/breaker dates and production,
I've found the NORTHERNFIELD.INFO site a big help.
Looking south from Church Street, the rails resume along the west side of the park there and continue (buried at times) the entire
length of the park, with the last photo taken just beyond the south end of the park.
Jumping to the start of the branch, here are two current photos of where the Harry E branch joined the main DL&W Bloomsburg
Branch. The ties are still in place here, and it was a long, gradual approach to the switch:
Nearby in the woods there are still some rails left from the Harry E Branch, but just in bits and pieces and disarray.
As mentioned on another page, there was also once a "later" connection from the LV to the last segment of the Harry E Branch,
put in place once the earlier connector was demolished. Traces of this connector can be found as a series of abandoned ties
on the left side of the industrial parking lot just off Slocum Street. I drew this as a small red dotted line on the colored map
at the very start of this section (Part III of this page).
That's all for this set, thanks for visiting, and please contact me if you have anything to add or correct...
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