Lehigh River Gorge

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Lehigh River Gorge
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, March 05, 2004 5:02 PM
I have been a fan of the Western Maryland Railway for years and watched it go from an independent well run company, into Chessie and into CSX . Lately I have turned my attention to the Lehigh Valley and Central RR of NJ in the Lehigh River Gorge. I know that both roads are long gone but I am fascinated at the fact that these two rivals competed for coal and merchandise traffic on double track mainlines paralleling each other from Allentown PA to Wilkesbarre. I am somewhat familiar with their demise from the 1950's until Conrail in 1976. I understand that some traffic remains on sections of each company's lines between Allentown and the Scranton area (Pittston) carried by NS, R&N and CP. I would like to railfan this area this spring, see some of the remaining trains and photograph some of the abandoned physical plants that were once the heart of this industry. Can someone advise me of the best trainwatching sites and what areas can I view what once was. I understand that the old CNJ right of way between White Haven and Penn Haven Junction is now a trail. It is the a good one and is there camping along the way?. Some of the sites I would like to visit are the CNJ/LV connection at Lehighton, Mauch Chunk, and Rockport. Sorry for the long post

Thanks
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, March 12, 2004 7:26 AM
Hi ashbox- I discovered right away that you were an LV fan. I don't know the answer to your questions at all, 'cause my interest is the Finger Lakes area of NY on the LV, but trails and camping are GOOD ideas. Hope you get your info.
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Posted by slotracer on Monday, March 15, 2004 12:23 PM
It has been a decade since I was back in that area, I can't remember if the lehighton yards and packerton are one and the same. Packerton, when I visited it then had nothing left, the yards and pretty much all the rail related buildings were gone.

Maunch Chunk (Jim Thorp) was worth a visit. The Asa Packer mansion is resored and is a great tour, the Harry packer mansion next door was a fantastic bed and breakfast. The last time I visited, teh old Jim Thorpe CNJ depot was restored and there was a tourist line operating out of there, lots of neat old equipment around the downtown area, an HO layout in the second floor of the old cold storage building next door. The town itself is (Was) restored to a period look, filled with all kinds of shops my wife loved.

It has been a long spell since I was up in the finger lakes area as well, but we usaed to enjoy nice dinners at the old LV depot in Ithica....is it still open?
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 7:13 AM
Ithaca Depot still a good place to eat so far as I know http://www.trainweb.org/rshs/GRS%20-%20Ithaca.htm
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 4:20 PM
Before going anywhere in that region, I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend going to a local university, and making copies of old topographic maps. They can tell you where almost everything once was. If you don't have access to a university, then go to a site like TerraServer 6.0 and look up the maps on the web. Most maps show how things used to be, and the satelite photos show how it is now.

There are all sorts of cool things to see in and around the Lehigh River Gorge. You can go to Lehighton and find the abutments of the bridge that once carried the CNJ over the Lehigh Valley. (Lehighton and Packerton yards are one in the same.) About all that is left of Lehighton yards is the old car shop, a main track and a siding.

Look on a map to see how to get to the road that takes you to the top of Flagstaff mountain. It provides a great overlook from where you can see all of downtown Jim Thorpe. I don't know the exact name of the road (it might be Flagstaff road), but you will be making a left off of the highway about 1/2 the way between Lehighton and Jim Thorpe, as you are driving to Jim Thorpe.

In Jim Thorpe, you can see the CNJ F3's that the ARHS has restored. You can see a bunch of old cabooses. You can see a huge chunk of Anthracite down by the CNJ depot. There is an RS-3 painted in the CNJ toothpaste scheme along the edge of the rail yard (past the bridge over the Lehigh). There was also a Reading RS-3 down there. The old CNJ turntable is there. This is actually the Reading and Northern's yard. You can see all this from the road that runs along the ridge above the yard.

You can see PQ Tower really well by going to Coalport (on the other side of the river). Go to the trail head of the Lehigh Gorge Trail (there are bike rental shops across from the CNJ depot in downtown Jim Thorpe - they can set you up with a map and a bike to go up the gorge). Before you get to the trail head, you'll come upon a large short bridge over the double track mainline below. This is coalport. You'll see the CNJ bridge across the Lehigh, and PQ tower on the other side.

You can go up the river on a bike and past the retaining walls that were between the CNJ and LV mainlines. You can see old signal stands, etc.

You can go to White Haven and see the other end of the trail. The LV bridge at Bridgeport (a little south of White Haven) is pretty cool.

You should also check out the following website: http://www.gingerb.com/ for many old photos of the area.

You can follow the old LV mainlines and CNJ mainlines up through Tunnel (take Tunnel Road), and all the way to Penobscot. When you get to the top of the mountain, you'll see where the Ashley planes came in. The tracks running through Solomon's Gap used to be CNJ. The tracks on the right (looking north) were the CNJ mainline to Ashley. The open area on the left is where the track from the Ashley Planes came in.

As you go down the hill to Ashley, you'll see one of the last coal breakers in the area. It is the Huber Breaker. If you have a copy of the CNJ Promotional film "The Big Little Railroad", they follow a car of anthracite from this the breaker to the docks in Jersey City.

You should go to downtown Scranton and see the CNJ freight depot as well. Also, the CNJ passenger depot in Wilkes Barre is now a restaurant.

This is a short summary. Let me know if you have specific questions. Enjoy your trip.

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