The Lehigh Valley Railroad experimented with diesels as early as 1924, but it wasn't until 1951 that the new technology entirely replaced steam. During the summer of 1975, EMD GP38-2's 325, 324, and 321 represented some of the newest diesel power on the line. "Lehigh Valley Diesel Pictorial" takes a colorful look back at the diverse diesel roster of the Route of the Black Diamond.
Lehigh Valley diesel pictorial review
edited by Otto M. Vondrak/photos courtesy Silverlake Images LLC
Welcome to Photo Line! The Lehigh Valley Railroad stretched from a connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Newark, New Jersey, about 400 miles northwest to the Great Lakes port at Buffalo, New York. One of several lines in the northeast competing for traffic along the same route, the LV sought operating savings with an early conversion to diesel power following World War II. The railroad showed no loyalty to a single manufacturer, having sampled models from nearly every major producer until its inclusion into Conrail in 1976. While the majority of the fleet wore different renditions of its trademark "Cornell Red," in later years the railroad experimented with a variety of paint schemes and logo applications. Carstens Publications and Silverlake Images LLC have teamed up to showcase the diverse diesel fleet of this beloved anthracite hauler in the new Lehigh Valley Diesel Pictorial. Enjoy this sampling of images from our new book!
Lehigh Valley GE 44-ton No. 60
Three 44-ton switchers from General Electric were also added to the roster between 1941 and 1942. No. 60 was the Lehigh Valley’s sole surviving GE 44-tonner, soldiering on at Oak Island Yard in Newark, New Jersey, until it was retired in 1964. Sister units 61 and 62 were sold off in 1946.
Lehigh Valley EMD NW-2 No. 184
Given the number of branch lines and switching yards operated by the Lehigh Valley system-wide, the railroad turned to diesels early on as a way to make these operations more efficient. Lehigh Valley No. 184 idling on the caboose track in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with three LV hacks and two Reading buggies in this undated photo.
Lehigh Valley Baldwin DS-4-4-1500 No. 200
Previously a good customer for steam locomotives, the Lehigh Valley first turned to Baldwin for diesels in 1944, ordering five VO1000's. A single DS-4-4-1500 road switcher (No. 200) was added to the roster in 1948, using Baldwin’s turbocharged 8-cylinder 1,500hp 608SC prime mover. This unit was equipped with a steam generator and briefly used in passenger service before being reassigned to yard switching duty. Here we see No. 200 photographed in Sayre, Pennsylvania, in 1972. This unit was later traded in to EMD as part of an order for new GP38-2's.
Lehigh Valley Alco RS-11 No. 7641
Four 1,800 hp RS-11’s (Nos. 400-403) arrived in 1960, with ALCO taking four FA-1/FB-1 sets in trade. The Pennsylvania Railroad assumed control of the Lehigh Valley in 1962, and took steps to keep the railroad out of bankruptcy. Since the railroad could not afford new power of its own, the Pennsy leased eight RS-11’s to the LV in 1964. Two were subsequently returned. The remaining
units (Nos. 8640-8644, 8648) were painted in full LV colors, yet retained their PRR road numbers. Lehigh Valley No. 7641 (former PRR number 8641) was witnessed in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, on July 21, 1971. The RS-11, the two F-3Bs and the GP-18 make for an interesting lashup.
Lehigh Valley EMD F-7 No. 564
To complete the retirement of steam power from the Lehigh Valley, an order was placed for 14 1,500 hp F-7 A-B sets between 1950 and 1951. All of the EMD cab units were assigned to freight service, as the LV chose ALCO’s PA to handle the main line passenger trains. Their career drew to a close as the F7’s were used to finance the construction of new EMD GP38AC’s in 1971. The last of the streamlined cab units were used as trade-in credits on new GP38-2’s in 1972. No. 564 leads a four-unit lashup past the depot at Lehighton, Pennsylvania, in this undated image.
Lehigh Valley Alco RS-3 No. 211(2)
Lehigh Valley RS-3 211 is probably one of the most unique and recognizable units on the roster, most due to its high short-hood. This unit was built by ALCO-GE for the Pennsylvania Railroad in December 1953 and was delivered as PRR 8445. The high short hood housed the dynamic brakes and a steam generator for heating passenger cars. The unit was renumbered in 1966 to 5569 and conveyed to Penn Central as a result of the merger in 1968. In 1970, the unit was exchanged with the Lehigh Valley for an older RS-2 No. 211 that was then sent to GE on trade-in for new locomotives. The 5569 was painted in full Lehigh colors and became the “new” LV 211. The unit was rebuilt by Conrail with an EMD prime mover in 1979, and was retired in 1981. Acquired by the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum in 1986, it was restored as LV 211 in 1990 and continues to operate to this day.
Lehigh Valley Alco PA-2 No. 610
The Lehigh Valley tested a pair of Alco PA-1’s in 1946, and had enough confidence in the design to go ahead and order fourteen PA-2’s (Nos. 601-614) that were delivered in the spring of 1948. Here westbound train No. 29, the John Wilkes, departs Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, lead by single unit No. 610 in August 1960.
Lehigh Valley Alco PA-2 No. 614
The Black Diamond pulls into Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, on February 24, 1957. This is the station at Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. With the end of all passenger service in 1961 and the Pennsylvania Railroad taking control of the Lehigh Valley in 1962, the PA’s were reassigned to freight service. Their numbers continued to dwindle until the last PA-2 (No. 606) was traded in as credit for an order of new Alco C-628's in 1965-66.
Lehigh Valley Alco C-420 Nos. 404, 412
Arguably the most popular locomotives with railfans, the Alco Century-series represented a small but colorful segment of the Lehigh Valley roster. Twelve new 2,000 hp ALCO C-420’s (Nos. 404-415) were delivered in 1964, using 15 FA-1/FB-1 sets as trade-ins. Sporting a “smiley face” drawn in the road grime, Nos. 404 and 412 and a leased Bangor & Aroostook GP7 lead freight through Lizard Creek Junction, Pennsylvania, on New Year’s Day in 1973.
Lehigh Valley GE U23-B No. 505
Two Lehigh Valley U-boats and an Erie Lacakwanna unit hustle a freight past Haley Tower near Terre Haute, Indiana, sometime in the early Conrail era. The tower has since been preserved by the Wabash Valley Railroaders Museum.
Lehigh Valley Alco Nos. 625, 627, 631
The Lehigh Valley turned towards the six-motor C-628’s for greater pulling power, with seven units delivered in 1965 (Nos. 625-631). A subsequent acquisition added 10 more C-628’s to the roster in 1967. Big Century C628 No. 625 is wearing the so-called “Snowbird” scheme while trailing unit No. 627 has the Cornell Red paint, as seen in Allentown on November 29, 1972.
Lehigh Valley Alco Nos. 626, 637
The newest power from Canadian National (an EMD GP40-2LW) and Lehigh Valley (Alco Century 628's Nos. 626 and 637) meet in Buffalo, New York, in 1975. Note the leased Bangor & Aroostook Geep lurking in the background.
Lehigh Valley GE Nos. 505, 509, 507
General Electric U-23B's Nos. 505, 509 and 507 lead a westbound freight past the Sayre, Pennsylvania, depot on October 25, 1975. Much of the railroad facilities at Sayre have disappeared, but the iconic 1881 depot is still standing and in good repair. It is currently the home of the local historical society.
Lehigh Valley diesels at Sayre Shop
We close our brief look back at Lehigh Valleys diesel fleet with this view looking north towards the massive erecting hall which made up the bulk of the landmark Sayre Shop complex. As the Lehigh Valley Railroad made its push north from the coal country of Pennsylvania into central New York State, sites were under consideration for the construction of new freight yards and repair shops. A local banker name Howard Elmer purchased a vast tract of land and convinced LV president Asa Packer to locate their main facility there. The location was named in honor of Robert Heysham Sayre (1824-1907), a vice president and chief engineer of the Lehigh Valley railroad. Ground was broken for the facility in July 1903, and was formally opened in 1904. The main part of the complex consisted of the main locomotive erecting hall, a machine shop, blacksmith shop, storage, all under one roof. One of the largest buildings at the time it was constructed, it occupied more than six acres. The facility was not retained by Conrail, and was closed in 1976.