Allentown, Pennsylvania lies in the heart of the Lehigh Valley,
hosting a great deal of Conrail action on its Lehigh and Reading
lines. Peter McGilligan and I ventured from Allentown west to
Reading PA on an average Monday morning in the midsummer of 1996.
Our first catch of the day was ALHB-3, departing CP-Burn at 9:00am.
Usually, this train awaits the passing of priority train Mail-3 before
beginning its pseudo-local freight trip to Harrisburg. Behind
the power is a long string of pneumatic-dump ballast cars, owned by
Wimpey Minerals of Annville PA (where I go to college!). These WIMX
cars are often run empty from Wimpey's transloading terminal (in Camden
NJ) on this train. ALHB was shot from the Susquehanna Street Bridge
on the South Side of Allentown, an advantageous photo locale for
westbound CR action. In the background, Allentown's landmark
UGI Gas tank can be seen, as well as the copper roof of the old
A&B meat plant downtown.
Peter and I soon moved west to the next town of Emmaus, seven miles
west of Allentown. Emmaus is a small, colorful town, not unlike many
other locales on Conrail's Reading Line. ALHB was running slow this
day, as we were lucky enough to catch him here. This location is about
four blocks east of the town square. Several blocks west of this locale,
the ex-Reading station can be worked into photographs, as well as the
Street overpass which was raised for non-existent D&H/CPRS/STL&H stack
Traffic was light this June morning, so Peter and I skipped Macungie,
Alburtis, Topton, Lyons, and Fleetwood; reaching Blandon where we met up
with eastbound PICC-2 at the Agway siding. Blandon is the old junction point
of the Reading Low Grade (currently used) and the abandoned "Old Line" which ran at
a much steeper grade along U.S. 222 to Reading proper. CP-Blandon is the east
end of a single-track bottleneck from there west to Belt Line Junction
After PICC's passing, we meandered to the next town of Temple, where
Reading and Northern's Pennsylvania Division (old Blue Mountain and Reading)
interchanges at CP-West Laurel. St. Louis-bound Mail-3 scurried past at
11:29am with it's usual consort of power to be split off at Harrisburg for
train Mail-9H. The Reading and Northern station can be seen wearing its
former Blue Mountain and Reading name.
Moving further west, we caught up with eastbound PIBE-2 working out of
Reading Yard towards CP-Belt. PIBE is seen at Belt making a double, preparing
for its journey to Bethlehem, under increasingly cloudy skies. CP-Belt, while not
particularly photogenic, is still a favorite of Reading railfans.
CP-Belt marks the end
of the single-track bottleneck, and the Reading Line continues west to CP-Wyomissing Junction,
where it joins the Harrisburg Line.
From CP-Belt, trains can continue both south to Philadelphia or
west to Harrisburg, using either the old Reading mainline through downtown,
or by using the Belt Line, running along the Tulpehocken Creek and
Schuylkill River. The entire Reading Line is under the control of Conrail's
Lehigh Line Dispatcher (Philadelphia Division).
At this point, we decided to slowly return to Allentown. We followed PIBE
east to Blandon, shown here at CP-Blandon. Rumors have been circulating
regarding the installation of a second track, but nothing has been announced
officially as of yet. PIBE-2
is shown here going from the single track to the #2 track. This past
summer saw a great deal of trackwork (hence the Conrail truck); due to this work, Conrail had
even placed a block operator at the
hand-crossover at Lyons.
Here is a family of ducks in the town of Bowers, just east of Lyons.
Lyons is a quaint little town; it's main thoroughfare is bisected by the
tracks. Lyons is the site of East Penn Manufacturing, where Deka batteries
are made. There is a team track here, where cars are unloaded and trucked a
quarter mile to the plant. Witness Allentown to Waycross (Georgia) train
ALCS-3 breeze past about to pick up orders from the
block operator there.
ALCS generally features
CSXT runthrough power (as will all CR trains, soon enough), usually SD40-2's,
SD50's, or earlier safety cab GE's.
Here is a view from the other (south) side of the tracks at Lyons, enabling
a view of cars spotted at the Deka team track. This is Mail-3, taken a week
later on June 9, 1996, again with its surplus of horsepower.
After visiting Lyons, we returned to Allentown, as trackwork brought any
traffic to a halt. We decided to stop by Allentown yard, and we were delighted
to find this Southern Pacific GP60 (clean) on the ready tracks awaiting
the creation of this photograph. It is a good idea to check in at Allentown
before railfanning in this area, as most of the day's westbound power
can be observed from the west end of the yard. Generally, western foreign
power will operate on ALEL, OIPI, or ALPI; CSXT power runs on ALCS
and NS power can be found on ALNS or SENS. Foreign power has become
common on BUAL/ALHB, since these trains do not require cab signal-equipped
units in the lead.