Home Open Account Help 270 users online

Nostalgia & History > Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!


Date: 02/14/20 03:53
Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: Roadjob

Allentown was an exotic place, far from the B&O realm where I held court. Cumberland was my Mecca at the time Altoona was my Medina. But places like Allentown, Scranton, Binghamton, and yes, even Hagerstown at that point, were maybe someday destinations. I needed to get to Chicago, the epicenter of all things rail, and that was my all consuming  focus. I happened to run into a railfan[not that commonin 1970] west of Cumberland, and he said I needed to go to Allentown. Not a lot of trains, he said, but it had a lot of variety; a great engine terminal; and a big yard. While not initially intrigued, it played on me because this guy was still having some after glow experience from having just been there.
So, with that thought process now working in the brain pit, I did the unthinkable, and left Cumberland early! I had four days of leave left from the Air Force, and took the shot.
I drove the 6 plus hours from Cumberland to Allentown, and not having a clue how to navigate the area, stumbled around on the west side of the Lehigh River,  and worked my way around to Bethlehem. The tremendous steel plant was blowing me away and I now realized I was on the Lehig Valley railroad, courtesy of the name on the passenger station. I could not find the yard this guy talked about, though I had heard the banging of cars on the other side of the river. I ran into a Reading switch crew at Saucon yard[they told me the name] by the steel plant. I asked them if this was the major yard in the area, and they said that the one I was looking for was back across the river. With a crudely written set of instructions, I recrossed the river, thinking this place is ok, but also thinking if I ever see that guy from Cumberland again, I was going to break the camera over his head!
To cut this story short, I found the yard and the engine terminal, with great difficulty by the way, and, my persistance was amply rewarded. The engine terminal was something I had never seen at that point. CNJ, B&O, and Reading power was all over the place, and the yard, tucked along the lehigh, was indeed an impressive facility. I spent two days there having a great time chasing trains out of both ends of the yard, and bouncing over to the Lehigh Valley on the other side of the river. I was hooked, and for the next few years, Allentown/Bethlehem, moved into the top five places I loved to visit.

PS. I never saw that guy again when I was on the B&O, so, if by chance you are a TO subscriber, and this story shakes out some 50 year old memories....a belated thank you!!

I was indeed fortunate to find three of the eastbounds I saw on the east end of the yard. I think this will give you a taste of why I was blown away.

top...Reading

middle...CNJ

bottom...The head scratcher was this one, but it had a CNJ caboose, so I assumed it was either some kind of run through, or borrowed power or bought power for the Central.

Bill Rettberg
Bel Air, MD
commercial photography



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 02/14/20 07:32 by Roadjob.








Date: 02/14/20 03:56
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: Roadjob

Found this one shot I had taken of the yard looking west.

Bill Rettberg
Bel Air, MD
commercial photography




Date: 02/14/20 05:22
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: refarkas

Each train has a lashup that many railfans today would love to see, but just as on the EL in my area, then we just smiled and thought we'll soon see another.
Bob



Date: 02/14/20 05:27
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: thebluecomet

The N&W F-units were on lease to the CNJ for quite some time.  I also recall my first visit to the Allentown-Bethlehem complex.  It was a 1:1 scale hobby shop.  Made a point of stopping there almost every weekend. By 1973, it was run by the LV, but the variety was terrific.  Add in the D&H and B&O units off trains NE-84/NE-87 and things got even better.  Thanks for sharing those images.



Date: 02/14/20 06:34
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: RRTom

I understand the frustration expressed on your quest, but I still miss the days before GPS and internet.  I thought railfanning was a lot like hunting.  I used AAA maps except in California where I discovered more detailed Thomas Guide maps.
Even working for Amtrak years ago, I would at times figure out where to go along the NEC by looking for the PRR or New Haven catenary poles sticking up over the surrounding buildings and trees.



Date: 02/14/20 07:28
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: icancmp193

My formative college years (1969-73) were spent in Bethlehem, PA. Not having cars then, there were three or more of us railfan types and we walked to Bethlehem often and sometimes on to Allentown, photographing trains along the way (and no one ever asked us to leave anywhere, either).  Here's a crew we spent some time with, as they were waiting to get into Allentown Yard from the west. The engineer's name was Arnold Zeckman and we later sent him some photos. We even got a tour of the power, which included a Western Maryland chop-nose GP9. Since we had gotten all the way to East Penn (roughly 8 miles), we decided to ride the bus back to Bethlehem. The Lehigh & Northampton Transit Authority (Hot 'Lanta, as we called it) bus was an old Brill. Fitting end to a great day!




Date: 02/14/20 08:13
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: dschlegel

One of my earliest memories is from the summer of 1978 when my little brother was born, I was 3. My dad took me to St Luke’s in Fountain Hill to meet my little brother, then took me past Allentown. I distinctly remember seeing all colors of locomotives, and a solid red set of Ex LV units across the river from the yard. I remember him taking me to the round house and seeing black ex P.C. units spinning on the table, and the iron poles painted black and white spiral stripes on the corner of the roundhouse.
Dan

Posted from iPhone



Date: 02/14/20 08:58
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: bluesboyst

Great pics....I visited Allentown first time in 1988....Was impressed.   Like pic#2...with the New Haven 40 ft boxcar.



Date: 02/14/20 12:55
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: perklocal

Yeah Bill, those N&W F7s were leased. That overview of the Yard reminds me of all the times I sat up there with the Allentown gang watching the cars roll down the Hump into the Field Tracks.  Joe "Pop" Bednar (Big Mike Bednar's Dad) had built a bench between the gaurdrails overlooking the Yard near where your photo was taken and it became a favorite gathering place for the local fans. Thanks for the Memories !



Date: 02/14/20 13:19
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: dschlegel

perklocal Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Yeah Bill, those N&W F7s were leased. That
> overview of the Yard reminds me of all the times I
> sat up there with the Allentown gang watching the
> cars roll down the Hump into the Field Tracks. 
> Joe "Pop" Bednar (Big Mike Bednar's Dad) had built
> a bench between the gaurdrails overlooking the
> Yard near where your photo was taken and it became
> a favorite gathering place for the local fans.
> Thanks for the Memories !

I sat on that bench many many times with my dad and brother watching the cars roll off the hump, I know it disappeared sometime while I was in the Air Force (93-97), does anyone know the exact date and reason?

Posted from iPhone



Date: 02/14/20 13:37
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: boejoe

My first view of the yard was from a Piper Cub.  I was the pilot's guest and I was impressed.  When I finally found the yard on the ground, one the the most unusual locos I saw over the years was a Bangor & Aroostook Geep (probably leased).  Don't forget that once upon a time this was the great interchange point for traffic to/from New England via the Lehigh & Hudson River Rwy.



Date: 02/14/20 19:45
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: rdg902

I never knew who built the bench, but 'thanks.' I sat on it many times.



Date: 02/21/20 12:04
Re: Allentown 1971, what a first experience it was!
Author: Gonut1

Hey, I remember seeing that bench! Bill, just how hard was it to find the engine terminal on "Roundhouse Road"? Finding roundhouse Road was the hard part!
Yes, the roads around there are a real rat's nest. Too bad PSR has made Allentown a flat switch yard and the great variety of railroads went to blue, then black.
Go



[ Share Thread on Facebook ] [ Search ] [ Start a New Thread ] [ Back to Thread List ] [ <Newer ] [ Older> ] 
Page created in 0.0672 seconds