The Alphabet Route
Lehigh & Hudson River Railway
The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway was the shortest of the
alphabet route railroads. It had only 73 route-miles of its own. The L&HR was
headquartered in Warwick, NY. In addition to the Alphabet Route, the L&HR was
part of the Central States Dispatch, the Blue Ridge Dispatch, and the Lackawanna
The L&HR dated from 1862 when the "Warwick Valley Railroad" opened as
a branch of the New York and Erie Railroad from Greycourt to Warwick, NY. It was operated
by the Erie. The Pequest and Wallkill Railroad was chartered in 1870 to build an extension
from Belvidere, NJ to the New York state line. The Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad was
chartered to run from Belvidere to McAfee, NJ and the Wawayanda Railroad was to connect McAfee
to the New York state line. In April or May of 1881, the three companies mergered to form
the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway, with the Warwick Valley Railroad joining on
April 1, 1882. This extended the line from Belvidere, NJ, to Greycourt, NY (61 miles).
In 1888, the Orange County Railroad Company was organized by the L&HR to
build a line connecting Greycourt, NY, to Maybrook, NY, to connect to the Central New
England's (CNE's) new Maybrook yard. This line would be immediately leased to the L&HR
and later merged into the company. In 1889, The L&HR obtained trackage rights from the
PRR over their Belividere-Delaware Division (Bel-Del) for 99 years. In the same year,
the South Easton and Phillipsburg Railroad was organized to build a bridge across the
Delaware River between Easton, PA, and Phillipsburg, NJ. The bridge opened in 1890,
providing the L&HR with a connection to the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey.
This bridge was immediately leased to the L&HR. The result was a line from Easton,
PA to Maybrook, NY.
In 1905, the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad (New Haven)
acquired the CNE to achieve an all-rail route from New England to Maybrook yard. This brought
a significant traffic increase to the L&HR. The L&HR obtained trackage rights on the
DL&W's Sussex branch to connect to Port Morris, NJ. This provided the L&HR with its major
east-west routings that lasted throughout its history.
Until the Hell Gate Bridge opened
on September 30, 1916, the L&HR hosted many through passenger trains that later passed over
the Poughkeepsie Bridge and into New York City. The still famous "Federal Express" was the
best known train to take this route. Partly because of this passenger traffic, the entire
line had automatic block semaphore signals installed by 1913.
An additional 30 route-miles were briefly added in the 1920's when the
CNJ extended rights to Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), PA for zinc ore. In July 1939,
all passenger service was ceased on the L&HR due to declining revenues. During this
time period, color signals replaced the earlier semaphores. Also, all 100 lb rail was
replaced with 131 lb rail.
A major change happened in 1950 when the L&HR purchased 11 Alco RS3's
to replace all 16 steam locomotives. The three 6 year old 4-8-2's were stored in case they
would be later needed, but were never used again. In 1958, the L&HR became the first railroad
in the northeast to completely use a radio installation for communications. Radios were
installed in all locomotives and walkie-talkies in all cabooses. The Dispatcher's office (in
Warwick), was radio equipped as well as four wayside stations.
The L&HR filed for bankruptcy on April 19, 1972, due largely to Penn
Central's decision to prefer other routes to the Poughkeepsie Bridge. In May, 1974, the
Poughkeepsie Bridge suffered major fire damage and Penn Central completely closed the Maybrook
route to New England. In 1976, the L&HR officially became part of Conrail. Most of the original
route has since been abandoned.