Kulp, Randolph L., ed. Railroads in the Lehigh River Valley, Lehigh Valley Chapter National Railway Historical Society, 1962


The Ironton Railroad Company

Catasauqua And Fogelsville Railroad

Lehigh And New England Railroad Company






pp. 33 - 34


The Ironton Railroad Company, chartered June 3, 1859, inaugurated service on May 24, 1860, from Hokendauqua to hematite iron ore beds at Ironton, a distance of five and one-half miles, and several limestone quarries enroute. Between Hokendauqua and Coplay the railroad operated trains over Lehigh Valley Railroad Company's track. A three and one-half mile branch reached Orefield and Siegersville terminus from a point near Ironton -in 1862. The railroad added Coplay-Hokendauqua trackage in 1865.


Erection of a portland cement producing mill north of Coplay by David O. Saylor in 1871 provided a product which favorably influenced the railroad's fortunes. Cement produced by mills built at Coplay, Egypt, and Ormrod replaced revenues lost when iron ore beds closed gradually between 1891 and 1906.


Thomas Iron Company acquired The Ironton Railroad Company on February 1, 1882, and centered all operations in Hokendauqua . During 1884 The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey established an interchange with The Ironton Railroad Company via the Northampton-Coplay bridge which spanned Lehigh River and Lehigh Valley Railroad Company's main line. On December 4, 1917, The Ironton Railroad Company absorbed Thomas Railroad, a route originally built from the iron furnaces at Hokendauqua to interchanges with Lehigh Valley Railroad Company and Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad in West Catasauqua. The consolidation of trackage increased The Ironton Railroad Company's total mileage to twelve and one-half miles.


Passenger service, one daily round trip scheduled between Hokendauqua and Siegersville, commenced on November, 1, 1898, but ended in 1921. The steam train could not compete successfully with Lehigh Valley Transit Company's frequent paralleling street railway service.


In 1907 The Ironton Railroad Company built a large yard between West Catasauqua and Hokendauqua and a new route which connected the yard and original route at a junction located mid-way between Coplay and Egypt. The new construction increased total mileage to slightly less than fourteen miles.


Western Pennsylvania's iron industry, benefiting from its proximity to bituminous coal fields and an abundant high grade iron ore supply, gradually undersold eastern Pennsylvania's iron products and eventually dominated the industry. Accordingly, Thomas Iron Company's 1914 stockholder's report listed The Ironton Railroad Company as the only subsidiary which produced a profit. An attempt to revitalize Lehigh Valley area's iron industry failed in the 1920's.


In September, 1925, after Interstate Commerce Commission's approval had been granted, Lehigh Valley Railroad Company and Reading Company, the present owners, commenced operation of The Ironton Railroad Company. Both companies had jointly purchased the property from Thomas Iron Company in November, 1923. Between 1923 and dieselization of motive power, Reading Company transferred seven "Long John" and four camelback steam locomotives from its roster to The Ironton Railroad Company's roster.


The Ironton Railroad Company commenced dieselization in October, 1948, and completed the program in 1949. During the interval two new 1000 horsepower Baldwin diesel-electric locomotives replaced the four former Reading Company camelback type locomotives. Reading Company's West Catasauqua yard switcher, during both steam and diesel-electric operations from 1925 until cessation of switching services in November, 1961, used The Ironton Railroad Company's service and storage facilities at Hokendauqua .


In winter, 1955-1956, The Ironton Railroad Company abandoned and removed trackage from a point near Ironton to Siegersville. Motor truck competition, construction of Pennsyvania's Northeast Turnpike, and lack of a major industry caused discontinuance of service over the branch from which many carloads of Lehigh County potatoes had moved to domestic markets. In 1911 Trexler Game Preserve's personnel unloaded the first herds of deer and buffalo at Siegersville station.




pp. 69 - 70


Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad, sponsored jointly by Thomas Iron Company of Hokendauqua and Crane Iron Company of Catasauqua, had been incorporated on April 5, 1853, as a plank road to connect the iron furnaces with nearby iron ore and limestone deposits. An amendment to the charter dated April 20, 1854, allowed the construction of a railroad.


Nine miles of track built westward from West Catasauqua, the junction of privately owned tracks extending from both iron companies, opened to Rupp's Station via "iron bridge" on July 14, 1857. Trackage, originally projected toward a junction with the proposed Allentown Railroad, reached Trexlertown in 1860, Alburtis and a connection with East Pennsylvania Railroad in 1864, and Rittenhouse Gap in 1865. Other short branches, added at intervals, accommodated farm product shipments, reached new iron ore beds, and served Lehigh Portland Cement Company's plant at Fogelsville. Passenger trains operated between Alburtis and West Catasauqua until September 29, 1935.


The "iron bridge", one thousand, one hundred and sixty-five feet in length and one hundred and four feet above Jordan River bed, spanned the valley near Troxells in South Whitehall Township north of Allentown. The eleven one-hundred foot spans created an engineering masterpiece. Later, use of heavier locomotives and cars rendered the spindly structure obsolete. Beginning in summer, 1916, and continuing until 1919, The Philadelphia and Reading Railway Company conducted a project which completely covered the iron structure with more than three hundred thousand tons of slag, gravel, and factory ash. Track crews laid new heavier rail on top of the huge fill.


Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company leased Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad on December 8, 1893, and on August 10, 1944, Reading Company absorbed the property into the main organization.



pp. 86 - 89


Receivers sold Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie and Boston Railroad on December 14, 1894, to new owners who incorporated on April 2, 1895, as Lehigh and New England Railroad Company. After Lehigh Valley Railroad Company and New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad Company surrendered respective leases acquired during receivership, Lehigh and New England Railroad Company commenced operation of its property effective January 1, 1897.


The new company chartered Pochuck Railroad, a trackage-only system, on April 19, 1897, and built a route four and four-tenths miles in length extending from the main line to stone quarries near New York-New Jersey boundary. During the same year the railroad built its own route from Benders to Pen Argyl and discontinued operation over Lehigh and Lackawanna Railroad's track between both points. Trackage expansion in the Lehigh Valley area between 1902 and 1904 included Wind Gap-Nazareth-Martins Creek, Bath-Christian Springs, and a branch near Johnsonville in Upper Mount Bethel Township.


Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company gained control of Lehigh and New England Railroad Company on May 9, 1904, and in December, 1904, Lehigh and New England Railroad Company absorbed the navigation company's Lehigh and Delaware Railroad, a merger of Lehigh and Lackawanna Railroad and Wind Gap and Delaware Railroad accomplished a few months previous. The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey's lease of Lehigh and Delaware Railroad through predecessors remained in effect until March 4, 1905. Circa 1905 the Lehigh and New England Railroad abandoned trackage between Benders and a point west of Wind Gap and incorporated original Lehigh and Lackawanna Railroad's Benders-Pen Argyl trackage into the main line.


The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company gained control of Central New England Railroad in 1904 and planned a large classification yard at Maybrook, New York. After the yard had been completed in 1912, Lehigh and New England Railroad Company's freight trains commenced and terminated in Maybrook Yard.


Opening of the main line extension from Danielsville to Tamaqua on July 24, 1912, provided direct service to Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company's breakers in southern anthracite coal field. Acquisition of Panther Creek Railroad, organized from Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company's standard gauge mine railroads which had been established as early as 1840, added trackage from Tamaqua through Coaldale and Lansford to Hauto and from Lansford to Summit Hill effective December 14, 1913. The short Lehigh Gap Palmerton spur opened to an interchange with Chestnut Ridge Railway Company in April, 1914, and Hauto-Nesquehoning extension opened in 1915. As the result of new construction the railroad re-classified, Danielsville-Slatington trackage as a branch line.


The Catasauqua Branch, opened on April 1, 1914, included new track construction and purchase of Crane Railroad, chartered on July 28, 1905, as successor to Crane Iron Company's plant railroad. Crane Railroad trackage extended eastward from interchanges with Philadelphia and Reading Railway Company and Lehigh Valley Railroad Company in West Catasauqua across Lehigh Valley Railroad Company's main line, Lehigh River, The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey's main line, and Lehigh Canal; through iron works property; and through a tunnel bored underneath Catasauqua to a limestone quarry and cinder dump in Kurtz's Valley. Crane Railroad surveyed but never built an extension to Bath; however, Lehigh and New England Railroad Company's Catasauqua Branch followed the proposed route to effect a connection with Crane Railroad trackage.


During winter, 1905, Crane Railroad offered passenger service when Crane Iron Company dismantled their wooden bridge across Lehigh River and isolated Lehigh Valley Railroad Company's Catasauqua station in West Catasauqua. Pedestrians and public vehicles as well as plant railroad trains and horse drawn teams had used the bridge. In its place the iron company constructed a single track steel railroad bridge. A shuttle train consist composed of a Crane Railroad locomotive and a Lehigh Valley Railroad Company combination car transported passengers and baggage between Front Street, Catasauqua, and the station to meet all trains. Horse drawn vehicles traveling over Race Street Bridge replaced the train on September 15, 1906, and maintained accommodations until the more convenient Pine Street Bridge, another public structure, had been completed.


Lehigh and New England Railroad Company opened the Allentown Branch from Bethlehem to Allentown's east end on May 1, 1919. The trackage spurred growth of a semi-industrial area along the right of way.


Abandonment of trackage from a point near Danielsville to Hower slate quarries in 1918 marked an early discontinuance of service for Lehigh and New England Railroad Company in the Lehigh Valley area. Between 1928 and 1935 trackage abandonments included Danielsville-Slatington; Wind Gap-Saylors Lake; Nazareth Branch between Nazareth and Wind Gap; and part of Pochuck Rai'lroad. During and after World War II trackage abandonments included Hauto-Nesquehoning; Lansford-Summit Hill; remainder of Pochuck Railroad; Pen Argyl-Wind Gap, or the remainder of Nazareth Branch; Bangor Branch; and the branch from a point north of Bangor to a point near Johnsonville.


Lehigh and New England Railroad Company first defected from steam locomotive operation in 1926 with purchase of a Brill gas-electric combination motor car for service between towns in the Panther Valley area and Tamaqua and acquired another similar car in 1928 for service between Swartswood, New Jersey, and Goshen, New York. Meanwhile, passenger service between Bethlehem and Pen Argyl remained a steam locomotive operation. Discontinuance of gas-electric car service in 1937 induced the sale of both cars to Southern New York Railway on December 14, 1939. Bethlehem-Pen Argyl passenger service ended in 1938. Passenger service in more prosperous days had extended from Slatington, Pennsylvania, to Campbell Hall, New York; from Nazareth to Bath; and from Allentown and Bethlehem to Bangor.


On March 2, 1927, Interstate Commerce Commission rejected Reading Company's plan to lease Lehigh and New England Railroad Company for nine hundred and ninety-nine years.


Purchase of a 650 horsepower diesel-electric switching locomotive from United States Army on February 27, 1947, for assignment at Martins Creek interchange, inaugurated the dieselization program which concluded with the retirement of all remaining steam locomotives effective December 20, 1949.


Decline of anthracite coal and cement shipments, main sources of revenue, influenced Lehigh and New England Railroad Company's decision in 1961 to either abandon or sell all rail lines and discontinue operating rights wth railroads in New Jersey and New York. All connecting companies immediately revealed interest in the property, but Lehigh and New England Railroad Company sold Hauto - Tamaqua trackage, Bethlehem - Bath - Nazareth - Martins Creek trackage, and Allentown-Bethlehem branch to The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey and sold Pen Argyl-Wind Gap trackage to Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Company.


The Central Railroad Company of New Jersey formed a subsidiary, Lehigh and New England Railway Company, to operate the trackage connecting Bethlehem, Bath, Martins Creek, and Allentown. Effective October 31, 1961, Lehigh and New England Railroad Company ceased operation, and purchasing companies assumed ownership of properties and commenced operations on November 1, 1961.


In January, 1962, Lehigh and New England Railway Company purchased four and four-tenths miles of Catasauqua Branch trackage extending from Crane Junction, south of Bath, to a manufacturing plant west of Schoenersville and several hundred feet of industrial trackage in Catasauqua.


Removal of abandoned track commenced in spring-summer, 1962, at Catasauqua and Tamaqua in Pennsylvania and Pine Island in New York.


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