The Bridges at Easton

Aerial photo by Scott Mattes.

Ever since General George Washington and his Continental Army crossed the icy Delaware River back in December of 1776, the Delaware River has been a vital socio-economic link. Today, it impacts daily the lives of more than 13 million people in the eastern U.S. The free-flowing river (un-dammed) stretches 330 miles and touches the shores of five different states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. The river is fed by 216 tributaries, including the Lehigh River. The South Easton & Phillipsburg RR. in the 1880s was the first eastern-based railroad company to built a bridge across the Delaware River. In the years that followed, it became an important commercial route in reaching the New England.

This discussion centers on the three bridges and the railroads that crossed the Delaware River at Easton, Pennsylvania to reach New Jersey. Past railroads included the Central of New Jersey, Lehigh & Hudson River, Lehigh Valley, Penn Central, Conrail and most recently Norfolk Southern. Prior to the 1970s, railfan photographers had lots of passenger, commuter and freight trains upon which to focus. Unfortunately, the days of high traffic volumes have long past, however the bridges at Easton still warrant an occasional visit.

So, please join us as we attempt to recreate memorable moments from the past.


Photo Exhibits

Still sporting their original colors, a trio of early Baldwin-built cab units (DR44-1500s) wait in Allentown for a freight from Phillipsburg, NJ on 12 October 1952. (Charles Hauser photo, Krambles/Peterson Archives)

Fairbank-Morse billed its H24-66 "Trainmaster" as a multi-purpose workhorse. On the CNJ that is exactly how it was employed. A pair six-motor diesels, including TM 2404, leads a string of coal cars after crossing the Delaware River from Phillipsburg, NJ. The TMs were also commonly used on commuter trains in major metropolitan NJ areas. (Bob Davis photo, February 1969)

To gain access to trackage rights on the Jersey Central, the L&HR built a bridge over the Delaware River between Phillipsburg, NJ, and Easton, PA. Here a CR train from the former EL in Portland heads toward Allentown. (Doug Lilly photo, March 1979)

Conrail's TV-62 crosses the Delaware River to Phillipsburg, NJ on 22 November 1987. The train is on the former LV bridge which was taken out of service shortly after the photo was taken; CR switched to the ex-CNJ bridge built in 1920s. (Rod Miller photo & caption)

By the late 1960s, L&HR traffic was getting rather sparse; consequently action photography was a challenge. In this February 1969 view, a L&HR train led by a C420 and an older RS3 use trackage rights on the CNJ to access home rails and take a 31-car consist east. (Bob Davis photo)

A L&HR C420 and two CNJ RS3s leave Easton, PA behind and cross the Delaware River en-route to Hudson Yard in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. (Jim Mack photo, Phillipsburg Railroad Historians collection)

Two 567-powered EMD's sandwich a pair of Alco RS11s and lead an 86-car westbound LV mixed freight of mostly boxcars, along with three empty auto frame flats. (Doug Lilly photo, February 1969)

Alco C628s were the backbone of the LV latter-day road fleet; however their snowbird paint scheme did not weather well, and all but four were repainted in different variants of the Cornell red. Here a pair of ex-Monon units lead westbound train NE-1. (Doug Lilly photo and caption, 6 March 1976)

Within the watchful view of Easton Tower, westbound Lehigh Valley symbol freight NE1 hits the bell at Phillipsburg. Tucked behind the three U23Bs is a SW8 bound for Allentown or Sayre from Oak Island. (Doug Lilly photo, 14 February 1976)

The Farewell to the Jersey Central excursion poses on the bridge across the Delaware River between Easton, Pa., and Phillipsburg, N.J. Interestingly, the train is on the former Lehigh Valley bridge here. The trip covered the old CNJ route that currently extends only as far as High Bridge, N.J. When the CNJ west of High Bridge was removed from service, Conrail took over the CNJ bridge over the Delaware, adjacent to the LV bridge. (Steve Barry caption and photo, November 1985)

Our thanks goes out to Rod Miller for suggesting Easton's Bridges as a "Yesterday's Hotspot" topic.

Reference sources:

  • Motive Power of the Jersey Central by Michael Eagleson
  • Northeast Railroad Scene: Volume 1 - The Lehigh Valley by Bob Pennisi
  • Phillipsburg Railroad (internet website)
  • Train (internet forum)

New: 2 Augus 2019

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