Sixty years ago today, the Erie Railroad and the Delaware Lackawanna and Western merged to form the Erie Lackawanna. Stretching from New York to Chicago, the EL was the fourth major eastern route between those cities. Major sources of traffic would be the Automotive and Steel Industry, along with UPS traffic in later years.
As with most railroads in the greater North East, the Erie Lackawanna struggled to thrive. Both the Erie and the Delaware Lackawanna and Western had major financial problems before the merger. Hurricane Agnes would ultimately force the Erie Lackawanna into bankruptcy. Around this time, heavy industry in the region began to decline.
Attempts to reorganize the railroad or find a suitable merger partner proved unsuccessful. Ultimately the Erie Lackawanna found itself included in Conrail at the last minute. The Conrail years were not kind to the Erie Lackawanna.
Almost immediately the mainline west of Marion Ohio was abandoned. The rest of the railroad saw much of the through traffic moved off onto former Penn Central trackage. By 1990, the Erie Lackawanna west of Youngstown was largely a memory.
Most of the surviving routes of the Erie Lackawanna ended up as part of Norfolk Southern. Since the rise of intermodal traffic, there has been speculation that the Erie Lackawanna could have been a leader in intermodal traffic. The Erie Lackawanna has dedicated group of fans who are dedicated to preserving the history of the "Friendly Service Route."