It may have been more than 60 years since two trains have operated in Hawley Borough at the same time. That gap was shattered Sunday afternoon, February 18, when two locomotives, with their lines of cars, literally passed each other in Hawley, in full view from the Main Avenue, Lackawaxen River bridge.
HAWLEY - It may have been more than 60 years since two trains have operated in Hawley Borough at the same time. That gap was shattered Sunday afternoon, February 18, when two locomotives, with their lines of cars, literally passed each other in Hawley, in full view from the Main Avenue, Lackawaxen River bridge.
Delaware Lackawaxen & Stourbridge (DL&S) Railroad, owner of the Stourbridge Line excursions since late 2014, has been using the lone but historic BL2 54 locomotive operated for decades by the previous excursion operator, the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.
Based in Honesdale, the DL&S has been refurbishing three additional diesel locomotives in their shop at the rail yard on Brown Street, owner/operator Tom Myles said.
One of those locomotives - renumbered as a Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) 9880 - brought the passenger coaches on an excursion to Hawley, and was stopped on the side spur at the Hawley yard, its engine running.
Then came the BL2 54, pulling a line of cabooses on a chartered excursion. A single track for most of the route from Honesdale, it splits into a double track just west of the Hawley Station platform. As the BL2 blared its whistle and was seen approaching, the crew of the PRR 9880 climbed aboard and started in reverse, pushing the coaches back towards Honesdale and right past the BL2/ caboose train.
Hailing historic times
With both locomotive whistles sounding, Hawley once more sounded like a busy railroad town, perhaps a whisper of its heyday in the late 1800s/ early 1900s when Hawley had multiple tracks and trains going and coming in three directions.
The spur where the PRR 9880 sat idling is the last piece of the track that served the Erie Wyoming Division route between Hawley and Scranton. Before the line shut down in the early 1960’s, Hawley could have had more than one train running at a time.
At the most, Honesdale had locomotive trains coming and going in two directions (towards Hawley and towards Waymart). Since the 1930’s, however, train travel has been limited to a single track, connecting Honesdale Borough with Hawley.
Myles said that in January 2011, his operating company, the Myles Group, purchased two locomotives, the AMT 1306 and the AMT 1304 from a Michigan operator. These both were previously used on the Canadian Pacific Railway for passenger service.
These have been re-designated and repainted by the Myles Group to resemble Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives (the Pennsylvania is not longer in operation).
AMT 136, which was built in 1951 and purchased that year by the Canadian Pacific for serve between Montreal and Vancouver, is now the “PRR 9880.” Its sister engine, the AMT 1304 now reborn as the PRR 9881, also would take passengers across Canada back in the day. It was built in 1952.
These two crewed locomotives are being added for service on the local line operated by the DL&S.
Having as additional engine on a train will permit them to minimize the need to push the coaches. With an additional engine, a crewed locomotive can remain in front.
Operating with a single locomotive for years, adding new unites also serves as a contingency plan. Myles notes, however, that their goal is to to keep the flagship engine, the BL2, in good operating condition. He said the railroad has invested heavily to restore the locomotive.
In addition, the Myles Group bought a third Canadian unit, built in 1953. Unlike the first two, this been has no engineer-controlled can and is solely used to provide additional power coupled with the cabbed locomotives.
Work started in Honesdale on June 6, 2017, to refurbish these locomotives. General Manager Bruce Carrick has been responsible for the locomotive’s restoration to working condition and the repainting of PPR 9880.
Work on the remaining units, PPR 9881 and PPR 9888, is scheduled for the spring of 2018.
Myles stated that the Stourbridge Line’s main locomotive, in use here for decades- the BL2 54, will remain as the lead unit for now. Another locomotive will be moved to Honesdale in 2018 from Cleveland, Ohio, to match it to the BL2 for operations.
The local railroad is poised for more freight business, Myles affirmed. They held a special train ride for potential rail shippers on New Year’s Day 2018 and had 35 persons on board.
“Several have started the process of developing rail business,” Myles said. “Keep your fingers crossed.”
Among the commodities being discussed for rail shipment are fertilizer, cobb solidification, steel and stone.
In 2017, the local rail line was busy for several months, moving pipeline, construction equipment and other material for a gas pipe line project in Pike County.
Currently the DL&S Railroad employs 10 people. Myles affirmed that they will need to expand their workforce as they add more engines and trains.
Easter Bunny Flyer
Jeff Hiller, a train enthusiast and marketer for the Stourbridge Line excursions, said that they enjoyed a good President’s Day weekend, with over 60 people on their “Eagle Train”. Monday, February 19. The train left Honesdale and reached Lackawaxen, in search for bald eagles. National Park Service representatives were on board to discuss eagles. And yes, they were fortunate to have seen some eagles on the trip.
The next scheduled public excursions are the Easter rides, set for Saturday, March 24 (departing at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.) and Saturday, March 31 (with rides at 10 a.m., 12, 2 and 4 p.m. Dubbed the “Easter Bunny Flyer,” the bunny himself will be on board for the ride from Honesdale to White Mills and back. The excursion lasts approximately 45 to 60 minutes.
A busy schedule resumes in May with numerous Stourbridge Line excursions.
Group outings and other charter trips also occur through the year.
Honesdale is recognized as the birthplace of the American commercial locomotive railroad, where the Stourbridge Lion locomotive first operated, August 8, 1829.
The first regular locomotive train service in Wayne County started in Hawley in 1863, followed by Honesdale in 1868.
For more information about the DL&S Railroad and the Stourbridge Line excursions, visit www.thestourbridgeline.net; email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 570-470-2697.
For historical information about the Stourbridge Lion and its legacy, contact the Wayne County Historical Society in Honesdale.