My 75th Railway : The Lackawanna, Published 19 April 1943

Back in the pre-Hitler era of 1926 you and I, dear readers, were wont to dance, if not indeed sing, to the bass and treble query "Where do you a worka John?" to which the inevitable response was "The Delaware Lackawan'" Now it so happened that when I had completed my shuffle off to Buffalo, I finally realized a life's ambition and rode the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad, known to us initiates as "The Lackawanna" and to an inspired publicity department as "The Route of the Phoebe Snow." Leaving little Phoebe to take care of herself for the nonce, let me start back at my Ottawa desk.
For some time past, I have realized that if you want to get results, you go to the .top. Accordingly I went into the C.N.R. ticket office, wherein Ivor Reece operates, got the railway guide, and there exhumed from this profane bible of mine, the address of Vice-president Farmer, of the D.L. and W. and to him airmail-special deliveried a letter suggesting he stop the crack Lackawanna Limited at Lancaster, New York. That, dear readers, is precisely like asking Vice-president George Stephen to stop his crack Vancouver flier at Stittsville. Luckily for me. the vice-president of the Lackawanna is a sympathetic person, and was only too anxious to co-operate with me in my project. So when I got to Buffalo, things were already lined up for me. I also had the support of J. H. Lerbs. local superintendent. And as a special guide, I was provided with the extremely genial and widely informed Charles L. Shaff, city passenger agent. Buffalo. What I am trying to tell you is that had I been Anthony Eden or Madame Chiang, I could not have been more courteously acclaimed.

* * *
 I duly arrived at the Lackawanna terminal long before local No. 10 left. This was the train which was to take me out to Lancaster, 12 miles away, where the lordly Lackawanna Limited was going to make a special stop for me.
While we are waiting for the gates to cpen, just a word or two about the Lackawanna. It is known as the Route of Anthracite, and until World War I, burned only anthracite, or hard coal in its engines. This was a strong selling point. Thus in the old non-air-conditioned days, when a passenger was obliged to grope his way off the rival lines with two eyes full of cinders, he was supposed to step daintily off the D.L. L W. clean as apple blossoms. Thus developed the legend of Phoebe Snow, the lady who always wore white, and who travelled exclusively on the Lackawanna. She got to be so famous that a resourceful advertising department developed a whole series of jingles about her.
But the World War turned the Lackawanna to soft coal, and when it was found the bituminous actually made better steam than the fancily-priced anthracite, the railway stuck with the soft coal. It was Just too bad for Phoebe.

* * *

The Lackawanna is only 336 miles long from New York to Buffalo, and thus is shorter than three other rivals. But in coming through the picturesque Poconos, the climax of whose scenic splendor is attained at the Delaware Water Gap. it cannot make quite the speed of the crack Empire State Express. Nevertheless, the Lackawanna Limited, the company's No. 3. has the time of the others beaten.
So you find me riding the cushions of the Lackawanna's solarium diner as we roll delightfully through Buffalo's wrong side. Lancaster bound. Mine host Shaff, veteran of many an accompanied tour, proved a delightful companion, and pretty soon we had to get off at Lancaster. Kansas has nothing more desolate than this whistle stop.
After half and hour, along came the Lackawanna Limited, which ordinarily does not so much as sniff at Lancaster. But her brakes started to smoke, and the big 1154 (2-6-4 type) came to a stop. The brake-man flung out the stool, the pullman conductor pondered on his new crop of potentates, and the conductor playfully growled to Mr. Shaff: "How do you rate all this?"
We went into the sumptuous parlor car. a dream of soft riding, and the big Hudson up ahead started rolling. All too soon the familiar skyline of Buffalo loomed in the orange rays of the sun. The 1154 kept tearing through the yards, trying to make up the time it lost, thanks to its good Samaritan deed, in pausing by the wayside to pick up a traveller, and quicker than I wished, I was back In Buffalo again.
I had ridden my 75th railway!
A minute later I was walking out of the Lackawanna terminal, while the Nickel Plate railroad made ready to pick up our Chicago bound sleeper. As I walked out into the dullness of Buffalo's Main street. I thought how wonderful it would be. if instead of recording what Premier Mackenzie King was saying, and Gordon Graydon was thinking, how wonderful it would be, I repeat, to spend the rest of one's life riding the trains. No wonder Benet says:
"The green aisles of Pullmans are soothing to me.
"Light trees woven on old tapestry."

Home   Circle    Cross Articles

Updated 28 July 2019