No. 102: Jersey Central Lines, Published 17 October 1945Here we are in the dreary old station at Wilkes-Barre. It is 10.11 at night, and No. 327 is 15 minutes late. We are spending a weepy Saturday night riding this column's 102nd railway. Those who have ridden the hundred odd railways with me up and down these columns should be getting long service passes by now.
We are about to ride the Jersey Central Lines, recently rechristened from the Central Railroad of New Jersey. This is like Mr. Tweedledum going before a magistrate to have his name changed to Mr. Tweedledee, but let that pass. Actually, what the rejuvenated Jersey line tried to do was to cut the apron strings away from the Reading Railway System, and try to go it alone. But the R.R.R. tie-up with the Jerseyy line is something that concerns us not a whit here.
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So here we are in the station's gloom, relieved only by a few dusty bulbs, waiting for the Philadelphia train to come in, and take your Geography teacher back to Scranton. so that we can chalk up No. 102.
This Jersey Central operates only 165 miles of track, if I can believe the rear-end brakeman who later sold me my ticket. It runs quite a few trains between New York and Philadelphia, and its fanciest string of varnish is The Crusader, a streamliner. Over the Jersey's rails, too, run the svelte and smart Baltimore and Ohio trains from New York to Philadelphia and the southwest. The Jersey Central also pokes down the Jersey coast to such places as Bivalve, to famed Barnegat. Our particular line, however, runs from Philadelphia up to Bethlehem, then past its twin town, Allentown, and on to "Mauch Chunk, before reaching Wilkes-Barre. Anybody who doesn't know Pennsylvania won't know what I am talking about, which is perhaps just as well anyway.
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The Jersey Central got its face lifted a while ago back. It discarded a meaningless disc as its crest, and came up with a smart new symbol, the Statue of Liberty. It was not original, but it became the first railway to adopt the big stone lady of Bedloe's Island.
Meanwhile, the railway does not seem to have got round to changing the name on the trains, and they are still all Central Railroad of New Jersey. I think what irritated me most was the fact that the management did not even have enough gumption to advertise its own name. This it could have done by the simple expedient of spelling out the full name someplace on the locomotive or tender.
Finally, a smart looking engine, a 4-6-2 type, No. 812, rounded the bend, and steamed into Wilkes-Barre. She cut off, went down to take water, presumably, or switch a car, maybe, then returned. They tested the air with the four conventional hisses, then the conductor highballed her with the official two pulls on the cord, and we were away.
Our little train was the only one that goes through to Scranton during the day. Many start out from New York or Philadelphia, but they drop out on the way. No. 301 goes through during the night, but this mainly looks after the Pullman trade between other points, and Scranton is apparently only incidental to the run.
The trip itself seemed like an endless adventure into suburbia. You were never completely out in the country, and never entirely in the city. There were lights all over the hillsides. Carlights shot along at unexpected angles, at high-up levels. Far below, you might see what you imagined was a mine mouth. The colored lights of one area betokened a rural honky-tonk
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We went through Pittston, part of which is now falling into the ground, as old mines cave in, and where a new scheol has never been occupied because of the menace of old mines. Then we started to hit the outer lights of Scranton, and soon we were in the Jersey Central depot at Scranton.
Our train didn't seem to run too heavily on air conditioning, and my taxi driver told me one often got pretty hot coaches on that line in summer. On the other hand, the rear-end of the train has a half parlor car, and if one seeks the comfort of a swivel chair, the chances are one could be quite comfortable. The diner is cut off at Allentown.
So passed 44 minutes on the Jersey Central.