But a Handbreadth

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12 

It wasn't so long ago that one could stand here near Uniondale, Indiana and watch SD45s, Alcos and early GEs stream across the background of the small cemetery above.  It wasn't so long ago, but then again, perhaps it was.

Out across the flat prairie of Indiana the piggybacks streamed, cutting a path from Chicago to the East in the days before Conrail.  To me, the Erie-Lackawanna has always been fascinating like some of the other fallen flags from the same era.  I'm aware of no other railroad that opted to buy passenger diesels, not for the sake of hauling passenger trains, but for the lengthened frame and added fuel tank capacity that they could achieve. There is also something beautiful about a set of Alco PAs in gray and crimson pulling piggybacks.  

But the truth is that time passes quickly as a day comes and a day goes, the sun rises and then sets again.  The days build upon each other and suddenly the years drift by.  The Alcos and E8s have long vanished just like the semaphore signals that guarded the double track here.  Instead, the early morning mist of a cool summer day shroud the old right of way above, like a veil that separates what is from what was.  It's a reminder that even the secure are but a handbreadth.


Fred M. Cain said…
Yes, the ERIE was another sad case not too terribly different from the Milwaukee Road. It was probably the most splendidly built line from the New York Metropolitan area to Chicago. It might've been fast for a future intermodal route.

But the sad fact was that it missed some of the large industrial centers between New Jersey and Chicago and had few large online shippers. So, when Conrail felt pressured to rationalize, they chose to get rid of the former ERIE.

I vaguely recalled that in the late 1970s there was a proposal to link the ERIE and the Milwaukee together end to end which would've resulted in a most unique transcontinental route. Sadly, the idea never got very far.

Fred M. Cain
Anonymous said…
Fred - you're right. ERIE was another sad case indeed, one that 'almost' made it and had some of the ingredients to make it too.

ERIE was also mentioned as a Rock Island merger partner, but Milwaukee would have been even better as a transcon.


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