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Lehigh Valley Railroad Company records

Creation: 1847-1971
Accession: 1917


The Lehigh Valley Railroad Company was one of the major anthracite railroads and formed a secondary trunk line between Jersey City, New Jersey and Buffalo, New York. Their records consist of minute books, corporate histories, voluntary reorganization plans, and an illustrated brochure on Claremont Terminal.


  • Creation: 1847-1971



10 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Lehigh Valley Railroad was a railroad company in the northeastern United States primarily used to haul anthracite coal, incorporated on April 21, 1846 in Pennsylvania as the the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company. The name was changed on January 7, 1853. It was one of the major anthracite railroads and formed a secondary trunk line between Jersey City, New Jersey and Buffalo, New York.

The railroad's original function was to serve as an outlet from the Lehigh Anthracite Region to tidewater by building along the Lehigh River from Mauch Chunk to Easton, Pennsylvania. At Easton it connected with the Central Railroad of New Jersey to reach New York City and with the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad to reach Trenton and Philadelphia. Construction began in 1851 under the management of coal operator Asa Packer (1805-1879) and was completed in September 1855. Packer became president in 1862 and served until his death in 1879 with control remaining in the Packer family. During the 1860s, the company extended its control over several important feeder lines in the coal fields.

In 1867 the Lehigh Valley Railroad completed an extension into the Wyoming Coal Field at Wilkes-Barre. Packer purchased the flood-damaged North Branch Canal in 1865 and completed a railroad on its towpath from Wilkes-Barre to Waverly, New York in 1869, connecting with the Erie Railway to Buffalo and developing a market for coal in the cities of the Great Lakes.

In 1871 the Lehigh Valley Railroad began to plan for its own route from Easton to New York Harbor. It purchased the Morris Canal, primarily to obtain valuable terminal properties in Jersey City. In 1875 the Easton & Amboy was completed to a coal terminal at Perth Amboy. An extension to Jersey City was not completed until the early 1890s.

During the 1870s and 1880s, the Lehigh Valley Railroad secured control over a group of railroads in central New York State, extending its reach to Ithaca, Auburn and Geneva and to North Fair Haven on Lake Ontario, whence coal was shipped to Toronto and other Canadian cities. The Lehigh Valley Railroad completed its own line to the Buffalo gateway in 1892.

Many of the Lehigh Valley Railroad's predecessor companies in the coal regions also had mining privileges. Between 1867 and 1875 the company greatly increased its acreage of coal lands and leases in the Lehigh, Mahanoy and Wyoming Coal Fields. Most of these operations were centralized under the subsidiary Lehigh Valley Coal Company, which for a time was the second-largest anthracite mining firm. Control of the coal subsidiaries was relinquished in the early 1920s following government prosecution of the anthracite railroads under the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Hepburn Act. The company also owned a fleet of ships operating on the Great Lakes which it disposed of in 1917 under the provisions of the Panama Canal Act.

The banker and fiancier, J.P Morgan (1837-1913) interests acquired control of the Lehigh Valley Railroad from the Packer heirs in 1897 as part of their reorganization of the anthracite roads. With the breakup of the coal trust and the growth of the railroad consolidation movement in the 1920s, Leonor F. Loree (1858-1940) of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad attempted to buy the Lehigh Valley Railroad for inclusion in his proposed fifth eastern system in 1927. Failing in the attempt, he sold his substantial minority interest to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1928. The Pennsylvania Railroad made no attempt to absorb the Lehigh Valley Railroad but held the stock to keep the company out of unfriendly hands.

The company suffered from the collapse of the anthracite industry that began in the late 1920s and accelerated after 1945. The Lehigh Valley Railroad was one of the first large railroads to eliminate all passenger service in 1961. In 1962 the Pennsylvania Railroad increased its interest in the Lehigh Valley Railroad to ninety percent, but it was unable to provide any meaningful support. With the failure of Penn Central, the Lehigh Valley Railroad entered bankruptcy on June 24, 1970. The viable parts of the line lying east of Waverly were sold to Conrail on April 1, 1976, and the rest were abandoned. A reorganization plan was approved on July 16, 1982, under which the company was liquidated by sale and distribution of assets.


Series I. Minute books; Series II. Corporate histories; Series III. Miscellany.

Scope and Contents

The records of the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company consist of duplicate corporate records formerly in the custody of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

The principal series is a duplicate set of the company's minute books (1847-1927, 1929-1971) containing meetings of the board of managers. The minutes give an overview of major developments in the company's history, including mergers, agreements, mortgages, appointments, financial performance and changes to road and equipment.

The corporate histories include copies of charters, leases and agreements and mortgages. There are two compilations, the corporate history prepared for the Interstate Commerce Commission valuation in 1916, and a corporation book maintained by the corporate secretary. These give the life span and statistics for most of the companies in the Lehigh Valley system. The former is limited to railroad companies and includes data on the construction of each segment of the line. The latter includes data on coal, water, real estate and shipping companies, as well as those railroad companies that did not construct any road.

The miscellany consists of copies of several voluntary reorganization plans (1939-1949) and an illustrated brochure (circa 1930) on Clermont Terminal at Jersey City.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Litigators may not view the collection without approval.

Use Restrictions

Literary rights retained by depositor.

Related Material

Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


On Deposit from American Premier Underwriters.

Related Names


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Lehigh Valley Railroad Company records
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA