Lehigh Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad
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The Lehigh Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad (reporting mark LBMN) (a.k.a. Lehigh and Northern Railroad) was a regional railroad operating in eastern Pennsylvania out of Port Carbon in the historic valley of the Schuylkill Valley, on the fringe of the Southeastern Anthracite Coal Region. The railroad has taken over a series of abandoned track from a number of defunct railroad operations once thriving when Anthracite was an industrial energy of choice. The rail road had a short career as a corporate name and reporting mark, and is today the repeat award winning Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad.
Originally known as the Blue Mountain and Lehigh Railroad, the Lehigh Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad was founded in 1986 to provide freight service. Starting in 1985, the BM&L began operating passenger excursions over the line, and one steam locomotives, ex-Canadian National 2-6-0 475. The BM&L also began operating 3 additional state owned lines. Additionally, the BM&L entered into a partnership with the Reading Company Technical and Historical Society, and the Reading & Northern who leased track space in Leesport, PA and in return leased two diesel locomotives and assorted passenger cars for use on the line.
In 1990, The Blue Mountain and Lehigh took ownership of 150 miles of track located in the Coal Region north of Reading. Shortly thereafter, the company was renamed Reading Blue Mountain and Northern and relocated its headquarters from Port Clinton to Allentown, PA. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the LBMN acquired more lines in northeastern PA, primarily of Conrail, Central Railroad of New Jersey, and Lehigh Valley heritage.
In the mid 1990s, the LBMN discontinued the regularly scheduled passenger operations between Hamburg and Temple and instead focused on occasional excursions throughout the rest of its system. The partnership between the LBMN and Reading Company Technical and Historical Society, and the Reading & Northern had more or less ended by this point, but the group still leased track space in Leesport until 2008 when they moved to the Hamburg yard.
Despite the discontinuation of the Hamburg to Temple excursions, steam operations continued. In 1995, both of the LBMN's, and RBMN`s steam locomotives were present at the grand opening of Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA, though only 475,and 425 was operational. The two would remain at Steamtown until 1997. Between 1998 and 2009, all steam operations were suspended.
LBMN operates the following three main lines on 300 miles (483 km) of track:
- Reading Division: Reading, Pennsylvania-Packerton, Pennsylvania along the Lehigh River,and the Lehigh Division: Allentown-Easton, Pennsylvania.
- Lehigh Division: Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania-Allentown, Pennsylvania (was Mehoopany, Pennsylvania).
- This line forms a fork from Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania one branch running easterly through Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania and connecting via a junction to Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania or Hazleton, Pennsylvania and the second branch runs northerly via the Delaware River, climbs to Mountain Top, Pennsylvania with a double track running from there most of the way to the Allentown (or Bethlehem Yard, or Jim Thorpe Yard) at Allentown,Jim Thorpe, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Taylor Yard in Taylor, Pennsylvania outside Scranton, Pennsylvania.