Up through the 1960's, Allentown's train system remained much in tack. In it's heyday, there were two passenger stations, and three commercial branch lines with dozens of individual business sidings. The WestEnd Branch ran along Sumner Ave, crossed Tilghman Street, headed west till 17th Street, and then looped back east to 12 St. The Quarry Barber Branch ran along the Little Lehigh Creek, crossing Lehigh Street and running under the 8th Street Bridge. After crossing S. 10th Street, it proceeded west till it reached Hawk Flour Mill, where it turned north heading to Union Terrace. It crossed Hamilton Street by the current Hamilton Family Diner, and ended at the park department building, across from Birney Crum Stadium. Both these branches have been totally removed, not a track nor railroad tie remain. The third branch, which was the Old LVRR main, as opposed to the New Main, ran along the Lehigh River and crossed Front Street on a diagonal at Linden St. This branch line, although unused, still exists. One of it's main customers was Lehigh Structural Steel, under the Tilghman Street Bridge. Lehigh Structural had it's own engine to shuttle material on it's own tracks within their complex. Although the steel fabricator closed, the parcel still has industrial tenants.
Currently in Allentown there are two simultaneous plans which would misuse our railroad assets. The AEDC, headed by Scott Unger, wants to use a government grant to restore the Quarry Barber Branch to an empty building on S. 10th Street. The former plant operator never cited lack of train service as a factor in it's closing. To restore the line would cost untold millions of dollars, and require miles of track. This is a folly which only seasoned bureaucrats could entertain. On the other hand, there is another plan by another group, to abandon the potential of the last remaining intact former branch line. The NIZ now controls the riverfront and the former Structural Steel property. Their plan is to vacate the industrial tenants, including Air Products, and convert the property into residential and light commercial, such as restaurants and gift shops. All these plans are driven by federal and state grants and tax incentives, which do not factor in Allentown's particular existing assets and long term interests. In a short sighted grab for some quick tax dollars, we would build one track to nothing, while ignoring another track and vacating an existing viable industrial site.
The photograph is from the Mark Rabenold Collection, and shows the Union Street crossing.