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Home / Railroads & Locomotives / Hot Spots / North East, Pennsylvania

North East, Pennsylvania

By | October 19, 2020

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North East is a borough of about 4,200 people and is the northernmost incorporated community in Pennsylvania. It is little more than a mile from the shore of Lake Erie, and just 3 miles off Interstate 90. The community, located in northwestern Pennsylvania, is named North East for its location in northeastern Erie County.

The Lake Shore Railway Historical Society and Museum is located in town in the former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern station. The complex is adjacent to the tracks of the former New York Central and Nickel Plate Road, which now belong to CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern.

tracksideicon_photoTRAIN WATCHING

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Modern rail action, like this CSX train, and historic artifacts are both on tap at the Lake Shore Railway Museum in North East.
Steve Sweeney
As many as 80 trains pass through North East each day. CSX accounts for a majority of the moves through the area on its former NYC trackage, while NS also hauls respectable numbers on its line just to the south. Canadian Pacific has trackage rights on CSX and sends a daily intermodal through town.

NS and CSX locals switch nearby plants as needed. The largest are Welch’s and Cott Corp., which process locally grown Niagara and Concord grapes into juice, jelly, and other grape-flavored food products.

Mainline freights run the gamut from slow coal to priority intermodal, including trailers and containers. Unit garbage, manifest, and crude oil trains also appear in town. Traffic volumes are heaviest toward the end of the week, especially Thursdays and Fridays. Weekends see respectable numbers of trains that drop off come Monday morning.

Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited runs twice daily and passes North East westbound minutes before the scheduled 1:36 a.m. arrival in Erie, and soon after the scheduled 7:22 a.m. departure from Erie headed east.

The Lake Shore Railway Historical Society owns and operates the museum, which is housed in the 1899 brick station, the third on the site. It succeeds two previous structures, built in 1852 and 1869, the second of which was reused as a freight station and still stands. The NYC and later Penn Central used the station until the end of passenger service to North East in 1971.

Visitors to the museum are welcome to walk the grounds day or night, year-round. Benches and tables are provided. The historical society owns the property and permits visitors to watch trains from behind a small steel fence that is less than 10 feet from the CSX main line on the west side of the right-of-way and on the original brick passenger platform. The historical society broadcasts scanner chatter through speakers at the platform.

The museum focuses its collection on objects or equipment related to North East and Erie County, followed by items related to the General Electric locomotive shops in nearby Lawrence Park, 11 miles to the west. That is why visitors will see a lot of GE equipment on site: Various box-cab industrial locomotives; a Chicago South Shore & South Bend 800-series “Little Joe” electric; a 132-ton centercab diesel built for Ford Motor Co.; and NYC U25B No. 2500.

The museum also hosts a collection of NYC, Nickel Plate, and Great Northern passenger cars, and assorted freight cars. Volunteers also boast of having the only operating fireless Heisler-built locomotive, an 0-6-0T assembled in Erie that now runs on compressed air. For more information on the museum, go to lakeshorerailway.com.

tracksideicon_frequencyRADIO FREQUENCIES

NS road, 161.250; CSX road, 160.860; CSX dispatcher 161.520.
tracksideicon_famFOR YOUR FAMILY

Local festivals, wineries, antiques stores, and hiking trails provide year-round entertainment possibilities. Freeport Beach, on Lake Erie, is the closest public beach and is open seasonally. Heading west toward Erie, visitors have the opportunity to visit the Erie Zoo; a large indoor water park; several micro-brewery pubs; and Presque Isle State Park, the largest free admission park in Pennsylvania with more than 7 miles of paved bicycle trails and miles of groomed sand beaches.

7 thoughts on “North East, Pennsylvania

  1. You don’t ever read or hear much about train watching at the North East Museum, but this location has to be one of the best spots to watch trains anywhere. Two class one railroads in front of you with lots of action, plus a nice collection of railroad memorabilia inside and out at the museum.

  2. This looks like a nice no hassle place to hang out train watching for a while. Park bench and picnic table provided. Can’t beat that.

  3. Train watching is great in NE PA. but also at the Conneaut Ohio Railway museum and the Painesville Ohio Railway museum on depot St. north of town off N. St. State.

  4. Living about 25 miles in a straight line east of the museum, I’ve been there several times. A great place for rail fanning and checking out the museum when it’s open, along with the store inside it. Older locomotives and passenger cars on site add to the enjoyment of visiting here. At one time they gave Speeder rides and maybe still do during the season. An enjoyable place to visit. Last summer, 2015, NKP #765 went through and I saw it up the tracks to the east in Westfield, NY.

  5. The Lakeshore Museum in Northeast and Horseshoe Curve near Altoona are two of my favorite locations for train watching. They’re two of the best and busiest locations.

  6. Other nice train watching spots, very close nearby, include Bort Rd, and Gulf Rd, both east of the museum, and the railfan park in Harbocreek, west of the museum along Route 20.
    Bort Rd features a wooden bridge (one lane) overtop of CSX, and NS at grade just off the bridge. The bridge only clears double stack trains by inches, giving a very cool photo opportunity when a double stack is there. This is located just west of the I – 90 US 20 interchange, East of North East Pa.
    Gulf Rd goes under CSX, but the NS grade crossing is right next to the NS (ex NKP) Stateline trestle, offering a great shot of WB trains. Gulf Rd is just East of the I – 90 Us 20 interchange.
    West, in Harborcreek, the railfan park is along NS tracks, but offers watching of CSX as well, and GE test trains when they are operating, (which appears to not be much longer), and has a plaque that gives a history lesson on “The gauge wars” of the railroads in the area, along with a QR scan code for more information. It is located right on US 20, just west of Walmart, across from the Harborcreek township building, and has a couple of benches, and a small picnic area.
    My “go-to” spots when railfanning in the area, are either the museum, Bort Rd, Harborcreek railfan park, or, if CSX is the only goal, Walbridge Rd, in Harborcreek, just west of the railfan park. It (Walbridge Rd) does not offer a good watching location (and horrendous photo opportunity) for NS though, due to brush overgrowth. It does however contain 3 grade crossings in the span of about one city block, EEC (East Erie Commercial, aka GE Test track), CSX, then NS north to south.
    Glad to see an area nearby me getting a recognition for being a hot spot!

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