Sometime in the early 1970’s, ConAgra purchased the former Lehigh Portland cement Company plant in Sandts Eddy, Pennsylvania. About a mile from Martin’s Creek, the plant was originally located along the Lehigh & New England Railroad’s Martin’s Creek Branch. The portion of the Martin’s Creek branch between Uhlers and the EL/PC connection at Martin’s Creek was removed by the CNJ-controlled Lehigh & New England Railway in the late 1960’s.
In order to provide rail service to the new grain facility, about a mile of the LNE right of way was restored, and the EL served ConAgra via its Bangor and Portland branch. One of my earliest railfan disappointments occurred while I was still in high school. When my parents were out of town, I would stay with my sister, who lived in Bangor. I would frequently visit the EL facility in Bangor to watch the local action. One day, freight agent Bob Stafford mentioned to me, “You should have been here yesterday. A grain train with an A-B-B-A set of F-units went down to ConAgra yesterday.” Here, a newly-arrived former BN GP9 has been purchased by the mill as a plant switcher. For some reason, a blue shade very close to Conrail blue has been chosen for the unit, which has repeatedly been mistakenly identified as being ex-Conrail.
The area around the Lehigh Portland Cement facility had its share of industrial tragedy. On March 26, 1942, 4000 sticks of dynamite at the cement company’s quarry ignited, creating an explosion that killed 31 employees, and shattered windows for miles around. The blast was felt in Camden, New Jersey, some 50 miles away. A newsreel describing the tragedy can be seen here.
In 1947, a young war veteran, 23-year-old Frederick Suranofsky, was working as a Lehigh & New England brakeman with a crew that was switching in Sandts Eddy. Around 4:00 am he was on top of a box car when lightning struck and killed him. While I’m sure this type on tragedy has occurred elsewhere, this is the only instance of which I am personally aware.