The Lehigh Valley Railroad's Black Diamond passenger train pulls out of the Allentown Station in Pennsylvania, 1952. Click to  enlarge.

(Photo: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Black Diamond, also known as the Black Diamond Express, was the flagship passenger train of the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LV). It ran from New York to Buffalo from 1896 until May 11, 1959, when the Lehigh Valley's passenger service was reduced to four mainline trains.


Service between Jersey City, New Jersey and Buffalo began on 18 May 1896, It originally used the Pennsylvania Railroad's Exchange Place Station, where passengers could board ferries to station to New York. In 1913, the train was forced by the PRR to vacate the station so the eastern terminus was changed to the Central Railroad of New Jersey's Communipaw Terminal. That lasted only five years, as the United States Railroad Administration decided in 1918 to re-route all Lehigh Valley trains into New York Penn Station to centralize traffic. For most of its existence the Black Diamond used the Lehigh Valley Terminal in Buffalo. The Black Diamond competed with services offered by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and the New York Central Railroad; although slower than either of these, its level of service won it the nicknames "the Handsomest Train in the World" and "the Honeymoon Express." In 1940, the train was provided with the line's first set of lightweight streamlined coaches, designed by Otto Kuhler, who also designed streamlined shrouds for the existing 4-6-2 Pacific locomotives that hauled the train. Later, the Pacific engine was replaced by Alco's PA-1 diesels, which were painted Cornell red with black playing a secondary role. The black was used in a role similar to the "cat whiskers" that appeared on the PRR's GG-1's.

Prior to the cutback of the Black Diamond the Lehigh operated a counterpart night train from New York City to Buffalo, The Star. Between Sayre, Pennsylvania and Geneva, New York both the Black Diamond and the Star followed a secondary line, serving Ithaca and other Central New York cities, as opposed to following the LV's double-tracked main line slightly to the west.

The train had a branch originating in Philadelphia in conjunction with the Reading Railroad at the company's Reading Terminal. The branch would link up with the main part of the Black Diamond in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The train's last run was on May 11, 1959, due to widespread cuts to all Lehigh Valley passenger service. All LV passenger service ended on February 4, 1961.

Origin of name

The train was named for the railroad's major cargo, anthracite coal, which was known as "the black diamond" because of its exceptional hardness and high value. As a result, the railroad used "The Route of the Black Diamond" as its slogan.


The Lehigh Valley Railroad also operated trains No. 28 and No. 29 (the John Wilkes) which also boasted Otto Kuhler-designed streamlining shrouds very similar in design to the Black Diamond.

In popular culture

On April 23, 1927, Reverend A. W. Nix recorded a two-part singing sermon called "The Black Diamond Express to Hell," accompanied by his congregation. According to the lyrics, "Sin is the engineer, Pleasure is the headlight, and the Devil is the conductor." When the Black Diamond leaves the station "the bell is ringing, 'Hell-bound, Hell-bound' and the Devil cries out, 'All aboard for Hell.'"

The Black Diamond Express led by the Otto Kuhler-designed 4-6-2 streamlined Pacific steam locomotive. Click to enlarge.

(Photo: Collection of Kenneth M. Ardinger, via, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, cropped)



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: discontinued
Locale: Northeastern United States
Last service: 11 May 1959
Former operators: Lehigh Valley Railroad; Reading Railroad
Route Termini: New York, New York, Buffalo, New York
Distance traveled: 463.5 miles (745.9 km)
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: 9 (northwestbound), 10 (southeastbound)
On-board services
Seating arrangements coach
Catering facilities dining car
Observation facilities parlor car


Postcard photo of the famed Black Diamond westbound between New York City and Buffalo makes a station stop at Lehighton, PA, during the winter of 1959 with a brace of Alco PA passenger units on the head end. The RDC connection for the Hazelton branch may be seen at far right. By 1961 all Lehigh Valley passenger service was discontinued. Photo by Douglas Wornom. Click to enlarge. (Douglas Wornom, Audio-Visual Designs, Owen Davies, Public domain, via W. Lenheim Collection)



New York–Penn Station
South Plainfield
Flemington Junction
Jim Thorpe
White Haven
Clifton Springs
Rochester Junction


The Black Diamond Express between New York, Philadelphia, and Buffalo, ca. 1910.

(Public domain, via W. Lenheim Collection. Cropped)


Lehigh Valley 601: Famed for their high performance with such trains as the "Back Diamond" and the "Maple Leaf", Alco PA-1 rests besides the Lehigh Valley shops at Sayre, PA. The A-1-A truck configuration was noted for its ride and tracking. November 1964. Photo by Albert J. Derr. Click to enlarge. (Albert J. Derr, Audio Visual Designs, Earlton, NY, Public domain via W. Lenheim Collection)


Postcard photo of the Lehigh Valley Railroad's Black Diamond Express on the railroad's bridge at Athens, PA. Click to enlarge. (Messner-"the leading druggist in Athens" (lower left front), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Postcard photo of the Lehigh Valley Railroad's Black Diamond Express at Sayre, PA, circa 1900. Click to enlarge. (P.J. Weber, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

"Black Diamond Express", at the speed of 55 miles an hour. Lehigh Valley R.R., 1896. Click to enlarge. (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)


LVRR Black Diamond Express Monthly, 1906. Click to enlarge. (See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons -


Dining car corner Black Diamond Express. Click to enlarge. (Lehigh Valley Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Black Diamond Express kitchen in dining car. Click to enlarge. (Lehigh Valley Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)