The Lehigh Valley Railroad's John Wilkes passenger train at Allentown Station in 1954. Click to enlarge.

(Self-Scanned, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



The John Wilkes, Trains 28 and 29, was a named passenger train of the Lehigh Valley Railroad running between New York Penn Station and Pittston, later Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The train was inaugurated in 1939 and discontinued in 1961.

The Name

Not to be confused with John Wilkes Booth (the stage actor who assassinated United States President Abraham Lincoln), the Lehigh Valley gave this explanation: “John Wilkes was an ardent defender of the American Colonial rights in the British House of Commons during the reign of George III and was honored in the naming of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It is fitting that his name is to be used again to designate this latest addition to the Lehigh Valley’s fleet, serving as it does Wilkes-Barre in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania, today the capital of this anthracite region.”


Two class K5 4-6-2 Pacific locomotives built in 1916 by Baldwin (Nos. 2101 and 2102) were rebuilt and streamlined with a bullet nose and vertical fins. The consist was typically nine cars. The coach cars were American Flyer cars built by Osgood Bradley with most other cars being converted heavyweight cars. All work was done at the Lehigh Valley's Sayre Shops with Otto Kuhler as the "consulting engineer".


Like many other railroads at the time, the Lehigh Valley experienced dwindling passenger business and petitioned the ICC to do away with all of their passenger service, which was granted and went into effect on February 4, 1961. The John Wilkes was one the last two operating long-distance passenger trains on the Lehigh Valley. The Lehigh Valley itself was gone by 1971.