A Collection of Short Stories about Railroads – Book One








Coal tower on former Michigan Central between New Buffalo and Michigan City (photo by the author)



I have been confronted with several mysteries and have either solved them or am looking for solutions. Perhaps some of my readers can help.

One mystery that I have solved with the help of Bob Lowe and Len Gordy is the New York City subway that terminates at 34th Street.

There are basically two “D” lines in operation at this time in order to reduce the traffic across the being-repaired Manhattan Bridge. One stem comes from 205th Street in the Bronx and terminates at 34th St. and 6th Avenue. There is a shuttle down 6th Avenue to Grand Street.

The other “D” train starts at 57th St. and Seventh Avenue and travels the old Brighton line out to Coney Island.

The two truncated lines are like night and day. The former has old equipment that is grafiti-strewn, broken doors and unreliable. Needless to say, it traverses the Harlem-Grand Concourse line. By contrast, the southern line has the newest cars (R-68’s) and enjoys a more middle-class clientel in its journey across Brooklyn.

Presumably this split line will continue until the Manhattan Bridge repairs are completed (whenever that is).

Once there were over 2000 coin lockers in Grand Central Terminal for checking packages. What happened to them? This question was posed by a fan who accompanies me to the city and would really like to make use of them.

The ex-New Haven line from New Haven to Northampton Mass (Canal Line) is now operated by B&M (Springfield Terminal). The line is cut between Cheshire and New Haven with access only from the north. A bridge at Milldale CT is out of service and appears under repair but nothing has been happening to it for several months. South of this bridge is a B&M crane. How will Guilford get this crane out of there or do they plan to scrap in place?

Incidentally, the Metro-North police force is not solving too many mysteries these days as they are concentrating most of their efforts on enforcing the no smoking ban on their trains.

(Published 1988)



In 1948 when there was a coal strike, Harry Truman threatened to take over the nation’s railroads. Coal-burning locomotives were restricted to 60% of their normal mileage. Even with diesel locomotives running around the clock, rail traffic clogged up. The takeover didn’t happen. It all involved Harry Truman and John L. Lewis.

John L. Lewis was president of the United Mine Workers Union from 1920-1960. He was a giant among American leaders in the first half of the twentieth century, regularly advising presidents and challenging America’s corporate leaders. His work to organize the country’s industrial workers through the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s helped raise living standards for millions of American families.

Most impressive picture I have ever seen ANYWHERE is a 1940 poster of John L. Lewis at the Carbondale (Pennsylvania) historic society. The huge picture is at the top of a flight of stairs and IT IS AWSOME! In 1940, Lewis had considered running for President.

(Picture above) Creation of the UMWA Welfare Fund, May 29, 1946. Pictured seated from left are President Harry Truman, Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug and Lewis


Stores and Mass Transit

Here is a possibility. You take public transit to the home improvment store, buy all the stuff that you want, and have them deliver it with their large flat bed trucks. One place that we deal with does that for free. Even if they charged you a fee, it would likely be less than operating and maintaining a truck for such runs. Or, if you want to go to the grocery store, you could buy all the stuff that you want, and have them deliver it, again, free or fee, still most likely cheaper than running a car all around town. As a plus, the delivery service also employs people, which we all like to see.

And this is “exactly” the way it used to be! Customers would call the grocery store and they would deliver the order or they would take the trolley (later the bus) downtown, shop at the large department stores, take the packages to a special customer lounge/waiting area/shipping area/storage locker/post office department to be delivered to their home the next day or so, and then perhaps have lunch at the store’s lunch counter before taking the trolley or bus back home.

Now, the customer could still take the bus there, but it only runs every two hours (or every 4 or only once a day in other areas of the city), the department stores don’t have the waiting area or the delivery service or the lunch counter, and..for some reason the department stores are all going broke and closing departments and even entire stores.

I’m not sure which one started cutting back first, the public transit or the downtown merchants, but they each needed the other to lure the customers in and, without one the other was no longer viable. If the stores don’t deliver, I have to drive my car to take my purchases home, so public transit suffers (but the parking lot operators win). If the trolley doesn’t run where and when I need, I have to drive so I may as well take my purchases with me anyway, leaving the delivery service sporadically used and looking like a real good place for the store to cut costs. It’s called “infrastructure”, and you can’t eliminate one part of it without losing the rest as the dominoes topple…it’s also hard to build it a piece at a time, of course, because each part needs the other part(s) to justify building it in the first place. It grew up naturally before we had good roads and good individual transportation. I really don’t see how we’re “ever” going to recover that environment until eventually, perhaps, when our fossil fuels run out in a few hundred or thousand years.


Troy and Albany Passenger Trains in 1939


The “Information Superhighway”, sometimes called the Internet, has several “discussion groups”. One or more of these are railroad related. Some of the computer “chatter” on the Internet relates to the old railroads of New York and New England. Joe Brennan of New York City found some interesting facts from his 1939 NY Central timetable. Regarding the Boston and Maine train 59, “The Minute Man”, 1939…

Boston 3:50–Troy 8:45 (all times p.m.)
Troy 9:02–Albany 9:22
Albany 9:45–Chicago

Study reveals the facts of the matter to be a New York Central Troy–Albany local as the link. He notes that train 5611 shown in the full B&M timetable for the line, running just the last 16 miles to Troy, shown are Troy 8:22 and then the same times Troy–Albany. It requires a turn to the Rutland RR page to find this is Rutland train 56 from Rutland to Troy, running as B&M 5611 on the B&M’s tracks.

B&M 59 passed just one sleeper to the NYC at Troy. The B&M parlor came off at Troy along with the coaches. Thus everyone other than sleeper passengers had to change at Troy to coaches on the NYC local, and then again at Albany. The Rutland train 56 (B&M 5611) was only coaches and ended at Troy, so their passengers changed too– this is not made explicit in the Rutland timetable but is seen in the equipment list.

Turning to the NY Central itself… The Troy–Albany locals are listed in a little table printed sideways, just a list of depart times from each city with “approximate running time 25 minutes”. We see the 9:02 Troy time. This local carried the B&M sleeper, besides local coaches.

The NY Central train Albany–Chicago was NYC 19, “Lake Shore Limited”. Interestingly, it carried not only the sleeper leaving Boston North Station 3:50 via the B&M, but also one leaving Boston South Station at exactly the same time via the NYC’s Boston and Albany. The B&A train also had a second sleeper to Chicago taken by NYC 17 “The Wolverine”, leaving Albany 45 minutes earlier but arriving Chicago 15 minutes later. The B&A sleeper into 19 sat at Albany for 55 minutes (a tight 10 minutes into 17), while the B&M sleeper spent 17 minutes at Troy and 23 minutes at Albany. B&A coach passengers had to change at Albany as against two changes for the B&M coach passengers.

The Rutland train 56 advertised a connection south to New York, unlike the connection west for the “Minute Man”. This could have meant a reasonable if unadvertised Boston-New York route via B&M, but the Rutland connection is shown as arriving Grand Central at a very late 4:45 a.m. The time leaving Albany is not shown, and only the NYC timetable reveals it to be 1:15 a.m., just 7 minutes shy of four hours at Albany! The only earlier connecting train south was the West Shore 12:30 a.m., which reached Weehawken 4:25 a.m. and foot of 42d St at 4:40 a.m., no big advantage over the Grand Central train unless a ferry ride under the stars sounds good; and the Grand Central train also offered sleepers.

Two other B&M trains connected at Troy for Albany, with waits of 15 and 20 minutes respectively. In 1934, the B&M sleeper (arriving Albany 9:10) is picked up by NYC 47 “The Detroiter” at Albany 9:43 and dropped at Buffalo, not a scheduled passenger stop for 47, where it is then picked up by 19 “Lake Shore Limited” about an hour later. The reason seems to be that 19 had to drop cars from New York to the Adirondacks at Utica; taking the B&M car at Buffalo is simpler than juggling the cars at Albany or Utica. However, coach passengers off the B&M and Troy local had to wait at Albany for 19, since 47 has no coaches, only pullmans! Thus the B&M’s sleeper and coach passengers rode separate trains from Albany to Buffalo, but neither had to get out and change at Buffalo.

In 1940, all timetabled B&M passenger trains went via Troy. The trackage from Mechanicville to Rotterdam Junction was for freight service and it shows D&H trains as “scheduled”.

Troy was essentially a passenger only route, except for one local freight a day. Main interchange with D&H was Mechanicville and with NYC at Rotterdam Jct. There were thru freights from DeWitt (Syracuse) until the traffic left the B&M to run Conrail via Worcester. B&M also ran a train or two into Selkirk yard once a day; ran up to Rotterdam Jct, switched ends and went into Selkirk. They had several engines equipped with NYC style train control for this service.


RailwayStation.com has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.
Here’s some interesting questions and answers:

What is “head-end” traffic?

Mail, express, baggage, newspapers and milk in cans, usually transported in cars nearest the locomotive, are known to railroad men as “head-end” traffic.

What is the volume of United States mail handled by steam railroads?

It is estimated that 6,279,288,000 pounds of mail were handled by the Post Office Department in the year ended June 30, 1941, of which it is estimated over 5,800,000,000 pounds, or more than 92 per cent, were handled by the railroads.

How many pieces of mail are handled by the Railway Mail Service of the Post Office Department?

The Postmaster General reported that 17,419,-706,240 pieces of mail of all classes, including redistributions, were handled by the Railway Mail Service during the year ended June 30, 1941.

On what basis are the railroads paid for the transportation of United States mails?


Railroads are paid on a space basis, regardless of the weight of mail carried. A railroad enters into a contract with the Post Office Department to carry a specified number of mail cars daily in specified trains over a specified route. Mail cars are owned by the railroads, but are built according to Post Office Department specifications. On many light traffic lines, where full-sized mail cars are not required, the railroads provide compartments or space in baggage, express or combination cars for the handling of mail. Railroads which were built with land-grant aid carry United States mails for 20 per cent less than standard space rates.

What proportion of United States postal service revenues goes to the railroad for mail transportation?

For transporting United States mails during the year ended June 30, 1941, the railroads received 14.6 per cent, or about one-seventh, of total ordinary postal revenues. Ordinary postal revenues do not include receipts from postal savings and post office money orders. The above figures include payments for carrying parcel post and second and third class mails, as well as first class letter mail on which the postage is 3 cents or more. For carrying first class mail, the railroads receive an average of about 1/5 of I cent per letter, or approximately 1/15 of the postal revenues collected by the government on this class of mail.

How many federal government employees are assigned to Railway Mail Service?

The personnel of the Railway Mail Service on June 30, 1941, consisted of 20,584 officers and employees, of whom 19,486 were postal clerks.

Can letters and other first-class United States mail be posted in any standard railway mail car?

Yes, if bearing the proper postage. Each standard mail car, used for collecting and distributing mail enroute, is equipped with two mail drops, one on either side, and letters and other first-class mail deposited in these drops receive prompt attention.

What was the cost of sending mail across the continent before the introduction of railway transportation?

The Pony Express, inaugurated in the spring of 1860, first charged $5.00 for each letter of one-half ounce or less. The charge was later reduced to $2.50 a half ounce, and finally, in consideration of a government subsidy, the price was reduced to $1.00 a half ounce. These prices were in addition to the regular United States postage.

What is the extent of Railway Express Agency operations?

The Railway Express Agency, which provides the American people with express service, conducts business through 23,000 offices and uses in its operations more than 201,000 miles of railway lines, 21,000 miles of steamship lines, 41,000 miles of air lines, and 14,000 miles of motor-truck lines. The Express Agency owns and operates a fleet of around 14,000 motor trucks for the pick-up, transfer and delivery of express shipments. Fifty-seven thousand persons are employed in the performance of its far-flung transportation service. More than 172,000,000 separate shipments were handled by the Express Agency in 1941. Although its principal operations are in the United States, Railway Express Agency, through its connections, provides patrons with international service.

What is the service of the Railway Express Agency?

With its co-ordinated system of fast railway, airway, steamship and motor-truck service, the Railway Express Agency provides the American people with speedy and dependable express transportation throughout the United States and in foreign lands. The Agency handles a great diversity of traffic, in packages, boxes, crates, cases, bags, cans, cages, cartons and other containers, and in specially built or equipped cars. Its services include the transportation of wild animals for zoos and circuses; birds, dogs, cats and other family pets; race horses; fish; plants and flowers; strawberries; motion picture films; hats; gowns; precious stones; jewelry; musical instruments; furniture; clothing, shoes and an endless variety of other articles, large and small, perishable and non-perishable; fragile and unbreakable; animate and inanimate. The Agency performs complete pickup and delivery service, collecting shipments without extra charge from homes, offices, factories and other places of business and delivering them to the doors of consignees in important towns and cities in all parts of the country. In addition to its own pick-up system, the Agency has an arrangement with the Western Union Telegraph Company whereby express shipments are accepted at any Western Union office or are called for by Western Union messengers at no extra cost to the shipper.

Are express shipments moved in passenger trains?

For more than a century, express shipments have been carried in passenger trains on the American railroads. The customary location of the express car is behind the locomotive. Railway Express Agency traffic moves in about 10,000 passenger trains daily. Many trains which handle express shipments exclusively are operated between the larger cities at passenger train speeds.

When were United States mails first carried by rail?

The first known instance of United States mail being transported by rail occurred on the South Carolina Railroad, extending westward from Charleston, S. C. in November, 1831. On or about January 1, 1832, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad began carrying mail between Baltimore and Frederick, Md. Shortly after the opening of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad between Baltimore and Washington in 1835, a car was fitted with a compartment for carrying United States mails between the two cities. The first cars equipped especially for distributing and pouching mail in transit for dispatch to connecting routes were put in service on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad (now part of the Burlington) in July, 1862.

What was the origin of railway express service in America?

William F. Harnden, pioneer passenger train conductor, after a few years in the service of the Boston & Worcester Railroad (now a part of the New York Central) conceived the idea of becoming a messenger for banking houses, merchants and other business interests in New York and Boston. He entered into a contract with the Boston & Providence Railroad (now the New York, New Haven & Hartford) and a steamship plying between New York and Providence, to carry on his messenger business over their lines. Starting on March 4, 1839, with a large carpet-bag, Harnden traveled regularly between New York and Boston, the world’s first express messenger. His business grew rapidly; a special package car was put into service; offices were opened in New York and Boston; assistants were employed; the service was extended to Philadelphia and other cities, until Harnden & Company became an international institution. In the meantime many competitive enterprises were started. Harnden died in 1845, but the express business which he founded grew with the development of the railroads and the country.


Last Steam on the New York Central


May 2, 1957 Last steam locomotive operates on the New York Central as 2-8-2 Class H -7a 1977 drops its fires at Riverside Yard in Cincinnati. In the book, “Diesel Locomotives of the New York Central System” by W.D. Smith with H.L. Vail and C.M. Smith, on page #5, there is a photo. The engineer on the last run was A.N. Weidner who ended a 50 year railroad career on that day.

The New York Central System’s fleet of class H (2-8-2 type) locomotives was built in the 1910s and 1920s for main line freight service, but most were soon supplanted in that role by the Mohawks (4-8-2 type) and, on the Boston & Albany, the Berkshires (2-8-4 type). Nevertheless they soldiered on into the beginnings of the diesel era in local freight, branch line or yard transfer service. Indeed, a class H7 2-8-2 was the last steam locomotive to be operated by the New York Central.

Last steam on the “other end” Court Street, Kankakee to Hill Yard Indianapolis was Extra 2849 East on June 27, 1956.

June 30, 1956. Last run of Niagara 6015 in passenger service, train no. 416, Indianapolis to Cincinnati on account of a diesel failure. Departed Indianapolis 34 minutes late, arrived Cincinnati 6 minutes late. July 2, 1956. Returned to Indianapolis in freight service, train CC-3. Final run.

The seven A-2a’s built for the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie in 1948 was the last steam order for both Alco and the New York Central.

Nearly a century of steam locomotive history ended on September 25, 1952 when the last steam locomotive to be repaired there, J-1 “Hudson” No. 5270, left the New York Central’s West Albany Shops.


See The Last Steam Run on NY Central East of Buffalo (LINES EAST)


From roster books, there were 351 steam locos on the roster as of 1-1-1956. There were still 15 classes and 9 wheel arrangements. Quite likely most of these ran at least some revenue miles in 1955 which was the last year steam was used to any considearable extent. Within the first months of 1956 all of the fastest, newest and most powerful engines were retired. It was always easier to pay off new diesels by assigning them to the busiest traffic. All 49 remaining Js as well as 6 remaining niagaras and 7 P&LE 2-8-4s were retired in this period. By 1-1-57 122 engines remained mostly older types for local and switching service. This dropped to 27 by 1-1-58 and 25 by 1-1-59.

There is a big difference between engines shown as still being on the roster and supposedly serviceable but sitting in dead lines and engines under steam that were actually working whether in switching or pulling trains out on the road. Of the 122 engines remaining by 1-1-57 how many were actually in steam? I believe most if not all were stored serviceable either in roundhouses or sitting outside in case there was a sudden upturn in business and they ran short of diesels. If not, they could not use that particular locomotive.

On the Michigan Central’s Canada Southern or Canada Division as late as February 1957 2-8-0’s and 0-8-0’s in action. By the end of April 1957 they were all done.



Indianapolis Union Railway

The Indianapolis Union Railway Company succeeded in 1883 to the enterprise inaugurated in 1853 by the Union Railway Company. The company operated fourteen miles of track known as the Belt Railroad, which was double-tracked and extended around the city, and also had a mile of track in the city, connecting the Belt with the Union Passenger Station, which was also owned by this company. The station was one of the finest in the United States, had a train shed 300 x 650 feet, and had a handsome three-story brick building surmounted by a lofty tower, which was a beautiful structure in Romanesque architecture, used for offices and waiting rooms of the station. Over one million freight cars were handled annually over the Belt Railroad. It was the first switching railroad to be built in the country, and transferred freight from factory switches to all roads.


Central Indiana Railway

Incorporated 16 March 1903, the Central Indiana Railway Company was operated jointly by the Chicago and Southeastern Railway Company (Big Four) and the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Chicago and Southeastern Railway Company had acquired the trackage from the Midland Railway Company in 1891. The Central Indiana ran from Muncie to Brazil, Indiana, but was never a profitable company. Poor maintenance on the line, the use of old equipment, and the increased use of automobiles were reasons for line’s demise. In September 1928 the Interstate Commerce Commission approved a petition by the railway’s board of directors to abandon the track between Muncie and Anderson, Ladoga and Waveland, and from Sand Creek to Brazil. The Advance-Ladoga section was abandoned in 1929. The last abandonment occurred between Lebanon and Advance in 1943. Ike Duffey, an Anderson, Ind., meat packer purchased the remaining portion of the line (between Anderson and Lebanon) in 1951. Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) took over the line in 1976.


New York Central’s Fall Brook Subdivision


In 1873, the Blossburg and Corning Railroad and the Wellsboro and Lawrenceville Railroad were merged to form the Corning, Cowanesque and Antrim Railway. Owned largely by the Fall Brook Coal Company, the CC&A was reorganized in 1892 as a part of the Fall Brook Railway, which, via three additional holdings, the Geneva and Lyons Railroad, the Syracuse, Geneva and Corning Railway, and the Pine Creek Railway, offered through passenger service between Lyons, New York, and Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

In 1899 the Fall Brook Railway was leased to the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, which was in turn reorganized in 1914 as the New York Central Railroad. All ex-Fall Brook lines were operated as the Fall Brook Subdivision of Central’s Pennsylvania Division. The New York Central was succeeded in 1968 by the Penn Central Transportation Company, which was itself succeeded in 1976 by Conrail.

In 1988 Conrail ceased operation of its line between Wellsboro Junction and Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, leaving only the line between Gang Mills (near Corning), New York, and Wellsboro, and making the name “Wellsboro Junction” something of an anachronism. With this abandonment, the remaining line became and continues to be the only railroad in Pennsylvania’s Tioga County.

On December 31,1992, Conrail ceased operation between Gang Mills and Wellsboro. So that freight service might be maintained, the line was purchased by Growth Resources of Wellsboro (GROW) and began a new life as the Wellsboro and Corning Railroad. Tioga Central began operating passenger excursion trains over the Wellsboro and Corning in May, 1994.


Dayton Union Railway


The first train to run into Dayton occurred on Jan. 27, 1851. It ran from Springfield to Dayton over the newly constructed tracks of the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad Co. The MR&LE RR went through a number of name changes, but eventually became the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Ry. (Big 4). By 1854 six railroads had made their way to Dayton, and laid the basis for the railroads that run through Dayton today. Although some of the names were different at the time of their construction, the six railroads were the CCC&St.L (NYC), PRR, CH&D (B&O), Dayton & Union (Union City, Ind. now part of the B&O), and Cincinnati, Lebanon & Northern (FRR Lytle branch).

Sometime in the early 1850’s the first of the “big time” stations was built.

The 3rd Dayton station was built, this time on the north side of the tracks across from the older station, and consisted of a considerably larger structure with a large clock tower, a covered promenade along Ludlow St., five station tracks, and three station platforms (the longest was 750 ft.). A corporation called the Dayton Union Railway Co. was formed by the CCC&St.L (NYC), CH&D (B&O), and PRR to build and operate the new station.

The next step in the evolution of Dayton Union Station came in 1924 when the City Plan Board of Dayton made a comprehensive study of the elevation of tracks through downtown Dayton. For years grade crossing elimination had been on the minds of Dayton’s citizens, and the interest intensified with the development of the automobile. In those days Dayton saw about 66 passenger trains and 100 freight trains daily. In September 1925 formal conferences started between city officials and the railroad engineers, with a general plan developed in July 1926. In November 1927 a bond issue was passed by the citizens of Dayton to cover the city’s share of the cost of the elevation project (35%). Detailed plans were completed; contracts were finalized; and right-of-way was secured before the actual work began on March 5, 1930. The first train to run over any of the elevation occurred on Dec. 15, 1930, and the first train to use the entire elevation was a PRR local from Xenia at 4:30 PM on Jan. 15, 1931. All street level operations were abandoned on Sept. 30, 1931. Along with the track elevation came major changes to the station and the operation of trains through Dayton. As for the station, the structure built in 1900 remained basically unchanged, but the platforms were obviously raised, with a new waiting area, Post Office and REA facilities, and station offices being built underneath.

With the steadily increasing interest in the automobile, and decreasing concern with the passenger train (we all know that story), the City of Dayton became interested in bettering the traffic flows in the downtown area in the early 1960’s. In doing so, the city wanted to extend 6th Street to Wilkinson Street, but Union Station sat right in the way. Since the station was deteriorating somewhat and was really larger than it needed to be, considering the steady decline in passenger trains, there was no choice but to tear it down. The City purchased the station, tore it down, and built the new street. On May 1, 1971, Amtrak took over the former Pennsylvania Railroad Columbus-Indianapolis passenger train and discontinued the other routes through Dayton. This Amtrak service lasted until October 1, 1979, when the last passenger train through Dayton was discontinued.


Niagara River Bridge Company


The first Michigan Central Railway Bridge was located just South of the Whirlpool Bridge and was built for rail traffic only.

The Michigan Central Railway Bridge was the dream of owner/businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt needed a rail link between Canada and the USA, but was not prepared to pay the high rental price which the owners of the Lower Arch Bridge were asking for in lieu of using their bridge.

Mr. Vanderbilt owned the Michigan Central Railway and had controlling interest in the Canadian Southern Railway. In lieu of paying rent, he decided to build a new bridge. Vanderbilt formed the Niagara River Bridge Company and received a charter to build a new bridge.

From old bridge plaque:

Niagara River Bridge Company
Cornelius Vanderbilt, President
James Tillingham, Vice-President

Built by
Central Bridge Works, Buffalo
Geo. S. Fields, Manager
C.V. W. Kitridge, Treasurer
Edmond Hayes, Engineer

Length of Bridge 906 feet
Work commenced April 15th, 1883
Completed December 1st, 1883

A new bridge was built in 1925.

Now owned by CP and CN


Some “Paper Railroads”

I found some information on the Owasco River Railway.
It was 4 miles long and located in Auburn, NY.
From a list of
very short lines, I found out it once had 2 locomotives.
The Owasco River Railway was built in Auburn, NY sometime in the middle 1800’s to service many mills along the Owasco River. NYC acquired control in 1929 and regular NYC equipment was assigned from that point forward. Trackage was abandoned after 1966, but the corporate shell still existed as a landowner. In consequence, there are lots of landowners who sincerely believe their land was once the line of the “Owasco River Railway”.
So! At one time it was a “real” railroad.

In late 1978, Amtrak reopened Buffalo’s Exchange Street Station after a $6 million program to restore service to Niagara Falls. The carrier operated four daily trains each way through Buffalo–the Boston/New York-Chicago Lake Shore Limited (which skips Exchange Street); the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf; and the New York-Niagara Falls Empire State Express and Niagara Rainbow. Ownership of Central Terminal remained with Penn Central (through subsidiary Owasco River Railway), which reorganized as a nonrail entity.

After several false starts, Central Terminal, offered at $1.2 million, was finally sold-in July 1979 to local businessman Anthony Fedele and Galesi Realty of Paterson, N.J., for $75,000! They planned a hotel/recreational/civic complex. But the tenants had left (Conrail the month before to offices in the downtown National Gypsum building) or were departing (Amtrak on October 28 to Depew Station in Cheektowaga to the east). Fifty years, 4 months, and 5 days after it opened, the Terminal was without passenger trains.

I’ve notice similar real estate transactions. The NYC and later PC used the Owasco River Ry, along with many other older RRs it owned, to handle all their real estate.

When Penn Central conveyed much of its rail property to Conrail in 1976 there were some segments, such as the Metro-North Hudson Line from MO to CP75 above Poughkeepsie, that were not conveyed as they were subject to long term leases. Those properties were conveyed to the Owasco River Railway, Inc. Thus Owasco is the fee owner of the Hudson Line and the New York & Harlem RR is the owner of the Harlem Line. Both, of course, are leased to MTA and operated/maintained by Metro-North.

While PC could have retained the fee to the Hudson Line, subject to the MTA lease, their management did not want to own any railroad property as they planned to reorganize as a non-rail entity.

For one year, from 10-01-79 through 09-30-80, the line from Red Creek to Hannibal was operated by Ontario Midland. There was only one active customer, Barker Chemical, a fertilizer dealer at Hannibal. At the end of the year, the two counties involved (Cayuga and…..Oswego???) were not interested in participating in any subsidy and the line was abandoned. The Owasco River RR, a “paper” company left over from NYC/LV days, was the sales agent for such segments.

Anyway, at one time, the Owasco River Railway was a real railroad in Auburn NY that was a local switching railroad serving several industries along the Owasco River. The RR was controlled by the NY Central. They had their own power early on eventually having the NYC supply its engines, most noteably the shroaded shays from New York City (also served on the Genesee Falls Railway). In diesel years it was a small GE 70 ton centercab engine and then regular NYC power. The road also provided interchange with the Lehigh Valley in Auburn.

Other railroads did the same thing. The Erie had used the old Avon, Geneseo & Mt. Morris RR to handle their real estate transactions on their old line to Geneseo and Mt. Morris long after the branch was abandon. It was called the AG&M Real Estate Co.

A big “paper railroad” that still exists after everything around it went away is the New York & Harlem Railroad.
It was chartered 1831, built a line from New York City to Chatham, then leased to the New York Central in 1873 for 401 years. Funny thing, it still exists and owns a lot of New York City real estate including Grand Central Terminal!


Niagara Junction Railway


Niagara Junction Railroad operated in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and had 11 route miles / 44 track miles (all electrified).

In 1976, there were 10 “motor’s” working the Niagara Jct. Railroad. The seven locomotives ordered in 1952 from the General Electric Company, were the largest single order for GE style locomotives at that time, allowing the NJ to remain all-electric after almost every other common carrier had gone diesel. The Niagara Junction was taken over by Conrail on April 1, 1976, when the locomotives were re-numbered to Conrail’s 4750 series in August 1977. Electric operation was discontinued in January 1978, when the NJ #14-20 were barely 26 years old! By 1980, Conrail had moved entirely to diesel power and had scrapped four of the “Juice Boxes.” 1983 saw the remaining six sold for scrap value. Metro-North Railroad bought the three and outfitted all three with “third rail” pickup’s so they could be used around and under NYC’s Grand Central Terminal. In 1998 the last three units were placed in a “dead line,” their fate unknown.

The Niagara Junction operated strictly in the City of Niagara Falls except for Foote Yard, which I believe is actually in the Town Of Niagara. The engine house was located on Hyde Park Blvd. Extension in the city of Niagara Falls. The building is and track are still there, but Conrail couldn’t wait to get the overhead wiring down.

Before Conrail, Niagara Junction was controlled by the Erie.



Coal tower at Cedar Hill in New Haven (photo by the author)

On U.S. 12 between New Buffalo and Michigan City (Conrail) there is a huge old coaling tower (spans two tracks). I have wondered why it was never torn down. Recently, an Internet discussion group brought up the subject of old coaling towers. Most remaining coal and sand towers are all of heavily reinforced concrete and seem to have been built after 1940 or so, when railroads were trying to cut freight transit time by eliminating yarding of trains and engines wherever possible. These towers were built over the mainline and usually included sanding and watering facilities (If you look closely around the base of the tower you’ll probably still see a concrete pad where the water column once stood). The only reason they’re still around today is they were so strongly built that the mainline would have to be shut down for at least a couple of days so it could be removed. It’s cheaper to leave it there! Besides the large concrete tower in the New Haven RR’s Cedar Hill (New Haven, Conn) which I know well, there are others (my partial list) at:

Railroad Location Comment
C&O Beaver Run, WV near Beckley
C&O Charlottesville, VA east of station
C&O Hinton, WV not much left
C&O Newport News, VA at coal terminal
CNW(UP) Boone, Iowa over two tracks
CNW(UP) Dekalb, IL over two tracks
CNW(UP) Nelson, IL
CP Toronto, ON John Street
Erie (CR) Meadville, PA 2 tracks
IC McComb, MS built 1950’s just before diesels
L&N (CSX) Nashville, TN Radnor Yard: roof missing
Monon (CSX) Lafayette, IN
N&W Bluefield, VA
N&W Vicker, VA serves 3 or 4 tracks
Nevada Northern Ely, NE working condition
SP Deming, NM
NYC Collingwood, OH yard at E152nd street
IC Lambert, Miss Yazoo District
Pere Marquette Grand Haven, MI in a park with an old box car, two cabooses and the old Pere Marquette 1223, a 2-8-4 from Alco
LIRR Jamaica, NY east of Jamaica Station in Queens
PRR Renovo, PA

Hope these (and others) all stay in place for everyone to see!


Maybrook yard coal tower unused in 1968.

Photo by Roger Liller

See more on the New Haven’s Maybrook Yard and read our collection of journals about the Maybrook Yard.


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