Amsterdam, Chuctanunda and Northern Railroad

amsterdam

Here’s an old map of Amsterdam (courtesy of Russ Nelson) which shows the Kellogg’s Branch (Amsterdam, Chuctanunda and Northern Railroad) leaving the New York Central mainline which runs on the East side of the Mohawk River.

Across the Mohawk River, is the West Shore Railroad.

Another, more detailed, map of the Kellogg Branch from Gino’s Rail Page, shows the entire extent of the branch. Careful! It’s BIG

In the Amsterdam, New York, area, a short spur leaves the old New York Central mainline and goes up a hill to the upper portion of Amsterdam. Once this was a separate railroad. It has continued as a branch under Penn Central, Conrail, and now CSX.

It is known as the Kellogg Industrial or by CSX as “CP-173 -to- QCG1.60”.

Here’s what the branch looks like:

CP-173: Chicago Line: Kellogg’s Yard QCG0.00
New York State Route 5 Undergrade Bridge QCG0.33
Chuctanunda Creek Bridge QCG0.98
Vrooman Avenue Grade Crossing QCG1.20
James Street Grade Crossing QCG1.40
Church Street Grade Crossing QCG1.49
Jay Street Grade Crossing QCG1.49
End Of Track QCG1.60

The Kellogg Branch was actually a separate railroad corporation: The Amsterdam, Chucktanunda and Northern Railroad Company. The Kellogg family owned it, and had built it (1879) to serve the their mills on the hill in upper Amsterdam. The NYC leased the RR (1907) and operated it. This railroad corporation used to show up in “Moody’s Railroads” as late as 1954 and shows it extending “about 1 mile” from the NYC main line to Jay St., Amsterdam. The AC&N owned the right-of-way, and NYCRR owned the track, aggregating about 2.71 miles including side tracks. There were 200 shares of stock outstanding, with a par value of $100, all owned by Lauren Kellog and Elizabeth K. Swift. It paid a dividend of 14.75 in 1953.

1959 Employee Timetable shows equipment restrictions as cranes X-13 to X-16 and engines nos. 526 to 566, 1000 to 5104, 6600 to 6903. The cranes were all 250-ton wrecking cranes, and the engine restrictions essentially prohibited cab units. The maximum gross weight for cars operated without special authority on the Mohawk Division at the time was 220,000 lbs (nominal 70 ton capacity) and there were no additional weight restrictions on the Branch. In 1950, the restriction read: engines heavier than U-2a, U-2b, U-2d and U-2f must not operate over the Kellogs Branch. (those were 0-8-0’s).

It is one of the steepist adhesion railroad grades in service in the country.

The Kellog’s Branch was established in the late 1800’s as a connection for the Kellogg and Miller Linseed Oil operation. Remains of this can be seen behind the present Dunkin Donuts on Route 67 in Amsterdam. The line was extended to the Sanford Carpet Mills, present day Noteworthy Printing.

NY Central named the line the Kellogg’s Branch and for some reason, Conrail refered to it as “The Kellog’s Branch.” Why they dropped the last ‘G’, who knows.

In 1905, a spur was built off the Branch (Originally called the Linseed Oil Branch) headed north to the Mclarey and Wallins Carpet Mills, later Mohawk Mills. A large wooden trestle was built across a ravine to reach the plant. There was a steam generating plant there as well, which facilitated another trestle, this one made of stone. Parts of the trestle are still on the property. The smoke stack, seen all over Amsterdam and as you made your way up the NYS Thruway was just knocked down recently.

Sometime in the 1960s, a spur was built to Fiberglass Industries in the Edison Ave. Industrial Park. This is THE sole remaining customer.

The line was abandoned from the FGI spur north around 1990. Some of the last customers on the line were a paper company, COLECO toys (Former Sanford Mill) and a lumber yard just north of the FGI switch. The trestles were removed sometime in the 1990’s. There were several impressive ones. The two at Mohawk Mills, and a large wooden trestle that curved over the Chuctanunda Creek near the Forest Ave. Paper Mill.

A Conrail caboose was used to push up the branch, but after a derailment in 2004 it was moved to the CSX interchange where it has sat ever since. In 2006, 3 trips are made a week, usually Monday, Wednesday. and Friday. Inbound covered hoppers of sand come in and emptys go out.

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Plant no longer generates power but is sight to behold

The 1920s building’s operation ‘was a monument to the optimism of the region and the time’

One of the most striking architectural landmarks in our area is a former coal-burning power plant built on the Mohawk River/Barge Canal in the town of Florida east of Amsterdam.

Dave Northrup, an Amsterdam native, has written an illustrated booklet on the power plant, published by Mountain Air Books, called “Adirondack Power and Light: Amsterdam Steam Generating Station.”

Work began on the massive facility in 1920. The architects were McKee, Kim and White, the people who designed the original Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The power company hired its own construction workers and put up a boarding house for 70 of them on the site.In front of the main building and directly on the river bank, a smaller white building called the crib house was constructed. This structure took in water from the river that was heated in the larger building to become steam.

Within 15 months, work was completed on the steam plant, which at first had just two towering black smokestacks on top.

Hard anthracite coal was delivered to the facility by rail from coal fields in Pennsylvania. The coal was piled outside and then brought by Adirondack Power’s own rail cars to a gantry crane. The crane took the coal to bunkers on the roof, where it was funneled down as needed to the furnaces.

“The Amsterdam steam plant was tangible proof,” Northrup wrote, “that the forces of nature itself could be tamed and made to do industry’s bidding. The building’s operation was a monument to the optimism of the region and the time.”

In 1923 Adirondack Power announced plans to expand the building to its current size with four smokestacks and two General Electric turbines and generators. A newspaper account predicted the plant would be able to generate 25 million kilowatt-hours of electricity by burning 200,000 tons of coal a year. The work was completed in 1925.

Northrup wrote, “The exterior walls are made of poured concrete with a segmented surface, a design characteristic of the Art Deco period, suggesting the appearance of cut stone.”

Northrup said the cement was a mixture of “white cement, marble chips and white sand.” When illuminated by floodlights, he said the building “glowed in the night.”

Northrup wrote, “Visually the entire site communicated the idea not only of control, but also of esthetic balance, suggesting that here was an example of the ability of industry to harness the forces of nature in a beautiful way.”

The best view of the structure is from Route 5 or the railroad tracks in Cranesville on the other side of the Mohawk River.

Travelers on luxury trains such as the Twentieth Century Limited of the former New York Central Railroad were impressed with the sight, especially at night.

One anonymous traveler wrote in the Literary Digest of August 1926, “Suddenly the darkness was broken and there shot into view a dazzling white structure, beautiful in proportion and outlined against the darkness like a white-hot ingot.”

What ultimately doomed the plant as a power station was growing use of New York state’s abundant hydroelectric power. The town of Florida facility went on a 10-month shutdown in 1926 because of increased use of hydro power. The plant by the Mohawk River stopped generating power altogether in 1950.

The formerly elaborate building and grounds were purchased by Cranesville Block Co. in 1964 and used to this day for manufacturing and storage of stone products.

AdirondackPowerPlantAmsterdam

“Notwithstanding the ravages of time and economic circumstances,” Northrup wrote, “the external beauty of the building is still perceivable.” More information is at http://www.davenorthrupbook.com.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist.

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