Dekalb Junction to Ogdensburgh



New York Central station in DeKalb Junction

In New York State, a significant portion of the trackage north of the New York Central main line was once part of the Rome Watertown & Ogdensburg. At one point it had 643 route miles. The Watertown & Rome was chartered in 1832 to connect northern New York with the Erie Canal, but it took 17 years before ground was broken near Rome. After reaching Watertown, the new railroad was immediately extended to Cape Vincent which had its ferry to Canada. In 1857, the Potsdam & Watertown was built to join what later became the Rutland’s line to Ogdensburg. As well as serving as a connector, it served the agricultural towns of Potsdam, Canton and Gouverneur. In 1861, this line merged into the W&R, the name of the new railroad was changed to RW&O and a 19-mile line built from DeKalb Junction to Ogdensburg.

The New York Central paid a high price for the RW&O but got a well-built railroad in a fairly populous and non-competitive area. As late as the mid-1950’s, most of the RW&O was still in service. Everything east of Oswego was part of the St. Lawrence Division. By 1961, the St. Lawrence Division had merged into the Mohawk Division.

The 1916 ETT shows six (6) trains daily in each direction between DeKalb Jct. and Ogdensburg. They were spaced out from about 6 or 7 a.m. to about 6 or 7 p.m., with a typical elapsed time of 40 minutes, including the two intermediate station stops of Heuvelton and Rensselaer Falls. I would imagine that one trainset consisting of an engine and one or two coaches plus a combo mail/baggage car could have handled the entire operation. Pullman sleeper cars were likely attached to early morning northbounds, and to early evening southbounds. By 1956, there was only one passenger run a day left. It was gone by 1961.


Apr. 1, 1976

Conrail is created and operations of the Ogdensburg Secondary is signed over to Ogdensburg & Norwood Railway.


Apr. 1, 1977

O&NR became St. Lawrence Railroad.



SLRR returned the Ogdensburg Secondary to Conrail.

Mar. 1980

Conrail signs operations of the Ogdensburg Secondary to North County Railroad.

The Ontario Eastern Railroad ran out of DeKalb Jct. and was operated by the same group that ran ONCT and OMID.

The Ontario Eastern Railroad Corp.(ONER) was incorporated in 1981 to take over as designated operator of the Ogdensburg-DeKalb Jct.line.

It served a rail-dependent paper mill at Ogdensburg owned by Sonoco Products. (The mill was formerly owned by Diamond National). ONER had one unit of motive power, an ex-D&H RS3. The General Manager, Jim Colpoys, also came from the D&H. The company was an affiliate of Rail Services Associates of Syracuse. RSA also managed the Ontario Midland and the Ontario Central Railroads. ONER even had its own subsidiary, the Jersey Southern R.R., which operated a 4.3 mile branch in South Deerfield Twp., N.J., serving the Seabrook Farms frozen food plant.


The paper mill at Ogdensburg struggled on until about 1985, when it closed for good.

The road shut down operations, since there was no other business.

After about a year, the track was removed. March 1987 seems about right as the date of abandonment.

An interesting note is that the contractor who removed the ONER rails was Amish – even in the mid-1980’s, the rails went down the same way they went down, with men and horses instead of machines. Before 1920, was probably the peak of passenger traffic, shows about six (6) trains daily in each direction between DeKalb Jct. and Ogdensburg. They were spaced out from about 6 or 7 a.m. to about 6 or 7 p.m., with a typical elapsed time of 40 minutes, including the two intermediate station stops of Heuvelton and Rensselaer Falls. I would imagine that one trainset consisting of an engine and one or two coaches plus a combo mail/baggage car could have handled the entire operation. Also Pullman sleeper cars were likely attached to early morning northbounds, and to early evening southbounds. In 1947 to 1950, they ran a Gas-Electric,steam and early diesel.


Former line started on the West side of the river in Ogdensburg. It went South through Heuvelton and Rensselaer Falls to DeKalb Junction. At DeKalb Junction, it met the old New York Central (now CSX) rail line from Watertown to Massena. In Ogdensburg, a former New York Central branch ran Southwest along the St Lawrence River to Watertown. This branch crossed the river and met the Rutland rail line that ran to Rouses Point. Now this line goes to Norwood where it meets CSX. It is owned by the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority that also owns the international bridge that replaced the car ferries.



Take a look at my blog about railroads in Ogdensburg, New York.



A car float ran at Ogdensburg between the New York Central terminal at Ogdensburg N.Y., and the Canadian Pacific terminal at Prescott, Ont.

Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority

The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority owns two shortline railroads that are operated by a private contractor d/b/a the New York and Ogdensburg Railway Company. This railroad serves the Port of Ogdensburg and connects with CSX, thus providing total intermodal service for industries of Northern and Central New York, as well as Eastern Ontario, Canada


Ogdensburg Car Ferry

If CNR and CPR interchanged freight with the NYC Ottawa branch, what was the purpose of the CPR freight car ferry to Ogdensburg? It lasted till approximately 1970, but how much freight did it really carry?

The Ogdensburg-Prescott carferry is a New York Central “unremarked operation”. The tug and barge used at the end were built as a pair in 1930. There are photos available from 1948 that show mostly coal being moved. However there is a photo in George Hilton’s book “Great Lakes Carferries” which shows a more mixed load. The 1955 traffic figures were: from CP 3030 loads, 2625 empties and to the CP 3150 loads and 503 empties. Apparently this traffic was un-balanced and used more by the CP. From the CP was very likely paper products and perhaps some lumber and a bit of oil product in addition to the empties being returned to the Central “at the nearest junction point”. CP received coal, but also chemicals, produce, and a variety of manufactured goods in box cars. The completion of the bridge over the St. Lawrence pretty much killed it off. A railroad receives no revenue for switching operations of which this could have been considered one, and an expensive one at that, so the PC together with the CP no doubt killed this operation off as fast as they could once an alternative was available to justify its termination.

Now that we know the car ferry carried mostly coal traffic, the next question is: which route into Ogdensburg did the NYC use to get to and from the ferry? Was it the line from DeKalb Jct or the line up from Philadelphia? I know there was a local which served the line from Philadephia, but what about the line from DeKalb Jct? Did the yard switcher in Ogdensburg also go to DeKalb Jct to bring back cars?

This is only a guess, but if the DeKalb – Ogdensburg track was kept in longer, could it have been the primary track used and the one out of Philadelphia was the track that was for local traffic? Especially since after the abandonment along the river, a small spur was maintained. It was a shorter route as well.
At one point freight between Watertown and Ogdensburg was sent via DeKalb Jct. Any freight service at that time for the line to Phila. was handled by a mixed train. In 1956 the pattern had been changed. A freight ran on the former U&BR line between Philadelphia and Ogdensburg. A local ran from Ogdensburg to DeKalb Jct and back. The St. Lawrence Division was partly abandoned on October 28, 1956, when the New York Central Railroad abandoned the original St. Lawrence Division from Ogdensburg to Redwood, leaving a short spur in Ogdensburg attached to the Ogdensburg Branch.

There was a switch engine assigned to Ogdensburg, at least in steam days. By 1954 there wasn’t as much traffic left except for a few industries, the car float, and the one passenger train which probably just sat at the station all day until it was time to leave.

Very interesting that in the last years they used two locomotives for the freight from Watertown to Ogdensburg, and then spilt them up. This must mean that the freight was timed to arrive when the car ferry was due to arrive so that there would be a switch engine in town.

Summary of the Ogdensburg/Dekalb Line:
1862 – opened by Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg RR
1891, Mar. 14 – leased by NYC
1913, Apr. 16 – becomes NYC
1968, Feb. 1 – becomes PNYC
1969, Oct. 1 – becomes PC
1976, Apr. 1 – becomes Conrail, but is operated by Ogdensburg & Norwood Ry
1977, Apr. 1 – operated by St. Lawrence RR
1978 – back to Conrail
1980, March – operated by North Country Ry
1981, March – back to Conrail
1981, Dec. 10 – sold to Ontario Eastern RR
1985 – abandoned
1986(7) – rails removed



The Fabled Rutland Milk

See Penney’s Blog about the Fabled Rutland Milk. Pictured at the left is a rider car bringing up the rear as the train goes through the Troy Union Railroad on it’s path from Ogdensburg, down through Vermont to Chatham, then down the New York Central Harlem Division to New York City.


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