More On The West Shore

Sharing the “Water-Level Route” with the New York Central was the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroad. At first it was a competitor, later a subsidiary. The first try at this line was the New York, West Shore & Chicago which didn’t get off the ground and went belly up in the Panic of 1877. Since the idea was good, it was tried again.


In the 1870’s, the New York & Oswego Midland was built over the most rural pieces of New York State between Middletown in the Southern Tier and Oswego on Lake Ontario. It failed because it was poorly built and poorly located. The Oswego Midland was reorganized into the Ontario & Western. This new road sought a better entrance into New York City than the rambling New Jersey Midland (now New York, Susquehanna & Western). A shorter route would be to strike across the country to the east of Middletown and reach the Hudson and follow that south to Jersey City. The first freight carried on the West Shore was a dairy train over the O&W connection at Cornwall and into Jersey City.

Building the West Shore was a huge project for its day. Constructing a double-track trunk line over four hundred miles through a densely populated state was no small job. As well as providing terminals and shops and equipment, there were several tunnels and many bridges to be built. The West Shore purchased all new equipment and only the best. They had 175 anthracite-burning locomotives. The rail was 67 lb., excellent for that era. The double track sets were laid two feet further apart than on the New York Central. Thirty feet to the mile was the maximum ascending grade. There were shops at New Durham, NJ; Frankfort, NY; and Newark, NY. The shops at Frankfort were located there because the property was a gift of the surrounding towns.

Construction began in 1881. At the same time, the O&W began building between Middletown and Cornwall-on-Hudson. The biggest projects were the three main tunnels: Bergen Hill outside Weehawken; south of Haverstraw; and underneath the parade ground of the US Military Academy at West Point. Also required were smaller tunnels at Bear Mountain, Newburgh (under the Erie Railroad), Kingston and Danskammer. The steep banks of the river made construction difficult. Several places required basically inverted bridges while others required huge amounts of filling (even including old canal boats). The entire road was designed as double track.

Some of the money behind this project came from George M. Pullman, who wanted to strike a blow against William H. Vanderbilt for banishing Pullman cars in favor of Wagner Palace cars.

At one point over 20,000 men worked on construction of the West Shore. Many of the workers were blacks from the South who then settled in the North.


The West Shore started at Weehawken directly opposite New York City. It was the nearest available point where there was water access and land for rail yards. It required a long tunnel under nearby Bergen Hill. The line ran parallel to the river for several miles. It touched the river again at Haverstraw and followed it closely to a point opposite Poughkeepsie, where it turned slightly inland. Through Kingston it followed the Wallkill Valley Railroad right-of-way. The Wallkill Valley stopped at Kingston but had intended to go to Albany so there was some roadbed already constructed.

The Wallkill Valley provided a convenient path through Kingston, where there was a connection with the Ulster & Delaware RR. The West Shore utilized a portion of the “White Elephant” (Saratoga & Hudson River) line from Athens to Schenectady. It was leased from Vanderbilt at a good price. Between Schenectady and Utica, the road ran on the opposite side of the Mohawk River from the New York Central.

It went through South Utica, which was sparsely populated at the time, but later crossed many streets. The Mohawk Valley route had been recently surveyed by the Boston, Hoosac Tunnel & Western, which ran from Massachusetts to Mechanicville. It considered extending to Buffalo and had acquired the Chenango Valley Railroad between Syracuse and a connection with the O&W at Earlville (45 miles). Initially the West Shore had difficulty crossing this route. Later on (1891) it became a branch of the West Shore.

The West Shore made a connection with the Boston, Hoosac Tunnel & Western (later Boston & Maine) at Rotterdam Junction. Until World War I, Boston sleepers inter-changed here and continued to Chicago and St. Louis over the Wabash and Nickel Plate roads. Eventually Boston sleepers interchanged at Albany and went all the way to Chicago on the New York Central. Utica to Syracuse was a direct route as opposed to the New York Central which jogged to serve Rome.

The Syracuse station was located at the junction with the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh. Rochester was omitted as the railroad went to the south of the city.

The New York Central and West Shore crossed at several points and met in Buffalo. The West Shore planned a magnificent Union Passenger Depot in Buffalo. It tried to get several roads to share but only got the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia to accept. The depot was never built because money started to run out, so they made do with a temporary structure.

By February 1883, West Shore bonds were listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In announcing the listing, the promoters proclaimed 320 miles out of 472 complete. The O&W was finished between Cornwall and Middletown. There was $6 million of equipment on hand. Passenger service between Jersey City and Newburgh began in June 1883. The West Shore used the Pennsylvania’s station in Jersey City because Weehawken was incomplete and the new ferries were not built yet. The connection between the two stations continued for many years over the Union Railroad. Kingston was the next stop opened to service. The road was open to Albany by July. The five-hour run was completed by entering Albany over D&H tracks. Pullmans went through to Saratoga over the protests of the New York Central and Wagner Sleeping Car Company. The West Shore opened to Syracuse in October. Freight service still had not started.

Finally Buffalo was reached. Now the West Shore boasted a 954-mile route to Chicago (425 miles on the West Shore; 24 miles on the Erie; 230 miles on the Great Western Division of the Grand Trunk; 67 miles over the Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee; and the final 252 miles over the Chicago & Grand Trunk). This compared to 961 miles by New York Central/Michigan Central, but the West Shore took almost 36 hours!

Financial troubles began in 1884. The O&W entered receivership. The West Shore was in bankruptcy by June 1884. It issued receivers’ certificates to finish the road. The receivers began a desperate price-cutting war with the New York Central. The winners were the public, who rode at ridiculously low rates. The Central was hurt, but not badly enough to miss a dividend payment.

By July 1885 the West Shore passed to the New York Central. The Central formed a new company and operated the route as a separate entity. The West Shore had been supported and encouraged by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which had picked up many of the bonds at a low price.

The Pennsylvania dropped support of the West Shore in a deal negotiated by J.P. Morgan. The deal involved the New York Central’s dropping construction of a new railroad in the heart of Pennsylvania, the South Pennsylvania Railroad. The S.P.RR would have connected the Reading and Jersey Central with the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, a New York Central affiliate. This proposed route later became the pathway for the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1938.

The New York Central operated the West Shore as a separate railroad. It had its own advertising, tickets, etc. The name “West Shore” was carried on its locomotives and cars. But it was in a stronger position because it brought its passenger trains into the Central’s stations. It charged lower fares than the Central in order to better compete with the Lackawanna, Erie and Lehigh Valley Railroads. It was a good road for freight because of its easy grades and curves.

Let’s take an imaginary trip on the West Shore at some point before the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when the West Shore started to disappear:

Two ferry routes connect to Manhattan; one goes to 42d Street and the other downtown to Cortlandt Street.

The New Jersey Junction Railroad, a five-mile long New York Central affiliate, provides connections for interchange between the various railroads in the Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken area. From Weehawken to National Junction is classified as yard limits. There is a grain elevator and a pier originating carloads of bananas. Floats destined for the many ports of the New York harbor originate and terminate here.

Up until 1957, Ontario & Western trains share the line between Cornwall and Weehawken. Diesels replaced steam on the West Shore in 1952. The ferry service and commuter runs will be gone by the end of 1959, ending a decline begun by the 1931 opening of the George Washington Bridge. Just above Weehawken, the Palisades crowd the river and force servicing operations to be located in North Bergen. Four miles west by operating direction, but north by geographic orientation, is the New York, Susquehanna & Western interchange at Little Ferry.

The road is mostly four track until Dumont, where several commuter runs terminate, their trains laying over in an adjacent yard. Beyond Dumont, the line is double track to Selkirk. After the commuters leave, the second track will be torn up. Above Dumont, there are ten commuter stops before West Haverstraw, where other commuter runs lay over. Just beyond West Haverstraw the road reaches the river and winds its way to Newburgh, where long-distance commuter runs terminate. A few passenger runs continue to Kingston and Albany, mostly serving local passengers as train times are exceedingly slow compared to New York City/Albany on the Hudson Division. All told, between freight and commuters, this is a busy line. Kingston is the next major city, and both the Wallkill and Catskill Mountain branches are still active. Beyond Kingston, huge cement plants originate countless carloads.

The West Shore from Weehawken joins the Boston & Albany at the south end of Selkirk Yard. The Castleton Bridge, a high, mile-long span carries Selkirk traffic into the Hudson Division and the Boston & Albany. Tower SK controls this point. Selkirk Yard was originally developed in the 1920’s to ease the strain on West Albany. It was rebuilt in the late 1960’s as the Alfred E. Perlman Yard. A branch runs from Selkirk into Albany (11 miles). Access to the Albany station is over the Delaware & Hudson trackage from Kenwood Junction to the north end of the station at street level.

After leaving Selkirk heading west, the line crosses the D&H’s Albany-Delanson line and Voorheesville and crosses the Normanskill on a high bridge. At Fullers the tracks cross on an overpass and operation is left-hand running. The Carman Cutoff leads into Schenectady. Next, the West Shore crosses over the D&H main on a pair of bridges near Burdeck Street. Rotterdam Junction is the interchange with the Boston & Maine as well as a bridge to the New York Central main line at Hoffmans.

Most freight from the west leaves the main at Hoffmans and follows the West Shore to Selkirk. RJ Tower is located on the river bluff just west of the town. It will disappear when the area goes under CTC control from Utica.

West of this point is little used and portions will be among the first to be abandoned. At Fultonville is an old West Shore station with “NYWS&B” stenciled under the eaves. Proceeding west through scenic territory, the Mohawk River is almost always in view. The line passes nearby the home of General Nicholas Herkimer of Revolutionary War fame. At Little Falls the track goes by the river and canal lock at the bank. Near Mohawk, the New York State Railways interurbans shared the track for several years. A connection with the main line is at Schuyler Junction.

The West Shore proceeds through South Utica to near New York Mills, where both the Lackawanna’s Utica branch and the Ontario & Western’s Utica branch cross it at grade. There is a short branch serving the textile mills in New York Mills. At Clark Mills, the Rome branch of the O&W crosses. The main line of the O&W crosses at Oneida Castle and the Lehigh Valley crosses at Canastota. At Kirkville Junction there is a crossover to the New York Central main line, and a few miles further the Chenango Branch joins the West Shore. Traffic is light on this branch and soon Earlville to Manlius will be ripped up. The section from Utica to Rome was electrified for several years. West Shore passenger trains ran on the main line from Syracuse to Utica and left the “direct” route to the NY State Railways interurbans.


From Syracuse to Buffalo (don’t forget, the West Shore bypasses Rochester), the West Shore and New York Central weave across each another several times. The West Shore goes slightly north of Syracuse, while the Central goes right through town. At Lyons, there is an interchange with the Pennsylvania Division. Before reaching Buffalo, there are crossings with the Pennsylvania, Erie, R&D and Lehigh Valley. Waynesport to Chili Junction and Byron to Buffalo will survive as branches to serve local industry after the West Shore as a through route is eliminated as redundant by 1961. The West Shore terminates in East Buffalo with connections to the immediate world.



The West Shore got as close to New York City as across the river in New Jersey. Passengers took a ferry while freight went across the river on car floats. 


Chenango Branch went from the West Shore in Syracuse, through Manlius, Cazenovia and other small towns, even through a tunnel to Earlville, New York. In Earlville, it met the Ontario & Western. It was abandoned in stages until nothing was left.

Overview of the West Shore Railroad

The West Shore Railroad was chartered December 5, 1885, as successor to the New York, West Shore & Buffalo Railway, and was leased for 475 years to the New York Central. On that same date, the Middletown Branch was transferred to the Ontario & Western and that road given trackage rights Cornwall to Weehawken

Trackage of West Shore Railroad was Weehawken, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York, 425 miles; and branches – Rockland Lake to Congers, 1.15 miles; Athens Dock to Coxsavkie, N.Y. 6.16 miles; Coeymans Jct. to Kenwood Jct., N.Y. 11.04 miles; Fullers to Athens Jct., 5.07 miles; Syracuse to Earlville, N.Y., 45.49 miles; Buffalo to Buffalo Creek, N.Y., 1.29 miles – total lines 495.20 miles. The Syracuse, Ontario & New York Railway, Syracuse to Earlville, was absorbed by consolidation on July 2, 1891.

The New Jersey Junction Railroad was organized in 1886 to provide connections and facilities for interchange of traffic between several railway systems terminating at Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken. It was leased in 1886 to the New York Central.



Haworth, New Jersey in the 1950’s
Recently we had an inquiry from Dwyer Wedvick ( ) about a photo (above) he took in April 1955 of the West Shore RR stop in Haworth, NJ (in Bergen County), when he was 15 old. Dwyer wanted to ID the type of engine, NYC #6232 was guessing its an ALCO RS-1 ?

To the best of our knowledge steam power stopped being used in Haworth in 1953. He remembers the 2-8-2s and 4-6-2s from the 1940s to 1953 but was not yet old enough to have a camera to record photos thereof, a shame really. Commuter passenger service in Haworth stopped around 1957 when his dad bought a foreign car, a Hillman Minx convertible, as a commuter car to drive to NYC. Other men started taking a bus to the Erie RR in Oradell, NJ nearby. Note: West Shore commuter service died by stages. Not everything lasted until 1959.

He can remember going to NYC with his dad on the train and ( the exciting to him at least of the “vibrating” NYC steam ferry ) … the other commuters and his dad were bored or read papers as they crossed the Hudson RR … especially interesting was the ferry slicing through the ice in the winter and the warmth inside the side cabins of the ferry versus the cold outside. Dwyer’s comment on the return “In the evening on the train and boring for me, was to watch my dad and other men play poker (of course I am wrong, they wouldn’t gamble … played hearts I’m sure. ) on a card table top place atop the knees of four players on commuter seats positioned to face each other and other men standing around playing and kibitzing. At Dumont, NJ ( the town next to Haworth ) the game was ended and the table top stored by the conductor as we prepared to detrain at Haworth and walk home two long blocks away.

The Haworth RR station had an agent who transacted freight business as well as selling passengers tickets. Dwyer recalls he had a Morse telegraph system. And the passenger waiting room sported a huge potbellied stove.

Sadly, the Station burned to the ground one winter in the 1960s. Dwyer was away in the Army at the time, so he does not know the details.

See a view of Haworth StationHaworthStationBack1955.

Living in Haworth, from his bedroom window Dwyer could look west to the NYC RR and see everything clearly from mid October though April when the trees were bare of leaves. He can remember the steam engines on freight trains spinning their wheels then getting smart and going backwards to shove the cars tight on their couplers … then get a running start with the slack, worked too. Sometimes the Mikados were doubleheaded. And occasionally a Mohawk or Hudson came through. Today Dwyer enjoys his favorite RRs the B&M and the CPR for research and to model. The CPR mainly for its operations with the B&M and its Int’l Maine Division ….. and its oh so handsome semi-streamlined steam engines.

Anyway, back to the ID of the locomotives: Guess what Dwyer! You got a BALDWIN, not an ALCO! Kept looking for RS-1 thru RS-3 and only found road numbers in the 81XX series, later renumbered to the 99XX series. Went to the ultimate NY Central authority (not the NY Central Museum, not me, but the Canadian Southern WebSite
From there, I picked up the “1955 NY Central Power” and concentrated on Lines East. Road Number was a “DRSP-8A” ‘Diesel Road Switcher plus some internal code), but it referred me to here where we finally get the answer DRSP-8A referred to 17 units having road numbers 6220-6236 and having been built by BALDWIN LIMA HAMILTON as order number 50544 I KNEW from his picture it didn’t look ALCO enough!!! Now that we know it’s a Baldwin, Dwyer found info on page BLW-294 of “The Second Diesel Spotter’s Guide” confirming what you found and they are called BLW RS12s and are of 1200 hp. Somehow we suspect photos of Baldwin RS12s and the Haworth RR Station are rare ones.




The River Division

Running from Selkirk, NY to Weehawken, NJ is a heavy-duty freight railroad owned by CONRAIL and commonly referred to as the River Division. It truly earns its name by hugging the river bank from across the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie to cross the river from Peekskill at Haverstraw. In this area are many, many small bridges crossing the inlets and tributaries.

It is basically single-tracked, heavily signaled and has some long passing sidings. The usual mode of operation seems to be several trains running one after the other northbound then several running southbound. Sometimes headway is only a few minutes apart. Many trains are solid trailers on flat cars without a caboose, others are conventional freights with sometimes over 100 cars.

If anything, traffic has increased since the inception of CONRAIL because of ex Erie-Lackawanna traffic going towards Buffalo on this route rather than through the Southern-tier route. Before CONRAIL, Penn-Central ran the route and obviously before that, New York Central.

The origin of the route was the New York, West Shore & Chicago which was chartered in the 1870’s and intended to go to Chicago via Buffalo. Some work was done on this line but it died in the Panic of 1877. However the idea was still fascinating to investors and was revived. George Pullman of sleeping car fame (but not on the New York Central where Wagner cars were used) and several others formed the New York, West Shore & Buffalo.

In the 1870’s, a railroad had been built from Middletown NY to the Great Lakes seaport of Oswego. It was called the New York & Oswego Midland and soon failed because it was poorly located, had bad grades and curves, and served few important towns. This road turned into the New York, Ontario & Western. This reorganized railroad sought a better entrance into metropolitan New York than the rambling path which later became the New York, Susquehanna & Western (now connecting with the River Division at Little Ferry Junction). Instead it intended to head directly for the Hudson River (from Middletown to Cornwall-on-Hudson) and then follow the river south to Jersey City. Thus was formed a common link between the West Shore and the NYO&W. This route south from Cornwall was to be the first section of the West Shore. The West Shore was built in the early 1880’s but went bankrupt in 1884, due to high construction costs and rate cutting wars with the New York Central. At this point, the Pennsylvania Railroad (main rival of the New York Central) began to buy control of the West Shore. In a compromise brought about by J.P. Morgan, the Pennsylvania backed out of the West Shore and in return the New York Central kept out of Pittsburgh. In 1885, the Central took over the West Shore. Bondholders were paid in new bonds ($50 million) and the New York Central began to operate the West Shore as a separate entity.

The route of the West Shore has many tunnels. The three most important are the long (4225 feet) tunnel under Bergen Hill (just north of the Weehawken passenger station); a 1620-foot tunnel just south of Haverstraw; and the 2640-foot tunnel directly under the parade ground at West Point. There are also some shorter tunnels: at Bear Mountain; under the former Erie Railroad at Newburgh; and one near Kingston. When the line was built, there was a group of three at Danskammer (Milton), but none of my recent employee timetables show any here. There is a drawbridge at the Overpeck Creek in Little Ferry.

Under the New York Central, there was a branch from Kingston to a connection with the Erie Railroad’s coal yards at Campbell Hall and another to Oneonta. The Wallkill Branch showed no passenger traffic in 1952 but the Catskill Mountain branch (ex Ulster & Delaware…folded into the New York Central in 1932) had one train/day. The Wallkill branch ran southwest from Kingston through Rosendale and New Paltz to Montgomery. It was originally a broad-gauged branch of the Erie called the Wallkill Valley Railroad. The original plan of the railroad was to go to Albany. Its right-of-way became a portion of the West Shore. The Kingston to New Paltz section did not last as long as the southern section which was only recently torn up through New Paltz.

The Catskill Mountain Branch was cut at first from Oneonta to Bloomfield when coal traffic interchange with the D&H at Oneonta dried up. Demise of the milk traffic (Sheffield Farms at Hobart and others) killed the rest of the line. A portion now operates as a tourist railroad.

The West Shore terminated in Weehawken, directly opposite the city of New York, because water frontage and land was available. Ferry service connected to 42nd Street and Cortlandt Street. Rail cars were put on floats bound for various points in the New York harbor. There was even a lighterage service to ocean freighters. From Weehawken, the New Jersey Junction Railroad continued through Hoboken to Jersey City. CONRAIL has a connection via North Bergen with its other lines.

From Selkirk, connections were made to the Mohawk Division going Westward and the Hudson River Connecting Railroad (Boston & Albany). Trackage runs into Albany and interchanges with the D&H at Kenwood. In the days of passenger traffic, trains went into the D&H section of the Albany Station.

Passenger traffic North from Weehawken was mostly New York City commuters. There was a 14-track passenger terminal here. Until the 1950s, there were several no-name passenger runs between Weehawken and Albany. The 1953 timetable shows three. This had dropped to one by 1957. The Central worked hard at killing passenger service on this line. Commuter trains terminated at Dumont (13 miles from Weehawken), Newburgh and West Haverstraw (33 miles from Weehawken). A few trains went to Kingston and one Friday night train ran to Ravena (leaving Cortlandt St. at 5:35 pm and arriving Ravena at 9:35 pm). Passenger service stopped in 1959 when the ferry service stopped.

Let’s look at some times that trains were available in 1952. In order to get to Albany from Weehawken (141 miles from Albany), one could leave the 42nd Street ferry and take train no. 9 (the Albany Mail) at 2:15 am. By 4:15 am, you would have passed Newburgh (85 miles from Albany and 56 miles from Weehawken) and be in Kingston (53 miles from Albany and 88 miles from Weehawken) by 5:50 am. This would also allow you to catch the 7:30 am departure for Oneonta. After hitting all the stops, you would finally arrive in Albany at 8:30 am. If the 2:15 am departure was too early, there was an 8:30 am departure (via Cortlandt St. ferry) that required a change to a “Beeliner” (rail diesel car) at Kingston and got into Albany at 2:05 pm. Later in the day, a 3:45 pm Cortlandt St. ferry connected with train no. 3 which got into Albany at 9:15 pm.

Eastbound, the first train out of Albany was at 10:05 am and got into Weehawken at 4:25 (4:55 pm ferry arrival at Cortlandt St.). Other trains left at 3:10 pm and 5:50 pm. For comparison, an average train on the Hudson Division took 2 hours and 40 minutes. Conclusion-most passengers were going to intermediate points and not traveling direct.

Bridge clearances have been increased in past years. When the line was made single track, wider clearances were possible. Many years ago, the New York Central relied on the Putnam Division to get oversized loads to New York City.

Although vastly different than 30 years ago, the line is one of CONRAIL’s most important.


The never-magnificant, and now all cut-up West Shore Railroad was closely aligned with a series of interurban lines called the New York State Railways.

The never-magnificent, and now all cut-up West Shore Railroad which was leased and later absorbed into the New York Central was closely aligned with a series of interurban lines called the New York State Railways.

The West Shore ran 425 miles from Weehawken, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York. It was a double track line running north along the west bank of the Hudson to Albany, through the fertile Mohawk Valley, and across Central New York touching Utica, Syracuse, Rochester to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Its grades were easy and its curves were light. The stations built along the route were architectural gems and blended in with the beautiful and picturesque scenery of the road. Many remain to this day. An excellent example can be found in Catskill, NY. It is now used as a tire store.

The Wallkill and the Catskill Mountain branches of the New York Central intersected the West Shore at Kingston. There was also a connection here with the Ontario & Western. The West Shore ran into Albany where connections could be made with interurbans to Schenectady and to Hudson. The Schenectady Railway was a joint venture between the Delaware & Hudson and the New York Central. It ran from 1901 to 1933. The Albany & Hudson Railroad ran between 1899 and 1929. From Albany, it was an easy connection to Troy via the United Traction Co. From Troy, the Hudson Valley Railway, a D&H subsidiary with 102 route miles ran as far as Warrensburg. Between Mechanicville and Glens Falls it had two routes. One followed the Hudson River via Northumberland while the other was via Ballston and Saratoga.

The Chenango Branch ran from Syracuse 45 miles to Earlville, N.Y. It was built as the Syracuse, Ontario & New York Railway and was completed in 1891. Part of the line, including a depot in Syracuse, had been built in 1872. In 1914, four trains each way covered the distance in two hours. On its way from Syracuse it crossed the Lehigh Valley, the Ontario & Western and the Lackawanna. It was cut back to become a branch line to Manlius. In 1936, the West Shore’s route through Syracuse became the elevated line which was used by mainline New York Central passenger trains formerly running down the middle of Washington Street.

The New York State Railways was owned by the New York Central until 1928. As well as running city lines in Rochester, Syracuse, Rome, Oneida and Utica; it owned four regional interurbans: (1) Rochester and Sodus Bay; (2) Rochester and Eastern; (3) Oneida Railway; and (4) Utica and Mohawk Valley Railway.

In 1907, the New York Central electrified 49 miles of the West Shore between Utica and Syracuse. Covered third rail similar to that used between Harmon and Grand Central was used. If electrification had ever progressed beyond Harmon, this trackage could have been used. The Oneida Railway also ran locals in the city of Oneida. It entered Syracuse and Utica using overhead trolley. The electric railway terminal in Syracuse on Clinton Square had connections for Rochester and Oswego. It was abandoned in 1930 and returned to freight service.

Rome-Little Falls was covered by the Utica and Mohawk Valley Railway. It had 37 miles of double track. It was built in 1902-1903 and operated until 1933 except the Utica-Whitesboro portion which lasted until 1938. The Utica and Mohawk Valley’s steel cars were shipped to Rochester subway and lasted until 1956. No. 60, built by Cincinnati in 1916, is now at the Seashore Trolley Museum at Kennebunkport, Maine. At one time, this car was at the now-defunct Rail City near Lake Ontario. Car shops were located in Frankfort. The building of the West Shore Railroad had boomed the town during its construction period from 1879 to 1883. The road located its railroad shops and foundry following the presentation of land by Frankfort citizens. This industry was moved to Depew in 1895, however an engine house remained in Frankfort. Later used by the interurban, the remains of these shops were still around in the 1950’s.

The Rochester and Eastern Rapid Railway ran 45 miles from Rochester to Canandaigua and Geneva. As well as the New York Central, it interchanged with the Lehigh Valley and the Pennsylvania. It was built in 1903-04 and abandoned in 1930.

Oneonta was reached by the Southern NY Railway which started in 1900 as the Oneonta street railway. By 1901 it reached Cooperstown (28 miles). In 1902 it went an additional 16 miles to Richfield Springs. In 1904, it was completed to Mohawk (15 miles). Because it did not parallel a railroad, it had freight revenues. It also operated a railway post office and ran through trains to Utica. Passenger traffic ceased in 1933 and track north of the Jordanville quarry was abandoned. Electric power and the quarry were abandoned in 1940 but interchange traffic at West Oneonta remained.

The Utica, Ithaca & Elmira opened from Cortland to Ithaca in 1872. It was extended to Elmira in 1875. In 1884, the road became the Elmira, Cortland & Northern and ran between Elmira and Canastota (119 miles). Leasing the Canastota Northern from Canastota to Camden brought its mileage up to 139. In 1890 it had 23 locomotives and 194 cars. It became part of the Lehigh Valley and crossed the West Shore at Canastota. In 1928 it bought two new Brill rail cars to run between Elmira and Canastota.

The Ontario and Western crossed the West Shore at several points. The Rome branch crossed near Clarks Mills. The Utica branch crossed it near New York Mills. The line to Oswego crossed the West Shore at Oneida Castle. In addition, it had trackage rights from Cornwall to Weehawken.

The Lackawanna crossed the West Shore at Utica and at Syracuse. One of the most important branches of the DL&W ran from the Scranton coal fields to the docks at Oswego and interchanged with the West Shore at Syracuse. Built as the Syracuse & Oswego and the Syracuse, Binghamton and New York, this line became a part of the Lackawanna through the efforts of its forceful president Samuel Sloan in the 1870’s. Numerous grade crossings in Syracuse were eliminated by an elevation project in 1940. Passenger service to Oswego lasted until 1949. Four passenger trains headed south from Syracuse until 1958. Coal trains to Oswego terminated in 1963. Creation of CONRAIL in 1976 saw the demise of the branch south of Syracuse and the ultimate sale to the NYS&W. That portion of the branch north to Oswego is still operated by CONRAIL. Interurbans were built between the 1890’s and the 1920’s but mostly between 1901 – 1904 and 1905 – 1908. Booms in building were ended by panics in 1903 and 1907. The decline of interurbans began in 1918 but they really died between 1928 and 1937.

Between 1910 and 1922 it was possible to travel by electric interurban from Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to Oneonta, NY, a distance of 1087 miles. In 1910, some businessmen from Utica chartered a car from the Oneida Railway and went to Louisville, KY. The gaps between New York City and Chicago were between Little Falls, NY and Fonda and between Hudson and Tarrytown. After the interurbans were gone, even the West Shore began to deteriorate and was cut at several points. In later life, it was part of several New York Central divisions. Weehawken to Selkirk was part of the River Division and remains today as part of Conrail. From Selkirk until almost Syracuse (Kirkwood Junction) was part of the Mohawk Division. Trackage to Rotterdam Junction is an important part of Conrail but little else remains. Herkimer to Fort Plain was one of the first sections to fall in Penn Central times. A twice-weekly freight from Selkirk ran to Fort Plain  and laid over. Beech Nut in Canajoharie was an important customer. Syracuse to Buffalo was part of the Syracuse Division and little can be found today. In the Buffalo area, trackage belonged to the Buffalo Division.



Cement kiln in Ravena built in 1961 on the West Shore

(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)



The Wallkill Valley Branch

In researching some railroads that ran into the Maybrook area, I came across the Wallkill Valley. I knew it eventually became the Wallkill Valley Branch of the New York Central so I went after some of the easier sources of information I had. From Employee Timetable No. 73 (effective September 28, 1952), I found out the following information:
NYC operated the Wallkill Valley Railroad Co. as part of the River Division, but the WVRR Co. was never owned by the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroad, or the West Shore Railroad Company. The WVRR Co. was leased directly by the New York Central after it leased the West Shore, as was the New Jersey Jct. RR Co. All three were finally merged into the NYCRR Co. in 1952.

The Wallkill Valley was the second railroad in Kingston, the first being the Rondout and Oswego, later becoming the Ulster and Delaware. The WVRR was controlled by Thomas Cornell and the Coykendalls, of the U&D, before the West Shore arrived in Kingston. It was originally built to 6-foot gauge to connect with the Erie at Montgomery.

Miles from Kingston Station Office Call  
0.00 Kingston KI Employees warned of overhead clearances at D&S Oil Company siding and Phelan & Cahill siding
Station open day and night
6.12 Red Rock Siding   13 car siding here
6.91 Binnewater BN Employees warned of overhead clearances at Century Cement Co siding
Station open 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.
8.05 Rosendale DA Engines not to be operated on the E.H. Demarest trestle
Employees warned of overhead clearances at E.H. Demarest siding
Employees warned of overhead clearances at Snyder Lime/Duggan Smith siding
Station open 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.
  Springtown   Employees warned of overhead clearances at bridge W-37
14.86 New Paltz Z Trains flagged over crossing at Creamery Crossing.
28 car siding here
Employees warned of overhead clearances at A.P. LeFevre siding and the Bruyn Hasbrouck siding
Station open 7:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
20.66 Gardiner GI Trains flagged over crossing at Main Street
Station open 8:30 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.
26.07 Wallkill A Station open 7:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
29.26 Walden WA 26 car siding here
Cars over 80,000 pounds not allowed on the C.W. Hill coal trestle
Cars over 110,000 pounds not allowed on the J.S. Walker private siding
Employees warned of overhead clearances at C.W. Hill siding and Walker Coal & Lumber siding
Station open 7;30 A.M. to 4;30 P.M.
32.95 Montgomery MY Trains flagged over crossing at Ward Street.
Station open 7:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
App. 40 Campbell Hall   Ontario & Western Connection
Erie yard
App. 46 Maybrook   New Haven yard
Miles from Goshen Station Station No  
10.2 Montgomery 1069  
8.2 Neeley Town    
5.4 Old O&W crossing    
5 Campbell Hall Junction 9813 New Haven connection (76 miles from Danbury-end of NY,NH&H Maybrook Line). Erie had trackage rights to Maybrook (also Lehigh & New England).
4.7 MQ Crossing   Erie Graham Line connects here
2 Kipps 1061  
0.0 Goshen 59 Connection to Erie main line

At Montgomery, the branch ended and the Erie’s Montgomery Branch took over. According to The Erie Railroad Company’s Employee Timetable No. 55, effective October 27, 1957; the branch looked as follows:

Miles from Goshen Station Station No  
10.2 Montgomery 1069  
8.2 Neeley Town    
5.4 Old O&W crossing    
5 Campbell Hall Junction 9813 New Haven connection (76 miles from Danbury-end of NY,NH&H Maybrook Line). Erie had trackage rights to Maybrook (also Lehigh & New England).
4.7 MQ Crossing   Erie Graham Line connects here
2 Kipps 1061  
0.0 Goshen 59 Connection to Erie main line


Wallkill Station

Next, I investigated The Wallkill Valley Railroad Company and uncovered the following from the 1913 New York Central Annual Report:

“This company is the successor of The Wallkill Valley Railway Company, organized April 26, 1866, and road opened in the same year. The road was sold on June 26, 1877, and on July 2, 1877, the company was reorganized, under foreclosure proceedings, as The Wallkill Valley Railroad Company, under chapter 430, laws of 1874, of the State of New York, as amended by chapter 446, laws of 1876. Under date of April 11, 1899, the railroad and other property of the company were leased to The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company, from May 1, 1899, for the term of its corporate existence, the consideration being, in substance, the interest on all outstanding bonds and obligations, including interest at three and one-half per cent per annum on the first and second mortgage bonds together with a dividend of three and one-half per cent per annum on the outstanding capital stock of the company. In 1913 all its bonds were cancelled.

I then checked my “archives” and found some information from an 1980-something article I wrote that “Under the New York Central, there was a branch from Kingston to a connection with the Erie Railroad’s coal yards at Campbell Hall and another to Oneonta. The Wallkill Branch showed no passenger traffic in 1952 but the Catskill Mountain branch (ex Ulster & Delaware…folded into the New York Central in 1932) had one train/day. The Wallkill branch ran southwest from Kingston through Rosendale and New Paltz to Montgomery. It was originally a broadguaged branch of the Erie called the Wallkill Valley Railroad. The original plan of the railroad was to go to Albany. Its right-of-way became a portion of the West Shore.The Kingston to New Paltz section did not last as long as the southern section which was only recently torn up through New Paltz”.

Next I moved on to see what I could find out about the Erie connection:
The old Erie main line went through Goshen. Sometime just before or just after the creation of the commuter operating authorities that relieved Conrail of the burden of operating various commuter lines in January 1983, the new main line, now called the Southern Tier by New Jersey Transit, was created by abandoning the former Erie Main Line, and making the former Erie Graham Line Conrail’s line to Port Jervis and west. Conrail was maintaining 2 lines that wound up in the same place: one line that saw about 10 passenger trains a day, and another that had declining freight traffic. The decision was made to combine all traffic onto one line. The former Erie Graham Line had the easier grade, so it remained in service.

The old Main Line swings West at Harriman for about 1 mile into Nepera Chemical. From Howells Jct., the line goes East about 3 miles into Middletown to connect with the Middletown & New Jersey. About 20 miles of the old main have been abandoned.

The Graham Line runs north of Goshen. It is currently used by Metro North (NJT in NY) for all commuter trains to Port Jervis. The old Main Line once ran from Harriman through Oxford and Goshen (this is where the branch running from Goshen to Campbell Hall started….now removed) and Middletown and was used by commuter trains by the EL and NJT until about 1981 or 82. They then abandoned the ROW and sent all Commuter and freight traffic over the existing {improved} Graham Cutoff. It was longer, but less congested. Parts of the old main is now a foot/bike trail between Goshen and Middletown with plans to expand and pave it. In Middletown the old Erie Station was expanded and is now the city library.

I then attempted to find out what happened to the New York Central (next Penn Central, finally Conrail) branch. Since 1991, hundreds of local residents and visitors have discovered the joy and beauty of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, a scenic and peaceful 12.2-mile stretch between Gardiner and New Paltz in Ulster County.

This trail is part of a network of more than 600 rail trails winding some 7,000 miles across the United States. Because they offer unique opportunities for recreation, relaxation and solitude, these former railroad lines are enjoying popularity among walkers, hikers, bicyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts.

A century ago, the Wallkill Valley Railroad signified machines and speed; today, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail signifies escape from machines and speed. While the railroad once symbolized power over nature, the rail trail now symbolizes identification with nature. And while the railroad once facilitated travel to distant places, the rail trail suggests a future in which we can enjoy what is in our own back yards.

Connecting to the Erie in the Campbell Hall area was the Lehigh & New England. The Lehigh & New England received its name in 1905 after the predecessor company, the Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie & Boston, was acquired by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. There was a line out to the Lehigh River and Hauto that brought in coal traffic and a line to Nazareth and Martins Creek, PA for the cement industry. The line connected to the New York, Susquehanna & Western at Hainesburg Jct. and had trackage rights for about 20 miles to Swartswood Jct., NJ. The line entered New York at Pine Island and used trackage rights from there over the Erie to reach the New Haven at Maybrook. Traffic declined through the 1950’s and on October 31, 1961 the L&NE simply shut down. Some of the trackage for the cement industry centered around Bath, PA was purchased by the Jersey Central and some in Pen Argyl, PA by the Erie Lackawanna, but the rest of the line was abandoned.

About my only experience with the branch was in 1976 or early 1977 when I stayed in New Paltz and remember seeing an ex-Lehigh & Hudson River (Conrail had just been formed) locomotive switching.

I then discovered some more history of the line from the folks who set up the rail trail. In the late 19th century, the Wallkill Valley Railroad ferried fresh produce and vegetables from the farmlands of Ulster County to the streets of New York City. It also served as a commuter railroad for passengers traveling along the Hudson Valley. For more than a half century, the railroad supported business and tourism, provided jobs and created a critical economic link between upstate and downstate.

By 1933, however, only one passenger train ran daily each way, and four years later, all passenger service came to a halt. Over the next few decades, numerous stations along the Wallkill line closed. In 1977, the Wallkill Valley Branch took its last freight run. Like other American rail systems, it had fallen victim to increased competition by automobiles and trucks.


Coal on the River Division was a big source of revenue…PSEG must have averaged 5 trains a week, the tariff called for a train to consist of at least 7000 tons (l00 70 ton cars or 70 100 ton). Next going West was Tompkins Cove (Orange and Rockland) they got about 1 a week from the West, Roseton (Central Hudson) was a real good customer about 3 trains a Week from the West (long haul). They had their own engine (radio controlled), Kingston (Hudson Cement) about 2-3 a month from the West, Alsen (Alpha Portland ) at least 1 a week and the Lehigh and Marquette shared a train about every two weeks. Ravena ( Atlantic Cement ) received a train each Friday and on the Albany Branch, Niagara Mohawk did well when they were on good terms, they burnt 40 cars a day but after they got hit them with a demurrage bill they favored the D&H..then on the Hudson Universal Atlas got a train about 2-3 weeks came up from CNJ.. This was right up to merger. A lot of these trains ran using the RS-3s on the district over the weekend, working closely with power control.


Passenger Train Detours over the West Shore

From NYC-RR Forum: Gordon Davids Feb 20, 2005

I never saw an actual detour move on the West Shore, but I heard a few on the Mohawk train dispatcher’s wire when I was “studying” at Tower 2 in Troy, 1959-61. They all involved movements from Schuyler Jct to Harbor to WH (South Schenectady) over the Carman Connection to Tower 7, then into Albany. They called out operators and opened temporary train order offices and block stations, sometimes in a closed office and sometimes from the operator’s automobile.

In that era, the West Shore was still manual block territory, so the detoured trains would get running orders, usually at Utica and Tower 7, and train orders listing the offices that were open outside their normal hours. The only regular day train order offices were Canajoharie and Frankfort.

Those detours could make for an interesting day on the train wire.

I don’t recall any detours between Harbor and Canastota, which would have been possible but not practical because that track was down to 10 mph by that time. The limit was 35 between Harbor and Rotterdam Jct.

Added by editor:
That had to be about the limit of detours since the line was cut beyond Fort Plain early 70’s. Detours were not possible in 1967 as the line from Harbor to Kirkville had already been cut. The Rome Daily Sentinal from May 3, 1964 announced: “The New York Central Railroad is seeking permission to abandon a 12.3-mile section of its West Shore line from New York Mills to near Vernon.”

December 1983 “Call Board” (M&H Chapter-NRHS) front page shows a Jim Shaughnessy photo of the “Empire State Express” detouring over the West Shore at Pattersonville, NY, on November 30, 1967.


New York Central Detour Routes

It was common, while detouring trains on the West Shore, the Auburn Road or other secondary parallel routes, to open temporary train order and manual block stations. When 25 (or any other regular train) was off of its normal scheduled route, the train had no superiority by right, class or direction. It was run as an extra identified by its leading engine number, as “Extra 4022 West.”

At that time, NYC had parallel routes available over nearly the entire route between New York and Chicago. West from New York was the Harlem Division to Chatham, the B&A to Rensselaer, the West Shore from either Post Road or South Schenectady to Schuyler Jct. (and to Kirkville until the mid-1950’s), the Auburn Road Syracuse to Brighton, the West Shore to Chili Jct and Buffalo, the Nickel Plate to Cleveland and beyond, the Norwalk Subdivision Elyria to Millbury, and the original Michigan Southern between Toledo and Elkhart. Even though the MC and the Canada Southern were fast double-track railroads, there were not many extra conductors and engineers available to act as pilots or to handle the detour trains up there.

For a detour between Buffalo and Cleveland, the Nickel Plate was the preferred solution because there were many opportunities along the route to cross over to and from the Lake Shore. The NYC Lake Division Timetable No. 12 of October 28, 1962 shows connections to the NKP at Athol Springs, Silver Creek, Dunkirk, Brocton, Westfield, North East, Harbor Creek, Wesleyville, Erie, Girard Jct, Conneaut, Ashtabula, Madison, Perry, Painesville and Wickliffe. NYC could do much better with that flexibility than to bypass all the stations between Buffalo and Toledo.

If a mainline derailment occurred between Elkhart and Toledo (Swan Creek), the preferred detour route was Elkhart / Jackson / Detroit / Toledo, with the Michigan Southern Old Road used for overflow.

If the mainline was blocked between Toledo (Nasby) and Toledo (Swan Creek), the detour route was through Air Line Jct. Yard.

If the mainline was blocked between Toledo (Swan Creek) and Millbury Jct. there was hell to pay because there was no convenient all-facing-point detour. If eastbound passenger trains could access the depot, they would then have to: (A) back out to get to the Toledo Terminal off the Toledo Branch, or (B) get to the B&O or C&O on the east side of the Maumee River Bridge [or use the Maumee Cut Branch after it was constructed in the 1960’s] and then work their way back to the mainline. Freight traffic would either be held for a hole to be opened or detoured via (A) the Canada Div. if could clear through the Detroit River Tunnel; (B) the Big Four via Goshen / Anderson / Bellefontaine /Berea; (C) the T&OC-E or T&OC-W / Big Four using the Toledo Terminal trackage around the North Side of Toledo because the TT’s high-level Maumee River Bridge was long out of service; or (D) any of the connecting lines at Toledo (C&O, B&O, NKP (W&LE), or PRR to a point where we could return to home rails.

If the mainline was blocked between Millbury Jct. and Berea, the Norwalk Branch (old LS&MS mainline) was used with directional running for first-class trains. {Perhaps you recall seeing either of the photo spreads in old issues of Trains showing such occasions.} Freight traffic was either held for a hole or detoured to return to home rails at Sandusky (Bay Jct. CP-242), Elyria Jct. (CP-207), or Berea.

If the mainline was blocked between Berea and Collinwood, detour routes were the Cleveland Short Line , Cleveland Union Terminal, or the Big Four / Lakefront via DK / OX.

If the mainline was blocked between Collinwood and Buffalo, preferred detour route was via the NKP using any of the multiple interchnage points mentioned by Chief Troll, plus Willoughby.



New York Central Six Track Railroad in the 1920’s

Although this six-track trunk line across the Empire State has been in operation for many years it can hardly be said to be completed; for, like woman’s work, a railroad is never done. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been expended by the New York Central in the last twenty years in improvements. It must be distinctly understood that the mere work of maintenance is not included in the term “improvements”; the word is used in its exact meaning.

For example, there are the West Albany freight yards, one of the largest freight terminals in the East. There are 230 miles of track in the yards with more than 600 switches, having a daily capacity of 10,500 cars. In addition to the yards there are more than ten miles of track serving engine houses, car shops, erecting and boiler shops and transfer tables. Yet in the last twenty years more than $3,000,000 have been expended to keep this important point up to the growing demands of traffic.

For another thing, in order to facilitate the movement of trains through the Mohawk Valley, various connections have been built between the New York Central and the former West Shore Railroad. First of these connections unites Carman, three miles east of Schenectady on the main line with South Schenectady on the West Shore. This connection is a double-track railroad five miles long built in 1905 at a cost of $400,000.

From Rotterdam Junction, five miles west of South Schenectady there is a second connection which taps the main line at Hoffmans, nine miles west of Schenectady. This connection is also a double track railroad crossing the Mohawk River on a steel bridge supported on concrete abutments. The connection is three miles long.

The third connection going west is a few miles east of Utica, at Schuyler Junction. Although only two miles long it cost $600,000


A New Hudson Bridge, Revived Beacon Line, HYPERLOOP and More

The Maybrook Line was a line of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad which connected with its Waterbury Branch in Derby, Connecticut, and its Maybrook Yard in Maybrook, New York, where it interchanged with other carriers.

If one looks at the most popular Pages on our WebSite, over half directly reference the Maybrook Line. Lot’s of folks have an interest in it. The “Maybrook Line” was important to New England before the advent of Penn Central and before the Poughkeepsie Bridge burned. This piece of the railroad carried freight from Maybrook Yard, across the Poughkeepsie Bridge to Hopewell Junction where it joined a line from Beacon. The railroad then went to Brewster, then Danbury, and finally to Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven.

WHY and How To Fix The “MAYBROOK LINE”?

Container port/intermodal facility/rail bridge

The construction of a railroad bridge between New Hamburg and Marlboro is likely the least expensive place to build a Hudson River crossing between Manhattan and Albany.    The stone for ramps, sand and gravel for concrete and a steel beam assembly and storage area would be right on sight.  All materials and equipment could be transported by barge or boat.  The bridge itself would have only four or five piers (the most costly part to build) since the Hudson River is about the same width as it is in Poughkeepsie.

The Hudson River component connects Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties to the world economy (finished goods, spare parts, components parts, raw materials, food stuffs) and the railroad and interstate road components connect these NY counties to the rest of North America (US, Mexico, Canada).

With the container port/intermodal facility/rail bridge, the flow in and out of raw materials, spare parts, partially finished goods, foodstuffs and components will allow for new industries and businesses to locate near this facility and add to the tax base of these three NY counties: Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties.

Although the Dutchess County Airport is a tiny regional airport with a 5,000 foot runway, it has some big potential. The airport land extends a mile Northeast of the present runway end at New Hackensack Road and borders on the former New Haven Maybrook Line/Dutchess Rail Trail. As the NY Air National Guard gets crowded out by international air traffic at Stewart International Airport their operation could be moved over to Dutchess Airport without disrupting the lives of the guard members and their families through forced relocation.

Beacon itself is exploding with “developer” activity, and it needs a trolley or light rail for the city only to transform back into a pedestrian oriented city.

Other activities include: Solidization of rail links in Connecticut to handle increased traffic; a possible HYPERLINK for improved service along the Beacon Line and in/out of New York City 

Now you are going to ask. What does the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority have to do with the “BEACON LINE”? IT OWNS IT! Must realize that NYCMTA is a “regional” organization. With all that went on with Penn-Central and CONRAIL somebody had to own it!

So what would a “revised” rail line look like?

To begin with, the line from Maybrook to the Hudson River is gone. Railroads that previously entered Maybrook can reach the Hudson River and head up the old West Shore to the proposed bridge at New Hamburg. But the old Poughkeepsie Bridge is no longer in service, as well as the tracks to Hopewell Junction. At Marlboro, trains would take the old New York Central Hudson Division to Beacon, New York. Yes, with both Metro North and Amtrak using the Hudson Line, it may require an additional track.

From Beacon trains would travel the Beacon Line over the Housatonic Railroad to Derby-Shelton, Connecticut. Trains would go to Cedar Hill Yard. Some traffic may go to Long Island. With traffic revitalized, other trains will even go to Waterbury!


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