New York State Railroads, and NY Central Railroad


New York Ontario & Western ‘s Ellenville & Kingston Railroad began in 1871 with an eight-mile section between Summitville and Ellenville, followed by the extension from Ellenville to Kingston in 1901.

The Ellenville and Kingston Railroad Company (which soon was leased to the O&W) had purchased part of the right of way belonging to the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company; the Canal having closed down in 1898. The new Ellenville to Kingston section was built on the old canal towpath from just north of Ellenville to Accord, and opened to traffic in 1901. 


Ulster & Delaware became New York Central Catskill Mountain Branch in 1932.

Arkville was once a real rail junction where the Delaware & Northern connected with the Ulster & Delaware.

The Delaware & Northern was a bridge line to the Ontario & Western at East Branch.


The Greenwich & Johnsonville actually had tracks between those two towns

. Went to D&H.


In 1913 the New York & Ottawa was merged into the New York Central as the Ottawa Division.


The Chenango Branch of the West Shore ran from Syracuse 45 miles to Earlville, N.Y.

It was built as the Syracuse, Ontario & New York Railway and was completed in 1891.


The Utica, Clinton & Binghamton Railroad was owned by the Delaware & Hudson, leased to the O&W, and finally sold to the O&W in 1942 for $250,000. The Rome & Clinton Railroad was sold by the D&H to the O&W in 1944.

The D&H owned these disconnected lines as a result of an 1873 loan to the NY & Oswego Midland that was defaulted.


The Syracuse, Binghamton & New York Railroad Company was built between 1851 and 1854 and purchased by the Lackawanna in 1869.

Also purchased at this time was the Oswego & Syracuse Railroad.


The Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley Railroad was organized in 1866 and came under the Lackawanna in 1870. Inclusion of the Greene Railroad Company linked up this road with the Syracuse route at Chenango Forks.

As well as providing an important link, it also put the Lackawanna in the resort business. The branch to Richfield Springs was on Canadarago Lake and tourist trains now ran from Hoboken. The Utica-Binghamton line was a big dairy carrier and solid milk trains ran until the late 1940’s. Army reservists also used this line up to the 50’s to travel from New Jersey to Utica then over the New York Central’s St. Lawrence Division to Camp Drum near Watertown.


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.

The next step was a branch from Richland, located between Rome and Watertown, to Oswego.

Around 1875 the Syracuse Northern was built to Pulaski and Lacona. The RW&O leased it shortly thereafter.


In the early 1870’s, the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad had been built from Oswego all the way along the shore of Lake Ontario to the Niagara River (Suspension Bridge)

. It bypassed Rochester, had no manufacturing industries and was too close to the New York Central. The Lake Ontario Shore wasn’t able to make the grade and was sold to the RW&O in 1875 at a court sale for a bargain basement price. By building a short connection at Oswego, the RW&O now had a through route from Suspension Bridge to Norwood where connections were available to the Atlantic Ocean.


The Utica & Black River proceeded from Utica to Boonville, Lowville and Carthage.

Although incorporated in 1852 by Uticans upset with Rome being the gateway to the St. Lawrence, it only reached Boonville (35 miles) by the Civil War. Lowville was reached in 1868 and Carthage four years later. From Carthage, it went to Clayton then Ogdensburg in one direction and to Sacketts Harbor and Watertown in the other direction (by leasing the Carthage, Watertown & Sacketts Harbor). The U&BR was merged into the RW&O in 1886.


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.

Watertown citizens were not terribly pleased with loosing “their” railroad. Mr. Vanderbilt and Chauncey Depew expended a great deal of public relations effort, including a trip to Watertown, to assure the citizens of Watertown that all changes were for the better. The division headquarters was established in Watertown and the RW&O name was incorporated in timetables. Service improved, especially because of sleeping cars running to the Thousand Islands. George H. Daniels, the NY Central General Passenger Agent, turned his advertising magic on and built the Thousand Islandsup as a premier resort area.


Webb’s Wilderness Railroad opened up the Adirondack wilderness.

Although educated as a physician, William Seward Webb built two hundred miles of railroad and opened up the Adirondack wilderness where others had failed. New York Central tracks reached into the Adirondacks. One line even went across the Canadian border to Ottawa.  The Adirondack Railroad originally started in Herkimer and later moved to Utica.


The Elmira, Cortland & Northern (later part of the Lehigh Valley) had extended from Canastota to Camden in 1887.

Camden was on the Rome to Watertown section of the RW&O.

In 1876 the Lehigh Valley took over the Geneva, Ithaca & Sayre Railroad.

The Lehigh Valley had several other branches in New York State: from the mail line to Rochester; the former Southern Central Railroad from Sayre to Lake Ontario; a Buffalo bypass; and the Elmira, Cortland & Northern. Opened from Cortland to Ithaca in 1872 as the Utica, Ithaca & Elmira, this old road was once 139 miles (including the leased Canastota Northern to Camden)


A new commuter line was built through Westchester and Putnam counties in 1879 and 1880.

The New York City & Northern RR was constructed from High Bridge (Bronx) to Brewster.

See more on the NY Central Putnam Division


In 1890 the New York Central & Hudson River R.R. published a book entitled “Health and Pleasure on America’s Greatest Railroad.”

It was a listing of summer resorts and excursion routes that were available. The book not only listed the routes and prices, but contained maps and vivid descriptions of the resorts. This undertaking was engineered by the Central’s advertising guru – George H. Daniels. Daniels was the road’s General Passenger Agent and ranks as one of the greats of American advertising. This ex-patent medicine salesman has been credited with turning the Thousand Islands into a resort area.


The New York Central Lines of 1921 represented what were originally 315 separate companies. The New York Central Lines did not become known as the New York Central System until 1935. The principal component was the New York Central Railroad which represented 186 predecessor companies. Its main line between New York and Chicago was officially completed in 1914 when the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern was consolidated. The 6,075 main line and branch miles of the New York Central Railroad swelled to 12,550 by the leased, controlled and subsidiary lines.

Some of these lines were:

Pittsburgh & Lake Erie

Peoria & Eastern

Boston & Albany

West Shore

Michigan Central

The Big Four (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway)

Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo 


Rutland Railroad

There was a junction of the NY Central Ottawa Div with the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain at Moira. Both roads shared the depot but had separate yards. In the early 1960s, while going to school in the North Country, I remember one of the popular restaurants was called The Crossroads in Moira. I also remember there wasn’t really much in the town to indicate that it had been quite a rail center. The Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain Railroad ran to Rouses Point and Vermont. By 1901 it was the Rutland RR.

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 line built from DeKalb Junction to Ogdensburg.

The 57-mile long Lebanon Springs Railroad was once important to Chatham. The New York & Bennington got a charter to build from Chatham to the Vermont state line. The New York & Vermont would build 6 miles from Bennington to connect with it. The Lebanon Springs purchased the NY & Bennington and built north to Lebanon Springs but ran out of money and just ran tourists from Chatham. The Bennington & Rutland completed the line to get a connection to New York City because the Troy & Boston wouldn’t give it trackage rights. In 1870 the Lebanon Springs and the Bennington & Rutland consolidated into the Harlem Extension Railroad. It was bought by the Rutland in 1901. It was known as the “Corkscrew Division”. In its 75-mile length, it lifted itself out of the Bennington Valley by means of steep grades and sweeping curves and then dropped into the Hoosick River Valley. It crossed the B&M at Petersburg Junction and then meandered through the Taconic and Lebanon valleys to Chatham. It was an entirely rural setting. It ran a lot of milk trains but quit passenger service in 1931 and was torn up in 1953-54. After that, everything Rutland (not much) went through Troy and over the New York Central to Chatham.

Cornelius Vanderbilt predicted the Rutland wouldn’t last 100 years. In the early part of this century, the New York Central bought a controlling interest in the Rutland but later sold a good deal of that stock to the New Haven. Passenger service was poor because there were no towns over 500 on the line. In 1852, the New York & Harlem reached Chatham from New York City and connected with the Western Railroad to create an Albany-NY link. The NY & Harlem never developed into a major link to New York City because the Hudson River was so much better a route. Rutland passenger service went to Troy over the B&M from White Creek instead of to Chatham. The last 27 years of the Rutland’s existence saw only the milk train. It started in Ogdensburg and made no pick ups in-route on the Lebanon Springs. It was eventually rerouted through Troy. The Rutland tried busses from 1925 to 1931. The Chatham line was never an asset. A reorganization in 1950s resulted in the scrapping of the Bennington to Chatham line. The proceeds of this action was enough to buy 450 box cars.


NY Central’s Grade Separation and New Station at Herkimer, NY


New station completed in 1943

(This article is based on a similar article published in 2015 in the “CENTRAL HEADLIGHT” of the New York Central System Historical Society. It was written by the Late Douglas McIntyre Preston.)


It took over forty years of contemplation, frustration, and at last construction before the village of Herkimer, New York finally obtained a new passenger station. The New York Central’s project was to relocate its four-track main line in Herkimer, and thus eliminate seven dangerous crossings in the middle of this village and provide a modern passenger station. Planning and discussions among the railroad, the village, and regulators had dragged on for decades.


Replaced this station

Herkimer had always been on the New York Central. The Herkimer, Newport & Poland Narrow Gauge Railroad headed north of the village beginning in 1882. In 1891, Dr. William Stewart Webb acquired it, standard-gauged it, and it became the Mohawk & Malone (M&M) through the Adirondack Mountains.

Across the Mohawk River from Herkimer, the New York, West Shore & Buffalo established its main shops in Frankfort. Later when NY Central took over, the shops became home to Union Fork & Hoe. The massive brick shops were demolished a couple of years ago after a huge fire gutted the abandoned complex.



And yes there was a trolley connection too.

The NY Central-controlled Utica & Mohawk Valley interurban linked Herkimer to Little Falls on the East, and Utica and Rome on the West. Concrete arches still span West Canada Creek. One could also go from Herkimer South to Cooperstown and Oneonta on the Southern New York Railway. By 1907 one could go to Syracuse on the Oneida Railway “Third Rail” over the West Shore from Utica.


By the early Twentieth Century, the Central’s four-trackmain divided Herkimer into two distinct “sides”. Manufacturing plants, smaller homes, Italian and Polish immigrant neighborhoods, and Roman Catholic churches predominated on the “South Side” between the railroad and the Mohawk River. Interurban tracks ran through the same side, and the trolley station lay immediately south of the Centrals passenger station, itself south of the Water Level Route.


Other factories stood on the “North Side” along with the sizeable brick New York Central freight house and the small M&M roundhouse and yard. But north of the tracks one also found the village and county government buildings along with most of Herkimer’s retail stores, fire department, high school, hospital, Masonic temple, historical society, park,protestant churches, and synagogue. Herkimer’s newer and larger homes were also located north of the tracks.


As a much smaller community only about fifteen miles east of Utica, with its large Union Station, Herkimer saw multiple sections of the “Great Steel Fleet” thunder through town at seventy miles per hour. Few trains stopped in Herkimer, so there were 100-car freights around the clock also. Safety was an issue also. From 1904 until 1939, the local newspaper tracked “over 30 killed”. This did not count any from 1836 (arrival of the Utica & Schenectady Railroad arrival) until 1904. The same newspaper published a story in 1939 “LOCAL FIREMEN GLAD CROSSING HAZARD TO GO”. Herkimer firemen have come to look upon the grade crossings as barriers which at any time may be clamped down in front of their screeching trucks when seconds in time saved would mean the savings in life and property. The fire insurance rating board threatened to raise rates in Herkimer unless they put another fire station south of the tracks.


The project plans for the grade crossing elimination project and new station were approved February 4, 1941; but it was not until April 5, 1943 that the relocated passenger tracks and new station were opened. Freight tracks 3 and 4 opened about a week later. Passenger service lasted only until 1962. The station still stands but used by a local business. Tracks 1 and 2 now carry four Amtrak trains each way, none of which stop in Herkimer; plus up to sixty CSX freights. Brush grows where tracks 3 and 4 once ran.






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