NY Central Lines RW&O Chronical


From:New York Central Lines Magazine, December, 1926, PP 84-85

Contributed by Richard Palmer

(Pioneer railroad days as far back as 1851 and 1852 are graphically described in these reminiscences by P.E. Carney of Dekalb Junction, N.Y., who was for many years closely associated with the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad. Largely a chronicle of his own experiences in early-day railroading, the story revives the names of many well known persons in railroad history and the old familiar names will doubtless recall to many of the older members of the New York Central family incidents and experiences of the past which even the flight of years cannot dim).

In 1851 and 1852 the Watertown & Rome Railroad was completed only from Rome to Cape Vincent. I was born in the Town of Dekalb and my father helped build the road through Dekalb Junction. he was killed five miles east of Dekalb Junction Station, September 16, 1857, on the railroad opposite the Tabor Farm.

I went to work for the railroad at Dekalb Junction in 1872 and worked continuously for 21 years at odd jobs around the depot and yard and wherever I was needed or sent by the agent. I spent one year of that time firing the engine “Jefferson” on the work train. For two years I was night watchman at the engine house.

In the spring of 1893 I was sent to Gouverneur and from there I went to Norwood Yard where I remained four years. From Norwood Yard I went to the Rutland Railroad and helped build the railroad across the islands from Alburgh to Burlington. Later I went to Malone Yards where I remained for two years, then I returned to Dekalb Junction.

It was in 1854 and 1855 that the railroad was built from Watertown to Norwood by a contractor named Phelps. This was called the Potsdam & Watertown Railroad and the name of Norwood was changed to Potsdam Junction, remaining so for 15 years before being changed back to Norwood.

In 1861, the branch from Dekalb Junction to Ogdensburg was built and the name of the railroad was changed to the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg. The Dekalb Junction Station was located about three miles west of Red Rock and another station was located just east of the Forrest House crossing and was called Hermon Station. J.W. Moak and Addison Day were the two superintendents of the line with headquarters in Watertown.

Those were the days when all woodburning engines were used. They were all Taunton engines, made in Taunton, Mass., with 10-by -20-inch cylinders and a capacity of 10 cars of 10 tons each. All the engines were named as well as numbered. Some them I remember were:No. 1, Watertown; No. 2, Rome; No. 3, Adams; No. 4, Kingston; No. 5, Orville Hungerford (named after a director of the road); No. 6, Kirby, and No. 7, Norris M. Woodruff (named after a stockholder of the road from whom the Woodruff Hotel in Watertown also derived its name).

The Norris M. Woodruff was used on the work train summers and on the snow plow in the winter and was run by J.B. Cheney, Engineman, and A.V. Huntress, Fireman. Other engines were No. 8, Camden; No. 9, J.L. Grant; No., 10, Collamer; No. 11, Jefferson; No. 12, Doxtater, which was run between Dekalb Junction and Norwood for 10 years by George Schell, Engineman; No. 13, O.V. Brainard; No. 14, Moses Taylor (later number changed to 35); No. 15, T.H. Camp; No. 16, Silas Wright; No. 17, Antwerp (run by Jeff Wells); No. 18, W.C. Pierrepont; No. 19, St. Lawrence; No. 20, Potsdam; No. 21, Ogdensburg; No. 22, General Kirby; No. 23, Farlow’; No. 24, J.W. Moak (run by Sam Purdy who used a board with cleats on one side to get into the cab and the smooth edge to slide out on); No. 26, Delos DeWolf; No. 27, Utley; No. 28, M.M. Massey; No. 30, Comstock (run by James Simonds); No. 31, S.F. Phelps (run by Samuel Clark); No. 32, W.M. Lord (run by Samuel Clark); No. 33, Gardner Colby; No. 39, Zabriskie; No. 40, Theodore Irwin; No. 41, Denny; and No. 42, White.

In those days all engines had pop-strings until No. 38, the Garner Colby, blew up just east of Canton Station in Harrison’s Cut. A popular joke in rhyme about No. 30, run by Jim Simonds with Zebec as Fireman, was the following:

Says Jim to Zebe, Pull down the pop,
Or with the slack well surely stop.
Says Zebe to him, At this here rate,
We’ll reach Watertown four hours late.

These engines were in use until about 1880 when a larger and improved type replaced them. It was at this time that two coal-burning engines came into use and they were named Samson Goliath. Their first trips were to Norwood after circus trains.

About this time the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg took over the Syracuse Northern which operated between Syracuse and Sandy Creek since 1871. With that road they received four heavier engines named Pulaski,Brewerton, Sandy Creek and Syracuse. The R.W. & O. next took over the Lake Ontario Shore which operated from Oswego to Niagara Falls. The Oswego River was bridged at Oswego and a through line from Norwood to Niagara Falls was thus established. At this time E.A. Van Horn was appointed superintendent in place of J.W. Moak.

There was great rivalry at this time between the R.W.& O. and the Utica & Black River as to which would carry the New York mail into this north country tract. I have seen mail, express and passengers loaded onto the train at Dekalb Junction and delivered in Norwood, a distance of 25 miles in 35 minutes and that included stops at Canton and Potsdam. A Main Line train made the record run, Ben Batchelder, Engineman, from Watertown to Ogdensburg, making 11 stops, in one hour and 48 minutes.

About 1884 or 1885 the road was purchased by Parsons & Sons, and H. M. Britton became General Manager in place of E.A. Van Horn. W.S. Jones was Superintendent of the East End and F. M. Britton was superintendent of the West End. In 1892 the road was purchased by the New York Central.

Early in the 1870s a man named Warner was train dispatcher at Watertown Junction. A few years later N.B. Hine of Dekalb Junction took his place and William Lawrence was night dispatcher. Lawrence later went to work for the Rock Island Railroad. A.C. Hine was station agent at Dekalb Junction at this time.

On Oct. 14, 1872, A.J. Penney became clerk and operator at the station. Later he was made agent and F.W. Thompson was clerk and operator. In 1880, A.J. Penney went to Potsdam, and Fred DeSalles took his place at Dekalb Junction with Frank L. Wilson as clerk, A year later Wilson was made agent. That was in the time when clerks and operators earned their money, as there were no night operators. The day clerk was called up to attend the midnight train and remained on duty until the train arrived in Ogdensburg because there were no night operators in Rensselaer Falls or Heuvelton.

There was a severe snow storm in January and February of 1880. The Cape Vincent Branch was tied up for 28 days. Three trains stalled on the branch remained there until the snow melted. The mail was taken to Cape Vincent from Watertown by teams.

At this period all oil for station, section, and engine use was supplied from Dekalb Junction. The repair shop and tool and rail store houses were located there also. Wood sheds with fuel supplies for the locomotives were located at Norwood, Dekalb Junction, Gouverneur, Philadelphia, and Watertown. The wood was racked in cords and half-cords and the amount of wood each engine took was recorded in each wood shed. The record was turned over to the wood piler at the end of each month and he in turned turned it over to the station agent.

The coaches on passenger trains were heated by means of common wood-burning box stoves in the end of each coach. They were lighted with one-candle-power sperm candles, four in each coach. Three snow plows, “Storm King, “Snow Bird” and “Pathfinder,” were used to keep the track clear in winter.

H.S. Leach, Road Master, was located at Dekalb Junction for 17 years. Later he went to Malone on the Rutland Railroad and served there until his death. E.M. Moore, General Freight Agent, was located at Watertown, and Hiram Moore, his father, was Assistant Master Mechanic.

The following are the names of some of the men who still survive:Fred Cooper, George Webb, Frank Smith, Ed. Mahan, Eugene Sullivan, Lawrence McCormick, John McCormick con McCormick F.J. Britton, B. Reynolds, Jake Angley, O.A. Hine, Jake Hermann, William Carnes, B.Dullea, John Anable, Timothy McCarty, F.L. Wilson, Fred Thompson, George Brown, Eugene McCarty, Alvin Barber, Frank ‘Taylor, John Sullivan, John ONeill, Charles Seaman, Robert Colburn, M.J. Smith, J.H. Lent, B.E. Jones, D. Regan and E. Regan.