Williamsport, PA to Elmira, NY

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The former PRR station in Troy, PA, on the branch to Elmira, NY. Rails are still in place from this early 1970s abandonment by Penn Central. Photo by Matt Gibbons.

This major branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad left the mainline on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at Elmira Branch Junction (Williamsport, PA) and went north to Elmira, NY, and then ultimately to Sodus Point on Lake Ontario, deep inside enemy (New York Central) territory. The section between Williamsport and Elmira was abandoned by Penn Central in the 1972 time frame, most probably after Hurricane Agnes in June 1972. (Hurricane Agnes caused the death of many railroad lines by washing out bridges and track -- it was not economical to replace and repair many of these lines and they were subsequently abandoned.)

From Williamsport, the line went to Cogan, Trout Run, Bodines, Marsh Hill, Ralston, Grover, Cedar Lodge, Canton, Granville Summit, Troy, Columbia Cross Roads, then into New York to State Line Junction, Southport and into Elmira. Interestingly, PRR shared its ROW with the Susquehanna & New York Railroad from Williamsport to Marsh Hill. The S&NY had a line intersected the PRR at Marsh Hill, and went between Buttonwood to the west through Marsh Hill and to Monroeton to the east, and connected with the Lehigh Valley at South Towanda. The PRR also shared trackage with the Erie from State Line Junction, NY into Elmira -- the Erie line went to the southwest into Pennsylvania and connected with the New York Central at Lawrenceville, PA. The PRR shared trackage for a short segmet north of Elmira with the LV -- this line is still active from Elmira to Elmira Heights.

Thanks to Matt Gibbons for contributing information about this route.

The Elmira Branch left the mainline at "NB" Junction, not "Elmira Branch Junction" as was stated in the article.

I.P. Freely
PA
12/20/2009

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the Elmira Branch was part of teh old North Central tath ran from Baltimore Md to Sodus Point NY with branch to Canandaigua NY. Line is active from Watkins Glen to Pen Yen NY and is in service from Nework to NY 104 where it connects with the ex NYC Hojack line. They may have pulled the traks from 104 to Sodus Point. I followed the grade from Elmira south to WilliamPort. Memories!

Jerry.Misik
Palmyra, NY
3/29/2010

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My son is with Boy Scout Troop 28 - the Golden Dragons, Red Lion, PA. Our troop is working with KTA (which I am a supporting member) and PA DCNR on assuming trail maintenance between the western loop of the Old Loggers Path to Masten, following the S&NY roadbed along Pleasant Stream. In 2009, I located this trail in what appeared to be abandoned condition (the hiking trail, that is) and our troop queried KTA and DCNR about assuming maintenance of this trail (at least art of it) as a community services project. I have several books regarding the S&NY as well as Masten, and find this part of our history fascinating! In June, look for our new signs proudly listing our troop as the new caretakers of this trail!

Dave DalPezzo
Glen Rock, PA
4/6/2010

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My older brother and sister both went to Penn State in the 1960s-70s. I remember this line being active right up until Agnes washed out big sections of the line. Traffic was quite fast in the mid 60's on the line -- there's a story about pacing a train in the car (50-60mph) and then getting a surprise when the road suddenly veered across the track!

Matt McKrell
Cary, NC
12/2/2010

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I grew up in Powys along the tracks.I was just 4 when the Agnes flood destroyed my family's home and most of the rail road. I can remember the very last trains to run up the valley before the flood. My father also grew up here and remembers when steam trains ran this valley.In 1976 we moved to Gray's Run and live directly across from the old Gray's Run RR line making the bend around the end of Shriver Ridge out of Grays Run and heading North following Rt 14 to just North of Marsh Hill where it crossed from the West side of the valley to the East side and proceeded to Ralston and Maston. This was later part of the S&NY. I have hiked many miles of the old GR RR and have found RR related artifacts. I have also had the privilege to tour the Grays Run Hunting Club which took control of land formerly owned by Thomas Proctor who built the Grays Run saw mill and the Grays run RR .The RR was removed around 1910.

What a rich and industrious history we have in this area.

J.Patchen
Trout Run, PA
1/19/2011

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A 1941 PRR system map of the Williamsport Division suggests that PRR had trackage rights with the Erie RR from State Line Jct. (south of Elmira) north to Chemung Jct. (north of Elmira Heights). LV did not have direct access to Elmira (but may have had trackage rights with either the Erie or DL&W, both of which had LV connections in the Sayre, Waverly area).

The former PRR line (nee North Central RR) north of Chemung Jct. terminates just north of Horseheads, where it serves a distribution facility. Portions of the line north to Sodus are still in use.

Robert Hanley
Greenville, SC
9/8/2011

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The tracks from the diamond at 104 north to Sodus Point have been pulled. At least in theory it's now a rail-trail, but it's one of the more primitive rail-trails I've ever seen! You can still see the short rail sections where the diamond was removed from the former Hojack line.

Russ Nelson
Potsdam, NY
11/28/2011

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I just saw your write up about the Pennsylvania Railroad's Elmira Branch.Very good,the only correction I would make is that North of Elmira,N.Y. the PRR used the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad to Horseheads,N.Y.

Then the PRR branched off onto its own tracks to Watkins Glen,N.Y. and North to Sodus Point. At Stanley,N.Y.,the PRR branched off to Sodus Point and continued West to Canandaigua,N.Y.

Gaylord Ewing
Breesport,, NY
12/3/2011

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I also wanted to add that the Lehigh Valley Railroad had its own tracks,from Elmira to Horseheads,N.Y.This section of LV railroad was waht was left of the "Elmira and Cortland Branch".From Sayre,Pa. the Lehigh Valley Railroad had trackage-rights on the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad to Elmira.Then from Elmira to Horseheads it returned to its own tracks. About 1975 the LV-tracks from Elmira to Horseheads,N.Y. were torn up.I understand there is very little left of the "Elmira and Cortland Branch".

Gaylord Ewing
Breesport, NY
12/3/2011

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This line is described in great detail (at least as far as the PA/NY border) in the book "Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman, 1904-1949" (http://www.amazon.com/Set-Running-Pennsylvania-Engineman-1904-1949/dp/027102741X)

It's a great read BTW.

Scott
PA
1/3/2012

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My Uncle worked at the Station in Granville Summit, and used to pass the mail via a "Y" stick to a RR employee sticking his arm out of the caboose. The train did not stop, just picked up mail at 40 miles per hour. Put down your penny, watch the mail pickup, grab your flattened penny afterwards. For a kid in Granville Summit that is real excitement :-}

Tom Brasington
Troy, PA
1/12/2012

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Also remember that when the train arrived at state line crossing into NY, the train had to stop to board a fireman. Evidently the Union or state rules in NY required the train to have a fireman (even on non-steam) so the train blocked the road. Of course the fireman was stuck in traffic trying to get to the train, and the train prevented the fireman's arrival. Sure anyone driving RTE 6 remembers those delays.

Tom Brasington
Troy, PA
1/12/2012

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I grew up in Marsh Hill PA. My mother and grandmother fondly recall the SN&Y railroad which bisected our property. Looking for anyone with photos of old Marsh Hill or anyone with connection there.

Derinda Gates
Paso Robles, CA
7/14/2012

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Where the line crossed Rt 14 at the NY State Border, the train had to stop and wait for a fireman to board. NY regulations. When the fireman was late, he was stuck in the traffic and had to run past the backed up traffic to board the train so the train could clear the road moving into NY something not legal without a fireman.

Tom Brasington
Troy, PA
10/20/2012

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I actually own part of the Williamsport - Elmira R/R. My dad purchased it back in 83 from the rail company. It's roughly 1.93 acres and runs from T-667 in Ralston to mid Lycoming Creek at the Dogtown trussel bridge. I live right next to what used to be the tracks in a house my father purchased that was built in 1907. and a not to Derinda, I can get photos of the area now and have photos listed on my facebook. Shoot me an email if you want any.

Dallas Bastion
Ralston, PA
11/5/2012

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I grew up in Trout Run. My Uncle (Thomas La Force)was the minister in Ralston during the 50's. I am a model railroader and am currently builing amodel of the S&Ny from LaQuinn to Ralston. I am in need of pictures of Ralston from the 1920's or later. I am in the area every year around the first of November for hunting so I would love to stop by to talk and meet with someone form the area.

Brad Jonas
Cincinnati, OH
11/14/2012

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To Brad.. look me up on Facebook. I can post whatever pictures I can get ahold of.

Dallas Bastion
Ralston, PA
11/14/2012

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i saw a picture of rail.is there any rail or equipment still left?please let me know. thank you.

george oakley
reading, PA
12/16/2012

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Unfortunately all of the rail around the area including any equipment related to it has been removed and the abutment that used to hold the railroad bridge below Ralston was washed out back in 96. There are tons of pictures listed on facebook of the mining areas with rails etc. I think the page they are on is listed as Ralston friends. Hope this helps.

Dallas Bastion
Ralston, PA
12/17/2012

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thanks for the info.i am looking for any rail or equipment still out there.if you know of any rail lines or equipment abandoned please let me know.my e-mail is georgeoakley49@yahoo.com thanks again.

george oakley
reading, PA
12/17/2012

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Between Columbia Cross Roads and Gillett was Snedekerville, a very small train station that is still there today. Its importance was that it sat at the highest elevation on the entire length of the run. My father was a brakeman for the line and this station signaled for the brakeman to attend his duty. No matter which direction the train was going, everything was down hill from Snedekerville.

Mark Kerr
Gillett, PA
4/20/2013

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Some research shows that in 1907 there was a bad train wreck in Troy PA and the name of the railroad at that time was the "Northern Central Railroad".

Mark Kerr
Gillett, PA
6/17/2013

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thank you for the info mark.i am looking for rail,bridges or equipment still in place.i am a history buff.any info would be greatly be appreciated.thank you.

george oakley
quakertown , PA
6/17/2013

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The line from Stanly Junction is now the Ontario Pathways rail to trail. It is complete and bicycle friendly from there to Canadaigua. Going toward Sodus is not complete, ending just north of Phelps, with gaps in the trail requiring travel via roadways. Total trail length about 26 miles I believe. A very beautiful ride of 36 miles last week! Glad to send pictures or info on this trail.

Michael Brummett
Tonawanda, NY
10/1/2013

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thank you for the update.trails are the best way to go,i think.are there any rails or equipment left on any railbeds?that's what i was wondering.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
10/2/2013

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One comment mentioned Snedekerville at the summit of the grade and the station there, but did not mention the wye track that was there for turning helpers. Most of the rails on the branch were torn up around 1977-78. I have driven route 14 several times a year for almost 40 years and sadly watched the right of way become more overgrown and gradually disappear.

The rails that remain(ed) at the Troy station were occupied for several years by a snowplow, at least cosmetically restored. North of Troy, where route 14 turns north off route 6 at the Red Hen convenience store, I believe you can still see two of the three bridge abutments where the tracks crossed Sugar Creek and Route 6 on two separate spans. The RR bridge span over the creek remained for a number of years. Route 14 is located on the old right of way for several hundred feet north of that intersection.

The station at Columbia Cross Roads was purchased and used by the adjacent business, Judson's, until they decided to get rid of it. I believe it was demolished.

The station at Canton survives and is visible from route 14 driving south into Canton.

I grew up in Elmira and remember the PRR trains switching onto the joint trackage with the Erie heading north through Elmira right behind the old Southside High School. We used to walk home from school using a pedestrian underpass connecting W. LaFrance and LaFrance Streets beneath the tracks. The PRR approach to the junction was over a bridge that diagonally crossed South Main and Miller Streets, just missing the street intersection.

The Southport yards and roundhouse, long gone, have been replaced by the Clemens Center Parkway and adjacent businesses or empty space. Chapel Lumber just off Cedar Street is at the south end of those yards and used to receive carloads of lumber through those yards. My Dad picked up greasy coveralls and overalls from the PRR roundhouse crews for laundering at my family's commercial laundry and dry cleaning plants and delivered clean ones from the 1940s until around 1960. Cedar Street crossed the PRR tracks on a fairly steep overpass which replaced the old Caton Avenue rail crossing sometime earlier than I can recall (pre-1955 at a guess). Dad told me the traffic would really back up at the Caton Avenue crossing for trains waiting to get into or through the Southport yards.

One thing that always pleased me on my drives, especially in winter with snow, was the ability to see much of the right of way, which plays tag with route 14 much of the way from Williamsport to Elmira. However, it veered far to the east between Canton and Alba, then even farther east to get over Granville Summit between Alba and Troy, where it passed under a dirt road that crossed over the tracks on a wooden bridge.

Steve Kistler
Elizabethtown, PA
11/28/2013

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thank you for the history on the rail line.sad to say alot of rail lines went the way of this one.winter is a good time to check the right of way out.as for anything left like rail,bridges or equipment please let me know.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
11/29/2013

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I was delighted to come across Steve Kistler's description of Southport Yard and the bridging over Miller Street, South Main Street area in Elmira just now. Like him, I walked to school every day through the underpass near the old Southside High School. The famous American LaFrance fire truck factory was on one side of the tracks (and in my day in full production), Southside High School on the other.

I may be the last person ever hired by the Pennsylvania Railroad, worked as a trackman in the summer of 1968 to earn college money. I was assigned to a tamping gang to shovel ballast under sagging ties near Fassett, PA and at Pine Valley, NY; worked with a crew to replace crossings at Horseheads, NY and Penn Yan, NY; help right tilting locomotives stuck in Southport Yards after rotted ties gave way. Those of us who grew up on Elmira's southside in the days before air conditioning recall sleepless hot summer nights spent sitting on the front porch listening to yard engines hump coal cars at Southport.

As a kid in the 1950s I spent many summers at Grandma's house on Thompson Hill Rd. in Gillett, PA along South Creek. The PRR ran along a side hill east of Rt. 14 a hundred yards or so above the hamlet. Whenever we heard the train whistle we would run up the hill just in time to greet the big steam locomotives as they rounded the bend chugging north out of 'Sned' toward Elmira. Long coal trains headed to Sodus Point docks. Hurricane Agnes took out the line in 1972 which also put an end to what was left of Southport Yards.

Our crew assembled at the old roundhouse each day, moved out to the job site from there. One elderly trackman named 'Wilbur' (last name, I think) drove in from Grover, PA. Another, 'Charlie,' of similar age and nearly deaf, drove down from Himrod, NY. Distance between the two, 80 miles. Both lived in houses right next to the Pennsy ROW. Other crew members drove in from Dundee and Watkins Glen, NY, Troy, PA.

More than once we pulled Charlie off the track at the last second when he failed to hear a train rolling into our work zone. We became protective of Wilbur and Charlie, took on the bull work ourselves so they did not have to. We got pretty good at driving spikes with hammers, sometimes three of us in unison on one spike just to amuse the old timers. Want a physique like Charles Atlas? Be a railroad trackman.

No place hotter on a blistering summer day than atop a railroad ROW, and no place colder in winter. One really hot day we were working on that bridge over Miller/South Main St. intersection, had to stop because everyone was starting to pass out from the heat.

Working under forest canopy was a bit more pleasant. Along the ROW from Horseheads to Millport I recall stumbling upon pure springs in cool glades along the tracks - sweetest water imaginable on days with humidity so thick tracks seem to sag from the weight.

Speaking of, I recall the end of one particularly hot summer day, headed for the roundhouse after a full day's work, being called to Millport to deal with a section of track that had expanded in the heat to the point where it had sprung off the roadbed and was hanging out over Catherine Creek. We had to cut the tracks with torches, blow new bolt holes through each rail, draw them back together, reset plates and clamps, drive new spikes, entertained by the clamor of a train crew cursing us out, presumably because they were annoyed at being late for supper.

One last comment: the Elmira line ran coal to Sodus Point where a lot of it was off-loaded and shipped to a power plant in Oswego, NY. I work at a college that sits immediately adjacent. The plant is still functional despite being replaced decades ago by three nuke plants nearby. Oil, not coal, is now used to fire the boilers. The plant only comes online when electricity is in peak demand, is constantly at the ready to be fired up and fully functional in 45 minutes if needed, which is rarely.

After Hurricane Agnes took out the railroad 'coal buckets' picked up the slack. I have relatives who made a living making two round trips a day from Blossburg, PA to Oswego, NY.

Reading all your comments has been great fun. Thanks so much. - Mike Ameigh

Michael S. Ameigh
Liverpool, NY
1/6/2014

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Michael Ameigh's account of working the line was fascinating. He mentioned working at the college adjacent to the Oswego power plant. I attended that school when the switch was made from coal to oil at the power plant in the early 1970s. I missed the coal trains to Oswego, but not the soot from the plant stacks.

I appreciated his accounts of trackwork on the PRR. Unfortunately, the only steam locomotive I ever saw on the line was in the roundhouse at Southport when Dad took me over to look through the window at it. It was enormous to my very young eyes. I also remember the shanty at the state line for the extra crewman to get aboard the north bound trains as they crossed the state line. It was gone last time I drove by.

Stephen Kistler
Elizabethtown, PA
1/6/2014

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good reading,guys.it is amazing what history is on those old rail lines we all either grew up near or worked on.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
1/7/2014

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George, Steve: Thanks again for your contributions to this site, and for keeping the history of the Elmira Branch of the PRR alive.

A few more random thoughts.

After that summer in 1968 the PRR was history, but a lot of the staff was working for the Penn Central, and I had made friends. One supervisor found me a similar summer job with the PC in 1969. In 1970 EVERYBODY was going bankrupt, no jobs available. They put me in touch with a private contractor that was constructing sidings for the then new Morton Salt complex at Himrod, NY. I spent the summer driving spikes into new ties with a jackhammer. Gained 25 pounds of upper body muscle, suffered back spasms for months afterwards as a result.

Those sidings were very near the junction of the NYC and Pennsy tracks near Himrod as I recall. Went looking for them a few years back to show my wife I DID build railroads back in the day (I had been bragging about that for years). Alas; they were gone.

I recall hearing the Lehigh Valley trains running the east side of Seneca Lake between Ithaca and Geneva in the early '60s as a Boy Scout at Camp Seneca near Valois, NY.

My dad worked for the Erie back in the late 40s-early 50s, rode the train from Elmira to Binghamton and back each night sorting the mail. Impossible to overstate the importance of these roads to the economy - and culture - of NY Southern Tier 1930s-1960s. - Mike Ameigh

Michael Ameigh
Liverpool, NY
1/7/2014

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I remember many stories my Father told about the Southport, N.Y. Roundhouse. In one case the engines brakes failed as the engine was coming into the roundhouse, a little too fast, and the engine went right through the back of the roundhouse and out into the middle of Miller Street. Another story about an engineer that had partook in a few too many refreshments the night before, thus forgot to open the petcocks to drain condensed water from the steam engines cylinders. When he threw the throttle forward to move the engine, the piston came forward to meet a chamber partially filled with water. Since water doesnt compress like steam, it blew the head right off the cylinder.

On my fathers last week of work (he was being reduced/ permanent layoff) he took me with him. He was then working on the Erie Lackawanna line I believe, near Deposit N.Y. We slept in sleeper cars, held meetings in an oversize caboose, ate meals in the dining car and I assisted the cook in the kitchen car while Dad worked as a lineman. The bossman told my dad that if he wasn't being laid off he would have fired him for bringing me to work with him. I still remember my dad looking into his eyes and saying, "My son will remember this week, the rest of his life, whether I am laid off or fired." Nearly 50 years later, I still remember all of it. Catching lots of brown trout in the streams along the tracks, riding the rail on a pump hand car, and the georgous gems sitting atop the poles, on a wooden pin, suspending the copper. I collect insulators now, and remember times the gone by, spent with my dad -once a brakeman, retired as a "Railroad Lineman".

Mark Kerr
Gillett, PA
1/8/2014

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To Mark Kerr: I occasionally take the Amtrak from Syracuse to NYC on business. Many of the old railroad communication lines/poles complete with insulators are still out there along the old NY Central ROW. Sometimes I attend meetings at State University of New York system administration headquarters on Broadway in Albany, NY just down the hill from the State Capitol. That stately building is the old New York Central train station built by Cornelius Vanderbilt. To have a look, do a Google search using these terms, and click on 'images:'

SUNY system administration building

PRR and Penn Central continued to use the lines along the tracks through the 1960s. We used them when I was a trackman to communicate with Southport Yard. Foreman called in every few hours, and always just before we left the job site for the day. He used a hand-crank handset, probably no different from whatever was being used at the turn of the century (early 1900s).

Nice to hear from Gillett, PA. My dad grew up on a farm up Blodgett Hill Rd., rode the milk sled down to Gillett School in winter. Milk train stopped in Gillett to pick up milk cans from farms up the 'hollows.' - Mike Ameigh

Michael Ameigh
Liverpool, NY
1/8/2014

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Regarding the handset we used to connect with Southport Yard I meant to add that the handset connected to the line via an extender that reached up to and sat atop the wire, sort of like a cable car rides atop a cable. Main purpose of messaging Southport Yard was to give our location to trainmen so they would be aware when we were working on a track segment they might be scheduled to traverse. - MA

Michael Ameigh
Liverpool, NY
1/8/2014

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good history information i see from what was written.i myself know about the insulators because i did happen to come across some ceramic ones while out looking around.made a pretty penny selling them to hobbyists who were building scale size rail on their property.from what some of you have said,it looks like there is still some rail and equipment around.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
1/9/2014

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I'm 1500 miles away... But this is a great site and a great way to read/write/remember memories

Paul Gronemeir
Albuquerque, NM
2/11/2014

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Great story here! You can follow this line on historic aerials.com which has imagery from 1944 and 1969.

Rick
Houston, TX
2/11/2014

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I do have to agree with you guys that www.abandonedrails.com is a great site for everything rail.what I want to do since I have been up in this area before is look at what is left when I do eventually travel.keep in touch,guys.

george oakley
reading, PA
2/11/2014

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PA route 14 parallel's the railroad through the valley all along this abandonded rail line and as a teen, the school bus and the morning train would have a race to Troy each day. The year was April of 1972. Heading South toward Troy There was a rt. 14 overpass just north of Columbia Cross Roads and the bus would pass over the train. I would snicker, thinking the bus just ran over the train. By the time we reached Troy, there was an underpass Just on the north end of Troy, and the train would run over the bus.

The last time this race took place was June 6th of 1972, just before school let out for the summer. As we all know now around the middle of June came Hurricane Agnus. The flood waters raged so hard and washed out so many bridges and sections of track, it spelled the end of an era for this section of the Penn Central Railway. Fast forward Forty years and in the spring of 2012, I found two of the most beautiful insulators while walking the abandoned rails (with permission of the landowners, with my Son, and his son. I spotted them on the ground in the over grown underbrush that has overtaken the railway, and my grandson then four years old, retrieved them. A light blue cd 134 Brookfield signal and a CD 162 Star in a fabulous light green. Value of both in retail dollars, is about ten bucks, but to me...they are priceless. They proudly sit on the end table at my right side, in the livingroom, and remind me daily to remember the good times and more importantly; to take the time to build new memories, some spanning four generations as this one does. My Dad was a brakeman on this line.

Mark Kerr
Gillett, PA
2/14/2014

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thanks mark for the info.like i said earlier i did sell insulators i found to hobbyists who put them to good use.it is amazing what is still out there.for example when i went back to my hometown i saw telephone poles with insulators on them.of course also the rail line was abandoned. i do admit also growing up as a little kid breaking insulators on the poles with rocks.i was a kid,i did not know any better.now i see what is there to maybe be preserved.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
2/17/2014

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Oh how I remember growing up in Ralston in the 60's and early 70's. By then Ralston had turned into a pusher station but the longest siding on the Northern Central began in Ralston and stretched over a mile North to Langdon. I can remember sitting in class, in the then grade school in Ralston, and hearing all the locomotive traffic and wishing to be there. It's one of those things that gets in you blood as my grandfather was O.P. Orr, an engineman with the Pennsy and the subject of the book, "Set Up Running", which was written by my father. When I was growing up and the pushers were waiting to do another shove up the mountain, my grandfathers name was an automatic pass on to any engine or caboose on the siding as many had worked with my granddad. What a unique gift that was but of course everything was diesel by then but what a thrill it would have been to have grown up just 10 years earlier in the end of the steam era. My fondest memory occurred one summer's night when I was probably 10 or 15, my dad came home from visiting the local bar and asked me what I was doing tonight. Said "just going to bed" and he asked my if I wanted to go for a ride. Of course I said yes but where to? His reply was to Sodus Point, N.Y. on the pushers waiting to make the shove up the hill. Seems the engineman was a friend of the family and had fired for my granddad, "Back in the day". So over to the siding we went and climbed onto the lead "E" unit of a 4 unit consist 2- A units and 2- B units to await the Northbound coal drag. It soon whistled into town and marched past the waiting pushers. Once the caboose had cleared the South switch we backed down the siding and out on to the main and coupled onto the caboose. Once we whistled off, the lead locomotives whistled off and our journey began. Although it was a night and you couldn't really see much, you always knew where you were on the trip. We ended up pushing the drag clear up the line till almost Sodus Point, because of the tonnage on the train. Once where they could make it on there own we cut off the drag and drifted back to Ralston where we disembarked and the pushers continued onto Williamsport. It was early morning when I climbed into bed that day but is something I have never forgotten.

John Orr
Ralston, PA
3/1/2014

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great story john.i was glad to see you have such fond menmories of this rail line.i myself am named after my great grandfather who died in a gruesome manner on the old reading line i think out of bethlehem.from what my mom told me a mail hook got him in the back when he was reaching for the bag on the hook.he died soon after and that is who i am named after.so we both sort of have memories even though i grew up along the bethlehem to philly line i never met my great grandfather.still love to check the old rail lines out though.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
3/3/2014

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Mike Ameigh, I was smiling as I read your postings. Facinating and we are from the same Locale. I am from Coryland, specifically; Ameigh Valley Road, as in DOC. Ameigh.

As far as the insulators go, that you mentoned, I would love to own all of those Jewels on the Poles. However!Everyone must be forwarned, Trespassing on active railways is a federal offence, even if it is to save abandonded insulators from their certain demise. I also am a "Ask permisssion" type of person. So five finger discount rules do not apply. Sure wish I could make a deal with Norfolk Southern and some of the other rail lines.

Mark Kerr
Gillett, PA
3/3/2014

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mark,as for the trespassing rule,the poles that I did take the insulators off of were laying on the ground and more than 14 feet from the rail line itself.that is the measurement n/s uses for deciding trespassing charges.so basically I was not trespassing.as for taking them illegally I made money off something laying on the ground.so stealing does not apply.standing poles I would not even think about it.in a nutshell an opportunity to make money legally came up and I jumped at it.if I ever do get up that way where the rail line is it would be fun to check it out.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
3/4/2014

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Mark: I had no idea there was a road - let alone a Valley! - named after my kin. Still have family around Gillett, Coryland, Columbia Crossroads. Been years since I drove through the area. Nice to reconnect this way.

All you 'youngsters' lamenting arriving on the scene too late to see the steam locomotives in full harness puts life in perspective for me having seen them rolling along South Creek as a kid in the 1950s. Had not thought of myself as an 'old timer' before now (I'm 65 going on 23), but that IS nearly 60 years ago.

While at least some of you are pros regarding collecting insulators and so forth (I am not) I wanted to expand on my earlier post about old telegraph poles along the NYC ROW east of Syracuse visible from the Amtrak. Many are leaning away from the tracks or toppled completely into swamps and mires well away from active trackage. You might even be able to spot some with Google maps satellite feature. - Mike Ameigh

Mike Ameigh
Liverpool, NY
3/9/2014

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thank you mike for that information.as for collecting the insulators like I said earlier I did it for financial opportunities and I knew they were not being destroyed.gives me peace of mind knowing that the insulators were being used by hobbyists and not used for target shooting like some people do.keep in touch.

george Oakley
reading, PA
3/10/2014

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George Oakley: As you are named after your great grandfather, I am named after my grandfather, in a way. My grandfather was Oscar Perry Orr and that is what my dad wanted to name me but my mom would have none of that so a compromise was reached and I was named John Perry, so in a way I have part of my grandfather in me

John Orr
Ralston, PA
3/14/2014

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john,thanks for responding about our forefathers.sounds like your mom was in charge when giving out names.as for me,i am not complaining.keep in touch and let me know if you hear anything about this rail line in the future.thanks.

george oakley
reading, PA
3/18/2014

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My mother is from Canton. Her uncle was an engineer on this line when she was a kid. She said she used to ride along sometimes. I have emailed her for some details. This would have been around 1938-1940. My uncle Miles (Mike) Merrit worked out of the Granville Summit post office. I can remember the train ran by the base of their field on their farm in GVS. We put many a penny on those track in the late 60's. I was just a kid, but I thought there were mostly freighters by then. I can remember no matter who we were visiting in Canton, Troy, or GVS, you could always hear the train for miles at night. I remember the distinctive sound semi trucks tires made on the tar road. In the quiet of the night you could hear them comming and going. My 2 cousins survived getting hit in their uncles big Buick on the tracks one night over by Towanda. I forget how long they were dragged, but it's a miracle they lived.

Jeff Wetherbee
Mountain Lakes, NM
4/20/2014

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Correction...It was my mothers grandfather Lewis Thomas. Mom called it the Erie Lackawanna line. My cousins were driving their fathers Buick (my uncle Mike)

Jeff Wetherbee
Mountain Lakes, NJ
4/21/2014

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sounds like you remember the rail line too jeff.it is great to hear from people who remember this rail line when it was in operation.if you can remember anything else about this line please let me know.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
4/22/2014

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Railroad Management has not changed in 40+ years.....oil mishaps and other safety concerns. And the Interstate highway system will be able to become toll roadss, up to each state.

Will E. Makeit
Nyack, NY
5/1/2014

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I agree with you will about the current state of rail freight transportation and the highways.as for rail shipping it still is cheaper than truck freight.so you have to assume risk with any way of shipping freight.as for the interstates you know the truckers who use them are not going to like tolls.we will see.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/6/2014

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I hunted about seven miles of the old railbed this spring between Columbia Cross Roads and Gillett, hacking brush, digging and crawling. It was brutal. Not one insulator. I too am abandoning this section of track.

I see the gas well drillers are using the railbed to lay atop the ground, plastic 6" water transmission pipe used while drilling. I will be presenting my insulators found at the Troy Heritage Festival at the Troy fairgrounds this September along with some interesting history regarding this section of the Northen Central Railway, subsidary of PRR.

Mark Kerr
Gillett, Coryland, PA
5/12/2014

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thanks for the info mark.as for the drilling industry i think personally it is a double edged sword.keep in touch.

george oakley
reading, PA
5/13/2014

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John Orr. Set up Running is by far the best book I have ever read about the life of working as an Engineer on any railroad. Be proud of your father for remembering the stories of your grandfather and putting them in his book. For anyone who ever wondered what it was like to be a Locomotive Engineer this is a must read book. I myself was an Engineer for Conrail then Norfolk Southern. Things have really changed since the days of O.P.Orr. I have worked out of Williamsport's Newberry Yard, but this was after the Elmira Branch was destroyed by Tropical Storm Agnes. I wished I could have worked the Line through Ralston after reading the book. Maybe someday I will make the drive up there to have a look around.

Forest Zeiders
Lewistown, PA
5/28/2014

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