After lurking and hoping for someone else to ask I've decided to go public.
I am trying to locate information regarding the subject railroad. Having grown up in the Ft. Plain area, I clearly remember seeing remnants of the ROW (cuts, fills, bridge abutments, etc), but I have never found any pictures or significant published text on this line. I believe that construction started near the end of the 19th century or early 20th century? I have no evidence that it got to the rails-on-ties stage, much less engines or rolling stock.
Close examination of NYS aerial imagery from http://www1.nysgis.state.ny.us clearly shows the ROW in numerous areas. The line apparently would have entered Richfield Springs on the ROW shown north of that town on the USGS topographic map and referenced by Russ Nelson in his Jun 27, 2006 post to the “Cooperstown Area Info” thread under this forum:
Posted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 9:15 am
Post subject: Cooperstown area info
Sorry, no, I meant the Southern New York Railway. I couldn't remember any of its multidudinous names; not even one. Noel came to my rescue, bless him.
The book Old Mohawk-Turnpike Book, published by Knox Gelatine Co. in 1921, contains the text, “Various railroad projects, connecting the Susquehanna headwaters with the Mohawk valley at Fort Plain, have failed to materialize in the century prior to 1921. One company constructed a considerable part of the roadbed necessary.” I haven’t had the time to dig through newspaper records in Montgomery County.
Can you use Acme Mapper to create a set of points along the remains of the railbed? Center the cross-hairs on a point, and click Mark. Then move to the next point &etc. When you have a reasonable number of points, right-click on "link to this page" and select "Copy Link Location" (or something similar), then paste that URL here. That would be huge help!
As for finding out more about the railroad, try visiting the County Clerk's office. Oftentimes when a railroad was chartered, they registered a map with the county. Also visit the Real Property office and see if you can see any sign of the railroad on the tax maps. If so, it will have a parcel number (even if it's been subsumed into the surrounding property). You can trace back through the deeds to find who owned it as a railbed.
There is a second embankment visible in spots along the Thruway east of Canajoharie as well - too flat to be a road, I'm guessing an interban since anyplace it would have crossed the Thruway its dug out. No overpasses, either, but I did note one cast concrete culvert.
Seems like the SNY or the FJ&G had an interban branch that went in that direction. Too long since I saw a map of it though.
Line north out of Richfield Springs was the SNY interban, you can still spot it in a few places. I heard a great rumor about that line - apparently the last run derailed in some remote spot now in the middle of private property - and the trolley was left there, is still there to this day. If true, it's probably stripped of every metal part and so rotted it would collapse if you moved it - if the snow hasn't already done the job - but I may still bug the guy who told me to see if I can hike in and try to find it one of these days.
It's not a totally absurd rumor, the same thing happened to a Maine narrow gauge engine - derailed in like '38 and left there sideways across the ROW, train and all, until scrapped in a WWII metal drive. I guess they were so broke they couldn't afford to re-rail it.
There's an entry in the 1883 Report of NYS Railroad Commissioners, concerning the New York, Richfield Springs and Cooperstown Railway Company. Articles of association were filed Dec 15 1882. The railroad to be "commencing at or near Ft Plain, in the county of Montgomery, and running in a southwesterley direction to Richfield Springs, with a branch to Cooperstown, through the counties of Montgomery, Herkimer, and Otsego. Length of road, 32 miles. Capital stock, $600,000." This may not be the same ROW but it's an interesting entry.
If someone had a collection of these annual commissioner's reports, it would be an outstanding reference. 1883 is the only one I have.
That pretty much describes the route, though I wasn't aware of a Cooperstown branch, but it would certainly be plausible. The basic route would have followed NYS Route 80 from Ft. Plain to US 20 at Springfield, then west to Richfield springs, with some meanders to account for the topography, especially between Starkville and Van Hornesville where a nearly 2% grade, horseshoe curves and maybe even a tunnel would have been required.
lv325rr, I am quite familiar with that part of Montgomery County; what is the GPS coordinates or map location of said culvert? I can probably tell you "concretely" what it was.
BTW, the only operating tracks between Fonda and Little Falls through the valley were the NYC main on the north side and the WS on the south.
Russ, I sent you a private email regarding maps of the ROW; will work on getting something to AcmeMapper.
Looked closely at my map book last night and could not see any kind of rail or trolley roadbed extant circa 1915 between Richfield Springs and Ft. Plain. That's not to say that there ever was one. More likely it was on paper, never contracted out but possibly graded in parts by extremely optimistic or gullible landowners or farmers in hope they would get paid! At Ft. Plain itself the map does show the NYC on the far shore of the Mohawk and the WS on the near side with the river and the canal between the two rail lines. It should be noted that the Erie canal was built in 1825 then widened and deepend several times before being totally rebuilt on the north shore of the Mohawk in the early 20th Century. Thus you will find all kinds of roadbeds, tow paths and canal beds on the south shore of the river which probably were parts of the original Erie Canal and its incarnations. Plus, I am sure the WS moved its roadbed around as technology and needs caught up with them.
It's hard to see from my URL above, because you need to see the 1 meter per pixel DOQ photos (working on adding it!), but there is definitely some grading along the route WShore4Ever pointed me to. Doesn't mean that the whole thing was graded, but at least part of it was. Plus he points to two bridge abutments. That's killer evidence. Hard to argue with a pile of stones. They outweigh any scoffery by like, tons.
But if it is along the West Shore RR it could be earlier grading for the WS or remnants of any of the pre 20th Century incarnations of the Erie Canal. You've got to go to the local history books. If you are serious about this project, publishing or printing maps, even just posting on the internet, you should be cautiotious, for legal and other reasons, and be as accurate as possible. Merely accepting my word, or anybody elses for that matter, without proper research could land you in more trouble than you can imagine. You will bear the responsibility of misinformation and inaccuracies. If yours is an honest effort, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, you owe it to yourself and those who will see your work, to be as accurate and as sure as you can be by doing the research and making sure your sources have the same high values you must have.
But it's NOT along the West Shore. It leaves the West Shore at Ft. Plain and immediately heads up the river valley. WShore4Ever might be wrong a few feet one way or the other, but looking at the topograph and the aerial photos, I'm quite confident that yes, there really was a railroad graded along the route he gave.