A few questions concerning Cornell University

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bwparker1
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Post by bwparker1 » Fri May 02, 2008 8:07 am

Just to add one more tidbit to this thread...

Sometime in 2004-2005, My wife and I were back in Ithaca visiting the old Alma Mater, and were talking a walk on one of the short segment of the old EC&N ROW that has been converted to a short trail. This is on the East Ithaca portion of town. There was a building very close to Mitchell St., that had a spur that clearly ran into the building at one point. It was cool to see... I was some sort of Cornell U. facilities building, but beyond the steam plant. The door was clearly large enough to allow a boxcar inside.

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&F ... &encType=1

It is the large Brick building in the middle of page.

BWP

Paynes Trains

A few questions concerning Cornell University

Post by Paynes Trains » Fri May 02, 2008 8:18 am

I know that the CU steam plant was still using coal into at least the mid to late 90's. I used to watch them off load coal from hoppers into trucks in the Conrail yard in Ithaca and then climb up East Hill. Currently there is a project inthe works to build a high pressure gas line to the plant to convert to natural gas

Bill

HarryE
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Post by HarryE » Fri May 02, 2008 12:57 pm

To Johnpbarlow: That steam crane was probably used to offload coal in the anthracite era. It's strange that Cornell didn't install a dump station and conveyor system to transport coal to the power house.

To TB Diamond: Thanks for the correction. I try to be as exacting as I can, but age does take its toll. It seems like all of the old time railroaders have passed on. So unless someone can dig up an old LV manifest, my question may go unanswered. As an aside, I used to enjoy talking to the old timers. They were always willing to share their experiences, unlike today where the employees regard working for the railroad as just another job, not a way of life.

EastIthaca

Post by EastIthaca » Sat May 03, 2008 4:26 pm

Despite how Conrail may have spelled the name of its track, the industry on South Hill was indeed Morse Chain, not "Morris." A wealth of historical information about the Morse Chain plant has been posted on the Web due to recent investigation of pollution: http://www.ithaca-ship.org/morse.htm

Samples of Morse Chain Company letterhead are available in the first document posted here: http://toxicstargeting.com/emerson/index.htm

Two sources readily at hand indicate that Cornell used a combination of coal and oil during the years in question. Page 52 of A History of Railroads in Tompkins County by Hardy Campbell Lee and Winton Rossiter (1977) states:
The nine-mile branch west from Freeville to East Ithaca which carried 250-300 cars of coal a year to the Cornell heating plant, lost a section of track near Varna in heavy rains in June 1972. After that Cornell's coal had to come by truck.
Page 71 of Mr. Cornell's Railroad and How It Grew by John Connell (1982) depicts a "visit to East Ithaca in early 1973" and offers this caption for a photograph of a coal pile and oil tank at the Cornell plant:
This is East Ithaca. Part of the yards are now used for coal storage for the Cornell University Heating Plant. Note the fuel oil tank in the background. Cornell also [sic] uses oil and coal. Both fuels are trucked in.
Incidentially, page 68 of Connell's book depicts Alco road switcher 218 delivering a car to the NYSEG siding near Etna. One photograph shows two men aboard the locomotive: I wonder if one of these gentlemen is Bart Fiske.

I'm also curious about what theories were advanced at the time regarding failure to fix the washout.

TB Diamond
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Post by TB Diamond » Sat May 03, 2008 10:16 pm

ConRail did, indeed, refer to the track as the Morris Chain Industrial Track. My bad for repeating their error and my apology to HarryE. Wonder if CR confused Morse Chain with William T. Morris, president of the American Cable and Chain Co. (until he passed away in 1946)?

Corporate intrigue was related as the reason for the East Ithaca Running Track never being repaired after Hurricane Agnus. Can't recall anything more than that.
Last edited by TB Diamond on Sat May 03, 2008 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
You can't go home again- Thomas Wolfe

HarryE
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Post by HarryE » Sat May 03, 2008 10:24 pm

To East Ithaca: You've provided a definitive answer to some of my questions, thanks. You've got to maintain a healthy skepticism regarding facts and figures posted on websites and in books. Trust but verify in other words.

To BWParker: That old rail bed probably dated from an era when railroads delivered most of the freight, although it is strange that the indication was that the track entered into the interior of a building. A more sinister hypothesis would involve secret installations during WW2. Many universities were recruited in the war effort. Cornell was home to Hans Bethe who was a VIP in the Manhattan Project and as an aside was the first person to explain how the sun worked.

EastIthaca

Post by EastIthaca » Sat May 03, 2008 10:45 pm

The facility at 909 Mitchell St. is Cornell's former High Voltage Laboratory and, later, plasma physics lab[1]. The large building (actually metal, not brick) was built in 1953[2], and is situated over the portion of the EC&N that was abandoned in 1935. I imagine that the large pieces of equipment used in the high voltage research might have been delivered by rail. The rail is still visible in front of the door but not in the floor of the building, which is no longer used for research and in recent years has served as the workshop in which students build their entries for the Solar Decathlon competition.[3]

[1] http://ezra.cornell.edu/posting.php?tim ... 1071550800 (Question 9)
[2] http://www.fs.cornell.edu/fs/facinfo/fs ... il_cd=2036
[3] http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Sep ... ep.da.html

lvrr325
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Post by lvrr325 » Sun May 04, 2008 6:09 pm

I haven't been in the Ithaca yard in a while, but so far as I know NS still spots a couple loads at a time over a shallow trestle (or maybe just a low spot between the ties) to unload hoppers into trucks via a simple conveyor for delivery to Cornell.

There were some aborted plans as part of Conrail to repair the East Ithaca line and deliver the cars directly, until someone figured out they could just transload the coal over in the yard, much cheaper.

bwparker1
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Post by bwparker1 » Mon May 05, 2008 3:58 pm

EastIthaca wrote:The facility at 909 Mitchell St. is Cornell's former High Voltage Laboratory and, later, plasma physics lab[1]. The large building (actually metal, not brick) was built in 1953[2], and is situated over the portion of the EC&N that was abandoned in 1935. I imagine that the large pieces of equipment used in the high voltage research might have been delivered by rail. The rail is still visible in front of the door but not in the floor of the building, which is no longer used for research and in recent years has served as the workshop in which students build their entries for the Solar Decathlon competition.[3]

[1] http://ezra.cornell.edu/posting.php?tim ... 1071550800 (Question 9)
[2] http://www.fs.cornell.edu/fs/facinfo/fs ... il_cd=2036
[3] http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Sep ... ep.da.html
Thanks EastIthaca, this is a great front view of the building...

High Voltage Building

lvrr325
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Re: A few questions concerning Cornell University

Post by lvrr325 » Sat Dec 13, 2008 10:58 am

Digging around looking for a map or photo taken behind the steam plant and came back to this thread, looks like I need to find the book Mr. Cornell's Railroad & How It Grew.

Anyways Windows Live Local shows a great big coal pile behind the steam plant, far enough to be across the ROW, complete with a conveyor and a dump truck in the process of unloading. The ROW is obliterated by a parking lot where it curved to a more southeasterly direction to stay on the hilltops, although across the next street (Maple Ave.) it appears to be paved as a trail even below the structure built partially on the ROW.

EastIthaca

Re: A few questions concerning Cornell University

Post by EastIthaca » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:39 am

Yep, the ROW is paved as the East Ithaca Recreation Way most of the way between Game Farm Road (just a bit west of the Varna station site) and Honness Lane, except for a short stretch directly adjacent to the heating plant. The space behind the plant is currently undergoing major change: in the past few weeks several large structures were erected as part of Cornell's Combined Heat and Power project, which will increase use of natural gas through a new pipeline being sunk adjacent to the LV ROW, and ultimately diminish the size of the coal pile. Looks like excavation of the site for the CHP project finally removed the remaining supports for the old railroad coal trestle.

EastIthaca

Re: A few questions concerning Cornell University

Post by EastIthaca » Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:11 pm

Another note: the book Cornell Then & Now by Ronald E. Ostman and Harry Littell (Ithaca: McBooks, 2003) has a nice photo on page 102 of the Cornell Heating Plant under construction in 1922, showing the original coal trestle.

lvrr325
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Re: A few questions concerning Cornell University

Post by lvrr325 » Sat Dec 13, 2008 4:15 pm

I'm mainly looking for something that shows the track arrangement post-WWII to the end, but I'll take a look too at that if I can find a copy.

Edit: Looking on Windows Live Maps, I finally rotated my view 90' so I'm looking east and I see a row of concrete piers in a gentle curve behind the plant, to the west of the conveyor that runs from the coal pile into the building, which I'm guessing supported the coal trestle - to me, in that one area between the plant and the coal pile, the LV ROW is pretty evident yet; there's room for three or four tracks there.

I would post a link if I thought it would come up, but since you mention they're knocking those piers down, I've been saving the images on my computer for future reference. It figures I get interested in this when they're going to eliminate it, it looks to me like from the maps you can get close enough without trespassing (unless you count going in the one parking lot) to take some good pictures of what's left.

EastIthaca

Re: A few questions concerning Cornell University

Post by EastIthaca » Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:19 pm

Yep, the piers are all gone now; I missed the chance to snap photos of them. The Sanborn maps give a good idea of track layout in the East Ithaca area in the early part of the 20th century, and I've got some aerial photos from the mid 1960s. (So far as I can tell it hadn't changed very much from the 1920s, save for removal of the turntable and a siding close to Cornell's laundry/storage building.) I'll post more when I get the chance.

psdstu

Re: A few questions concerning Cornell University

Post by psdstu » Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:44 am

I grew up in that area in the 60's and early 70's and just wanted to add a couple of items.

With regard to the Map picture, the 2 small buildings to the West in the photo, the one to the right used to be "Buds Red & White" Store, and the building to the left was where the family used to live. I remember a train evry once in awhile going into the big Cornell building be dicussed.

I also remember that just to the North on the track used to be "Koopers" (SP?)... an oil/tar company that used to have trucks which transported oil/tar for road work.

A little bit further North on the track was where "University Sand & Gravel" used to store there Cement and dump trucks. I think they also may have taken some stone delivery every once in awhile on those tracks.

Just a few memories from a long time ago.

Stu

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