• Erie railroad on stilts!

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New York State.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by scottychaos
I just read the most amazing thing!
I cant believe I have never heard of this before..im from Waverly!

an excerpt from Volume 11, No2 of Flags, Diamonds & Statues.
"The Waverly Connection" by Richard Palmer.
concerning the early construction of the Erie railroad across New York State in the early 1840's..

"Of the early history of the venture, a New York Times article on the Erie noted on August 28, 1878: "after the great financial revulsion of 1836-37 had compelled the suspension of early operations on the railroad, the state of New York came to the aid of the company, and in 1838 loaned it $3 million. This large amount of money was used up, and only 61 miles of road were in operation in 1845 - from Piermont, on the Hudson, to Otisville, the summit of the Shawangunk Mountains, in Orange County. Not a small share of the company's means had been spent in carrying out the ridiculous idea of its engineers that the rails must be laid on piles from Owego to Hornellsville.

"For a distance of 90 miles two rows of heavy posts were sunk in the earth. Each one of these posts stood for many a year afterward as a memory to the millions of wasted riches, for they were never used, and the last one disapperaed from the site of the present route only a few years ago"

As far as Waverly was concerned, the original route was radically different from the route as completed west of the village. At a point about 100 rods west of the Elmira street bridge, and extending for some distance, there was for years a long artificial embankment, containing several thousand loads of earth. This was intended for the Erie track, which was to cross the Chemung river a short distance north of what was for years the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western bridge, then return to the north side of the river. From that point across the lowlands were two rows of heavy oak piles which were driven into the earth about four or five feet apart, protruding four or five feet above the ground, upon which stringers would have been placed for railroad track.

It is said the railroad expended about $1 million in this manner and for several years after the railroad had been completed there was a large field at Chemung village covered with logs intended for this purpose, although they had been paid for, they were never used."

(end quote..this is Scot speaking again now..)
WOW! 90 miles of posts and stringers intended to carry the Erie tracks?!
the big unanswered question is WHY??
Flooding maybe?
The Erie does follow the river valleys of the Susquehanna and Chemung rivers between Owego and Corning..and beyond..but flooding would likely just take out the posts too!
and I cant imagine why these posts would be needed because of flooding all the way between Owego and Hornell...
Does the Erie follow rivers all the way to Hornell too?
thats the only explanation I can think of...I cant believe they considered this! and not only considered it, but started building it!
but there is also some contradiction..first it says "90 miles" of the posts were built..but then it says the logs at Chemung were never used..
Chemung is only 24 miles from Owego..so if the posts were already built 90 miles west beyond Owego, why would there be all those unused logs in Chemung??
it seems more likely to me the posts were only built a few miles beyond Owego, and never made it as far as Chemung?! maybe...

anyone ever heard of this before??

  by sodusbay
This is correct information, although I can't put my hands on the references, I have read about this in early Erie history. This first grade was much closer to the eventual DL&W; the "original Erie" which is still in use today was the 2nd attempt, in the 1850's.

Remember, in the 1830's railroad technology was very new. Also, trains were much lighter and no one could foresee that the railroad would replace the canal for heavy traffic. So it might have been considered cheaper to just put stringers on piles, rather than build a solid earthwork. I think soft ground (alluvial soils) rather than flooding per se was the motivation.

  by jr
H. Roger Grant's Erie Lackawanna - Death of an American Railway refers to the stilt construction on pages 2-4.

The backers of the concept promised that the additional construciton expense would pay for itself with savings from avoiding problems with snow, flooding, and soft roadbed. It was a complete failure.


  by joshuahouse
I think the poles system is described in a fairly detailed way in "The Story of the Erie", but I dont have a copy. The author described the pylons as being there in the area around Swain, so at one point you had the Erie, the PS&N, and these pylons all running through the area.

  by nydepot
One section that had them is in Johnson City. Look at a map for Arch St., which crosses over the Erie on a bridge. It's basically downtown. From there west to Rt. 201, the Erie is in a cut most of the way. My understanding from MOW crews from the early 1990s is they were in here but 150 years or so of track maintenance has obliterated most of them. This was something that was brought up to me by the MOW crew out of the blue so I give a little more credit to them rather than a bunch of guys having fun with a railfan. It's the only place they knew of them to see them. One local remembers seeing them in the 1940s sticking out in places.