Great news! 17 miles of the Erie's River Line will become part of The Greenway rail trail:
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Great News, the State Is in the Process of Purchasing 17 miles of the Old Erie Bed in Allegany County So That some of the Greenway Can Open Again
by Irene Szabo
We have mentioned many times in the past year that there are roughly parallel railroads from Belfast to
near Cuba, the result of an Erie Railroad shortcut opened in 1911 to enable trains that didn’t need to go
to Buffalo to angle southward from near Dalton, just east of the Genesee River up high on bluffs, aiming
for Pennsylvania and eventually Chicago. This so-called High Line crossed the river just north of Belfast
(some of you were lucky enough to see it before it was demolished; now there are only concrete pillars
between the river and NY 19 on the west side where there used to be a spectacular high steel trestle). The
High Line stayed above the valley a little bit on the west side, too, and angled away from the Genesee
River along the Black Creek valley now followed by NY 305. This is how the Erie railbed and the
Pennsylvania Railroad were once cheek by jowl within the Black Creek swamp when both were still
running daily trains.
Just west of Cuba, the Greenway
(Pennsylvania RR) goes under the remnants
of the Erie bridge above. We all know that
“our” Pennsy route was closed in the early
1960s, while the Erie line continued activity
until the 1980s, after it had tried to save
itself through merger with the Lackawanna.
Then to save itself from bankruptcy after
Hurricane Agnes in 1972 tore out major
river-edge segments, the Erie Lackawanna
was gobbled up by Conrail in 1976, the
government corporation that kept most
disaster-bound northeast railroads from
One of Conrail’s cost-saving measures was to eliminate many miles of branch lines that weren’t deemed
necessary or profitable; in truth, today we wish we had a few of them back again. So after the
Pennsylvania Railroad had already given up on what is now our Greenway, the branch from Pennsylvania
up to Rochester, twenty years later Conrail started axing seemingly superfluous lines, and the High Line
was killed off. The Erie line had been built over twenty years after the PRR, and was much better built,
with great bridges and deep ballast rocks that Conrail mysteriously didn’t dig up and use elsewhere.
Ballast is the layer of gray rocks that wooden ties and rails are set upon, and they enable good drainage
and keep the ties out of mud.
Therefore, in places, the Erie route might be preferable to the one we have now between Cuba and
Belfast, but after Conrail let it go, it became seventeen miles of private land. Fortunately for us, those
miles are owned by only two parties, and after years of negotiation, they are willing to sell to the State.
At this point, the property has been inspected by Allegany State Park personnel, with closing anticipated
this summer. After closing, Bergmann Associates will survey the whole property, and the process will
begin to decide which corridor is better for the trail to follow in any given segment. Considering how
many places Black Creek is nibbling away at our path, it’s great to have an alternative here.