• Himrod and Watkins Salt Mines

  • 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

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  by bwparker1
 
Image

This picture was taken at said yard. There is/was a gravel transload operation there. Taken in Sept. of 2004.
  by K4Pacific
 
As a Penn Yan native as well as that BW (I'm moving to warmer climate), Parker, I was fortunate enough to enjoy the Penn Central and early ConRail days around the plant. During my tenure as "Penn Yan and Himrod Yardmaster", I witnessed the salt trains which were dispatched out of Dewitt. Trains usually consisted of 90 cars. Power was usually 3 ALCo six axle engines. GY (Geneva) tower handled the moves. Ward K Stout of Penn Yan (wife was the village meter maid) was usually the op at GY during the shift.

The crew had to back the entire train through Himrod and up the grade to the Corning Secondary because six axle power was not allowed on the Watkins Glen Secondary. The salt mine was the only waiver. The power ran around the 90 car on the 110 car Himrod siding on the Corning Secondary. Now Himrod siding is only a 90 car siding so it doesn't have to cross Route 14 as it did then.

The salt from that mine is the same "vein" that goes under Watkins Glen and over at Cargill in Lansing. The reason for the mine closing? There were many, but Morton just felt the bottom dropped out of the market at the time.

Those were my observations. No HJ block operators were in service at the time.

  by bwparker1
 
Do you have any recollections of PC Trains on the Dresden - Penn Yan Branch, or moves north of Penn Yan to Bellona?

BWP
  by K4Pacific
 
Of course Hurricane Agnes delat the final blow to that line. But imagine Brooks, when I witnessed PC - GP-38, of all things switching Birkett Mills and going up to Carey Lumber. The power came out of Geneva to work the line. From Dresden to Penn Yan was up hill raising about 720 feet in six miles. Not bad. But, I interviewed Lou Potts, who was in his 90s in the 70s, when I worked at WFLR (Freakin Lousy Radio). He was a conductor on the line during steam days. His rickety wooden caboose was pulled by a mogul (2-6-0). They switched seven mills operating at the time. He worked the trolley line in Penn Yan. He told of the time he lost the brakes on the grade at Elm Street and Main Intersection and the trolley with people on it rolled backwards down the grade and up the other side and see sawed back and forth until it stopped in the middle of grade. Lou had to run from one end of the trolley to the other screaming get out of the way, ringing the bell frantically.

The was a nice brick station in Dresden adjacent to the Dresden Hotel. A nice Penn Central derailment poked a hole in the station and was ultimately demolished. Shortly there after a nice coal train derailed like an accordian just north of there as well.

Now, one reason the branch stayed in service for so long as it did was due to the Hooker Chemical Plant along the line that made batteries. Acid in tank cars. The plant closed even before Hurricane Agnes.

Next post will have PC and early Conrail and the last train to Seneca Castle. The last train to Hall. And the operations of that slow unmaintained line at the end.
  by K4Pacific
 
Hi Brooks,

After the Elmira Secondary was severed after the 1972 flood, the local job that was mainly in service to handle the salt mines, went on duty Monday - Friday at 16:00. Stan Oparil, Jr. held the throttle at the time. Stan is still alive in Elmira Heights and is, until Don Jilson proves me wrong, the only extant steam qualified engineer of the Pennsy Elmira Branch. Would someone interview him please? I'd gladly have him meet you. Paul Golden is still alive but listening to jazz somewhere in Florida.

Anyway, Tuesdays and Fridays during Penn Central and early CR, a GP38 or GP38-2 handled the charge. After marking up in what is now The Seneca Harbor Station, they would taxi to Himrod to pick up their charge after tying up their Monday Nights and Thursday Nights if all went well. Penn Central/early CR rails spreading crimped service regularly.

They'd make Penn Yan at around 7:00pm. Bellona usually around 9:00 to switch Olin's Fertilizer. Hall Fertilizer at 10:00 - 10:30. Stanley where we crossed the LV diamond at around 11:00. Seneca Castle right at midnight. All in the dead of night. Why? I don't know. Was that when SS-3 was scheduled? Highballing back to Penn Yan by 2:00 am at all of 10 mph. Good God. One car here, one car there.

Stan always blew long and loud as if he was running the 65 car coal trains to the dock. That poor house next tot he crossing in Bellona. Stan said, "If I have to be up in the middle of the night, they do too."

During early Conrail, the state paid the crew from Hall to Seneca Castle. they loved the big bucks. It was like over time to them. There's more to tell if you want me to. But, I figure there is always someone out there that knows more than me. So you tell me some too.

Would you care for more?

  by TB Diamond
 
K4:

Stan and Paul, now those names jog my memory. Was allowed a few cab rides in EC-15 with those gents, Himrod Jct.-Stanley circa the mid-1970s. Caught them once on the Newark & Marion job, as well. Fine gentlemen and it is good to know that they are enjoying retirement.

Recall one time when Stan had a student engineer. The job had to pick up a empty box at a factory in Penn Yan that manufactured baby cribs, if memory serves. The side track going down in to the factory was fairly steep and weed covered, as well. Stan told the student to apply the independant in order to see what happened. He did and the engine wheels simply slid along on the weed-covered rails. We did get stopped before the joint was made, however. A lesson was learned that day, courtesy an old head.
  by K4Pacific
 
Boy, I was at a loss. That was the PC symbol post 1968 I beleive. Then, I recall at the end prior to FLGK, it was WAHJ-14 (Albany Division, Himrod Junction). As I recall, it was WAWG for some time during early CR. But some else will know more than me. Who was the student engineer? Not me. But, the weed grown rails allowed the wheels to lock right up and just slide. Then, try to pull just two cars and the wheels spun. The odor was a pungent burning weed smell. One can never forget that smell. Just like the smell of brake shoes smoking it up.

I'll have more stories about the Elmira Branch. One quick thought was about Paul Golden's dad. They were tight on runs. Paul's dad was the engineer. Paul usually the fireman. Well, a day Paul marked off, was the day his dad was killed in the head on at Orleans in 1964. You see pictures in Morning Sun Pennsy Diesel Vol. ?????. I have it, but I'm not getting up.

Any way, I got the ICC report and gave it to Paul in the late 90s. He had a tear. He said all his mom got was a $30,000 settlement from the railroad on the operators mistake at HJ block station. When that op found out what happened he just ran off and was never heard from again.

So many more stories. GP-30s worked well. I remember some Dewitt Geeps RS-3 EMD re-engined CR 9997 ran the line for a while, but was replaced when the crews could only bring out a few cars at a time from Watkins Salt due to the grade. They just couldn't pull.

More later.

  by TB Diamond
 
K4:

Lost track of the job a short time after CR. Cannot recall the student engineer's name.

Heard tell several years ago that parts of some of the cars involved in the Orleans wreck could still be seen in Flint Creek. They may still be there. Never saw the book mentioned but know a fan who has several negatives of the wreck.

EC-14/15 worked days when I was familiar with it.......1971-75. Even caught it once coming into Canandaigua, less than a year before the Stanley-Canandaigua segment was abandoned.

Have not been past the Himrod salt mine site in several years. Anything left of the structures there?

  by ricebrianrice
 
Here is a picture I took this past summer, with the mine in the background. July 4th weekend, Fingerlakes had a wine trip from Himrod, to Watkins.

http://naphotos.nerail.org/showpic/?pho ... %20Railway

Brian

  by TB Diamond
 
rice....:

Thank you. Amazing how new the structures appear.

  by nydepot
 
From the Bureau of Mines 1971:

"Despite lower production in 1971 the salt industry continued to expand its
production capacity. Morton Salt Co., a Division of Morton International,
Inc., opened a new rock salt mine at Himrod, Yates County, New York. Two
18-foot-diameter, concrete-lined shafts opened the way to the Seneca Lake
salt strata, the first of which lies 1,600 feet below the surface. Production
was initiated, however, at 1,954 feet. The company expected to attain a yearly production level of 2.5 million tons by the end of the year. Reserves are believed sufficient for at least 50 years of production. "

Charles
  by Flat-Wheeler
 
K4Pacific wrote:They'd make Penn Yan at around 7:00pm. Bellona usually around 9:00 to switch Olin's Fertilizer. Hall Fertilizer at 10:00 - 10:30. Stanley where we crossed the LV diamond at around 11:00. Seneca Castle right at midnight. All in the dead of night. Why? I don't know. Was that when SS-3 was scheduled? Highballing back to Penn Yan by 2:00 am at all of 10 mph. Good God. One car here, one car there.

Stan always blew long and loud as if he was running the 65 car coal trains to the dock. That poor house next tot he crossing in Bellona. Stan said, "If I have to be up in the middle of the night, they do too.

Would you care for more?
Incidently, that house at the Bellona crossing appeared to be occupied by a family of Amish, when I last hiked by there in 1997.

Very interesting stuff K4 ! Sure, bring on some more memories and stories.
  by old dad 12997
 
I believe this facility opened in 1968 and closed in 1978 - 79. The facility was owned and operated by Morton - Norwich Chemical (Now Morton - Thikol).

My understanding is the the facility was closed at the insistance of Mine Safety Administration after a fatal accident in the "man shaft" (cable running man lift broke and the automatic arrester was non-functional). They had also had difficulty with cave ins (although I don't think any fatalities resulted). The salt formation in this area is "interbedded" with shale, making hard rock mining and maintenance of stable ceiling in the mine an expensive and somewhat risky proposition.

After the facility was closed a large stockpile of salt remained topside. After several years discussion as to just how to handle this (during which time some of it did leach into the ground water) it was decided to run a sprinkler on the pile, with the resultant brine going down the hoisting shaft and back into the formation they were mining. This was done over several years with the project ending somewhere around 1980 - 1982.

This facility did ship by rail, almost from Day 1. I can remember seeing the "yard" referenced above pretty well stuffed full of cars. This facility did have it's problems, but I do believe it could have been run at a profit.
  by K4Pacific
 
Why during early Conrail years (1977-78), I recall three ALCO Century 628, 630, 636 handling the 90 cars of Salt around dusk in the summer months. The crew came out of Syracuse and not Corning. Many big ALCOs ended in the Dewitt deadline. I have prints somewhere of them coming down the Corning Secondary. Big GE's came in too.

They pushed the loads out and up to the Corning Secondary and ran out at Himrod Siding. Back then it was a 110 car siding, now 90 cars.
  by Lehighton_Man
 
K4, do you recall what 628s there were? Any ex. Valley 628s? or were those already on the Deadline? Man, i wish i could've seen that, a triple head C630 lashup with 110 salt cars, especially rolling through Penn Yan. Or Better, a Coal train! wow, even though that dock closed. Hmm, that leads me to a question; If they had rebuilt the Coal Dock, into a much larger and more effecient facility, is it plausible that coal trains would still run to Sodus Bay, and still make a profit(on most-likely Conrail, then NS?)
J/w
Sean
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