• NYO&W's Unbuilt Line to Buffalo

  • Discussion of the NYO&W Railway and predecessor New York and Oswego Midland Railroad (NY&OM) for the period 1866 to its abandonment in 1957. Visit the historical site here: O&WRHS.
Discussion of the NYO&W Railway and predecessor New York and Oswego Midland Railroad (NY&OM) for the period 1866 to its abandonment in 1957. Visit the historical site here: O&WRHS.

Moderators: CAR_FLOATER, David

  by GulfRail
Yesterday, I came upon a truly fascinating railroad map from 1872. A number of proposed railroad routes (some of which were never built) are depicted, including a New York & Oswego Midland extension to Buffalo from Norwich. While I initially thought that it was a line that was eventually built by another railroad (either the Lehigh Valley or the West Shore), I checked some railroad maps of New York from 1948 - nope, this was a whole other animal. Here's a link to the section of the map featuring the NY&OM:


While this line would've no doubt helped the NYO&W be a more profitable enterprise during the Golden Age of railroading, the NYO&W would probably still be a fallen flag - absorbed into Conrail on 4/1/76 like its neighbors.
  by Cactus Jack
And they made sure to hit every mountain, hill, gorge and curve they could find in a most indirect route towards Auburn from Norwich !
  by GulfRail
According to Wikipedia, they went bankrupt shortly after completing the line to Auburn. That would explain why the remainder of the line to Buffalo wasn't completed.
  by GulfRail
According to Wikipedia, they went bankrupt shortly after completing the line to Auburn. That would explain why the remainder of the line to Buffalo wasn't completed. Although that *does* pose an interesting question - would the route from Auburn to Buffalo have been engineered any better than the rest of the railroad? Unlike the rest of the NYO&W, it wouldn't have had the Catskills to deal with, so that'd be a plus.
  by Cactus Jack
The O&W predecessor NY&OM under the direction of D.C. Littlejohn was an opportunist who built his proposed line connecting the Great Lakes to the New York Metro area / Hudson River. Town bonding directed the actual route rather than economic planning or engineering.

It seems when it became apparent that traffic was not going to develop as quickly as projected and the Niagara Ship Canal would not be built anytime soon which would have fed the big lake boats to Oswego instead of Buffalo, Littlejohn's focus was on a Western Extension. Initially this was the Auburn Branch, most notably referred to as the Deruyter Branch as probably not too many people thought it would go to Auburn, and in fact never did. This line meandered out of Norwich and up a 2%+ grade over Crumb Hill near Otselic Center east of Deruyter. It then went through Cortland, Freeville and turned north towards Genoa, NY finally running out of steam at Scipio Center (Merrifield) south of Auburn. A very roundabout route. While it was referred to as the Auburn or Western Extension I don't think the word "Buffalo" was ever much used, or at least with a straight face. It was doubtful that any engineering was done west of Auburn for route survey. At that time the railroad was so financially in trouble that any possible construction probably would not have been "first class".

Also Littlejohn and the directors probably realized that the line to Auburn was not a real viable outlet west and had conceived an "Air Line" west from the Hancock, NY area via Deposit that majically reached west in a more direct line. There were several rough maps and some surveys recorded but I don't know to what extent or what might have been filed. In the end it was all an unattainable dream, Littlejohn "left for other interests" and a receiver was appointed in 1873. In 1880 the companty was reorganized as the NYO&W and later very wisely tapped the anthracite fields in the Lackawanna Valley / Scranton area. A better move at the time and circumstance than trying to reach Buffalo. Indeed, the RW&O got in big trouble in what seemed to be a wise move to extend their Northern New York operation west to Buffalo to meet the Western trunk lines. That didn't end well.
  by RussNelson
Everybody wanted to be in Buffalo, and if you look at the historical railroad maps of Buffalo, you realize that everybody WAS in Buffalo. The competition must have been crazy.
  by Cactus Jack
Indeed everyone was or seemed to want to be in Buffalo which was both a funnel for eastbound freight from Canada and the Midwest / West via rail and via ships on the Great Lakes.

The O&W recieved a great amount of freight off the Wabash (via LV mostly), LV and DL&W for forwarding to Maybrook over the Scranton Division which became their defacto "Western Extension". The problem still was competition and the bigger roads had the market account of the franchises they could connect while the O&W was one of several bridge options.

NYC ran through the Buffalo gateway into New England as a single carrier. The Erie went through to Maybrook and had to hand off to the New Haven, while DL&W and LV terminated at Buffalo and needed western connsctions like the Wabash and NKP to further freight west or pick up from western points to forward east.

It has always amazed me regarding the NKP- DL&W. It appears that NKP saw less need for an eastern partner than DL&W saw for a western connection. NKP was handicapped like Wabash in that they had no eastern outlet of their own. It appears that DL&W was the one approaching the reluctant NKP. A merger that seems like it would have worked well. NKP was reluctant to dilute stock prices and had concerns about the commuter losses. It would have really meant stiff competition against the Erie and NYC. Instead we got an Erie Lackawanna and NKP (N&W) paired with a friendly LV which I am not sure how well that really worked for them and NKP lines, now under N&W did not achieve that New England connection until Dereco in the late 1960s. In later days NS has found it expediate to compete in New England as a franchise to compete with CSX via the Patriot Corridor of D&H and B&M routings.

It would have been interesting if New Haven and NYO&W had merged in 1952 as proposed but the role of the O&W was being marginalzed well before 1957 for a bridge route with impending and planned mergers.

A study of some freight waybills of O&W originated and fowarded traffic is very interesting. Even in the 1950's much was part of the rail car ferry service across the Great Lakes.
  by B&M 1227
Not to completely derail this topic, but what's the beef on that Eaton-Otselic-Cortland line? It looks like itwould have crossed the Syracuse & Chenango Valley near the Georgetown Depot, and NYO&W at Otselic.
  by Cactus Jack
I am not an expert on your question as to the Line from Cortland to Eaton, but I think you are referring to the Utica, Chenango & Cortland which was a paper railroad planned to connect Utica via the Utica, Clinton & Binghamton at Smith's Valley (Randallsville) and run down through the Otselic Valley through Georgetown, Otselic, Otselic Center, South Otselic, Cincinnatus and into Cortland. Eventually the fall out of all this became the Cincinnatus Branch of the DL&W with no connection to South Otselic and further up the valley.

Also a line was actually built connecting Georgetown with Georgetown Station on the NYC / Westshore Chenango Branch in the early 1900's. Apparently it was never opened for service and was torn up after a short period. I suspect NYC did not want to take over operation, lease or buy it and freight continued to be drayed from Georgetown Station to Georgetown proper.

You mention Eaton, and I can't recall that as part of the plan, but I also do not know if an actual survey was done and filed. That would be interesting information if anyone could get to Wampsville and check it out. One reason being that I cannot figure how they expected to get from Smith's Valley (Randallsville) up the west side of the Chenango Valley and into the Otselc Valley. Indeed there would have had to have been a crossing with the Chenango Branch somewhere probably between Lebanon and Georgetown Station and with the NY&OM line at Otselic Center, most assuredly as part of the big Rainbow Bridge over the Otselic River.

For years both Georgetown and South Otselic championed rail service and several times it looked like they would certainly succeed but the short-lived Otselic Valley Railroad from Georgetown to Georgetown Station was the most that ever happened. The DL&W was enticed numerous times to extend their Cincinnatus Branch and at one time a grand plan was schemed to introduce interurban service, I think from the Southern Tier near Binghamton up into the Otselic Valley.

Plans were also hatched to have the NYO&W rebuild the DeRuyter Branch and go to South Otselic or Georgetown or both, for the DL&W to assume parts of the DeRuyter Branch out of Norwich, of which they actually made an inspection tour with NYO&W officials over the roads and for an interurban to use parts or all the NY&OM from Norwich to Cortland or beyond over the LV lines to Freeville and connect north to Auburn via Genoa and the shortlived NY&OM / Murdock Grade.

Lot of plans, lots of ideas for the Otselic Valley which kind of dead ends like a box canyon to the north and ideas of connection of Elmira and Cortland to Utica which was a big user of coal for the textile mills and other industry with outlet to Canada and points east.

I don't know how a railroad would connect Eaton with Georgetown Station area such as along NYS Route 26, maybe via a big horsehoe curve out of Eaton and then ? in between the lakes and reservoirs I guess but I don't know the grades and profile that well. However, by Eaton the railroad has climbed out of the Chenango Valley and attained a good elevation.
  by RussNelson
Cactus Jack wrote:Also a line was actually built connecting Georgetown with Georgetown Station on the NYC / Westshore Chenango Branch in the early 1900's.
HA! You're right!! Look at this:
http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=42.76938,-75 ... Station%20(the%20actual%20station" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)&marker11=42.77159%2C-75.73175%2CTreeline&marker12=42.76938%2C-75.73490%2CProperty%20line
I've labeled the features that I think mark the route of the railroad. Of course that's just guesswork. There is undoubtedly a map in the county clerk's office which shows the actual route.
  by B&M 1227
Thanks for the response. That's very interesting about the Georgetown Branch. I'd driven up the valley between Georgetown and Georgetown station and saw some tree lines that looked like a row, but I wrote it off because of the proximity to the Chenango Branch.

This quote from the NYO&W website may be what is shown on the map.
Since the UI&E [Utica Ithaca & Elmira] only operated the line between DeRuyter and Norwich for a year, it does not appear it gave serious consideration to purchasing it. In fact, it was rumored they wanted to rip up the line east of DeRuyter and build a new line through Georgetown to Randallsville. This was never done, however, and the Midland continued sporadic service between Norwich and Cortland until 1880.
  by Cactus Jack
THE UI&E plans and interests were 20 years apart from the line to Georgetown that was actually built which I believe was all local interests.

John Taibi's book on the Chenango Branch of the Westshore has info on this line to Georgetown and a rare photo showing track.

NY&OM ceased operations of the Auburn Branch in late 1879 and the rails pulled in Spring 1882. The Georgetown construction was in early 1900's.
  by lvrr325
Had that extension been built it's likely the O&W would have become a merger player with someone, and the route likely abandoned at that point.

What would have been a smarter move to get a Buffalo extension would have been a merger with the RW&O. That would be mostly an end-to-end merger (adding the Syracuse & Chenango Valley would have been helpful) and the route north may have been enough to sustain the line at least to Conrail. It also would force NYC to use the Adirondack branch as it's route to Montreal and points north. But I've never studied the corporate histories enough to know if that could have remotely been possible.