• Rutland Chatham to Bennington Corkscrew division

  • 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 rhallock
If the snow holds off until after Christmas, I would like to explore some of the old Rutland RR "Corkscrew division" between Chatham and Bennington, which was abandoned in 1953. Are there any surviving points of interest such as old bridges, stations, mileposts, etc.? Are any parts of the right of way suitable for hiking or biking?

  by the missing link
I know right in Chatham are 2 large stone bridge abutments, just north of the existing yard around the corner on a side street, where the Rut came in to town.

  by nydepot
You can find all the Rutland stations from the Corkscrew Division on my Existing RR Stations of NY State web site:


Just check the county you are interested in.

  by henry6
NY RT22 runs as close to the line as anything but is very difficult to see as the row in down in the valley or behind trees. Best chances for sighting the row are are north of Stephentown however. Best to consult an old topo map or Shaughnessey's RUTLAND book for maps and guidence.

  by pablo
I used to travel between Scehenctady and Vermont as a wee little one, and I remember seeing where the ROW crosses 7 to appear on the right of the road as you cross into Vermont. I know where it is very well between the border and Bennington, but not very much about it outside of there.

I can tell you that I think it was well-picked and I can't say as I remember anything existing that you could notice as railroad equipment, like whistle posts, tie plates, spikes, etc. I'm sure if you looked, you might be able to find it.

Much of the ROW in and around Bennington itself has been reclaimed for the most part that I can remember, and that's pretty close to the state line.

Dave Becker
  by trainsinmaine
Quite a lot of the "Corkscrew" ROW is almost impassible because of water erosion as well as alders, small trees and what-not that have grown up along the way. But if you have the patience to play "Jungle Jim" you'll have a good time.

That having been said, there are sections of the roadbed that are easily visible from roads and quite hikeable --- around Stephentown, as a previous post mentioned, and in the Bennington area. There used to be some telegraph poles still standing along the ROW just south of Hoosick(!-after 53 years). I assume they're still there. The line is well worth investigating; it winds down through some gorgeous farm country. Eastern New York, along the Vt. - Mass. - Conn. borders, is really beautiful.
  by sd80mac
[quote="rhallock"]If the snow holds off until after Christmas, I would like to explore some of the old Rutland RR "Corkscrew division" between Chatham and Bennington, which was abandoned in 1953. [quote]

Is it called Corkscrew because of the route pattern or ??? All I know that there is one corkscrew in SC or NC which is now owned by shortline or tourist. I know there are few loops out there.. one on UP and two in CP which are spiral tunnels.

there is pigtail pattern for the roads in yellowstone park, using timberwood for the bridge!!! At least 3 of them at there.

Just wondering...

  by umtrr-author
I recall reading that "corkscrew" was an only slightly exaggerated description of the curves and grades on the line...

  by sd80mac
umtrr-author wrote:I recall reading that "corkscrew" was an only slightly exaggerated description of the curves and grades on the line...
that was what I thought. I just want to make sure.

"Corkscrew" could have different meaning, depending on how you look at the corkscrew.. :-)

  by pablo
It is indeed due to the lines disposition against the land. It's not the first time that a railroad gambled on an expensive extension that later killed the railroad. I think that was the case with the Rutland, though I don't know if they did it because they were dealing with extraordinarily high rates on the B&M or D&H and felt that they had to get the NYC at the southern end.

Perhaps someone else knows more about the decision to add the corkscrew.

Dave Becker

  by umtrr-author
This is by no means definitive, but I took a very quick look through the book "The Rutland Road" by Jim Shaughnessy. The Corkscrew (Chatham Branch) came into the Rutland via acquisition of a road called the Lebanon Springs, among other things. A timeline shows it going into the Rutland by 1910.

I'm sure Nimke's books have a lot more on the subject, but I don't own them.

  by rhallock
Thanks for your replies. From what I can see on the map site http://mapper.acme.com/ the right of way from Chatham north/northeast to US route 20 at Brainard is easily followed from the air. Is anyone familiar with that section? It almost looks like some has been converted to roads. I think the name Corkscrew came from the part near Bennington which has several large twists. An early name for it was "Harlem Extension RR" and it was used by milk trains from Vermont which continued on down the Harlem division to New York. Even after the Corkscrew was abandoned, these milk trains continued to run via the B&M to Troy, then over the NYC system.

  by Noel Weaver
I don't think the Chatham Branch alone killed the Rutland or maybe I
should say was responsible for its death. The whole railroad lost money
through most of its existance. It did make some money in the mid to late
50's but hard line management and hard line labor combined to contribute
to its demise in the early 1960's.
The Rutland hauled a lot of milk from northern New York State and
the western part of Vermont for New York. Most if not all of this milk for a
long time went to Chatham to be interchanged to the New York Central
then went down the Harlem from Chatham in a solid train.
In the early 1950's, the Rutland made the determination that the local
business was drying up on the Chatham Branch and they decided to
acquire trackage rights for freight on the Boston and Maine and the New
York Central and ran the through job to Chatham via Troy. This move
enabled them to abandon the Chatham Branch and scrapping operations
took place during the summer of 1953.
Probabaly the most famous trains to operate on the Chatham Branch were
the Exchange Club specials which ran a daylight round trip between
Chatham and Rutland and were sponsored by the Chatham Exchange Club
and ran in the fall every year for some time. I think the last one with
steam ran in 1951 and this was in fact probably the last one of all.
I can't believe that very much would remain of a line that was torn up
over 50 years ago.
Noel Weaver

  by Ironman
rhallock, the ROW is easily seen from US route 20 . It crosses over route 20 at Brainard, and then would be on the left side going east. Take US 20 east to the junction of NY route 22 and follow route 22 north. ROW is again easily seen all the way to Petersburg. ROW, at least in NYS, can be seen for miles by these roads, even in summer, and is somewhat clear. It is now used for utilites, and is posted as such.

By the way, the Lebanon Valley Dragway is built very close to the old ROW, mabey even right on top of it. That is probally the paved section you saw on the map.

  by pablo
Well, sure, Noel, the whole industry was losing money, and of course, a strike officilly killed the railroad. In my mind, though, there's no doubt that an expensive add-on line such as the corkscrew, with its grades, curves, and it's path next to water with the obligatory spring time washouts was a huge drain on the resources when the Rutland could ill afford it.

I have seen financial documents on other railroads with similar situations, whether large or small, and know that it adds up.

Dave Becker