• Breesport Shops

  • Discussion related to the Lehigh Valley Railroad and predecessors for the period 1846-1976. Originally incorporated as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company.
Discussion related to the Lehigh Valley Railroad and predecessors for the period 1846-1976. Originally incorporated as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company.

Moderator: scottychaos

  by Cactus Jack
Anybody know much about shops at Breesport or the "over the hill road" to Elmira

  by scottychaos
there isnt a lot of info out there about the line between VanEtten and Elmira..it was always pretty obscure, and was ripped up early.

Probably the best info that exists is in two books:

A History of the Lehigh Valley Railroad: The Route of the Black Diamond
By Robert F. Archer

THE LV bible!! :P

and a new book:

The Gangly Country Cousin: The Lehigh Valley's Auburn Division. By Herb Trice

This new book deals with the NY state branches..excellent!

if you dont have those books, you NEED them! :wink:

There are some good photos of the big steel trestles on the line,
and I have seen a photo of the Breesport station somewhere..
hold on, let me see if I have one..

nope, no Breesport,
but here is Erin:


I know I have seen a picture of the Breesport station somewhere..
probably in one of the books.

I will check my books tonight, see what they say about Breesport shops.
was probably very early shops of the UI&E or EC&N..probably never used by the LV proper. likely gone by the dawn of the 20th century.

  by Lehighrrgreg
Speaking of the "over the hill road"...I apologize for the following spew of information that I realize is pretty vague, but when I go to work on jobs in Ithaca and we are riding up the Lehigh just north of Van Etten, there is a roadbed. I dont know if its a rail bed or just a farmers crossing or an old farm road, but you see a pair of real old stone bridge abutments off to the right about 500 feet out in the trees. Then the roadbed moves through the forrest toward the tracks until it ties in with the ROW of the Lehigh. I believe its past Van Etten, but not by far. I know I should pay more attention to the location of this..but its been several months since Ive been on that line in the day time. I was always wondering if it was an old tie in or old ROW before they did grade changes. Someone told me they found a photo of it and that it was indeed a rail connection. Next time I get a day job on that line Ill record the milepost.

  by scottychaos
sounds like you are looking at the roadbed of the old EC&N.
(Elmira, Cortland & Northern)
its the LV line between Elmira and Cortland.
it paralled the LV main between VanEtten and Spencer.

here is a series of quick and dirty maps..
I just drew these up..
the EC&N (originally the UI&E) was originally a seperate railroad,
was later absorbed by the LV, became the LV's "Elmira & Cortland branch"
was taken up in the 20's or 30's.
(the Herb Trice book has very detailed dates..im at work right now, dont have my books..)
the freight main to Geneva was built last, 1890's,
and was taken up last (1976)

there were actually two seperate junctions in VanEtten.
"Van etten junction" was where the Freight main diverged from the passenger main.
and a bit further north, in the area of the VanEtten station, was the junction between the EC&N and the LV.

There are pictures in the Archer and Trice books of the Vanetten passenger station, showing the LV tracks on one side of the station, and the EC&N tracks on the other.




  by Matt Langworthy
Pages 137-138 of Trice's book has pictures of the EC&N demolition crew at Breesport and removal of the trestleat Swartwood Hill. I didn't see any pics of the station in The Gangly Country Cousin.
  by TB Diamond
The Lehigh Valley Elmira & Cortland Branch Ithaca-Spencer, 22 miles, was abandoned in 1935. Van Etten-Horseheads, 19 miles, was abandoned in 1938. ConRail embargoed the Seneca Freight Line Van Etten Jct.-Odessa in December, 1977. The line was salvaged during the summer of 1978.

  by scottychaos
Here is the entire history of rail service in Breesport,
from the Herb Trice book.

The Utica, Ithaca & Elmira comes through Breesport.
building eastward from Horseheads.
Made it as far as Park station by Autumn 1872, when construction ceased for the winter.

The UI&E, although one railroad, is now in two parts.
Horseheads-Park Station and Ithaca-Cortland.

2 major obstacles remain to make the connection.
Swartwood Hill (with two ravines requiring trestles) between Breesport and VanEtten.
and the gorge at Brooktondale, between Vanetten and Ithaca.

October, 1873, rails reach VanEtten from Horseheads.

From VanEtten to Ithaca, the UI&E operates via trackage rights on the Ithaca & Athens. (the LV tracks that remain today.)

then, there is the problem of getting from "lower" Ithaca at lake level, and connecting with the UI&E Ithaca station and the line on to Cortland, which is way up on top of the hill at Cornell University..
only 2 miles away, but a huge difference in elevation!

The railroad plans to build its line up the side of the hill in Ithaca, to connect its two divisions.
using the "Hill Climbing Locomotive" and a standard gauge cog railway!
the Locomotive was built and delivered, "The Leviathan", a huge standard gauge Mason Bogie.
but the line up Cascidilla gorge was never built:


Instead of building up the side of the hill in Ithaca, the UI&E builds its own line from VanEtten to "upper" Ithaca..making its railroad complete, with its own rails the whole way, from Horseheads to Cortland On February 2, 1876.

the UI&E extends from Horseheads to Elmira, by taking over the "Canal Railroad"..which had been built along the former Chemung Canal in 1881.

October 1883, The Breesport shops of the UI&E burn to the ground.
the shops are not rebuilt, and the UI&E shops are moved to Cortland.
(not sure when the shops were built..but probably right away..perhaps even 1872..so the Breesport shops only existed about 11 years total, were gone in 1883.)

(the UI&E never did make its final destination of Utica!)

February, 1884.
The UI&E and other smaller lines are merged to form the Elmira, Cortland & Northern. making a railroad from Elmira to Canastota.

Utica, Ithaca & Elmira railroad existed 12 years. 1872-1884.

EC&N is absorbed into the LV..becoming the Elmira & Cortland branch,

EC&N exists 12 years. 1884-1896.

June 11, 1938
The last LV train leaves Elmira over the branch.
pulled by LV 4-6-0 1165.

Rails lifted through Breesport in 1938.

LVRR operated through Breesport 42 years. 1896-1938.

Breesport had rail service a total of 66 years.

If you dont have the Herb Trice book, "The Gangly Country Cousin"
Mr Trice is an amazing historian, his book is extremely well written and detailed.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Trice a few times at his home,
He helped me with research on the "Leviathan"..
great guy!


  by Cactus Jack
Thanks for all the info !
Much appreciated !!

I got Herb's book and it is GREAT !!!

Still would like to see any photo of the Breesport depot or shops if anyone ever comes across them

  by scottychaos

  by Cactus Jack

Hard to believe that such existed !!!
  by Richard1
(This should answer questions anyone would ever have on this topic)

Railroad Shops in Breeseport and Cortland
By Richard Palmer
The Utica, Ithaca & Elmira Railroad had scarcely opened between Ithaca and Cortland on February 1, 1872 when the decision was made to locate the company repair ships in Cortland. The U.I. & E. was commonly referred to as the "Shoo Fly" Railroad. The Cortland Standard reported on September 10, 1872:
"There is to be a repair shop built in this village for the Ithaca & Cortland division of the U.I.& E. R.R. Co. We trust it may grow into a car-building shop in time. There is no reason why cars cannot be manufactured here as cheaply as elsewhere."
There is also evidence that the railroad established servicing facilities on the Cornell University campus that same year, as an entry in the minute book of the board of directors under August, 1872 noted it had been resolved to construct a machine shop, engine house and depot "if the property authority can be obtained from the authorities of the university."
On November 27, 1872 the "Ithaca Leader" noted that a turntable had just been completed just east of the station, on the Cornell University campus. "This advice will enable the locomotive to run ahead both ways of the road, as there is a table at Cortland." the New York & Oswego Midland installed a turntable just west of Pendleton Street n Cortland on June 2, 1872, and the U.I. & E. built a turntable near the depot on Main Street.
The engine house at Ithaca stood for only a short time before being destroyed by fire on December 21, 1872. By the time the night watchman discovered the blaze, it was out of control. Fortunately, the new locomotive "Cornell University" was steamed up and the watchman was able to move it out of harm's way before it was damaged. The facility was located approximately at the site of the Campus Road traffic booth off Route 366.
After the U.I. & E. was completed through to Elmira late in 1876, the spur to Cornell was no longer needed. The depot and other facilities and tracks were removed. Ezra Cornell, the university's founder, who, for all intents and purposes owned a controlling interest in the railroad, had originally intended to have the line continued down along the steep bank of Cascadilla Gorge as a cog railway. His death in 1874 brought that project to a halt.
Initially, it appears it was the intent of the railroad to continue operating the shops in Cortland. The Cortland Standard of October 26, 1875 reported: "The repair shops of the U.I. & E. Railroad are adding to their facilities. A new forge was erected last week, and the will be only a temporary relief, for when the connection is completed through to Elmira, the entire repairs are to be done in Cortland. The shops are in charge of Mr. Frank Adams, who is a first class mechanic."
The Cortland Standard noted on February 8, 1876 that "last week lumber was got out for an addition to their present shop, of 70 feet by 40. A short time since a large lathe was set up in the nail works repair shop; it has a 3 1/2 feet swing and will take in any driving wheel." These facilities were on the approximate location of what was later the Lehigh Valley freight house that still stands.
The "nail works" was actually the old Cortland Horse Nail Manufacturing Co. which was organized in 1874 and subsequently built a factory near the U.I.& E. depot. These shops were located off South Main Street. However, the railroad management, undoubtedly through the influence of Joseph Rodbourn, a director and major stockholder of the railroad. He had an extensive lumber business in Breeseport. During this period, he served as vice president and general manager of the U.I.& E., as well as being a director and major stockholder. It seems that parties who lived and had interests at the Elmira end of the road virtually obtained control of it. They sought to exercise their authority by stripping the east end of the road of everything valuable. A petition protesting against such action was circulated and was signed by nearly every businessman Cortland.
Formal action to move the shops to Breeseport was made by the board of directors on June 27, 1876. A notation in the minute book emphasizes this was a temporary measure - that they would eventually return to Cortland. Horace P. Goodrich of Cortland, a director, and superintendent of the Ithaca & Cortland division, objected to the move. It had been rumored for some time this was to occur.
As a result, the Cortland shops were closed and Breeseport became a boom town and center of railroad activity. Many new homes were built there to accommodate the workers and their families.
Early in 1883 rumors circulated that the Utica, Ithaca & Elmira Railroad would soon relocate their repair shops back to Cortland because of its more central location on the line, and available space. Also vying for the shops were Elmira and DeRuyter. But as fate would have it, a fire that almost completely destroyed the Breeseport shops on the night of October 9, 1883. The Elmira Daily Advertiser reported two days later:
"About midnight Tuesday night a bright light was seen to the north, in the direction of Breeseport. At the time it was impossible to find where the fire was, but yesterday it was ascertained to be the U.,I.& E. shops at Breeseport. The origin was unknown, and but little could be saved from the flames. Three engines were in the shops, and were totally destroyed with the building. The total loss is is estimated at $40,000. Another fire occurred at Breeseport on October 18, 1883, destroying the depot and supply house. Arson was suspected. "The company evidently has some bitter enemy over in that region whom it would be well to capture before he wreaks further vengeance," noted the Ithaca Journal the following day.
"It is not known where the shops are to be rebuilt, but that will not be Breeseport is nearly certain. Cortland is making every effort to locate them there, and have offered good monetary inducements, and it is probable that when rebuilt the shops will be at Cortland." At the time the railroad consisted of two divisions - Horseheads to Cortland and Cortland to Canastota, which was actually the wholly owned Cazenovia, Canastota & DeRuyter Railway.
As a matter of interest, an inventory of the railroad property taken in December, 1882 reflects extensive facilities at Breeseport. Aside from the depot and freight house it included machine shops, blacksmith shop, dispatcher's office, two tool rooms, stationary engine room,engine house, casting house, North Yard machine shop, master mechanic's office, patter shop, paint shop, carpenter shop, sand house, lumber and timber storage, East Yard machine shop and coaling station. Rolling stock of the U., I. & E. consisted of nine locomotives, two coaches, two parlor cars, two combines, three excursion passenger coaches, three mail, express and baggage cars, two cabooses, 22 gondolas, 20 coal cars, 14 flat cars, 10 coal dump cars, 20 gravel cars and one steam shovel.
Following the fire the railroad company lost no time making arrangements to re-establish permanent shops in Cortland. The former Cortland Wagon Company factory on Railroad Street was purchased. L.S. Hayes, a Cortland businessman, worked closely with A.A. McLeod, general manager of the U., I. & E., which became the Elmira, Cortland & Northern on March 7, 1884. Financial incentives were also part of the deal. Fifty employees and their families were moved from Breeseport to Cortland.
The new car shop was completed in April, 1884, measuring 120 by 48 feet. A new turntable, roundhouse and servicing facilities were built just west of what is now Owego Street. By July, 1884 the new shops were nearly in full operation, employing 141 hands. The monthly payroll was nearly $7,000. Meanwhile general improvements were underway, including rebuilding rolling stock, the laying of new steel rails, and the purchase of eight new 80-ton locomotives.
Early on the morning of Sunday, May 17, 1885 the Cortland engine house burned to the ground. But a short time later a new eight-stall brick roundhouse was built. After the Lehigh Valley took over the E., C.& N. in 1893, the days of the extensive maintenance facilities in Cortland were numbered, although they were not completely eliminated until 1910 when they were demolished to make way for the new freight house and passenger station that still stand.
A small repair shop was subsequently built as an addition to the Oswego Street roundhouse which was primarily for minor repairs to engines assigned to this line. This continued in operation until the early 1930s when it, along with four stalls of the roundhouse, were demolished.
Although the line was dieselized in 1949 the railroad continued to use the roundhouse until the rely 1960s when it was abandoned completely as a servicing facility. The turntable was removed. The remaining portion of the roundhouse still stands, although almost totally unrecognizable.
The Lehigh Valley had a substantial amount of business in Cortland until the Depression, after which, as one retired Lehigh man said, "things began to slide." The line from Cortland to Canastota was abandoned in 1967, but continued to serve several businesses east of Cortland Junction until 1975. From Cortlandville to Freeville, the line was abandoned in 1976. What tracks remained in Cortland were purchased by the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency for businesses wishing to have rail service. But this remaining portion is now out of service.