Thursday, December 30, 2010

World's Oldest 'New Butcher'

Depot at Carthage, N.Y.

(From Railroad Magazine, September, 1950)

The World’s Oldest Newsbutcher
              by Watson B.  Berry
Up  in Carthage, N.Y., where a branch of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg from Watertown connects with the Carthage & Adirondack and the line that runs from Utica to Ogdensburg, known formerly as the Utica & Black River - all now and for many years a part of the New York Central system - lives the world’s oldest newsbutcher.

There's No Fuel Like an Old Fuel

 (Peat is so common in the United States and Canada that most people can't see the resource for looking at it. There are an estimated 80 million acres of deposit  in the continental U.S. Most of this vast natural supply goes unused . . . although some people do throw a few bushels of the muck on their gardens for fertilizer and others use the more fibrous and mossy varieties as a dressing for flowerbeds.

Parlor Car Patrons - a Forgotten Social Strata of Society

(From the New York Herald, July, 1893)
    "It is a rather tiresome," said a Wagner parlor car conductor, "the airs people put on in a parlor car. The moment they get seated they begin to behave like kings and queens and to order people around as if they had been used to having servants at their beck and call all their lives.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Out on the High Iron

Visitors at the MOST admire the modular layout and Bill Brown's Denver & Rio Grande train as it comes chugging around the bend on a recent Saturday afternoon. Photo by Dick Palmer

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Milwaukee arrives in Syracuse

Member Russ Grills spent many hours meticulously assembling and painting this Walthers limited-run kit of Milwaukee terminal  will greatly enhance our layout at the MOST. The prototype, built in the 1870s,  today is a modern train and bus station.  But for our purposes it will be strictly a conventional railroad station one would have found in cities like Milwaukee in the 1950s and 1960s. Photo by Dick Palmer

When 'Hojack' passenger trains came off

By Richard Palmer
    I am occasionally asked when passenger trains were discontinued on branch lines in our area. Here is a list of passenger train discontinuances on the St. Lawrence Division of the New York Central.

Train No.                     Route                                                                Date Off
51-54                 Rochester-Suspension Bridge                            4-1-1932
27-28                 Rochester - Oswego                                           4-1-1932
52-53                 Rochester - Suspension Bridge                          2-2-1935
24-29                 Rochester - Oswego                                           2-2-1935
804-805             Watertown-Cape Vincent                                    3-14-1936
472-483             Pulaski - Oswego                                                9-25-1947
81-84                 Carthage - Newton Falls                                     6-7-1942   (1)
49-50                 Rivergate-Clayton                                               4-29- 1951 (2)
991-997             G&O Junction - Edwards                                     6-26-1932  (3)
403-404             Watertown - Sackets Harbor                               9-30-1934  (4)
336-337             Syracuse - Oswego                                             4-29-1951  (5)
90-91,                DeKalb Jct. - Ogdensburg                                   4-29-1949 (6)
92-93,                     "                            "                                                 "
96-97                      "                            "                                                 "
61-62                 Massena - Ottawa - via Canadian Pacific            9-27-1953 (7)
2-3                     Syracuse - Watertown                                         4-24-1938
70-71                 Philadelphia-Utica (via Richland)                        10-28-1956
98-99                 DeKalb Jct. - Ogdensburg                                   10-28-1956
64-65                 Utica-Watertown (via Boonville)                          10-28-1956
185-186             Utica-Watertown (Beeliner)                                 11-3-1958 (except Sun.)
190                    Ogdensburg - Utica (via Boonville w/sleeper)     11-8-1958 (Sat.)
187                    Utica - Ogdensburg (via Boonville) Beeliner        5-20-1961 (Sun.)
186                    Massena - Utica                                                   5-21-1961 (Sun.)
189                    Massena - Utica                                                   5-21-1961 (except Sun.)
182                    Massena - Syracuse                                            5-21-1961  (except Sun.)
176                    Syracuse - Massena        (Beeliner)                     5-21-1961  (Sat.)
181                    Syracuse - Massena                                            5-21-1961
179                    Syracuse - Massena                                            5-21-1961  
198                    Syracuse -Ogdensburg                                        5-21-1961 (except Sat.)
175                    Syracuse - Massena   (Beeliner)                          2-15-1964 (last service)

Notes 1 to 7. These dates based on timetables and newspaper articles.                              

Locomotive Trials on the D.L. & W. in 1853

   By Richard Palmer
    Much has been  written over the years about the famous  Rainhill Trials of  1829, a public spectacle to  determine what locomotive was best suited to become the first to be operated by the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in England. This involved comparatively small homemade locomotives.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A cab ride to Sayre in 1937

  Engineer "Thack" Winnie at the throttle.

(This article appeared in the Cortland Standard on Nov. 13, 1937 - Dick Palmer)

Standard Reporter Rides Night  Freight
         to Sayre and Return
Dons Overalls With "Thack" Winnie and 
Learns the Sway of 131-Ton, K-4 Model,
   Pacific Type Freight Locomotive
   By L.B. Van Dyck
     Two deep throated blasts on the whistle and Lehigh Valley Extra No. 2053, night freight for Sayre, began its long pull out of Cortland with a string of 40 cars destined to 40 different points.

Did the New York Central own ships?

                                               By Richard Palmer
     Yes, the New York Central at one time owned a fleet of more than 20 package freighters on the Great Lakes through its wholly owned subsidiaries, Western Transit Co. and the Anchor Line that primarily sailed on the upper Great Lakes. The freighter, "Utica," shown here, was built in 1904 and was registered at 3,533 gross tons. She was 325 feet long and 44 feet wide. The "Utica" was launched April 28, 1904 at Wyandotte, the Detroit Ship Building Co.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Rail Has a Language That Is All Its Own

Trackworkers were referred to as "gandy dancers."

          (From New York Central Lines Magazine,  March, 1925, Page 50)
                                              By Crawford P. McGinnis
    You, who are associated with the railroad and with the people whose business is railroad -  especially the operating and mechanical divisions - when you read a newspaper article descriptive of some episode of the railroad story, written by a "penny-a-liner," you are often conscious that it is lacking in realism.  It was good, but for some reason a little flat. This is because the writer doe not "speak your language."

Where Did the Term "Hojack" Originate?

 By Richard Palmer
   Although the rail lines north of Syracuse, both abandoned and existing, have passed ownership from Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg to New York Central, to Penn Central, to Conrail and finally CSX, this railroad has from time immemorial, been known as the "Hojack." The origin of this title seems to be lost in the mists of antiquity.

Romance of a Railroad Recalled by George Townsend

Interlaken (N.Y.)  Review
February 16, 1961

   By Herb deLyser
     "I recall it must've been in 1905 when I bought my first round trip excursion ticket to Niagara Falls for one dollar."  So said Mr. George Townsend in recounting the earlier years in our town when the railroad played a vital and important role in the changing American scene.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Recalling Early Days of Railroading in Jamesville

      Frequently authors become so engrossed in detailed technical information as to what tracks go or went where,  locomotive and car rosters, and corporate history,  they tend to forget the human side of railroading. Tracks were laid and railroads were operated by people. That's why it's refreshing to occasionally find old newspaper articles about some of these people who made the railroad tick. 
      More often than not,  articles of a human interest nature about old time railroads were not written by reporters who had any special knowledge of railroading. But reporters of generations back knew how to ask the right questions, thus preserving for all time a glimpse of how railroads were operated in the early days. 
    The following article, written by veteran reporter Roy E. Fairman who was a journalist for more than 50 years, appeared in the Syracuse Herald on February 13, 1931.  - Richard Palmer
Century With the Railroad - Father Helped Construct Tracks With Strips of Iron -      
Son Yet in Service - Early Construction Gives Great Contrast With Present Methods


        By Roy E. Fairman

    (The Herald's Roving Reporter)

    One hundred years of railroading, virtually all with the same company - such is the record of the late Pierce Grace of Onativia and his son, Thomas B. Grace of Jamesville.
    When Pierce Grace died in 1904 at the age of 80, he had rounded out an even 50 years on construction work for the Syracuse & Binghamton Railroad and its successor, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western.
    Thomas B. Grace, oldest station agent in the employ of the D.L.&W. system, is in his 51st year in the employ of that road.The Graces, father and son, have been dentified with the Syracuse & Binghamton branch of the road from its beginning.         The father supervised the laying of its first tracks; the son has seen it
     Thomas B. Grace, who learned telegraphy in the days with the dots and dashes were recorded on a strip of paper and who has been an operator or station agent since 1881, has witnessed the growth of Jamesville as a freight station with only a few cars a week until it now ships a greater tonnage per year than any other station in the entire D.L.& W. system.
      Forty-five years ago the average weekly shipment from Jamesville  did not exceed 15 cars. In 1929, Jamesville sent out 32,997 cars valued at more than $1,000,000, an increase of $124,612 over the shipments of 1928.
      When Pierce Grace landed in America, an Irish immigrant in March, 1848, railroading was in its infancy. The young Irishman had a cousin who operated a brickyard in Troy and he worked there during the summer of 1848, getting a job that fall on the new railroad operating between Albany and Schenectady.
     Grace was what was called an express runner, but a far cry from the express messenger of today. Railroad tracks were constructed of wooden rails with thin straps of iron nailed on the top side. It was no uncommon occurrence for these straps to become loose with the consequent danger of throwing the trains off the rails.
     So, to ensure a safe passage of the train, a man on a small hand car operated by a crank, was started ahead of the train. This "express runner" could make upwards of 10 miles an hour and the speed of the train was limited to that of the runner ahead.
     If a loosened rail strap was found, the runner stopped and the train was forced to halt until the repairs were completed. Each runner preceded the train for five miles when another took his place.  After a year on this job, Grace joined a construction gang and soon became so expert in laying track and constructing curves that he was placed in charge of a work train and a big crew of men laying tracks of what later became the New York Central through the Mohawk Valley to Utica and Syracuse.
     When the superintendent of the New York Central left that road to take over the Syracuse and Binghamton road then under construction, Grace went with him. He was then making his home in Syracuse, having married a Miss Catherine Lonergan, and purchased two lots in Tully Streets at $250 each. On each of these lots he built a small house, lived on one and leased the other.
      When the Syracuse and Binghamton superintendent drove his construction foreman to Jamesville with a livery rig on June 6, 1854, he neglected to tell him that the former management was insolvent and that the track workers had not been paid in three months and were on strike.  
    There were two gangs near Jamesville, one Irish and one German. Grace visited the German gang first and when the workers learned he was their new boss, one yelled out in German: "Here's our new boss, wait until I throw him into the creek."
     Now Grace had learned to speak German while laying tracks while laying tracks with German laborers in the Palatinate, and he came right back with: "Some one please hold my coat until I settle with this fellow." The Germans were so surprised to hear an Irishman speak their language so easily, that they offered no more trouble.
      Grace promised both gangs that, no matter what happened in the past, wages from then on would be forthcoming and work resumed, the track construction was completed and the road opened all the way from Binghamton to Syracuse in October, 1854.
     The road completed, Grace took a job as section foreman at Apulia, where he remained five years. He had charge of a section 12 miles long, about twice the length of sections of today, and had a gang of 15 men.  Pierce Grace bought seven acres of land at Apulia Station and built a house, part of which is included in the present hotel there. A maple tree which he planted across the tracks from the station has now grown to generous size.
     Irishmen were scarce in the Apulia area and he was a great was a great curiosity, residents of the southern part of Onondaga County traveling many miles to get a glimpse of him.
  In 1859 Grace bought a farm near Cuyler and gave up railroad work until q873 with the exception of a short time as roadmaster in charge of construction of the last like of the Elmira, Cortland and Northern road between DeRuyter and Cazenovia.*  It was on the Cuyler farm that Thomas B. Grace was born in 1865. The summer of 1873 found Pierce Grace in charge of a force of men paving Main Street in Cortland. That same year he returned to the employ of the D.L. & W. as section foreman at Onativia, where he remained until his death. His wife survived him six years, dying in 1910, also at the age of 80.
    One of Thomas B. Grace's first railroad memories is that of the last wood-burning locomotive on the D.L.& W., which operated a work train. Onativia was one of its fueling stations and schoolboys esteemed it a great honor to be allowed to ring the bell.
    Grace attended school in Lafayette until he was 14 when he started in to learn telegraphy. A one-room schoolhouse stood where Lafayette High School building now is. Miss Hulda Shaw was teacher. James and Michael Crowe, who operated a store in Lafayette, were his schoolmates. James Crowe later became his brother-in-law.
     Homer Case was station agent at Onativia when Tom Grace learned the Morse code and how to apply it to telegraphy. Case also served as supervisor of the town of Lafayette. In 1891 Grace became night operator at Jamesville for a year, served in the same capacity in Onativia for three years and then became station agent at Stiles, the station at Long Branch, which has long since been abandoned.
      In addition to being agent at Stiles he also was postmaster and operated a coal yard until he was assigned to Jamesville as station agent in 1896. He is in his 34th year in that capacity.
      In Grace's early railroad days, there were no blocks, no semophores, and trains were dispatched by what was known as the single system, with single copies of orders given to conductors and engineers. Extra sections of trains were called wildcats.
    Passenger coaches were heated by stoves and lighted by candles. Each car was braked by hand and pins and links were the couplers. The Buffalo division of the D.L. & W. had not been built and coal trains were operated through Jamesville to Oswego and western bound coal there placed on boats. The cars were small "jimmies," with a capacity of from six to eight tons each.
     Jamesville had more industries then, but the amount of freight shipped out was far less than that of today, when the mammoth stone quarrying operations of the Solvay Process Company give Jamesville the biggest annual tonnage on the D.L. & W. System.
    The bicycle works employed 200 men and made parts for many famous bicycles, including the Stearns Yellow Fellow and Barnes White Flyer Syracuse wheels. I.A. Weston was the inventor of the wire wheel which became standard equipment of bicycles and racing sulkies.
     Mr. Grace has seen 50 fatalities during his railroad career, not one of which, he says, the railroad was to blame for. Most of them were trespassers on the railroad right of way. Five were killed in a crossing fatality in Jamesville about 15 years ago. Mr. Grace works in the same station house he went to as an operator in 1881. It was built in 1876.
 Frank E. McCormick, general superintendent of the New York Central, worked in that station. So did Michael C. McGowan, chief dispatcher in New York City, and J.W. Skeels, vice president of the Lehigh Valley.
     Mr. Grace operated a coal business in Jamesville, being one of the oldest coal dealers in Onondaga County in point of service. He has driven an automobile since 1908, owning the second such machine in Jamesville, a two-cylinder Buick.
 He has an attractive home, which he built on the walls of a residence erected in 1812. These piles of masonry are as solid as when cemented together with some of Jamesville's own water lime more than a century ago.

*Note: The railroad between Cazenovia and DeRuyter was the Cazenovia, Canastota & DeRuyter,  subsequently the Utica, Ithaca & Elmira, Elmira, Cortland & Northern, and finally, the Canastota branch of the Lehigh Valley. 
Thomas B. Grace, of Jamesville died in Syracuse on January 8, 1956 at Onondaga General Hospital at the age of 90. He is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery. His father, Pierce Grace, died at Onativia on March 29, 1915. 

Remembering the Niagaras

New York Central "Niagara" #6003

     These engines featured a 14-wheel "pedestal" (PT) or "centipede" style tender which carried 18,000 gallons of water and 46 tons of coal. Like other high-speed New York Central steam power, the Niagaras were equipped to scoop water on-the-fly from long pans set within the rails. The S1s had roller bearings on all axles and also on the side rods and Baker valve motion. 
    They were designed to accept either 75-inch or 79-inch driving wheels depending on their projected usage. The first example, S1a No. 6000, came with the smaller drivers as a "dual service" locomotive to satisfy requirements of the War Production Board, but the 25 engines of the S1b class that followed all came with the larger drivers intended for passenger service, and No. 6000 was also converted to the 79-inch size. (Larger driving wheels mean the locomotive is capable of faster speeds, but tractive effort is reduced.) 
    The Niagaras had a boiler pressure of 275 pounds per square inch, 25½x32-inch cylinders, and a tractive effort of 61,570 pounds. Their trailing truck supported a firebox with 101 square feet of grate area. This, combined with an evaporative heating surface of 4,819 square feet, produced about 6,000 horsepower at 40 miles per hour, the equivalent at that time of four diesel units. The S1s were fitted with a diesel-like air horn as well as a steam whistle, which sometimes fooled photographers lying in wait for a shot of this relatively short-lived breed of iron horse.
   Niagaras were last used east of Buffalo on mail and express trains until August, 1953, after which they were used on the New York Central in the Midwest.  By mid-1956 they had all been sold for scrap.

New York Central "Atlantic" No. 3000