Thursday, March 8, 2018

Pennsylvania Railroad to Sodus Point

Pennsylvania RR coal trestle at Sodus Point with a self unloading ship being loaded
  

     The Sodus Bay Branch ran from Stanley, near Geneva, to Sodus Point.  It passed through  Flint, Seneca Castle, Orleans, Phelps Junction, Newark, Sodus Center, and Wallington. A branch split off from the north side of Newark to the village of Marion. Passing sidings were located in Stanley and "New," which was north (timetable west) of Newark.
    The main purpose of the line was carrying coal to the large coal dock at Sodus Point. A Niagara Hudson power plant was opened at Oswego in 1940. This plant burned large quantities of coal, which were carried by rail to Sodus Point and then by boat to Oswego. The line also carried general freight. Until the 1930's ice was harvested in Sodus Bay and shipped south. 
    Agricultural products were a major source of traffic into the middle 1950's. A quarry in Wallington, which opened in the early 1950's, generated hundreds of carloads of stone and gravel for road construction. The Genessee Brewing Company had a large malt house in Sodus Point which received several carloads of grain every five or six weeks. It still stands unused.
    Jackson and Perkins shipped rose bushes from their facility in Newark until the early 1950's. During the coal shipping season, local switching was performed by coal trains. In the winter, a local ran as needed from Sodus Point to Stanley and back.
    Passenger trains ran along the branch until 1934--first steam trains and then a gas electric car. A mixed train operated until November 15, 1935.
   There was also a maritime component to the Sodus Bay Branch. PRR harbor tug Cornelia operated at Sodus Point, helping the lake boats dock and sometimes pushing barges of coal to Oswego.
History
    The Sodus Bay and Southern Railroad opened in 1873 as a standard gauge railroad connecting Sodus Point, the largest protected harbor on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, with the Elmira, Jefferson & Canandaigua Railway at Stanley.
     By 1873, the EJ&C was controlled by the Northern Central.   The SB&S failed twice before being purchased as the first railroad venture of E. H. Harriman, who later became famous as the president of the Union Pacific. Harriman bought the line with hopes of selling it to either the Erie or the Northern Central. The Northern Central purchased it in 1884 and immediately built a coal trestle at Sodus Point. In 1886, the SB&S, the EJ&C, and the Chemung Railway were consolidated as the Elmira & Lake Ontario Railroad. The coal pier was enlarged in 1894.
    In 1913, the Pennsylvania Railroad signed a 99 year lease on the Northern Central, and folded it into its system. The line was upgraded during the 1920's, with stone ballast and 130 pound rail. A new coal pier was built at Sodus Point during 1927-28, and the yard there was expanded.
    The Pennsylvania purchased the Newark & Marion Railway, which ran between its namesake towns, on May 4, 1930. This line was originally constructed as an interurban; its light rail and sharp curves limited steam power to nothing heavier than an H6sb 2-8-0. This eight-mile line became the Marion Branch.

    The opening of a Niagara Hudson power plant at Oswego in 1940, increased the amount of coal being loaded into lake boats at Sodus Point. This traffic was the mainstay of the line until 1963 when the Erie Lackawanna discontinued operating  coal trains to Oswego. 
     Coal trains to Sodus Point were discontinued in December, 1967. On November 5, 1971, while the coal trestle at Sodus Point was  being dismantled, it caught fire and was severely damaged.

The Seneca Castle - Newark portion of the line closed in 1973. Track from Newark to Sodus Point was scheduled for abandonment in early 1978, but the governments of Wayne County and the State of New York purchased the line. The Ontario Midland Railway became the designated operator. The line from Wallington to Sodus was subsequently abandoned.