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NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/12/24 2:28 p.m.

One of the ex-P&LE U28Bs, still in P&LE black and yellow, alongside one of the ex-Rock Island units. The #251 never received paint and was retired in 1993 when the U36Bs arrived. One has to wonder if the #251 and her sisters brought some bad mojo with them when they came to the TTI, since there are a lot of parallels between the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie and the Transkentucky Transportation Railroad. Both were wildly profitable at times, but generated almost all their revenue from a single traffic source and died when that traffic source went away. For the P&LE it was the steel industry in Pittsburgh, and for TTI it was eastern KY coal fields for power generation.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/12/24 4:23 p.m.

CSX actually rolled out their P&LE heritage unit recently.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/12/24 4:54 p.m.

Pittsburgh & Lake Erie was formed in 1875 and was a fairly short railroad, operating 211 miles of road on 784 miles of track. All traffic was never further than 65 miles from the headquarters of the railroad at Mckees Rocks, PA, and it was known as "The Little Giant" because it hauled such a large amount of tonnage in proportion to it's mileage; it's peak was 2437 million ton-miles in 1944. It hauled in coal from the Monongahela and iron ore from the Great Lakes for the steel mills at Pittsburgh, and moved finished steel out of Pittsburgh, and that was a hopping place in the '20s through to the early '70s, particularly in WWII.

The P&LE ended up under Vanderbilt ownership in 1887, and was part of the New York Central Systems, and was fully double-tracked and beefed up between 1887 and 1927. Equipment was lettered for New York Central Systems and wore NYC paint but had P&LE reporting marks, and that even included four Alco PA-1s and two Alco PA-2s for the small passenger service that the P&LE operated. It remained a separate entity even during the Penn Central merger, but stayed under PC ownership, but when Conrail was formed, the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie again became an independent company because P&LE was owed $15.2 million by Penn Central (the Providence & Worchester did the same thing, escaping New Haven/PC ownership).

The P&LE used a fleet of GP38-2s and U28Bs in the independent era, along with some GP7s that were still hanging on, and worked in close conjunction with the Monongahela Railway, which was jointly owned by the P&LE and B&O. One of the big providers, in addition to the steel mill, were big unit coal trains that originated on the Monongahela, went to the P&LE, then hopped on the N&W's ex-NKP/W&LE to get to Buffalo, where they were handed off to the D&H at Buffalo (who was using trackage rights over the Erie) and then continued over the D&H to Mechanicville, where they hopped on the B&M to go to the Mount Tom and Merimmack Power Plants at Holyoke, MA and Bow, NH, respectively. Black and yellow EMDs and GEs could be on occasion spotted in New England as part of pooled power.

As the Pittsburgh steel industry began to vanish, the P&LE's fortunes went with it. There was a brief plan to work the P&LE into a larger network that would have reached to northern New England, Chicago, St. Louis, and Potomac Yard but that fell apart. At the time, NS and CSX kept trying to take over Conrail by themselves, but the FRA declined the plans because one or the other getting all of Conrail would make the purchaser monopolize the region and shut out the other.  As one of NS's attempts, there was the proposed Pro-Rail competitor. P&LE would buy the Erie Youngstown-Buffalo line off of Conrail, NS would sell the old NKP "Cloverleaf" line from Delphos, OH to St. Louis, Conrail would sell the old PRR mainline from Ohio through Indiana to Chicago, and the P&LE, Grand Trunk Western, and Guilford (B&M, Maine Central, D&H) would all join forces, with D&H's trackage rights over Conrail to connect it all. On paper it kind of made sense but it ignored several realities; Guilford was constantly mired in poor track conditions, labor disputes and equipment failures, Pro-Rail was operating under the impression that the ex-PRR line was still signalled and double-tracked when Conrail had actually stripped it down to single-track and made it dark territory, and the "Cloverleaf" line was long dormant and had been two streaks of rust for decades, and even when in operation it had been a subpar line. The whole thing fell apart when Conrail followed the paper trail and found out that CSX was guaranteeing the P&LE purchase of the Meadville line and backed out of the sale.

B&O had bought trackage rights over P&LE from McKeesport to New Castle in 1934, since the B&O's route through Pittsburgh had excessive grades and curves. In the last years of the P&LE, CSX used the line more than P&LE, since most of the online customers had long been gone, with only the main line still intact. In 1993, Conrail bought out CSX and P&LE's shares of the Monongahela Railway and took over the Monongahela, while CSX took over the P&LE, renaming it to a new subsidiary, Three Rivers Railroad (the same subsidiary that bought into Transkentucky Transportation Railway). CSX leased the TRR though, and there is currently no de facto distinction between the former P&LE and any other portion of CSX's system

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/12/24 4:57 p.m.

One of those Guilford coal trains on the Southern Tier, with a P&LE GP38 on the front. It's followed by one of the SD40s that Guilford acquired from Detroit Edison, and it still wears the Detroit Edison blue and silver but has had the Big G added and Maine Central reporting marks. Following that is two of the SD26s that Guilford purchased used from ATSF.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/13/24 11:58 a.m.

It's official, Finger Lake Railway's Maine-based subsidiary, Midcoast Rail Service, will be no more after just two years of operation. Midcoast Rail Service took over as the operator of the ex-Maine Central Rockland Branch. The Rockland-Brunswick line is owned by MaineDOT and has had about six different operators over the past 30 years. The last one had been Central Maine & Quebec, which was taken over by Canadian Pacific in 2019, and CP opted out in 2020. Finger Lakes almost took the line over in 2021 but pulled out of the deal after the branch’s biggest customer, Dragon Products, announced it would no longer be shipping cement out of Rockland via barge. Since 1994, the cement plant has relied on the railroad to move cement from its facility at Thomaston to the wharf at Rockland, and the five-mile rail shuttle was the biggest source of revenue on the branch. FGLK didn't want to commit to taking over, only for the biggest customer to pack up and leave. After a year or so of discussion, Dragon Products stated their commitment to moving by rail, so FGLK signed to take on the branch and formed Midcoast Rail Service, moving two of their B23-7s, #2308 and #2310, up there to handle traffic.

Things seemed to be going well, and FGLK also leased a Budd RDC from AllEarth Rail to run seasonal excursions on the Rockland Branch, even paying out of pocket to engineer and install an ADA-compliant restroom on the RDC. And then last year, things just came undone. First, while Dragon Products had reassured them that they would continue to ship by rail, that didn't take into account the plant at Thomaston being shut down entirely by it's parent company, and with that closing down, there went 90+% of the line's freight traffic. Then the Budd RDC suffered some sort of mechanical failure that took it out of action. 

FGLK did have a clause in the contract that, if within the first three years of the lease the line could not be made profitable, they could back out of the lease, but they tried to make a go of it. They aggressively pursued several possible customers, but had issues with the shipping rates on the CSX end that they just couldn't come to terms with. Meanwhile, hopes of maybe getting another RDC from AllEarth Rail were dashed when AllEarth Rail decided to sell off their entire fleet of RDCs, including the two that FGLK was leasing (one in NY, one in ME). There had been discussions of trying to pivot to some sort of passenger route, with locomotives and conventional cars, or getting Amtrak to extend the Downeaster up the line, but none of that materialized, and so now FGLK has exercised that clause to get out of operating the line. The RDC has been spotted being hauled off to it's new owner, the #2310 has been spotted in tow on a CSX freight at Selkirk Yard headed east, and the #2308 will hang around and handle as-needed runs for the remaining customers until Maine DOT can find a new operator.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/13/24 12:48 p.m.

No clue what this means for the future of the Rockland Branch. I think, if I were a shortline operator, I'd look at that line and see the fact that it's had 6 different operators in 30 years and now the bigges on-line customer is gone. There just isn't enough traffic, real or potential, since the rule of thumb is that shortlines need about 1 car per mile per week to be viable. The general New England attitude will likely not support any industry that could generate enough carloads.

FGLK got further than the prior operators. Previous operators Maine Coast, Safe Handling, and Maine Eastern seemed to just focus on the status quo. CM&Q tried but didn't get any bites, and when CP took over the CM&Q, they couldn't have cared less if the branch slid into the ocean. FGLK though had potential customers in the pipeline from the start. They were talking to Clarks Scrap Metal in Livermore Falls about moving operations to the Rockland Branch, but ultimately they moved to Augusta on CSX since they either couldn't find land or get permits. Either Dead River or Maritime Energy as well as Robbins Lumber were both interested, however CSX may or may not have torpedoed that due to rates.


There's been talk of trying to transition it to a tourist line or handling Amtrak's extension of the Downeaster. It may be quite scenic in spots and it's in pretty good shape thanks to continual investment from the state, but it's also a maintenance intensive line with all of the bridges. Excursion trains likely wouldn't cut it with the expense of keeping it operating and the relative remoteness, although nothing says they need to run all 55 miles of the line. A couple of Amtrak trains a day won't cut it as Rockland simply isn't a big destination town either.

The bright side is that, since it's owned by MEDOT, whoever takes over is not on the hook for taxes or capital improvements.There are rumors going around that Vermont Rail System in supposedly interested in it, although they've fairly recently acquired the New England Southern and the New Hampshire Central, and adding operating rights over the Rockland Branch seems like a bridge (or many) too far. The other rumor, which is really wild, is that Hal Raven/Raven Rail expressed interest. He owns and operates the Saratoga, Corinth & Hudson, and he does have a bunch of old 539-powered Alcos kicking around, but again, seems like maybe an overextension of his resources.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/13/24 4:57 p.m.

Looks like there is big construction going on at the north end of the Adirondack in Tupper Lake. John Koslosky, Mr. Railroading Rambler himself, caught a tie train headed out of Utica with ties bound for Tupper Lake. At the beginning, it has MA&N's M420W and a C425 on the lead, along with Adirondack's C424 and one of the RS-18u twins, which seems like a lot of horsepower for nine gondolas of ties. The reason for that though is that Adirondack has passenger trackage rights over the MA&N from Utica to Snow Junction (just north of Remsen, where the lines diverge) but they don't have freight trackage rights. MA&N crews had their power fired up to take a train to Rome, and rather than have the MA&N crews run the Adirondack power up to Snow Junction and then have to find a ride home, they instead towed the whole thing north, cut off at Snow Junction, and then the Adirondack crew took the whole affair to Tupper Lake. Since they don't have a run around track at Tupper Lake right now, they also had to grab the ex-Conrail caboose at Thendara, so that at Sabattis they could put the locomotives on the south end, and have the brakemen ride on the caboose as a shoving platform for the rest of the trip to Tupper Lake.

 

They're expanding the platforms and run-around track at Tupper Lake and then they're apparently rebuilding the wye. That wye hasn't been used since '04 and it was in bad shape then, the one account was that the MoW foreman had more gauge rods in the wye than ties, and they still put the #4243 on the ground trying to ease it around to get it facing south for use up at Lake Placid. 

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/15/24 8:34 a.m.

Out chasing the AAPRCO trip on the Finger Lakes Railway today. Phone photo taken at the old NYC depot, now a restaurant, at Shortsville, NY. Two GP38s and 7 private cars

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 9:45 a.m.

So, Saturday I was up at 5am and on the road to make the hour and 45 minute drive west to Canandaigua. I arrived around 7:20ish and caught the train being readied. Sadly, no B23-7s on the head end for power, but those nicely painted GP38-2s were still very attractive. There was a pretty decent turnout of locals and railfans, and I bumped into a couple people I knew, Pete Swanson and his son Jack, who I know from the R&N RDC charters, a trip out to the NY&LE, and the Arcade & Attica charter, and Mark Klingle, who organized the A&A charter last year and was also out to NY&LE. Definitely a pretty solid turnout in terms of railfans, which was unusual to me, since I'm used to railfanning in central NY in absolute solitude. All pretty tame though; no one was screaming or yelling at each other and no one was flying drones in the middle of everyone's shots, nor did I see any shocking displays of reckless driving. There was a couple guys who everyone learned to dislike throughout the day, more on that later.

The two GP38-2s, #2005 and #2004, were originally built for Penn Central, then went to Conrail, and then ended up as GMTX leasers. They're on long-term lease to the FGLK, and so they've been painted into the Finger Lakes Railway's New York Central-based livery. The Penn Central provenance and NYC paint certainly fit in well here, since the line from Canandaigua to Syracuse is the old NYC "Auburn Road". This line was the result of an 1850  merger of the Auburn & Syracuse Railroad, which ran west from Syracuse to Auburn, and the Rochester & Auburn Railroad, which ran east from Rochester to Auburn, to form the Rochester & Syracuse Railroad. New York Central took it over in 1853, and it was a tertiary route across the middle of NYC, alongside their existing Water Level Route and the West Shore Line. The Auburn Road swung further south than either of them and draped across the tops of the Finger Lakes, and was more a local traffic route than a through route. Into the 1940s, the New York Central operated at least two passenger trains per day in each direction on the route, with an additional train between Geneva and Syracuse each day except Sundays and they continued to operate one passenger train a day on the route until 1958. By 1960, the NYC abandoned the Auburn Road’s track between Victor and Pittsford, as part of a move by the NYC to reduce taxes. By severing through lines and making them stub-ended branches, they were taxed different and they did the same thing on the St. Lawrence Division between Lowville and Lyons Falls, on the Adirondack Division between Gabriels and Malone, and the RW&O Division between Camden and Richland all around the same time. Conrail later abandoned the tracks from Canandaigua to Victor and from Pittsford to Rochester, and threatened to abandon Canandaigua to Solvay until  Mike Smith stepped in and formed FGLK to take over the line.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 11:27 a.m.

So, all the cars in the consist:

"Central Pacific" Promontory Point. Obviously too new to be a Central Pacific car, this is an ex-Union Pacific open-end observation car from 1951, and it's based out of Chandler, Arizona. Just one quibble: "Promontory Point" is not where the Golden Spike was driven in 1869. It's either "Promontory, Utah" or "Promontary Summit". It brought up the markers on the westward voyage, and now was behind the power.

Pullman/Union Pacific 10-6 sleeper Pacific Island. Part of a 50-car order of sleepers with ten roomettes and six double bedrooms built by Pullman between 1949–1950, called the Pacific Series. Some of them were later sold to Milwaukee Road, and a bunch went on to have a career with Amtrak. It was at one point renamed to Mt. Vernon during it's private ownership but has since regained it's original name and is now owned by Adios Rail, based out of San Diego.

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Next up is Northern Sky Charters' Northern Dream dome car. It’s the former Union Pacific No. 9003, built in 1955 by American Car & Foundry, sister to the #9001 over at the Adirondack Railroad. It spent its years on the Union Pacific in the consist of the City of Los Angeles. Then in 1973, the original Auto-Train Corp. purchased the car, rebuilt it into a “Maxi-Dome” and used it on trains between Virginia and Florida. Eventually, in 1992, the car was purchased by David Hoffman and rebuilt at Northern Rail Car. The car was essentially a shell when he purchased it, so the interior is completely new and does not follow the original configuration. It was built with five bedrooms, one that is a crew dorm, and sleeps eight people comfortably.

Behind that was Northern Sky's Norther Dreams sleeper car. It was built by Pullman-Standard in 1955 for Union Pacific as a five double bedroom-buffet-Redwood Lounge car named North Platte. UP rebuilt it in 1956 making it an 11-bedroom car and renaming it Star Scene. It was sold and also worked the Virginia to Florida route on the Auto Train. Hoffman decided that he wanted to buy a sleeper since he couldn’t take the Northern Sky into New York’s Penn Station, so this sleeper was sold to Northern Sky Rail Charters in 1999 and renamed Northern Dreams. The car was upgraded and refurbished in 2003 and was made into a sleeper-lounge with six bedrooms (one for the crew), sleeping 12.

Follwing that was Pennsylvania Railroad Colonial Crafts, the only surviving Colonial-series car, part of a larger 95-car PRR order. The three-bedroom, one drawing room, buffet-lounge car was found on Blue Ribbon Fleet trains such as the Spirit of St. LouisManhattan Limited, and Northern Arrow. Retired in 1969 and sold into private ownership, it first spent time at the Arden Trolley Museum outside of Pittsburgh, then in 1986 was sold to a Los Angeles owner and operated in West Coast charter service. Sold again in 2017, it was moved to Philadelphia, where it remains today. The car, which remains almost all of its original Pullman features, transported Elvis Presley and his entourage in March 1960 when Elvis returned from military service in Germany, and was part of Richard Nixon’s campaign train in October of that year.

Behind that was Blue Ridge Club, a Chesapeake & Ohio sleeper-lounge built by Pullman-Standard in 1950 for the George Washington. It passed into Amtrak use, frequently being utilized on the obscure and somewhat short-lived Mountaineer, before being sold into private ownership. It eventually ended up on Pullman Rail Journeys, a company owned by Ed Ellis under his, you guessed it, Iowa Pacific Holdings umbrella, hence the Illinois Central paint. Its passed on to new owners since the IPH bankruptcy and is now configured with 3 double bedrooms, and 1 master suite with Kitchen, Dining and Observation Lounge.

And bring up the markers was New York Central Portland, a heavyweight open-end observation car built in 1928 for Harold Sterling Vanderbilt. It hung around as an officer car for the NYC, then was re-numbered as Penn Central #4 around 1968 and subsequently as Conrail #1 for their Office Car Specials. In 1978, the car was sold to a private railroad enthusiast who simply stored the car for 10 years. It was then purchased by a freight car rebuilding shop in Jacksonville, FL and was fully restored and upgraded mechanically in the early 1990s so as to qualify for 110 mph travel on Amtrak. It has undergone significant improvements annually ever since. The present owner obtained the car in 1992, and, with the aid of original Pullman builders photographs supplied with the car, remodeled it to "approximately 1930's appearance with Y2K mechanics and conveniences." The floor plan is as originally designed with the exception that the working tile fireplace in the dining room was removed during a major renovation following World War II. Since 1992, the car has traveled more than 300,000 miles, crossing the entire United States and Canada a number of times.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 12:04 p.m.

The excursion was slated to leave Canandaigua at 7:45, according to the schedule. Well, at 7:40, they blew the horn and everyone assumed it was the five-minute warning, but then the bell came on, and they started rolling out of Canandaigua five minutes early. So, everyone scrambled back to their vehicles and hit the road. I went up to Hanna Road, where I caught the train exiting the tree line as it passed through farm land.

The Portland, with an Empire State Express drumhead bringing up the rear.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 12:10 p.m.

The first stop was at Shortsville, NY, where the old freight house still exists and houses, oddly, the Lehigh Valley Historical Society. Yes, in a New York Central freight house. The passenger depot also still exists, and is now a restaurant. I was honestly impressed with the amount of structures still standing along this line; in addition to the freight house and depot at Shortsville, there is also the passenger depots at Clifton Springs, Seneca Falls, Cayuga Lake, Skaneatles Junction, and Marcellus/Martisco. Not bad for a relatively obscure line.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 12:15 p.m.

Arriving at Shortsville, where it stopped and the AAPRCO members could go check out the freight house. While taking these photos, someone made the interesting point that, this trip was very likely the first time this line has ever seen a dome car, since New York Central never owned any, and it could very well be the only dome car it ever sees.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 12:20 p.m.

Heading towards Clifton Springs. Having departed Canadaigua about five minutes earlier, they arrived at Shortsville early, and then departed Shortsville about 10 minutes early as well.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 12:24 p.m.

I had originally planned to get a photo at the existing Clifton Springs depot, but while they were stopped at Shortsville, I went ahead to scout and discovered that the depot is completely hemmed in by, well, junk. There was an excavator, a retired ambulance, pallets of stuff, just no way to get a photo. I went up to Hibbard Road, and found pretty much everyone chasing there. As well as a guy driving golf balls out of his driveway, across a public road, and out into a baseball field. Pretty sure that's not legal.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 12:30 p.m.

According to Mark Kingel, who was here at this spot, this is the only shot worth a damn at Phelps, NY. It's a wacky five-way road intersection with a diagonal railroad crossing. Yes, if you're coming from the opposite direction and turn to the left, you have to drive along the gauge. I wonder how many near-incidents they've had at this spot.

Neat old stone whistle post along the tracks. And a telegraph pole to the left too.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 12:40 p.m.

Racing through Waterloo. I didn't go down into Geneva, and the route was kind of weird, with them swinging straight south at Phelps and then having to come back north east to Waterloo, and they had to slow way down to go through Geneva, so we got way ahead here. I was shooting the breeze with Mark Klingel and two of his friends while we waited and that was when we noticed three fellow chasers who we ultimately dubbed "The Three Stooges". I guess I had seen them earlier and hadn't been paying attention really, but Klingel made a remark about "Every single location, these guys are completely in the wrong spot." While we were set up with a nice, long wedge shot, these three were up to the left, almost to the crossing. They had to have had the crossing gates in their shot. We were watching them and Mark goes "Do they really think the shot is up there?" They would continue this trend of weird shots that kind of screwed everyone because they were in the way.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 12:57 p.m.

I had considered going to the Seneca Falls depot in downtown Seneca Falls, NY (inspiration for Bedford Falls from It's A Wonderful Life) but the issue is that Seneca Falls is 3.6 miles southwest of the tip of Cayuga Lake, while the Cayuga Lake depot is 4 miles southeast of the tip of Cayuga Lake. So you have to go all the way north, then head back south, while the railroad instead has a causeway over the lake and travels in a straight line. You can get the train at both, but you really have to haul ass. I decided I'd rather have the Cayuga Lake location and played it safe, which really came in handy because there was an accident that closed down one road and forced a detour. Mark Klingel and his friends and I were there for the train arriving because we skipped Seneca Falls, whereas everyone who didn't missed it arriving at Cayuga Lake.

The original depot along the lakeside. The RAV-4 down there at the depot had a guy who was flying a drone, and he ended up kind of flying the drone at our head height pretty much in the way of our shot at our original location. We ended up having to relocate farther up the hill.

Arriving at Cayuga Lake. I wish the crew member wasn't riding the front end, but you can't really control that.

Originally we had assumed they were just going to roll through here, since the itinerary did not include a stop, but they ended up stopping and letting off the car owners to do two photo runbys. While everyone disembarked, we got this shot of the north end of the depot and the platform of the Portland.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 1:04 p.m.

The Three Stooges strike again. While they were doing a runby, I went down trackside and wanted to get a photo of the train passing by with the south end of the depot. There was an unguarded grade crossing to get around behind the depot and I wanted to set up on the far side of that crossing, to fully get the end of the depot. Instead, these three decided to set up on the side of the crossing closer to the depot, which meant you couldn't get the whole depot, and from my location they all would have been in my way. So I relented and moved up with them and got a shot that wasn't quite what I wanted.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 1:54 p.m.

After the first runby, they backed up and made another. At this point, the Three Stooges went up on top of the hill to the right, so I took a video of the runby and got the whole depot in the shot. Unfortunately I couldn't use a tripod, because I have the base, but the mount was on my camera when it was stolen. 

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 2:31 p.m.

Crossing the Owasco River at Auburn, NY. The Auburn Correctional Facility, one of the oldest functional prisons in the United States, is just to the right. Of it's notable inmates was Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated William Mckinley. In its early years, the prison charged a fee to tourists in order to raise funds for the prison. Eventually, to discourage most visitors, the fee was increased.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 3:07 p.m.

Passing by the Skaneatles Junction depot. Which is not in Skaneatles (technically pronounced Scan-ee-atlas, but locals say it like Skinny-Atlas), but in Jordan, NY. When the Auburn & Syracuse had been constructed, it had bypassed the city of Skaneatles and so they funded the construction of the Skaneatles Railroad in 1836. This was a pretty crude affair, with wooden rails and horse-drawn cars, and after opening in 1840, the company failed and went bankrupt on August 24, 1850. The tracks were abandoned and the wooden rails were repurposed as building materials.

Locals revived the idea of a railroad after the Civil War, as part of the "railroad fever" that really gripped NY in that era. The second Skaneateles Railroad was incorporated on April 17, 1866, and opened on October 1, 1867, and like its predecessor, it ran 5 miles north from Skaneateles and connected with what was now the New York Central at Skaneateles Junction. The railroad saw substantial tourist traffic bound for Skaneatles Lake and beginning in 1871 actually owned an interest in the steamboat operations on the lake. It later owned and operated several boats of its own before selling the business to the Auburn & Syracuse Electric Railroad, an electric interurban line. Freight and passenger business slumped in the 1920s, and passenger service ended altogether in 1932. The closure of the US Gypsum plant led the company to abandon operations again on February 7, 1940.

Again, local citizens revived the railroad, this time as the Skaneateles Short Line Railroad. The new company was incorporated on October 15, 1940, and began operations on April 17, 1941. The company dieselized in 1950, acquiring a GE 44-tonner but the closure of a mill in Skaneateles in 1969 led the railroad to abandon the track between the village and Skaneateles Falls, a distance of 3 miles. This left the Stauffer Chemical Company as the 2-mile railroad's sole customer. In 1974 Stauffer acquired the railroad and the railroad discontinued operations for a third and final time on July 15, 1981, and was later abandoned. The GE 44-tonner actually still exists, having gone to the Lowville & Beaver River, and then ending up at Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern's Utica Yard for possible restoration as a yard switcher. The locals of Skaneatles have not attempted a fourth revival of the line.

The depot itself is owned by a local railroad historical society and actually contains a model railroad version of the Finger Lakes Railway. Sadly, like the Clifton Springs depot, there was a collection of stuff around the depot that made a good shot hard to get. Also, you can see the Three Stooges up at the far end of the platform, taking photos. Again, right location, wrong spot, since they're on the wrong side and they're not getting the depot in the shot.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 3:56 p.m.

Arriving at "Martisco" Station in Marcellus, NY. When the Auburn Road was originally built by the Auburn & Syracuse in 1850, they bypassed the village center of Marcellus, but they did provide a station, albeit some some two miles north.  Originally a wooden structure, the present two-story Italianate brick structure was erected in 1870 that building.  In 1897, the Marcellus Electric Railroad was chartered to provide a direct rail line between the village of Marcellus and the Rochester & Syracuse station.  All references I can find to this state" however, no electric train ever operated on the line." I can't determine if that means that trains were operated over the line but used conventional steam equipment, or if the line never operated at all.

Regardless, in 1905, the Marcellus & Otisco Lake Railway was formed to take over operation of the Marcellus Electric Railroad short line.  By that point, the Auburn Road was under New York Central control, and the New York Central had it's own station directly in Marcellus. In order to avoid the confusion of two stations bearing the name Marcellus, the New York Central renamed its station Martisco as a contraction of Marcellus and Otisco. Martisco saw it's last passenger train in 1958, and the M&OL ceased operation in 1959 and was abandoned the following year, while the the Martisco freight house, suffering from old age and neglect, collapsed in 1970. The station was slated to be torn down in '64, but the Central New York Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society obtained a lease from the New York Central in 1965, and the station was purchased the following year. Martisco was four walls and a leaking roof when the Chapter members started the renovations.  Fixtures and furniture were obtained from other abandoned stations, fresh paint restored visual respectability, electric and water lines were reconnected, and a new roof corrected leaks caused by years of neglect.

Again, the Three Stooges were off to the left and up practically to the tree line, completely missing the depot in the shot. They got there, a couple other people formed a photo line there, while Pete, Jack and I all stood and got shots with the station. 

Also, in the first photo, you can see past the station, on a section of panel track, there is an ex-PRR dining car sitting there, in a state of severe neglect. I did note that it had a fairly fresh For Sale sign on it. Coincidence? "Hey, these guys own private rail cars, maybe they'll want this one?"

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 4:00 p.m.

The train had a scheduled stop at Martisco and arrived 45 minutes early, which was impressive considering the photo runbys at Cayuga Lake, so while it was stopped, Pete, Jack and I walked up and got some photos of the head end of the train.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/17/24 4:11 p.m.

In the above photos, you likely noticed the stainless steel skin of a Budd RDC to the right, which is Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines M403. There's also a duplex sleeper behind it, and a caboose, and then the PRR diner back at the depot. Pete made a rather pointed remark about how, like pretty much all historical societies and museums, they ran out and bought all this stuff with no real plan, and a lot of it having no local significance, because they had to have it, and then never did anything with it, never stabilized or restored any of it, and just let it deteriorate. Apparently they had grand plans of running excursions with this RDC, and then have let it sit. It likely has a bad case of "Budd disease" now, where the stainless steel skin looks good, but water has gotten under it and rotted out the carbon steel structure.

Of course, FGLK later ran their own excursions using a leased RDC, but with AllEarth Rail selling their entire fleet to some operation in Canada, it has since left the premises and it sounds like FGLK has no plan to run excursions this year, even though they ran some late last fall with coaches that they owned pulled by B23-7s. As Pete and Jack and I were discussing, it seems like, with access to Syracuse (major population center) and Geneva and Seneca Falls (major tourist destinations), excursions would probably be pretty popular, especially since the line along Cayuga Lake is very scenic. His exact words were "If Andy Muller owned this, you'd have trains running every weekend." Perhaps part of the issue is that they do run freight on the weekends and a lot of the line is single track with no passing sidings? They did used to operate regular passenger service between '99 and 2013 though.

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