The NYC West Shore Thread

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The NYC West Shore Thread

Postby NYCUticaSyracuse81 » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:25 pm

I must have hundreds of questions that pertain to the West Shore Railroad, and instead on clogging up the board every time a new question arises, I thought that I'd start a single thread for all who want to discuss anything related to both the mainline and the Chenango Branch. I'm extremely interested in everything there possibly is to know about the W.S. from birth to abandonment. Any additional information you may be able to provide related to the West Shore and its three divisions, as well as the Chenango Branch will be gratefully accepted. No information will be considered insignificant.

Off the top of my head, here are a few immediate questions that I have.

Question # 1: Did the West Shore ever have stations in the cities of Utica or Buffalo, or did they use the NYC mainline stations? I know that there was an architecturally stunning station erected by the West Shore in Syracuse which unfortunately burned around 1910. After that, the W.S. used the NYC mainline station for all passenger traffic until it was discontinued in the 1930's. It seems unlikely that the W.S. did not have stations in the cities of Utica and Buffalo at one time, so if they did, I'd like to know where were they located, and if any photographs of the stations exist?

Question # 2: Was the original W.S. right-of-way through the city of Syracuse situated on the former ROW of the NYC main prior to the 1936 mainline elevation? Today it is now 690.

Question # 3: According to John Taibi's Oneida Railway Company book, "From Horsecars To Interubans," the West Shore discontinued its steam passenger service during 1907 when the Oneida R.W.Co. electrified the West Shore between Utica and Syracuse with the exception of occasional excursions to Sylvan Beach and so on. However, a 1909 timetable has scheduled stops at both the Oneida Castle and Canastota stations; clearly due to the interchanges with the O & W at Oneida Castle, and the Lehigh Valley at Canastota. So, if the timetable is correct, there were scheduled stops at both the O.C. and Canastota stations, which suggests to me that there was regular through passenger service between Utica and Syracuse after the 1907 interurban electrification. If this is not the case, then was passenger service detoured on to the NYC main between Utica and Syracuse? Or, did it only operate between Buffalo and Syracuse, and Utica and the River Division?

Question #4: After interurban service between Utica and Syracuse was discontinued on the electrified West Shore, passenger service did not return between the two cities. It did however continue from Syracuse west to Buffalo, and Utica to the east. Does anyone know if passenger service was cut at the same time in both directions, and the exact dates, or at least years of discontinuance? Something makes me think that it was sometime during 1933 or 1934?

Question # 5: While researching the W.S., I've gathered a number of abandonment dates. Please correct any of these dates if they are incorrect. I'd also like to know the exact month and day of abandonment if anyone has knowledge of such dates. I've heard conflicting stories of when the W.S. was abandoned between Canastota and Oneida Castle. I've heard that the final abandonment was in June of 1982, but have also read that it was Oct. 1982. I recall reading somewhere on this forum that the W.S. continued operations from Canastota to Wampsville up until 1983; possibly to service the fertilizer plant, but that was the only time I've heard this? I'd really like to know the exact date that W.S. discontinued service east of Canastota.

Here are the dates that I've acquired to far-

Mainline abandonment's on the West Shore:

Minoa-Canastota (12.9 miles) 1955
Belle Isle - Amboy (3.9 miles) 1955
Byron-Oakfield (10.24 miles) 1963
Chili Jct. - Byron (11.88 miles) 1959
Amboy-Wayneport (59.32 miles) 1959 (small portions near Lyons and Newark abandoned 1982)
Vernon-New York Mills (12.3 miles) 1964
Little Falls-South Ft. Plain (14.5 miles) 1971
Harbor-South Utica (5.6 miles) 1971
Ilion-Little Falls (9.5 miles) 1973
Oneida Castle-Vernon (5.6 miles) Nov. 1, 1977
Ilion-Harbor (9.4 miles) 1982
Canastota-Oneida Castle (5.9 miles) Spring of 1982 or Oct 1982??

Chenango Branch abandonment dates:

Cazenovia-Earlville 1937
Oran-Cazenovia 1944
Manlius-Oran 1948
Fayettville-Manlius 1964
Dewitt-Fayettville 1977
Final abandonment of the Chenango Branch Syracuse-Dewitt 1983

Please feel free to add corrections or more specific dates.

Question # 6 I am not as familiar with the other parts of the W.S. as I am between the Utica-Syracuse corridor. I plan on bicycling the West Shore rail-trail starting at Little Falls next spring. Can anyone tell me how far east the canalway trail shares the old ROW? Also are there any remnants that I should keep an open eye out for; milemarkers, whistle posts, flangers, former customers, stations etc.??

Question # 7 I'm interested in any customers that were serviced on the West Shore from NJ to Buffalo, including the Chenango Branch. I am aware of some in CNY, but not so much outside of that area. Please list any that you are aware of. I'm also interested in the dates of passenger and freight station demolitons along the entire line.

I would also like to mention that I started a West Shore Flickr group last year. Feel free to join, and post anything related to the West Shore RR. Nothing is off limits as long as it is related to the West Shore.

https://www.flickr.com/groups/2285792@N23/pool/

I guess that's all I can think of for now.

Thanks-NYC81
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby docsteve » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:53 pm

My brief history of the birth of the West Shore (from my website, http://railroad.docsteve.com/local.htm#NYWSB ).

After the New York Central had been operating in its more-or-less mature form, a spat of spite railroading errupted between it and the Pennsylvania. Each railroad began building parallel lines to the other.

The Pennsylvania, under successive presidents Tom Scott and George B. Roberts, invaded the territory of the New York Central, which was then headed by William H. Vanderbilt. The New York, West Shore, and Buffalo was chartered in 1881 to build a line on the west side of the Hudson paralleling Vanderbilt's property all the way to Buffalo. The original West Shore started at Jersey City, with stations at Hoboken and Weehawken before continuing north. It ran its first passenger train to Newburgh on June 4, 1883 and by the end of that year was running all the way through to Buffalo.

Vanderbilt retaliated with the South Pennsylvania Railroad, which was to be parallel to the Pennsylvania's main line between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Added to this mix, the West Shore received financial aid from George M. Pullman who despised Vanderbilt, who would not use Pullman sleeping cars on his line (he used Wagner Palace Cars instead). Vanderbilt, on the other hand, was aided by Andrew Carnegie, who did not like the Pennsylvania's monopoly in Pittsburgh. The cutthroat competition between the West Shore and Vanderbilt's New York Central caused the West Shore to founder first. It went bankrupt in June 1884. However the financial damage the West Shore was doing to the New York Central alarmed J.P. Morgan, the prominent railroad financier and a friend of Vanderbilt's, and he decided to intervene.

In July 1885, Morgan invited Roberts of the Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt of the Central to a meeting on his palatial yacht, the Corsair, in an attempt to arrange a truce (this while slowly cruising the East River, Hudson River, and Long Island Sound). Morgan succeeded, and in return for control of the bankrupt West Shore, Vanderbilt agreed to stop all further construction on the South Pennsylvania, which had been graded and tunneled, but on which track had not been laid. Morgan received fees estimated at between one and three million for arranging this deal, and the New York Central kept the West Shore name on its rolling stock, tickets and timetables for years.
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby NYCUticaSyracuse81 » Thu Nov 06, 2014 7:13 pm

This is a great piece of information Docsteve! I had some prior knowledge of the competition during the early years of the W.S. between the NYC and the Pennsy, but it was somewhat limited. Your write-up certainly filled in some blanks for me. Thank you very much for posting this.

You may want to add the industrial track near Utica, NY to the list of active sections in the link you provided. A small section of the original right-of-way is still in operation on the NY Susquehanna & Western in New Hartford, NY. Information provided in another thread stated that a new customer has moved in, and will be, if not already, serviced by the railroad via the old West Shore. The old ROW is maybe 3/4 of a mile long, give or take, and crosses French Rd at W.S. milepost NY 233. It is the only section on the Mohawk Division that has not been abandoned.


Thanks again
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby lvrr325 » Fri Nov 07, 2014 12:51 am

Adjacent to CP-293 in Solvay, 1/2 of a mile or so of both main tracks remains as the sidings for what is now Lehigh Portland Cement, although at one time they were where the locals parked their power. Some of the track in the pocket yard further west is originally West Shore going down to Belle Isle.

About one mile remained in Amboy, some of it still in place, serving a quarry; there was a crossing as late as 1979. It connected to the main via a tight S-curve around the 297 signals. I'm not sure when it ceased to be in service, but east of Devoe Rd. has been removed.

Another little stub remained in Warners serving an Agway, or perhaps the Agway was originally a West Shore customer.

In Jordan, a few hundred feet remain serving a grain dealer.

In Clyde, a segment lasted through about 1997, although by then long out of service, including a bridge over the Erie Canal/Seneca River. IIRC they quit it about 1985; Ontario Midland apparently looked at operating it, but it was a single customer branch. It did last long enough to require the track be jogged north a bit when the current NY-414 overpass was built. There was perhaps two miles to this stretch from where it connected to the mainline.

In Newark, I believe Ontario Midland operated what was left, it was connected via a short, tight ramp off the former PRR likely at some point after the PC merger, unless it was just given to the PRR prior to that.
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby RichCoffey » Fri Nov 07, 2014 7:48 am

Yes docsteve, that was a phenomenal write up you posted (above) - thanks for such a well-written summary. For those of you who like maps - Wikipedia has one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Shore_Railroad
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby BR&P » Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:40 am

lvrr325 is correct regarding Clyde. The warehouse company was Hemmingway, and apparently Conrail considered a PITA to switch, as they had service issues. OMID did indeed sit down with the owner and kick around the possibility of operating the segment. I no longer remember whether the company owned the 2 miles plus or minus of track, or whether there was discussion of them obtaining it from Conrail. At any rate, after study and discussion, that never came to be.

As for Newark, when OMID took over the line into Newark in 1982 that former PRR/NYC interchange was still as he said. At one time there were two tracks and I don't remember for sure but they may both have still been there. There was a switch leading north to a factory which was north of the Fold-Pak lead and which crossed the Fold-Pak lead on a diamond. OMID never saw any traffic there.

The West Shore segment extended east from that interchange, and went west to Caves Lumber, just east of Rt 88. Altho meetings were held with them to solicit traffic, that did not happen. Now farther west, my memory fails me. I *THINK* that in 1982, the West Shore crossed Rt 88 and extended west perhaps a quarter mile or so, but with no customers. Or it's possible the crossing had been removed but the track itself was still there?

Now - regarding all this track we've mentioned in this thread in Newark. None of it was ever operated by OMID. Either 1) that part was not acquired by the county, or 2) it WAS acquired by the county but was sold off and removed to help offset the cost of acquisition. If I come across any paperwork that clarifies this, I'll try to follow up here.
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby BR&P » Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:57 am

A bit farther west, a small part of the West Shore was used to serve Mobil Chemical at Macedon. The old freight house was still there on the north side of the track.

Anyone who thinks railroading is fun and romance should try switching that place at 4AM on a hot summer night, using hand signals instead of radios. The mosquitoes were so thick they could almost drag you away. Imagine staring way down the track at a pinpoint of light, held by another crewman trying to spot a car exactly in place. A whole bunch of cars further west the fireman is staring at YOUR pinpoint of light for the signal, so he can call across the cab to the engineer. About the time you have an "easy", almost there, one mosquito goes right into your left ear and another drills the right side of your neck. Swatting with one hand while maintaining a steady hold on the lantern with the other was NOT an easy thing to do! :P
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby dj_paige » Fri Nov 07, 2014 9:09 am

A bit farther west, a small part of the West Shore was used to serve Mobil Chemical at Macedon.


Shouldn't this be present tense? Those tracks are still there in Macedon, are they not?
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby BR&P » Fri Nov 07, 2014 9:51 am

dj_paige wrote:
Shouldn't this be present tense? Those tracks are still there in Macedon, are they not?


The tracks may still be in use, although I think Mobil sold the place a long time ago. I'm not sure what company it is now.
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby Jack Shufelt » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:19 am

BR&P wrote:A bit farther west, a small part of the West Shore was used to serve Mobil Chemical at Macedon. The old freight house was still there on the north side of the track.

Anyone who thinks railroading is fun and romance should try switching that place at 4AM on a hot summer night, using hand signals instead of radios. The mosquitoes were so thick they could almost drag you away. Imagine staring way down the track at a pinpoint of light, held by another crewman trying to spot a car exactly in place. A whole bunch of cars further west the fireman is staring at YOUR pinpoint of light for the signal, so he can call across the cab to the engineer. About the time you have an "easy", almost there, one mosquito goes right into your left ear and another drills the right side of your neck. Swatting with one hand while maintaining a steady hold on the lantern with the other was NOT an easy thing to do! :P



Forgot your fusees, eh?
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby BR&P » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:46 am

Jack Shufelt wrote: Forgot your fusees, eh?


:-D

Jack, that was a long process and I would have needed a case of fusees. There were a couple tracks and certain cars had to go to certain spots, with some coming out, some new ones in, and some setbacks. I am not sure whether the brightness of the fusee would have brought more mosquitoes, or the smoke would have kept them away. But between switching at Wayneport before Macedon, and then the work there, I needed a blood transfusion when it was over.
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby Matt Langworthy » Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:23 pm

A couple more abandonment dates:

Elba-Akron 1985
Akron-Cheektowaga 2008

RJ Corman expressed an interest in using the Akron-Cheektowaga segment. As I recall, local officials in Akron expressed opposition in renewed rail operations... so the tracks were removed.
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby granton junction » Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:57 pm

Thank you for your detailed history esp the abandonment dates. I believe that the West Shore route was built as a double track rr in its entirety? Since the West Shore route all the way to Buffalo was intact even for a few years after WW2, would it have been used as an overflow and detour route for the NYC Mainline thru the Mohawk Valley? To add a little historical mystery, I believe that the very early West Shore was operated by the NYS&W up to Tappan just across the state line. There was a Ridgefield Park Junction. This explains possibly why the NYS&W and WS lines are parallel from Ridgefield Park to North Bergen across the meadows. I have heard this years ago from a knowledgeable rr historian, but I have not seen any actual documentation of this. Some psgr trains terminated in Tappan. In Tappan until a few years ago the outline of the turntable pit was visible. It was plowed over though by the Tappan Cemetery. Very old maps show the West Shore route as the Jersey City and Albany RR.
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby lvrr325 » Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:06 pm

That last segment in Cheektowaga, they used a portion of the ROW under I-90 as an access road to the Walden Galleria shopping mall. It also crossed diagonally through the intersection of Walden Rd. and Harlem Rd. My guess is those two things are what led to killing it, combined with only one serious prospect for a customer, the quarry that kept that segment around.

The I-90 bridge also crosses a creek, so keeping a track would have called for several million dollars in added expense; the creek would have had to have been put in a culvert under I-90 for the road to pass over and a pair of bridges would have to have been built where the creek is crossed just to the west. Or, the I-90 northern (eastern, but it runs north-south here) bridge abutment would have to have been redone.

At least that's my opinion based on looking at the map.


On the Newark track, that OMID approached customers for potential service would seem to indicate the county got the property; that a road is now constructed through where that interchange was also tells me they certainly own it now. There is one track off the end of the PRR that curves eastward into a large warehouse or factory, although whether it's related to West Shore who knows, it's a fair bit north of where I remember the interchange track to be. (Is that Fold-Pak?)

I thought there was an aerial showing that old interchange track in place, but the closest I can find is a 1971 topo which seems to indicate one potential customer west of I-88 (marked "Gas") plus a pocket yard (four tracks, two apparently side tracks) a bit further west. Also shows a siding packed in just east of where the PRR crossed over.

Looking on the most current map, a small bit of that siding that crossed on the diamond is abandoned in place, likely the portion that belongs to the factory it served, as it doesn't appear to extend past their property.


All evidence I've seen indicates the West Shore was built double track, except perhaps down around from Canajoharie eastward, driving along 5S the old ROW is obvious but doesn't look wide enough for two tracks.
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Re: The West Shore Thread

Postby BR&P » Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:28 pm

You are correct, that was Fold-Pak that came off the PRR (OMID) line and crossed Murray St. Bing Maps birds eye shows the south track at Fold Pak has been removed. In the 80's, inbound loads went on the north track and an occasional car of scrap paper was loaded on the south. But all of that was farther north than the former West Shore.
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