• Susquehanna & New York Railroad Towanda-Williamsport

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in Pennsylvania

Moderator: bwparker1

  by Aa3rt
I'm going to revive this topic on one of my favorite railroads. We had a good thread running on the previous version of this site, so there does seem to be a little interest.

The Susquehanna & New York ran between Towanda and Williamsport, connecting with the Lehigh Valley in Towanda and ran to Williamsport via trackage rights on the Pennsylvania Railroad's Elmira Branch from Marsh Hill Junction to West Williamsport (Newberry) where it also interchanged with the Reading and New York Central. Origins of the railroad can be traced back to 1856 when the Barclay Railroad was formed, running from Barclay (Bradford County) to Towanda. Coal from Barclay Mountain was mined and loaded into barges in Towanda where it was caried north on the North Branch Canal to Waverly, New York.

In 1902 the railroad was extended south to Williamsport. It ran until 1942. The S&NY had a variety of motive power, including on failed gas-electric passenger car that was turned into a coach.

The railroad has been chronicled in the "Story of the Susquehanna & New York" by Edward Kaseman, the "Pennsylvania Railroad's Elmira Branch" by Bill Caloroso and "Scenes Along the Rails, Volume 1-The Anthracite Region of Pennsylvania, Part 2" by John and Suzanne Hudson.

A picture of the S&NY's # 119, a 4-6-0 originally built for the Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain can be found at:


and scroll partway down the page. After the closing of the S&NY, the 119 went to the Clarion River Railroad (both were owned by the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company).

I've done a lot of internet searching for S&NY information, usually without much success, although there is plenty of informaton on the New York, Susquehanna and Western available.

Here's a photo of the S&NY station in downtown Towanda:


The Lehigh Valley had trackage rights over the S&NY from Towanda to Monroeton, where they connected with their State Line and Sullivan branch. The remainder of the S&NY still operates as the Towanda-Monroeton Shippers Lifeline.

Anyone else out there with an interest in this line? Stop and chat!
  by wdburt1
I know nothing about this railroad but would be interested in learning more. I wonder, for instance, why it did not play any kind of role as a connection between the PRR and LV and/or D&H, and assume that the reason lay in the grades and curvature. As an resource-extraction line, if that is all it was, it's interesting anyway. And the region it served remains off the beaten path.


The Susquehanna & New York was owned by United States Leather, the company which owned the narrow-gauge Tionesta Valley (and at one point, the Clarion River RR) A 1938 Official Guide lists the same officers for the S&NY and the TV and an office at both Williamsport and at 27 Spruce St. in Manhattan. I presume this was the main office of US Leather.
A listing -complete with a map of connections - in 1938 Guide contains the following comment: "Susquehanna & New York Fast Freight Trains in both directions daily between Tonawanda and Newberry Jct. connect with Fast Freight Trains of Lehigh Valley R.R., Reading Co., and New York Central R.R., affording through service."
The listing shows GFA's with offices in Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Newark, Reading and Seattle -- quite a lineup for 65 mile shortline.
So despite the fact that the leather company used its railroads primarily to support its tanning and lumber activities, there was a nod to the S&NY's role as a bridge line.
Both the S&NY and the TV were abandoned in the same year - 1942.
  by s4ny
I have driven past that station and wondered about its original purpose. Thanks...

  by Aa3rt
Gentlemen, thank you for the replies thus far. Mr. Blabey, you are correct of course, the railroad was owned by United States Leather and not the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company as I incorrectly stated.

I first became aware of the S&NY in the early 1970's while attending junior college in Williamsport, PA. After graduation, my first job was in Towanda. However, it was only after the publication of the expanded third version of Mr. Kaseman's book that I became aware of what a fascinating little railroad this was.

To the best of my knowledge, two pieces of S&NY rolling stock still exist:

A 2-8-0, (#116), built by Baldwin in 1916, that was sold to the Meridian & Bigbee River (renamed Meridian & Bigbee in 1953) in Mississippi and is now on display at the Jimmie Rodgers museum in Meridian, although now wearing the number 42 to commemorate the last train that Jimmie Rogers worked on before he found fame as "The Singing Brakeman".

Caboose #15, a unique side door model, went to the Arcade and Attica, where it survives, minus cupola. (There was a lengthy thread on the previous version of this site about the caboose. The A&A has two cabooses, the other, also with side door came from the Erie.)

I only regret that I didn't know more about this railroad when I lived in Towanda. (I got a call from my Uncle Sam saying that he was in need of my services for the next four years and I left the area, relocating to southern Maryland after my tour was over.)

As an aside, one of my maternal great-grandfathers emigrated from Sweden to Pennsylvania when the CPL recruited experienced woodsmen from Sweden and Norway to log off the vast tracts of hemlock forests in northern PA. (My maternal grandfather grew up in Sheffield, working in the forests with his father and loading log cars on the Tionesta Valley. He later became a policeman in Jamestown, NY.)

There was a petiton to abandon the S&NY in 1940 or 1941 but that effort met with many protests. Unlike many railroads, the onset of World War II hastened the demise of the S&NY when it was determined that the rails could be used in a munitions plant in White Deer (north of Milton) that was being built to support the war effort. The last revenue train ran on May 23rd, 1942.

I also neglected to mention in my previous post that the January, 1943 issue of "Trains" had a very nice 11-page article on the S&NY.
Last edited by Aa3rt on Sat Sep 18, 2004 5:52 pm, edited 4 times in total.

  by rnetzlof
[quote="Aa3rt"]....the railroad was owned by United States Leather and not the Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company as I incorrectly stated[/quote]

But was not CPL the bark harvesting, tree cutting, railroad operating subsidiary of USL?

  by Aa3rt
Bob, yes, you're correct and this where it gets confusing. A number of CPL personnel who worked in the Williamsport offices served both the CPL and the S&NY (and the Tionesta Valley as well).

After the mines at Barclay played out, the S&NY was formed, initially as a logging railroad. Then some grandiose plans were developed to build a "bridge line" between Williamsport and Binghamton, NY. Of course, this never became a reality, but the S&NY was what resulted.

I'm unsure of the corporate succession, but in 1908, the S&NY, TV and the Leetonia (Tioga County) Railway (and later, the Clarion River) were all under the corporate control of the United States Leather Company. Of course, hemlock bark was an important ingredient in the tanning of leather, which was provided by the CPL.

Hopefully, someone with a better under understanding of the relationships of these companies will jump in here and educate us all.

  by Aa3rt
Bob, (and anyone else who's interested), after much reading, I do believe that I've found the answer to the corporate relationships mentioned in the previous posts. This actually came from Edward Kaseman's book on the S&NY, in a section about Charles S. Horton, who was the S&NY's first president.

Rather than try to reproduce the entire writeup, I will paraphrase:

The United States Leather Company was organized in 1893 and divided into three operating concerns:

1. The Union Tanning Company, with headquarters in Williamsport

2. The Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company, formed in 1904 to harvest the vast tracts of hemlock owned and controlled by the Union Tanning Company

3. The Susquehanna & New York and the Tionesta Valley Railway and "tramroads connected therewith".

At one time the territory owned and operated by the United States Leather concerns totalled between 450,000 and 500,000 acres and operated in Warren, Mc Kean, Forest, Elk, Potter, Clinton, Lycoming, Sullivan, Bradford, Tioga, Bedford, Luzerne and Wyoming counties. This included sawmills, tanneries, railroads and wood chemical plants.

Hope this information clears it up a little.

  by chnaus
In early June another gentleman and myself poked around the S&NY from
Ralston to Masten and Marsh Hill Jct. The line to Masten was visible above or below the one lane road up the mountain. This fall we intend to find the mine site at Ralston and trace the line from Masten (Hillsgrove Jct) to
S&E Jct and Laquin. We also traced the Grays Run branch. the road was built on most of it.
A few years ago the line from Laquin and west was cleared for a trail ,
but you would only venture west of Masten now when the leaves are off.
it is growing back fast and of coarse there are the rattlers.

  by Aa3rt
Giving this thread a much needed bump...

Here is a photo of a bridge on the S&NY from 1931:

http://www.lib.rpi.edu/cgi-bin/bulletin ... s=1x&pg=91

and a webpage dedicated to the Towanda-Monroeton Shippers Lifeline, current operator of what's left of the S&NY:

  by henry6
This road is a fun adventure any time. I have driven the entire length of it but it has been a few years since the last time. Back in the early 70's when I first got there the horsehoe curve was still quite visible and the bridge over the road was in; the bridge is gone and it is difficult to see anything much today unless you are looking for it. Of course there is the book S&NY and the lumber industry in Pennsylvania series of books (see Thomas T. Taber III as major writer) for great maps of all lumber roads.
Dang, I just might have to take a Sunday drive in the next few weeks and get lost around Shunk and Ellenton!
  by Matt Langworthy
wdburt1 wrote:I wonder, for instance, why it did not play any kind of role as a connection between the PRR and LV and/or D&H, and assume that the reason lay in the grades and curvature... And the region it served remains off the beaten path.
PRR and LV had many direct interchange points, including (but not limited to) Buffalo, Elmira, P&L Jct, Rochester, Stanley and Wilkes Barre. There would have been little need to use a third party charging a divisional rate, especially when one considers LV's weak financial state from the Depression onward. Likewise, D&H and PRR also interchanged directly at Taylor Yard, with D&H eventually purchasing the ex-PRR line to Sunbury following the Flood of 1972.

S&NY was an interesting line, as profiled in Caloroso's book. It also received some attention in Steam Era Of The Lehigh Valley.

  by Andyt293
The PRR and the D&H never interchanged at Taylor Yard. The D&H acquired Taylor Yard in 1980 as part of its purchase of the ex-DL&W mainline from Scranton to Bighamton.

The PRR interchanged with the D&H at Hudson Yard north of Wilkes-Barre and the D&H interchanged with the PRR at Buttonwood Yard south of Wilkes-Barre. The two yards were connected via the Wilkes-Barre Connecting Railroad which was owned 50/50 by both roads. Each road would take its freight to the other's yard and return its power light to the originating yard.

The D&H acquired the ex PRR (PC) Wilkes-Barre line from Sunbury to Wilkes-Barre in 1976 as part of the creation of Conrail
  by henry6
Interchange was effected at Ralston with the Northern Central (PRR) and with trackage rights to Newberry, interchange with Reading and NYC was performed. The LV interchange was at Monroton via its Sullivan and State Line RR with, I believe, a passenger train at one time or another going all the way to Towanda. But the main stay of traffic was its timber products and mine products (Gray's Run).
  by Matt Langworthy
Andyt293 wrote:The D&H acquired the ex PRR (PC) Wilkes-Barre line from Sunbury to Wilkes-Barre in 1976 as part of the creation of Conrail
I've read somewhere that D&H had actually begun the process to acquire the line as early as 1973, but the deal wasn't finished until lthe start-up of CR.

My apologies for the incorrect information- I've should've known better! At any rate, I think we can agree that while the idea of S&NY as a bridge line might be an interesting concept (or model train layout), it simply wasn't needed.