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Rome Watertown and Ogdensburg

Dekalb Junction to Ogdensburgh

In New York State, a significant portion of the trackage north of the New York Central main line was once part of the Rome Watertown & Ogdensburg. At one point it had 643 route miles. The Watertown & Rome was chartered in 1832 to connect northern New York with the Erie Canal, but it took 17 years before ground was broken near Rome. After reaching Watertown, the new railroad was immediately extended to Cape Vincent which had its ferry to Canada. In 1857, the Potsdam & Watertown was built to join what later became the Rutland's line to Ogdensburg. As well as serving as a connector, it served the agricultural towns of Potsdam, Canton and Gouverneur. In 1861, this line merged into the W&R, the name of the new railroad was changed to RW&O and a 19-mile line built from DeKalb Junction to Ogdensburg.

The New York Central paid a high price for the RW&O but got a well-built railroad in a fairly populous and non-competitive area. As late as the mid-1950's, most of the RW&O was still in service. Everything east of Oswego was part of the St. Lawrence Division. By 1961, the St. Lawrence Division had merged into the Mohawk Division.

The 1916 ETT shows six (6) trains daily in each direction between DeKalb Jct. and Ogdensburg. They were spaced out from about 6 or 7 a.m. to about 6 or 7 p.m., with a typical elapsed time of 40 minutes, including the two intermediate station stops of Heuvelton and Rensselaer Falls. I would imagine that one trainset consisting of an engine and one or two coaches plus a combo mail/baggage car could have handled the entire operation. Pullman sleeper cars were likely attached to early morning northbounds, and to early evening southbounds. By 1956, there was only one passenger run a day left. It was gone by 1961.

Apr. 1, 1976

Conrail is created and operations of the Ogdensburg Secondary is signed over to Ogdensburg & Norwood Railway.

Apr. 1, 1977

O&NR became St. Lawrence Railroad.


SLRR returned the Ogdensburg Secondary to Conrail.

Mar. 1980

Conrail signs operations of the Ogdensburg Secondary to North County Railroad.

The Ontario Eastern Railroad ran out of DeKalb Jct. and was operated by the same group that ran ONCT and OMID.

The Ontario Eastern Railroad Corp.(ONER) was incorporated in 1981 to take over as designated operator of the Ogdensburg-DeKalb Jct.line.

It served a rail-dependent paper mill at Ogdensburg owned by Sonoco Products. (The mill was formerly owned by Diamond National). ONER had one unit of motive power, an ex-D&H RS3. The General Manager, Jim Colpoys, also came from the D&H. The company was an affiliate of Rail Services Associates of Syracuse. RSA also managed the Ontario Midland and the Ontario Central Railroads. ONER even had its own subsidiary, the Jersey Southern R.R., which operated a 4.3 mile branch in South Deerfield Twp., N.J., serving the Seabrook Farms frozen food plant.

The paper mill at Ogdensburg struggled on until about 1985, when it closed for good.

The road shut down operations, since there was no other business.

After about a year, the track was removed. March 1987 seems about right as the date of abandonment.

An interesting note is that the contractor who removed the ONER rails was Amish - even in the mid-1980's, the rails went down the same way they went down, with men and horses instead of machines. Before 1920, was probably the peak of passenger traffic, shows about six (6) trains daily in each direction between DeKalb Jct. and Ogdensburg. They were spaced out from about 6 or 7 a.m. to about 6 or 7 p.m., with a typical elapsed time of 40 minutes, including the two intermediate station stops of Heuvelton and Rensselaer Falls. I would imagine that one trainset consisting of an engine and one or two coaches plus a combo mail/baggage car could have handled the entire operation. Also Pullman sleeper cars were likely attached to early morning northbounds, and to early evening southbounds. In 1947 to 1950, they ran a Gas-Electric,steam and early diesel.

By Ken Kinlock at
New York Central station in Ogdensburg

Take a look at my blog about railroads in Ogdensburg, New York.

Penney New York Central station in Ogdensburg
New York Central station in DeKalb Junction

New York Central station in DeKalb Junction

Summary of the Ogdensburg Ferry

Chronological history of the Prescott - Ogdensburg car ferry:. It was first started by the Grand Trunk Railway, then the St. Lawrence & Ottawa Railway took it over, then CPR got a hold of it and created a subsidiary company to operate it until it was discontinued. With predecessors it operated to Prescott, Ontario, from the mid 1860s through Sept 1970. In conjunction with the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1930-1970 the join operation used the tug 'Prescotont' and the car barge, 'Ogdensburg.' It should be noted that the company also operated the car ferry between Brockville and Morristown.
Some years ago, Ted Rafuse from Cobourg, Ontario, published Coal to Canada, the story of the Lake Ontario car ferry service operated by the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh (then B&O) and the Canadian National (now out of print). More recently he published a book on the car ferry service in eastern Canada across the Strait of Canso, A Railway to the Isle. Late in 2015 he released Rails Across the River, the story of the service on the upper St. Lawrence River between Ogdensburg, NY (NYC) and Prescott, ON (CP). The St. Lawrence is about a mile wide here, and this service merited a number of pages and photos at the end of George Hilton’s Great Lakes Car Ferries. It was the next- to- last service of his coverage on the Great Lakes—he said the Lakes ended when the barnacles begin and there “salt water historians [must] pick up the pen” (p. 253). The book is extensively illustrated, some photos better than others, as always with oldies, After using numerous vessels including some self-propelled ferries, the final and perhaps most interesting, and certainly modelgenic service was maintained by a tug-barge combination. The diesel-electric tug and the barge were jumpered together, and the tug could be controlled from the barge’s pilothouse. When Penn Central killed the service in 1970, the combo went to the Detroit-Windsor crossing hauling containers. There’s a lot more interesting stuff in the book including some material about the fabled silk trains, some of which took this route across the river. The book has extensive references and is indexed. It is 8 ½ x 11, portrait format and is steel-spiral bound so it can be folded over without coming apart and is easy to read sitting in bed. You can order it using PayPal from Ted’s website, (NOT .com). After currency conversion, it came in at under $30.
Map Of Dekalk To Ogdensburg

Former line started on the West side of the river in Ogdensburg. It went South through Heuvelton and Rensselaer Falls to DeKalb Junction. At DeKalb Junction, it met the old New York Central (now CSX) rail line from Watertown to Massena. In Ogdensburg, a former New York Central branch ran Southwest along the St Lawrence River to Watertown. This branch crossed the river and met the Rutland rail line that ran to Rouses Point. Now this line goes to Norwood where it meets CSX. It is owned by the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority that also owns the international bridge that replaced the car ferries.

Rutland Milk

The Fabled Rutland Milk

See Penney's Blog about the Fabled Rutland Milk. Pictured at the left is a “rider car” bringing up the rear as the train goes through the Troy Union Railroad on it's path from Ogdensburg, down through Vermont to Chatham, then down the New York Central Harlem Division to New York City.

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Ontario Eastern Railroad

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Follow a new railroad into the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. They run tourist trains, dinner trains, and even a ski train from Saratoga to North Creek. They want to reactivate the railroad to a mine that was closed over 20 years ago. New technology and a new attitude maybe just the right combination.

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Penn Central New Haven Railroad New York Central Railroad

Interested in Penn Central? New York Central? Pennsylvania Railroad? New Haven Railroad? or in the smaller Eastern US railroads? Then you will be interested in "What if the Penn Central Merger Did Not Happen". You will also enjoy "Could George Alpert have saved the New Haven?" as well as "What if the New Haven never merged with Penn Central?"

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Welcome to our "Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg" WebSite

Here's a preview of some of the exciting projects we have put together for you:

Our feature article is "The Rome Watertown and Ogdensburgh"

We have other articles on Ogdensburg and the North Country and the history of the Hojack Line .

We have a special feature by Richard Palmer on Where Did the Term "Hojack" Originate?

See our reference section and our Lake Ontario Shore section .

You will enjoy the Timeline of Railroads in the Adirondacks , and the The Rutland Connection .

Find out about the Ogdensburg Bridge , the Ogdensburg car ferry and the line to DeKalb Junction , Massena Terminal Railroad .

See more Hojack Stories from the Collection of Richard Palmer . Included are: why the R.W.& O. adopted the Four Leaf Clover Trade Mark ; Newspaper abstracts concerning the RW&O Shops in Rome, N.Y. ; and the Ballad of the Hojack See maps Around Watertown and Oswego , as well as Watertown history .

See another History of the Rome Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad .

Our favorite Short Lines

Interesting Railway Stations
See KC Jones BLOG about Railroad History
KC Jones
Railroad Biographies

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New York Central station in Ogdensburg
New York Central station in Ogdensburg

Silk from Ogdensburg to NY City and North Country Silk Factories

4 Days from Vancouver to Prescott. Ferry to Ogdensburg then 18 hours to New York City.

The silk mills in Northern New York

Silk trains of North America
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Several years ago I wrote a story on the major railroads of 1950 and what happened to them.

Now I am following up with a closer examination of the New York Central Railroad. This railroad only lasted until 1968 when it merged into Penn Central.

But, what was the NY Central Railroad like in 1950?

You will also be interested in "What if the Penn Central Merger Did Not Happen"

Hojack Swing Bridge at Charlotte on the Genesee River from a postcard found in St Joseph, Michigan)

Special Research Section on the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad.

This section contains information that is unpublished elsewhere!
In the early 1870's, the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad had been built from Oswego along the shore of Lake Ontario to the Niagara River (Suspension Bridge). It bypassed Rochester, had no manufacturing industries and first became part of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh which was acquired by the New York Central.

Railroads On The Rebound

Over the last 50+ years, railroads have changed a lot. Now they are about to change again.

It is all about a combination of economic factors and climate factors.

Since 1950 , railroads have consolidated. Freight moved from a "box car mentality" to a "unit train,mentality". Passenger went from a robust business to a "caretaker" arrangement called AMTRAK. This happened as everybody could drive for free on the Interstate Highway System or fly on an airline system where the government subsidized both airlines and airports. In the meantime, railroad express and railroad post offices went "down the tubes". The old Post Office Department and the Railway Express Agency could not adjust to the new way. UPS and Fex Ex could.
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Track 61
Here is a picture of Track 61. See what is so mysterious about Track 61 at Grand Central Terminal.. Also find out about a railroad that did NOT make it to Conrail: The New York & Harlem. Find out about Metro-North.
On June 13, 1845 the Troy & Greenbush Railroad opened between Troy and Greenbush, NY. It is the last link in an all-rail line between Boston and Buffalo. See more random dates in railroad history.
Isn't it amazing how much we all remember (and have forgotten about the NY Central)? 40 plus years? OMG, we rode parlors to Chatham and sleepers to the Adirondacks. Geez, we remember a lot. Why is all this stuff gone? Why did we have a PC and a Conrail.
Skiing Skiing

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See Ancienne Hippie BLOG about Railroad History
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Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority

Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority

The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority owns two shortline railroads that are operated by a private contractor d/b/a the New York and Ogdensburg Railway Company. This railroad serves the Port of Ogdensburg and connects with CSX, thus providing total intermodal service for industries of Northern and Central New York, as well as Eastern Ontario, Canada
Ogdensburg Ferry

A car float ran at Ogdensburg between the New York Central terminal at Ogdensburg N.Y., and the Canadian Pacific terminal at Prescott, Ont.

Ogdensburg Car Ferry

If CNR and CPR interchanged freight with the NYC Ottawa branch, what was the purpose of the CPR freight car ferry to Ogdensburg? It lasted till approximately 1970, but how much freight did it really carry?

The Ogdensburg-Prescott carferry is a New York Central "unremarked operation". The tug and barge used at the end were built as a pair in 1930. There are photos available from 1948 that show mostly coal being moved. However there is a photo in George Hilton's book "Great Lakes Carferries" which shows a more mixed load. The 1955 traffic figures were: from CP 3030 loads, 2625 empties and to the CP 3150 loads and 503 empties. Apparently this traffic was un-balanced and used more by the CP. From the CP was very likely paper products and perhaps some lumber and a bit of oil product in addition to the empties being returned to the Central "at the nearest junction point". CP received coal, but also chemicals, produce, and a variety of manufactured goods in box cars. The completion of the bridge over the St. Lawrence pretty much killed it off. A railroad receives no revenue for switching operations of which this could have been considered one, and an expensive one at that, so the PC together with the CP no doubt killed this operation off as fast as they could once an alternative was available to justify its termination.

Now that we know the car ferry carried mostly coal traffic, the next question is: which route into Ogdensburg did the NYC use to get to and from the ferry? Was it the line from DeKalb Jct or the line up from Philadelphia? I know there was a local which served the line from Philadephia, but what about the line from DeKalb Jct? Did the yard switcher in Ogdensburg also go to DeKalb Jct to bring back cars?

This is only a guess, but if the DeKalb - Ogdensburg track was kept in longer, could it have been the primary track used and the one out of Philadelphia was the track that was for local traffic? Especially since after the abandonment along the river, a small spur was maintained. It was a shorter route as well.
At one point freight between Watertown and Ogdensburg was sent via DeKalb Jct. Any freight service at that time for the line to Phila. was handled by a mixed train. In 1956 the pattern had been changed. A freight ran on the former U&BR line between Philadelphia and Ogdensburg. A local ran from Ogdensburg to DeKalb Jct and back. The St. Lawrence Division was partly abandoned on October 28, 1956, when the New York Central Railroad abandoned the original St. Lawrence Division from Ogdensburg to Redwood, leaving a short spur in Ogdensburg attached to the Ogdensburg Branch.

There was a switch engine assigned to Ogdensburg, at least in steam days. By 1954 there wasn't as much traffic left except for a few industries, the car float, and the one passenger train which probably just sat at the station all day until it was time to leave.

Very interesting that in the last years they used two locomotives for the freight from Watertown to Ogdensburg, and then spilt them up. This must mean that the freight was timed to arrive when the car ferry was due to arrive so that there would be a switch engine in town.

Summary of the Ogdensburg/Dekalb Line:
1862 - opened by Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg RR
1891, Mar. 14 - leased by NYC
1913, Apr. 16 - becomes NYC
1968, Feb. 1 - becomes PNYC
1969, Oct. 1 - becomes PC
1976, Apr. 1 - becomes Conrail, but is operated by Ogdensburg & Norwood Ry
1977, Apr. 1 - operated by St. Lawrence RR
1978 - back to Conrail
1980, March - operated by North Country Ry
1981, March - back to Conrail
1981, Dec. 10 - sold to Ontario Eastern RR
1985 - abandoned
1986(7) - rails removed
affiliate_link New York Central Home Page

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Some of these are well known because of PGA Tour events held there. Pinehurst; The Greenbrier; and Pebble Beach certainly belong in this catagory. Others are located in towns with even more than golf as an attraction. In this Category is The Otesaga in Cooperstown, New York; Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain.

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Rails Around New York State

A trip around New York State with stories about the railroads encountered.

Albany to Utica was an important piece of the original New York Central and is now just as important to CONRAIL and to AMTRAK.
The Schenectady to Saratoga railroad reached the small town of Ballston Spa in 1832. Soon the Rensselaer & Saratoga would also pull in. Eventually, these would fall under the Delaware & Hudson. Several street car lines also ran into the spa too.
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