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Milk Trains


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A feature article is about milk trains in New York State..

Another feature article is about getting the milk to market.

We cover several locations, areas and cities with their involvement with milk trains. These include Litchfield County, Connecticut ; the Hopewell Junction creamery ; the ruins of the Clover Farms creamery at Shekomeko. ; the Bakers Chocolate Plant and Dairyman's League Creamery in Red Hook, New York ; a milk stand in Arthursburg ; the Clove Valley Creamery ; milk train into NY City in 1917 ; Boston's milk supply ; Borden’s Creamery at Lead Mines (later called Ancramdale) ; and the Attlebury Tangent creamery ruins.

We have some great milk train topics like a new idea for milk transportation ; Milk cars in 1954 ; milk train distances ; and what is the Grange.

We get specific about railroads too. Find out about Lehigh Valley milk cars. read about the Ontario & Western.
See more on New York Central milk trains. See some great New York Central Railroad pictures too.
A lot of milk on the Central went to New York City's West Side and ended up at the St Johns Freight House.
The NY Central drew its milk from upstate. One area was the Lake Ontario Shore.

See our milk train reference section and readers contributions.

An added special feature, courtesy of Richard Palmer, is "The Milk Business of the New York Central R.R". By Charles W. Brainard (Written about 1940)

We have a section on Milk on the O&W

Another added feature is Newark Milk and Cream Company creamery in South Columbia located on the Utica, Chenango and Susquehanna Valley LLC.

See KC Jones BLOG about Railroad History
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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.

Read why the Rutland Milk was called FABLED

Milk Trains in New York State

On milk trains in New York State, most railroad-owned cars were of the "milk can" variety while privately owned cars were bulk tank cars (usually two separate 3000 gallon tanks). The milk trains that traversed the New York Central's Hudson Division at night were solid milk trains with a rider car on to the rear for the crew. An equipment breakdown from the mid to late 1940's I picked up on the "Web" is as follows: General American Pfaudler (GPEX) 312 cars (1949), NYC 312 cars (1943), Erie 135 cars (1943), D&H 16 cars (1943), Rutland 43 cars (1943). The railroad owned cars above were AAR class: BM, while the GPEX were AAR class: BMT, as most private owned cars were classed. Both the D&H, and the Rutland milk trains had very interesting operations, starting out as passenger trains with milk cars cut in and out along the route until they hit a predetermined junction then split the passenger train and milk train for different destinations.

New York Central (Mainline)

On the NYC, the major milk trains were as follows:

· Train # 16 from the St. Lawrence Div. started at 7a.m. from Massena, near the Canadian border, headed south picking up milk cars along the way from places like Ogdensburg (added cars at DeKalb Junction). In Watertown, the train had 14 to 15 milk cars and a couple of passenger cars that left as train #70 for Utica. Some milk cars came off of Oswego Branch. Arriving at Utica with 19-20 milk cars, train #70 was combined with train #64 off of the Utica-Carthage Branch which had around 10 milk cars, becoming train #184 to Rensselaer and down the Hudson Division. Train #184 swapped motive power at Harmon at 9:30 p.m., at Spuyten Duyvil one bulk milk car was dropped off for delivery to the Bronx Terminal Market. About half of the cars were switched out at 130th Street yard, and the rest went to 60th Street yard arriving at 11:30 p.m.

· The second milk train started out as train #188 from Syracuse at 8:41 a.m. gathering cars from the West Shore enroute to Rensselaer. Here D&H cars were tied on for the trip down the Hudson Division as train #182. This train arrived at the 60th Street yard at 12:20 a.m.

· About 5 milk cars not on the regular milk trains were carried on several separate passenger trains on the Hudson Division then dropped off at Harmon, then run down to 60th Street yard.

· The two westbound empties were trains #183 which left 60th street at 4:30 a.m., and train #185 which in turn left 60th street at 7:30 a.m.

New York Central (West of the Hudson)

One more NYC milk train operated on the West Shore, starting out as train #528 on the Catskill Mountain Branch from Oneonta. Between Oneonta and Kingston, it picked up 7 or 8 milk cars as well as carrying local passengers. From Kingston it operated on the West Shore as a Milk Extra to Weehawken milk yard, transferred to truck and ferried to 42nd Street in Manhattan.


The Rutland milk ran to Chatham as train 88 which held over for 90 minutes for the arrival of the northbound empties from the NYC on the Harlem Division. The trains were swapped over from one railroad to the other as the Rutland crew returned north with the empties. The Rutland milk train dropped one car at Mott Haven for the Bronx Terminal Market, dropped cars at 130th Street yard, and arrived at 60th Street yard at 3:20 a.m. In regards to the Rutland Milk trains, from the Jim Shaughnessy book: Trains #87 (northbound) and #88 (southbound) seem to be the milk trains that operated across the Rutland system to/from the New York Central connection at Chatham, NY. The "Corkscrew" division between Rutland and Chatham had little or no local business online, and was approved for abandonment in 1952. By the time #88 made the last run over the Rutland's "Corkscrew" division to Chatham in May, 1953, the "milk train" looked more like a manifest local, with about 8 cars between the RS3 and the caboose. After the "corkscrew" was shut down, #88 ran via B&M & NYC trackage rights via Troy and Rensselaer to Chatham. On the last two pages of the book "Trackside in the Albany, NY Gateway", there are shots of a Rutland train moving thru Rensselaer around 1960. The Rutland milk train had a long circuitous route, as cars came from Burlington and points north near the Canadian border as well. In the early 1950's as trucks took over the bulk of the milk traffic from the railroads, the NY State legislation banned Vermont milk from being processed in NY state just about ending the Rutland's milk into NY state, I think the Rutland took their business to Boston. On the Harlem Division, the station at Patterson was demolished after an interesting incident took place. Early one morning in August 1952, one of the cars of the eastbound Rutland milk train derailed as the train was passing by the station, crashing into the southeast corner of the station, and bringing other cars behind it off the rails, tearing up track a creating a big mess.

Delaware and Hudson

The D&H milk trains originated in northern New York around Whitehall. At Rensselaer, D&H cars were tied on to the New York Central train for the trip down the Hudson Division as train #182.

Ontario and Western

The NYO&W ran, probably until the end, a "Milk Train" into and out of Weehawken, but this was, at least by the 1950s, as much a mail express and local/LCL freight as it was a milk run. Some O&W milk came in on containers mounted on flat cars, which were transferred to trucks and brought into New York City via the Weehawken ferries.

Boston and Maine

A B&M milk came down to Rensselaer through Troy from Mechanicville. Its cars too were added to the NY Central milk trains.


There were working milk plants served out of Utica on the RW&O, the West Shore, and the M&M (Adirondack Division) into the sixties. The Borden plant on the M&M and the Dairylea plant on the West Shore still had rail service until 1970+/-.

Milk Handling on the New Haven

About 3 milk cars were still on the roster as of 1946 (the last year the cars were shown or a tariff published for milk). Most were converted during 1943-44 to other uses. These cars were passenger-train equipped and could be used for express shipments etc. A famous train was the Milk Train, locally known as the "Big Milk". This train ran from Pittsfield to Bridgeport, picking up and loading milk as far as Newtown, arriving in Bridgeport with from 25 to 30 carloads every day. From there, the train ran to New York. After the creameries at Hawleyville and Newtown closed, the milk train ran to New York via Danbury and South Norwalk.

The demise of frequent local service and the time sensitive nature of the milk business all contributed to the end of this type of traffic. The centralized bottling plants lent themselves to truck traffic due to the low volume shipments and the raw milk traffic lingered on for a short time.

By Ken Kinlock at
Milk Truck Milk Truck

The Milk Man is Returning, Will the Milk Train Return Too?

King Brothers Dairy in upstate New York, and others too, have brought the “Milk Man” back. No he doesn't have an old-fashioned wagon pulled by “Old Dobbin”. Nor does he even have a “DIVCO”. Instead he has a modern truck equipped with GPS. The Albany Times-Union had a great article on the return of the milk man.

Now that the Milk Man is returning, how about bringing back the Milk Train? No, I am not advocating bringing back the old Boston & Maine tracks to Schuylerville (where the dairy is located). I want to see these “long haul” milk trucks off the road for the sake of our ecology. No, I don't have a perfect solution, but if you have any ideas, respond to our comments.

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Supply Chain Control Tower

Supply Chain Management Control Towers

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Our HAND TOOL WebSite is intended in aiding you to locate HAND TOOL suppliers. You may search by product or by manufacturer. We add both products and manufacturers, so keep checking back. In addition we are a full service MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operational Supplies) supplier. If you are in the construction or farming business, we are your source.

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Today’s supply chain is more than simple transport of EDI documents. The complexity of maintaining compliance with trading partners, managing the ever increasing amount of data, and analyzing that data to drive constant improvement in processes and service take supply chain professionals far beyond the basics of mapping EDI documents.

Milk Cans

There were two types of milk cans, New York style and New England style. New York style had folding handles, New England style did not.

There were many makers of cans, and each maker had their own ideas that they tried to sell for market advantage. As to why there was no standardization of cans, well the capacity was standardized in the marked number of quarts, but beyond that, one might as well ask why there is more than one type of automobile.

Small farms had two redundant sets ("today's" (full) and "yesterday's" (empty)). The cans were marked with a thick red glossy paint with the farm's code number (assigned by the local creamery) and a can number (that was sequential within the set). Both lids and cans were labeled and numbered the same, to keep them together.

Cans were never outlawed per se, but due to rising handling costs one-by-one the local milk-plants started to refuse to take milk in cans, demanding the more labor-efficient bulk-tank truck systems instead.

When the last local buyer of milk in cans was gone, if a farmer could not afford the huge investment to switch to a bulk tank, he lost his milk-market and had to sell his cows and quit the business.

Remaining & Known Disposition of Bulk Milk Cars

Borden's Butterdish - Union, IL

GPEX Steel cars - Union, IL (2)
; Rio Vista Jct, CA
; St. Louis, MO;
Cincinatti, OH;
Albany, GA

Erie steel car - Rochester, NY

B&M steel cars - Bellows Falls, VT (2);
Waterbury, CT (2);
possibly a couple in Roxbury, VT and North Billerica, MA;
also one reported in Portland, ME

Wooden can cars - O&W Childs, PA;
D&H North Creek, NY;
RDG (frame and metal only) Jim Thorpe, PA;
Soo Line (modified), North Freedom, WI;
DL&W Scranton, PA;
CV Barnet, VT;
CV Barre, VT (unconfirmed)

Trolley - P&W milk motor, Washington, PA
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Contributions from our Readers
The last Ontario & Western milk came, most likely, from Pleasant Mount (Dairyman's League)on the Scranton Division, ca. 1952. The "Long Milk" operated from Oneida to Weehawken but was gone by the 1940s. Honneckers' Dairy shipped on the O&W from Sherburne Four Corners, NY, in specialized containers on modified flat cars developed by the O&W and Motor Terminals, Inc., of Middletown, NY, to N. Bergen, NJ; -- a distance of 278 [timetable] miles.
Contributed June, 2006 by Mal Houck
And as for Boston & Maine milk service the last of the service ran from Eagle Bridge, NY to the Hood plant on Rutherford Ave., in Charlestown, MA ca. 1972.
Contributed June, 2006 by Mal Houck

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West Side Freight: Milk Plants

Sheffield Farms opened a plant adjoining its company's headquarters at 524 W. 57th St. in 1938. Here is a quote from the article on the new plant in the June 22, 1938 The American Produce Review.

"The new plant, adjoining the company's headquarters at 524 West 57th St., spans the tracks of the New York Central which run below street level from the 60th St. yards to 35th St. between Tenth and Eleventh Aves. The tracks wer laid in a cut a year ago, removing the railroad from Eleventh Ave."

"Relocation of the railroad enabled the company to build on this site and obtain the long sought rail terminal within the plant. First, however, the dairy and the railroad made an unusual real estate deal by which the railroad maintains a right of way through the plant and the dairy owns the air rights above the tracks."

"The new plant is the only milk plant in Manhattan and the second in New York City to have a railroad siding on plant property. The other plant, also built by Sheffield Farms, is in Jamaica. It was opened a year ago. The rail head in the plant saves the time and expense involved in hauling milk from railroad yards in tank trucks."
On New York Centrals 30th Street Branch in New York City (the High Line), Borden's had a facilities at the St. John's Park (the terminal at the end of the branch). Here is what I know: Borden's had a dedicated platform that handled Milk and other dairy products. This traffic came from 60th Street Yard. I believe that Borden's had a dedicated "Milk Train" to St. John's Park.

Creameries on the New Haven Railroad

There were creameries all over New Haven territory prior to the 1920's and 1930's shipping milk to the major urban areas of Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York city. The Berkshire line and the ex-CNE lines had a lot of this service. Amston and Westchester Connecticut shipped milk to New Haven using the well know "New Haven Dairy" cars in the late 1920's. The railroad itself owned a large fleet (about 150) of 36ft insulated milk cars for hauling cans of milk (the mentioned New Haven Dairy cars were bulk milk tank cars owned or leased by the dairy, not the railroad). Most originating milk traffic was probably gone before WWII, going to truck haul instead of rail. The NH RR milk cars were used as express cars for some time, and the last left the roster in 1946.

Milk continued to be shipped by rail from points outside New Haven territory, being delivered at least to Hartford, Providence and Quincy, MA until quite late (1953 for the last named delivered to White Brother's dairy). These shipments would have been bulk or bottled milk delivered in B&M, CV or dairy owned/leased cars.

In the hudson Valley there were dozens of creameries on NH lines just in Dutchess County. They seemed to pop up like mushrooms along the tracks.

For example in Hopewell Junction there was a Bordens creamery that opened in the spring of 1901 with 900 tons of ice on hand for processing the milk. At peak output that one creamery shipped as many a 6 cars of milk to New York City every day.

There were at least 3 other creameries within 5 miles of the one in Hopewell Junction.

Along the CNE in Hartford, just south/east of Albany Ave. there was a Sealtest dairy that was a consignee. I believe there was another dairy along the east side of the Hartford main line just south of the tunnels.

Perhaps the large dairy in Amston was the thing that kept the Air line in operation out east of Portland as long as it was (1965), since there wasn't --- and isn't --- much else out in those parts. The Air line local ran to Amston triweekly.

I have located three creameries in the Berkshire County/northern CT area, including the ones at West Stockbridge, Great Barrington, and Canaan, CT. The West Stockbridge creamery was operated under the Bordens' name for a while. It operated in the 1920s, and was located where the trailer park is on Rt. 41. The Gre at Barrington Creamery was located at the Maple Street crossing, and was operated by Bordens and, later, the Dairymen's League. Trucks took over afte 1935, or so. The Canaan creamery was north of today's Housatonic RR headquarters, just south of town.

Cornwall Bridge (Borden) is still standing, about 75 yards south of the station on east side of tracks.

Kent had two, not sure who ran them. Both were about 50 yards south of station on east side of tracks.

One still stands, a 3-story, red, board and batten building which had, and may still have, a hand-operated elevator (just pull the rope) to move things between the floors.

The other burned in the late 60's / early 70's; the remaining wood has probably rotted away, but the concrete foundation has to still be there. You could still make out the name painted on the side in the '70's; fuzzy memories recall it said "Mt. Vernon Dairy, Mt. Vernon, NY", but please don't bet anything on it.

From what I have found about Berkshire "creameries", they varied in function from just trans-loading cans from farmers' wagons or trucks to actual processing plants where raw milk was processed into cream and sometimes pasteurized. Some creameries also repackaged milk into bottles for shipment.

In the case of Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County NY, the milk was gathered in 40 quart cans by the railroad and carried to the Bordens Creamery in Hopewell Junction. At Hopewell Junction it was bottled and put in wooden cases then hauled by railroad to be distributed in New York City.

As far as I know, the cars belonged to the railroads, not the milk companies. At first they were converted box cars. Early milk cars used winter ice from local ponds to keep the milk cool. They stored the ice in insulated buildings for use in the summer.

When the Bordens creamery in Hopewell Junction opened in the spring of 1901, they had over 900 tons of ice stored from a pond in Billings. The ice was hauled to Hopewell Junction by the ND&C RR which later became part of the CNE and the New Haven.

From Hopewell Junction the bottled milk was hauled to Dutchess Junction or Beacon and transferrd to the NYC RR Hudson Line to New York City. In the earlier years some of the milk was transferred to steamboats on the river to New York. There was a problem with the motion of the steamboats turning the milk into butter before it got to the city.

Some of the creameries in northern Dutchess County sent the milk by rail to Millerton and to the city via the NYC Harlem line.

In addition to hauling the milk, railroads also hauled the new glass bottles to the creameries. The wooden cases and many used bottles were also returned to the creameries for recycling. And don't forget the coal to power the whole operation.

There was a creamery at Jewett City,CT that provided milk by rail to Elm Farm Milk Company, Bird Street, Boston, MA. This was a daily car picked up at 6:17am by northbound Train 704. The train arrived in Putnam,CT at 7:17am and was allowed 8 minutes to set out the car. In the meantime Train 112 had also arrived at Putnam from Willimantic with a car for Elm Farm in tow. Train 112 was given 15 minutes to pickup and add the Jewett City car to its consist. Tr 112 left Putnam at 7:35am and arrived Franklin,MA at 8:56am. At Franklin Tr 112 was converted to express service for its run to Boston, so the 2 milk cars were set off and waited for Tr 4128 which was a local that stopped at Readville. At Readville, the cars were transferred to an Extra that did the final delivery to Bird Street. In addition, there were 2 other milk cars that crossed the Norwich line at Plainfield, CT on their way from Willimantic to Providence on Train 4306. One car was for Providence Dairy and the other for Providence Milk Car Association. This above would have been in the late 1920's. I'm not sure at this point how long these particular operations lasted as there were a great many consolidations in the milk business going forward and some of it is not easy to trace.

New Haven milk cars in the 20th century looks a lot like the rest of the rebuilt wood side 36ft boxcar fleet. At some point in the 1930's the boxcar type doors (but not all the hardware) were removed, allowing you to see the reefer style doors originally coverd by the sliding doors.

All these 36 ft cars were gone by 1946; milk service after that time was in leased cars or cars from B&M, CV etc.

Thanks to Bernie Rudberg and others.
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Ontario & Western

The Ontario & Western got out of the milk business early, just like they got out of the railroad business early, but they were in it at one time.

The O&W Southern Division (below Sidney) provided a great deal of milk, cheese curd a fluid traffic, but many of the "processed" dairy products came from further north.

While not far enough to the North [to be "Northern Division"] Walton and Delhi also provided traffic in condensed and evaporated milk. Pennelville had a substantial condensery, on the O&W Main Line.

New York, Ontario & Western Railroad was a class 1 railroad and ran a Long Milk from Oswego, N.Y. to Weehauken, New Jersey for transfer to the New York City Market. This was a 326 mile trip for Milk Train 9 with pick ups along the branches of bulk and can cars which held case milk as well. They took from Bordens, Hohneker's Dairymans league, Muller, Sheffield to name some.
Garbage Truck Borden milk car at Illinois Rail Museum
The Illinois Rail Museum owns this old milk car
Pflaudler milk car at Illinois Rail Museum Yahoo! Groups Milk Trains History and Modeling is dedicated to the discussion of milk train operations in the United States, Canada and abroad.

The history of Dairylea (the Dairyman's League)

Victoria Station Victoria Station was a restaurant, not a railroad station.

Other railroad-related restaurants in Connecticut:

Yankee Silversmith Inn / Restaurant has the "Silversmith Parlour Car", an old coach or dining car which serves as part of the dining room. Right on Rt 5 in Wallingford, off the Wilbur Cross Pkwy. The car at the Yankee Silversmith restaurant in Wallingford CT was originally a Philadelphia & Reading coach. It later was purchased by the Belfast & Moosehead Lake, and from there it came to Wallingford I think during the 1960s.

Pizzaworks in Old Saybrook is housed in the former Saybrook freight house (relocated slightly from a different track alignment years ago). They have trains running around and part of the old canopy/platform visible inside. Amtrak station is about 20 feet north of the restaurant and the platforms 20 feet south. Trains go flying by at nearly 100 mph.

In Cromwell CT there is a seasonal ice cream stand in an ex Amtrak, exx PC, exxx PRR steel caboose, no number available.

Find out more on the train stations (and former stations) of Connecticut.
In Connecticut, Litchfield County became a major exporter of fine cheese to other parts of the nation. Later, as technologies improved, Washington became a center for the production of fresh milk that was shipped to New York on the Shepaug Railroad. A display of Washington farms' milk bottles, loaned by Robert Parmalee of Bethlehem, combined with the Gunn Library's own collection of dairy-related artifacts, traced the connection between the railroad and the rise of dairy farms.
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A New Idea for Milk Transportation?
'Milk by Rail' Shows Hope

On November 18, 2003, the Utica Observer-Dispatch reported on a new plan by the Southern Oneida County Economic Development Council.

If executed, the project would offer a new, less expensive way for Central New York farmers to ship the milk they produce.

A $19,000 feasibility study -- funded primarily by the Empire State Development Corp. -- has been completed by Cornell University Professor James Pratt. Pratt told a group of 50 that prospects for the project look good.

Shipping milk by rail will help upstate dairy farmers and distributors with steep transportation costs. Trucking companies are forced to swallow the expense of trucks returning up the Thruway empty after delivering downstate.

Local farmers would take their milk to the depot, load it into a specially-designed, collapsible tank and have it transported by rail.

Once emptied, the tank would be cleaned and collapsed, allowing cargo to be added to the train for the trip back north.
In 1939, New York Central Trains 182, 183, 184 and 185 ran to and from 60th Street New York from the Hudson Division. In 1950, Trains 184 and 185 remained, with 184 coming through Syracuse, but 185 running west on the Mohawk only as far as Utica. It's possible that the St. Lawrence Division connections for 185 and 184 ran as a one-way loop Utica - Watertown - Syracuse, setting out and picking up cars at each station on the way.

The D&H ran a "loop" with the "R&W Milk" and Train 20. They started from Colonie, ran through Troy and over the B&M to Eagle Bridge. From there on the Washington and Rutland Branches they set out empties and picked up loads. Then they hi-tailed it from Whitehall to Albany to deliver the loads to the NYC, and tied up back at Colonie. I believe the empty milk cars from the NYC were moved to Colonie or Green Island in separate transfer trains.

NYC Trains 27 and 28 were dedicated milk trains on the River Division. Until the Ulster and Delaware was bought by the NYC in 1932, most of their traffic came from U&D Train 28 at Kingston. After the "merger" the Catskill Mountain Branch milk train became No. 528, handling only milk in the summer, but also carrying mail, express and passengers in the winter. Hobart, on the U&D, was the home of Sheffield Farms, and they had several creameries in Delaware County.

From Gordon Davids on Milk Forum
Hopewell Junction Milk Train Postcard from the Alice Bryden collection courtesy of Heyward Cohen.

This is an early creamery photo taken before the dormer windows were added to the roof. Milk collected from dairy farms along the rural rail lines was delivered in 10 gallon cans to the Bordens Creamery in Hopewell Junction. After processing, the bottled milk was loaded onto special train cars and sent to Dutchess Junction where it was transferred to the New York Central RR for the trip to New York City.

The Bordens Creamery in Hopewell Junction opened for business in the spring of 1901. The ice house had 900 tons of ice from a pond in Billings to keep the milk cool on the trip to the city. Milk cars were loaded with a maximum of 500 cases of milk bottles each but sometimes they would squeeze in 600 if they could get away with it. There were 6 cars working in rotation to serve just the Hopewell Junction creamery. Shipments from Hopewell Junction totaled as much as 1500 to 1800 cases per day. That is about 18,000 to 21,600 quarts of bottled milk per day.

Within a few years trucks on the new highways took over the milk hauling business. Then creameries did not have to be located next to a railroad line. Trucks running on public roads could haul milk cheaper than railroads could, mainly because they did not have the expensive tracks and equipment to maintain.

Interested in the Central New England Railway in NY State? See our section on Hopewell Junction.

The 1954 Official Guide list 952 cars under various classifications considered "milk cars". Railroads range from the B&O with 1, to the NY Central with 278. Illinois Central had 17, Erie Railroad 97, Canadian National 12, and the Chicago & North Western with 11.

Question...(a) Is milk classed as freight? (b) When did railroads begin hauling it by the carload?

Answer...(a) not exactly. A milk car is a passenger-train car.
On the other hand, every section of a circus train is handled as freight, even though it may consist of coaches carrying only personnel. (b) The first shipment on record went to Boston in April, 1838, over the Boston & Worcester, now part of the New York Central.
Clover Farms Creamery

Ruins of the Clover Farms creamery at Shekomeko.

Photo courtesy of Bernie Rudberg

See our section on the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad.
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Rich Neighbor has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.
Here's some interesting questions and answers:

What are some of the leading private freight car companies in the United States?

Generally speaking, any company other than an individual railroad company which owns railway cars for service on the railroads is known as a private car company. The ten private freight car companies owning the largest fleets of equipment in 1941, are:
Companies Cars
General American Transportation Corp 55,000
Union Tank Car Co 39,000
Pacific Fruit Express Co 36,030
Fruit Growers Express Co 15,616
Merchants Despatch Transportation Corp 13,139
American Refrigerator Transit Co 9,962
Union Refrigerator Transit Lines 7,189
North American Car Corp 7,151
Western Fruit Express Co 7,010
Sinclair Refining Co 6,468

Lehigh Valley Milk

Most of Lehigh Valley’s important milk traffic originated on northern Pennsylvania and New York branch lines. A daily milk train down the Auburn Branch brought milk cars from as far as Fair Haven and collected additional cars as it stopped at points such as Moravia, Dryden, Newark Valley and Owego. A similar train brought milk cars down the Elmira & Cortland Branch from as far as Canastota. Another milk run, usually powered by a gas- electric, collected cars between Geneva and Sayre via the Ithaca Branch and also carried a car off the Naples Branch, which came in at Geneva.

Another gas-electric train, known as the “little milk” by trainmen, collected milk cars in the Sayre area. The run started in Sayre and went up the Auburn Branch a few miles to collect a car at Smithboro. Then it went back down the branch, passed through Sayre and headed east on the main line to pick up a car at the Ulster(Pa.) creamery. The train then continued east through Towanda to Wysox to make another pickup, then backtracked to Towanda where it reversed and headed down the State Line & Sullivan Branch. It turned on the wye at Bernice and then collected cars at Lopez and other creameries. After it arriving back at the main line at Towanda, it returned to Sayre.

All the milk cars were combined into a single train at Sayre called the “Big Milk”, officially designated train 36. This huge milk train often exceeded forty cars and ran through to the company’s milk terminal at Jersey City.
According to John Nehrich in the first of the Lljestrand milk car volumes, Lehigh Valley still had 62 milk cars in 1943, in addition to any privately-owned or leased cars which may have been used, although I would have thought milk traffic was starting to thin by then. Several views in Caloroso's Morning Sun title, Trackside at Sayre, show LV milkcars being consolidated from the New York State branches for delivery to New York City

Head End

Railway Express and Railway Post Office
Reefer on the New Haven On passenger trains, railroads operated lots of equipment other than sleepers, coaches, dining cars, etc. This equipment was generally called 'head-end' equipment, these 'freight' cars were at one time plentiful and highly profitable for the railroads. In the heyday of passenger service, these industries were a big part of the railroad's operations, and got serious attention.
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Red Hook Bakers Chocolate Dairymans League
Red Hook station and chocolate factory.

Nimke Volume 3 Page 121

The station is the building in the center foreground. Behind the station at right is the Dairymen’s League Co-operative Creamery. At left behind the tree was the Baker’s chocolate factory which was sold to the Walker Candy Company in 1924.

BAKER'S® Chocolate enjoys a sweet history that started before the American Revolution! In 1765, a Massachusetts physician, Dr. Baker, went into partnership with a young Irish chocolatemaker, John Hannon. Together, they formed America's first chocolate mill, where, in 1780, they made a blend of quality chocolate called BAKER'S chocolate. This makes BAKER'S chocolate the oldest trademark on grocery shelves today! Walker Candy Company went out of business in 1932. The building now contains small shops and a classic car business.

Photos courtesy of Bernie Rudberg

Click here for more about the Rhinebeck & Connecticut Railroad
Red Hook Track Diagram
Milk stand at Arthursburg

Milk stand at Arthursburg.

The dairy business was a big part of ND&C operations. Farmers would put milk in 10 gallon cans and bring the cans to a railroad pickup point. Trains would collect the cans and haul them to a local creamery for bottling and shipping to New York City. This stand was located in Arthursburg along the ND&C tracks. You can see part of route 82 behind the stand.

The ND&C RR (Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad) established an operation that survived through good times and bad for over 25 years until it was absorbed into the Central New England Rwy and later became part of the New Haven RR. Some sections survived longer than Hopewell Junction to Millbrook and the Clove Branch. Still later 11 miles of the old ND&C line became part of the ill fated Penn Central, next Conrail, then the Housatonic RR and currently Metro North.

After many years and many different names, these tracks are still in service and owned by Metro North MTA. There is no regular train service on this “Beacon Branch” but they are keeping the line open for possible future use.

To see more about this historic rail line, once a part of the Central New England Railway in New York State and the New Haven Railroad, click here
Clove Valley Creamery

Clove Valley Creamery.

This small creamery operation in Clove Valley was a converted farm house.

The ND&C RR (Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad) established an operation that survived through good times and bad for over 25 years until it was absorbed into the Central New England Rwy and later became part of the New Haven RR. Some sections survived longer than Hopewell Junction to Millbrook and the Clove Branch. Still later 11 miles of the old ND&C line became part of the ill fated Penn Central, next Conrail, then the Housatonic RR and currently Metro North.

After many years and many different names, these tracks are still in service and owned by Metro North MTA. There is no regular train service on this “Beacon Branch” but they are keeping the line open for possible future use.

To see more about this historic rail line, once a part of the Central New England Railway in New York State and the New Haven Railroad, click here
Timeline of Railroads in the Adirondacks

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Milk trains into New York City in 1917 were almost a rush hour. Starting late in the evening, these trains passed Spuyten Duvil:

10:23PM 188 West Shore Milk
10:29PM 1080 Harlem Milk
10:34PM 180 Mohawk Milk
11:20PM 182 D&H Milk
11:40PM 184 M&M Milk
They all returned west before dawn!

Boston's Milk Supply

Here is a map from University of Texas showing sources of milk and dairy companies supplying milk to Greater Boston in 1901.
Borden’s Creamery at Lead Mines on the P&E

Borden’s Creamery at Lead Mines (later called Ancramdale) on the Poughkeepsie & Eastern Railroad

Photos courtesy of Bernie Rudberg

See our special page featuring excerpts from the
New York Central Lines Magazine
Attlebury tangent creamery ruins

Attlebury tangent creamery ruins.

Near the north end of the tangent near Pine Plains, New York is the ruins of a creamery. The ND&C RR ran on the left side of the building by the smokestack. There was a short siding on a ramp up to a door in the shadows at left.

The ND&C RR (Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad) established an operation that survived through good times and bad for over 25 years until it was absorbed into the Central New England Rwy and later became part of the New Haven RR. Some sections survived longer than Hopewell Junction to Millbrook and the Clove Branch. Still later 11 miles of the old ND&C line became part of the ill fated Penn Central, next Conrail, then the Housatonic RR and currently Metro North.

After many years and many different names, these tracks are still in service and owned by Metro North MTA. There is no regular train service on this “Beacon Branch” but they are keeping the line open for possible future use.

To see more about this historic rail line, once a part of the Central New England Railway in New York State and the New Haven Railroad, click here
Bordons at Pine Plains

Bordens at Pine Plains

Nimke Vol 3, p 142

More about milk trains

From as early as 1900 the NYO&W hauled milk from Oneida to Weehauken, a distance of 268 Miles and from the Rome NY Branch on the Utica Divison, a distance of 280 miles.

Lackawanna from Binghampton a distance of 206 miles
West Shore in 1890 from Utica NY 232 miles
West Shore 1896 Bowmansville NY 417 Miles
NYC 1898 Ogdensburg NY 373 miles
NY NH&H from Pittsfield Mass 159 Miles

This and a lot more interesting Milk Train info can be found in a 1902 NY city Milk Traffic booklet that the O&WRHS reprinted..

Getting the Milk to Market

--Cows get milked morning and night when they are "fresh" (lactating, as contrasted with "dry"), and cow internal biology did not change with transportation.

--Farmers strained and consolidated the milk into cans (later a bulk tank) which were cooled, originally in a spring house, later in an iced tank, still later in a refrigerated one.

--Either a coop truck picked up the cans (and in more recent times the fluid milk) or the farmer himself trucked it to a creamery or pickup point for later processing--almost always very early in the morning. A few very large dairies with local customer routes in nearby small towns might pasteurize and homogenize (distribute the cream content throughout the whole production run) and bottle, but smaller farmers didn't.

--So far as I know, the railroads never did anything with milk except transport it. It was the function of the dairy companies (including coops, like Dairymans League, and other marketing groups) to process the milk entirely or partially before shipment, either in milkcans or bulk (such as the Pfaudler tanks). The processing point kept records of individual farm production, including butterfat content, as that was the basis of payment to the producer. They also exercised quality control, including freshness (if the milk had started to sour, it could be used only for lower-value products, such as cheese), TB testing for public health requirements and sometimes unsuitability (as when a herd had been eating pungent herbiage that made their milk almost worthless--fit only to be fed to the hogs).

--I think the only time the railroad "handed over the milk to the creamery" was in branch or shortline service (as on the Arcade and Attica), where it picked up milk cans from car-door-height milk docks (sometimes roofed, but often only open, platforms) along the line, or if the farmer lived fairly close to a depot, and took it to a consolidating facility to be processed for shipment. Normally the creameries were the points at which the milk ENTERED the rail system for transport to the large dairies in urban areas.

--For that reason creameries did not usually bottle milk (that was the function of a dairy, essentially retailing it), so the used bottles returned (either through the route carrier who delivered full bottles to customers and groceries or via deposits to assure return of used bottles) to the dairy that bottled the bulk milk. The cleaned bulk tank cars were returned from the urban areas to the creameries according to various cyles, depending largely on distance; milk cans were usually returned to the individual farm from the creamery (I think it differed whether the creamery cleaned and sanitized them--generally charging for the service--or the farmer did it himself). If the cans were transported in can cars from the creamery to the city, they were eventually returned, usually having been cleaned, simply because the time elapsed made them very hard to clean otherwise; this also required at least twice the number of cans, as one set was returning as the farmer had to fill his current set.

--Railroads expected to transport it within a single day, and milk trains had high priority over all other trains, often being cut into passenger schedules, both because of the nature of the commodity and because tariffs for it were high (presumably a connection there).
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