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Railroads Of The Adirondacks


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Webb's Wilderness Railroad opened up the Adirondack wilderness

Welcome to our Adirondack Railroads WebSite

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

Our feature article is "Webb's Wilderness Railroad".

Other features you won't want to miss are the railroad to Ottawa and an Adirondack timeline of railroads.

Summary of Dates for how New York Central (now CSX) got to Montreal .

The New York Central Railroad was important to the Adirondacks. See a timetable map from 1948 of the Adirondack, St Lawrence and Ottawa Divisions . Find out about the head end equipment that the New York Central ran through the Adirondacks. We have some great New York Central Railroad Pictures. too.

There are plenty of pictures on the site. See trains in snow . Find pictures of Big Moose Station , Old Forge and Malone .

Recently, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad has reopened much of the line. Find out more about improvement of the Adirondack Railway Line .

and Railway Historical Society of Northern New York former Lowville-Beaver River Railway .

Summary of Dates for how New York Central (now CSX) got to Montreal .

Finally, don't leave without seeing our Adirondack/St Lawrence reference material .
New York Central map of Adirondacks and St. Lawrence

Lake Placid Whiteface Mountain

New York Central station in Ogdensburg New York Central station in Ogdensburg
Take a look at my blog about railroads in Ogdensburg, New York.
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. Short Lines
All about short lines we have not covered elsewhere. Some in Connecticut, others in New York. Some are New York Central properties.
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Just Around the Corner by Bertrande H. Snell

Bertrande H. Snell, author of the following article, a native of Parish, Oswego County, N.Y., was a telegrapher all his working life. For many years he was employed by the New York Central Railroad, and for 33 years was a telegrapher for Western Union in Syracuse.

Bertrande Snell commenced his writing career with the Syracuse Syracuse Post-Standard in 1945 and continued it until shortly before his death in 1949. His columns were primarily of a reminiscent or historical nature, which included railroad stories.

If you like his column, we have more.
Syracuse Post-Standard, Jan. 25, 1948

Just Around the Corner -
by Bertrande

In 1905 I was telegraphing for the New York Central in Northern Pennsylvania. This division runs from Lyons down through Corning and enters Pennsylvania at Lawrenceville. At Jersey Shore it branches off to Clearfield on one hand and Willamsport on the other. The section between Wellsboro and Jersey Shore, a distance of some 60 miles, is sparsely settled, a mountainous, rugged and teeming with the virgin “wildness” of nature.

I was stationed for some years at a little 14 by 16 telegraph office called Utceter, about midway between Slate Run and Cammal - both of them lumber towns at the turn of the century. The little office sat on the bank of the river (Pine Creek) and on either side rose the steep mountains. *

At this point the valley was just wide enough for the river, the railroad, and the narrow, little-used highway. The only dwelling within a half-mile was that of the Callahans, some 300 yards south of the office. Here “Uncle” Dan Callahan owned a few acres of river-flat, and did wisely well with their considerable fertility. Of the four sturdy sons he ad “Aunt Car” had raised only one, the youngest, remained at home.

This one, Matt, you would be unlikely to forget, had you known him for any length of time, as I did. he was about 19 when I first met him; broad shouldered, strong, active - and, I really believe, as absolutely fearless as any man I have ever known. He was a rather handsome, good-natured fellow, with but little education; but as quick-witted as they come. His whole idea of life seemed to be centered in “having a good time.” He was a heavy drinker, would fight anyone, anyway where, on the slightest provocation, and withal had a most charming personality which made him highly popular among women and children.

He was one of the first acquaintances I made when I came - and we were friends for many years.

It was some little time after midnight in the late autumn of 1905. A gentle wind whispered down the mountain-side and rustled the dead leaves to eerie song. The lanterns on the distant switch targets loomed dimly through the black darkness as I gazed out upon the tracks from the telegraph desk. A northbound coal train had just rumbled by and I was waiting for the clearance from Slate Run, three miles to the north.

In the little patch of light that shone on the rails from the kerosene lamp over my desk, I saw a sudden movement, there was a quick, furtive step on the little wooden platform outside - and as the door swung open with a rush, there stood a big bearded man pointing a revolver at me! I was about 20 years old at the time and i was still unused to this wilderness, having been here only three or four weeks; so don’t blame me too much when I tell you that I was literally scared stiff. The round hole in the end of that gun-barrel appeared to be the approximate size of a length of stovepipe and it didn’t waver in the slightest.

The husky brute wasted no time in introduction or explanation; he advanced steadily into the little room and toward my shrinking form.

“I’d as soon shoot you as not,” he growled, “pull that chair over into the corner and an’ set down.”

Still holding the menacing gun, the intruder grabbed a fishing rod from the wall, tore off the reel and proceeded to tie me like a cocoon with innumerable loops of the stout line. Now, I was helpless in two ways - from abject fright, and from the constriction of the tight cord.

Then the big man turned his attention to my well-filled lunch pail which I had not touched during the evening. He wolfed the food like a man who was obsessed by hunger - which he undoubtedly was, but he continued to keep a wary eye on my helpless form. In a remarkably short time he had devoured the entire contents of the pail - cold coffee and all.

“Okay, chief, that’s better,” he grunted, “-you got any money?” And he advance upon me, gun in hand. I couldn’t move either legs or arms, tightly-bound as they were, but I managed to nod miserably and quaver, “some in my hip pocket.”

In those days we got paid only once a month, and it had been just the previous day that the pay car had visited us. (O sorrow and alas!)

As my unwelcome guest came closer, there was a loud crash as a piece of rock ballast came through the glass of the side window and landed with a heavy thud on the telegraph desk.

My captor wheeled toward the sound, firing a shot as he turned, and in that same split-second the door burst open and through the opening surged Matt Callahan, yelling like a fiend. His rush carried him clear across the shanty and his left shoulder hit my visitor with a stunning force, driving him to the wall, before he had a chance to turn. Matt backed off as his victim hit the wall; he flexed his mighty right arm; his rock-hard fist came up almost from the floor and landed flush on the point of his opponent’s jaw.

I am prepared to make positive declaration that Matt’s haymaker lifted the gent’s feet a full 15 inches from the ground, before he pitched forward -definitely down and out. In the fully approved method of backwoods warfare, Matt kicked his fallen foe three times in token of victory, at the same time emitting a yell which could have easily been heard for three miles.

Quickly he unwound me, laughing heartily at my grotesque appearance and all-too-evident terror.

“Cheer up, pal,” he cried, “it’s all over now. We’ll tie up this damned so-in-so with this here same line, an’ if he comes to before I get him ready, I’ll wrap this blankety-blank poker around his neck an’ choke him to death.

“Now, you get on the wire an’ tell Slate Run to get Constable Jake Tomb down here quicker’n hell.”

My trembling fingers finally managed to tick off the news to telegrapher Ivan Campbell at the Run, while Matt tied his prisoner securely and rolled him onto the cushioned bunk at the rear of the room.

“I see somebody in here with you when I came round th’ curve,” explained my friend, “an’ I injuned up, soft, to see what it was. Seein’ you all tied up an’ this jasper domineerin’ at you with his cannon, I knowed somethin’ has to be did, so I done it.

“I sneaked up, fired that rock through the winder an’ busted through th’ dam door. An’ frum now on, tell everybody to lay off you, ‘cause you’re a friend o’ Matt Callahan’s - an’ I can lick any man in Lycoming county - an’ dang well they know it!”

Finally, Constable Tomb had rounded up half the able-bodied citizens of Slate Run, the posse arrived and the still partly unconscious prisoner was removed. Next day they took him to Jersey Shore and there he was quickly identified as an escaped prisoner from Bellefonte, for whom there already had been a three-day hue-and-cry.

Poor Matt! The last time I saw him was in the summer of 1923, when I returned to the Pine Creek Valley for a visit. he had been overseas in World Wart I and had been slightly “gassed.” He was a physical wreck, but still tried to carry on with his ready smile and his unconquerable spirit.

Just a few years later, he died in a veterans’ hospital near Philadelphia, and they brought him back and buried him in the little private cemetery across the tracks from his old home. He was a “tough nut” - but he was all MAN. (1).

(* )Utceter was 1.8 miles south of Slate Run and 2.8 miles from Ross. It was only a manual block station with no passing siding. The stations were about five miles a part. By a 1913 employees timeable, it was no longer a signal station nor was Ross, but both show train times but not stopping. The timetable has a speed schedule with the pastest being 36 seconds, which would be 100 mph. What is interesting is the size of the building and what was in it. Snell evidently lived in it and was on duty 12 hours a day with the other 12 hours having no one. This would indicate the freights ran unevenly around the clock.

1). Matt Callahan was born in 1888 and died in 1932. The Callahans settled in this valley in the early 1800s.

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There were two basic types of milk trains – the very slow all-stops local that picked up milk cans from rural platforms and delivered them to a local creamery, and those that moved consolidated carloads from these creameries to big city bottling plants. Individual cars sometimes moved on lesser trains. These were dedicated trains of purpose-built cars carrying milk. Early on, all milk was shipped in cans, which lead to specialized "can cars" with larger side doors to facilitate loading and unloading (some roads just used baggage cars). In later years, bulk carriers with glass-lined tanks were used. Speed was the key to preventing spoilage, so milk cars were set up for high speed service, featuring the same types of trucks, brakes, communication & steam lines as found on passenger cars.
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NYC Passenger Service in the 1950's on the Montreal-Watertown-Syracuse line (Montreal Secondary).

Was there still service in the 1950's and if so, what schedule and> motive power was there? There is a popular misconception that NYC operated a through route between Syracuse and Montreal via Watertown and Massena. They did not! Passenger service on the St Lawrence Division operated only as far north as Massena, and dwindled down to a single RDC that was finally ended circa 1965. From Massena toward Montreal the railroad was the Canadian National, and NYC did not acquire any operating rights (except for a short bit to accommodate Ottawa trains) until after the 1961 strike that put the Rutland out of business. Those rights were freight only, of course. NYC's passenger service to Montreal was operated by the Adirondack Division out of Utica. It lasted until not long before the line was cut north of Lake Clear circa 1960, except a commuter service based out of Malone lasted longer. For these services, typical steam power was K-11 Pacifics; diesels were primarily Alco RS-3s.

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