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New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway

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New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway


System map
Reporting mark NYSW
Locale New York, New Jersey andPennsylvania
Dates of operation 1881–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Headquarters Cooperstown, New York

The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway (reporting mark NYSW), also known as the Susie-Q, or simply the Susquehanna, is a Class II American freightrailway operating over 500 miles (800 km) of track in the northeastern states of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.[1] It was formed in 1881 from the merger of several smaller railroads. Passenger service, including commuter service from Northern New Jersey to New York City, was offered until 1966.The railroad was purchased by the Delaware Otsego Corporation in 1980,[2] and became a regional player during the 1980s in the intermodal freight transport business. This saw the railroad hauling containers including Sealand and Hanjin units as part of a land bridgewith Delaware and Hudson and CSX railroads. After losing the intermodal traffic in the late 1990s to CSX and Norfolk Southern (as a result of the Conrail breakup), the freight operations continue into the 21st Century with contracts to haul commercial waste,corn syrup, and other materials.




The railroad is separated into two divisions at Binghamton - northern and southern.

[edit]Southern division

[edit]Route Through New Jersey

The route through New Jersey.

The line travels westward on its original alignment from the eastern terminus inNorth Bergen, New Jersey throughBergen, Passaic and Sussex counties in the northern part of the state. The beginning of the line is contained within highly urban areas of New Jersey, and passes through downtown Paterson. After crossing the Passaic River, the rails enter more suburban surroundings traveling westward. Much elevation is gained as the line reaches its peak atStockholm, which is the highest point on rails in New Jersey at 1013 feet (309 m). From here the line travels downhill, traversing Sparta Mountain as it enters the valley below. The railroad makes an abrupt northeastern turn at Sparta Junction as it switches to use the former right of way of the Lehigh & Hudson River Railway. From Sparta to just past the state line, the former L&HR tracks are owned by the NYS&W.[citation needed]

[edit]Route Through NY and PA

The route through New York and Pennsylvania.

Upon crossing the New York State Line at Warwick, the railway continues over Norfolk Southern Railway trackage rights through Orange County, New York. The line again changes at Campbell Hall to use the former Erie Railroad Southern Tier Line towards Binghamton. This line is shared by the Metro-North Railroad until Port Jervis, the terminus of Metro North service. Shortly after reaching Port Jervis at Sparrowbush the line is leased from the Norfolk Southern by NYS&W subsidiary Central New York Railroad all the way to Binghamton. The tracks cross the Delaware River to enterPennsylvania at Mill Rift. From there, the rails follow the Delaware River, hugging the contours of the land. The tracks cross back into New York at Tusten. Back in New York, the tracks pass through the towns of Callicoon, Hancock, and Deposit. At Deposit, the right of way begins following the Susquehanna River southward, dipping into Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Along the 15 mi (25 km) in Pennsylvania the line crosses over the historic Starrucca Viaductbefore swinging northward once more towards Binghamton.

[edit]Northern division

Approximately 9 mi (14.5 km) north of Binghamton, at Chenango Forks, the line branches. Two lines lead to the railroad's two northernmost termini in Syracuse and Utica, New York. The western branch passes through the towns of Marathon, Cortland, Homerand Jamesville on the way to Syracuse. On its way to Utica, the eastern branch passes through Norwich, Earlville and Richfield Junction.

The northern division.


[edit]Initial construction

At the end of the civil war, railroads in the United States expanded rapidly. The city ofPaterson, New Jersey had seen considerable growth of its iron mills and manufacturing plants due to the war effort, and needed to obtain raw materials for these factories in the most economical means of the time: the railroad. The existing Morris Canal was slow and was shut down in winter due to ice. The Hoboken, Ridgefield and Paterson Railroad was chartered in 1866 to connect Paterson with the ports along the Hudson River at Hoboken. At the same time, De Witt Clinton Littlejohn of Oswego, New Yorkhad gained power in the New York State Legislature and wanted to afford Oswego the growth possible by a rail connection to a major port. Littlejohn organized the New York and Oswego Midland Railroad (NY&OM), a route traversing much of New York State on its way to New York City. The next year saw more roads sprouting up between these points, with the New Jersey Western Railroad (NJW) working westward from Paterson, and the Sussex Valley Railroad laying track from the New York state line atHanford, New Jersey south to the Delaware Water Gap. The New Jersey Western was the most profitable of the roads and, led by Cornelius Wortendyke, began operating atHawthorne in 1869. Later that year, Wortendyke signed an agreement with De Witt Littlejohn to give the NY&OM trackage rights over the NJW to reach New York City. This agreement was pivotal, as the two roads would soon see themselves merged in 1870 to form the New Jersey Midland Railway (NJM). A leasing arrangement was set up, and work began on finishing the main line. By 1872 the line was complete from Hackensack to Hanford. Engine shops were located at Newfoundland. While the NY&OM ended some 14.5 miles (23.3 km) north at Middletown, New York, it leased a small railroad called the Middletown, Unionville and Water Gap Railroad (MU&WG) which connected it to the NJM. The MU&WG was a branch line, and fed into the Erie Railroad. By the summer of 1872 the line was complete to Jersey City.

[edit]Aftermath of the Panic of 1873

Historical route of NYSW in Pa. and NJ

Soon however, the Panic of 1873 saw the NY&OM go into receivership, and freight traffic detoured to the Erie at Middletown. James McCulloh and Garret Hobart took ownership of the broken railroad in 1875, and after half a decade of bondholder hearings, it was reorganized as the Midland Railway of New Jersey in 1880. Subsequently, the NY&OM went through similar proceedings and emerged as the New York, Ontario and Western Railway.

Shortly after the panic subsided, The New York and Scranton Construction Company was founded by entrepreneurs from both of those cities to create rail routes from New York to the coal-rich Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania. Coal was the fuel of the industrial revolution and it needed to be transported from the Pennsylvania mines to New York City and beyond. At least four railroads were chartered to build inland routes. On June 12, 1881, a meeting took place in Jersey City in which the stockholders of the following six railroads agreed to consolidate under the name "New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Company": New Jersey Midland Railway, Paterson Extension Railway, Midland Connecting Railway, Northern Jersey Railway, Water Gap Railroad and Pennsylvania Midland Railway. Taking into account the massive project of building a railroad across the Pocono Mountains into the Scranton-area coal mines, it was decided to let the then-extant Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W, or simply Lackawanna) handle coal traffic from the mines to an interchange about halfway to New York at Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, from whence it traveled over the NYS&W to port. In addition, passenger service between the growing Stroudsburg and New York City began in the fall of 1882, continuing until 1941.

[edit]Full control to Erie control

Edgewater Terminal and others, ca. 1900

The Susquehanna was soon paying the DL&W and Pennsylvania Railroad substantial fees for hauling coal from inland Pennsylvania. In 1892, the management decided that the NYS&W should own the entire railroad from coal fields to port. The Susquehanna began buying waterfront property at Edgewater, New Jersey to build docks for coal shipment. The more difficult task lay westward: building a line from Stroudsburg, PA to Wilkes-Barre undefined theWilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad. By 1896 both projects were completed and the railroad began to build north of Wilkes-Barre to Scranton and beyond. Meanwhile, the larger railroads were not ignoring this rapid expansion. J.P. Morgan, acting on behalf of the Erie Railroad, began acquiring Susquehanna stock in 1898. This continued until the Erie was a majority owner and began operating the railroad in July 1898.[3]

NYS&W 2-10-0 Decapod #2481 at Little Ferry, NJ on 8 Feb., 1941. Photo courtesy of Maywood Station Museum

[edit]Enter the twentieth century

World War I affected the Susquehanna heavily, as the USRA nationalized all railroads between 1918 and 1920. When the railroad regained control of its lines it saw former leased Erie locomotives, especially the famous “Russian” Decapods, as the motive power throughout the railroad. The Erie continued to equip the Susquehanna well, replacing aging equipment with new, state-of-the-art locomotives and rolling stock.

[edit]The Great Depression

Beyond the loss in revenue from The Great Depression, the railroad was struck a further blow by flooding in 1936, requiring costly repair of track and equipment. In 1937, a pair of mortgage bonds the railroad had taken out came due, and the railroad could not afford repayment. The railroad filed for federal reorganization due to bankruptcy on June 1, 1937.


NYS&W ACF Motorailer #1002 at North Bergen, NJ in 1948. Photo courtesy of Maywood Station Museum

Under new court-appointed trustee Walter Kidde, the first act was to terminate the lease of the money-losing Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad. Coal traffic had been losing out to oil and gas since the 1930s, the ice traffic had vanished, and Susquehanna was forced to cover the line's losses as part of the lease agreement. Main line passenger service west of Beaver Lake, NJ, was discontinued in 1935, with only the mixed train between Butler and Hanford remaining, and this service finally ended in 1939. The spring of 1938 saw a one-third reduction in commuter trains from Butler to Susquehanna Transfer, with additional runs cut that summer.

In 1940 the railroad severed the last of its ties with the Erie as it began working with the New York, Ontario and Western Railway, sharing office facilities and shops at Middletown. These shops were already working to refurbish the ex-Erie locomotives which were now the heart of the Susquehanna fleet. Now that the railroad was standing on its own again, Kidde began the task of creating a new identity for it. He ordered ACF Motorailers (see right) for use in the “Streamliner” rapid transit between Paterson and New York. These would augment the transit service already provided by ex-Erie Brill railcars. All service to Pennsylvania was dropped in 1941 with the abandonment of the Hainesburg Jct.-Stroudsburg line, and the rails removed in 1942 as part of the war effort.

NYS&W ALCO RS-1 #238 at Maywood, NJ on July 5, 1963. Photo courtesy of Maywood Station Museum

[edit]Dieselization and World War II

The newly-reinvigorated railroad was able to purchase new ALCO RS-1 and S-2 diesel locomotives to replace aging steam power. Business picked up as the war broke out, though the railroad remained under court supervision. Kidde died in 1943 and Henry K. Norton, who had been an executive under Kidde, was appointed to replace him. Under Norton the railroad saw the purchase of more ACF cars and more diesel locomotives. Indeed, by the end of the war the railroad had declared itself fully dieselized undefined– the first Class I railroad to achieve this in the U.S.

Norton also brokered the trading-in of the ACF cars for purchase of the railroad’s first Budd RDC cars by 1950. The first ACF unit, #1001, was destroyed when its engine caught fire. After this incident, Norton decided to not take any chances on the streamliners and decided to obtain more robust RDCs.

[edit]The 1950s and 1960s

The decade opened with a bright outlook for the Susquehanna; the last diesels on order were received, new stainless steel passenger coaches had been purchased in 1951 to match the look of the RDCs, and the railroad was declared fully reorganized by the courts in 1953. However, the recession of 1957 spelled the beginning of a new era for NYS&W. The Ontario and Western succumbed to the down turned economy and was torn up that same year. The Susquehanna, desperate to avoid the same fate, began liquidating assets. The stainless steel rolling stock was sold off, and the little-used Hanford branch to the connection with the Middletown and New Jersey Railway was abandoned. The nearby Lehigh and New England Railroad folded in 1961, and the pressure mounted for the Susquehanna. In 1962 with the L&NE gone, the track was cut back to Sparta Junction. Irving Maidman, a real-estate developer, bought control of the railroad and immediately secured a government grant for three new EMD GP18s. The older diesels were in disrepair and Maidman decided to cut back on maintenance to cut costs. The most drastic measure was realized on June 30, 1966, when the final commuter train operated between Butler and New York. The railroad was now solely dependent on freight revenue. In 1968 the NYS&W continued to shrink, when the line was embargoed west of Oak Ridge, NJ (part of Jefferson Township, NJ), thereby ending the L&HRfreight interchange at Sparta.

[edit]Near abandonment

In 1971, Tropical Storm Doria washed out the line at Smoke Rise (west of Butler, NJ), cutting off the railroad’s vital connection with theCentral Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) at Green Pond junction (just west of Butler in West Milford), as well as to any further trackage. Soon after the washout, the CNJ abandoned its branch to the Susquehanna. The washout was not soon repaired, as there were no customers west of Butler at the time. In 1976, the NYSW was again in court over failure to pay New Jersey state taxes. The courts ordered the railroad to continue to operate while a feasibility study was conducted to see whether the line should continue some operations or abandon entirely.


In the early half of 1980 the courts accepted a bid for the railroad by the Delaware Otsego Corporation, headed by Walter Rich. On 1980-09-01, DO took control and the railroad was saved from abandonment.

On April 2, 1982, the railroad assumed operations of the former Lackawanna Railroad's Syracuse and Utica branches after acquiring them from Conrail. However, Conrail retained trackage all the way into Syracuse. The main route was the Utica branch, where it connected with Conrail. These new New York State rail lines were dubbed the "Northern Division". The disconnected original NYS&W main in New Jersey was dubbed the "Southern Division".

As part of the purchase of the Northern Division lines, NYS&W also purchased a portion of the former Lehigh and Hudson River Railway(L&HR), from Franklin, NJ to the New York state line at Vernon, New Jersey/Warwick, New York. Three years later, they completed the purchase of the remaining L&HR in New Jersey by acquiring the portion from Sparta to Franklin. In mid-1985 the NYS&W began an isolated service from Warwick to Sparta on this newly acquired line. They would receive cars from Conrail in Warwick and deliver them to customers in Sparta.[4]

Seeking to link their two operations, The Susquehanna Southern Division was extended north to Binghamton, New York via Conrailhaulage rights and procurement of additional existing track. The haulage agreement with Conrail was for the Susquehanna's regular manifest trains (consisting of boxcars, tanker cars, and other common freight cars). Now along with the manifest trains, Conrail crews began to operate Susquehanna stack trains over their lines.

During 1984-85 the Sea-Land container company entered into an agreement with the NYS&W to use the rail yard in Little Ferry as anintermodal container facility. Sea-Land rejected an offer from Conrail to share a previously-owned facility. Already upset over losing the Sea-Land business to the NYS&W, Conrail wanted to cancel the haulage agreement altogether, and renegotiate their rates with the smaller railroad. This left the NYS&W with the choice of renegotiating the rates at a higher cost than before, or rebuilding the line west of Butler. This line was washed out and unused since 1971. Rebuilding would lead to the negotiation of cheaper trackage rights with Conrail instead of haulage rights. Trackage rights would allow NYS&W crews to operate the trains as actual NYS&W train movements over Conrail track, rather than as part of a Conrail train. Rebuilding would be a costly measure, and Conrail never thought the smaller railroad would actually do it. However in late 1985, the NYS&W announced that they would rebuild the line to Sparta, NJ. There it would join with the recently-purchased portion of the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway. Work began in the spring of 1986, and was mostly completed by October of that year. There was now a competitor in the northeast for Conrail's business for the first time since its inception a decade before.


Budd RDC M-5, used on Syracuse passenger operation OnTrack.

In 1990, Canadian Pacific Railway purchased the D&H, and the CSX-financed Dash 8-40B engines were returned. Also around this time, the NYS&W ordered a new Mikado-type 2-8-2 steam locomotive from the Tangshan Locomotive and Rolling Stock Works in China. The locomotive was built and placed on a Norwegian cargo ship bound for America. However, the ship sank in the Bay of Bengal, and the locomotive was lost. In late December 1991, the railroad completed the purchase of a similar locomotive from the Valley Railroad in Essex, Connecticut. This unit, now numbered NYS&W #142, was also built at Tangshan, in 1988.

1990 also saw the NYS&W end service on its Edgewater Branch, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) long line connecting its former Hudson River terminal with the mainline in Fairview at Undercliff Junction. As of 2008, the tunnel carries a pipeline owned by the Amarada Hess Corporation.

In 1994 Onondaga County, New York purchased the former DL&W line into Syracuse, with the provision that the NYS&W operate RDCservice in Syracuse between Syracuse University, Armory Square, and the Carousel Mall with the option for further routes. This deal went through, and OnTrack service was created. A deal to purchase the ex-DL&W station at Armory square could be not resolved, and a new station was built right next door. With operations on this new segment, the Syracuse branch was rehabilitated and the Conrail interchange relocated. Regular steam excursions were offered and RDCs refurbished for OnTrack use. Intermodal trains rolled beyond Binghamton to Syracuse for interchange with Conrail. After a few years, regular excursions were halted for the most part, with #142 going into intermittent storage at the Utica shops and one of the RDCs going to the Conway Scenic Railroad in New Hampshire.


In 2005, the NYS&W leased the former Erie Main Line from Port Jervis to Binghamton from Norfolk Southern. Operated under the name Central New York Railroad (CNYK), the railroad is maintained by Susquehanna personnel, while Norfolk Southern retains operating rights. At the time of this writing, no significant through traffic is operated by either NS or NYSW. The newly reactivated Stourbridge Railroad (SBRR) depends on the NYSW for interchange at Lackawaxen, New York.

In March 2008 the railroad started selling off its historic passenger rolling stock to various concerns.[5] It has been stated that the railroad is no longer in the business of operating passenger excursions.

[edit]Motive Power in the Delaware Otsego Era

Former BN EMD SD45 #3618 at the Ridgefield Park engine facility sporting the NYS&W "yellowjacket" livery introduced in the 1960s and used thereafter

The motive power roster of the NYS&W was an eclectic mix during prior to the DO era, and this certainly continues to this day, to the interest of railfans. Upon purchase, the original three GP-18s remained as did some RS-1s and even one S-2. With the acquisition of the northern division, five ex New York Central Railroad Alco C-430s were purchased from Conrail. Three were later wrecked[6][7][8], and the remaining two, 3000 and 3006, soldiered on until being sold in the 1990s to the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad. With acquisition of the Staten Island property, an ex-C&O SW-9 engine was added to the roster. Painted yellow and black and numbered #120, this engine saw intermittent service after the railway closed and was later used as a shop switcher in Utica before being sold to American Motive Power in Dansville, NY, c. 2005. The NYS&W also picked up two 70-tonners when it took over the Rahway Valley Railroad in New Jersey. They were sold or donated to the United Railway Historical Society of New Jersey. One of the most unusual engines is a former NYO&W NW-2 switch engine purchased by a board member and painted into its original livery. It is one of only three known extant NW-2s from this railroad, and the only known to be operating.
As part of the Conrail haulage agreement, more engines would need to be purchased in addition to the C-430s. Originally looking to buy six axle Alcos, the Susquehanna found a better offer on thirteen former Burlington Northern Railroad SD45s and two F45s. Originally numbered in the 6500 series, they were rebuilt, painted, and renumbered into a horsepower based numbering system in 3600s in keeping with the rest of the fleet. During the D&H operations, these engines were seen all over the D&H system from Canada to Virginia.
Four new GE Dash 8-40B locomotives were leased in 1988, the same year the Delaware & Hudson Railway was placed into receivership by Guilford Transportation Industries. With NYS&W declared as the designated operator of the D&H, the railroad found itself short of motive power. With the financing of CSX Corp., twenty additional Dash 8-40B engines were purchased, arriving in full NYS&W lettering and paint. In 1991, the Canadian Pacific Railway was announced as the successful bidder of the D&H property. The twenty extra B40s were returned to CSX, and the SD45s /F45s went into intermittent storage. With one salvaged for parts, all but 4 SD45s and 1 F45 were later sold to the Montana Rail Link.
In 1995, the railroad purchased two former CB&Q/BN EMD E9 units for passenger excursion service, and three brand new EMD SD70Ms for freight service. The were the roads first new power in eight years, and the first new EMD power since 1962. With the loss of stack trains, in 2001 the SD70Ms were sent to long term lease on the Indiana & Ohio Railway. With the remaining SD45s showing their age, and end of the fifteen year lease on the original four 8-40B engines fast approaching, four former Union Pacific/Southern Pacific/D&RGW tunnel motor[disambiguation needed] type locomotives were purchased. Numbered 3010, 3012, 3014, and 3016 they were slowly rebuilt and painted on and off the property. Engines 3012 and 3016 were painted at Utica, 10 and 14 at AMPI in Dansville, NY. In 2003 the lease on the slippery B40s was not renewed and they were sent to the Providence & Worcester Railroad. To the surprise of many, ALCO/MLW C636 and M636 locomotives were first leased and then purchased from the Cartier Railway in Québec. Additional locomotives were scrapped, salvaged, and rebuilt as management saw fit. F45 3636 was rebuilt and returned to service early in 2006. Ex-P&W GEs were leased, and then purchased. A former NS EMD GP40 was also purchased, the railroad's second GP40. The current roster is an amalgamation of GE and EMD. As of 2007 the motive power situation is turning a corner and improving. Leased units are on the property, engine 3014 was returned from Dansville (only 3614 remains, its future uncertain as it was heavily salvaged) and the Alcos are reported sold to the LA&L/WNY&P, joining the two C-430s.

[edit]NYS&W in a post Conrail World

ALCO C636 #3660 on point at Ridgefield Park in September 2005. The unit is former RPRX #78.

In 1999, CSX and Norfolk Southern split up Conrail between themselves, with the two railroads taking away all of NYS&W’s intermodal business. As a result, the Susquehanna spent the next few years relying on its original local customer base for revenue freight, in addition to hosting detour and overflow traffic from CSX. Afterward, the railroad acquired contracts hauling construction debris westward from Little Ferry. These are, as of late 2006, the bulk of the long-haul operations on the railway. The rest of the operations deal with servicing the remaining customers along the line and its branches. There are two designations for the main line trains that link the two divisions, SU-99 (westbound from Little Ferry to Binghamton) and SU-100 which is the reverse eastbound.[9] The railroad has frequently hosted detour trains from other railroads even before the Delaware Otsego era, including D&H detours on the Syracuse and Utica branches to CSX detours on the whole system between Syracuse and New Jersey. The line acted as an overflow route during the congestion following the Conrail breakup, and hosts regular CSX detours during maintenance on CSX's ex-NYC River Line. Torrential rains in late June 2006 damaged both lines, and the Utica branch between Greene and Sherburne was out of service since then due to flood damage. Because there are no customers between these two points, the NYS&W announced in February 2007 that it intends to abandon this section of the Utica Branch, the railroad's first abandonment in well over three decades.[citation needed]


N and HO scale models

Many models of Susquehanna equipment have been offered by model companies, and also made by individuals. Shown are examples in N scale and HO scale.


The Paulinskill Valley Trail follows the former right-of-way in Warren County.
  • The railroad numbers all locomotives according to horsepower, and even numbers are assigned to MU-equipped units. Examples include the 1,800 horsepower (1,300 kW) GP-18s, which are numbered 1800, 1802 and 1804. The RDCs (numbered M1 to M8) and steam locomotive #142 are exceptions.
  • The NYS&W was the primary railroad featured in the movie The Station Agent, with the restored Newfoundland, New Jersey station a main focal point. The Morristown and Erie Railway is also briefly featured.
  • The NYS&W's main line reaches the highest point of any railroad in New Jersey, 1,013 ft (309 m) above sea level.
  • The Paulinskill Valley Trail is a Rails to trails NJ trail, following the former right-of-way for 26 mi (42 km).
  • The railroad has connections with three Class I railroads:
  1. CSX in Syracuse, New York and North Bergen, New Jersey
  2. Norfolk Southern Railway in Binghamton, New York and the Passaic Junction rail yard in Saddle Brook, New Jersey
  3. Canadian Pacific Railway in Binghamton, New York
  • Hawthorne Station in Hawthorne, New Jersey has been moved and is now being restored by the Volunteer Railroader Association with the intent to convert it to a museum. The station is an example of an early NYS&W station.
  • Maywood Station Museum in Maywood, New Jersey has been restored and now serves as a museum. The building is listed on theNational Register of Historic Places and is a pristine example of an early NYS&W station.
  • From 1974–1980 the Morris County Central operated on the dormant portion of the NYS&W in New Jersey from Beaver Lake to Newfoundland.

[edit]See also


[edit]External links

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