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Delaware and Hudson Railway

"D&H" redirects here. For the firearm magazine manufacturing company, see D&H Industries. For the technology distributor, see D&H Distributing.
Delaware and Hudson Railway
Reporting mark DH
Locale Maryland
New Jersey
New York
Dates of operation 1823–
Successor Norfolk Southern Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length Script error: No such module "convert".
Headquarters Albany, New York

The Delaware and Hudson Railway (reporting mark DH) is a railroad that operated in the northeastern United States.

The name itself originates from the 1823 New York state corporation charter listing the unusual name of "The President, Managers and Company of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co." authorizing an establishment of "water communication" between the Delaware River and the Hudson River.[1]

Nicknamed "The Bridge Line to New England and Canada," the D&H helped connect New York with Montreal, Quebec and New England. It called itself "North America's oldest continually operated transportation company." In 1991, after more than 150 years as an independent railroad, the D&H was purchased by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).


File:1886 D&H.jpg
Early D&H system map, circa 1886

The Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Railway's history, like that of many Eastern U.S. railroads, is one of mergers, consolidations, and leases. The original company dates from 1823, when the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company was chartered to build a canal from Honesdale, Pennsylvania, to Rondout, New York, on the Hudson River. The canal was built to carry anthracite coal from the mines of Pennsylvania to New York City. A 4 ft 3 in (1,295 mm) narrow gauge gravity railroad with stationary engines and ropes drew the coal to the canal from the mines near Carbondale.[2]

In 1829, D&H purchased four locomotives built in England. One of them, the Stourbridge Lion, was the first steam locomotive to run on rails in America, but proved too heavy for D&H's wood track. The four locomotives were set aside and gradually deteriorated.[2]

As demand grew, the D&H increased its coal holdings and began to seek new rail lines to bring it to market. In 1863, it considered building a railroad from Carbondale north to Lanesboro, Pennsylvania, on the Erie Railroad, but decided three years later to contract with the new Albany & Susquehanna Railroad (A&S) for access to the north. In 1868, D&H contracted with the Erie to build the Carbondale-Lanesboro line, and in 1871 the D&H opened a railroad line from Lanesboro north to Nineveh, New York, on the A&S. While that route was still under construction, D&H leased the A&S to keep it out of the hands of powerful railroad barons Jay Gould and James Fisk.[2]

About the same time, D&H built south from Carbondale to Scranton. However, there was a complication: D&H's gravity lines were 4 ft 3 in (1,295 mm) narrow gauge, the A&S was built to Erie's 6 ft (1,829 mm) broad gauge, and D&H new lines were 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge.[2] Hence, triple gauge track was built in some areas to accommodate all three gauges on the same line.

In search of new markets for its coal, in 1871 the D&H leased the Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad (R&S), which had a network of lines reaching from Albany and Schenectady north to Lake Champlain at Whitehall, New York.[2]

North from Whitehall, New York

File:DH Pub 19621028.png
Cover of Delaware & Hudson Passenger Schedule effective 1962-10-28 proudly proclaiming to be the route of the Montreal Limited

The direct route north to Canada from New York and Albany was along the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. The lake froze over during the winter, but by 1849 an all-rail route was in place on the Vermont side of the lake. In 1852, the Plattsburgh & Montreal Rail Road and two Canadian railroads completed a rail route between Plattsburgh, New York, and Montreal. The Plattsburgh & Montreal soon entered receivership and was reorganized.[3]

The Whitehall & Plattsburgh Rail Road was chartered in 1866 to join the two towns of its title. Several miles of track were built south from Plattsburgh, with a short section in the middle to serve iron mines west of Port Henry, and the line was leased to the Montreal & Plattsburgh (successor to the Plattsburgh & Montreal) in 1869. In 1870 and 1871, the Rutland Railroad gained control of the Whitehall & Plattsburgh as a way to achieve a rail route to the Canadian border without using the Vermont Central Railroad — with the result that the Vermont Central leased the entire Rutland.[2]

The people living on the west shore of the lake could foresee the commerce of the area being funneled to Boston rather than New York. They organized the New York & Canada Railroad and went to the D&H for backing. The Whitehall & Plattsburgh knew the D&H could build a parallel railroad and offered to lease its railroad to the New York & Canada. In 1873, the Whitehall & Plattsburgh, the Montreal & Plattsburgh, and the New York & Canada were consolidated as the New York & Canada Railroad.[2] Marshy areas north of Whitehall and mountains running down the shore north of Port Henry made construction difficult, but the line was opened in November 1875.

In 1878, the state of New York opened a narrow gauge line from Plattsburgh west to the state prison at Dannemora. At Lyon Mountain, a few miles west of Dannemora, there were deposits of iron, and a small iron industry had grown up in the area between there and Plattsburgh. A railroad was needed if the industry was to develop. The Chateaugay Railroad was chartered in 1879. Its president was also president of the D&H, so it was not surprising that the railroad was constructed not straight down the Chateaugay River to a connection with the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain Railroad but rather east over and around the mountains to a connection with the state railroad, which it leased. The Chateaugay Ore & Iron Company, which had close ties to the D&H, was incorporated in 1881 to take over the entire operation (except the state prison). During the next decade the iron industry grew and the line was extended south from Lyon Mountain to Lake Placid, Script error: No such module "convert". from Plattsburgh. In 1883, the line was converted to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge, and the several railroad companies that formed the line were consolidated as the Chateaugay & Lake Placid Railway, which was immediately leased to the D&H. The D&H had grown to its fullest extent.[2]

As traffic increased, the D&H double-tracked most of the A&S and the main line from Albany north to Whitehall. It acquired hotels, steamboat lines on Lake Champlain and Lake George, and electric railways throughout the Albany area and north to Saratoga Springs and Lake George.[2]

From 1873, former China merchant Robert Morrison Olyphant served as the company's Assistant President and Vice President followed by a twenty-year stint as President.[4]

By 1887, D&H controlled the Rutland, which had been leased to the Central Vermont (CV) since 1871. In 1893, CV was unable to pay the rent. D&H bailed out the Rutland and sold it to local interests in 1898. At the end of that year, D&H ended its canal operations (railroads had taken away most of the coal business), sold the canal, and replaced the gravity railroad between Carbondale and Honesdale with a conventional 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge line.[2]

Construction began in 1865 on the rail line of the Adirondack Company, intended to tap iron deposits in the mountains north of Saratoga Springs and eventually continue northwest to Ogdensburg. The iron industry did not develop — lumber and tourists were the principal items of traffic — and the company encountered financial difficulties soon and often. D&H bought the Adirondack Railway, as it was called by then, in 1889.[2] By 1910, the railroad's track coverage extended further, to include Lake Placid and North Creek.[5]

Canadian subsidiaries

In 1906 D&H acquired Quebec, Montreal & Southern Railway, which extended from St. Lambert, across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal, northeast through Sorel to Pierreville, Quebec, Script error: No such module "convert"., and from Sorel south to Noyan Junction, on the Rutland, just north of the U.S. border. Under D&H management the line was extended down the St. Lawrence to Fortierville with the intention of continuing to the Quebec Bridge, then under construction.[3]

D&H's more important Canadian subsidiary was the Script error: No such module "convert". Napierville Junction Railway, opened in 1907 between Rouses Point, New York and Delson, Quebec, where it connected with the Canadian Pacific (CP) and Canadian National (CN) railways.[3]

File:D&H newspaper ad.pdf
1914 D&H newspaper ad

The Loree era

Leonor F. Loree became president of the D&H in 1907. He continued upgrading the D&H, emphasizing motive power: heavier locomotives and longer trains required stronger bridges and track and larger yards and shops. The most important aspect of North American locomotive development after the turn of the century was the change in the size and position of the firebox: A narrow firebox between the rear drive wheels gave way to a wider one aft of the drivers and supported by a trailing truck — but not on the D&H, except for 13 Pacifics for passenger service.[2]

For freight service D&H's stayed with the 2-8-0s (a.k.a. Consolidation wheel arrangement). The railroad's traffic was primarily coal, not a time-sensitive commodity, and speed was secondary to tractive effort. Except for a dozen 0-8-8-0s used for helper service, freight locomotive development under Loree consisted of larger and larger 2-8-0s, with wide, anthracite-burning fireboxes set above small drive wheels. Development of the type climaxed between 1924 and 1933 with four experimental high-pressure locomotives: three cross-compound 2-8-0s and a triple-expansion 4-8-0. At 5 mph they could pull heavier trains than anything else — when they were not sidelined in the shop. They were taken out of service in the mid-1930s and scrapped in 1942. D&H rebuilt many of its older locomotives and pioneered in the use of roller bearings, welder boilers, poppet valves, and tender boosters.[3]

Loree's reaction to the Interstate Commerce Commission's (ICC) merger proposal of 1929 was to propose a fifth major system — in addition to the New York Central (NYC), Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), Baltimore & Ohio and Chesapeake & Ohio — which would include the ICC's systems 1 and 2 plus the lesser railroads east of Pittsburgh and north of the Potomac River in systems 3, 5 and 7 (except the Lehigh Valley Railroad), linked by a new line with easy grades across northern Pennsylvania. Like the ICC plan, nothing came of this.[2]

In January 1930 the Delaware & Hudson Railroad (incorporated in December 1928) acquired the railroad properties of the Delaware & Hudson Company, paying for them with its entire stock issue — creating the railroad holding company structure that would be common in the 1980s.[2]

Coal road to bridge route

File:DH Adirondack 19521028.png
Northbound Delaware & Hudson Passenger Schedule effective 1962-10-28 showing the Adirondack and the Laurentian between New York, Albany, Saratoga Springs, and Montreal

Loree retired in 1938 and was succeeded by Joseph Nuelle. Coal traffic had fallen off as oil replaced coal for heating, so D&H turned its attention to developing bridge traffic between the Midwest and New England and Canada. Bridge traffic demands speed, which D&H's Consolidations were unable to deliver. D&H replaced them with Challengers, making perhaps a bigger leap in motive power policy than any other American railroad. Twenty 4-6-6-4s were delivered in 1940, just in time for the traffic increases of World War II; 15 more came in 1942, followed by 15 dual-service Northerns in 1943 and 5 more Challengers by 1946.[2]

D&H sold its hotel and steamboat operations in 1939 and most of its interests in other railroads in 1943. The company simplified its corporate structure in 1945 by merging the A&S and R&S. In 1946 it abandoned most of the Chateaugay branch to Lake Placid.[2]

The iron ore that the Adirondack Railway had aimed at and never attained proved to be a source of titanium. Between 1942 and 1944 D&H extended the line Script error: No such module "convert". north from North Creek to Tahawus, New York. To reduce the fire hazard in forests along the line, D&H purchased two diesel switchers. It soon recognized their efficiency and flexibility and ordered more. The railroad was fully dieselized in 1953 with only two types of locomotives: ALCO 1,000-horsepower switchers and ALCO 1,500- and 1,600-horsepower road-switchers. It was the first all-hood-unit dieselization of a major railroad. Another improvement of the era was centralized traffic control, which covered the entire main line from Rouses Point to Wilkes-Barre by the mid-1960s.[2]

In 1957 D&H studied merger with Erie and Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, but was deterred by the debts of those railroads. D&H sold the Hudson Coal Company in 1960 and reincorporated in 1962. A condition of the 1964 Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) merger was that D&H be allowed in, because the impending merger of the PRR and NYC would surround and bankrupt D&H.[3]

Delaware and Hudson Railway

D&H purchased ALCO PA-1s from AT&SF in 1966 in anticipation of increased passenger traffic to Montreal for Expo 67.[6]
File:DH 1974 Adriondack.png
Part of a booklet jointly issued by the New York State Dept. of Transportation and the Delaware and Hudson Railway upon the re-launch of the Adirondack passenger service in 1974.

In 1966 Frederic C. Dumaine, Jr. became president of the D&H. Expecting an increase in passenger traffic because of Expo 67 in Montreal, he reversed the railroad's campaign to discontinue the Laurentian, the day train between New York and Montreal. He reinstated dining car service (with waitresses) and purchased a dozen streamlined coaches, diner-lounges, and head-end cars from the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad — previously, the railroad's newest passenger cars were six coaches built in 1939. To haul the cars, D&H acquired four ALCO PA-1s from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF).[2]

Dumaine held that D&H should remain independent or become part of a system that would also include Boston & Maine (B&M), Maine Central (MEC), Bangor & Aroostook and New York, New Haven & Hartford. After a proxy fight, D&H was acquired by Dereco, a subsidiary of N&W, on July 1, 1968, five months after the formation of Penn Central, and became the Delaware & Hudson Railway. D&H entered a period of joint management with the Erie Lackawanna Railway (EL), which lasted until EL's bankruptcy in 1972.[3]

Management of the D&H returned to Albany with Bruce Sterzing as president in 1972. The railroad had begun losing money, but Sterzing mounted an intense campaign to keep D&H alive and independent, and the railroad returned to profitability. In 1974 Amtrak and the state of New York re-established passenger service between Albany and Montreal, with surprisingly, D&H coaches. CP dome cars, and the ALCO PAs, which had been rebuilt for the service.[2]

In the thrashing around that preceded the formation of Conrail, D&H acquired trackage rights to Buffalo, New York, Newark, New Jersey, and Alexandria, Virginia. The succeeding years were not kind to D&H. It sought loans from the United States Railway Association (USRA) to enable it to compete with federally-funded Conrail, yet the USRA was charged with seeing that Conrail succeeded. Presidents came and went with increasing frequency; money mostly went. N&W, nominal owner of the D&H, provided no help. The predominant traffic pattern shifted from north-south to east-west.[2]

Guilford era

D&H reached its nadir on January 4, 1984 when it was purchased by Timothy Mellon's Guilford Transportation Industries (GTI) from N&W for just $500,000. GTI immediately consolidated operations with their other two railroads, B&M and MEC. They announced layoffs, shop closings, and pay cuts; MEC's maintenance workers retaliated and went on strike in March 1986, which spread to both B&M and D&H by 1987. To take advantage of lower wage scales and more flexible work rules that apply to shortline railroads, GTI attempted to lease D&H to B&M shortline subsidiary Springfield Terminal (ST) for operation.[7] In June 1988 an arbitrator on behalf of the ICC ruled that GTI could not do so and had to abide by pre-ST labor agreements.[7] The ruling forced GTI to place D&H — whom GTI claimed had assets of $70 million — in bankruptcy. The New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway (NYS&W) was designated to operate D&H and GTI was out, having left D&H in a more perilous state than when acquired four years prior [3] The Philadelphia Inquirer later commented that GTI was "the bane of organized labor for a harsh, confrontational approach to trimming costs."[7] Most railroad executives dismissed Mellon as a wealthy banker who suffered from gross mismanagement, possessed a willful misunderstanding of the inner workings of a railroad, and was a "stubborn ideologue".[7]

Canadian Pacific

The D&H was for sale by 1990. Among the bidders were the Providence & Worcester Railroad, Delaware Otsego System and Canadian Pacific (CP). CP replaced NYS&W as designated operator pending sale. In light of the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement of 1990, CP wanted to swap Conrail trackage rights in Montreal and Quebec City for trackage rights to Hagerstown, Maryland to connect with Norfolk Southern Railway (NS), but Conrail rejected that proposal. CP's next offer, which requested trackage rights over GTI (B&M) from Mechanicville, New York to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, was accepted by the bankruptcy court.[2] CP purchased D&H for $25 million in January 1991 and assumed all operations; D&H did not maintain locomotives or rolling stock. CP undertook a rehabilitation of D&H and begun regular freight service to Philadelphia and Newark. Trackage was either upgraded or abandoned, and D&H began to thrive under CP, effectively reversing the damage resulting from GTI's draconian management style.[3][8] Administrative functions of D&H were combined with those of parent CP in Montreal; the first D&H locomotive to be rehabilitated under new ownership was painted in D&H's traditional blue and gray "lightning stripe" livery — but at CP's Calgary, Alberta shops rather than D&H's Colonie, New York shops.[3]

Norfolk Southern

A portion of former D&H lines were up for sale in October 2014. CP would retain the lines from Montreal to Albany in order to retain lucrative Bakken crude oil traffic. The lines south of CP's Mohawk Yard in Glenville, New York and Sunbury, Pennsylvania would be included. Much of the current traffic consists of NS intermodal container and auto carriers train bound for Ayer, Massachusetts via Pan Am Southern.[9] On November 17, it was announced that NS will acquire the Schenectady, New York-Sunbury, Pennsylvania and Delanson-Voorheesville, New York segments for $217 million.[10]


D&H was a difficult money-making venture for some time. It traversed some of the most rural and mountainous areas of New York and Pennsylvania. Only about a dozen industrial customers between Sunbury and Rouses Point remain. The railroad's current prognosis is arguably better than it has been in a long time. Along with the New York connection, haulage agreements with other railroads greatly increased traffic. CP steadily uses their high power AC traction locomotives on road trains that operate instead of aging SD40-2 models.[citation needed]

As of 2012, various trackage and haulage rights over D&H have been given to NS, including between Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Mechanicville, New York, and a connection to CN via Rouses Point, New York. NS has incorporated the former bridge-line route into their "Patriot Corridor".

Amtrak's Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express trains also operate over former D&H trackage.

On April 8, 2015 D&H filed a discontinuance of trackage rights exemption with the Surface Transportation Board. If granted, the exemption would allow D&H to discontinue any local and overhead trackage rights it holds on nearly 670 miles of lines in several northeastern US states (the lines themselves are owned by NS, CSX, ConRail, Amtrak, and several smaller railroads).[11]


  • Baltimore Coal & Union Railroad
  • Northern Coal & Iron Company
  • Plymouth & Wilkes-Barre Railroad and Bridge
  • Oak Point Link

Company officers

  • Philip Hone: 1825-1826
  • John Bolton: 1826-1831
  • John Wurts: 1831-1854
  • George Talbot Olyphant: 1858-1869
  • Thomas Dickson: 1869-1884
  • Robert M. Olyphant: 1884-1903
  • David Wilcox: 1903-1907
  • Leonor F. Loree: 1907-1938
  • Thomas L. Hunter: 1938-1941
  • Joseph Nuelle: 1941-1954
  • William White: 1954-1967
  • John P. Hiltz, Jr.: 1967
  • Frederick C. Dumaine, Jr.: 1967-1968
  • Frank W. McCabe: 1968
  • John P. Fishwick: 1969-1970
  • Gregory W. Maxwell: 1970-1972
  • Carl B. Sterzing, Jr.: 1972-1977
  • Selig Altschul: 1977
  • Charles E. Bertrand: 1977-1978
  • Kent Shoemaker: 1978-1982
  • Timothy Mellon: 1984-1988
  • Walter Rich: 1988-1991

See also

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  1. Shaughnessy, Jim (1967). Delaware & Hudson. Howell-North Books. p. 2. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 Drury, George H. (1994). The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 378–382. ISBN 0-89024-072-8. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Drury, George H. (1992). The Train-Watcher's Guide to North American Railroads: A Contemporary Reference to the Major railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-89024-131-7. 
  4. "Scots and Scots Descendant in America Part V - Biographies Robert Morrison Olyphant and Doctor David Olyphant". Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  5. Official Guide, 1910, p. 128
  6. Shaughnessy, Jim (1967). Delaware & Hudson. Howell-North Books. p. 370. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Belden, Tom (May 6, 1990). "An Investor Believes He's On Track; Banking Heir Timothy D. Mellon Has Poured Millions Into Regional Railroads; He's Also Stirred Controversy". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved December 30, 2012. 
  8. Stephens, Bill (July 1992). "Delaware & Hudson thrives under CP Rail". Trains. pp. 24–26. 
  9. Anderson, Eric. "Deal on rail network close". Times Union. Times Union. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 

Further reading

  • L. Lowenthal, From the Coalfields to the Hudson: A History of the Delaware & Hudson Canal, Purple Mountain Press, 2009.
  • J. Shaughnessy, Delaware & Hudson: The History of an Important Railroad Whose Antecedent Was a Canal Network to Transport Coal, Syracuse University Press, 1997.
  • T. Starr, Golden Age of Railroads in New York's Capital District, Timothy Starr, 2012.

External links