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New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway

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

The New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway (reporting mark NYSW) (a.k.a. the Susie-Q or the Susquehanna) is a Class II American freight railway 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.[2] Passenger service between Northern New Jersey and New York was offered until 1966. The railroad was purchased by the Delaware Otsego Corporation in 1980,[3] and became a regional player during the 1980s in the intermodal freight transport business.


The New York, Susquehanna & Western can trace its roots back to the Hoboken, Ridgefield & Paterson Railroad, chartered in 1866 to connect industrial Paterson, New Jersey, with the ports along the Hudson Waterfront opposite New York City at Hoboken. That same year, the New York and Oswego Midland Railroad was chartered to connect the Great Lakes port at Oswego, New York, with New York City. Several competing companies sprang up in 1867, but the New Jersey Western was the most successful, constructing westward from Paterson and Hawthorne. Cornelious Wortendyke, president of the New Jersey Western Railroad (NJW), signed a lease agreement with DeWitt Clinton Littlejohn of the New York, Ontario and Western Railway (NY&OM) giving his road a through route into New Jersey. Construction on the NY&OM started in 1868 and progressed rapidly. The NJW changed its name to the New Jersey Midland Railway in 1870, and construction had stretched from Hackensack, New Jersey, all the way through to Hanford.[4]

The NY&OM reached Middletown, New York, and leased the connecting Middletown, Unionville and Water Gap Railroad, which reached the NJM at Hanford. The last stretch of construction from Hackensack to Jersey City completed the NJM in 1872. The first through train from Oswego to Jersey City operated on July 9, 1873. While the goals of the two partners had been reached, the Panic of 1873 caused financial ruin for both companies. The NY&OM suspended lease payments, and the agreement was broken. The NY&OM was reorganized as the New York, Ontario and Western Railway in 1879, and went its separate way. The NJM took over the lease of the MU&WG as well. Unable to weather the financial storm, the NJM was put into receivership in 1875.[4]

New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway streamlined locomotive (Motorailer) constructed by the American Car and Foundry company, c.1940

In 1880, the railroad was reorganized as the New Jersey Midland Railroad (NJM), and attention was turned to the lucrative coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania. By 1882, the newly reorganized New York, Susquehanna & Western had extended west to Gravel Place, Pennsylvania, and a connection with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railway (DL&W). The NYSW also had a connection to the DL&W at Delaware, NJ via the Blairstown Railway. Due to the increased volume of traffic, the railroad was double-tracked from Paterson to Jersey City in 1887. To reach the ports of New York, traffic was handed off to the Pennsylvania Railroad at Marion Junction. To keep more of the line haul revenue for themselves, the Susquehanna extended their line from Little Ferry, New Jersey where they had a yard and station (presently Ridgefield, NJ) through the new Palisades Tunnel to a new terminal at Edgewater where they had constructed coal docks for transfer from train to boat in 1892. The NYSW also reached west of the Delaware River and leased the Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad to access the Scranton area directly and divert traffic away from the Lackawanna.[5]

American financier J.P. Morgan began to take notice of this rapidly expanding coal-hauler, and quietly bought up its stock on behalf of the Erie Railroad. The railroad was leased by the Erie in 1898, and soon after took over complete operation of the line.[6][7][8]

The NYS&W entered bankruptcy in 1937, and was released from Erie control in 1940. It modernized its commuter service with ACF self-propelled "Motorailers" and a connecting bus service to New York City. The railroad completely dieselized its other operations by the end of World War II purchasing ALCO RS-1 and S-2 locomotives. Commuter trains were upgraded again in the early 1950s with RDCs and new streamlined stainless steel coaches from the Budd Company (albeit without air conditioning, one of the few Budd coach orders to have windows that open).[7]

The NYS&W fell on hard times during the economic recession of 1957. The NYS&W lost its western connection to the Lehigh and New England Railroad when the L&NE ceased operations in 1961, resulting in the NYS&W pulling up all its track west of Sparta Jct. (which now comprises what is now known as the Paulinskill Valley Trail). Thereafter, the NYS&W sold off its nearly new Budd passenger cars and replaced them with second-hand used equipment. Desperate to close its money-losing commuter service, the railroad's trustees offered its commuters $1,000 each to stop using the trains. Permission to end commuter service was granted in 1966. Washouts caused by Tropical Storm Doria (1971) cut off other connections, and the railroad retreated to Butler, New Jersey.

Delaware Otsego Corporation

The NYS&W declared bankruptcy in 1976 after failing to pay New Jersey state taxes, though managed to stay out of Conrail, which had surrounded it. The bankruptcy court ordered that the railroad be abandoned and its assets sold. By then, the NYS&W was down to a 43-mile line from Croxton and Edgewater through Paterson to Butler. The State of New Jersey, aware of Delaware Otsego Corporation's reputation at rehabilitating short lines, asked them to take over the railroad.

Delaware Otsego was founded in 1966 to operate a small section of the former New York Central Railroad Catskill Mountain Branch outside Oneonta, New York. This was the first of many cast-off short line acquisitions. Between 1971 and 1986, D.O. acquired several other branches and short lines, including the Cooperstown Branch of the Delaware & Hudson Railway in 1971; the Richfield Springs Branch of the Erie Lackawanna Railway (EL) in 1973, the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad in 1974, and the EL Honesdale Branch in 1976.[7]

A new D.O. subsidiary, the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway, began operation in September 1980 under a lease agreement. In 1982, DO purchased the NYS&W.[7] In 1981, Conrail proposed abandonment of the former EL line between Binghamton and Jamesville, New York, just south of Syracuse, and the Utica branch of that line. D.O. purchased the lines and organized them as the Northern Division of the NYS&W. To connect the two divisions, D.O. also purchased a portion of the former Lehigh and Hudson River Railway between Warwick, New York and Franklin, New Jersey from Conrail and secured trackage rights on Conrail from Binghamton to Warwick and from Franklin to Sparta Junction.[7][9]

D.O.'s management early recognized the potential in coast-to-coast container traffic. Sea-Land Service leased property adjacent to NYS&W's yard at Little Ferry, New Jersey, and contracted with the railroad to operate intermodal container trains. Almost all their mileage west to Binghamton was on Conrail track by virtue of the trackage and hauling rights agreements. After a few years, Conrail, which operated container trains of its own, wanted to raise the rates it charged NYS&W for moving trains. The process required renegotiating trackage rights and haulage agreements; as a result, NYS&W reopened its line west of Butler and got more favorable operating arrangements on Conrail track.[7]

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

1990 saw the NYS&W end service on its Edgewater Branch, a Script error: No such module "convert". 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 Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W) line into Syracuse, with the provision that the NYS&W operate RDC service in Syracuse between Syracuse University, Armory Square, and the Carousel Mall with the option for further routes, leading to the creation of OnTrack. With operations on this 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.

With the impending break-up of the Conrail system to Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation, the NYS&W was a ripe target for acquisition, as it could potentially siphon lucrative traffic away from either road. On October 3, 1997, DOCP Acquisition LLC announced it had completed the short-form merger of Delaware Otsego Corporation (NASDAQ:DOCP) with a wholly owned subsidiary via a stock tender offer of $22 per share.[10]

This deal essentially brought the D.O. System of Railroads, including the subsidiary New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway (NYS&W), under control of the much larger Norfolk Southern and CSX rail systems, because the new owner DOCP Acquisition LLC is owned 40% by Norfolk Southern, 40% by CSX and 20% by Walter G. Rich of the Delaware Otsego Corporation.[11]

In 2005, the NYS&W leased the former Erie Main Line from Port Jervis to Binghamton from Norfolk Southern. Leased and operated under the name Central New York Railroad (CNYK). The CNYK is a "paper" railroad and all train operations and line maintenance is performed by Susquehanna personnel, while Norfolk Southern Railway retains overhead trackage rights. Currently there are only 6 trains a week operated by the NYS&W on the line, one in each direction, three times a week. At this time there is no traffic from the Norfolk Southern. The newly reactivated Stourbridge Railroad (SBRR) depends on the NYS&W for interchange at Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania.

On August 9, 2007, D.O. founder Walter Rich died of pancreatic cancer.[12] After President Rich's death, the new President Nathan Fenno, almost immediately cancelled all passenger operations and excursions and the fleet used on them was sold off. Many older diesel locomotives were sidelined, retired, and sold during this time as well.

In July 2011, NYS&W took possession of five leased CEFX locomotives, to ease the railroad's continually worsening power shortage. These five locomotives were used as a supplement to its current EMD 645 fleet in road train service, and occasionally local duty. It was not uncommon to see road train line-ups consisting of entirely leased power.

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Year Traffic
Source: ICC annual reports

Current Route Network

The NYS&W operates over 500 miles of track in three states. The network consists of three main routes, one running from Northern New Jersey to Binghamton and the other two branching north from Binghamton to serve Utica and Syracuse. Since 2006, the part of the line between Binghamton and Utica has been out of service.

Passenger service

The Bergen-Passaic Rail Line was a New Jersey Transit initiative in the mid-2000s studying restoration of passenger service on a segment of NYS&W trackage between Sparta and Hackensack, New Jersey to alleviate traffic congestion on Route 23. The project hit a snag when a suitable location for a NJ Transit rail storage yard in or near Sparta could not be agreed upon.

New FRA-compliant diesel multiple unit rail cars will be used.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] The project has been promoted via social networking blogs and Facebook,[21][22] resulting in Kinnelon officials publicly voicing support for the project.[23]

Chinese Steam Operations and History

In the 1990s, Walter Rich wanted a SY 2-8-2 [Mikado] type steam locomotive from China. The engine purchased, SY 1698M, was to be New York, Susquehanna & Western #141. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas; the ship, which was traversing the Indian Ocean,sank on June 7 in the Bay of Bengal, taking the 141 with it. After news broke of this, Susquehanna made an offer to the Valley Railroad to sell their 1647M. The Valley Railroad accepted, and the Susquehanna now had an engine on their hands. It was lettered and renumbered to #142, as the next locomotive after 141. The 142 made many runs throughout the Susquehanna system, participating in such events such as the Steamtown National Historic Site Grand Opening in 1995, or the Dunnellen Railroad Days and Lincoln Park Railroad Days. 142 also has double-headed with other steam locomotives, such as Chesapeake & Ohio #614, or Milwaukee Road #261. The engine now resides on the Belvidere & Delaware River Railroad where it runs tourist excursions along the Delaware River.

Connections with other railroads

  1. CSX Transportation - Syracuse, New York, Utica, New York, North Bergen, New Jersey
  2. Norfolk Southern Railway - Binghamton, New York, Marion Junction (New Jersey) and the Passaic Junction (rail yard) rail yard in Saddle Brook, New Jersey
  3. Canadian Pacific Railway - Binghamton, New York
  • The railroad has connections with three other railroads:
  1. Morristown & Erie Railway and New Jersey Transit - Passaic Junction (rail yard), Saddle Brook, New Jersey
  2. Middletown and New Jersey Railroad - Warwick, New York
  3. Finger Lakes Railway - Syracuse, New York


See also

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  1. ^ DELAWARE OTSEGO CORP Annual Report (Regulation S-K, item 405) (10-K405) Item 2. PROPERTIES
  2. ^ "Six Railroads Consolidated; The New-Jersey Midland To Be Carried Into The Coal-Fields". The New York Times. June 12, 1881. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Krause, John, New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad, Carstens Publications, 1991, p. 5
  5. ^ Krause, John, New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad, Carstens Publications, 1991, p. 6
  6. ^ Robert E. Mohowski (2003). The New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-7222-7
  7. ^ a b c d e f 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. 173–175. ISBN 0-89024-131-7. 
  8. ^ "Six Railroads to Consolidate", <span />The New York Times<span />, retrieved June 5, 2012 
  9. ^ Paul R. Tupaczewski (2002). New York Susquehanna & Western, In Color. Morning Sun Books. ISBN 1-58248-070-2
  10. ^ "merger of Delaware Otsego Corp". 1997-10-03. 
  11. ^ "SEC information for DOCP Acquisition". 
  12. ^ Grace, Tom (2007-08-10). "Railroad chairman Rich dies". The Daily Star. 
  13. ^ "NJ Transit design and engineering services for the Passaic-Bergen Passenger restoration project". Systra Consulting. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  14. ^ Freemark, Yonah (May 14, 2009). "Making Links in North Jersey". The Transport Politic. Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  15. ^ "Passaic-Bergen Rail Plan Advances" (Press release). New Jersey Transit. April 1, 2007. Retrieved 2005-05-21. 
  16. ^ Davis, Tom. "NJ Transit to expand passenger train servic". Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Madison Avenue Corridor Study - Description
  19. ^ Plan for Commuter Rail Along Route 23 Corridor Eyed
  20. ^ Transportation Planning - Mobility Study
  21. ^ Restore Passenger Service on the NYS&W
  22. ^ Facebook page calling for the restoration of rail service on the NYS&W.
  23. ^ Kinnelon mayor wants commuter trains to return
  24. ^ New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway

External links