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History | Gertrude Fitch Horton

Delaware & Northern Railroad
"Rails Rust in the Catskills"

The Delaware & Northern and the Towns It Served
A History of the Delaware and Northern Railroad

By Gertrude Fitch Horton

 

Chapter 1:
The Delaware & Eastern
(1904-1911)


Planning of a Railroad

After the Civil War the entire United States was gripped by "railroad fever." Hundreds of thousands of young men from farms and villages of the nation had traveled for the first time as soldiers, and wanderlust was epidemic. There was an unprecedented demand for the fast, cheap, and convenient transportation offered by railroads. Delaware County, New York was no exception to this trend. Men from this farming area had responded overwhelmingly to President Lincoln's calls for troops, and by the end of the Civil War, virtually all able-bodied men in the area had seen service in the Union Army - and seen parts of the country far beyond the reach of their farm wagons.

Even before the Civil War, the Erie Railroad had stopped in Hancock, but provided no service to other parts of the area. In 1871 the Ulster and Delaware skirted the northern edge of the county, connecting Arkville and Grand Gorge with the main lines serving New York City and Albany. The following year the New York, Oswego, and Midland Railway (later reorganized as the New York, Ontario, and Western) came to East Branch, Walton, and Delhi. But the fertile valley of the East Branch of the Delaware remained isolated, not out of choice. Local people fervently wished for a railroad and made valiant attempts to get one started, but it took a tourist with financial resources and an incipient case of railroad fever to actually bring a railroad to the East Branch valley.

Frederick Searing, president of Searing and Company, a New York City industrial bank, and a dealer in railroad securities, enjoyed coming to the area of the East Branch of the Delaware River for summer holidays. His favorite boarding house was located in Andes, NY.

In the spring of 1904 he brought a group of friends to East Branch by way of the New York, Ontario, & Western Railroad, which was a pleasant trip. However, the trip from there to Andes was a long and tiring one as the only transportation was by horse and carriage. It took four to five hours under the most favorable weather conditions just to get as far as Downsville, where the men spent the night. Downsville had a newspaper, hotels, stores, churches, and schools, but was isolated by poor transportation. In order to secure supplies or get their produce to market the people of Downsville had to ways of reaching the O&W: either they could travel through mud or snow to East Branch (14 miles) or they could climb over Bear Spring Mountain to Walton - a route that was rocky, muddy, and dangerous. The necessary winding, thousand-foot climb made that about 14 miles as well.

Searing often brought rich and important friends with him, and they all dreaded that slow and bumpy trip from East Branch to Andes. This time, jokingly, one of his friends remarked, "You really ought to build a railroad from East Branch to Andes." The more Searing thought about this remark, the better the idea sounded.

On their way from Downsville to Andes, Searing and his friends realized that someone else had had the same idea. They noticed some old railroad diggings and gradings. On questioning the local people, they learned that in 1871 a railroad, called the Delhi & Middletown, had been started but did not survive the panic of 1873.

The Andes township nearly went bankrupt paying off $98,000 at 7% interest in bonds to pay for the grading for the Delhi & Middletown Railroad. After that railroad had failed, Andes fought the bonded indebtedness. The township wanted either to have the railroad constructed or relief from the debt. Between the cost of the legal fight and thy high interest rate, Andes ended up paying over $370,000. They made the final payment in 1931, after paying during 60 years for a railroad that was never finished.

Later during their stay Searing and his friends heard of still another railroad failure, the Delaware Valley Railroad, officially known as the Andes and Delhi, which was started in 1898. That road also failed to get as far as Andes, although a lot of work was done. Almost 10 miles of roadbed was finished between October 8 and October 29, 1898, which was an amazing amount of work to be completed in just 21 days. There was a story told about a rough railroad camp on this road. One night there was a fatal fight over a. card game between two fellow laborers. The next morning the body was tossed into a fill-no digging required and no report. Unfortunately the contractor ran out of money, the unpaid workers rebelled, and the Delaware Valley was foreclosed on July 15, 1899. Later Andes pointed to this partially finished work as a reason to build the Delaware & Eastern's Andes branch.

Searing was determined to open up this charming and prosperous country. A railroad would enable the people of the area to communicate with each other and with the rest of the world. Mail could move in and out more efficiently. The many products of the rich farmland of Delaware County could be sold in the profitable city markets, and manufactured goods from all over the world could be brought in. The isolation of more than a century was drawing to a close, changing forever the way of life of rural families.

Later that same year Searing returned, bringing Joseph Jermyn, who owned large coal mining properties in Pennsylvania, and Russell B. Williams, an experienced railroad builder and superintendent of the Scranton Division of the New York, Ontario & Western Railroad. After exploring the region all the way from East Branch (where a railroad could connect with the already built New York, Ontario & Western) to Arkville (where it could connect with the Ulster & Delaware), they could see great business opportunities for a railroad. The new railroad would be called the Delaware & Eastern, or D&E.

The need for passenger service was obvious; travel by foot or horse and buggy was slow and uncomfortable, making it very difficult for busy farm families to go into the towns for shopping or to visit each other. However, there was a district school within walking distance (sometimes several miles) of every child. These were mostly one room schools and very few pupils ever went to any other school. A railroad would make a high school education possible for widely scattered rural residents. The enthusiasm expressed by the populace for the project made it clear that the people would use the railroad once it was built.

R. B. Williams quit the Ontario & Western Railroad to become the General Manager for the new D&E. He had long envisioned a more direct route with easier grades from the coal mines of Pennsylvania to East Branch and on to Arkville, where the railroad could connect with the Ulster & Delaware Railway. He had discussed it with Jermyn, who enthusiastically supported the plan. The Ontario & Western had some very steep grades that required a double header (a train pulled by two locomotives) and sometimes an additional pusher to get those long, long lines of gondola cars of coal up the grades. (A gondola is a railroad car with no top, a flat bottom and fixed sides that.is used chiefly for hauling bulk commodities). By planning lighter grades and reduced mileage, Searing, Williams and Jermyn hoped to have a very profitable venture. The three men decided to publicly plan only the short 37.5 mile connection between East Branch and Arkville (which would all be in Delaware County), while privately planning the longer coal route.

They knew that the New York, Ontario & Western, the Ulster & Delaware and the Delaware & Hudson would not object to a connection between the O&W and the U&D, and might even welcome it. Searing even announced that he expected coal would be handled from East Branch to Arkville, enabling both roads to run more efficiently. Thus there were no objections at the beginning.

First, Searing and his associates planned to complete the East Branch to Arkville section and the Andes branch. They started at both ends, working in both directions toward Downsville, where the two work gangs were to meet. That part of the project would be about 38 miles on the main line and about nine miles more to Andes. When completed, the railroad, including sidings, would have just over 50 miles of track.

No local people or towns were asked to help pay for this railroad, as they had been for the other railroads in the area. All the D&E asked for was a right-of-way across the land and they were willing to grant certain concessions to the land owner for this right. Some of the land owners were so eager to have a railroad that they gladly gave the road the right-of-way across their land. Others were so skeptical that at first they refused to give written permission at all. They said that after the railroad had been built and operated for 30 days, then they would agree to the right-of-way. Of course, the D&E had to get permission from each and every land owner before they could proceed with any actual work. After many meetings and dickering with these people, the D&E finally had every legal land problem solved and was ready to begin the actual building of their railroad.

Methods of Construction

The building of this railroad, as with other railroads of the same era, was accomplished without the use of many labor saving devices. After the survey was completed, a very large group of men was set to work using almost nothing except hand shovels, to dig, fill, and grade the right of way. Most of the workers lived in work camps. They slept in boxcars which had been fixed up as living quarters. There were bunks in the ends of the car and a large stove for cooking and heating in the center. These cars were moved from place to place to be near the work area. The railroad also built shanties for the workers, just big enough for four or five men to sleep in. These were shabbily constructed wooden shacks, furnished with only the bare necessities. One of these shacks was built on the Malloch farm near Harvard.

Some workers hired from the local area chose to board with the farm families along the way. Most farm houses were large, and the farmers could always use the extra little bit of money to be gained by renting out an unused room or two, with as many men as would fit sleeping in each room. The men got a clean place to sleep and good fresh food, well cooked and abundant. At one time 10 to 15 workers boarded at the Fingado farm near Harvard.

Most of the laborers were immigrants from Italy who could hardly speak English. They had landed in New York City and been hired by a padrone to work on the railroad, and really did not know what to expect in this new country.

The immigrants were not even known to the railroad by their own names. Some of these laborers could speak no English and their employers could speak no Italian, so each man was assigned a number. This number was pressed into a copper disk and each man showed his disk to collect his pay. He was known by this number and was carried on the payroll by this number instead of his name. If he moved from job to job, he kept the same number.

Horse drawn dump scoops were used on the level sections of ground. It took two men to operate these - one man to drive the horses and the other to operate the scoop, which had handles like a plow. The operator would press down on the handles, scrape up a load of dirt, relax the pressure on the handles and let the sharp edge of the scoop just slide over the top of the ground until they got to the dump site. There the operator would press down on the handle causing the scoop to again catch in the ground and dump the load. Going back to the diggings, the scoop was just dragged upside down.

In some places the men could use their hand shovels to load the dirt on special horse drawn wagons. The bottom of each wagon was made from heavy planks, running the length of the wagon, with a handle on each end. At the dump site, a man at each end of a plank would move it just far enough to let the dirt fall through a crack to the ground. Sometimes extra horses were leased from the local
farmers for the construction work. Oxen were also used, but oxen were more tempermental than horses. Often they would not work well with strangers, so the railroad hired the owner to drive the oxen. Archie Williams of Centerville and his oxen worked all through the construction period.

A magneto was used to set off the dynamite needed to break up the large boulders in a rock cut (a passage cut as a roadway). That made it a little safer for the men than setting off the dynamite by a fuse, as the farmers did.

It was very important that a railroad keep as much on the level as possible, so both cuts and fills were often needed. Grades made the locomotives work harder and could be dangerous to both men and machinery. When making a deep cut on a steep hill, hand shovels were the only tool used to initially cut into the bank. After the bank had been started, wooden rails were laid down to run a small car on. This car was moved either by the men or by a horse. The car was loaded and moved to the dump site, and when emptied, brought back for another load.

After a temporary iron track could be laid, a steam shovel was brought in to dig back the banks and make a wider cut. That made the work much easier. The steam shovel would load the dirt and stones on a flat car and a locomotive could take it to the place of disposal. As you can see, "life in the good old days" included a lot of hard manual labor.

Early Days of the D&E

On September 14, 1905, R. B. Williams drove in the first spike near Arkville, and he was also the one who drove in the last spike at Downsville on November 17, 1906.

The first wreck on the D&E occurred on November 24, 1905, just above Margaretville, only two months and 10 days after the first spike had been driven. The first timetable was issued June 5, 1906, when construction was completed as far as Shavertown, in order to regulate the traffic between Shavertown and Arkville (14 miles).

In late 1905, as soon as a section between two towns was completed, people were demanding to ride as far as they could on their new railroad. The railroad company set planks across oil drums atop the flat cars in place of seats, and the local people rode these cars. They had to brush sparks from the engine out of their hair and they squirmed from the cinders that went down their backs, but they were happy. Soon after this, stations and creameries were built, and by the next year the road had purchased some real coaches for
their passengers to ride in.

The cost of building the D&E, up to December 31, 1907, was $1,993,838 plus $108,973 for the cost of the equipment.

Every station sign, at the outer edges of the sign, gave the distance to ARK. (Arkville) and to E.B. (East Branch). Every mile was marked by a mile post.

It was a big day for Downsville and the whole East Branch Valley when the main line was completed. Excursion trains came from both ends of the railroad to meet at Downsville for the ceremonial driving of the last spike on November 17, 1906. There were parades, band concerts, speeches of welcome, shouting and cheering. The horses reared, snorted, and slipped on the hard-packed snow. Many important men, including Frederick Searing, Henry Williams, Edward Conlon, and Judge Linn Bruce, gave impressive-sounding speeches.

Regular train service to Andes began on March 23, 1907. Andes had had telephone and telegraph service before the railroad, but mail and freight had come in by stagecoach or wagon.

As soon as regular schedules began on both the main line and the Andes branch, the D&E was given the contract to carry the U.S. Mail. From the time the mail contract began on May 13, 1907 until the last day the railroad operated, carrying the mail provided one of the few consistent sources of revenue on the D&E/D&N.

Elevation at Andes was 660 feet higher than at East Branch, but more important, Andes was 400 feet higher than Andes Junction, nine miles away. So you can see that those small locomotives had quite a climb. The original 4-4-0 locomotives (the numbers indicate the placement of the wheels on the engine) had the ability to pull only one passenger car, one baggage car and two freight cars into Andes. Engine #3, which had the 2-6-0 configuration, could haul six loaded cars up the grade.

On March 23, 1907, a cold soggy day, the first regular train service was begun on the Andes branch. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come: on March 25, 1907 an excursion train was run to celebrate the opening of the Andes branch. Coming back the last car of the train jumped the track. For the first of many times, the condition of the rails was blamed for an accident. Even at the very beginning of the road, hard luck plagued it.

In 1906 Searing announced his plans for a new railroad from Wilkes Barre, Pa., to Schenectady, N.Y., a distance of 232 miles. This would give him fast and efficient coal deliveries to New England and Eastern Canada by way of the Rutland and the Boston & Maine Railroads. He asked the New York State Railroad Commission for permits to build a northern line to be called the Schenectady & Margaretville and a southern road to be called the Hancock & Wilkes Barre Extension Railroad. The reason stated for this request was that the existing freight rates were exorbitant and that competition would help the public.

This news brought immediate protests from S.D. Coykendall for the Ulster & Delaware, L.F. Loree for the Delaware & Hudson, and T.P. Fowler for the New York, Ontario & Western roads. Both the O&W and the D&H considered that the coal trade belonged exclusively to them. They certainly did not intend to share it unless forced to do so.

On December 11, 1906, the New York Railroad Commission granted both permits. Searing was now ready to proceed with his original secret plans.

The three older railroads filed a joint suit against the Railroad Commission to cancel the permits. This legal maneuver lasted through 1908 and was lost when the New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Searing group.

Reorganization By Searing, May 17, 1907.

Frederick Searing was a businessman who had many interests, but his main business was banking. Searing and Company, located at 7 Wall St., New York City, had several branch banks in New York City, and they had survived the Panic of 1907. Having decided to finance the building of the extension railroads, Searing incorporated the newly completed East Branch part, called the Delaware & Eastern Railroad, with a second corporation, named the Delaware & Eastern Company. The second company was to lease the railroad and control the planned northern and southern extensions.

On May 17, 1907, Searing and Company merged the two companies and called it the Delaware & Eastern Railway Company, with a capital of $5 million and $6.5 million in first mortgage bonds. Part of the bond issue was to be used to payoff the existing bonds, and additional bonds totaling over $40 million would be issued. The cost of building the road up to December 31, 1907 had been $1,993,838 plus $108,973 for cost of equipment. At about this time the railroad employed 325 men with a payroll of $45,000 a month. Twenty men worked in the repair shop at Margaretville alone. A June 30, 1909 report showed an annual operating deficit of $236,586, but the officials believed that their financial situation was sound.

The northern section, first called the Schenectady & Southwestern Company, was soon changed to the Schenectady & Margaretville Railroad Company. The plan was for a 90-mile road from Margaretville to Schenectady, using, according to contracts which have recently come to light, the U&D tracks between Arkville and Grand Gorge.

The southern extension (the part to be in New York State) was incorporated as the Hancock & East Branch Railroad Company on July 12, 1906. Approval for the 95-mile part in Pennsylvania had not been obtained, but it was to be called the Hancock & Wilkes-Barre Extension Railroad Company. The route between East Branch and Hancock was surveyed parallel to the Ontario & Western. From Hancock they were to go to Equinunk, Honesdale, Moscow and finally on to Wilkes-Barre. The route finally decided on for the northern section was from Grand Gorge, Gilboa, Prattsville, Blenheim and on to Middleburgh. At Middleburgh they were to connect with the Middleburgh & Schoharie Railroad. Searing signed the lease for the Middleburgh & Schoharie Railroad on January 21,1909.

By March of 1907 the surveyors were at work on the northern section. They completed the survey from Grand Gorge to Prattsville and started working between Prattsville and Gilboa. A year or more was needed to get the right-of-way purchased and hire contractors. The contract to survey and grade a section between Grand Gorge and Middleburgh was let to W. J. Oliver and Company. In the fall of 1909, Oliver started the grading, and land for the stations at Gilboa and North Blenheim was purchased. He also secured the right-of-way through these villages.

Oliver also got the contract to build two steel trestles and two tunnels. The trestle at Grand Gorge was to outshine the Lyonbrook, Cadosia and Liberty trestles of the New York, Ontario & Western Railroad. Near Prattsville, in order to avoid a very sharp 210 degree curve to the north, a tunnel was to curve through Pine Mountain and come out above Devasego Falls on Schoharie Creek.

Construction plans called for a cut 50 feet deep through Clay Hill and a concrete overpass 20 feet wide by 16 feet high on the Johnson Hollow road. There was to be a 112-foot-wide culvert and fill across the Johnson Hollow stream. A depot was planned for Prattsville on Washington Street and a 900-foot tunnel was planned about a mile below Blenheim.

Work progressed north of Grand Gorge all through the winter of 1909-1910. On October 2, 1909, F. A. Collins, chief engineer of the Dominion Construction Company, arrived at Grand Gorge. A new switch and siding were installed at Grand Gorge and more men, mules and machinery began to arrive via the U&D. About 75 men were at work on the lands of J. W. London and J. M. Cronk. By November 3, 200 men were at work between Grand Gorge and Prattsville, and soon 200 more men were at work near Gilboa.

A train of 25 carloads of dinkey engines (small locomotives especially used for hauling freight), dump cars, steam pumps and drills came in at Grand Gorge, followed by a steady flow of cars filled with food, explosives and all other kinds of supplies.

Two steam shovels soon arrived, followed by still another larger, 50-ton one to work near Gilboa. They struggled for two weeks to get that one through the muddy countryside. It took 12 horses to pull the detached boom. The main part of this huge shovel blocked the road the entire time of the trip, and on the way it knocked down part of C. L. Tuttle's barn. In December a fourth shovel, which was to work on the Cole farm near Gilboa, had even more trouble getting there. Steam-traction engines were used to move this one, and it took them three weeks to move it. One of the traction engines skidded and was left hanging halfway over a steep cliff. If these steam shovels had been equipped with the newly-invented caterpillar tread, they could have negotiated the terrain under their own power.

Meanwhile, the blasting for the grading was not going smoothly. One blast loosened a 40-foot bank above a steam shover, and another steam shovel had to be moved in to dig the first one out. Another blast sent a rock flying through the air. It crashed through
the roof of Charles Hare's house and landed on a rocking chair, where Mrs. Hare had been sitting only a few moments before. Still another blast sent 50 tons of earth rolling down a hill. A milk house that happened to be in the way was spread all over the field beyond. One large boulder that was set free by a steam shovel rolled down a hill and killed a workman. It seemed that fate was against this extension on the D&E.

Then the weather showed what it could do. On December 25, 1909, 20 inches of snow fell, followed by many days of extreme cold, high winds and more snow. That was followed by a January thaw that carried away bridges and equipment and bogged down all
the machinery.

On February 9, 1910, all construction came to a standstill because no money was coming from the D&E. This seemed to confirm rumors that Searing and Company was in deep trouble. The contractor refused to do any more work until he had been paid $250,000 for work already completed. In addition he refused to order the bridge materials or start the boring of the tunnels, and he also sued the D&E for the amount of his claim.

There were chaotic conditions all along the abandoned right-of-way as the penniless workers drifted away, leaving unpaid board bills. Stables of mules were left to be cared for by the neighboring farmers. Machinery was abandoned, buried by drifts of snow,
and anything that could be carried away simply disappeared. Many farmers had their fields ruined by all the digging and blasting, but it was of no use to try to collect damages.

The financial trouble all started when Searing entrusted bonds worth $4.5 million to a bond salesman who was supposed to sell $3.5 million in England for a commission of $85,000 in bonds. He dumped the whole amount on the American market. Searing protested and tried to stop this move. The Supreme Court issued a writ of attachment, and the newspapers picked up the story. The depositors of Searing's bank were still a little nervous from the Panic of 1907, and a run began on the bank. Searing couldn't cover the
demands and had to close the bank. In March of 1910 the brokerage firm of Searing and Company closed its doors and declared bankruptcy. The railroad was the only tangible thing to survive, and it was forced into receivership on March 10, 1910. Andrew Moreland and Walter Trowbridge were appointed receivers. It was reported that on June 2, 1910, bonds of the D&E worth $30,000 were sold for $200.

On August 16, 1911, under foreclosure proceedings, the railway was sold for $150,000 to William Seif, who represented the bond holders. The road was reorganized and incorporated as the Delaware & Northern Railroad Company on October 14, 1911.

Thus ended the grand dream of Searing's railroad empire, of a railroad from the coal fields of Pennsylvania to the factories and cities of the north.

The collapse of the Delaware & Eastern extensions must have been a relief to the other three railroads, and it ended for all time efforts to build any more new railroads from the Pennsylvania coal regions. If the D&E had succeeded, it certainly would have siphoned off a lot of profitable business from all three roads. The Ulster & Delaware, the Delaware & Hudson and the New York, Ontario & Western Railroads could now concentrate on their own operations.

If the Schenectady & Margaretville had been finished, it would have cost New York City a lot of money when reservoirs were built in that area. New York City would have had to relocate the railroad to higher ground, as they had to do for the Ulster & Delaware at Ashokan.

As long as Searing had control of the railroad, the company had a plush office on Wall Street. The office was then moved to 10 Bridge St., and finally, on February 6, 1913, the headquarters were changed to the old creamery building at Margaretville. That was quite a comedown for the office workers.

 

Chapter 2:
The Delaware & Northern
(1911-1942)


The First Receivership
(1911-1921)

Reorganization and Repair

The receivers' board of directors hired an expert appraiser named Jabez T. O'Dell to look over the D&N. He stated that the road had to have some extensive repairs made. It was costing $400 more per mile to operate than it took in. The new directors came from Pittsburgh banks that held bonds in the old company. They decided to advance money to put the railroad in first-class condition, and accepted preferred stock in place of bonds.

Bank gravel had been used as track ballast throughout the Delaware & Eastern when it was built and by now it needed quite a lot of work to make it safe. The roadbed was reballasted where it was needed. Additional locomotives and shop equipment were purchased and all surplus equipment was sold to other roads. A lot of freight cars, which had been bought new in 1906 and never used, were sold at this time.

Trestles Filled During the First Receivership

When building the Andes branch, the D&E first built a long wooden trestle about two miles below Andes called Muir's trestle because it crossed the Muir farm. The trestle was 450 feet long, 45 feet high, and 190,000 feet of hemlock timber was used in its construction. There were water barrels placed the length of the trestle for fire protection. The trestle was completed in March, 1907, but by 1914 the state inspectors were already questioning the safety of the weathered wooden timbers.

Business was good at that time, so company officials decided to fill the whole area beneath the trestle with dirt. Work started on the fill in June, 1915. This was a big job, considering that except for a steam shovel and a locomotive, all work was done by hand. The dump cars used on this job were operated by air pressure supplied by the locomotive. These cars dumped their load from the side of the cars directly to the fill below.

The dirt from the banks along the track was cleared back, and all the cuts were widened. During the life of the Andes branch this widening of the cuts and removal of the steep banks saved the road a lot of maintenance in the spring and winter. Mud and rock slides in the spring (and after every hard rain) and snow drifts in the winter plagued the main line for the life of the road.

The filling of this long trestle was the talk of everyone in the area. Newspapers reported that company officals were planning an extension of the road to Delhi and Bovina. Everyone seemed to have high hopes for their railroad. It is too bad that this prosperity could not have lasted.

After their success in filling the big Muir's trestle, the railroad managers decided to make a fill in place of the old wooden trestle that extended from the north side of Beaverkill railroad bridge at East Branch to the higher ground along the Delaware River. This would please the state inspector and save on maintenance as well. The trestle was long but not very high, so it was decided to get all the dirt for the fill from the steep upper bank near the railway's old water tank. A steam shovel was moved in, and Engine #5 was assigned to the task. It was a much easier job than the one they had at Muir's trestle.

The End of the First Receivership

In the summer of 1916 the Interstate Commerce Commission under the order of the U.S. Government undertook the job of evaluating all railroads in the United States. The D&N was inventoried, measured and appraised. Even every rail was recorded, including the date of rolling. After much bureaucratic red tape and cost to the taxpayer, it was decided that the D&N was worth $1,505,770, including the Andes branch at $190,273. You can see that the count was exact, right down to the last three dollars.

In toe summer of 1917 the United States Government was trying to sell war bonds to raise money to carryon World War 1. They fitted up flat cars with samples of the heavy equipment they were using, to show the people why so much more money was needed. These flat cars traveled from railroad to railroad. One traveled the length of the D&N, and people supported their country by buying as many bonds as they could afford.

There wasn't the chance for the D&N to build up revenues that there was on most railroads. There were no steel mills, pottery plants or other big businesses. Big-time coal hauling was now only a broken dream. Lumber had been rafted down the Delaware for 50 or 60 years before the railroad came to town, and now the acid factories had stripped the mountains of all the trees left by previous loggers. Wooden mine props had been cut and shipped to Scranton, Pa., for the coal mines near there. Soon all the logs of the right size
and strength were stripped from nearby forests. A lot of hemlock trees had been cut for their bark, since bark was used for tanning leather. The large-scale lumber business was gone forever.

There was a barrel-stave factory at Arena that at one time shipped four carloads a week. There was an excelsior plant at Shavertown and a mill in Downsville that made shingles. These had been small operations, and most were now gone. The combined effects of all the cutting left no chance for a factory that used wood to be able to locate on this railroad.

However, the dairy feed tonnage produced a lot of business. Before the railroad farmers usually "dried up" their cows in winter and fed them mostly hay. Now they were milking year around, and soon they discovered the boost in milk production that feeding grain would give. Feed stores opened in every town. Also, the dairy farmers were now using commercial fertilizer and lime. So the dairy farmers helped the rail revenue a lot.

One other change in the rural way of life helped boost rail freight. The villagers had often burned green or partly-seasoned wood in the winter, and there was constant worry about a chimney full of soot and creosote catching fire. As soon as the railroad made hard coal available in steady and cheap quantities, these people converted to coal-burning furnaces and burned coal in their kitchen stoves. With coal, they could keep a fire going for hours and stay warm all night without much danger of accidents. The tons of coal burned by all the people and businesses in the area accounted for a lot of gondola cars full of coal being moved on the D&N.

Most of the coal hauled on the D&N to supply the general public was anthracite, but the creameries and acid factories burned soft coal. After the Andes branch closed down, it took two trucks full time just to bring soft coal from Delhi to the Co-op Creamery at Andes, so you can guess the amount of coal hauled by the D&N to supply the creameries and acid factories all along the length of the railroad. Of course, many farmers still burned the wood they cut from their own wood lots.

The little road managed to meet expenses from 1911 to 1918. The biggest money-maker was the dairy business. The D&N owned seven milk cars that they kept busy, and sometimes they had to borrow cars from the connecting roads. This was originating freight, so the D&N got the lion's share of the revenue.

Any surplus money was paid to the preferred stockholders. The last dividend of $15,000 was paid in 1918.

The loss of small businesses all along the road and the general downturn of the national economy after World War I made the deficits mount up quickly after 1918. The situation deteriorated very rapidly until in 1920 a suit was brought by a large coal company, joined by some of the railroad's smaller creditors. The D&N was forced by this suit into a new receivership. On March 16, 1921 president Moreland and superintendent J. J. Welch were appointed receivers.

 

The Second Receivership
(1921-1928)

Financial Crisis

As soon as Moreland and Welch took over as receivers in 1921, they realized that some drastic measures had to be taken to keep the road going. The poor railroad was in bad financial shape.

WheiI the people of the Delaware Valley realized that their railroad was in trouble, they tried to come to the rescue. Most of the tax assessors, except in the town of Hancock, reduced the road's taxes. The employees agreed to a cut in wages which would save the road $12,000 per year.

Then a federal judge ruled that the employees must take a 20% cut in wages and the road must sell $20,000 in receivers' certificates. If this was not done he would shut down the road.

People along the railroad bought the $20,000 worth of certificates. The workers were already working for low wages, and when they heard that they were supposed to take another 20% cut, the train crews refused. They couldn't see how they could take care of their families with any less money. A compromise was finally reached when they all met at Margaretville, and the road was saved one more time.

The D&N Officials Meet with Governor Al Smith

In the early 1920s Governor Al Smith became concerned about the number of fatal accidents occurring at railroad-highway crossings. Ever since the family car had become popular, the accident rate had increased every year. Smith hired an expert to survey the railroads of New York State a~d report the crossings most needing to be changed. None of the railroads were notified that this was being done. When the survey was completed, the governor sent invitations to the presidents, trustees, and receivers of all the railroads operating in New York State, to meet with him at the state capitol building. The reason for the meeting was not disclosed.

President James Welch received an invitation. He was extremely surprised and also apprehensive at receiving such an invitation. Welch and Ira Terry arrived at the appointed time and were ushered in, along with officials of all the other railroads, to meet the governor. They were all handed a brochure explaining the reason for the meeting; The brochure listed all the crossings thought to be the most dangerous in the state, detailed how each was to be changed, and estimated costs.

Governor Smith explained that he understood that the elimination of grade crossings would be very expensive and a hardship .for some of the roads. He assured everyone that the state was willing to loan money to the railroads that might need help, then asked for comments from those present.

Many got up and announced that they would try to cooperate with the state in this matter. Mr. Loree of the Delaware & Hudson agreed to the need, but objected to the crossings selected by the experts. He said that he could point out several crossings more dangerous than those that had been chosen for elimination. President Welch was relieved that for once his road was not in serious trouble with the state. Not a single crossing on the D&N had been selected for elimination. The trip back home was much happierthan the one going, to answer an unexplained summons to meet the governor.

More Financial Trouble

In 1924, the station at Shinhopple burned to the ground. Since the D&N could not afford a new station, they built a cubicle that would only hold about four persons. It was just a place to stand and get out of the weather.

By 1925 the road was in desperate financial trouble again. The profitable cauliflower transportation had been lost to trucks. Ice-refrigerator cars had been used to keep the cauiflower in good shape on the long journey to the city. Now trucks picked up the cauliflower, at an auction block in Margaretville. It was near enough to the railroad that the trainmen could smell the cauliflower, but they got not one cent of revenue. The railroad went from a seasonal high of 14 cars in one day to transport cauliflower to zero. Some agricultural produce was still being shipped by rail, but every year the road had less and less business.

In former years, much of the profit had been from the creameries; now tank trucks carried the milk. The railroad no longer needed all those ice-refrigerator cars. Most of the creameries were no longer owned by the railroad, which was nearly out of the ice business as a result. Since that was never profitable by itself, the road might have been glad to be rid of it, but losing the business it represented was disastrous.

Passenger usage of the road dropped off because so many people were buying automobiles, and more and more hard surface roads were being built for the growing numbers of automobiles and trucks. Desperate measures had to be taken.

The Andes branch had not been profitable for quite some time, so that was shut down in the later part of March, 1925. That did not help much. Gone but not forgotten was the only railroad to get to Andes. Andes had seriously gone into debt to get the Delhi & Middletown Railroad to come to their village, and that road was never built, leaving Andes with a crushing debt and no railroad. It had not cost them anything to get the D&E to come to Andes, but now once again they were without a railroad.

The right-of-way of the railroad reverted back to the orginal owners for just the cost of drawing up the transfer deeds. Big trucks took over the business of hauling feed and coal to this busy town. The new concrete highway built in 1922 between Andes and Margaretville, along with all the other improved roads in the area, made year-long travel by car and truck possible.

Brill Car

The cost of running a locomotive was high for the amount of business that the road now had, so the owners decided to buy a Brill-built motor car. This was a self-propelled, combined passenger, express and railway post office car, and was purchased in February of 1926. It proved to be the best investment ever made by the D&N. If, from the begining of the road, all other equipment had run as well and been as cost-effective as the Brill car, this story might have had a different Ending.

The Brill Car was 65 feet long, with a six-cylinder 250-HP Winton Special automotive-type gasoline motor. It had five gears forward and five in reverse with manual shift and direct drive to the front truck. It cost $28,750 new, and the railroad claimed it saved them $30,000 per year operating expense. In use from February 25, 1926 to October 19, 1942, it was the last thing that moved on the D&N. Walter Pattberg went to Philadelphia to take delivery of the new car and was coached on the way back by a Brill representative

named Day, who was hired by the manufacturer to train the new owners in the care and handling of their brand-new machine. James Welch and Pop Philips met the car in Newark, N.J. The car was met by a group of U&D officials at Kingston, who wanted to see how the Brill Car would take the grades on their road. The car encountered no trouble whatsoever on the grades and a group of proud men reached Margaretville with a piece of NEW equipment.

Pop Philips was senior engineer, so he was first in line to bid in the position of engineer of the new Brill Car. He had never learned to drive an automobile, and he was unable to master the automotive type of controls. So Clarence Cowan, Roma Fitch and Joe Rider were the operators. Most of the time Harry Odell was the postal clerk.

It was said that the revenue from the U.S. Government for postal service paid the total expense of running the Brill Car.

The Brill Car was always a dull red color, probably never having more than a primer coat of paint. The D&N tracks were noted for their poor condition. Speed was limited to 20 MPH. The lurching, swaying motion of the car soon earned it the nickname of "Red Heifer." The Brill Car's schedule was the same as the old steam passenger train. It started at Downsville in the morning, going to Arkville, and there used the turntable. This turntable was moved by human power. The trainmen would get down in the pit and literally push the car or engine around. However, it was geared well and this was not really a hard job.

Later the car made a run to East Branch, and back to Arkville, then back to Downsville to wait for the next day. This schedule enabled the pupils of Margaretville High School from Arena to Margaretville to use the "Red Heifer" as a school bus.

Although the Brill Car was more reliable and had fewer accidents than any other of the D&N's motive power, there was one accident that could have been serious. On Sept. 5, 1934, when the Brill Car, with a load of school pupils was about one mile north of Arena, it flipped over on its left side. It happened at Lilly Pond and only the slow speed of the car kept it from sliding or rolling into the pond. There was a pile of school pupils, lunch pails, and books, but most of the kids were not even bruised and were back in school the next day.

The Brill Car fared well also. Within three days, after a checkup in the shop, it was back in service. The old combination car, pulled by a locomotive, was put in service for those three days. This accident was an isolated incident. The car seldom decided to leave the tracks. It was more trustworthy than any of the other
rolling stock.

Near the floor of the postal compartment there was an escape hatch, just large enough for a man to get through to the driver's compartment. There was never an accident when this had to be used.

Whenever the Brill Car decided to go off the rails, it had a disconcerting habit: the brake chain would go slack. There was nothing anyone could do but sit it out until the car bumped to a stop. Harry Odell, the regular postal clerk on the Gar, said he could tell when the car gave a wrong kind of lurch that it was going to leave the rails.

The Brill Car had a very loud air horn and the blasts from the horn could bounce for miles along the mountains and valleys of the Delaware River. The mountain masses and the width of the valleys seemed to have the correct acoustical properties for relaying the sounds. It was said that the early Dutch feared the rumble of thunder echoing through the mountains, and that prevented them from settling this area until later.

One time the front-drive truck gave out completely and the railroad secured one by running a want ad in Railroad magazine. The rails on the D&N were mostly only 65-pound rail with replacement rails of 90-pound rail. Toward the end of the D&N the rails in some places developed as much as four inch gaps. The wheels of the Brill Car were in bad shape from slamming through such places.

No one knows for sure where the faithful Brill Car disappeared to. It was on a siding all by itself, without any tracks except those it was standing on, after the abandonment of the road. It was said that Rosoff refused to sell the Brill Car with the rest of the equipment. He wanted to make it into a private rail car for his own use. After W orld War II, when all the local people could settle down to normal life, they realized that it was no longer there. "Must have been sold to another railroad," was the best guess.

The purchase of the Brill Car saved the railroad a lot of money over all the years that it was in service. It was just a case of too little and too late.

End of the Second Receivership

In September of 1928, three of the road's biggest creditors joined together to petition the Federal Court for permission to have the road discontinued. They were the Pittsburgh & Shawmut Coal Company, the Title Guarantee & Trust Company of Pittsburgh and J. J. Jermyn. All had a lot of money invested in this railroad. Jermyn had had an interest in the railroad from the very beginning. He was one of three men who helped plan the railroad in 1904. It was a sad day when J. J. Jermyn no longer had any hope for this road. He had been a faithful friend throughout all these years. On October 2, 1928, after a hearing in Albany, N.Y., the ruling was that the road must be sold at public auction unless the receivers could find someone to buy the road and continue to operate it.

 

Rosoff and the D&N
(1929-1942)

Sam Rosoff, a New York City subway contractor, bought the D&N, taking charge on January 1, 1929. Mr. Rosoff reorganized the railroad, changing the name from Delaware & Northern Railroad to Delaware & Northern Railway Company. It still held the same name at the closing on October 17, 1942.

New York City, which was- chronically short of water, had built its first great upstate reservoir at Ashokan in 1914. At that time 17 miles of the Ulster & Delaware Railroad had to be relocated. In 1923 the Gilboa Dam was built, and still the city needed more water. By 1928 almost everyone along the Delaware Valley was talking about the dam to be built on the East Branch. Test borings- had been made. People were speculating on how far up a hillside the water from the new dam would come or how far up a hollow the water would go. Some were hoping the new dam would take their property, and some were swearing that they would never give up their homes for a dam.

It was rumored at the time that Rosoff had purchased the railroad in hopes of landing a fat contract from New York City when the talked-of dam at Downsville was started. President Welch had mentioned to Rosoff the potential profitability of owning a railroad at the dam site, perhaps hoping that somehow the railway could be kept operating a little longer.

As soon as Rosoff reorganized the railroad instead of dismantling it as expected, the officials of New York City were quite upset. Rosoff had moved before the politicians knew what was happening, and it was all his. The newspapers reported everything that he planned or they thought he might be planning. Of course he knew that New York City would have to build the dam sooner or later.

Owning the only railroad would allow him to underbid competitors for the big job of building tunnels under the Catskills for the water to flow through. He would be able to bring in all the heavy machinery by rail and unload only a few feet from the tunnel he hoped to dig. His nickname was "Subway Sam." New York City officials groaned as they could see the $70,000 that he had paid for the road multiplied many times over. At the very least the city would have to buy and relocate the part of the railroad in the area to be flooded by the reservoir.

Only a few months after Rosoffs takeover, the stock market crash came, and the nation was plunged into the worst Depression in its history. New York could not take on the massive job of reservoir-building until the economy improved, so both sides had to wait, not knowing that .the Depression would continue for a decade and would be immediately followed by another World War.

All through the 1930s Rosoff poured a lot of his own money into the railroad to keep it going. He seemed to enjoy owning his own little D&N. Throughout the Depression, when employment was scarce, D&N employees had jobs.

New York City officials continued to feel nervous. They could see the price going up every week, but they didn't have the money to act immediately. Whatever his motives, Rosoff did make quite a lot of much needed improvements. There were many carloads of
new rails, new ties, and spikes. He reroofed and painted all the stations for the first time since they were built, and put a lot of new equipment in the Margaretville shops. He talked of building a new creameryand of extending the railroad to Wilkes-Barre, to the
coal fields. Month by month, the thirsty city worried about Rosoff and the building of the dam.

The need for maintenance and repair continued. Floods in 1932 took out part of the trestle at the north end of the Dry Brook bridge at Arkville. In the spring of 1942 the flood waters again gave the D&N a lot of trouble. The mud and stones that washed down the
brooks covered the tracks with four feet of rubble in some places. At Cat Hollow, the stones and mud that swept into the kitchen of the Bogart farmhouse were so heavy that the kitchen floor gave way, and the kitchen stove landed in the cellar along with the rocks. The house was so near the tracks that, when it was relieved of all that weight, it swung around and sat directly on the tracks.

Finally, the city could no longer put off its plans to build a new reservoir. The economy had improved, and it was evident that the U.S. might get involved in the war in Europe, bringing a big increase in the price of everything. New York City needed the water as soon as possible; it had to get that railroad and build the dam. So in 1942 a settlement was made, but by that time the United States was involved in World War II, and no construction materials were available for civilian projects. The timing could hardly have been worse, but no one involved in the project believed that the war would last very long. Ironically at a time when gasoline shortages and rationing would have made rail travel economically attractive once more, the D&N ceased operations. The timing was unfortunate for the city as well- by the time construction could begin, the roadbed had been without maintenance so long that it was useless.

During the last few days of the life of the D&N, one of the new heavyweight, lOa-ton hopper cars arrived fully loaded with coal for a customer on the D&N. The car was received at East Branch from the Ontario & Western Railroad, but as soon as it rolled onto the D&N's tracks, it began breaking rails. The D&N crew had to unload the coal into smaller gondolas in order to deliver it to their customer.

October 17, 1942, was a sad day for many people from one end of the old D&N to the other. Even the weather reflected the mood of the people at the loss of their beloved road. It was a cloudy, rainy day and the temperature only got to 44 at one o'clock in the afternoon. Motor car #10, the Brill Car, made its last passenger run. Some of the men had decorated it with bunting, placing an American flag on the rear of the car. Among several people who took this last ride were Kate Lattin and John Francisco. They had also made the trip on the first train to run over the Delaware & Eastern in 1906. The workers returned sadly to their homes, because to all intents and purposes their beloved D&N was now a part of history.

However there was one piece of unfinished business. A partly unloaded box car stood on the siding at the GLF store at Margaretville. So the Brill Car was brought out on Monday the 19th of October to haul the now-empty box car to Arkville and transfer it to the U&D. The D&N's usual luck still held true. Halfway to Arkville, the Brill Car ran out of gas.

Rosoff sold the 19 miles of the railroad that New York City needed for $200,000, leaving him the rest of the road to sell for scrap. About 45,000 tons of iron was sold, at a high price, and was used to build weapons for the war. At the same time, Rosoff was awarded a profitable contract to construct 15 miles of tunnel for New York City, and another contract with the U.S. Government to build the third set of locks for the Panama Canal.

The railroad stations were sold to the highest bidder and the land was returned to the original owners. Rosoff probably made no money on the sale of his railway, as he had put a lot of his own money into it every year that he owned it. Had the railroad stayed in business just a little longer, it probably would have been very busy. The war brought gasoline rationing and a complete moratorium on the building of new trucks and cars for civilian use, so once again as much freight as possible was shipped by rail.

The Pep acton Dam was begun right after World War II and was finished by 1955. New York City tore up the part of the railroad it had purchased, which by this time would have required major repairs. By the time construction began it was more economical to use trucks to transport the material needed to build the dam.

A railroad lives and dies just like the people that it serves. Some live a long time and others die young. The D&N inspired a lot of local pride in all the towns that it served. It filled a great need of the people of the Delaware Valley who loved their railroad. It is gone but not forgotten.

Works Cited

Horton, Gertrude Fitch. The Delaware & Northern and the Towns It Served. Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain, 1989. Print.

 

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