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This article appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of the Rutland Newsliner, Volume 22, Number 4
NORWOOD TO OGDENSBURG AND BEYOND - Railroading in Northern New York Post-Rutland
A visit to Norwood, N.Y. in 1945 was certain not to disappoint, that is, for those who wanted to stand outside the New York Central depot and watch trains. Aside from a complete engine facility (engine house, turntable, coaling plant, etc.), the Central's Norwood yard had four tracks on the 'Massena' side and five on the 'Malone' side that could hold 50 to 75 cars (see track plans in the Newsliner, Spring and Summer 2007). Norwood was at that time an important railroad town because, aside from its own local on-line business, the New York Central also interchanged traffic there with the Rutland Railroad and the Norwood & St. Lawrence Railroad.
New York Central through freights and locals passed through Norwood on their way to and from Montreal, Quebec, Massena and Syracuse, N.Y., crossing the Rutland Railroad mainline just shy of the entrance to the NYC yard (the diamond crossing was almost right on the Potsdam-Norfolk town line). The Central's JS1 (Norwood-Syracuse) and its eastbound counterpart SJ2 interchanged cars with daily Rutland symbol freights #9 (southbound) and #10 (northbound). By the 1950's the pair of NYC freights were resymboled as DN-1 (Dewitt-Massena) and ND-2. Photos of trains 9 and 10 in Norwood are rare because #10 left for Alburgh at 6:00 p.m. while #9 arrived after dark at 9:45 p.m. Most of the year, by train time, it was too dark to take photographs. Moreover, Norwood was an isolated community in northern New York. There wasn't much of a Rutland yard in Norwood in 1945: just the mainline through town, two or three tracks south of the NYC engine house and a run-around track of sorts. In fact, the Rutland used the NYC engine facility to fuel its locomotives and to turn them on the 85-foot turntable. There was, however, a one-trick yard assignment from 3:00 to 11:00 p.,. that switched out train 9 and 10.
Although Norwood depot was no Grand Central Station, there were still a considerable number of passenger trains stopping in town in 1945: five each way on the NYC and two on the Rutland. New York City-bound milk train #8 passed through town at around 8:00 a.m. on its way to Alburgh; its counterpart, #7 returned at 2:30 p.m. on its way to Ogdensburg. Two additional trains, #3 and #6, also plied their way across the North Country, #3 leaving Alburgh at 7:30 a.m. (it met #8 at Malone Junction) which stopped in Norwood at 11:45 p.m. and southbound #6 which departed Ogdensburg at 3:00 p.m. It normally met returning milk train #7 at Madrid. To recap, train time at Norwood on the Rutland was 7:50 a.m., 11:45 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.
Norwood was also served by the Norwood & St. Lawrence R.R., which eneterd town just north of the Rutland diamond crossing with the NYC. Constructed in 1909, the N&SL connected Norwood with Waddington on the St. Lawrence River and was originally owned by the St. Lawrence Paper Co., a predecessor of the St. Regis Paper Co. Large volumes of Canadian pulpwood were offloaded at Waddington and taken in pilpwood cars to Norwood where it was handed off to the NYC for movement to a St. Regis mill in Deferiet, N.Y. Prior to dieselization in 1956, the N&SL rostered two Alco 2-6-0's built in 1923.
The Rutland was the beneficiary of significant interchange traffic from the N&SL. There was a daily milk car from Norfolk to H.P. Hood in Boston, and an occasional car from Waddington consigned either to H.P. Hood or the Center State Milk Co. St. Regis shipped out newsprint, wrapping paper, paper bags and excelsior to Montreal, Chicago and Miami, with the Rutland obtaining some of the Montreal traffic. Into the late 1950's St. Regis Paper was good for several hundred cars of outbound traffic and they also received wooden cores for rolling paper from International Paper in Corinth, N.Y. on the Delaware & Hudson. This traffic likely travelled on the Rutland. Barrett Stone, in Norfolk, a long-time N&SL customer, received inbound tank cars of tar which was used in the production of asphalt. Barrett's gravel quarries also contributed many hopper loads of outbound stone for roadwork or railroad ballast. A point of interest is that the Rutland made up the waybills and did freight billing for the N&SL.
The St. Regis Paper Co. plant in Norwood was served by the Rutland and was located just west of Norwood proper where the Rutland crossed the Raquette River on a large bridge (see photo The Rutland, 60 Years of Trying, Vol. 6, Part 1, The O&LC Division, p. 170, Nimke, 1989). A spur split off the main and went south where it corssed a highway before reaching the mill. The Norwood operation was a casualty of the Great Depression, however one building continues to exist to this day as a power plant.
By the late 1950's, freight business on the Norwood-Ogdensburg section if the Rutland was weak. The volume of business only warranted a local that ran between Malone and ogdensburg every other day (except Sunday), trains MO-1 and OM-2. Bob Nimke's The Rutland, 60 Years of Trying, Vol. VI, Part 1 (Nimke, 1989) records that in 1959, the madrid agency accounted for 166 cars from three feed and fertilizer dealers; Lisbon tallied 198 for three coal, feed and fertilizer dealers, and Ogdensburg registered some 779 cars of lumber, steel, wheat, feed, fertilizer, coal and oil, building materials, cement and whey. Fully 200 cars of the Ogdensburg tally were from American Bridge Co. which had recently completed construction of the Ogdensburg-Johnstown international bridge. The only significant consignees in the Port were the G.L.F. (feed and fertilizer), George Hall Corp. (coal and oil), St. Lawrence Hospital (coal), Wirthmore Feeds and Western Condensing (whey). That year, just 26 cars were loaded with wheat from the elevator. In total, the Rutland averaged little more than three cars a day on its western extremity.
Once the decline of railroading in the North Country began, it became a spiriting-sapping series of train-offs and abandonments. Following its petition to the Interstate Commerce Commission in the fall of 1948, the ICC gave the Rutland permission to remove trains #3 and 6 as of February 1, 1949. Milk trains 7 and 8 followed in June 1953 when all Rutland passenger train service came to an abrupt end. By 1956 the only passenger trains making a stop in Norwood were the daily RDC 'Beeliners', #'s 609 and 610 which operated six days a week between Massena and Syracuse, and overnight trains 7 and 8 which stopped in Norwood at 9:45 a.m. (northbound) and 5:45 p.m. (southbound).
Following the September 1960 strike on the Rutland which laster 41 days, the only trains left in the North Country were locals OA-2 and AO-1 which handled all local business between Ogdensburg and Alburgh (out one day from Alburgh, back the next) and JA-2 and AJ-1 which were operated daily between Norwood and Alburgh (trains UR-2/RU-1 and RD-2/DR-1 were the other components of what was once through freights 9/10/119/120 between Norwood and Bellowd Falls, Vt.). One year later, it was all over. The Rutland Railway stopped operations, forever, on September 25th, 1961. Norwood grew very quiet.
With the official abandonment of the Rutland in 1963, the State of Vermont became the owner of the Rutland’s right-of-way in the Green Mountain State as far north as Burlington. In New York State, the New York Central Railroad, which had running rights over the Rutland from Norwood to Malone Junction, was potentially interested in purchasing that section of the line. Both the City of Ogdensburg, which wanted to protect its port status, and the State Mental Hospital which received coal for its heating plant by rail, lobbied hard for the Norwood-Ogdensburg section of track to be kept in operation. Push came to shove in 1965. By that time, the Rutland's tracks in Vermont north of Burlington had been lifted and the NYC had decided against buying the Norwood-Malone Junction line except for a small section of track in Malone.
In 1966 the Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority, using a secured federal grant of $410,000, stepped in and purchased the 26 miles of track. The OBPA at that time was the operator of the new bridge over the St. Lawrence River to Johnstown, Ontario, a bus line that connected Ogdensburg with Prescott, and the local Ogdensburg International Airport. Now the owner of a railroad, the OBPA's challenge was to find an operator. The NYC, which enjoyed access to Ogdensburg with its own line from DeKalb Jct., did not believe there was sufficient traffic on the former Rutland and declined to bid on the Norwood operation. Another possible operator was the Vermont Railway, a new company that had just leased most of the former Rutland trackage in Vermont. Upon learning that the State Mental Hospital was giving consideration to the conversion of its heating plant from coal to natural gas, VTR declined to get involved for fear of ending up with an operation that had no traffic potential.
On August 15, 1967 a new operator was found in Herbert Heidt, a Middletown, N.Y. restauranteur. Heidt established the Ogdensburg & Norwood Railway (O&N) and brought in an ex-Delaware & Hudson S-4 (# 3048), which was repainted red and white and renumbered #1 (this locomotive was actually owned by the OBPA). Operations began on November 16th, however barely a year later, Heidt ended service on November 1st, 1968 citing an operational deficit. As the Vermont Railway had previously assumed, shipments of coal to the hospital were the only major source of revenue for the O&N and when the State Hospital did switch to natural gas, it was all over. Consequently, after a lengthy application process to the ICC, the OBPA was forced to become the operator of its own railroad. After a hiatus of almost two years, the O&N resumed operations in September 1970 with locomotive #1 now lettered 'OBPA'. Business was so poor that annual losses had to be subsidized from toll bridge receipts, but fortunately for the OBPA, the State Mental Hospital decided that natural gas had become too expensive and reverted back to coal. This former piece of the Rutland had been saved from abandonment and it was about to get bigger.
As mentioned above, the origins of the Norwood & St. Lawrence R.R. date back to 1899 when Norwood businessman Orrin Martin, along with Charles Remington of Watertown, N.Y., formed a partnership, the Remington & Martin Paper Company. This firm secured water rights on the Raquette River in Norfolk as well as a charter to build a railroad. Remington & Martin built three paper mills, in Norwood, Norfolk and Raymondville, as well as the Norwood & Raymondville R.R. to haul their product to market. Incorporated on March 30, 1901, the N&R was to connect the three mills with the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad (NYC) and the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain Railroad (Rutland) at Norwood. The line was opened between its namesake towns on July 2nd, 1901.
Remington & Martin enlarged its railroad operations on November 25, 1908 with the chartering of the Raymondville & Waddington Railroad which extended the existing N&R to Waddington, a small town on the St. Lawrence River. While construction was in progress, the R&W was merged with the Norwood & Raymondville Railroad on January 6, 1909, and subsequently was renamed the Norwood & St. Lawrence Railroad. By June 1909, construction had been completed between Raymondville and Waddington allowling pulpwood from Quebec to be unloaded in Waddington and hauled by rail to Remington & Martin's mills.
Im 1903, New York State businessman Frank Augsbury founded the De Grasse Paper Company in Pyrites, N.Y. Augsbury maintained ownership of the mill until 1919 when it was sold to the New York World newspaper. When the mill was being constructed, a 3-mile long woods railroad was completed to a junction with the RW&O. At the time, Augsbury realized that the local wood supply would not be sufficient to supply his mill's needs, therefore when the N&SL was opened to Waddington, he created the Canada Shipping Company in 1910. This company became a major player in the transport of pulpwood from Quebec to Waddington and in 1917 it was bought up and merged into the George Hall Coal & Shipping Company. From 1923 until 1971, the Hall Company's ships would operate continuously on the St. Lawrence River between Godbout, Quebec and Waddington, supplying pulpwood to the mills on the N&SL as well as others in Odgensburg. In 1924, after having sold his mill operations at Pyrites, Augsbury purchased the Algonquin Mill in Ogdensburg which he held on to until 1944. It has been written that about 50,000 cords of pulpwood were unloaded at Waddington in the average year.
By 1912, the N&SL roster included 4 locomotives, 7 box cars, 4 flat cars and 3 company service cars. In 1920, Remington & Martin was purchased by the St. Regis Paper Company which eventually closed down the mill at Raymondville and the Norwood operation served by the Rutland. The mill in Norfolk continued in operation but eventually, in 1962, it too was slated to close. However, the town fought to keep it in operation and it was eventually sold to the Simplicity Pattern Co. For many years, pulpwood continued to be unloaded at Waddington and shipped out over the N&SL/NYC routing to Deferiet, NY. A little known fact about the N&SL is that it also had a passenger operation that was well patronized until it ended in 1948.
Although not a largely profitable railroad in its later years, the N&SL had made ends meet in the 1950's and 1960's. It was affected sharply by the St. Lawrence Seaway & Power Project which was completed in 1957. The yard in Waddington had to be relocated, with a little over a mile of rails to be relocated. The coming of the Seaway hurt the railroad’s business, although it should be stated that the paper making industry in northern New York was already in decline. Larger companies were swallowing up smaller ones, while many of the smaller mills that refused to sell, or were of no interest to the major players, simply closed down. The change was dramatic. In 1971, the N&SL had handled 2500 carloads, but in the following year the number dropped to 161! Diminishing volumes of imported Quebec pulpwood crushed the N&SL, to the point where parent St. Regis Paper Company, applied to the I.C.C. on June 2, 1973 for the railroad's abandonment.
In early January 1975, James McGuiness, executive director of the Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority, met with St. Regis Paper Co.'s manager of transportation who indicated that the paper company did not want to abandon its existing and potential customer base. Would the OBPA take over the N&SL? The offer included the right-of-way from Norwood to Waddington, two GE 70-ton locomotives, engine house and shop facilities, maintenace equipment, 24 acres of industrial land and the port facility in Waddington. In addition, the paper company would throw in an additional $20,000. At the end of the meeting, the Norwood & St. Lawrence R.R. was on its way to being absorbed into the OBPA's Ogdensburg & Norwood Railway.
More trackage was added to the O&N in 1976. When Conrail was created on April 1st of that year, the 20 mile long former Ogdensburg Secondary from DeKalb Junction to Ogdensburg (and a spur in Ogdensburg along the river, part of the original line to Utica), was not included in the Final Syatem Plan, and therefore available to a potential operator. With a subsidy from the state, the Ogdensburg & Norwood took over the branch, guaranteeing that business on the west side of Ogdensburg along the river would retain rail service. It should be noted that the NYC and Rutland never had a physical connection in Ogdensburg, their tracks being bisected by the Oswegatchie River.
After acquiring the Ogdensburg Secondary, the OBPA began negotiations with Washington D.C.-based National Railway Utilization Corporation, a leasing outfit that was one of several interested in establishing a boxcar fleet to help alleviate a national shortage of this type of car. NRUC identified the former N&SL property in Norfolk as an ideal location at which to set up a manufacturing operation and a deal was finalized on April 1, 1977, at which time the NRUC-operated St. Lawrence Railroad replaced the state-operated Ogdensburg & Norwood.
A converted Simplicity Pattern Co. warehouse and a new paint shop were constructed on the N&SL's Norfolk property in 1978 to build and paint what was expected to be orders for thousands of blue boxcars. Between 1977 and 1979, NRUC did order 4,600 boxcars from a number of U.S. car builders. In 1978, over 2,000 railroad wheel sets arrived in Ogdensburg on two ships and were set out on the foundation of the former Rutland warehouse #8 before delivery to Norfolk. The car building facility went on to build approximately 710 cars lettered for the St. Lawrence, Pickens and Middletown & New Jersey railroads. However, in 1979 the box car assembly building burned to the ground (the paint shop remained) effectively ending car production in Norfolk.
In 1982, news of potential new shipments of grain was swirling at the OBPA and rehibilitation of the silos at the old grain elevator was undertaken. This work took almost a year and included the restoration od electricity for the first time in twenty years. At the same time, the Butler building which the Rutland had constructed in 1956 to increase storage capacity to 500,000 bushels, was used from 1978 to 1984 as a warehouse by the Corning Glass plant in Canton, N.Y. and received three to four covered hoppers a week of silica. However, bu 1986, with no prospects for new business at the grain elevator, OBPA decided to tear down the structure. The silos were taken down by a wrecking ball and the head house by dynamite blast. On a warm August afternoon, the blast was set off, the building shook and tilted to the land side away from the river. The head house went over but the remainder of the structure rocked and stood soundly! A miscalculation on the part of the engineers ended up creating an additional four weeks of demolition by wrecking ball.
With limited new business, NRUC went out of business in June 1990 after which the boxcar fleet was liquidated. NRCU had been removed as operator of the Ogdensburg line in March of the same year, but to their credit, between 1977 and 1990, the SLRR had often provided five days a week service to its customers and had attempted to introduce piggyback service out of Ogdensburg that was directed at Canadian business.
In 1978, the lone paper mill on the DeKalb branch south of Ogdensburg closed down, and since it was the only major source of traffic, the railroad terminated its lease agreement and the Ogdensburg Secondary reverted to Conrail until a new shortline operator could be found. A decision was also made by the OBPA to move all of its port operations to Ogdensburg and close down the Waddington facility. This occurred in 1985 and since there was no other business to sustain operations between Norfolk and Waddington, this section of track was abandoned.
With the demise of NRUC, the Port Authority, being undecided whether to keep the railroad or put it in mothballs, turned to Robert Dingman, a western New York businessman, who organized the St. Lawrence & Racquette River Railroad. The SL&RR was almost a best-kept secret because the company maintained the former NRUC colour scheme and SLRR predecessor name on the three locomotives (GE 70 tonners #'s 10 and 11, and Alco S4 #1) and operated approximately three times a week or on an "as needed" basis. The SLRR became a successful landlord for stored railroad cars. The railroad cleared out all of its sidings and yard tracks to increase capacity. In Norood, all four former N&SL yard tracks were uncovered and repaired in order to hold cars. It has been reported that the SLRR hosted approximately 200 cars a day, at a rate of $5 a day, for quite a long period of time.
The St. Lawrence & Racquette River R.R. limped along for eight years until its lease expired and the OBPA turned to Eyal Shapira, of Newton, Mass., who formed the New York & Ogdensburg Railway in September 1998. NYOG had big plans to develop business at the Port of Ogdensburg in conjunction with the Port Authority's contruction of a truck-to-train transloading facility. Attempts were made by NYOG, in conjunction with CSX, the successor to Conrail in the North Country, to bring business from and to Canada, specifically wheat, clay slurry, petroleum, plastic pellets and road salt.
Beginning in 2001, the OBPA began to replace the former Rutland's 70 and 85 pound rail dating back to 1899, as well as thousands of ties, using a state grant of $1 million. Additional funds materialized almost every year during the course of the next decade and inaddition to rail and ties, the work included installation of signalled grade crossings, substantial ditching and brush clearing and strengthening of bridges to allow for 286,000 lb. freight cars. This latter goal has not yet been met but is getting there. In 2010, the OBPA was awarded an additional $1.7 million to continue upgrading of the line between lisbon and Norwood. As well, an additional $1.1 million was awarded to the Authority by the State to build a new access road to the Port running the length of the yard on Ford Street. There had been high hopes that Chatham Forest Products, a New Hampshire-based company, would build a $130 million strandboard plant in Lisbon. Alas, this has not taken place due to the decline in the economy.
As a result of disagreements bwteen NYOG management and the OBPA, another changing of the guard took place in April 2002 when the Vermont Rail System took over the New York & Ogdensburg Railway. Interestingly, this action brought all the former existing Rutland Railway back under a single management.
The present NYOG operates with three locomotives: EMD SW900 No. 14, EMD SW9 #12 (held in reserve) both of which are owned by the OBPA, and Vermont Rail System GP18 #801 which was moved to northern New York during winter 2008 to assist with increased business. The run from Norwood to Ogdensburg and return is made at least once a week, but mostly on an "as needed" basis. The employees are jack of all trades - either locomotive engineer, conductor, shop employee, maintenance of way worker; whatever the job requirement is on any given day.
Service is provided as needed but rarely less than three trains a week handle approximately 1200+ carloads a year to customers APC Paper in Norfolk (the former Simplicity Pattern building), Potters Industries in Norfolk, and Hoosier Magnetics and Seaway Bulk Services in Ogdensburg. SBC (a Vermont Rail System operation) handles dry commercial productssuch as salt, plastic pellets, livestock feed, and liquid products such as oil. The transload facility had previously been built in the former Rutland yard in 1999 by CSX, but the latter gave up on the operation when it failed to meet its minimum traffic requirements. It should be added that NYOG routinely partners with OBPA to develop new traffic.
In early December 2010, NYOG and Knowlton and Son. Inc. (K&S) jointly announced that NYOG would serve a newly constructed bulk commodities transfer terminal on River Road in Norwood. K&S has worked with the OBPA and NYOG for several years to deliver commodities such as glass cullet, road salt, ferrites and a variety of agricultural feed and grain products to the entire North Country and it is anticipated that the new 'Norwood Terminal' will bring additional business to both NYOG and K&S.
Locomotives and presently maintained in the Norfolk engine house where NYOG, with assistance from the OBPA, has recently replaced the roof, siding and doors.
Although with time the visual connection between the former Rutland Railway and the present day VRS operation has continued to disappear, there are still some reminders of the past. A case in point is that until recently most of the switch stands on the Norwood-Ogdensburg line were all of the original 1850s harp style, and if one looks closely enough, there are still reminders among the railroad ties (1927, 1929, 1932, 1936) of the last major rehibilitation of the line.
The author wishes to thank the following for their assistance in preparation of this article: Colin Churcher, assistance with locomotive roster; Jerome Hebda, Vice-President, NYOG; Robert C. Jones, Vermont Rail System (2006); Mark Laundry, personal Norwood & St. Lawrence R.R. website; Bill Linley, additional information and photographs; Susan Lyman, Rails Into Racquetteville (1976); Steve Mumley, assistance with Rutland and N&SL traffic data; Tim Redmond "New York & Ogdensburg Gets Major Upgrade", Railpace (August 2006) and updates on current NYOG operations.
All-Time OBPA/N&SL/NYOG Locomotive Roster
A report from 1912 had stated that the Norwood & St. Lawrence owned two locomotives with a 4-4-0 wheel arrangement (one being second hand), a 2-6-0 and a 2-6-2. No further identification was made in that report.
#1 - Alco S4, built in October 1950, serial #78407. Started life as #3038 on the Delaware & Hudson; May 1966, became Ogdensburg & Norwood #1 and relettered to OBPA in 1967; became St. Lawrence #1 in 1990, then St. Lawrence & Racquette #1 in September 1998; the following year it was New York & Ogdensburg #1; soon afterwards was purchased by a private owner who kept it in the Norfolk yard; it was scrapped in 2007 on site.
#10 - GE 70-ton, built in April 1956, serial #32567. Started life as #10 on the Norwood & St. Lawrence; January 1975, became Ogdensburg & Norwood #10 (OBPA); became St. Lawrence #10 in April 1977, then St. Lawrence & Racquette #10 in 1990; eight years later it was sold to a dealer company, Merrilees, who leased the unit out to several industries. It was scrapped in 2010.
#11 - GE 70-ton, built in April 1956, serial #32568. Started life as #11 on the Norwood & St. Lawrence; January 1975, became Ogdensburg & Norwood #11 (OBPA); became St. Lawrence #10 in April 1977, then in 1985 it was sold to a dealer company, Merrilees, who leased the unit out to Sidbec Dosco as #15; April 1986 it was Nelson Aggregates as #1512-85 then at another Nelson Aggregate plant as #07070. It was scrapped in 1996.
#12 - EMD SW9, built in November 1951, serial #14929. Started life as #703 on the Atlantic Coast Line; July 1967, became Seaboard Coast Line #185; became St. Lawrence #12 in 1985; then St. Lawrence & Racquette River #12 in 1990, now New York & Odgensburg #12 since September 1998.
#14 - steam engine, wheel arrangement of 2-8-0. Was borrowed from the St. regis Paper Company in Deferiet, N.Y.
#14-2 - EMD SW900, built in 1959, serial #23458. Started life as #908 on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific; 1987, became St. Lawrence #14; then St. Lawrence & Racquette River #14 in 1990, now New York & Odgensburg #14 since September 1998.
#207 - steam engine, wheel arrangement of 4-4-0.
#210 - Alco 2-6-0, built in December 1923, serial #65265. Started life as #210 on the Norwood & St. Lawrence; then was sold to Abe Cooper (scrapper) in 1956; a private owner purchased it and then it went to the Steamtown National Historical Site in Scranton, PA.
#211 - Baldwin 2-6-0. Started life as #211 on the Norwood & St. Lawrence; 1956, it went to a paper mill in Carthage, N.Y.
#801 - EMD CP18, built in April 1961, serial #26655. Started life as #600 on the Toledo, Peoria & Western; December 1983, became Vermont Railway #801.