Oswego, New York


Located near the eastern end of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Oswego River, the city of Oswego began to display its advantages early-on by providing both the French and British with a fortified landing site in the early 1700's. The British used the port to land troops for one leg of the famous 1777 "divide and conquer" campaign, which ended in the Herkimer massacre and the victory at Saratoga. Forts have been located at the mouth of the river for over two hundred years. Fort Ontario served as a training center during World Wars I and II and today is open to the public as a museum.

The city itself is divided in half by the Oswego River, which begins north of Syracuse and empties into Lake Ontario. Along its banks in the early nineteenth century was built the Oswego Canal, connecting the port with the inland city of Syracuse and the Erie Canal. Both halves of the city had their share of railroad and shipping activity. While our look at the port and the city will emphasize the post-1930 period, some historical views will be included as available.

Three railroads served the city: the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, the New York, Ontario & Western and the New York Central. Each has predecessor roads that built the original lines into the city. Two, the Lackawanna and New York Central, had successors that eventually culminated as Conrail and now, CSX Corp.

Railroads arrived from the west (NYC), the northeast (NYC) and the south (all three). The Lackawanna ran south on the west side of the Oswego River; the Ontario & Western ran south on the east side of the river and the Central utilized the O&W tracks south to Fulton, where they reached home rails for the remaining miles to Syracuse.

Oswego had a lot of special railroad features within the city limits: 2 tunnels, three coal loading facilities, three yards, two shop complexes, three roundhouses, and three stations.

I spent four years in college in Oswego and I spent a lot of free time around Oswego's railroads or delving into their history. A friendship was struck up with Bob Coleman, the Erie Lackawanna agent, Mike Michaels, the Erie Lackawanna section foreman, and Frank Barbeau, noted area photographer and curmudgeon. Time spent at the EL office led to my be able to save numerous blueprint drawings of track plans, the harbor area and the coal conveyor. My friendship with Frank Barbeau presented the good fortune of being allowed to rummage through two boxes of old negatives and come up with a treasure trove of railroad-related photos. Frank was a commercial photographer with no particular interest in trains, so his photos are not your typical railfan shots but rather, industrial or accident photography that just happened to involve a railroad subject. Some are extreme enlargements of small areas of negatives. The rough grain in some photos is offset by the uniqueness of the subject matter. The large portion of the old views on these pages are credited to Barbeau Studio.

Our tour of Oswego will be divided by railroad. So let's start our tour.

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western

              New York, Ontario & Western

                              New York Central

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