Oswego, New York

New York Central


Crossing the city from northeast to southwest, the New York Central captured the bulk of the non-coal business in Oswego. Created by merging several small roads begun in the early 1800's, the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad completed its route from Watertown through Oswego to Suspension Bridge in Niagara Falls in 1876. In 1891, the RW&O became part of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.

The line from Watertown entered Oswego in the northeast quadrant near the O&W roundhouse and ran parallel with the O&W line down East Schuyler Street to the O&W station, through the courthouse tunnel, across the Oswego River (Photo 1, 2 and 3.) and along the north side of West Utica Street. Conveniently, the New York Central passenger station (
Photo 4, 5 and 6) was directly across Utica Street from the Lackawanna station and is the only station remaining today, albeit masquerading as a grocery store.

The tracks then passed behind the Lackawanna roundhouse to West Yard, a 692-car capacity facility with a roundhouse that once had thirty stalls (but was reduced to ten by the 1940's), a wye and complete servicing facilities.

On the east side of town, several paper companies, the Fitzgibbons Boiler Company and a large freighthouse (Photo 7 and 8) provided good revenues, while a candy company and several smaller industries provided switching on the west side. The RW&O did try a coal trestle directly on the lakefront just east of Fort Ontario but with no protection from rough water, it proved impractical. Coal from southerly Central territory was interchanged with the Lackawanna and unloaded at their facility.

In 1937, the Niagara-Hudson Power Corporation, now known as Niagara Mohawk, began construction of a multi-million dollar coal-fired power plant (Photo 9) on the lake, west of the city near the state college. It was originally intended that lake boats would supply the necessary coal during the navigational season, with trains filling in during inclement weather when lake shipping ceased. Eventually, a reversing loop track was built and unit coal trains would bring in 100 cars or more for unloading by Niagara Mohawk crews onto a huge mountain of coal in the center of the loop. These trains had a bad habit of stalling in the courthouse tunnel due to water or ice making the rails extremely slippery. As a result, several grade crossings would be blocked for long periods of time, tieing up traffic all over the east side. More than once the conductor called the yard for the switcher to help them out before the police would escort him to court as the railroad's representative and fine him for obstructing traffic. A change to oil-fired boilers in 1972 saw the reinstatement of fuel arriving by ship during the navigation season, supplemented by modern TankTrain unit trains from Canada on a combined NYC-DL&W trackage routing.

In the winter, the unique New York Central "jet plow" made regular visits to Oswego in supplement the wing plow stationed at West Yard. These strange innovations in snow removal consisted of a flat car with a caboose-type body on one end and a surplus jet engine mounted on the other. As the rising decibels assaulted your ears, the jet exhaust and heat sent snow and debris flying in all directions. It appears this was used mainly to clear the closely-spaced yard tracks and sidings.

Today, trains no longer cross from the east side to the west side through the courthouse tunnel and the long bridge. Recently, the tunnel has become part of a walking trail through the city. Conrail, then CSX, use the old Lackawanna line to reach the west side of Oswego from Syracuse and the old O&W line to reach east side industries. The Ontario Midland runs the old RW&O line west of Oswego and the line to Watertown is abandoned.

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western

               New York, Ontario & Western

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