Oswego, New York

New York, Ontario & Western


On the east side of the river, the New York, Ontario & Western Railway came north from Oneida Lake and Fulton and made a great arc around the northeastern edge of the city to reach a point on the river near its mouth where the coal and later, transfer facilities were located. Arriving as the New York & Oswego Midland in 1868, Oswego was touted as being the great northern rail terminus for goods from New York City to the west. A large car and locomotive shop were originally located here but were closed before 1900.

The roundhouse and car repair shop were located on the outside of the sweeping curve in the northeast corner of the city. Since non-coal freight traffic was relatively light, no major yard was constructed. Tracks paralleling the mainline from the roundhouse area ran along Schuyler Street and almost to the trestles. These tracks were used for holding coal and any other cars required. Two main tracks turned south from the trestle leads to reach the Ames Iron Works, the O&W freighthouse, the O&W station located at East Bridge and Third Streets and the actual end of track just beyond. (Station/Shop Photos). Oddly enough, the track closest to the passenger station was the New York Central line from Watertown and the next track over was the O&W main. A crossover was located just before the unique tunnel carrying the tracks beneath the Oswego County Courthouse. This allowed O&W passenger engines to run around the coaches to the roundhouse.

In 1882, the Delaware & Hudson Coal Company constructed a trestle on the east river front and contracted with the O&W to service it. The Ontario & Western built its own trestle across the slip in 1891. The D&H trestle was gone before 1918 but the O&W trestle transferred millions of tons of coal to sail and steam-powered colliers until it, too, was dismantled in 1938. The tracks leading to the docks ran right along East Schuyler (sky-ler) Street, directly across from the front yards of dozens of soot-plagued Oswegonians. These trestles required a switcher to spot cars on and off them. The O&W trestle had three tracks and the D&H, two, but loading was accomplished only on the sides facing the slip.  (Trestle photos)

As the coal traffic declined in the 1930's, several programs were formulated to change the port into a more varied commodities center. A loader similar to the Lackawanna's was rumored to replace the trestle. A car ferry service across Lake Ontario to Canada was researched but deemed impractical. Slowly, with assistance from state and federal agencies, plus some private funds, a large, long-term modernization project transformed the east side from King Coal's domain to a multi-commodity shipping and receiving point.

With the trestles downed, an extensive reclamation project created an area for warehouses north of the trestle sites, using not only the old slip but also the new river frontage. The state of New York then developed another 1500' of riverfront property south of the slip for transloading bulk commodities between lake freighters and canal boats. Metal, quonset-type buildings were constructed with trackwork and switch throwing mechanisms eventually embedded in the pavement to accommodate trucks moving through the facility. Business was brisk in newsprint for New York City papers, iron ingots, bauxite, lumber, scrap paper and more. Large billboards proclaimed that the O&W was alive and well. (Downey Docks)

In 1957, when the Ontario & Western became the first Class I railroad to be liquidated, the New York Central bought the line from Fulton to Oswego and as Conrail, continued to utilize much of the trackage until very recently.

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western

               New York Central

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