The New York, Ontario & Western Railway was incorporated in 1882 to succeed the bankrupt New York & Oswego Midland Railroad. The railroad ran from Cornwall on the Hudson River to Oswego on Lake Ontario, with branches to Kingston, Port Jervis, Monticello, Delhi, Utica, Rome, Scranton, and an ill-fated branch toward Auburn. The O&W was the first major railroad to completely abandon. The last train ran on March 29, 1957.
Beginning in Weekawken, New Jersey and running north over the West Shore, the O&W found home rails at Cornwall and headed off toward Middletown, the Catskills, Sidney, Norwich and Oswego. Branches to Kingston, Port Jervis, Edmeston, Utica and Rome never quite made the impact that the Scranton Division did. While the Catskills provided great passenger revenues during the decades of summer tourism by train, the black diamonds coming from the Scranton area demanded double tracking of not only the branch but a good portion of the mainline from the junction of the branch at Cadosia to Cornwall. The revenue from coal paid for that and more.
The O&W was a believer in the camelback locomotive, having more double cab engines on the all-time steam roster than traditional single cabs. And why not? Anthracite coal was plentiful in the Scranton area and camelbacks were suited to burning it better than single cab engines. The camelbacks lasted almost up to the last years of steam. Diesels came in 1941 in the form of five GE 44-ton switchers. They were followed in 1945 by nine sets of FT A&B units, then three F3As, two sets of F3A&B units and 21 NWs switchers in 1948.
After World War II, with tourists flocking to their automobiles and buses and forsaking the train, and use of coal for industry and heating began to decline, bridge traffic kept the O&W going. Interchanging with the Lehigh Valley in the Scranton area and the New Haven at Maybrook, New York, the O&W created its own alphabet route sending meat and produce from the west to New York City and New England. This traffic and the switch to diesels still couldn't stop the red ink from increasing on the O&W's ledgers. The end came with the last train on March 29, 1957--the O&W became the largest railroad to be abandoned until the Rock Island in the 1980s.
Scrap trains ran in a few areas, tearing up the rails and salvageable materials along the way. The New York Central picked up small pieces of track here and there plus the Fulton to Oswego line they had used via trackage rights since the late 1800s. The Erie picked up the mainline past the Middletown station and headquarters to reach its Pine Bush Branch. The Lackawanna picked up some trackage in Utica and other roads picked up mine branches in the Scranton area. But the O&W was for the most part returned to Mother Nature.
The following links will take you to various locations, times and events that hopefully will bring the Old & Weary to life for you.
All Americans have been thinking more about the men and women who defend our country in times of war. If the O&W was around today, it probably would have done the same thing it did after World War I. This memorial booklet lists the names of employees who served, and some who lost their lives, during Mr. Wilson's Great War.
So you always wanted to be an O&W trainman, eh? This booklet from 1900 tells you the progression to be promoted and what your rates of pay would be on different trains between different cities.
Kingston Branch-Summitville to Ellenville
Visit Oswego, New York
More Items of O&W Interest
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