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Remembrances of the O&W
by Richard M. Hanschka & Marjorie Gould
Part I by Richard M. Hanschka
I am from New Jersey originally. My parents home was in Newark. There were many rail lines around us and Dad was a machinist who repaired steam engines.
I used to tag along whenever I could. Uncle Walter Dietz is a Chemical Engineer and did research on fuel and lubricant formulations . Number 601 was a test bed for his work. It was purchased by then ESSO and later turned over to NYO&W. My own background is in Engineering. I have BS in Chemical Engineering and went on after Korea to study nights and get my Mechanical and Metallurgical Engineering ( MS ) degrees.
The O&W stopped running passenger trains just after I had my Chemical Engineering degree and was drafted. The line was shutting down just after I came out of the Army. Wilson Jones was a good friend and photo fan. He sang in the Metropolitan Opera which I enjoyed and also in Radio City Music Hall. Wilson was soloist in the Messiah on several occasions. Uncle Walt is 91 and Wilson 87. Uncle Walt also developed his own pictures and helped much with my photo interests.
There is another O&W tie with my food friend Herman Grossinger. We were in school together and his family used to go to Liberty each year. I believe it was Paul that ran the business some years ago. The hotel business slipped as people traveled further and tended to stay for short time as in motels. I was able to meet many old timers via Charles Fries and the Infirmary at Liberty. He saw the O&W built and saw it torn out. Grandpa Fries was my wife's grandfather. As a result I wound up with souvenir timetables, annual reports and many photos also negatives including those of the line.
The road took photos of coaling facilities, bridges and the shops inside and out. There were people who recognized the names of people Professor Helmer credited with helping with his book. I took time to get to meet those that I could and see what I could. There was a period that everything sat and waited in hope that someone would pick up the pieces. People I met thought the line to Scranton would be picked up as it was far better than the Delaware & Hudson Line for grades and curves. The Erie could have used it also as a connection at Hancock , NY. It never happened. I found out that the whole terminal of Erie in Jersey City was sinking also the DL&W was in very bad shape so the Erie was much interested in DL&W and its terminal. Weehawken was never of any interest to either road as coal business was done too.
I did work as tower operator and station agent on the former Morris & Essex Division of DL&W but it was all going down hill to point the state was planning to take over and even supplied equipment to operated the road. I had offers of jobs with several lines such as the Reading and Pennsylvania but was informed it was not the thing to do as the future was black for eastern roads. My last bit of engineering work was to help restore what was left of former CNE line from Hartford through Bloomfield, CT. You will remember that it was NYO&W coal that heated New England . The trains came to Maybrook, NY on to New England via the Central New England and its Poughkeepsie Bridge.
For over thirty years I lived in Maplewood , NJ where I could watch the Rahway Valley # 15 do her thing from my bedroom. I went to school with Bob Clark . We could walk together some two and half miles to high school. The Clarks operated the railroad but had like one share of stock. I knew Wilson Jones as a good friend and got to know many men at Kingsland. Mr. Peters was the foreman and ran the shop engine. The only bane I remember of the shop and loco fireman was " Happy ". Happy was a very easy going fellow who had no aspirations of wealth or advanced position. He really enjoyed what he did and showed it when asked of his work. I was always asking questions but never found another name for him. Mister Joe Walker was an old timer from the days of a brass check size of a silver dollar. He said he just grew like Topsie and never had formal schooling. This was possible in 1930s and he was not interested in learning to read etc. at his age , but he did like the Bibles and stories in it. He used to mumble about Noah and how he had treated Ham. He felt he was destined to servitude as is in the prophecy. He became known as Mr. Walker as he really had no idea of his proper name as he was dragged up as he said and the railroad let him out of an unhappy life. He cleaned the lamps and walked tracks checking switch lamps and such to clean as needed and refill the oil tank.
I used to write for " The Bulletin " when Whit Towers was editor. This is the house organ of NMRA. Since modelers were copying in model form , the real thing was very important to them. If you dig up the July 1976 issue you will find my article on the Central Of New Jersey's stub terminal in Newark, NJ. NER regional issues of "Coupler" carried my " Soot & Cinders " column of prototype roads. This lead on to Mystic Valley Railroad Society " Waybill " and series on " New England Lost " which is still running. Steam was always my interest but of course electric and diesel operation are all discussed.
Warren Crater was a friend of many years and he recognized my wife as school teacher for his family. He was an Engineer for Central RR Of New Jersey for many years. His last calls were running #4 of ex-Lehigh & Hudson River out of the Route 28 engine house just south of Aldene Jct. with the Rahway Valley. B&O trains were in the yards for Staten Island Rapid Transit now being reopened. Cranford was next town south. Aldene became the junction of CNJ trains switching over to Lehigh Valley through Newark to New York over what was the Pennsylvania. This change led to CNJ being pulled out of Jersey City and its station being used as museum and ferry dock for people to visit the Statue of Liberty. Model train meets are held in the former station now.
Are you familiar with " The Nest Station Is ---" series mostly of Erie and Susquehanna stations ? Along with my friend Wilson Jones , I helped with some of the books. At one point the Erie had rights over the Morristown & Erie so that trains from jersey City ran into Morristown via the Erie as well as the Lackawanna. I had tickets, timetables etc of some things like this Mr. White was an old friend as he and an Uncle started together as yard clerks on the Erie. You may remember him as president of New York Central before Mr. Young. Mr. White headed the Delaware & Hudson also Erie and Erie-Lackawanna. I have the glass plates of the Erie when it was being double tracked for example. You may also know that Erie and Pennsylvania bankrolled the construction of the West Shore RR by NYO&W engineers also the Chenango branch to Syracuse was financed also as the NYO&W never had the money for such ideas. You would need read through old annual reports for it all. The O&W lines to Utica and Rome were built by Delaware & Hudson but never connected to it. Utica Clinton & Binghamton RR is one name. The interest in Rome is obvious as NYO&W connected with Rome Watertown & Ogdensburg RR to Buffalo and the double track line run by Michigan Central which in turn really operated one track of the Canada Southern. This is the line whose tunnel goes into Detroit from Canada to this day , but may be a truck tunnel soon.
My mother was a Dietz and you know of the Vesta Lamp. O&W used to buy cheap and would take unlettered lamps to save a buck. I have a Michigan Central Lamp from O&W. The Wolverine ran the route of O&W first class cars through Canada. The line was sold to CNR I believe by Conrail.
I now live in Bloomfield, CT on Kenwood circle which is off Bloomfield Avenue by St. Thomas Seminary. You have seen Brown Drums of Revolutionary war on up to Civil. Well I can walk up my street and take a path to it. The drummer is using one in painting of soldiers with fife, flag, and the Brown Drum. There is a statue of a drummer boy in center of town and they were in the civil war at about twelve years old. My house is #81 or last of Kenwood Circle with a switch stand out front.
There are many relatives in NY along what was a railroad. The infirmary at Liberty, NY was the last stand for many and where someone could be left. For most it is just something in a book. The railroad took many people out of horse and buggy stage and it was certainly the power behind a new mechanical age. Much is already lost as we tie ourselves to computers and the work is being exported to Ireland, India etc. where English is used. The steam engine was independent but if you ride a modern engine, you will find some guy in Boston really runs it!.
Professor William F. Helmer taught at The State University Of New York. O&W : The Long Life And Slow Death Of The New York Ontario &Western Railway, was among many Robert F. Harding publications and uses some of his photos. Few serious histories were written on rail subjects at this time. The last train order on O&W was 29 March 1957 or just about nine months after I was discharged from the Army. Wilson Jones an old friend of mine took one of the last pictures of a fan special which ran two observation cars so the open platform view was available both ways, and number 503 went on to the Western Pacific RR. The engine had to use the Wye at Roscoe. The guys enjoyed and shared photos they had collected from years past and spoke of Bob Harding. I made it a point to write and find him and met Mr. Harding some years later with my wife and two little daughters. At the time Bob lived at 40 Beach Street in Marblehead, MA. The readers may not know that his dad was William Harding , a long time engineer of steam power on the NYO&W. Bob was agent / telegraph operator at Oneida better known as Oneida Castle now as there was a New York Central Oneida station also. Bob volunteered for the French Army in World War I. He had photos and the French Croix De Guerre and many American medals in his book case. He had become a Sergeant Major and was given the medals when he led his men when the officer were Ors De Combat, or were casualties. He became a First Lieutenant in the American Army. Remember that since the civil war the largest military organization in USA was a Regiment. It was a major undertaking to catch up to the European Trench War.
He was a real genuine hero. His railroad work was over as he lost his hearing. Bob rigged a light to his doorbell as he could see the light as for mail man then yet. He could read lips but that was no help in a station. Even while selling tickets the old timers heard their call if it came and would break off business to attend to a call. The telegraph was much better than a phone as most chatter that came along was not a concern. The phone was a darned nuisance to the men before WWI. You know the sales pitches we now get on the computer. Sylvan Beach was a common destination via a trolley connection at Oneida. People came from Syracuse, NY for example to relax on the beach after a ten mile ride north west.
Of all the things you read about in all the nice table top books people are not the usual subjects, especially ones that did so much for the hobbies. They also don't remember the people who did so much to record a part of history that is so easily forever lost.
Part II by Marjorie V. Gould
I like writing about my "remembrances" and wish there were more people around who remembered them. We lived in the Fish's Eddy station for a few years, I believe shortly after Fred McMorris and family moved to East Branch. We were only there a short time when electricity was put in - one of the electricians would put pennies in my penny loafers and guess that is why I remember it so well. Anyway, having electricity was pretty nice, the house we moved from had a backhouse and we still used kerosene lamps.
One of the fun things of living in the depot was in the Spring when the baby chicks started arriving, and also the baby pigs, and occasionally a dog, which my grandfather would feed and water, and take for a walk. Lots of times at lunch time the section gang would eat in the office, Orlando Davis and sons, Dick and Laverne would often be there. My mother had geranium plants growing in the office window, and the men would poke their orange seeds down in the plants and soon little orange trees would sprout. My mother would fuss a bit about that. I remember the conversation when Dick was leaving the railroad for a $5 a day job, and they all thought that was something.
These were hard times and there weren't many days when a hobo didn't come through. They knew my mother never refused to give them a meal and a very good one. One thing though, she would send down a towel and soap to the waiting room for them to wash their hands and I think some of them thought that was pretty funny. One hobo who came through was called Simonize Sam and he would stay a couple of days and simonize cars in the neighborhood, picking up a few bucks.
Many people from Fish's Eddy worked for the railroad, one being Harold Ostrander whom I often enlist in helping me remember names. When I asked him if he remembered people waiting mornings for the trains to come through to pick up the soft coal (which I thought fell off the engine somehow, and later learned that the fireman would throw off a few extra shovelfuls), he said that his folks burned hard coal. He and his brothers would wait near the R.R. bridge for the coal trains to come through, hop on with bags and grab as much as they could. Our fuel was provided and I felt we were one of the more well to do families in town, even though my mother had one or two dresses, but put on a clean apron everyday. God love her!
Some other names from Fish's Eddy were Sydney Fish, who worked at the Tyler Switch tower, Harold Titus, Bill Wheeler, Harvey Johnston, Art Gibson, John Lakin and many others. I could go on all day, next time would like to "talk about the Beanery".