By Ted Jackson
The Bath & Hammondsport Railroad
As the name would imply, this nine-mile railroad ran between Hammondsport, at the head of Keuka Lake, and Bath where it connected with the Erie Railroad. In the case of this little railroad, the B&H began its life as an independent entity, was briefly absorbed into the Erie and later regained its independence.
Interest in a railroad along this route was generated as soon as the Buffalo, Corning & New York Railroad reached Bath. As one of the Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake already had generated considerable commerce and was connected to Seneca Lake by the Crooked Lake Canal which was completed in 1833. Seneca Lake had already been connected to the Erie Canal by means of the Seneca & Cayuga Canal which had been opened five years earlier. The opening of the Crooked Lake Canal coincided with the incorporation of the Village of Penn Yan.
Penn Yan got its first railroad in 1851. The Canandaigua & Elmira was one of three railroads controlled or operated by the New York & Erie that furnished a route between Elmira and Suspension Bridge near Niagara Falls. Another railroad, the Sodus Bay, Corning & Southern was incorporated in 1871 to run from Penn Yan to a connection with the Erie at Savona, six miles south of Bath (AY). A little preliminary grading was carried out by it and two succeeding companies, the second of these being the Penn Yan, Lake Keuka & Southern which was incorporated in 1899 (AW). Eventually, it was graded from Savona up to Bradford, NY and later to WayneIV? but with the exception of a little trackage within Savona itself, that was all. Even so, Penn Yan had a railroad but as of 1871, Hammondsport had nothing.
It was not until January 17, 1872 that sufficient organization and support had been received so that the Bath & Hammondsport Railroad was able to receive a charter from the State of New York (PU). Authorized capitalization was $700,000. It would be a three-foot narrow gauge line. The B&H was also authorized to construct a line from Bath to Hornellsville although this never came to be. The president of the road was C.D. Champlin of Hammondsport.
The line was completed on June 30, 1875, amid much fanfare. The railroad combined their occasion with a celebration of the America’s 99th year of Independence on July 5, 1875. Festivities included a 99-gun salute, a parachute jump from the steeple of the Presbyterian Church, band concerts, and fireworks. They also included two steamships conducting excursions on Keuka Lake. The B&H maintained hourly service during the day (CO). Bath had had a similar affair two days earlier.
In addition to the customary freight traffic of the day such as outgoing produce and incoming coal and general merchandise, the Bath & Hammondsport shipped out wine produced by local wineries and called itself “The Champagne Route.” Passenger service connected with the New York, Lake Erie & Western in Bath and an array of Keuka Lake boats at Hammondsport. This presented the B&H with the opportunity to promote excursions during the summer seasons.
On August 17, 1889, the track was re-laid to standard gauge although the B&H had to shut down for six month s in order to accomplish this (BT,PU). Now came the “glory days” for the B&H. In 1892, the Lake Keuka Navigation Company absorbed its largest competitor, the Crooked Lake Navigation Company, which brought a number of steamboat operations under one flag. Reference to an 1893 schedule of both the Bath & Hammondsport and the boat company reveals that they both had the same president, Charles W. Drake. (1893TT, 6.18) He had obtained control of the B&H in 1890 and the Lake Keuka Navigation Company shortly afterward (BX). As a result, there were two boat-train connections in both directions listed. In addition to these scheduled connections, there were numerous excursions offered throughout the season. By the turn of the century, some Sunday excursion traffic was so heavy that equipment would sometimes be borrowed from the nearby Kanona & Prattsburg Railroad. To facilitate this arrangement, both the K&P and the B&H had limited running rights over the Erie between Bath and Kanona.
Enter the Erie
With the administration of Erie Railroad president Frederick Underwood, the company began acquiring shares of the B&H and by 1908 it had obtained control (PU). It had already purchased the Lake Keuka Navigation Company on November 16, 1906 (Q). One reason the Erie was interested in these operations was that it felt the grape and wine business could be expanded. To that end, the Erie appointed grape specialist F. W. Gristock of Penn Yan as a commercial agent in Hammondsport and planned to construct warehouse and dock facilities to handle this business (BY). The Erie also added two freighters to its fleet on Keuka Lake. These were the Rochester and the Elmira which were flat bottom boats with gasoline engines. Though designed primarily for freight traffic, these boats did carry passengers as well.
This operation, which was doing so well, experienced a very sudden decline about the time of World War I. The success of the private automobile resulted in a sharp decline in steamboat traffic with the result that scheduled service ended in December 1917 (Q). Passenger service on the B&H itself continued into the mid-1920s. The freighter boats were sold in 1919. Some freight business continued on Keuka Lake for a few more years until most of it was lost to trucks.
The other nail in the coffin was the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919 that brought about the Prohibition Era which seriously curtailed the wine and liquor business. With the sharp decrease in freight traffic, the B&H struggled to survive into the Great Depression of the 1930s. The motive power was worn out but the little line’s business did not justify the acquisition of any new equipment. Between 1913 and 1926, the Erie brought in a series of four of their older 2-8-0’s which had been built in the 1880s. These engines were relatively light and with five axles could easily distribute their weight on the light rails. (See examples of class H1 2-8-0’s in Appendix B and elsewhere in this book.).
Exit the Erie
On July 8, 1935, the southern tier of New York State experienced some severe flooding which resulted in washing out part of the B&H line (KP). In particular, near the Fish Hatchery, a hole 20 feet deep, 50 feet wide and 300 feet long disrupted both the railroad and the highway. The Erie concluded that this would be the final reason for getting rid of this continual money loser and put the line up for abandonment. Permission to do so was obtained August 23, 1935 from the Interstate Commerce Commission. A group of Hammondsport businessmen offered to take over the line and an arrangement was made with the Erie to do so on May 28, 1936 (KP). Not only did the new organization receive the Erie’s blessing but the Erie leased them a 4-6-0, 860. It took a year to rebuild the line but operations resumed July 4, 1936.
Shortly after thereafter, the B&H organized the Wine Special. This was a special train to which 100 outside railroad officials had been invited. The train went from Bath to Hammondsport where the guests were taken to the Glenwood Club for what one journalist described as “a prolonged session of wining and dining in the famed Hammondsport tradition (CQ).”
A new, independent Bath & Hammondsport officially emerged in 1937. One of the first orders of business was to obtain some new motive power. The ten-wheeler they had received from the Erie was too heavy for the light rail that the B&H was constructed with, and seemed to spend about as much time on the ground as on the track (CQ). It was returned to the Erie when, in April, 1938, the B&H acquired what may have been their most famous steam locomotive, 2-6-0 #11. This was acquired from Rhode Island’s Narragansett Pier Railroad and was the mainstay of the B&H for over ten years. Not only did it handle all of the B&H freight business but numerous passenger excursions as well. When it came time to dieselize, the B&H stored this locomotive rather than scrap it and in 1953, it was sold to Rail City, an early operating railroad museum in Sandy Creek, New York (CR).
In 1949, the B&H got its first diesel, D-1, a 44-ton locomotive built by General Electric. At this time its freight business was running about 1,200 cars a yearCR. In 1959, they acquired D-2, a 25-ton Plymouth locomotive. D-2 proved too light for the task and was sold in 1963 when the B&H bought another 44-tonner. These two labored on, often in tandem, until 1970 when an Alco S-1 was obtained (BT). Another S-1 was acquired the following year.
Deregulation and Expansion
In the meantime, dramatic changes were occurring among the railroads of the Northeast. Conrail was formed in 1976 out of several bankrupt northeastern railroads including the connecting Erie Lackawanna. While Conrail took these over, it was not obliged to keep all of it and so the portion of the EL from Wayland to Kanona was purchased by the Steuben County Industrial Development Authority. On April 1, 1976, SCIDA chose the Bath & Hammondsport to operate that trackage (BZ,KP). This tripled the range of B&H operations.
On February 25, 1993, the Steuben County Industrial Development Authority acquired all of the assets of the Bath & Hammondsport with the exception of the trackage north of NY Route 54A and the property associated which was retained for real estate development (RL). On March 19, SCIDA leased all of it to the Champagne Railroad which began operations two days later (BZ). That same year, the SCIDA acquired from Conrail the section of track between Kanona and Bath so that they now owned a continuous route from Wayland through Bath to Hammondsport. The president of the Champagne Railroad was Stanley Clark who had earlier built a 300-passenger boat, the Keuka Maid (CB). Clark created a dinner train that ran between Cohocton and the Taylor Winery outside of Hammondsport. This train was operated by the Champagne Railroad but was actually a separate subsidiary, the Burgundy Champagne Railroad, Inc. As the BCR would not be involved in any other operations except a recreational dinner train, nor carry on any interchange with other railroads and was located entirely within New York State, it was thus was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission (CA).
The BCR commenced operations July 4, 1994. (Pix 6.62,6.63) This resurgance in passenger operations would be brief as Clark died August 6, 1995. The BCR operation was discontinued shortly afterwards. In April 1996, The Steuben Country Industrial Development Authority chose the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad as the new operator of the B&H and they began operations on May 9 of that year. In November 1996, severe flooding from a storm did considerable damage to the line between Bath and Cohocton. SCIDA and the LA&L obtained a FEMA grant to help repair the line (RL). The LA&L also reopened the section of the line between Cohocton and Wayland which had been out of service for a number of years.
On January 1,2001, the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad transferred operations over to the Conhocton Valley Railroad Corporation, a subsidiary of the LA&L (CD,KP). Later that year, it was renamed the B&H Rail Corporation. On November 3, 2001, B&H Rail leased from the Norfolk Southern its ex-Erie Lackawanna line from Bath to Painted Post where interchange took place (CC). At the time of this writing, B&H had established a new facility at Coopers Plains to handle freight cars associated with proposed natural gas projects in the area that would use hydrofracking techniques. If these projects were to be approved by New York State, it would result in a significant increase in freight traffic on B&H.
At the present time, B&H Rail Corporation operates 52 miles of track from Wayland through Bath to Painted Post, while the original line from Bath to Hammondsport remains intact but largely out of service. Quite a contrast from the struggling narrow gauge line that began operations in 1875! No small amount of this success is due to the far-sightedness of Steuben County and its Industrial Development Authority.
Dansville & Mount Morris Railroad
The first interest in railroads in the Dansville area occurred with the Dansville & Rochester Railroad which received its charter on March 22, 1832. Surveys were commenced in July of that year (U).The principal promoters were Judge Charles H. Carroll of Mt. Morris and Dr. James Faulkner of Dansville. Although it began with great fanfare, when the directors tried to raise money both in Livingston and Monroe Counties, they failed to receive enough to carry out the project. The following year, they tried again, also without success (U). The project never raised enough money to construct the railroad and it never got beyond the original survey. Some people in the area did not care for the people involved in the scheme and others did not think that the area was yet ready for a railroad (DB).
The next transportation news to affect Dansville was the construction of the Genesee Valley Canal. This was one of several canals financed by New York State in the 1830s. Ultimately, this canal stretched from the Erie Canal in Rochester south to Olean on the Allegany River with a short branch from a point near Sonyea to Dansville. This branch was supplied with water from Mill Creek in Dansville and another supply from Canaseraga Creek. Dr. Faulkner was also instrumental in this project, particularly the branch to Dansville. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (and later the Senate). The branch to Dansville was completed in November 1, 1841 (D) and ended on the western boundary of the village of Dansville. (Pix, 6.34)
Although this canal was started after the great era of canal building had ended and was not successful financially, it did haul a fair amount of traffic for a number of years, in particular, timber. It is estimated that for some years, the Rochester area saved $150,000 a year in the reduced cost of timber due to the Genesee Valley Canal (D). The canal provided prosperous times for Dansville for a few years. (Flyer for packet boats, 6.58) The Equivalent Tolls Law was repealed in 1851 and with the proliferation of railroads, many of the smaller canals, the Genesee Valley included, fell on hard times. From its conception, the Genesee Valley Canal operated at a loss every year of its existence as did many of the other State-supported canals. The State considered that these canals were a good investment with regard to the development of commerce.
However, starting in the mid-1850’s, the revenues for the Genesee Valley Canal began to fall. For the Dansville Branch, the tolls peaked in 1850 at $28,930 and five years later were less than a quarter of that. During and after the Civil War, the tolls never exceeded $2000 (DE).
The Genesee Valley Canal ceased operations in 1878 and four years later, much of the former Dansville branch property was sold to local farmers (D). Much of the right of way of the main canal was deeded to the Genesee Valley Canal Railroad Company which would eventually become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s branch from Rochester to Olean.
By the time of the Civil War, railroads were springing up all over upstate New York but citizens of Dansville still had to travel to Wayland to see one. On March 22, 1864, the Dansville & Genesee Valley Railroad was organized to reach from Dansville to a connection with the Avon, Geneseo & Mt. Morris Railroad at Mt. Morris. The directors were George Hyland, Sr.; Dr. James Faulkner; Charles Shepard; Dr. James C. Jackson; Jesse Angell; Hugh McCartney; Sidney Sweet; Alonzo Bradner; and Orville Tousey; all of Dansville; Hugh T. McNair of West Sparta; Anson Smith of Mt. Morris; and Issac Butts and William Kidd of Rochester. Officers were Shepard, President and Bradner, Vice-President.
This was an interesting Board of Directors. It included men from both sides of the canal interests including Dr. Faulkner. Issac Butts was a Rochester newspaper man who had (should be Isaac??)recently purchased a joint interest in the Livingston Paper Mills in Dansville to insure a steady supply of newsprint. William Kidd (presumably the same who was president of the Avon, Geneseo & Mt. Morris for a number of years) owned a company in Rochester that manufactured steam engines and boilers as well as railroad car wheels and other products that would be useful to a budding railroad.
The first few years were spent raising money and obtaining a charter from the State of New York, neither an easy task. A charter was finally secured May 16, 1867, with the name of the Erie & Genesee Valley Railroad Company. The authorized capital stock was $500,000. The biggest change in the charter was that it now called not only for a line from Mt. Morris to Dansville but for the line to continue south to Burns on the main line of the Erie Railway between Corning and Hornellsville (Q).
Although the acquisition of the charter was welcome, it presented a problem. The railroad did not have enough money to build the entire line at once. It could connect Dansville with Mt. Morris or Burns but not both. If they were going to build it piecemeal, they would have to decide which part to do first and the charter would have to be amended. The Mt. Morris project won out on the basis of cost, construction problems and furnishing a direct connection to a major city, Rochester. It was not easy. Dr. Faulkner and his colleagues had favored the Burns connection while the Dansville businessmen favored Mt. Morris and they had majority control. However, it had to be approved by the New York Legislature which included Faulkner but this was eventually obtained. By 1868, there had been a few changes in the directors. Faulkner was no longer a member of the Board. One new member was Lauren C. Woodruff, an entrepreneur from Buffalo (DG).
Now that all of the legalities had been taken care of, it was time to build the railroad. Although the line between Dansville and Mt. Morris would be operated by the Erie & Genesee Valley Railroad, the segment from the village of Mt. Morris to the Mt. Morris township line (site of present-day Sonyea) would be the property of the Avon, Geneseo & Mt. Morris Railroad and was constructed by them on an agreement, dated May 9, 1868, that the Dansville people would build the rest. The Town of North Dansville borrowed $100, 000 for this enterprise and the towns of West Sparta and Groveland borrowed $10,000 each. The E&GV took out a mortgage for $120,000 on June 20, 1871. This mortgage was due 1886. Construction was completed in October 1871. Now the E&GV had its track but nothing to run on it. George W. Phelps, manager of the AG&MM, announced that they would lend the E&GV a locomotive and some passenger cars.
The first train was scheduled to run from Mt. Morris to Dansville on November 6, 1871. However, when the officials arrived in Mt. Morris, there was no train. Mr. Phelps explained that the railroad was not yet complete. But the railroad had been completed. Why the delay? Management of the railroad suspected that the Faulkners were behind it. Among them, President Shepard, Jackson, McNair, F.M. Perine and L.B. Proctor issued a handbill explaining to the citizens of Dansville what the issues were. Phelps returned fire with one of his own and on it went (DB).
The Faulkners had two problems. They were ultimately not going to win this one, and one of Dr. James’s sons, Samuel, was running for County Judge with elections the next day. So Samuel and Lester Faulkner (another son) sent a message to Phelps “requesting” him to allow the train to run, which he did. (Faulkner did win the judgeship.) The first train finally ran December 12, 1871 using a borrowed Erie locomotive and regular service commenced two days later.
Erie Takes Over the E&GV
While this was going on, the E&GV vice-president Bradner had been in New York City negotiating with the Erie Railway and on November 8, 1871, had secured an agreement whereby the Erie would lease the E&GV for 99 years. The Erie would maintain and operate the railroad, it would pay the interest on an existing mortgage and pay off the mortgage in 1886. The Erie would also extend the line “to a connection with the Erie Railway or one of its branches or leased lines” within two years (Q). This presumably meant Burns or possibly Hornell. One of the proposed routes went near Canaseraga. It is a moot point because no extension was ever built. No provisions in the lease dealt with noncompliance on the part of the Erie, particularly with regard to nonpayment of interest. (This transaction took place in two steps. On November 1, 1871, the E&GV leased its property to Lauren C. Woodruff and one week later, Woodruff leased it to the Erie (DI).
Although the E&GV continued to exist as a corporate entity, as far as the general public was concerned, it was part of the Erie. There is very little information as to the actual operations in those early days other than they started with two passenger trains a day. Trains left Dansville for Mt. Morris at 7:00 a.m. and 2:45 p.m., arriving back in Dansville at 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.. The latter train carried Rochester daily newspapers, making Dansville feel a bit more connected with the outside world (DB).
Financially, the E&GV was dancing a tightrope made worse by the Erie going into receivership in 1875 and emerging shortly thereafter as the New York, Lake Erie & Western. No interest was paid on the mortgage while the Erie was in receivership nor was the mortgage paid up in 1886. At the point that the NYLE&W assumed the assets and liabilities of the former Erie Railway, the E&GV lease was not included (DI). A suit for the enforcement of the lease was instituted by the receivers in 1876 and resulted in a decision against the Erie. The receiver appealed on a technical issue (DJ). In 1877, the directors of the E&GV moved to foreclose on the mortgage and recover possession of their property. They won that one also but it took until 1885 to obtain a final decision. Apparently it was a series of decisions and appeals. In 1883, a judge awarded $220,000 to Woodruff which would have appeared to cover both the redemption of the mortgage and the accrued interest. Yet on May 25, 1885, a newspaper item states: “Judge Macomber has decided the long contested case of L.C.Woodruff and Augustus Frank, trustees of the Erie & Genesee Valley Railroad against the New York, Lake Erie & Western, in favor of the plaintiffs. The decree of foreclosure and sale is granted as is also the decree against the Erie for all deficiency. The case involves $300,000 (DL).” This continued to go back and forth. There was another ruling on July 1, 1887 and one as late as October 1890 (DI).
These negotiations with the Erie were going on at the same time the Erie was trying to divest itself of its three narrow gauge lines in the so-called “oil district” and were probably similar in motivation as far as the Erie was concerned. About all of this, Lauren C. Woodruff said, ”I have expended many thousands of dollars of my individual funds in my efforts to obtain justice but have been met by the counsel of this soulless corporation with a persistent obstructive defense and a determined effort to avoid the payment of their indebtedness and to defeat the ends of justice (DH).
There were operational problems as well. The NYLE&W stated that the E&GV had lost money when operated by the Erie as well as during the period of the receivership and that the NYLE&W would not operate it after July 1, 1879. Woodruff appealed and the NYLE&W agreed to operate it in July. The same procedure was repeated in August (DI). Eventually, they must have come to some kind of agreement because the NYLE&W continued operating the line. It was converted to standard gauge in June 1880 (KP).
In the midst of all this travail, competition appeared in the form of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. The “Lackawanna” was primarily an anthracite hauler and had originally turned over their westbound through traffic to the Erie at Binghamton. In 1880, Jay Gould acquired some Lackawanna stock and proposed extending the line from Binghamton to Buffalo. The motivation on Gould’s part was to create an eastern connection for the Wabash which he also controlled. In addition, this move was promoted to obtain more revenue for the Lackawanna and the extension was completed in late 1882. The route paralleled the Erie from Binghamton to Wayland. From Wayland, it took off to the west above Dansville and Mt. Morris to Buffalo. A division point was located at what would become Groveland Station. This was a double-track main line operation. The first passenger train came past Dansville on September 25, 1882, and the effect on the passenger business was immediate. Those wishing to travel to Buffalo or New York City could do so more quickly and without changing trains. Those going to Rochester would still use the E&GV. Freight was a different matter. The Lackawanna cut across the east side of Dansville, high up on East Hill and had no access to the existing Dansville industries. The DL&W could compete for mail, express and general merchandise but that was about it.
Ultimately, the E&GV bondholders brought suit and on May 28, 1891, the company was sold at foreclosure. Lauren C. Woodruff, representing the bondholders submitted a bid for $60,000. Arrangements were made with the NYLE&W to continue operating until a new railroad organization was formed. Apparently, the NYLE&W showed some interest in buying the line but to quote Charles Shepard, “They had paid nothing for the railroad and were not inclined to raise the price (DB).”
When the Erie was operating the Erie & Genesee Valley, passenger service generally consisted of two daily round trips. In those days, railroad schedules were printed in local newpapers as well as timetables. The enclosed schedule for 1885DF indicates two passenger trains each way and one freight each way. The only station with an agent between Dansville and Mt. Morris was at Sonyea. The other stops had small open shelters. The fact the freight was in the schedule would imply that it was a mixed train so there may have been other freights. Times between Dansville and Rochester varied between two and two and a half hours. Trains apparently ran from Dansville to Avon but may have required a connection with a train from Corning to get to Rochester. After the D&MM was on its own, its passenger schedules were somewhat dependent on what the Erie was doing at Mt. Morris. During the 1890s the schedules were little changed except there was no mention of a scheduled freight. In the late 1890’s, the D&MM was carrying 30,000 passengers a year. By 1900, although the Erie was still running only two trains into Mt. Morris, the D&MM had added an early morning round trip as well as what appears to be a commuter run between Mt.Morris and Sonyea. Even after the Erie electrified the line into Mt. Morris and provided frequent service, the D&MM still ran only three round trips but one of these was the Genesee Valley Special. This was a steam train between Dansville and Rochester which stopped only at Mt. Morris, Geneseo and Avon and made the trip in an hour and thirty-five minutes.
The D&MM Emerges
And so it was that on October 21, 1891, the Dansville & Mount Morris Railroad came into being with a modest capital of $50,000. Most of the directors were from the New York City area including one of the major bondholders, the only two Dansville people remaining being Shepard and Perine. Col. Edward P. C. Lewis of Hoboken, New Jersey, was the president. Having had a large part in the formation of this railroad, Lauren C. Woodruff appears to have left the scene.
The following day, the NYLE&W removed all of their equipment leaving the Dansville yard barren. However, in a period of three weeks, Superintendent B.P. Humphrey had assembled a fleet of two locomotives, two passenger cars and twelve freight cars and the D&MM was ready for business.
The D&MM had an immediate problem though. They had inherited a railroad that was in poor physical shape. (Local wags referred to it as the “Dead & Mortified.”) It needed a lot of track work and their bridges and trestles were in need of repair or replacement. This they proceeded to do but quickly ran out of money and went into receivership June 8, 1894. Director Ambrose S. Murray, Jr. of New York City was appointed receiver andcontinued the program of rehabilitation. Businessmen in Dansville proposed that the D&MM make a connection with the Lackawanna at Groveland but the Erie threatened to shut down their connection in Mt. Morris if this were done (DB). A connection with the Pennsylvania at Sonyea was allowed. The NYLE&W also gave the D&MM trackage rights over the two miles between Sonyea and Mt. Morris on January 1, 1894Q.
The 20th century found railroads in general feeling fairly prosperous. The D&MM was no exception as business was good. A number of shippers had developed in Dansville. One in particular was the nursery business. Most all produce and general merchandise went by train. In 1903, William Humphrey became Superintendent. Although still in receivership, in 1904 the company felt it could afford to upgrade its facilities. Trackwork was improved and a new bridge was put in at Sonyea. Management would now say that D&MM referred to the “Dandy little Money Maker (DB).”
One of the biggest events in the life of the D&MM was the development of a manufacturing facility in the hamlet of Cumminsville, just outside of Dansville. It started out as the George Sweet Manufacturing Company in 1892 and was also known as the Sweet Foundry. Their specialty was farm equipment. Around the turn of the century, two cousins Pell and Ernest Foster, from nearby Retsof (Foster spelled backwards), had formed the Power Specialty Company and needed a manufacturing facility. To this end, they obtained control of Sweet Manufacturing. (This was not a hostile takeover. Pell’s wife Anne was a part owner of Sweet Manufacturing having inherited this from her grandfather Dr. James Faulkner.) Products switched from farm equipment to Foster steam superheaters, hydraulic engines and garbage “destructors.” On November 11, 1911, a rail connection was opened between the plant and the D&MM. Power Specialty did very well during World War I, one of its products being superheaters for marine boilers. In 1927, Power Specialty and Wheeler Condenser and Engineering Company merged to form the Foster Wheeler Corporation.
In 1920, William G. Powell replaced Humphrey as Superintendent. In 1925, Everett Harter replaced Powell, was named Managing Receiver and moved to Dansville. A business associate of Harter, Howard F. McCandless bought the D&MM and took it out of receivership on September 30, 1927. The money came from two California attorneys, Ernest and Oscar Hueter. These gentlemen then took control of the D&MM, Ernest becoming president and Oscar secretary and treasurer. Harter remained as vice president and general manager. The directors were all members of the Hueters’ law firm (DB).
At this time, the D&MM had a connection with the Erie at Mt. Morris and the Pennsylvania at Sonyea but none with the Lackawanna. In 1929, the new Foster Wheeler organization recommended that the D&MM make a connection with the Lackawanna, saying that they could not expand their operations at Cumminsville without it. Dansville businessmen concurred and the connection with the Lackawanna at Groveland Station opened on June 8, 1933.
By World War I, the D&MM passenger service was losing money. Ridership was declining as the automobile began to become popular. Rather than reduce the number of trains, the D&MM purchased a White Motor Company bus with railroad wheels. This required only a single employee rather than a crew of four or five and was cheaper to run. A small car was pulled behind to carry mail, express and baggage. Its first run was September 4, 1917. A 1918 employees timetable lists five trains in each direction, three railbus trains, one steam-hauled passenger train and one steam-hauled mixed train.
Ridership continued to drop during the 1920’s due both to the automobile and bus competition. When William Powell became Superintendent, he tried to promote passenger business. In 1924, he enlarged the depot and began to run some excursions. Some, such as trains to Lakeville on Conesus Lake via Mt. Morris and Avon, were popular. (Total fare was seventy-five cents including a steamboat ride.) Others such as theater trains to Rochester did not generate much interest. On November 30, 1937, the railbus made its final run. After that, passengers had to make use of the freight train. (1938TT, 6.51) For the year 1938, the D&MM carried 108 passengers for a total of $18. The railroad had no trouble convincing the Public Service Commission to let them drop the service which ended on April 1, 1939 (DB).
After the Lackawanna connection was made, most of the Dansville business was interchanged at Groveland, not Mt. Morris. The Erie went into receivership in 1938 and when it emerged in 1941 it had made a spectacular reorganization. It was not without its costs, particularly to the Rochester Division. The Mt. Morris branch generated little business and with most of the D&MM business going to the Lackawanna, this branch was abandoned on January 21, 1940. This included the portion that the D&MM had operated but not owned between Mt. Morris and Sonyea. The last train to Mt. Morris ran January 24, 1940 with Engine #304 on the point. In November 1943, the line was cut back to Groveland.
All of these moves had made the D&MM more efficient and by World War II, it was quite prosperous. In 1944, the bonds issued when the D&MM emerged from receivership were retired. Five years later, with some help from Foster Wheeler, Hart and members of his family were able to buy out the Heuters. Hart was now President and Chairman of the Board. Nearly all of the directors were either members of the Hart family or Foster Wheeler executives. Control of the D&MM had returned to Dansville.
For many years, the D&MM continued its successful ways. The road dieselized in 1956. But it couldn’t last. One by one, the shippers in Dansville either went out of business or converted their shipments to trucks. The D&MM became dependent on Foster Wheeler. They also became dependent on the status of the Lackawanna which had fallen on hard times. In September 13, 1960, the Lackawanna and the Erie merged to form the Erie Lackawanna. One of the aims of the merger was to consolidate parallel operations. Ultimately, much of the Lackawanna would be abandoned. In 1961, the Erie Lackawanna transferred all of the ex-Lackawanna freights over to the ex-Erie Buffalo Division and, in 1963, abandoned the trackage from Groveland to Wayland.
In 1970, Frank Hart retired and was replaced by his son Robert. (Pix of Robert Hart, 6.42) Hurricane Agnes in 1972 had a devastating effect on the Erie Lackawanna’s main lines throughout the region. It was no less damaging to the D&MM. Most of its right-of-way was flooded and was out of service from June 26 to July 14. It cost the D&MM $80,000 to get the line back in operation. Moreover, it was the death knell for the Erie Lackawanna which was later absorbed into Conrail on April 1, 1976. Things were not going well for the D&MM either. Its principal customer, Foster Wheeler, had curtailed its operations considerably. By 1980, the Board of Directors was composed solely of members of the Hart family. (of RR or foster wheeler? I suspect the former)
Enter the Genesee & Wyoming
What had been the Lackawanna main line in western New York State kept shrinking. The section from Groveland to Wayland had already been abandoned. The section between Groveland and Buffalo was taken over by Conrail and in 1982, the section between Groveland and Wadsworth was sold to the Genesee & Wyoming. Next to go was most of the trackage from Alexander to Buffalo so that westbound salt trains went from Wadsworth (the ex-Erie Lackawanna connection with the G&W) to Alexander, down to Attica and into Buffalo over the ex-Erie Buffalo line. Since Conrail now owned both that part of the Erie Lackawanna and the ex-New York Central, they elected to receive most of the salt in Rochester and abandoned the section from Wadsworth to Alexander in 1985.
G&W Industries was a holding company formed in 1977 and the G&W Railroad was merged into it. In 1985, G&W purchased what was originally the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh (later B&O) from CSX and created a subsidiary, the Rochester & Southern to operate it the following year. On July 23, 1985, the G&W also purchased the D&MM which would be operated by the Rochester & Southern as well (FQ). In 1987, the old D&MM was rehabilitated with heavier rail to handle larger loads (FO).
Now that the R&S was operating into Dansville with their own equipment, the two D&MM diesels were sold to the Bay Colony Railroad in 1986. The G&W purchase did not include the part of the D&MM within the Village of Dansville. By then, the only activity within the village was the D&MM engine terminal and with the diesels gone, all of the trackage south of the Foster Wheeler switch was removed. Foster Wheeler continued to ship fewer outbound loads and the trackage from Groveland to Dansville saw virtually no traffic for long periods of time. On March 9, 2001, the R&S embargoed the line from Groveland to Dansville citing poor track conditions. In 2003, Foster Wheeler closed their plant. With embargoed track and no customers, this looked like the end. However, Dansville had pulled rabbits out of a hat before and it had one left.
The knight in shining armor appeared in the form of Dansville Properties LLC which purchased the Foster Wheeler plant in March 2006. Before long, four tenants were found for the property. One of them was American Motive Power, a company which repaired and remodeled railroad locomotives. Another was Bombardier Transportation which used their facilities to repair and remodel railroad passenger cars and, in particular, rapid transit cars. It would be hard to find better tenants as far as the railroad was concerned. Once again, trains began to appear in Dansville. In September 2009, a grant was received from New York State to rehabilitate the track. (Windmill train 6.61) The old D&MM continues to serve a useful role to this day.
The final chapter for the Hart family’s involvement in the railroad was written in October 2012, when the old D&MM freight house and corporate office was put up for sale. Bob Hart had used the building as his personal office for years after the railroad was sold to G&W in 1985. With the conclusion of the sale came the end of many years of local railroading history in Dansville.