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The Lehigh Valley Railroad was the chief line serving Ithaca, home of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society
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The Cornell Railroad Historical Society became a chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 1981. In the 40 years since that time, we have grown and prospered. With recent membership levels of nearly 80, while we may be one of the smaller NRHS chapters, we have been an active one, with great enthusiasm for the subjects of railroads, rail history, rail photography, railroad models and other aspects of the railroad hobby.
        The City of Ithaca lies at the foot of Cayuga Lake, and is surrounded  on three sides by steep hills. It is also home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, meaning its population practically doubles when school is in session. In former years, most of these students arrived by train, but with the changes seen in the 20th century, the two main railroads serving the area, the Lehigh Valley and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, faded away. Nonetheless, our chapter holds both dear, especially the Lehigh Valley, sometimes known affectionately as the "Leaky Valley", which is also the name of our newsletter

Directions to Museum

The Cornell Railroad Historical Society Meetings are normally held on the second Tuesday of each month at The History Center of Tompkins County, 110 North Tioga St. (not an actual street but part of Ithaca Commons), Ithaca, NY. From NY 79 West, come down State Street, bear right into Seneca Street, than park either on the street (meters are free after 6 PM), or turn right onto Tioga Street, finding street parking -OR- park in city parking garage (fees for parking assessed until 11 PM). From Rt. 79 East, Rt. 96 North or South, take Green Street to "tuning fork" at foot of State Street hill, swing around onto Seneca Street and, again, seek parking. (Click on "Directions to Museum" at left.) Doors open at 7:00 PM, meetings begin at 7:15 PM, and generally last until about 9 PM We have other yearly activities, including a trackside picnic in July, and meetings are open to anyone. Our mailing address is : Cornell Railroad Historical Society c/o Ron Koger 116 Candor Hill Road Candor, NY 13743

Mailing address:

Cornell Railroad Historical Society
c/o Ron Koger 116 Candor Hill Road
Candor, NY 13743

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Cornell Railroad Historical Society


CRHS watches passing CSX

CRHS Picnic 2021

Happy to be meeting in person, on a fine July Saturday, July 10, 2021, at our usual Clyde, NY location

CRHS Picnic-2021-4a
CRHS members watch was westbound CSX containers head west
CSX Eastbound follows NYState Barge Canal through Clyde, NY
With most members fully vaccinated against the Covid Virus, it was deemed safe for us to gather underneath the Route 414 underpass in Clyde, New York on July 10, 2021. The weather began cloudy, but kept clearing until by the time we adjourned, it was largely blue skies and pleasant temperatures for the remainder of the afternoon. It was great to feel as if we were an actual organization, no longer confined to computer screens and isolated at home. Plans now include meetings this fall at The History Center in Ithaca. We will be posting notifications when plans are complete.
Young boys worked to sort coal and remove stones and debris in the huge "breakers" above the Pennsylvania coal mines.
Continuing Pandemic Isolation Means Cornell Railroad Historical Society Will Not Meet Physically in the Near Future, as of May 2021
The Ithaca & Owego Railroad was one of the earliest railroads in New York State, receiving its charter from the state legislature in 1828. However it took some years to get operating, finally running trains hauled by horses in 1834. It was less than efficient, suffering through bankruptcy, and was finally bought by coal interests from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and renamed the Cayuga & Susquehanna by 1850. The main purpose was to deliver Pennsylvania anthracite from the Wyoming Valley in the Scranton/Wilkes Barre area to Cayuga Lake and a water connection with the Erie Canal. While coal dominated much rail traffic for the next 160 years, the focus changed to places such as West Virginia and Kentucky, and further west to Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. By the 21st century, huge amounts of coal originated in the eastern corners of Wyoming and Montana, with the odd coincidence that the state of Wyoming borrowed its name from the native-named valley in Pennsylvania. Now, as people and governments seek to decrease emissions of carbon dioxide into earth's atmosphere, the use of coal is seen as a threat, and it may forecast the demise of coal mining and its transport by rail.
Cornell Railroad Historical Society September, October, November Meetings Canceled As Virus Continues
The Cornell Railroad Historical Society has decided not to hold in-person meetings this fall as the Corona Virus continues to affect members of our community. With many members in the group menaced by this disease, especially due to age or other infirmities, it seems the wisest move not to hold meetings. Furthermore, the History Center, location of our usual gatherings, is limiting access to 15 persons or fewer. We will reassemble as soon as it seems safe to do so. In the meantime, we are still publishing our newsletter and urge you to take out a membership and thus receive news of the group.
Cornell Railroad Historical Society Holds No Meeting for August, 2020
Due to both the continuing CoronaVirus19 shutdown of public meetings in New York State for this month, and the fact that we do not hold a meeting in August anyway, there will be no meeting this month. We wish all members, friends and possible web visitors continuing good health and positive feelings as we all manage our lives and families through this unusual time.
July 2020 CRHS Picnic Canceled for this Year
The annual picnic of the Cornell Railrad Historical Society was canceled for 2020. Fears of the spread of virus to particularly vulnerable members, lack of the usual heavy freight traffic on the cross New York Main Line and the distance to travel from Ithaca and further south caused the CRHS Board to cancel the effort. As fans of the hapless Dodgers would say in my youth, "Wait 'Til Next Year, Ya Bum!"
The CRHS Editor remembers summer days when he would ride the Erie "Plug" into Hoboken, get aboard the Lackawanna Barclay Street Ferry and ride back and forth across the river, watching the majestic steamships go by. Well, it was kind of a railroad trip, despite all the water. Here, the SS United States is on its way to Europe, escorted by the Pauline L. Moran. Remember, this was in 1958, over 60 years ago. Thank heaven for Kodachrome.
Virus Pandemic Keeps Cornell Railroad Historical Society Off the Rails
The continuing situation with the Corona Virus affecting life in general, and meetings of non-related persons in particular has meant the Cornell Railroad Historical Society has not held meetings in either May or June of 2020. It was also decided that, despite the possibility of an outdoor meeting and picnic in July at our usual gathering spot, under the highway overpass alongside the CSX Main Line in Clyde, the risk to older members of any kind of get-together was unwarranted. Traffic has been reported as being much lighter than usual along that line as well. So, we paddle on, boats against the current or trains facing restrictive signal indications, hoping the line clears sometime in the future and we will be able to use whatever metaphor is handy for new meetings.
April Meeting Canceled -- Stay Healthy
The April meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society has been canceled due to the closing of The History Center in Ithaca and to protect the heath and safety of our members. We hope to meet again in the future, but the situation remains fluid and we will align our activities to the rules and needs of the entire community.
Black Diamond with new diesels, about 1947, at Ithaca
March Meeting: A Trip on the LV Buffalo Division
The February meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society will feature a video from Broken Knuckle Productions on the Lehigh Valley Railroad Buffalo Division, Upstate Branches, provided by our program director Bob Travis. With sufficient time, we may also see some recently uncovered pictures of etchings of Jersey City yards and locomotives by Reginald Marsh, sometimes listed as a member of the "Ashcan School" of American artists. Meeting will be at the History Center in downtown Ithaca on Tuesday, March 10. Doors open at 7 PM and the meeting begins promptly at 7:15 PM. Remember, too, that it's time to renew your membership in the CRHS, since newsletters will be cut off next month and you may miss the always exciting April Fool issue.
Jersey City Yard - Painting by Reginald Marsh
The Steel Industry and How It Fostered Railroads to Haul Its Products
Our Cornell Railroad Historical Society meeting for February 2020 featured our vice-president Tim Lynch presenting a talk with pictures and videos on his visit to the remnant of the mill in Bethlehem, PA. He noted: "I was talking about the process of steel making: how a blast furnace worked, how the Bessemer converter worked, how an open hearth worked, how coke was made, and how all the parts of a typical US steel mill's "hot metal" plant was organized and operated. I also wanted to cover a bit of history of the US steel industry, particularly the start of Bethlehem Steel in the Lehigh Valley and the connections to the Lehigh Valley RR, and what has happened to the mills that once were an anchor for the railroad industry." Tim showed his program using the large video projection system of The History Center. It was extremely interesting and informative.
January 2020 Meeting Viewed Resurrected Old Logging Locomotive
At our January meeting, we viewed a video from TRAINS magazine on the "Skookum" locomotive, which was originally built for a logging railroad in the east, but ended up in Oregon. Just before that railroad ceased operation, the engine derailed and fell into a swamp. Years later, it was located, rebuilt and made to run as a tourist attraction. The DVD followed this "Lazarus" story — fascinating and colorful. One of only six built, this 1909 locomotive was rejected, accepted, and left for dead in 1955, and revived in 2019. We met in the Gallery room of The HIstory Center, with large-scale projection provided by our own projector.
Our Annual Auction Was Held at December 10, 2019 Meeting: Loads of Great Rail Books
Every year our December meeting is given over to an auction of railroad items contributed by members. This year, we had a large haul of fine railroad books, contributed by a member who was "downsizing". Many boxes of books went under the auction hammer, and virtually nobody went away empty-handed. There were also some model items and other bits of rail ephemera. It was a good time in the upstairs conference room of The History Center. We also held our annual election of officers, with the entire slate of candidates re-elected for another term during 2020.
November 12, 2019 Meeting Heard About the "Official Guide"
The November meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society was a presentation by our Secretary and Historian Gene Endres on the "Official Guide to the Railroads", covering its beginnings as a small book listing timetables of the then operating railroads in the 1840s, to the huge monthly tome issued by the National Railroad Publication Company, which reached a peak of about 1600 pages of timetables and lists of officers, maps and a vast amount of detailed information during the 1900s to 1972. The talk was illustrated with examples of some of the timetables and some quirks found in the books over time.
Autumn on the D&H Arrived for October 8, 2019 Meeting
The October meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society convened at The History Center, 410 Tioga Street in downtown Ithaca on October 8 at 7 PM. The program was another (!) video, this time featuring the Delaware and Hudson line from Schoharie Junction near Delanson, NY to Oneonta. This is home territory for many in central New York, so it was a good chance to see trains running in places we know well. The video clips were all shot during the fall foliage season,making for a colorful program. Perhaps this was also an inspiration to get our your camera, video camera or even your cell phone and make images out along the line.
September 2019 Meeting Showed Lehigh Valley Video
Our September meeting was held on September 10 in the second floor conference room at The History Center in downtown Ithaca. We viewed a video from John Pechulis Productions on the Lehigh Valley in both early Kodachrome color and black&white, along the tracks from Bound Brook, New Jersey to Mountaintop, PA. The video featured views of the Black Diamond in both steam and diesel guises, as well as freight action all along the Lehigh River valley.
July 13, 2019 meeting featured our Annual Picnic!
Members of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society gathered on Saturday morning, July 13, beneath the Route 414 highway bridge in Clyde, NY. This was our annual picnic, trackside at the CSX main line across New York State. Beginning at 10:30 AM, members saw a steady stream of trains, including three Amtrak runs. During breaks in the action, we cooked hot dogs, hamburgers, had salads, drinks, chips and lots of good talk. The weather was magnificent, dry clear and cool, with some decent heat out in the sun, but cooling shade under the bridge. A couple of Amish carriages even made their usual appearances. It was a great time.
Pictures from Richard Horstman Collection Shown by Richard Palmer of Syracuse Chapter
The CRHS June meeting at The History Center in downtown Ithaca (our new meeting site) was informed by a collection of slides taken by Richard Horstman. Horstman was later owner of the Lehigh Valley private car No. 353, which was parked for some years at the one-time Amtrak East Syracuse station. The slides covered scenes in and around Syracuse, Binghamton, Sayre, PA, and other locations in central New York. The slide collection has been in the care of Dick Palmer, Historian and journalist, and he loaned them to Gene Endres of our chapter for digitization.
A History of the Pennsylvania Railroad from a Philadelphia Public TV Station entertained the CRHS in May 2019
A video produced by station WHYY in Philadelphia encapsulated the history of the Pennsylvania Railroad, from its earliest days as part of the "Main Line of Public Works" canal and rail system, to its enlargement and improvement under railroad presidents like Thompson, Scott and Cassatt to become the Standard Railroad of the World was the May program of the CRHS. In just one hour, it told a story, the first half of which is related in detail by Albert J. Churella in his magisterial The Pennsylvania Railroad, Volume 1, 1846-1917 that almost every railroad fan should know. The sad end of the PRR, after its merger with the New York Central is another story altogether, of the greatest corporate bankruptcy of its time. But it was great to see such pictures as operations over the Horseshoe Curve and rare locomotives like the T-1s and even a brief glimpse of a Baldwin "Centipede". Now we might hope for a similar treatment of the New York Central, rather than more railfan runbys. Let us know if such a film/video is available.
April 2019 CRHS Meeting Viewed Operations During Last Days of Lehigh Valley Railroad
The April meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society was the second one held at The History Center for Tompkins County in their new location just off the Commons in Ithaca. We viewed a video supplied by Bob Travis on operations in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. Commentary on the video was by a former employee of this division and included numerous facets of how the employees went about their business, including which diner they may have stopped at and when and where the trackage was good or bad.
March 2019Meeting of the CRHS Viewed Video on the discovery of a Long-Hidden Tunnel Under the Streets of Brooklyn, New York
Back in the early 1980s, Brooklyn resident Bob Diamond heard rumors of what was perhaps the first subway in the world that was placed in a tunnel built under some of the streets of Brooklyn. He kept investigating, though most people he asked said, "I looked for the tunnel and didn't find it. Therefore, it doesn't exist." Eventually, Diamond did find the tunnel, built to bring what became the Long Island Railroad from the shore of New York harbor to it's line that went on to Greenport, Long Island, making a connection shortcut for bringing freight to New England. Our member, Andrew Diamond (no relation) brought the video to our March meeting.
February Meeting of the CRHS was Postponed by the threat of a snow and ice storm. Though the weather relented somewhat at the last minute, the Directors of the CRHS felt that having members traveling late in the evening under bad road conditions meant a postponement was all for the best.
January 2019 Meeting: Riding the ExtremeTrains: Fast Produce Freight from Washington State to Upstate New York and The Circus Train on a Tight Schedule
For Our January Meeting, we heard sad news that member Greg Dickinson, scheduled to bring a program on freight cars, had suffered a "minor" stroke. [Fortunately, Greg was back for our April meeting.] President Steve Peck was away on family business. But, member Andrew Diamond, hero of the moment, arrived with some great videos. We watched two: one on the refrigerated freight that makes it from a Washington State cooled warehouse to another one in upstate New York at Schenectady in less than three days. All the cars are refrigerated and time is of the essence. Then, in another time-limited episode, we watched how the Ringling Brothers manages to break down its show, load it on their train and make it to the next city in just two days. Sadly, as of 2018, the Circus and its Train are no more.
December Meeting Was Our Annual Auction
Members brought items to sell at the annual auction of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society. It was held on December 11 at The History Center, Ithaca. This was possibly the last meeting to be held at our long-time location at The History Center of Tompkins County. Turnout was a bit disappointing, but there was plenty of fun and some interesting pieces were sold.


November 13 Meeting at The History Center: Greg Dickinson on Freight Cars and a Video on Nickel Plate Berkshire Locomotive No. 765
The Cornell Railroad Historical Society met at The History Center in downtown Ithaca on Tuesday November 13. Our program this month feature a video from member Bill Hinderliter on the renewal and renewed operation of the NKP 765 steam locomotive. The program was well photographed and showed a lot of detail as the special excursion arrived at Harrisburg, PA, after traveling over the eastern portion of the now-Norfolk Southern line over Horseshoe Curve.
October 9 Meeting at The History Center Featured the Deluxe Super Chief
The meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society on October 9, 2018, showed a video: The Super Chief of the Santa Fe, known as "The Train of the Stars" which carried celebrities from Los Angeles and Hollywood to Chicago. It included interviews with people who had traveled on the train, railroad executives, and some of the crew members who made the train a deluxe way to travel. The video even included a recipe for the famous Super Chief french toast, recalled by many as the best version of that traditional breakfast they had ever eaten.


Reports on CRHS Meetings of 2018 and previous years

Page revised by Gene Endres, May 4, 2021