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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 30 years since that time, we have grown and prospered. With recent membership levels of nearly 130, while we may be one of the smaller NRHS chapters, we are an active one, with great enthusiasm for the subjects of railroads, rail history, rail photography 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
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The Cornell Railroad Historical Society Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month at the History Center, 401 East State Street, Gateway Plaza, Ithaca, NY. From NY Route 13, take Green Street (NY 79 East), three traffic lights to East State Street. After third light, turn hard right into Gateway Plaza parking behind 401 (large building with two pizza shops on ground floor). If westbound on Rt. 366 or 79, make left at foot of hill to 401 (Gateway Plaza). Doors open at 7:00 PM, meetings begin at 7:15 PM, and generally last until about 9 PM We have other yearly activities, most notably our RailFair, and meetings are open to anyone. Our mailing address is :

Check out our links to available books in the list at left!
 

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

 

 

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Cornell Railroad Historical Society

E-Mail: CRHS@lightlink.com

A Trip Across Canada Was Our March Meeting
Our newsletter editor and historian, Gene Endres, presented our March program on Tuesday, March 8, 2016. He showed slides (Powerpoint) of his first rail trip across Canada, via the Canadian Pacific Canadian, in 1973. During the program, he also had a few clips of audio recorded during that trip, where he had kept an audio diary. One particular adventure was a ride on the FP7 diesels across the Kicking Horse Pass and through the famed "Spiral Tunnels". Gene apologized for the condition of some of the photographs, saying that a combination of poor storage, less than stellar processing and just the ravages of time had deteriorated some of the photos. His favorites were shot during a lengthy stop at Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, on a blistering summer's day, where the next day's train was more than 8 hours late due to a derailment up the line.
February Meeting Saw the Construction of Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan
Our February meeting, on Tuesday, February 9, 2016, featured a video produced for "The American Experience" series on Public Broadcasting on the building of tunnels under the Hudson and the erection of the magnificent Pennsylvania Station. It was all done under the aegis of Alexander Cassatt, president of the PRR, who forged ahead despite the enormous costs involved. The show comes to a sad end, however, when the station was demolished to be replaced by a somewhat tawdry sports arena in 1963. The two tunnels under the Hudson are still in daily use, with trains often operating through them on five-minute headways. While some politicians think augmenting them is "too expensive", it has become obvious that, for the safety of the millions of users of the current station, this station and its 100-year-old tunnels need to be augmented or replaced.
January Meeting Catch-As-Catch-Can
With Winter something of a fizzle (one member saw Santa and Mrs. Claus kayaking on Christmas Day!), our January meeting was not planned far ahead of time. Nonetheless, despite some absences due to colds and flu, we had a good meeting on January 12 and got in some planning for our future meetings. Keep watching this space for news of further meetings!
December Annual Auction Scheduled for December 8 at The History Center
The CRHS December meeting will be our annual auction — fun, excitement, jokes, silliness, good deals. Steve Peck will act as our auctioneer. Members are invited to bring railroad-oriented items to sell, either for their own profit or for the benefit of the Society. Anything is a possible item, assuming it will fit into our space at The History Center and not exceed the floor loading rating. Doors open at 7 PM and the festivities begin at7:15 PM.
November Guest Speaker Robert Gongleski Shared His Vast Postcard Archive to take us from New York to Niagara Falls on the Lehigh Valley Railroad
Robert Gongleski has been assembling a postcard collection for some three decades. He brought part of his excellent array, many including postcards of stations and sites along the Lehigh Valley Railroad, ranging from locations in New York City to rare station postcards many in our group had never seen before. His pictures and comentary were detailed, colorful and interesting. The meeting took place on a special date, November 17, 2015, since our normal November meeting date had to yield to a special awards ceremony at The History Center.

October Meeting Viewed Panama Canal DocumentaryBuilt With Rail Techniques

A Nova (PBS) documentary on the construction of the Panama Canal showcased the variety of construction techniques that were used in making the canal in record time. The screening also pointed out the need, once the Americans took over the failed (abandoned due to lack of financing) French effort of bringing in workers who could live and avoid the deadly diseases which had caused previous attempts to cease.
Steve Peck Brought Back More Alaska Adventures for September Meeting
Steve Peck, our illustrious vice-president, spent the month of June in far northern Alaska on a construction project and growing a few more gray hairs as he rode a jet boat up a wild river near the North Slope of our largest state. On the way back, he once again rode the Alaska Railroad, with an exclusive seat in the first dome car. He shared those adventures and more with us at the September meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society, on Tuesday, September 8 at The History Center.
Photo of abandoned branch of the Alaska Railroad. Not the work of Steve Peck.
August Meeting, As Usual, Will Not Be Held
July Picnic One of "Best Ever"
The Lakeshore Limited running only an hour late
CRHS Picnickers Greet Passing Train
Rolling Pipeline from North Dakota Bakken Oilfields
Sounds of Trains at June Meeting
The CRHS June meeting, on June 9, 2015, was presented by our Secretary, Gene Endres, speaking about the history of recorded train sounds. Endres, who has spent parts of his career as a recordist, broadcast engineer and audio technician/engineer has been an avid collector of train recordings for many years. This relatively specialized corner of the railfan market began for him with the release of one of the first high fidelity train recordings "Rail Dynamics", by Emory Cook, in about 1952. From there, it was onward and upward, with the first commercially released stereo recording from Audio Fidelity which featured train sounds, through the history of the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, started by Brad Miller, which put out extremely high quality train recordings and eventually led to the popular line of "Original Master Recordings. As Endres noted, history is where you find it.
Movies Return for May Meeting
The May meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society featured another train movie — this one of a different era and quite a different story. Danger Lights is a film from the early 1930s and uses the melodramatic kind of storytelling that was popular at the time. Of most interest to railfans and historians, however, is the setting. Much of the film was shot along the Milwaukee Road main line across Montana, a line that has been abandoned in large parts.
The movie was released in 1930, in both a regular and a wide-screen format, but that wide scope version only showed in two theaters. The widescreen version appears to be lost. Louis Wollheim, who stars, went to Cornell University, and had his nose broken while playing football. He often ended upplaying "heavies" but in this film he is a good guy.
Our normal-screen version was shown at the May 12 meeting at The History Center in downtown Ithaca. It had lots of steam action, authentic railroading of the 1920s and a race across the prairies near the ending.
April Meeting Viewed One Long Train [Movie]
Our April 14, 2015 meeting presented the movie "Silver Streak" made in 1976. It starred GeneWilder, Richard Pryor, Jill Clayburgh and other familiar actors. Lots of train action, a plot that combines romance, comedy, disaster, mystery and more, but it does last more than 2 hours. Oh, well. It was still fun.
Dan Armitage Returned for March Meeting with More Slides and Stories of the LV In Dryden and Freeville
Dan Armitage, who became a friend and casual co-worker with crews on the LV in Freeville, starting as a kid, came back with more amusing and instructive stories of how and why the railroad operated on the former Auburn Division. Meeting was on March 10 at The History Center, downtown Ithaca.
February Meeting on Cold and Slushy Night: Railroads of Western New York and Pennsylvania and Some Show and Tell
Thanks to the difficult winter weather we have been having (e.g. cold, very cold, snow, bad roads, not to mention half our members seem sick of something, perhaps winter) we had a mild turnout of only about eight for our February 10 meeting. Still, we welcomed Ian Mackenzie, author of the new book "Railroads Remembered a History of Railroads in Western New York and Pennsylvania". Mr. Mackenzie spoke on the contents of his work and brought forth a number of intriguing facts and points of the history of railroads, especially in these parts. For example, John Roebling, noted for engineering the Brooklyn Bridge, originally made wire rope to be used in the planes built for the canal railroads of Pennsylvania. Following the talk, Bruce Tracy showed some rare Lehigh Valley items, including a "Conductor's Box" as well as a switch-cleaning tool. Dan Armitage explained how engineers in the diesel era had special tools to make their jobs easier. Bob Travis had some rare old Lionel and tinplate train catalogs. Gene Endres brought some route guides from the 1950s.
January Meeting With Frank Barry: His Early Adventures Chasing Steam
Our meeting on January 13, 2015 at The History Center had guest speaker, Frank Barry, noted photographer and chronicler of the last days of steam in North America telling of his early efforts to see operating steam locomotives in Germany and then in Mexico. It was in Mexico that he met his wife, Barbara, and began to really tell the story of the final steam operations in all of North America. Since that time, Frank has also traveled as far as Patagonia and East Africa, taking excellent black-and-white photographs. For many of these he has been honored by the Center for Railroad Photography and Art.
Former Cornell Railroad Historical Society President John Marcham Died
John Marcham, former president of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society died in Ithaca in December. John was a real railroad enthusiast, a good friend and a top-class editor. He oversaw the production and printing of several notable rail books put out in association with The History Center [museum] in Ithaca. Among them were: Lehigh Valley Memories, The Gangly Country Cousin, Ups and Downs of a Rural Line [history of the Elmira, Cortland and Northern]. John also edited, revised and updated, with additional photographs and maps, A History of Railroads in Tompkins County.
Over the years, John ran his own newspaper, was an editor at the Ithaca Journal and then at the Cornell University Press. He was involved in many activities around Ithaca, and always gave generously of his time and treasure to many projects. John was an avid modeler, especially in the somewhat rare S-scale (American Flyer).
We will miss him very much.
December Meeting Brings the Excitement of Our Annual Auction
At our December meeting, persuasive auctioneer Steve Peck sold a variety of rail-interest items. Some came from hidden attics and basements, others were flown in especially from secure vaults in the mountains of Colorado and Outer Mongolia. This was everyone's chance to acquire things they never thought they would need, or to finally buy items they had desired all their life. The CRHS Auction happened on December 9, 2014 at The History Center in downtown Ithaca.

 

Reports on CRHS Meetings of 2011 and previous years

Page revised by Gene Endres, April 1, 2016