Notes on Meetings of 2015-2013

Movies Returned 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.


John Taibi Took Us on a Trip from His New Book on "The D&H - Oneonta to Binghamton" at Our November Meeting
The November meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society convened on November 11, 2014 at 7 PM at The History Center in downtown Ithaca. John Taibi, noted central New York rail author talked about his new book in the Roads, Rivers and Rails series from Depot Square Publishing. The Delaware and Hudson's Susquehanna Division Heritage Trail; Volume 2: Oneonta to Binghamton. Taibi personalized his story of the D&H and its connection to all of the towns served between the "City of the Hills" (Oneonta) and the "Parlor City" (Binghamton) in the form of a drive along the railroad. The book contains more than 600 first-generation color, sepia, and black & white illustrations - from vintage stereoviews and post cards to color photographs of current owner Canadian Pacific Rail sharing the steel ribbons with Norfolk Southern. John proved an exciting and engaging speaker and we excitedly await his next visit, probably about the next work he is researching: the Adirondack Railway.
October Return to the Bath and Hammondsport
The October meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society welcomed back Greg Dickinson, our member/expert on all things rail equipment and history. Greg has been photographing the resurrected Bath and Hammondsport in its new incarnation serving the Steuben County Industrial Development Area and other industries along the line north and south of Bath. He showed us slides taken a few years ago of operations on the B&H, including what must have been the final freight run from Rheims and the last remaining wineries on the line. It was just one freight car, but he caught the turn on a beautiful fall day, just appropriate for our October meeting.
Steve Peck Toured Our Chapter Over the Alaska Railroad in September
At the September 8, 2014 meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society, our vice-president Steve Peck spoke and showed a video of his trip along the Alaska Railroad in June. Peck spent part of the month working on the construction of a fishing camp north of the Arctc Circle, and then returned to Fairbanks and took the train south to Seward. He also had a stop-off in Denali National Park, but did not go into that in detail. His video, shot on the train, showed many aspects of the trip and gave our members a good idea of what the trip was like. Some will be booking for next summer shortly!
No Meeting Scheduled for August
The Cornell Railroad Historical Society will not be having a meeting in the month of August. This is our usual time to relax and recuperate from the labors of the past year. Like our esteemed Congress, we repair to various hideouts to raise money, talk to friends who know nothing about trains, and prepare for the coming busy fall season. In reality, we usually cannot convince anyone to come and present a program in August, so some members merely head for the nearest railroad line to see what's passing by.
July Picnic Meeting Held in Fine Weather
On a bright, relatively mellow and sunny morning of July 12 in Weedsport, New York, the Cornell Railroad Historical Society gathered for their annual picnic. The spot is an overpass of the CSX main line across central New York. Members arrived shortly before 11:00 AM, and already spotted a couple of trains before the official start time. A gas gril was set up, and picnic foods put out around noon. One unusual train was a welded rail train heading west at fairly slow speed. It stopped with the Fred end in view, apparently waiting before the crossovers west of Town Line Road, so that other freights could get around it. Once it moved on west, there was a lull, allowing time for the linch. Later operations saw the eastbound Lateshore Limited, running some 3 hours behind time, and the westbound Empire Service, just about spot on time. The group later adjourned to the Town Line Road crossing, and enjoyed several more freights passing.
CSX eastbound freight rolls past the Town Line Road crossing, while CRHS members (behind crossing gates) catch the action. (Photo: Endres) CRHS picnic attendees line the Oakland Road overpass to catch a westbound CSX manifest. (Photo: Endres)
June 10 Meeting: Greg Dickinson Explains It All


We had hoped that John Taibi, noted rail author with many books to his credit on the railroads of the central New York region, would visit the Cornell Railroad Historical Society for our June meeting. He has recently released his second volume in the Roads, Rivers and Rails series on the Delaware and Hudson. These books, sumptuously printed by Depot Square Publishing of Ohio, cover the history and operations of the D&H from Oneonta to Binghamton. Unfortunately, due to editorial confusion and absence from the meeting, we instead had Greg Dickinson, our member noted for his detailed knowledge of operations in and around Elmira, giving a presentation with numerous photos on the railroads in that area. Greg, as usual, did a great job in providing information no one else has such a grasp on.


May Meeting Viewed Photos of the Current Bath and Hammondsport
Our May meeting, held at the History Center on May13, was conducted by Steve Peck and Greg Dickinson. They showed photos of the current short line, Bat and Hammondsport, which operates a portion of the old Lackawanna line between Bath and Cohocton. The original line ran from Hammondsport, on Keuka Lake, to Bath, connecting with the Erie and the Lackawanna. THAT was the "Champagne Trail" but with the demise of the wineries, much of the line's business evaporated, like the bubbles in a glass of champagne. We did get to see a video of current operations, and Greg also showed some somewhat related slides, since his main presentation was inadvertently left behind.
Special Date Was Set for April Meeting: APRIL 1
In cooperation with our host venue, The History Center of Ithaca, New York, the April 2014 meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society was held on April 1 instead of our usual second Tuesday. We enjoyed a new video on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The date change was to allow the museum time to mount their ambitious new display on the creation of the Moog Synthesizer in Trumansburg, NY: "Switched On"
The Hard Coal Roads — What Went Wrong?
For the March 11, 2014 meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society, we viewed a new video on the "Anthracite Roads" — the coal-hauling railroads operating out of the area of Pennsylvania where the rocklike, hot-burning fuel was mined. The Lehigh Valley, Reading, Erie, Lackawanna, Delaware & Hudson, as well as short lines like the Lehigh and Hudson River and Lehigh and New England were made wealthy by their coal business and then were impoverished when that business disappeared. It was a well-photographed and colorful look at the trains on these lines, though the analysis of how things went bad was on the thin side.
Rail Photographer Frank Barry Returned in February
The February 11, 2014 meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Societywelcomed back Frank Barry, who is working on a book of photographs of his marvelous work following steam in Mexico during the 1950s. Barry was able to document the last days of steam on the federally-owned Mexican railroads during that time. His unique pictures have been honored by the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, and his stories of how he came to obtain the images make for fascinating story-telling. It was a special evening of rarely seen pictures and stories of the little railroads that were hardly noted in their day and are virtually forgotten now. Frank managed to catch the last mainline operations of steam in Mexico on the oddly double-track but separated line between Mexico City and Queretaro.
January Meeting:How Central New York Was Populated by Rail
In the January 14, 2014 meeting our editor and historian Gene Endres presented his Powerpoint program on how people arrived in central New York via the railroads. The presentation included a thumbnail history of railroads and steam locomotion, and contained several startling revelations from the US Department of Commerce about how little the population of rural New York counties changed over the railroad era. The meeting was on January 14 at The History Center in downtown Ithaca.
Annual Auction in December 2013
The December meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society had our annual auction. Members contributed items of a railroad nature and Steve Peck acted as auctioneer. There were the usual remarks from the audience, some humorous or enlightening. It was a fun event and helped raise money for our chapter. We especially thank John Marcham who contributed a number of valuable books that brought high bids.
Norman Rockwell auctioneer illustration (modified)

NRHS Convention and Varied Show and Tell

The November meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society featureed a report by Dave Flinn NRHS Global Director on his experiences at the annual NRHS Convention in Alaska. Following that we had the chance to share objects, pictures, videos, stories and other railroad-related objects for a "Show and Tell" session. Greg Dickinson had a number of railroad lanterns, some quite rare. John Marcham showed a rare book. Bruce Tracy one of his usual mysterious rail objects.
October Meeting Featured Historian John Taibi
Noted local rail historian John Taibi presented his program on the Oneida Electric Railway, which ran from Utica to Syracuse. The first road operating with under-running third rail electricity in New York State, this line had many unique features. Taibi's talk demonstrated many of them, and was filled with intriguing and humorous anecdotes. Taibi is offering his 280+-page book on CD as a PDF file for just $20. It will be a departure from previous books, but, as Taibi notes, "It would cost over $80 as a printed volume."
Richard Palmer Brought the Black Diamond to Cornell Railroad Historical Society in September

September, 2013

For the September meeting of the Cornell Railroad Historical Society, historian Richard Palmer covered the history of the "Black Diamond Express" of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Once known as "the most beautiful train in the world", it ran from New York to Buffalo and Niagara Falls from 1896 until 1959. His topic was a story in pictures of the Lehigh Valley's famous train that operated for about 63 years. Richard has written a book entitled "The Handsomest Train in the World" which was published by the Sayre Historical Society. He provided detailed commentary along with his CD slide program.

July Picnic Successful at Weedsport
Cornell Railroad Historical Society July Picnic was held on July 13, 2013 at the Oakland Road overpass just north of Weedsport, NY. Members supplied food, cameras, good times. Weather supplied some clouds, some heat, general good weather. The CSX Corporation main line gave us a number of trains and opportunities for good photography. After some grilled foods and salads, we also adjourned to the Town Line crossing for more train warching. (Photo at Town Line Road by David Flinn) CSX freight at Town Line-Flinn


Page revised by Gene Endres, February 12, 2017