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Susie-Q History

as written by Tom Trencansky
and should be taken with a grain of rock salt.

Why focus my attention on the Susquehanna? This railroad has a story to tell, maybe "the" modern day story of survival. This is an interesting railroad! While I do not consider myself a historian, I thought I’d pass onto you my own condensed version of the history of the NYS&W.

The Susquehanna has been around for a long time. It’s roots go back into the nineteenth century. The line has a great history throughout the steam days, running freight, passenger and commuter trains, and linking several important railroad locations together. The line stretched from the Hudson west across New Jersey to Stroudsburg, PA. As the 60’s turned into the 70’s, the shortline, like many others, was hanging on to a shrinking traffic base, deferred maintenance on physical plant and was trying to keep an aging roster of motive power and other equipment going. The mainline to the west was long out-of-service and local service existed on the east end to a connection with the Lehigh and Hudson River at Sparta Junction, NJ. Visiting the line in the early 70’s, and stopping by the shop facility at Little Ferry, NJ brought about mixed emotions. As a railfan, it was great to find old Alco RS-1’s and S-2 switchers alongside three "neat" EMD GP18’s. But, on the other hand, you also got the feeling "take the pictures now – this place won’t be here for long". Time would tell.

And in the sixties, in a far away place called Oneonta, NY, other events were shaping up. A new railroad called the D-O Line was beginning to haul tourists. The Delaware-Otsego Railroad was running 2.6 miles of the former New York Central Ulster & Delaware Branch from Oneonta to Mickle Bridge, NY. In an era of declining railroads, this new operation opened its doors and began operations with a former US Army 0-6-0. But just as the business was beginning to jell, the property was needed for construction of I-88. The D-O Line moved to a nearby D&H branch operating from Cooperstown Junction to Cooperstown. With corporate offices in Cooperstown, the D-O Line was now hauling both freight traffic and tourists. The new operation was called the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley.

Now the story gets interesting. The Delaware & Otsego Corporation began to grow, acquiring operations in nearby locations such as the Central New York Railway in Richfield Springs, the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville in the namesake towns, the Lackawaxen & Stourbridge in Honesdale, PA and then, the little New York, Susquehanna & Western in NJ. The Delaware Otsego System was a combination of these separate railroads with a business plan that presumed the lines could survive with a combined effort and effective management. Who could have guessed where the 80’s might take this operation?!

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In 1982, as Conrail was casting off branchlines system-wide, news of an expansion by the NYS&W into upstate New York began to surface. The New York, Susquehanna & Western was heading west and would take over the former Erie-Lackawanna branch from Binghamton to Utica, NY and a connecting line from Chenango Bridge to Jamesville, NY (near Syracuse).
If my interest and enjoyment from visiting the NYS&W a decade before wasn’t enough, this new "shortline" operation near my home certainly began to shape a new "love affair" with the Susie-Q. Saturday, April 17th, 1982, a small group of railfans sat alongside the D&H mainline in Lanesboro, Pa waiting for a westbound Conrail freight to cross over Starrucca Viaduct. OIBU came west with normal power but tucked in behind the head-end was a pair of NYS&W units, GP18 #1804 and Alco C420 #2002. Both units were started up in Binghamton and switched the line’s new yard. The C420 then ran north to Utica with the first local NYS&W freight train. The modern era of the NYS&W had begun.

The modern NYS&W was operating lines in NY, PA, and NJ under the common paint scheme of Susquehanna yellow and black. And the real surprise? In that contract with Conrail to operate the northern lines, was the condition that the NYS&W could operate its own trains via trackage rights up the Southern Tier from the original NYS&W through to the connection with the Lackawaxen & Stourbridge at Lackawaxen, NY, and on to Binghamton to connect with the Northern Division. It wasn’t long before the NYS&W was marketing and developing new services including something called container "stack" service in which containers off ocean-going ships as well as trucks could be doubled-up into articulated 5 car sets to allow for an effective and economical transport to the west coast. These five car sets could roll in two-mile long dedicated trains across this country. Back in the early eighties, we had to wonder "who on earth" dreamed up these things and just how long would they last. Skepticism? Yes, maybe just a little. Who could have known?
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The rest is history. The Susquehanna has continued to grow, shucking off only a few miles of the original lines that were not profitable. Those stacktrains continue to roll. And the line even operated the D&H for a couple years while that rail line was in bankruptcy. A new operation providing commuter services within the Syracuse area has given several Susquehanna RDC’s something to do.
And in 1998, the line continues to roster everything from Alco C430’s, to RDC’s, to a pair of maroon E9A’s, an EMD F45, a working 2-8-2 steam locomotive, to modern GE B40-8’s and EMD SD70M’s. That classic Susie-Q yellow and black paint still looks good!

Quite a line and deserving of this website and links to the others. If you can’t visit the line in person, I hope you spend some time and click through these sites and enjoy yourself!

A special thanks
: Not mentioned above is Walt Rich, the driving force behind the NYS&W and the visionary that took the D-O Line and it’s 0-6-0, and transformed it into the current Susquehanna. While the rest of us have watched this transformation, he has worked each and every day during that period to make it happen. Thanks Walt!!

Thanks to:
The nice artwork depicting NYS&W 4008 rounding a curve in Big Flats, NY is the work of Robert Frascella of Franklin, MA. Bob also penned the funky Susie-Q F45. This site was designed and created by Jim Hoagland of Dryden (Etna), NY. Thanks!

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This site is produced by Tom Trencansky of Dryden, New York. Tom and his family publish a small community newspaper called Dryden Tidbits. Dryden is a small village located in central New York and used to be on the Lehigh Valley line between Owego and Auburn. The tracks now end six miles south in North Harford, NY, the northern end of the Owego & Harford Railway. Dryden Tidbits keeps the community informed and there is a website for information that also contains some of Tom’s favorite photographs including railroad views and rail night photography.

Take a few minutes and visit Dryden, New York.
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