Early History of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad and Its Locomotives (Ithaca & Owego etc.)
By Herbert T. Walker (1908)
Source: Railroad Gazette, May 30, 1902; pp. 388-9

The oldest portion of the D., L. & W. R.R. system was originally named the Ithaca & Owego Railroad, and is now known as the Ithaca branch. It was the second railroad incorporated in the State of New York, and a few original notes, for which the writer is indebted to Mr. John Mandeville, C.E., of Brookton, N.Y., who has lived in the vicinity of this railroad for over 50 years, will be of interest.

For some time before the company was organized the projectors urged that communication from the waters and country of the north and west with the Susquehanna River on the south by means of this railroad would "defy all competition" by any other route, it being the most direct, least expensive and shortest portage between the navigable waters of New York and Pennsylvania.

A capital stock of $15,000 was subscribed and the charter was dated Jan. 28, 1828. The first surveys were made in the summer of that year by the general Government, an appropriation having been made by Congress for the purpose at the solicitation of David Woodcock, the then member of Congress from the district in which Ithaca and Owego were situated. However, no active measures were taken toward building the railroad until the construction of the Chemung Canal, from the head of Seneca Lake to Elmira threatened to divert trade from Ithaca and Owego.

About that time Simeon DeWitt, Surveyor-General of New York State, who owned a large tract of land at the head of Cayuga Lake, and others interested in the prosperity of the towns at either end of the proposed railroad, became identified in the building of the line, and the work was prosecuted with vigor. In 1832 the north end of the road was completed and the capital stock was then increased to $300,000.

A "Report to the Stockholders," signed by Francis A. Bloodgood, President, will be found in the "American Railroad Journal," year 1833, pages 562-595. It is a prolix document, more in the character of a prospectus than a report, and is too lengthy to be reproduced here. the Chief Engineer of this railroad was John Randall Jr.

The length of the road was about 29 miles. Beginning at Ithaca it was necessary in order to ascend from the valley of Cayuga Lake, to construct two inclined planes, the first being 1,733 1/2 feet long, with an ascent of one in 21 feet. The whole elevation above the lake was 602 feet in about eight miles, after which there was a descent of 276 feet to Owego.

Stationary engine-power was used on the first, and horse-power on the second plane. Between Owego and the second inclined plane the cars were drawn by horses, the company having no locomotives. The track was standard gauge, having a strap rail 2 1/4 by 5/8 inches. Trenches were made lengthwise about 1 foot deep, filled with gravel and rammed, and upon this bed longitudinal sills 4 x 12 inches were placed, which supported crossties 3 feet apart. These crossties were gained to receive the stringers upon which the strap rails were laid.

The first 13 miles of the road wee opened Feb. 13, 1834, and by April 1 of the same year it was completed. In the following May the capital stock was again increased, making a total of $450,000.

At the close of the year 1839 it was thought advisable to buy a locomotive engine, and Richard Varick DeWitt, Treasurer of the road, who was something of a mechanic, prepared the general plans for one, and it was built in the shops of Walter McQueen at Albany, and placed on the road in the spring of 1840. An outline of the engine is shown in Fig. 1. The leading dimensions were: Cylinders, 9 inches diameter by 16-inch stroke. The driving wheels had cast-iron hubs and wrought-iron spokes and tires with a diameter of 48 inches. Diameter of boiler, 30 inches; height of stack from the rail, 12 feet; length of engine over all, 17 feet; weight, 7 tons. The frames were of wood 6 x 4 inches, to which were bolted cast-iron pedestals for the driving wheels. It had a hook motion of the Norris type.

The steam pipes came out at the sides of the smoke-box, and were bolted to the valve-chest covers. It was found impossible to keep these joints tight, and the engine lost much steam from this cause; also from the safety valve, which had a weight instead of a spring. It seems almost incredible that in the year 1840 a locomotive was built with a weighted safety valve. It was, on the whole, a poorly designed and cheaply constructed engine.

The tank was a cask mounted in a small tender, which also carried the wood. The drawing shows only one tender, but the engine had two, because the one carrying the barrel was not large enough to hold sufficient fuel for a trip between terminals.

Mr. James Merrill, who was originally employed on this railroad, and who was, until quite recently, engine dispatcher at Scranton, was familiar with this engine. Master Mechanic Francis A. Brown also remembers it. They state that the engine gave much trouble, being short of adhesive weight and a slow steamer. This defect, coupled with the lost of steam as above mentioned, rendered the engine almost useless in bad weather; in fact, it only ran in summer, horse cars taking its place in winter time, or when it was laid up for repairs, which was often. Its maximum load was eight four-wheeled cars, aggregating about 30 tons. Its day's work was to leave Ithaca at 7 a.m., arriving at Owego (27 miles) at 11 a.m. Returning, it left Owego at 5 p.m., arriving at Ithaca at 9 p.m. This speed gave passengers ample time to view the beautiful scenery of Tompkins and Tioga Counties.

Mr. Merrill also affirms that he has seen a horse trader sit in the first car holding the halter of his horse, which trotted along the track behind. Other eye-witnesses state that the engine gained such an evil reputation that good walkers declined to take passage in its cars because of their haste, and one one occasion a load of passengers bound from Ithaca to a political meeting at Owego arrived there with their train, but on foot and pushing the cars.

As time was of some value, even in those days, the public began go clamor for an improved service, and the engine was sent back to the shop to be overhauled, but it was never successful, and after running about two years with more or less mishaps, it finally went through a bridge into the creek, between Catatonk and Candor, killing Engine-Driver Hatch and destroying the bridge.

As the business of this railroad was never anything like what was anticipated, the company decided to abandon locomotive traction, and "Old Puff," as the engine was called (it never had an official name), having been hauled out of the creek, was laid away in a shed, where we will leave it for the present and take up its subsequent history thereafter. The horse-car service - cheaper and faster than the locomotive, was then resumed, and Mr. Merrill secured a position as driver, and, with a team of nags and a sharp stick ran the horse-car "Express" until he was appointed engineman at a later period of the railroad's history.

Whilst these events were in progress the State had loaned the company a sum of money which brought its total indebtedness up to $300,000, taking a mortgage on the entire road and equipment. The financial revulsions of that period so prostrated business that the company failed to pay its interest. The State then foreclosed, and at a public sale of the Comptroller in Albany, on May 20, 2842, the Ithaca & Owego was sold to Henry Yates and Archibald McIntyre for the some of $4,500, an additional sum of $13,500 being paid for the equipment, making a total of $18,000.

Simeon DeWitt had died (Dec. 3, 1834) before this reverse came, but the other public-spirited men who had hoped to benefit themselves as well as he community were thus ruined.

The above-named Henry Yates and Archibald McIntyre then reorganized the road on April 13, 1843, under the name of the "Cayuga & Susquehanna Railroad Co.," and made every effort to increase the business, but with indifferent success, and the horse-car service was continued.

In 1846 Mr. W.R. Humphrey became a director and secretary, and under his management the road did as much business as could be expected, but it was not a financial success. The annual report for the year 1847 states that the expenses for construction, repairs, cost of running, etc., amounted to $30,765.84, the income from passenger traffic being $3,581.65, and from freight traffic $17,644.23, making a total income of $21,225.28. The report furthermore states that the company had one engine (not in use), 5 passenger cars, 55 freight cars, 40 horses and 32 men.

Mr. Humphrey was a most respected citizen of Ithaca, where he resided for the rest of his life. In the course of an agreeable interview he stated that in 1848 it was decided to place the Cayuga & Susquehanna R.R. in the market, and a power of attorney was given him by Messrs. Yates and McIntyre with that end in view. Without going into unnecessary details, it will suffice to say that Mr. Humphrey had more or less to do with closing a deal with William E. Dodge, Colonel G.W. Scranton and the associates of the Leggett's Gap Railroad Charter, and the C.& S. R.R. was transferred to the new owners in June, 1849.

It was decided by them to employ locomotives and to rebuild and re-equip the road throughout, Colonel Scranton being chosen as President and to have general charge of the reconstruction.

As the Leggett's Gap Railroad was the original name of the D., L.& W. R.R., it will be dealt with in taking up the history of the main line between Scranton and Great Bend, it being only necessary to say that Colonel Scranton was a man of extraordinary energy and enterprise, with the faculty of making a success of every project he was identified with. One of the main objects in purchasing the C.& S. R.R. was to reach and make a more northern market for the product of the anthracite coal fields and iron industries which Colonel Scranton and his associates were interested in, and which they knew must be the chief source of revenue of the Leggett's Gap Railroad. With this matter in view they undertook to have the road in working order by Christmas of the same year (1849), a feat that was pronounced impossible by many, for the ties had to be cut and the iron forged and rolled at the mills of which Colonel Scranton was part owner. The old strap rails were removed and the track relaid with "heavy T rails."

At Owego the line was extended to connect with the Erie Railroad, and the track made a 6-foot gauge to conform thereto. At Ithaca the terminus was changed to avoid the old inclined planes at that point. These improvements cost about $400,000, and were pushed with so much vigor - an engine named "Orange" being borrowed from the Erie Railroad Co. for construction work -relays of hands and laying the new rails by moonlight that the road was ready for traffic before the promised time.

In the meanwhile, it had been decided to order the locomotives from Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor, of Patterson, N.J., and Colonel Scranton had several interviews with Thomas Rogers, the leading partner in that famous firm of engine builders. By the courtesy of the late Mr. R.S. Hughes,* former President of the Rogers Locomotive & Machine Co., the writer had the privilege of examining the company's books, records and drawings, a laborious but most interesting task, many of the entries and sketches having been made by Mr. Rogers' own hand, the ink being so pale as to be scarcely legible.

The order book shows that under date of June 29, 1849, the C.& S. R.R. ordered two eight-wheeled inside connected locomotives, to have copper flues, cut-off to the cylinders and to weigh about 20 tons. Also two eight-wheeled engines, to have cowcatchers and "a house over the footboard." Six-foot track. If a patent spark arrester was required the railroad company would be charged the patent fee. It may be noted that Rogers had his own spark arrester-a very good one and not patented-for which he made no extra charge.

The Rogers delivery book states that on Dec. 5, 1849, the engine "W.R. Humphrey" was delivered. Cylinders 15 in. diameter by 20-in. stroke, four 6-ft. driving wheels; weight, 23 1/2 tons; shop number 196; price, $7,600. On Dec. 15, the engine "G.W. Scranton" was delivered. Cylinders, 16 in. diameter by 20-in. stroke; four 5-ft driving wheels; weight 26 tons; shop number 197; price, $7,800. On April 22, 1850, engine "Simeon DeWitt" was delivered. Shop number 211, same dimensions and price as the "G.W. Scranton." At Mr. Humphrey's request the inscription plate of the engine named after him was changed to "Lackawanna."

On the completion of the road, a meeting of the directors was held and Mr. Humphrey was elected superintendent. At about that time he purchased two old passenger cars from John Wilson, President of the Oswego & Syracuse Railroad, in order to meet the expected increase of business.

The firs train on the newly constructed road was run Dec. 17, 1849, starting from Ithaca, and Mr. Mandeville, who was present on that day, well remembers it. the occasion was one of considerable rejoicing, and passengers were allowed to ride free of charge. The engine was the "G.W. Scranton," and before starting the train it was found there was not enough wood in the tender to take the train to Owego, so some bystanders helped to saw up some of the old track ties, and soon the tender was filled to overflowing. All enjoyed themselves that day and felt certain that an era of prosperity had begun for and by the reorganized railroad.

Returning to the Rogers order book we find, under date of Feb. 8, 1851, a request from Mr. Dodge ordering the fourth engine (not yet delivered), to be named "Ithaca." This was done, and the engine sent off on the 19th of the same month. Shop number, 250; price, $7,919. The engine is illustrated in Fig. 1, and the principal dimensions were: Cylinders, 15 in. diameter by 20-in stroke. Driving wheels, 6 ft diameter. The weight was about 23 tons. Mr. Sidney Broadbent, of Scranton, who was foreman of the D., L.& W. repair shops in 1855, states that the heating surface was only 667.98 sq. ft. It will be noticed that the frames were outside the wheel and the pedestals were of cast-iron.

The engine was inside connected with half cranks; that is, the crank-pin was secured on one side to a boss on the driving wheel, and on the other to a crank on the crank axle, so that the wheel itself formed one arm of the crank. This device was patented by Baldwin in 1834, and is illustrated in the "History of the Baldwin Locomotive Works," page 14. The coupling rods had solid ends. The valve stem was moved by the upper rocker arm playing in a yoke having brasses with keys and set screws, the same as on many engines today, the stem being extended rearwardly and guided in a box bolted to the boiler bracket. The link motion was the "suspended" design, which was originally introduced by Sir Daniel Gooch, Master Mechanic of the Great Western Railway (England), in 1843. It never gave satisfaction in this engine, as the valve did not cut off equally at both ends of the stroke. The stack was of the French & Baird design, the original patent of which is dated June 16, 1841. The prominent feature of this invention was an inverted cone fitted with volute flanges, which gave a (P.90) rotary motion to the sparks. Around the cone was a casing having side apertures, through which the sparks were discharged into the space between the inside and outside stacks. The top of the stack was provided with a series of V-shaped circles, perforated with numerous holes, thus presenting a large area through which the smoke escaped.

The boiler had a Russia iron jacket, with bands of polished brass, but there was no jacket on the fire-box, which was of the "Bury" type. these fire-boxes were rubbed over with a mixture of tallow and beeswax, which protected the iron from the weather. The bell, steam dome and safety-valve column were all of polished brass, as was also the hand rail, wheel guards and name plates, giving the engine a showy appearance.

The engine was erected in the Rogers Works under the supervision of John Cooke, who was then the superintendent. He was accounted one of the best superintendents Rogers ever had, retaining that position until 1852, when he retired and became one of the founders of the firm of Danforth, Cooke & Co., to whom we shall have occasion to refer later on.

The "Ithaca" did not work long on the C.& S. R.R., for when the Lackawanna & Western Railroad was opened from Scranton to Great Bend in 1851 the coal traffic of the C.& S.R.R. began to increase, as Colonel Scranton intended it should, and it became necessary to get a freight engine to haul the heavier loads. It was therefore decided to obtain a "heavy" 10-wheeler from the Lackawanna & Western Railroad, and send them the "Ithaca" in exchange. This was done toward the latter part of 1851, and the final history of the "Ithaca" will be given in its proper place, but the freight engine can be described here. It was an inside connected, half-crank, six-coupled locomotive, with a leading truck and weighed about 65,000 lbs. The cylinders were 18 in. diameter by 20-in. stroke, and driving wheels 60 in. diameter; total heating surface, 1,252 sq. ft. This engine was named "Tunkhannock," and was built by Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor. On one occasion it hauled 100 cars, containing 502 tons of anthracite coal, from Owego to Ithaca 35 miles, at 9 miles an hour "without a single accident or slipping of wheels upon the whole trip." en miles of the distance were on an ascending grade of 21 ft. to the mile, and 2,000 ft. on a rising grade of 30 ft. to the mile.

The annual report of the C.& S. R.R.. for the year 1854 states that the company had an enginehouse and shop, and four locomotives. The average speed of passenger trains, including stops, was 23 miles an hour, with a maximum speed of 27 miles per hour. Average weight of passenger trains, 60 tons, and of freight trains, 113 tons.

Somewhere about the latter part of 1850, the engine "Old Puff", which had been ignominiously retired, was pulled out of the shed and sent to the Lackawanna & Western Railroad, to do its best (or worst) as a construction engine, and the end of its career will be described in due course.

We shall now have to take leave of the C.& S.R.R., for on April 21, 1855, it was leased in perpetuity to the Lackawanna & Western Railroad (which had then become the D.,L. & W. R.R.) at an annual rental of $54,600. it was then called the Cayuga division, but has lately been known as the Ithaca branch. Mr. Humphrey continued to be superintendent and coal agent to within a short time before his death, which took place in July, 1901.


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