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Craftsman Boomer Trail - February 2010

NYOW Meet at Munns

The New York, Ontario & Western struggled for most of its life to stay solvent, while serving the sparsely populated areas of New York's Catskill Moutain region. In 1946, a freshly delivered set of EMD FT’s meets a 44-tonner at Munns, New York. Mired in bankruptcy, the weeds have already started to take over the right of way. Today, Munns depot has been restored by author and historian John Taibi. Photo by Bill Schneider

The New York, Ontario & Western comes alive

by Otto Vondrak/photos as noted

The New York, Ontario & Western was a charming 500-odd mile regional railroad operating from a connection with the West Shore at Weehawken, New Jersey, through the mountains to the Lake Ontario port of Oswego, New York. Branches to Utica, Scranton, Port Jervis, and Kingston kept the line afloat with coal and bridge traffic, while vacationers flocked to the O&W's passenger trains to stay at the famous Catskill resorts. The railroad followed a twisting route with steep grades and few sources of on-line traffic. The port traffic at Oswego never materialized, but coal from Scranton kept the railroad busy through the 1920s. With the steady decline of coal in the 1930s, the railroad entered bankruptcy in 1937, from which it would never emerge. The O&W dieselized as early as 1941 with the arrival of GE 44-tonner switchers and later EMD FT cab units.

While traffic picked up during World War II, it became clear that the railroad could not survive as a bridge carrier alone. Passenger service ended in 1953, but it was not enough to stem the tide. Liquidation was ordered, and on March 29, 1957, the "Old Woman" was put to rest. It was the first American railroad to be abandoned in its entirety, with the majority of its remote right of way returning to nature. The "Old & Weary" lives on in model form, however, thanks to the tireless efforts of modelers like Bill Schneider and Mal Houck. The following photos are a combination of their modeling talents (Bill's work was also featured in the March 2004 and May 2005 issues of Railroad Model Craftsman).

NYOW switching at Livingston Manor

Here we see 407 on the point of The Sunday Special crossing Lake Street in Liberty. The community of Liberty is located in the heart of the "Borscht Belt" Catskill resort region and was the vacation destination for millions of travelers over the decades. With improved roads and the decline of the Catskill resorts after World War II, NYO&W passenger traffic fello off dramatically. Models and digital effects by Mal Houck, photo by Bill Schneider


325 at Roscoe

A number of the Class W 2-8-0s had their twin single air pumps moved to the pilot deck, to avoid having to install stokers on locomotives with 90 tons or more on the drivers. These engines where shopped and equalization was adjusted to meet this limitation. Class W-2 No. 325 was the only O&W 2-8-0 to be fitted with the hardware to mount a pilot snowplow. On a cold day in late fall, we see 325 switching cars at Roscoe with its snowplow installed. It will soon be dispatched to Utica, where it was customarily stationed. Models and digital effects by Mal Houck, photo by Bill Schneider.


456 at Livingston Manor

The last stream locomotives purchased by the O&W were the Class Y-2 4-8-2s from Alco in 1929, numbers 451-460. Built at the same time as the New York Central's L2-C Mohawks, these engines even had shop order numbers within the sequence assigned the NYC engines. No. 456 waits at the ready for pusher duty south out of Livingston Manor towards Youngs Gap. The Y-2 were not only the last steam engines purchased by the O&W, but also the last engines ever fully paid for before the line filed Bankruptcy. Models and digital effects by Mal Houck, photo by Bill Schneider


801 at Roscoe

In an attempt to stem branch line passenger train operating losses the O&W looked to the Sykes “Seagull” motor car No. 801 in 1925. It was then assigned it to work the Delhi Branch from Bridge Street Depot in Walton. The experiment was wholly unsatisfactory, since the car was noisy, unreliable and inhospitable. Soon assigned to the branch serving Kingston, the results there were no better and the car was retired after 14 years of service. A model by Joe Bux pauses at Roscoe on its way to the shops in Middletown. Photo by Mal Houck


NYOW switching at Livingston Manor

The O&W never invested in any proper diesel road-switchers, relying instead on NW-2 yard switchers and footboard-equipped F-3’s in the 500 series for its local freight power. Locomotive 503 is on the local freight today as it moves some cars around for delivery in Livingston Manor. The water crane is now a relic of a by-gone era. Models and photo by Bill Schneider


NYOW switching at Livingston Manor

Far up on the Northern Division, the town of Munnsville (Munns on the railroad) was served by a classic board-and-batten station. With the demise of passenger service years earlier the station become just a freight shed with an office for the agent and had not seen fresh paint in many years. Diorama and photo by Bill Schneider


NYOW Upper Liberty Trestle

North of Liberty stood the Upper Liberty Trestle, a landmark span on the O&W. One of the road’s FT sets gingerly crosses the now single-tracked trestle with a northbound freight. Purchased in 1946, these locomotives sounded the death knell for steam on the railroad. Deliveries of F-3’s in 1948 completed the dieselization of the O&W. Models and photo by Bill Schneider


NYOW Roscoe Station

Roscoe’s station was a typical O&W family design, with several other stations nearby being built to variations on this theme. Its claim to fame was perhaps its trout weather vane that proclaimed Roscoe as “Trout Town, USA.” Models and photo by Bill Schneider


NYOW Upper Liberty Trestle

The watercourses of the Beaverkill and Willomemoc came together just north of the depot in Roscoe, New York, at a place called “Junction Pool.” This spot became known as one of the best trout fishing locations in the Northeast. The anglers below hardly seemed bothered as F-3 set 821A/B rumbles overhead with a string of empty reefers picked up from the New Haven in Maybrook yard. Models and photo by Bill Schneider


NYOW Upper Liberty Trestle

One of the O&W’s classic wooden cabooses rolls by Livingston Manor station in the last years of the line’s life. Model and photo by Bill Schneider

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