Pulaski station, junction of Syracuse Northern and Oswego and Rome railroads.
Train arriving at Fernwood
System map of the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad
Richland station included a restaurant
The line was quickly cleared and repaired so that the evening trains ran as usual. The following Monday all locomotives on the road were draped in mourning. On the locomotive Oswego was a banner inscribed: “We mourn your loss.”
“We learn that an excursion train will run over the road, at half-fare, some time this month. The stagecoaches have been hauled off, and the mails will be carried in buggies till spring, or until the railroad makes a contract with the Post Office Department.”
A large crowd met the first train as it steamed into the station in Oswego shortly before 12:30 p.m. As soon as rail service was established the depot became the local focus of attention. Until the novelty wore off crowds congregated at the station to witness the arrival and departure of trains.
Daysville Rail Station.
The Oswego and Rome Railroad
By Richard Palmer
The cautious town board of Mexico finally agreed to raise $45,000 through taxes to aid in construction of the railroad. Over the next two years construction progressed at a steady pace. The Oswego Daily Palladium noted on Thursday, November 2, 1865: “The construction train was enabled last night, to come within the city limits as far as the Poor House. It is believed that by Saturday night the locomotive will be seen puffing its way up to First Street. Then shall we feel that the Oswego and Rome Railroad is au fait accompli.”
Initially a passenger train made one daily round trip between Oswego and Richland where it connected with the R., W. & O. mainline. Later more trains were added as patronage increased. Elisha M. Moore was appointed agent and business manager for the railroad in Oswego. He remained there until 1883 when he was appointed assistant superintendent and general freight agent for the entire system.
Initially two passenger trains operated daily in each direction between Oswego and Richland. Commencing November 19, 1866, two express and one accommodation train operated each way, but through to Rome without change in Richland. As of May 11, 1868 this was expanded to four daily trains each way.
During the 1860s when the country was struck by the railroad “fever,” Mexico did not want to be left out in the cold. Public meetings were held in Mexico and Oswego which resulted in the creation of the Oswego & Rome Railroad on April 11, 1863.
The advantages of a new railroad directly to the east were obvious. It was argued that the railroad was well worth the investment.
The Oswego and Rome Railroad Company was formed on April 11, 1863 with a capital stock of $300,000 divided into 3,000 shares. The first board of directors consisted of prominent businessmen - Lucius B. Crocker, president; John B. Edwards, Samuel B. Johnson, Delos DeWolf, vice president and treasurer; Theodore Irwin, Cheney Ames, Thomas S. Mott, Maxwell B. Richardson, Charles Rhodes, Abner C. Mattoon and Charles H. Cross, all of Oswego; David Utley of Rome, Leonard Ames of Mexico and Each of the directors pledged $5,000 in stock subscriptions. Isaac S. Doane was chosen as chief engineer and superintendent. Later he became chief engineer on construction of the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad between Oswego and Lewiston.
After several meetings among railroad officials the decision was made, once it was built, to permanently lease it to the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad. The lease was consummated on September 7th. The arrangement was the R.,W. & O. would absorb the debt load and operate it. The original board of directors was abolished. The route chosen passed through the northern edge of the village of Mexico, then straight west through New Haven and Scriba to Oswego. It was rapidly surveyed and located, the right of way purchased and construction contracts let. Ultimately it cost $925,000 to build and equip the 28-mile railroad. The line was laid with 56 to 58-pound (to the yard) rails. In Pulaski the depot was at the northeast corner of what was then Salina and Rome streets. The Common Council of Oswego on December 3, 1863 granted the railroad company permission to cross city and erect a depot on East First Street.
Construction work went along speedily by a labor force consisting of Irish, and French Canadians. By mid-July, 1864 three quarters of the 28-mile distance between Richland and Oswego had been graded and made ready for the ties. Further financing came from the sale of $350,000 in first mortgage bonds bearing seven percent interest.
Rails reached Pulaski on Saturday, August 12, 1865. The following Tuesday the editor of the Pulaski Democrat quipped: “ Before we had swallowed our morning coffee the iron horse was heard.” The first freight train left Mexico on September 14th. J. J. Jackson shipped 10 1/2 tons of cheese manufactured at factories in Mexico and the nearby hamlet of Vermilion.
A Mexico Independent reporter visiting the mess hall set up for construction workers in New Haven was impressed by their appetites of these men as they gulped down mountains of mutton chops bread, boiled potatoes and raw onions. He said: “The quantities of these articles which were mowed away were sufficient to explain to all the grumbling stockholders where the money goes.”
On the east side of Oswego harbor new docks and piers were built for the efficient transfer of grain, lumber and other commodities from lake schooners to freight cars. To the east of Fort Ontario an engine house, turntable and other railroad facilities were built.“It already looks more business-like in East Oswego as the result of the completion of this road,” wrote the editor of the Oswego Palladium reported on November 20, 1865, “and when, in the course of two weeks, passenger and freight trains commence regular trips, trade on the river will increase 50 percent. The value of property will enhance accordingly. The good times are coming.”
New Years Day 1866 brought out the crowds to witness the first official train on the Oswego & Rome. It was a banner day for the communities along the line. The event was graphically described in the Mexico Independent of January 4th:
“A great profusion of omnibuses were rumbling in every direction to bring in passengers. Every station had a coach of its own and all were filled. A little before eight the shrill whistle of the western train echoed over hill and plain as the cars came thundering into the depot. There was much excitement for people who had traveled in stage coaches over horrible roads for the past 40 years.
“The 11:20 run from Richland came up amid great cheering from the crowded assembled at the depot. Over 80 passengers got on at this point for Oswego, filling the cars to their utmost capacity. The cars and engine were magnificent in every respect. All along the route at the different depots and many of the cross-roads crowds were assembled and welcomed the train with all sorts of manifestations of joy.
“It is indeed quite an era for the trade of Oswego, and it is no wonder that people are so much absorbed by it,” wrote the editor of the Oswego Advertiser. Sleeping cars were available at Richland.
In the Oswego Palladium-Times on August 15, 1932 Mrs. Laura Hicks Barnard, 86, of Barnard’s Corners near Fernwood described the first meeting of officials who were making plans for building the Oswego & Rome Railroad, in the parlor of Hotchkiss Hotel at Maple View. “The discussion was a long one and at midnight supper was served. My father was a cheese maker for years at the old cheese factory near Daysville, we called Sand Hill then, and I remember well when they surveyed the land to put the road through.”
Mrs. Barnard said when the railroad was completed they gave her a free ticket to ride from Lacona to Oswego, but she could not make the trip due to sickness in the family. She kept the ticket as a souvenir for many years.
The original station was established in a refitted one-story brick building known as the “Bates Block” on the northeast corner of East First and Cayuga streets. A second story was later added for offices. Many years later this became the site of the New York Central freight house in Oswego which still stands but is used for other purposes.
Reaching the city line the original alignment went northwest from East 13th street to East 9th Street, skirting Fort Ontario; then swung south to the station where there was a small yard. This trackage also served the string of grain elevators and port-related businesses. Soon large quantities of grain, flour, lumber and other commodities commenced flowing eastward on trains. When the R., W. & O. took over this became a branch and the main line was built long East Schuyler Street. Built in 1869, the New York & Oswego Midland was built through the city and paralleled the R., W. & O., but veered south and ended on East Third Street just north of Bridge Street. Here it constructed a large building to accommodate its general offices and station. The R., W. & O continued to use its depot two blocks away until the railroad was extended across the river in 1876. The company purchased and renovated a hotel known as the Revenue House on West Utica street where it established its new ticket office and waiting room.
There was rarely a dull moment in the early days of railroading. One day in May, 1866 several large tree branches were discovered by a track walker lying across the track about three miles east of Oswego. It wasn’t caused by fallen trees. An investigation found the branches had been placed there deliberately to derail the train. The culprit was soon apprehended, tried and sent to prison. It was suspected he had been “put up to it” by a disgruntled property owner who felt he had been short changed by the railroad.
It wasn’t long before the Oswego & Rome encountered its first bout with snow. One of the worst snowstorms in memory struck eastern Oswego county on Thursday, December 27, 1866 brought everything to a standstill. It was no match for the stoutest snowplows that existed at the time. The railroad was buried in three or four feet of snow, particularly between Mexico and Pulaski. Three locomotives with a snow plow, after working to clear the tracks, derailed and had to be hauled off to Rome for repairs.
On Friday a train consisting of the locomotive Delos DeWolf, a baggage car and coach, stalled in the deep drifts near Mexico. Word spread and about 100 able-bodied men armed with shovels went to the rescue. During the winter of 1878-9 the line was blocked from December 23rd to January 10th with the exception of one day. It became the custom of train crews marooned east of the Mexico station to trudge through the snow to the cobblestone house of Richard Hamilton who generously dispensed food to hungry passengers and train crews.
In those days passengers were not in such a big hurry to get somewhere as they were later. The earliest service was provide by mixed trains, carrying both passengers, merchandise and the mail. Station stops could be as long as half an hour. That was also in the days of hand brakes.. There was also a handbrake in back of the fireman’s seat on the engine.
Even after the Oswego & Rome had become reality, one more “paper railroad,” the Boonville and Ontario, was incorporated on April 16, 1868. It was to be a segment of a scheme called the Atlantic & Ontario Railroad. The first section was to be from Eagle Bridge in Washington county to Salisbury Center in Herkimer county; the second part from there to Boonville; and the third, continuing to to Port Ontario.
A public meeting was held on October 3, 1872 at Bagg’s Hotel in Utica to work out details. Seymour Green of Osceola chaired the meeting. The portion of the line from Boonville to Port Ontario was surveyed by J.M. Whipple. The route ran from Boonville cross country to Redfield and followed the Salmon River to Port Ontario. The project failed to materialize. The company was dissolved in 1873 and the money paid in for stock subscriptions was refunded to the investors. The Oswego & Rome remained part of the mainline of the Hojack westward throughout almost its entire existence. In later years its importance faded away. In 1931 there was still substantial passenger service between Oswego and Utica - two daily, two daily except Sunday and two Sunday only. Gradually trains were eliminated and passenger service between Oswego and Utica ended on September 25, 1947. The station at New Haven was closed in 1948 followed by Lycoming in 1950. After acquisition of the New York, Ontario & Western trackage between Fulton and Oswego the New York Central had no further need for the line between Oswego and Pulaski as a through route. Virtually all of the remaining business had gone to trucks.
On June 17, 1958 permission was received from the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the line between a place called “Paul” two miles east of Oswego, and Mexico, a distance of 13 miles. The 8.3 miles of trackage between Pulaski and Mexico which were retained for several years to serve a feed mill in Mexico. Permission to abandon the remainder was granted by the Interstate Commerce Commission on June 10, 1966. The last train operated over the line in August, and it was torn up the following year.
The name of Scriba station was changed to Lycoming in 1923. The station in Mexico remained in service until August 15, 1958. The original station had burned in 1902 and was then replaced by the present structure.
Edson E. Dayton was the agent there from May 5, 1931 until he retired on October 5, 1958. He succeeded C. M. Weeden. In 1942 he took over the local operation of the Railway Express Agency, succeeding M. Allen Calvert, who moved to Watertown.