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Pittsburgh, Shawmut & Northern Railroad

When the Shawmut Went to Belfast

The following story was submitted by Richard Palmer 

 

WHEN THE SHAWMUT WENT TO BELFAST

By Hugh Guillaume

 

     Yes, once upon a time, the Shawmut went to Belfast, that little Irish Town on the Genesee where John L. Sullivan maintained a training camp.

 

     Actually, though, it was a Shawmut Predecessor company, the Lackawanna and Pittsburg Railroad that built a branch from Angelica to Belfast.

 

     By the time the PS & N came along the tracks to Belfast were long gone. But to those of us who engage in railroad archaeology it was and will always be the Shawmut that wandered across the Genesee River, White Creek and black Creek to a junction with the Genesee Valley Canal Railroad on the outskirts of Belfast.

 

     Many people have seen the bridge piers that still sit in the Genesee just south and east of Belfast. The best view is from a private driveway. Please knock on the landowner's door before you walk down to the river.

 

     Moving from there back into Route 19 and heading north toward the village the L & P grade soon appears just to the east of the highway and just south of White Creek. Some observers have mistaken this for the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad.

 

     As you continue north on Route 19 you will cross the L & P and White Creek. The L & P will now be on the west side of Route 19. It will cross White Creek Road, White Creek, Route 305, Black Creek and Gleason hill Road before connecting to the old Genesee Valley Canal Railroad which later became the Rochester Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  (See the map drawn by Paul Pietrak at bottom of page.)

    

     There is a truck stop at the junction of Routes 19 and 305, between the rear parking lot and Route 19 the B & S fill is clearly visible. Note that this fill is the B & S and did not exist in the days of the L & P.

 

     At the rear of the parking lot you will notice a wide flat path running west into the woods that resembles a railroad right of way. In fact, the first time we explored the L & P we thought it was the L & P, so we followed it through the woods for perhaps a quarter mile.

 

     Suddenly Paul Pietrak, who was leading the exploration, announced that he had found the treasure we were seeking. The wide path, which turned out to be a logging road, had led him to a shallow cut running northwest toward Black Creek. That is how we found the L & P.

 

     We followed the cut for a short distance and soon found ourselves walking on and increasing elevated fill that took us right to the south bank of Black Creek. At this point we were probably thirty feet or so above the water. We did not find any stone work to support the trestle across the creek. Perhaps a hike along the creek bed toward the river will someday reveal some stone from the L & P abutments.

 

     We could see a house across the creek on Gleason Hill Road which we used as a landmark. This enabled us to quickly locate the L & P fill on the north side of Black Creek. As Paul's map indicates, the two fills run at an angle from southeast to northwest across Black Creek and Gleason Hill Road. The L & P crosses Gleason Hill Road just west of New Road.

 

     We also explored the area along the old Pennsylvania Railroad right of way north and east of Gleason Hill Road. This revealed a lot of very old cinder ballast, much more than would have been needed for the single track of the Pennsy. The cinders extended well out into the adjacent hayfield. This let us to conclude that we had found Belfast junction.

 

     Then we discovered what appeared to be an ancient rock culvert, wildly overgrown with blackberry bushes, that crossed a little unnamed creek running south into Black Creek. Using Paul's metal detector we found spikes on the old culvert, in the hay field on both sides of the culvert and on both fills. One spike was almost eighteen inches below the surface.

 

     Most people who read this will already know that the 6.5 mile branch from Angelica to Belfast Junction was built in 1883 by the Lackawanna & Pittsburg Railroad. The plan was to establish a through route from the then new Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad at Wayland to the Genesee Valley Canal Railroad to Belfast. The L & P venture quickly failed.

 

     In 1889 The Lackawanna and Southwestern Railroad succeeded the L & P. The L & SW is reported to have abandoned the Angelica-Belfast line in 1890 but the Central New York and Western Railroad, which succeeded the L & SW in 1892, is also said to have abandoned this line in 1894.

 

     In any event, the branch to Belfast was very short-lived as a working railroad but it is still very much alive as a living relic of a marvelous age of American Venture Capitalism.

 

Paul Pietrak map below:

shawmut_belfast_map

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