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Wellsville, Addison & Galeton Railroad

Tale of the WAG

This is an article that appeared in Railroading magazine (Number 35, September 1970). It was submitted to us by Richard Palmer.

WAG1Tale of the WAG

By William S. Young

To judge by the fascination it holds for railroad antiquarians, the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton Railroad could be almost as old as the New York and Pennsylvania hills through which it makes its way, In fact, it has been in business only since 1956. "The Wag," as nearly everybody calls the line, owes its distinction to atmosphere. Hidden away in wooded Allegheny uplands where the valleys are deep and the grades are steep, the 98 miles of railroad with which it started—the WAG is now 77 miles long, and trying to shrink further—were the largest remnant of one of the most fabulous of abandoned eastern lines, the Buffalo & Susquehanna. In its not quite fifteen years of life the WAG has relied mainly on unique first-generation diesels that are twice as old as it is. Now that other roads are buying second-generation locomotives apace and cab units are following early diesel oddities into oblivion, the WAG itself is moving up from middle-early to middle-late first-generation power, and in years to come it may be one of the last to operate F7's.

The father of the Buffalo & Susquehanna was Frank H. Goodyear of Buffalo, who got into railroading by way of lumbering. His first railroad, the Sinnemahoning Valley, began operations in 1885 not far to the southwest of the present-day WAG. Goodyear and his brother Charles, a law associate of Grover Cleveland, developed a lumber, coal, and iron empire as well as a design for a new railroad between Buffalo and Pittsburgh. By construction and acquisition, the Goodyear lines were extended toward both cities. More than a dozen companies went into the making of what is now the WAG, including a line from Galeton, Pa., to Addison, N. Y., that had once been 3-foot gauge. Galeton became the site of the Buffalo & Susquehanna's shops and an important junction on its route from Du Bois, Pa., to Buffalo via Wellsville, N.Y. The B&S came to control nearly 400 miles of track, and reached Buffalo in 1906; historians date its decline from 1907, when Frank Goodyear died. That was also a year of nationwide financial panic, and the B&S never recovered. Its slogans—"The New Way," "The Grand Scenic Route"—availed it not. In 1910 the system fell into receivership, so precipitately that Alco's Brooks Works was left with ten new Consolidations to peddle elsewhere. The Buffalo extension finally went to the bondholders, and lingered on for a while as the independent Wellsville & Buffalo, which expired in 1916 after less than six months of operation. The proposed Pittsburgh extension, and cutoffs and tunnels that would have eliminated switchbacks and heavy grades in the Alleghenies, all went by the boards. (The article continues. Read more: Tale of the WAG (pdf)

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