ORANGE Locomotive viaPalmer

'Orange' - Famous Early Locomotive of the New York & Erie Railroad

By Richard Palmer

   When the New York and Erie Railroad opened from its original eastern terminus of Piermont, N.Y. to Goshen, the first train was hauled by Locomotive No. 4, the Orange. It took the road 10 more years to reach the western terminus at Dunkirk, N.Y., on Lake Erie. The Orange had a colorful history. It was stolen once, and was transported to construction sites over three canals, two rivers and three bays. The dimensions of the Orange were: cylinders 10 1/4" x 18", and 50-inch drivers. It weighed 30,700 pounds.

   It was shipped by water from Philadelphia to Piermont. It was one of an order for three which were delivered to the railroad in January, 1841 by William Norris of Philadelphia, Pa. They were shipped by boat from Philadelphia to Piermont.   The others were the Eleazor Lord and the Ramapo.   In the early years of railroading it was common to transport locomotives on boats to the railhead.

But it was through its adventures that the Orange, named for Orange County New York, carved a permanent niche in the early history of the Erie. Aside from pulling work trains, this seemingly common outside connected 4-4-0 managed to find itself at the front of the first trains over newly-completed sections of the line across the Southern Tier of New York State.

   One of the earliest references to initial operation of this engine is found in the Goshen Democrat of Saturday, December 4, 1841. The railroad had been completed to Goshen on September 23, 1841.

   A Strong Team. - The locomotive Orange left the depot in this village on Tuesday night, with the Eleazor Lord, eight freight and two passenger cars. The whole train was fastened together, with a brakeman at each car, and made a beautiful appearance. The Orange is a powerful engine, and, it was believed would be able, with the assistance of the Eleazor Lord, to ascend the steepest grade, with the immense freight, without difficulty. Since the above was in type we have been furnished with the items of freight sent down on Tuesday, as follows In pounds: Butter, 58,410; Pork, 30,312; Poultry, 5,359; Beef, 954; Nuts, 1,015; Livestock, 909; Sundries, 1,500 - Total, 98,481.

   The above is the greatest freight that has yet been forwarded from Goshen in a single day.

                           Orange Participated in Famous Race

   In 1842 stagecoaches were still transporting the mail on the east side the regular mail route between New York and Albany. This was long before the day of the telegraph. Newspapers of the day had to depend on the mails or special couriers to obtain the news. Presidents’ and governors’ messages were then considered the most important items of news that a newspaper could give its readers. In 1842 the New York Sun resolved to place before its readers the message of Governor Seward for that year in advance of any of its rival journals. The New York Herald resolved that the Sun should do no such thing, although the Sun had arranged with the New York & Erie Railroad cooperate in the undertaking.

The stage proprietor of the line between Goshen and Albany aggressively cooperated with the Erie. The Sun managed to have a copy of the Governors’ message delivered to it by means of the railroad and the Goshen-Albany route. The Herald believed a copy could be delivered in New York sooner by a courier over the regular stage line east of the Hudson, and arranged to have one delivered over that route. The railroad company took great interest in the result of this race. Railroad officials were confident the distance between New York and Albany could be covered quicker by train than by stage. So the management made every effort to facilitate the delivery of the Governor’s message.

     Engineer Joe Meginnes, with the Orange, was chosen to make the flying trip between Goshen and Piermont with the message when it should be delivered to him. The proprietor of the Albany and Goshen stage line had provided reliable post-riders for this occasion, and the best of horses at ten-mile relays, to carry them to Goshen at all speed. The Hudson River line had made similar arrangements for its route. When Governor Seward’s message was delivered to the legislature at its meeting in January, 1842, a copy of it was delivered to each of the post riders, and away they sped.

   Meginnnes had his engine in readiness to start from Goshen on the word. The Orange stood at the old Goshen depot, impatiently puffing and snorting. No post-rider came. After awhile the engine’s steam was getting low. Joe ran her up and down the track, while his fireman Daniel Sutherland, of Owego stoked her and kept her boiler full of water. An hour passed.Then the sound of the horse’s hoofs was heard on the hill, and a minute later the panting horse came dashing up to the station.   The message was handed over to the custody of the engineer, and he pulled out immediately for Piermont. “He pulled out so suddenly,” said David D. Osmun, of Chester, N.Y., who was present on the occasion, “that the locomotive actually rose from the rails, like a rearing horse, and then came down upon them with a ‘chug.’” Meginnes always declared that he would have arrived at Piermont at least a quarter of an hour sooner than he did if the master mechanic had not been on the engine with him. The master mechanic was afraid to run as fast as Joe was inclined to run, and the engineer had to obey his superior officer.

                A steamboat was waiting at Piermont, ready to complete the trip, and it was quickly steaming down the river. Not to be out done, the Sun editor had put aboard a force of printers, with type and tools, who were set at work immediately putting the message in type.   By the time the steamboat reached New York the message was ready to go to press as soon as the type could be carried to the Sun office and placed in the forms. The result of this haste and enterprise was that when the rider reached New York, bearing the Herald’s copy of the message, the Sun had already been an hour on the street with its reproduction of the document. A great deal of money was won and lost on the result of this great race. The result of the race did not result in making the Albany and Goshen connection of the Erie the popular route between New York and Albany, and the stage line was soon abandoned.

                Wilmot M. Vail, of Port Jervis, who, as a boy, was present on the occasion, recalled that the engine that carried the message from Goshen was the Ramapo, and that the Orange followed. At Sloatsburg the Ramapo burned out a flue and was unable to proceed further. She was put on the wye at that place, and the message transferred to the Orange, and Meginnes took it on to Piermont.

   Meginnes continued to run Orange until 1846, when he was re-assigned to the new locomotive Sussex, or No. 6. Joshua P. Martin who came over from the Lancaster & Columbia Railroad that year, took charge of the Orange. He ran her between Piermont and Otisville. When the railroad was opened to Port Jervis, he ran to and from the place until the summer of 1848. Then the Orange was ordered to Binghamton to help in the construction of the railroad east from there.

   Martin was ordered to Binghamton also, to take charge of her there. He went by stage with his family and his fireman, John Meginnes, Joe’s brother. The Orange was forwarded by Hudson River to Albany, thence by Erie Canal to the junction with the Chenango Canal, and down that canal to Binghamton. The engine was five weeks enroute. It was unloaded from the canal, at what is now State Street, and placed on the tracks. The engine appears to have arrived in Binghamton late in October. The Binghamton Democrat of October 31, 1848 reported:

New York and Erie Rail Road. - We are informed that the rails are laid from this place east, as far as the Great Bend; that a locomotive has been placed upon the track, and in a few short weeks the highest expectations of the people will be realized in the completion of the work from this place to its entire termination. We venture to remark, that a work of this magnitude has never before conducted with greater energy, perseverance and skill in this country, And the promptness with which all difficulties are met and honorably adjusted, entitle the Company to great credit.

After the railroad was completed between Binghamton and Port Jervis, Martin and the Orange helped build it on to Hornellsville, which place that pioneer locomotive was the first to enter. The Orange was sold to the Attica & Hornellsville Railroad in 1851 and it was the only engine belonging to that company for more than a year, doing all the construction work between Hornellsville and Portage. It was the line's sole locomotive for more than a year.

   The first train arrived in Binghamton from New York on Tuesday evening, December 26, 1848. After the railroad was completed to Binghamton the Orange then moved on west as construction progressed. The line was completed to Owego on June 1, 1849. Then work progressed westward. This curious item appeared in the Dunkirk Journal on November 14, 1850:

    FIRST LOCOMOTIVE. - The schooner Commodore Chauncey arrived at this port on Thursday last, from Buffalo, having on freight the Locomotive "Orange," belonging to the N.Y. and Erie Company. The Orange is of the second class locomotives, and is intended as we are informed, for the freighting purposes of the company, during the construction of the road from here East. 

   However, it appears the newspaper mistook the Orange for another locomotive. Erie Railroad historian Edward H. Mott, offers a different version of the story:

    A historic Erie locomotive of the period previous to the opening to Dunkirk was the No. 90, named "The Dunkirk." It was one of the Hinkley, or Boston locomotives. They were mostly hook-motion, with independent cut-off. This locomotive was brought from Boston in the fall of 1850, by Horatio G. Brooks. It was transported on a vessel to New York, and from there sent up the Hudson River o Albany, thence to Buffalo on a boat on the Erie Canal, and from Buffalo to Dunkirk on the schooner "Commodore Chauncey." The engine was landed at the Erie dock and depot at the foot of what is now Washington Avenue, Dunkirk, November 7, 1850. It was used in the construction of the road from Dunkirk east, and after the road was open was run by Brooks on a regular passenger train on the Western Division. Brooks was the first engineer on that division. He became superintendent of it, and afterward master mechanic of the entire line.

   Undoubtedly, Mott's account is correct as the Orange at the time was in use on construction trains further east, in the Southern Tier region. It was sold to the Attica & Hornellsville in January, 1851. It worked westward with construction crews to Hornellsville (now Hornell). It was the first locomotive to enter that community, which in later years was to become the site of extensive locomotive shops. The A.& H. was renamed the Buffalo & New York City Railroad in April, 1851.

   In its issue of December 3, 1851, the Hornellsville Tribune announced that the Orange had been placed on the Attica and Hornellsville Railroad, preparatory to the opening of the road from Hornellsville to Portageville, "and has been put in fine running condition by her engineer, W. I. Hackett." The Orange drew the first train of passenger cars on that railroad on January 22, 1852.

   Reference to the presence of the Orange in this region are found in the Western New Yorker, published in Warsaw:        

   May 25, 1852 - Locomotive on the Track. - The Pioneer engine of the N.Y. and Erie railroad was last week taken across the river at Portageville, and will soon commence the work of graveling the track of the Buffalo and New York City road from Portageville to Attica. So "Look Out for the Engine while the Bell Rings." On June 5, 1852, it was disassembled and ferried across the Genesee River at Portage, the bridge across the great chasm being unfinished. It was then re-assembled on the track on the opposite side of the river, By June 7th, the track having been laid part of the way to Warsaw. Thus the Orange was the first locomotive to sound a whistle in that part of the Genesee Valley, and she hauled the iron to complete the track from Warsaw to Attica.

The Western New Yorker of Warsaw, on June 15, 1852 noted:

   The Locomotive Orange is now making regular semi-daily trips between the station near this village, and Portageville. There is no passenger car attached, the engine being engaged in bringing iron and other material to be used in finishing the track between here and Attica, and carrying such dead-heads as succeed in jumping aboard her.  

         The Binghamton Republican copied this article from the Buffalo Express on Wednesday, August 25, 1852:

     The Railroad Bridge over the Genesee River at Portage, which is 234 feet high and 800 feet long, was tested on Saturday afternoon by the President, Directors, Chief Engineer, and Contractors of the Buffalo and New York City Railroad, and found to meet the expectations in every respect. The locomotive 'Orange' was run over the Bridge by Mr. (Silas) Seymour, the Engineer and Superintendent of the road, accompanied by Mr. Heywood, the President, Messrs. Bagley, T.W. Patchin, Chase & Seymour, Directors, and Mr. Pomeroy, Secretary of the Company.

   There were four platform and two passenger cars attached to the Engine, all of which were filled with passengers who were desirous of riding the first train. Several thousand people were assembled on the banks to witness the performance, and, as the train passed over the Bridge amid the shouts and hurrahs of those on board, answered by the deafening cheers of the crowd on the bank, the scene was highly exciting, and more easily imagined than described.

   We learn that an opening Festival to celebrate the completion of the road, will take place at Portage, on Wednesday, the 25th inst., upon which occasion a number of guests from various parts of the state will be present.

   The engine's exact whereabouts during the next several years is uncertain but several clues have been found in the published reports of the New York State Engineer & Surveyor. But before relating the facts concerning the Orange itself, mention might be made of the existence of three other six foot gauge lines in the western portion of New York State.  

   The Canandaigua and Corning Railroad was incorporated on May 15, 1845 but did not open until 1851 between Canandaigua and Watkins Glen. It didn't actually go to Corning. The connecting Chemung Railroad between Watkins Glen, then known as Jefferson, was built from there to Horseheads and was opened in 1849. For a time it was part of the Erie system. It was leased to the Northern Central in 1866 and converted to standard gauge. The last of the trio was the Canandaigua & Niagara Falls Railroad, which opened to Suspension Bridge in the spring of 1854. It rented eleven locomotives from the Erie. For a time it was essentially controlled by the Erie.

Since that time the historic old engine seems to have been lost track of, the impression among old railroad men was it was taken to Susquehanna to be broken up and sent to the scrap heap. But apparently this wasn't the case.

Among the locomotives on the roster of the Canandaigua & Niagara Falls Railroad was a 12 ton engine which is believed to have been the Orange. In the State Engineers report of 1856 one of these machines was listed as the Irange; a likely misprint for the Erie’s Number 4. The cylinder and wheel size agree with the known dimensions of Orange fit that engine.

   The Orange is said to have hauled the first passenger train into Bradford, Pa., on December 22, 1860, from Carrollton, N.Y. on the Buffalo, Bradford & Pittsburgh Railroad which was six foot gauge, eventually becoming the Erie's Bradford branch. The Orange continued her work here finishing the rail line up through Big Shanty to Buttsville in 1866. One source states that in 1870, she was called back to the main lines of the Erie Railroad, repaired and run on the Erie, as the Number 401. Records show it continued working into the 1880's on different Erie rail lines. She ended up at the Susquehanna railroad shop on display, then finally scrapped.

The Erie Railroad Magazine in August, 1913 carried an obituary of a man who was familiar with the Orange. James T. Burrell, who at the time of his death on June 30, 1913, was the oldest employee in point of service on the Susquehanna division. He worked a total of 61 years on the railroad. From October, 1852, to January, 1853, he was a bell boy at Piermont, running to Goshen; from January18, 1853 to 1889, he was a machinist at the Susquehanna shops; and from 1889 to 1905, erecting foreman at Susquehanna. From 1905 to 1907, he was a machinist; and from 1907 until shortly before his death was foreman of the fitting department at Susquehanna.

   While serving as machinist, Burrell took care of the "Hoagland" patent piston. This was the invention of George Hoagland, who was at one time master mechanic at Port Jervis. Recalling the Orange, he said it was built by Norris with 12-inch cylinders, 42-inch or 48-inch drivers. His obituary states: "When the gauge was narrowed from broad to standard gauge, the engine was placed in a glass case in the back shop at Susquehanna, where it remained until it was scrapped a number of years ago.

     Engineer J. C. Haggett was particularly distinguished in that he was the last man to have driven "The Old Orange" which was the first engine every seen in Hornell, then the very small village of Hornellsville.

   Haggett began firing for the Erie in 1853. He knew considerable about construction work, and for that reason was soon promoted until he had charge of much extension work. It was while superintending construction of what is now called the Bradford branch, that Mr. Haggett drove the "Old Orange" on its last trip.

   The "Old Orange," among the first Erie engines ever built, was later destroyed in Susquehanna. Mr. Haggett said he drove it to that place where it was exhibited for several years protected in a special constructed glass case. There came a imd, however, she some unsentimental master mechanic decided that the "Old Orange" had stood as a curio long enough. It was then reduced to scrap iron.

   "Mr. Burrell also remembered the various other types of engines used by this railroad in the early days, viz: Taunton, Hinckley, Wilmarth and Ross Winans' engines. The Wilmarth engines were inside connected and were called "Shanghais." The Ross Winans engines were the famous "Camel Backs," wide firebox engines for burning anthracite coal.

     The Orange thus ended its life in obscurity in after for so long acted as the Erie's "mascot" assisting in the construction of many lines in New York and Pennsylvania. (1)



Mott, Edward H., Between the Ocean and the Lakes: The Story of Erie, Edition of 1899, pp. 392-393, 395.

Sinclair, Angus, Development of the Locomotive Engine, M.I.T. Press, reprint 1970, Note on p. 272.

Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin No. 16, p. 44.

Hough, Franklin B., Gazetteer of the State of New York, Andrew Boyd, Albany, N.Y., 1872, pp. 134, 135, 147, giving corporate history of the railroads mentioned.

Ontario Repository, Canandaigua, N.Y., September 8, 1858. Article concerning alteration of the Canandaigua & Niagara Falls R.R. to standard gauge by the New York Central.

Annual Report of the New York State Railroad Commissioners, September 30, 1855, p. 137.

Annual Report of the New York State Engineer Surveyor, September 30, 1856, p. 362.

(1) Elmira Telegram, Oct. 3, 1920

                         Notes on the First Train to Binghamton


       Edward H. Mott, author of "Between the Ocean and the Lakes," in an address at the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Erie at Deposit on November 6, 1915, said:

The way it happened that I saw the passing of the first train that ran between the Delaware and Deposit, was that my father expected to accompany it, and, although the day was a cold, blustery, snowy one, an old colored woman who had been a servant in the family, and who had come to Pond Eddy with her brother on a sled load of railroad ties to see the “bullgine,” bundled me up and took me to the edge of the railroad track so I might see it, too, and see my daddy get on the cars.

   The train came along, a flat car and a passenger car, but it did not stop. The weather was so bad that the men who were running it thought they would have job enough to do then without taking the chances of delay anywhere “path finding,” that train having been sent out two or three days in advance of the day set for the regular train that was to open the road from Piermont to Binghamton, to close up loose ends of track-laying and complete other bits of unfinished work in order that all would be clear for the opening day; and they called it the “path under train."

   Said the “Binghamton Democrat” of Friday, November 17, 1848:

   Great numbers of our citizens have been attracted to the railroad to see the first locomotive on the track. Some who have often seen this spirited animal before, have been conveyed by its wonderful speed, are delighted to witness his antic gambols among the hills of Broome. Others who have never ventured beyond the limits of the “sequestered counties” are amazed at the gigantic power of the steam horse, while he snorts and snuffs the fresh breeze of our valleys, and vanishes away to the morning fogs of the Susquehanna. The boys throng the track to see which way the bullgine is coming. All are exceedingly gratified to realize the beginning of the long-waited-for completion of the New York and Erie Railroad.

   The road was opened from New York to Binghamton, Tuesday evening, December 26, 1848. John R. Dickinson wrote in the Binghamton Democrat on December 29th:

   Early in the morning the inhabitants of this and the adjoining counties began coming into the village. About ten o’c1ock a snow storm came on, which continued all day and through the night. Notwithstanding the severity of the storm, thousands continued to assemble. About four o’clock P. M., the multitude, men, women and children, assembled at the depot, and awaited the arrival of the first train of

cars from New York to Binghamton. Hundreds were promenading the depot grounds through the mingled storm. Hundreds more surrounded a large and powerful locomotive, that had come in from Port Jervis with a train of freight cars in the early part of the day, and were expressing their admiration of its iron muscle, and their surprise at its wonderful power and speed. At another point

the cannon were stationed, about which a multitude of men and boys were congregated, ready to touch of the guns at the first sound of the whistle of the train.

   The large room of the depot-house was filled to overflowing-the adjoining room was reserved for the exclusive occupancy of the committee of arrangements, -with a doorkeeper to keep out the common people. The car-house, which was located about fifty rods east of the depot-house, was well warmed and lighted, two tables spread there extending its entire length (150 feet), with the best the Phenix Hotel could provide. Near the middle of the car-house a platform was elevated, upon which Littlewood’s band was stationed.

   From four o’clock, hour after hour passed away. Some becoming impatient left for their homes. The clock struck nine, ten, eleven. A large portion of the crowd had gone. Anxious speculations as to the safety of the first train from New York were passing among the remaining crowd, when, a little before twelve, midnight, the sound of a distant whistle came booming down the line. Bang! Bang! went the cannon, and suddenly all was excitement. Many who had gone home and retired to rest arose and repaired to the depot grounds.. The cooks and waiters set themselves to the final arrangements at the long tables. The firing of cannon continued. The whistle sounded nearer and louder, and the long pent-up hurrahs of the crowd becoming more enthusiastic, altogether greatly marring the usual midnight stillness of our quiet village. At this moment the stately train, drawn by the panting locomotives, approached and halted at the car-house; where the refreshments were m waiting. From 300 to 400 passengers alighted and entered the car-house, and began at once the discussion of the merits and bounties of the table.

   The honorable committee in the meantime were in waiting down to the depot-house, under the charge of doorkeepers, preparing to receive the distinguished guests from the city.. It was evident from the lofty bearing of many of them, and the precautions taken by the doorkeepers to prevent a contact with the common people, that they had screwed themselves up to sufficient dignity to receive with appropriate demonstration the Honorable the Mayor, and the Common Council of the City of New York, the President and Directors of the Erie Railroad Company, and other distinguished guests.

   After waiting awhile and learning that the New Yorkers were partaking of the repast in the car-house, the committee, evidently disappointed in not being permitted to take that conspicuous part in the reception they had anticipated, followed up to the car-house and joined in the festivities of the occasion.

   After the cloth was removed, Mr. (Benjamin) Loder, the president of the Railroad Company, was called for, and entertained the assemblage with remarks embracing a history of the affairs of the company and interesting facts and statistics, touching the commencement, progress and completion of the road to Binghamton, and its further prospects, which were received with great applause. Calvin E. Mather then arose on behalf of the committee, and addressed the assemblage with great spirit and animation. Toasts were given, after which William E. Dodge made appropriate remarks. He was followed by the Honorable Zadoc Pratt, Chief Engineer Brown, and others. The guests then retired to lodgings at public and private houses in town which had been tendered to them.

   About nine o’clock in the morning all assembled again at the depot grounds to see the train go out, and tender to our guests a cordial expression of our thanks for their visit and a wish for their safe return. While the preparation to start was going on the crowd assembled in the car-house and were addressed by Mr. Franklin, Mr. Dodge, Mr. Davies, Mr. Folsom, Mr. Diven and others, in spirited and interesting speeches, which were received with enthusiastic applause. The best of feeling prevailed, and the citizens of New York and Binghamton greeted each other as friends and neighbors, separated only by a few hours' ride. At twelve o’clock M., the two trains went out, amidst the hurrahs of the thousands assembled to witness their departure.

   The contract for building the railroad from Binghamton to Corning was taken by John Magee and Constant Cook, of Bath, New York; John Arnott, of Elmira; Charles S. Cook, of Havana, New York; and John H. Cheddell of Auburn, New York. This was an easy portion of the railroad to build, lying as it did in and along the fertile flat lands and in the thickly settled portions of the Susquehanna and Chemung valleys.

   The locomotive Orange did duty in the work of construction of that part of the railroad. J. S. T. Stranahan, Joseph White and Horace G. Phelps did much of the work as subcontractors on the road between Elmira and Corning.

The railroad was so far complete between Binghamton and Owego on June 1, 1849, that an excursion train from New York, bearing distinguished guests, was run as far as Binghamton on May 31st, and on to Owego the next morning. This first passenger train arrived at Owego at ten o’clock a. m., June 1,1849. Church bells were rung and cannon were fired. Considerable preparation had been made to celebrate the occasion so long waited for. Hon. Thomas Farrington was president of the day; Hon. John M. Parker, E. S. Sweet, Esq., Hon. John J. Taylor, and Franklin Slosson, vice-presidents; Colonel N. W. Davis, marshal. A dinner for the invited guests was spread in the big dining-room of the depot (Owego having been designated as a dining station), and a public feast on platforms outside, by D. B. Dennis, proprietor of the Tioga House. President Farrington delivered a speech of welcome to the distinguished guests that arrived on the train. It was responded to by William E. Dodge, President Loder not being present. After dinner, speeches were made by Shepherd Knapp; William E. Robinson, of the “New York Tribune"; Hon. James Brooks, of the “New York Express,” and E. S. Sweet, and Hon. S. B. Leonard, of Owego.