“Cannonball” with mail and express car, coach and sleeper. Probably taken at Olean (Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad Historical Society.)



The Cannonball Revisited By Richard Palmer

(Note: There was once a famous name train on the Lackawanna & Pittsburgh Railroad  called the “Cannon Ball.” Although several railroads applied this name to fast passenger trains, this one is believed to have been the first to carry the name. On the cabs of the locomotives the name Cannon Ball was painted. On and off for several years this train carried Pullman sleepers between Olean and Wayland, and from there it ran over the Lackawanna to Hoboken. For many years old residents of Allegany County referred to the abandoned right of way between Belfast Junction and Angelica  as the Cannon Ball railroad).

From the beginning the Lackawanna & Pittsburgh Railroad strived to offer good passenger service even though it was always on shaky financial ground.

The Canaseraga Times of November 9, 1883 noted:

New passenger coaches on the L. & P. road this week. They are handsomely painted a dark brown with gilt letters, “Lackawanna & Pittsburg.” There is one combination car lettered “Baggage, Mail and Express” which runs with one passenger coach between the Junction and Swains. It is expected that next week standard gauge cars will be run through to Angelica. There are six of these new coaches to put on the line. 

It was also originally intended to inaugurate a long distance passenger train  between Hoboken and Olean over this route two years’ previous to its actual start up. On June 19, 1884 the Cuba Patriot reported:

  The delay in starting the through passenger trains on the Lackawanna & Pittsburg road is said to be from lack of motive power. Two hundred cars per day of the Globe fast freight line are hauled by their locomotives. A train, however, leaves Angelica at 5:20 p.m. and connects at Perkinsville with the Lackawanna train which arrives in New York early in the morning.

It was a joint venture of the L. & P.,  D.L. & W.,   and the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia.This is shown as Trains 1 and 2 on timetables of that period, but not by name. It was in direct competition with the Erie. Initially it wasn’t much of a train. 

This train was also the result of an effort by the United States Express Company to reach a large number of places in this region. Its scope was subsequently enlarged, the result of which evolved into a new, quick and convenient passenger route to New York in competition with the Erie.

  The first Cannonball operated on May 17, 1886. Details its creation were reported in the Cuba Patriot of May 20, 1886:

                                RAILROAD AND EXPRESS


                    A New Train on the B., N.Y. & P. 


 If “competition is the life of trade,” the express business throughout this section bids fair to be exceedingly lively. The United States company, though out on the Erie, does not intend to retire from the field formerly occupied by it, as far as can be helped. To accomplish their object they have utilized the line of the Lackawanna & Pittsburgh road, and have provided at a moment’s notice what that road has been promising for two years past, a through train from Wayland to Olean.

The new train leaves the main Lackawanna line at Perkinsville, runs over the broad gauge portion of the L. & P. to Belfast Junction, and from there to Olean over the B. N.Y. & P. It connects at Perkinsville with the fast Lackawanna train which leaves New York  at 7 p.m., and passes this station at 8:30 a.m., arriving at Olean at 8:57. Returning it leaves Olean at 4:10 p.m., passes Cuba at 4:40 and arrives in New York at 7 a.m. So far the train has consisted only of express car and passenger coach, and it is understood that it is run at the expense fo the express company.

The route to and from New York will be used for both passenger and express service and it is stated upon good authority that a through sleeping car will be put upon the route on May 31st, and furnish first-class passenger accommodations for New York and Pittsburgh as well as all points on the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western.

The United States Express Company have established their office at C. A. Wheeler’s store, and C. H. Enos will deliver and collect goods. It is understood that a new train will be put on this division of the Erie, connecting with No. 7 at Hornellsville, which will pass here about 6 o’clock in the morning, thus beating the special United State Express Co. train. (3)

The Allegany County Republican of June 4, 1886 described the first trip:

Beginning at 6:20 in the morning, the Angelica depot is an extra busy spot for the next hour - one of the busiest corners in Allegany county. A switch engine begins snorting around shaking things up an hour before that. At 6:20 Corwin’s Narrow Gauge Express comes puffing in from Friendship.  Eight minutes later Jim King bowls along on another track with his standard gauge Pittsburgh Express, with his Pullman coach from New York - pulling out at 6:40.

Meanwhile, at 6:30 the standard gauge freight and passenger train starts east. Corwin’s Express starts back at 6:35. And the narrow gauge freight and accommodation train follows at 6:45. Two trains arriving and four departing within 25 minutes. Angelica Redeemed!

Jim King hasn’t missed a run yet, and like a Commodore is bound to stand by his post of duty till everything moves just right. But Jim says no dude wants to attempt to dodge in amongst the B., N.Y. & P. trains at Olean. The first day he pulled in there a lot of railroad boys were watching to see his new Express pull in to the station. And it happened that his train at the start consisted simply of a dingy old baggage coach and one old coach - a narrow gauge car on standard gauge trucks - and not a solitary passenger.

Jim anticipated a crowd of his old friends to “size him up,” and as he pulled along up toward the depot and saw a crowd of the “boys,” he  says he felt so chagrined he thought would have “died;” and as he stepped off the yelled, “O the titman!” “See the titman!” O the flyer!” “Ere’s your thunderbolt!” Well, the boys all like Jim; it cost him $2.15 for cigars and seltzer water - and - now when he pulls in or pulls out his nobby train the Olean boys bid him warm congratulation.

  The Cannonball operated when it could between numerous labor strikes that closed the L. & P. down from time to time.   On December 2, 1886 the Cuba Patriot reported:

The “Cannon Ball” is drawn by engine 34, lettered “R. H. & L. R.R.,” which being interpreted is “Rochester, Hornellsville and Lackawanna Railroad.” This road at present consists of right if was and some rolling stock.”

The first discontinuance was on January 23, 1887. The Cuba Patriot reported on January 27th:

The Lackawanna & Pittsburg train which was known as the “Cannon Ball,” running between Olean and Wayland with Pullman sleeper, which was run from the latter place to New York over the D.L. & W. road, was discontinued Sunday. This change is to be regretted, as it afforded convenient accommodation for people in this section to reach the village quickly, while under this change they will have to go by a more round-about way. It also furnished a pleasant route to the city.

   The L. & P. will make connections with the B., N.Y. & P. trains at Belfast Junction. A train on the narrow gauge will connect with No. 12 on the Erie at Friendship to accommodate passengers going to Angelica. The express will leave Angelica for Wayland at 9:20 p.m. making connections with the D.L. & W. for New York. Consequently we have no early morning train south, or evening train north to this place.

   On May 23, 1887 it was resumed after a labor settlement was reached with employees.  The Olean Times on May 25th said:

   It is with much satisfaction that we learn that the Lackawanna train, known as the “Cannon Ball,” recently running between his city and Wayland, N.Y., and thee making direct connection with the D. L. & W., is placed back on the road, with the same sleeping car service and U.S. express facilities as formerly. The schedule time of the train will, we understand, be be about the same as before. It was felt that when taken off hardly a fair trial had been given, and it is evident belief of the company that in a reasonable time the Cannon Ball will do a paying business. It ought to pay and will be a great addition to Olean’s railroad facilities.

   The speed consummation of the reorganization of the L. & P., is foreshadowed by the putting on of this train, and it is believed that the ‘better days’ for the road, to which its friends have even hopefully looking forward, are very near at hand.

   Another upbeat note appeared in the Allegany Reporter on May 27, 1887:

   The revival of the “Cannon Ball” express pleases all, and once more makes it seem as though this is after all something of a railroad.

   Conductors Corwin, Meade and King are all much pleased at the change - and the boys say that since Jim mounted the revived Palace Car of the Cannon Ball Express his Rheumatism has all left him! He has reason to feel pleased, and we heartily congratulate him - as well as every one of the faithful old L. & P. boys having good place. And conductor Mead now has a run from Olean to Angelica and back, is is contended and happy. 

Five wooden Pullman sleeping cars were assigned to the Cannon Ball run by Pullman. They had been purchased by Pullman from the D.L. & W. in 1884. The original builder of these cars is unknown 

Elmira        12 section Built 5-1882 Plan 235 

Ithaca         12 section “tourist car” Built 1-1880 Plan 220

Newark      10 section “tourist car” Built 5-1879 Plan 220

Syracuse    12 section Built 5-1879 Plan 235a

Water Gap 10 section “tourist car” Built 12-1880 Plan 220

From Wayland to Belfast Junction, 45 miles, the train was wholly under the management of the L. & P. From Belfast to Olean it passed over the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia. The train sported brand new equipment, including engine and cars.

 A combined L. & P. and D.L.& W. timetable dated September 28, 1887 shows this leaving Hoboken at 7 p.m. and arriving in at Olean at 8:22 a.m. the following morning. Returning, it left Olean at 4:15 p.m. and arrived in Hoboken at 7:10 a.m. the following morning. A note at the bottom states these trains carried “Pullman Palace Sleeping Cars.” The eastbound train made a 20-minute stop in Bath to allow passengers to take supper.

The railroad noted in its annual report for 1886 that “one Pullman Sleeping Car is run each way between Wayland and Olean…”  In 1986 railroad historians Howard Appell and Bill Reddy salvaged a cache of old Lackawanna and Pittsburg records from the Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern depot in Angelica. Although fire damaged they were still readable. They include vouchers for rental of the Pullman cars used on the Cannonball.

The Pullman Palace Car Co. of Chicago billed the L.& P. at the rate of three cents per mile, averaging out to 4,080 miles per month. 

Aside from regular service the L&P ran numerous excursions in cooperation with the D.L. & W.  The Canaseraga Times of September 9, 1887 published this notice:

Grand Excursion. 

   “There will be a grand excursion to Keuka Lake on Wednesday, Sept. 14, under the management of the L. & P. and D.L. & W. railroads. A special train of elegant coaches will be run on the following schedule:

Belfast Junction,                           7:15              $2.00

Angelica,                                       7:30                2.00

Bennetts,                                       7:40                2.00

Haires,                                          7:47                1.90

Birdsall,                                        7:54                1.75

Center,                                          8:00                1.75

Grove,                                           8:05                1.75

Swains,                                         8:20                1.60

Garwoods                                    8:25                1.60

Canaseraga,                                 8:35                1.50

Doty’s Corners,                           8:45                1.50

 “Arriving at Bath at 10:00 a. m., thence via the Bath & Hammondsport railroad to Hammondsport, where one of the elegant Keuka Lake steamers will be taken for Penn Yan, whee a stop will be made affording ample time for dinner. Returning train will leave Hammondsport at 5:45 p.m., reaching Belfast at 10 p.m.

“This excursion provides for seven hours on the most beautiful lake in Central New York. The 40 mile trip by steamer affords a constant succession of beautiful scenery, the shores of the lake being covered with the finest vineyards of America, now laden with their ripe and luscious fruit. No effort will be spared to make this the most enjoyable excursion of the season.”

 Also interesting is the fact that a person could make a "grand circle tour" by boarding an L.& P. narrow gauge train in Olean at 2:30 p.m., arriving at Angelica at 5:20 p.m., then board the standard gauge westbound train there at 6:15 p.m. and arrive back in Olean at 8 p.m. The narrow gauge train afforded a scenic trip through Bolivar, Friendship and Belvidere before arriving in Angelica. The L.& P. train from there returned passengers from there "back home" via Belfast Junction (also known as Lackawanna Junction, Black Creek, Cuba and Hinsdale. Of course, what was advertised and what was reality might be a different matter. Aside from what was obviously the Cannonball (although it is not so-identified) a second eastbound train is shown leaving Angelica at 7:15 a.m., arriving at Wayland at 10:50 a.m., and at New York at 8:50 p.m. the next day. There is no westbound equivalent train shown. Another daily train left Belfast Junction at 7 p.m. and arrived in Angelica at 7:15 p.m. This apparently was an extra train to connect with service provided by what by then had become the Rochester division of the Western New York and Pennsylvania. There were also two other westbound trains - one between Wayland and Angelica and another evening train between Angelica and Olean. There were also two daily round trips  between Olean and Angelica, as well as two daily round trips between Olean and Friendship. W.H. Badger was listed as General Superintendent, and W.G. Booth, General Passenger Agent. 

The Cuba Patriot of Aug. 12, 1886 noted: 

The Lackawanna “Cannon Ball” carries passengers for half-fare Sundays and is quite liberally patronized.  It is called the “church” train, not because of any of the passengers go to church, however, but because it takes the place of that exercise. (3)

At its peak the Cannonball reportedly logged about 4,000 miles a month. It continued to operate until September of 1888 when the railroad again shut down due to an employee’s strike. This item appeared in the Olean Democrat on September 27, 1888:

                                The L. & P. Situation

The Rochester, Hornellsville and Lackawanna R.R., commenced running today between Hornellsville and Wayland, and J. H. King, former conductor on the L. & P. “Cannonball” leaves tonight to fill a is similar position on the R. H. & L. Mr.King thought that the starting up of the R. H. & L. was a favorable indication that the L.& P. would soon resume also, as the same parties are interested in both roads.  The L. & P. employees will all receive their old positions when the road runs.

 King shortly retired from the railroad and went into the boot and shoe business in Olean.                   

Again the Cannonball was reinstated on November 4, 1889.  The Angelica Advocate of March 14, 1890, in an article about service on the line, show the train numbers for the Cannonball trains had been changed. The article gives interesting details on train operation:

Trains 18 and 19; engine No. 7; narrow gauge, runs between Angelica and Olean; J. McLaughlin, conductor; Same Seager, engineer; W. Johnson, fireman. Mixed train; McLaughlin working hard for the company.

Trains 5 and 6; engine No. 21; standard gauge, Angelica to Wayland and return; T. O’Connors, conductor; Joe Way, John Ward, brakemen; Geo. Cooper, engineer; James Curtain, fireman; mixed train.

Trains Nos. 1 and 2; engine 4; narrow gauge; F. N. Decker, conductor; Tom Laffin, brakeman; Frank Post, engineer; H. D. Badger, fireman; mail and express; Geo. Napier, messenger.

Trains Nos. 7 and 10, Cannonball, mainline; engine No. 32; Wayland, Hornellsville and Olean, via Belfast and W.N.Y. & P.; W. H. Mosier, conductor; Cunningham and Dority, brakemen; Wm. Owens, engineer; E. Bennett, fireman. On alternate days, engine No. 34; G.C. Hendershot, conductor;  Hathaway and Bess, brakemen; Ketchum, engineer; Slatt, fireman. Mail and express.

The following timetable appeared in the Wellsville Daily Reporter October 13, 1888:

                   LACKAWANNA ROUTE!

Delaware, Lackawwana & Western R. R., and

         Lackawanna & Pittsburgh R.R.,

             NEW ROUTE TO NEW YORK.

  The Cannon Ball, with Pullman Sleeping Car attached, runs daily as follows:

Leave                         p.m.               Arrive               p.m.

OLEAN                    5:20                 Bath                  9:30

Hinsdale                  5:46                 Corning           10:11

Cuba                        6:05                  Elmira             10:40

Belfast                      6:32                  Binghamton   12:20

Angelica                  6:54                  New York         7:30 a.m.

Swains                     7:42

P’ville Junction       8:05

Connecting at Wayland with the popular D.L. & W. R.R. The cleanest, 

smoothest most picturesque and best equipped route between Olean and the East.

                  RETURNING LEAVES NEW YORK  7 P.M.

   Arriving at Angelica at 6:45 a.m., connecting with narrow gauge division of

L. & P. for Friendship, Richburg, Bolivar an intermediate stations; arrive at

Belfast Junction, 7:13 a.m., Cuba, 7:47, Hinsdale, 8:05 a.m., OLEAN 8:22 a.m., 

and connecting with all lines diverging therefrom.

   Close connections at Olean to and from Bradford, Eldred, Smethport,

 Coudersport, Emporium, Oil City and all stations on the line of the R.,N.Y. & P.

R.R. running into the Union Depot, Olean.

   Passengers are landed in New York either foot of Barclay or Christopher


   For further information, Time Tables, Tickets, Sleeping Car Accommodations,

apply to any Ticket Agent of the L.& P. R.R., or W. G. BOOTH, General 

Passenger Agent, L. & P. R.R., Angelica, N.Y.


    Proof that the Cannonball was still running in 1890 are found in the “personals” such as in the Olean Democrat of May 15th:

   W. M. Irish left on the Cannon Ball this afternoon for New York City.

   Dr. E. B. Burdick left on the Cannon Ball Monday afternoon for a four days’ business trip to the metropolis. 

The standard gauge operation of the L.& P., by now known as the “second Lackawanna & Southwestern,” were shut down in October of 1890. The last reference found concerning  the Cannonball is this note  in the Cuba Patriot of Thursday, October 16, 1890:

 Orders were received Monday to discontinue the Cannon Ball on the W.N.Y. & P. until further notice. The order does not state that the discontinuance is permanent, and it is hoped that this convenient train will soon be running again.

                                      The “Cannonball Line”

This was a stretch of the Lackawanna & Pittsburgh Railroad running between Belfast Junction, about two miles south of the village of Belfast, to the village of Angelica. It was built in 1883 and officially opened in 1884. Five miles in length, this was built as a connection with the narrow gauge Allegany Central, at a point about a mile west of Angelica. From that point into Angelica the line was dual gauge. This line was still in operation into the early 1890s. The Wellsville Reporter on September 5, 1891 that the L.& P. would run three special round trip trains the following Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between Belfast Junction and Angelica for those wishing to attend the Fair, as well as between Birdsall and Angelica. It was said “we will give umbrellas to all if it sprinkles Wednesday and Thursday before 8:30 p.m.” The special trains were to connect with trains on the Western New York & Pennsylvania at Belfast Junction. Round trip fare was 40 cents. 

When the L. & P. was purchased by the Central New York & Western in November, 1892, the so-called “Cannonball Line” did not fit into the scheme of things. Abandoned for some time, this line was ripped up in May, 1895. The rails were used as replacements on other segments of the railroad, including on the line between Olean and Bolivar. F. S. Miller, editor and proprietor of the Canaseraga Times wrote on May 24, 1895:

The road has had the career as rough as a corduroy road, but it looks like smooth sailing from now on.


                                               Motive Power

L. & P. locomotives used on the Cannonball run included:

L. & P. No. 32 4-4-0 Cooke #1721 1886 Cylinders 16” x 22” drivers 63” Reno. P.S. & N. #8 Sold for scrap 12-31-1924

Rochester, Hornellsville & Lackawanna (successor of the L&P) 4-4-0 #34 Cooke #1726 1886 Cylinders 16”x 22” drivers 63” Reno. P.S.& N. #10.  Sold for scrap 21-31-1928



*Note: The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western was opened to Buffalo on May 14, 1883. 

(1) Page 61. Railway & Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin, No. 61 (1943). Belfast Junction had also been referred to as Lackawanna Junction.

(2) Barger, Ralph L. A Century of Pullman Cars Vol. 1, Greenburg Publishing Co., 1988 (various pages); 

ibid, Vol. II, Pages 107, 109, 110. Published in 1990; Annual Report, New York State Railroad Commissioners for 1886. P. 307.

(3) In 1886 the Lackawanna & Pittsburg consisted of 41.11 miles of standard gauge main line from Belfast Junction to Perkinsville, near Wayland; 38 miles of three-foot narrow gauge from Olean to “Narrow Gauge Junction” near Angelica; and lease of the Swains branch, Swains to Nunda Junction, 11.78 miles, from the Rochester, New York & Pennsylvania, formerly the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia. - New York State Railroad Commissioners Annual Report for 1886. P. 302. It became the Rochester, Hornellsville and Lackawanna on June 9, 1886.