(NYP – Locally called the “nip”)

Some railroads are called short lines, and, well, 57 miles is not what you might call short. The NYP, a short line by some standards, started at a junction with the Erie RR at Canisteo, NY and ran southwest into Pennsylvania, sweeping down into Potter County along the Oswayo Valley and then up again entering NY at Ceres. It there connected with the Pittsburg , Shawmut & Northern. You might wonder today what kept this RR in business if you traverse the right of way that the railroad traveled . In it’s infancy it served sawmills, tanneries, barrel head and stave factories, chemical factories, glass works and a fine agricultural region. The area was generous in timber. Three different enterprises had laid plans, but not track, into Potter County . The only penetration into the county was in 1890 when Wellsville interests spread the Wellsville, Coudersport & Pine Creek railroad track.

The NYP RR plan was to reach Canisteo and connect with the Erie . It was projected east up the valley from Genesee to Whitesville then on to Greenwood then down Bennetts Creek Valley to the Erie Junction. When construction started and graded about a quarter of a mile the contractors reached the NY State line. On July 22, 1895 the NY&P Railroad chartered in NY State from the state line to the city of Hornellsville , a distance of about 30 miles.

On June 22, 1896 the NYP RR of NY State and the Olean Oswayo & Eastern RR of Pennsylvania were consolidated to form the New York & Pennsylvania Railroad Company. It was a healthy merger with 41 miles of track from Canisteo to Oswayo.

The N. Y. & P. had been opened by June 30, 1896 as far as Bennetts Creek crossing where a 400 foot long bridge had to be built to connect to Canisteo. The pile drivers worked 3 weeks driving some 100 piles while workmen readied the grading in Canisteo so that the road could be connected to the Erie . The people along the route were so anxious to use the passenger service that the railroad ran a special Excursion train for those who wished to attend the circus in Hornell. The first train section arrived at Canisteo about eight o’clock and was crowded to capacity with the second section arrival shortly thereafter. At almost all the stations along the line large numbers of people were left waiting making it necessary for the train to return and make a second trip. Since the rails were only laid as far as Bennetts Creek, the train stopped at that point from which excursionists were transferred to the trolley line in “hacks” to continue their trip to the circus.

In 1901 NYP RR constructed their line to Millport and Shinglehouse and in 1904 finished their track across the state line to Ceres. Today it is hard to vision Ceres being quite a railroad town. During the early 1880’s there were two narrow gauge railroads operating in Ceres, the Allegany Central and the Bradford , Eldred and Cuba . Both were built to service the oil fields in and around the Bolivar, Richburg & Allentown area. The Bradford , Eldred and Cuba was part of the Erie Narrow Gauge System which included the Bradford , Bordell & Kinzua and the Tonawanda Valley & Cuba . The B.E.&C. only lasted from 1881 to 1893 but the Allegany Central being taken over by the Central New York & Western, was servicing the valley right up until the Shawmut took them over in 1899.

Ceres, named after the Roman goddess of growing plants and crops, was virtually a beehive of railroad activity in the years 1901 to 1904. The Shawmut had dragged their heels in changing their acquired narrow gauge Central New York & Western from narrow to standard gauge until the Olean Street Railway announced plans to build a trolley line through Ceres to Bolivar. A year or so later the NY&P arrived from Shinglehouse and the trolley line was built. Such activity has never been equaled in Ceres.

With the opening of the railroad from Canisteo to Ceres the railroad operated one round trip freight service. The passenger, mail and express made two round trips a day from Shinglehouse to Canisteo and one round trip a day between Shinglehouse and Ceres. Fare for passengers was 3cents per mile. The Wells Fargo Express once operated over the line.

Although there were many medium sized businesses that used the line over it’s entire mileage the area was predominantly agricultural in the region and the farmers along the line kept the railroad going during the nineteen twenties and thirties. A most important service of the line was carrying the mail. The Erie brought the mail to Canisteo and over time decided they could not stop at Canisteo and threw the mail off “on the fly” often leading to damage and complaint by residents and NYP about the Erie ’s mail service.

Excursion trains offered many the only recreation that they might expect at the time. Trips from the small towns gathered people to entertainment in Hornell for plays, operas, circuses and fairs. Sundays & Holiday Excursions saw people taken to Elmira ’s Eldridge Park or Rock City near Olean for picnics. Arrangements were made for special trips to Niagara Falls , Toronto and other far places through other adjoining railroads.

Weather conditions had a huge influence on NYP operations in winter. While traversing a section of track through a swamp on both sides and ice frozen up over the tracks an engine came up on top of the ice only to slide completely off the right of way and onto the solidly frozen swamp. It had to helplessly await another engine to come pull it back to the track.

The story goes that at a meeting of railroad officials Guy Beasor, general manager of NYP heard the President of Union Pacific discussing the problems of snow hampering the operation of their railroad. When Mr. Beasor agreed that snow was a tremendous problem on his railroad also, the president of the U.P. asked how long was his road. Mr. Beasor informed him it was fifty-seven miles long and he replied, “Hell, man, why don’t you build a shed over it”?

Outwardly the little NYP looked healthy. Troubles seemed to start in 1899 when the factions of the NYP & OO&E insiders disagreed on management. In 1901 a lawsuit started between the two factions, and while it was going on, the NY&P RR was falling on hard times. In 1902 it defaulted on interest payments and forced into receivership. On May 24, 1902 the railroad was sold at foreclosure sale and Cobb & Cobb bought it for $240,000. The company still remained in the hands of the Cobbs. Collusion was charged and the courts continued to hear the case until 1904. It was finally decided the Cobbs would retain control of the railroad and the Rumsey complaint would be paid to settle the issue. Receivership ended July 1, 1904 .

On June 16 & 17, 1916 a devastating flood hit the region and Canisteo to Genesee was severely damaged. NY&P Railroad was hit as serious as any business in the area. The trestle at Bennets Creek was completely demolished and roadbed washed away all along the line. After much attempt to make temporary repairs the line faced abandonment. People tried to raise money to buy the road and save their railroad, but, efforts failed and a contract to tear up the line was signed. While negotiations were going on in various communities to raise money, the old NY&P went out of existence on January 25, 1919. Some people became desperate for the need of the railroad and organized to raise $325,000 to buy the railroad. The Cobbs agreed to take $150,000 in stock and with great effort on the part of everyone, each village was able to raise it quota to save the NY section. Thru the efforts of some Pennsylvania businesses the PA section was taken over for continued operation.

The new ownership was 500 stockholders, 400 of whom lived along the railroad. The entire railroad was purchased on September 15, 1919 and consolidated with the Oswayo Valley Railroad, a company on paper only, to form a new New York & Pennsylvania Railway Company on March 15, 1920. The first action was to rebuild the section of track that was junked in 1918. In 1920 this was completed and two trains were scheduled, one from Canisteo and a second from Shinglehouse to meet in Whitesville where they exchanged crews and cabooses and return to respective terminals.

In 1921 financial woes continued although the line was operating for 50% less than any other railroad of like size. The woes continued thru 1923 when daily service was discontinued and freight trains ran when required perhaps once or twice a week. No one on the “outside” was interested in the plight of this little obscure railroad. The Shawmut considered a takeover, but, that plan never materialized. During the 20’s and 30’s the NYP went through some hard times but kept going. In 1934 flood waters again damaged the Bennett Creek track area and it was 1916 all over again for the railroad. The western section continued to operate without damage.

In December 1935 it was voted by stockholders to abandon the line. At the time the railroad owned four locomotives, 1 passenger car and four flat cars. After remaining at the shops for several months the entire railroad was sold for $83,800 and sent to Japan for scrap.

The old NYP is now just a memory to a dwindling few and only a fading secondhand tale to our generation. May this simple printing be a reminder of the romance of the little short line through the years.