Livingston Republican, Geneseo, NY

Thursday, Feb. 21, 1963 


By Samuel C. "Mac" Culley


It was with keen regret that we learned on Saturday, February 2nd of the I.C.C. granting the Pennsylvania Railroad permission  to abandon its tracks from Hinsdale-just outside of Olean-to Wadsworth Junction which situated a few miles south of Rochester. This is to take effect February 26, 1963.  Pennsylvania crews will man the trains over the Lehigh Valley tracks from Lackawanna to Wadsworth Junction, thence over their own line from that point to Rochester.

This, it appears, is a preliminary move in the near future for the Lehigh to do away with its trackage from Hemlock to Rochester via the Hemlock Branch, especially, now that the P. R. R. controls in excess of eighty percent of Lehigh Valley stock and the former road is operating the latter under a trusteeship, but with the Lehigh Valley retaining its identity.

We state that we received this news with a certain sadness for we remember the passenger trains that operated on the P.R.R. from Rochester to Olean. In the Spring and Fall the scenery along this route was beautiful, particularly the majestic falls at Portage and the awesome chasm which was named "The Grand Canyon of the East."  We have a nostalgic feeling for this branch of the old Western New York & Pennsylvania. And it is ironic that this rail line is passing into oblivion the same as the Genesee Valley Canal did when it was sold to the state for less than one hundred dollars a mile back in 1880 for the purpose of constructing a railroad on the canal bed.

We remember the two state troopers at Caneadea who were shot and killed in line of duty by a man named Wagner and their bodies were shipped from this small hamlet. Wagner after a chase was apprehended working on a farm in Pennsylvania and brought back for trial. He was convicted and electrocuted at Sing Sing. This tragedy marked the end of state troopers attempting to serve civil papers. Their lives were lost when they tried to serve a summons for a small debt which Wagner owed and would not pay.

Our late father-in-law was both a freight and passenger conductor on this branch at one time and had a cousin, also a trainman, crushed to death while making a coupling near Hinsdale. And we mentioned previously our father started his railroad career as a freight agent at Mt. Morris, going from there to Oil City, where he eventually became a superintendent of the old W.N.Y.& P.  So it is only natural that we feel the loss of this line. A railroad that brought passengers and freight into and out of the towns along the way. Many commodities were hauled on it; farm and dairy products, coal and other freight necessary for the development of the places wherein it passed.

Hinsdale, Cuba, Black Creek, Belfast, Oramel, Houghton, Fillmore and Nunda will feel its loss. Mt. Morris will continue to have the DL&W operating freight service only, on a limited basis. One of the DL&W main tracks is being torn up and the wonderful system of electric block signals which it has is being done away with. Tuscarora and Sonyea will have no rail service.

How will coal and other commodities necessary for the maintenance of such a large state institution located at Sonyea be moved in?  There is a rumor that the Dansville & Mt. Morris Railroad may extend its tracks northwards about three miles to give this place rail service, but this is just a rumor. York, Cuylerville and Canaseraga will soon no longer hear the rumble of trains passing through their communities and when the last diesel whistle sounds on this line it, truly, will be the requiem for a historical railroad. This abandonment, we realize, is to lessen the tax burden of the railroad which has grown way out of reason. Taxes and mounting operating costs have not been adjusted to the decline of business due to motor cars, buses and trucks with much emphasis laid on the tax problem which we shall discuss at a later time. But so goes the world in cycles and how true it is that history repeats itself.

With the vanishing of many branches so disappears the legends, superstitions and other strange things that seem to be nothing but sheer fantasy-yet over these many years they have left an indelible impression on our mind. We have listened to tales from the lips of old timers and  they told of them with such an expression of sincere earnestness and with such startling realism that we found it difficult not to believe them.

One of the strangest stories, we think, has to do with the ghost train of the B&O. Many years ago, we neglected to obtain the date, an engine and caboose were derailed near Silver Lake Junction and four trainmen were killed. It was known as the BR&P then. Just a few years ago at the same time of year and exactly the same time at night engineers and trainmen have seen - it's imagination of course, the headlights of the engine or the marker lamps on the caboose of the ill fated train. Within the past five years one engineer saw the headlights of the ghost train and put his air brake into emergency position, but when he brought his train to an abrupt stop the headlight of the approaching train vanished. On another occasion an old time conductor told this - the engineer of his train did the same thing.

However, the engineer and head brakeman walked ahead of their train for a short distance and found a broken rail which would have caused a bad derailment with probable loss of life to members of the crew. We know that sounds awfully silly, but after one hears the tale from at least six apparently intelligent men - Well, did they or did they not see the apparition?

We found it a waste of time trying to convince these men that it was their imagination running wild, but we were not strong enough with our arguments to change their fantastic claims and, believe it or not, it was most difficult for us not to lend credibility to their assertions.

Nearly all of us, at some time, have heard the superstition concerning lighting three cigarettes with one match. This idea, supposedly, took root during World War I. But wait and permit us to tell where and when we first heard of it. In September 1913 we were working as a block operator at Spartansburg, Pa. from four in the afternoon until midnight.

There was a steep grade ascending out of this place and a helper engine was required to assist the trains over the summit. The next station to the north was Corry Pa. On this fall night, it was about 10 p.m., the engineer and the brakeman of the helper engine were sitting with us in the office shooting the breeze while awaiting a train that was to be helped. The. three of us lighted our cigarettes with one match and the engineer, said, "Three lights on one match....I don't like. it!''  We laughed at his fear.

The freight train arrived, the helper was coupled to the rear end and the train started up the grade. Arriving at Corry the brakeman turned the angle cock, disconnected the air hose, pulled the cut lever, gave his engineer the back up signal and stepped over on to an adjoining track where a fast train coming from the opposite direction struck him and cut him to pieces. Why he did this will be forever unexplained.

When we heard the news it was hard to realize that less than two hours before he had been a live jolly person sitting with us, talking and joking as railroaders do. You may smile, if you desire, but that is why we never permit our cigarette to be lighted with a match that has served two other. And this was before World War I.