From Belfast Blaze,  May 22, 1952


By J. L. Murphy

The Rochester Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad (old Buffalo, New York  & Philadelphia Railroad) was built on the towpath of the Genesee Valley Canal wherever possible. Much of the ballast taken from the gravel pit on the old Doherty farm at the west end of the Erie Railroad's bridge north of Belfast and stone for culverts and bridges was obtained from the old canal locks; the canal was abandoned in 1878.

Main track was built through Belfast in the summer of 1882.

First locomotive to reach Belfast was on the construction train No. 46, with diamond smokestack, red stripes on the drivers and shiny brass bands around the boiler - she sure was a beauty. Engineer had a large St. Bernard dog that used to carry a big dinner pail to and from the job, for his master, passed where I lived, and the dog rode in the engine cab most of the time.

The steam shovel in the Doherty gravel pit was operated by John Fitzgibbons. his regular job was freight conductor on the River Division, Olean to Oil City.

Division offices were at Olean and the following are the names of some of the old-timers -pioneers on the Rochester Branch:

J.W. Watson, Division Superintendent.
Frank J. Martin, chief  dispatcher and trainmaster
A.D. Peck, chief dispatcher and trainmaster
M.A. Miller, dispatcher
George P. Jackson, dispatcher
J.F. Grant, dispatcher
W. A. Gessee, extra dispatcher
E. A. Fisher, division engineer, Rochester
Charles Ellis, master carpenter, Rochester
Robert Wright, yardmaster, Rochester
Bill Passmore, lineman, Olean
Matt Hart, yardmaster, Olean
Cooney Derx, fence gang foreman, Olean
Jim Lang, mason foreman, Belfast
Rob Lang, mason foreman, Belfast
Pat Bracker, division superintendent, Cuba
Passenger conductors - William Byers, - VanSickle, Pete Keefe,
William Godfrey
Passenger engineers - John Hamilton, Ed Clark, Al Goold.
Freight conductors - Dan Shafer, Pat Savage, Pat Devitt, Tom Devitt,
Mike McGannon, Bill Troan, *Frank Ingram, Pete Hotchkiss, Jack
Kingman, Charle Coilegrove, L.M. "Lett" Forrest,  Big Joh Andrews, and"Moxie" Mauch.
Firemen- Archie Battles, Gus  Marth*, Bill Collopy.
Sectionforemen - John McGraw, Cuba; Tom  McCarthy, Black  Creek; Jack Williams, Belfast;  Martin McMahon, Belfast; Bill Sherman, Caneadea; John Burgie, Fillmore; Tom McNulty, floating  gang; John O'Leary, Mt. Morris.
Freight engineers - *Jim Warner, *W.D. Penny, Ed Simmons, JohnStimlinger, Fred Battles, Billy Breckle, *Johnnie Stout, Pat
O'Brien, Charlie Anderson, Charlie Miller, Charlie Quinlan, *Lee Ingram, Frank "Pie" Steels, Gus Frey,  Billy Gannon, Bill Jacquett.

Mr. Fisher was made division superintendent at Oil City in 1892, and about two years later returned to Rochester and was city engineer there until he died a few years ago at the age of 100 years.

Passenger brakemen- Bernie May, Fred Dempsey.

Freight brakemen - Ed Lapp, Billy Weldy, bob Milliken, Tom Milliken Jr., *John Murphy, *Pete Murphy, John Loftus, Clarence Gilman and Frank Burleson.

Station Agents

W. A. Rapp, Olean
W.G. Conschafter, Hinsdale
P.N. Mallison, Cuba
W.A. Gere, Black Creek
C.M. Stedwell, Belfast
T. F. "Tom" Downs, Belfast
Mort Brooks, Oramel,
Mont Bartlett, Caneadea
Flatch Thompson, Houghton
Jim Waldorf, Fillmore
Charley Keenan, Portageville
L.P. Higgins, West Nunda
W. A. Gessee, Scottsville
W. B. Tracey, Genesee  Junction

Telegraph Operators

R,E. Wright, Olean
Shorty Prior, Olean
Pete Small, Olean
Billy Bowen, Hinsdale
John M. Lynch, Hinsdale
Mike Conners, Cuba
"Kern" Conners, L&P Jct.
Tom O'Neil, L&P Jct.
"Yank" Stewart, L&PJct.
'Sandy" Bremer, Belfast
Wesley Hauenstein, Balfast
Will Murphy, Belfast
Dell Dye, Belfast
Martin Dwyer, Belfast
Jim Lane, Belfast
Pat O'Gorman, Genesee Jct.
Bill Metcalf, Terminal
Jay Eastland, Rochester freighthouse
Charles N. Poulson, Rossburg


Charles "Pickey" Poulson became nationally known as a cornet player and in the early 1900s he played both the 65th and 74th Regiment bands in Buffalo at their summer concerts as soloist.

Operator R. E. Enright  became police commissioner in New York City.

Brakeman John Murphy was killed in a wreck at Scottsville in 1887, and his brother Pete was killed in Belfast, switching cars on the local freight in 1894. William, who  worked as  operator at Belfast for a short  time, was killed in 18th Street  yard in Pittsburgh in February, 1889 while dropping cars.

L & P Junction was located one mile south of Belfast;  rails taken up for scrap about 1891.

Engineer Jim  Warner often gave me a lecture about the use of tobacco and its evil effects, one of which was:

"Tobacco is a filthy weed, And from the devil it doth  proceed. It lightens your pocketbook, burdens your clothes, And makes a chimney out of your nose."

However I failed to heed his good advice, for I still smoke and fear I will - hereafter.

Hogeye W. D. Penney (on local freight) southbound, chased a bunch of Jim Fox's horses up the track from Oramel  one day, trying  to get by them, but he caught them all at the  bottleneck on the town line crossing killing four of the five.

Penney layed off about 60 days - afraid to  go through Oramel.

Fox was looking for him with a gun.

Johnnie Stout and Fireman Gun Marth were killed in a derailment at Tuscarora.

Conductor Frank Ingram, a brother Engineer Lee Ingram, was killed in a rear-end collision here, just about in front of the present steel mill office.

The first section of No. 288 had stopped to take water at the tank across the canal from the Chet Greene  bungalow.  The flagman failed in his duty and Engineer Pat O'Brien of the second section said he "saw him  jump off, wade the canal, and take to the tall timbers just before he hit the rear end." He never was heard from since.  Probably he joined up with the BR&P under another name.

Submitted by Richard Palmer.