By Fred Stabbert III
CALLICOON December 31, 2004 The train whistles will continue to blow up and down the Delaware River valley, but a new company will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the 123 miles of railroad track between Port Jervis and Binghamton.
Effective at midnight yesterday, the Central New York Railroad Corp. officially took over operation of the track from Norfolk Southern, which had operated the track for a number of years.
The Surface Transportation Board, which oversees the railroad, had no objections to the $1 per year lease agreement, which was filed on December 22. The lease is for 30 years.
[The new owners] are good people who run a good operation, a source close to the deal said. The line was a loser for Norfolk Southern and needs an estimated $10 million in rehab.
A Cooperstown-based company, Central NY Railroad is an affiliate of New York-Susquehanna and Western Railroad, which will have trackage rights on the Port Jervis-Binghamton line.
Under the terms of the lease, Central NY Railroad will have the right to operate railroad excursion trains and dinner trains, although insurance issues need to be worked out, sources said.
Currently, two Sullivan County businesses utilize the railroad as part of their business.
Cochecton Mills, a feed and grain store, receives covered hopper cars filled with animal feed approximately twice a week, depending on the market, co-owner Dennis Nearing said.
The Nearing family has owned Cochecton Mills for half a century, and Nearing said the railroad brought grainery supplies 20 or 30 years prior to that.
Narrowsburg Feed and Grain in Narrowsburg also receives shipments via the railroad.
Narrowsburg Lumber, also in Narrowsburg, has a siding, but has not received shipments recently.
Originally known as the Erie, the railroad was founded in 1852 and was the lifeblood of commerce for many hamlets along the line.
Besides passengers, which numbered in the thousands, trains carried everything from lumber, grain, coal, automobiles to dry goods.
The Callicoon station, one of the busier in Sullivan County, had around-the-clock station operators and a Railway Express office, where people could ship packages anywhere in the world. Passenger service ended around 1964, although steam locomotive excursions rumbled up and down the valley into the 1970s.
Nearly every railroad station was later torn down, with Port Jervis and Callicoon among the last to survive in the Delaware River valley.
The Erie then merged to form the Erie-Lackawanna, which sold to Conrail.
Conrail later sold to Norfolk Southern.
In Callicoon, the workforce has already been notified that the six employees will be reduced to two signalmen, who will be kept on approximately six months.
Sources said that Central New York Railroad does intend to keep a maintenance base in Callicoon, however.
Because of the changeover in ownership, employees were given notice of their loss of employment with Norfolk Southern at the Callicoon station. However, they will be offered the opportunity to transfer to other sites in New York, sources said.
Central New York Railroad will need to employ a similar number of people to maintain the track along the Delaware, an anonymous source said.
The employment in Callicoon will be maintained, the source said.