O&W Observer Middletown Home of the O&W and the O&WRHS 1991

O&W Observer Middletown Home of the O&W and the O&WRHS 1991

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O&W Observer Middletown Home of the O&W and the O&WRHS 1991
O&W Observer Middletown Home of the O&W and the O&WRHS Volume 24 #1-9   102 Pages
On the following pages, we offer a photographic essay on Middletown, "Home of the O&W" as well as an updated chronicle of the Ontario & Western Railway Historical Society, and a look at the rich history of the Clemson Brothers business whose headquarters now serves as the home of the Society's archives.
The town of Wallkill and its village of Middletown did not welcome the O& W's predecessor, the New York & Oswego Midland Railroad, with open arms. Initially, the town refused to bond itself, and it was only through the eloquence of Dewitt C. Littlejohn and Henry R. Low. the main proponents of the Midland. that the town leaders and people finally agreed to issue $300,000 in bonds for the purchase of Midland stock. Once the Midland began construction. however. Middletown's economic well-being would be tied to the economic fortunes of the Midland and its successor, the New York. Ontario and Western Railway. As the southern terminus of the Midland, Middletown became a main servicing location. crew change point, and the home to Division personnel. With the closure of the Oswego shops in 1888 and the decision to concentrate the railway's shops at Middletown. additional local men gained employment in the expanded complex. In 1889, the railway added seven stalls to the Middletown roundhouse, enlarged the machine shop with a brick extension of 83 x 110 feet. and constructed a new blacksmith shop. brass foundry and boiler house. The following year a new sand house was built, and the coal trestle rebuilt with Georgia pine. During 1892 construction of a new brick and sandstone station commenced, and the new station opened in July. 1893.1n 1901. the Dodge coal storage plant was completed. and in 1905 a new brick storehouse. turntable, aid extension of the station completed. Over the next fifteen years. the railway continued to add and enlarge its Middletown facilities.
In addition to being Middletown's largest employer. the O&W provided a vital transportation link for local businesses. Likewise. O&W employees purchased locally and Middletown merchants were dependent on this income. As coal and milk revenues disintegrated in the late 1920s, and motor vehicles eroded freight and passenger traffic, the railway saw its profitability decrease. With the onset of the Depression matters went from bad to worse, and by May of 1937 the O&W entered thirty long years of receivership. Although the Second World War brought some economic relief to the railway, the post-war period would not be kind. Shrinking revenues meant a smaller work force. and O&W employees agreed to work for less than union scale in an attempt to keep the Old Woman alive. By 1957. however, the Bankruptcy Court had seen enough. Despite a gallant, twelfth-hour grass roots effort by Middletowners to raise funds to breathe temporary life into the railway, the wheels stopped rolling on March 29th.
If the O&W was the first Class I railroad to be abandoned, Middletown was the first city to feel the loss of a vital rail employer. Unfortunately, other cities would soon suffer the same fate-Carbondale, PA on the D&H: Scranton. PA on the DL&W; Sayre, PA on the Lehigh Valley; Susquehanna. NY on the Erie. The list is almost endless. For the nation's rail transporation network, the end of the O&W was the beginning of the end.
Special thanks to David A. Ackerman, Joseph Bux, David DeWilde, Richard Schrade, and Wayne Tremper.

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