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Vol. 112 - Issue 1, Wednesday, September 15, 2010
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Vol.17 No.2 - 7/15/1882
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Announcements


Railroad days could return to Richfield Springs
By Richard Palmer

RICHFIELD SPRINGS - Local residents Ron Sadlon and Ben Gotfried have entered into an unusual business venture they hope could help return Richfield Springs to the tourist Mecca it once was in the 19th century.

Recently, they formed a partnership called Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley LLC, with the goal of possibly re-developing an abandoned railroad right of way as a narrow gauge railroad or recreation trail. The line has been abandoned since 1995 when plans to build a plastics plant in Richfield Springs fell through.

Gotfried and Sadlon recently acquired the right of way from Delaware Otsego Corp. of Cooperstown, which, for several years prior to its abandonment, operated the 22-mile line as the Central New York Railroad. It was given up due to the loss of freight business over the years.

An oldtime view of a freight train on the Richfield Springs branch at West Winfield. Photo courtesy of local historian Steve Davis.
An oldtime view of a freight train on the Richfield Springs branch at West Winfield. Photo courtesy of local historian Steve Davis.

Gotfried and Sadlon purchased the section between Route 28 in Richfield to Mapledale Road in the Town of Bridgewater. The track north of Mapledale Road to Richfield Junction in the Town of Paris remains in place, but is owned by the railroad company.

The section of the roadbed between Route 28 and Elm Street Extension in the Town of Richfield is owned by the Otsego County Industrial Development Authority of Oneonta. This parcel includes the “wye” track right of way once used to turn trains.

The portion of the line between the Elm Street Extension and Lake Street in Richfield Springs is still owned by the railroad company. The terminal property in the Village includes the former engine house, an old coal trestle and some other property.

Map of the Richfield Springs branch.
Map of the Richfield Springs branch.

Since the roadbed is 66-feet wide, it could be developed as a narrow gauge excursion railroad, or a trail for snowmobiling and hiking, Gotfried said. But currently the focus is on reviving it as a railroad, if a developer can be found. “There are plenty of standard gauge tourist railroads around the country, but a narrow gauge railroad is much more unique,” Gotfried said.

A tour of the property is set for June 15. Along with the news media, representatives from Parks and Trails New York, New York State Department of Transportation and area economic development agencies are being invited.

The Richfield Springs branch of the Lackawanna Railroad was originally a segment of the Utica, Chenango and Susquehanna Valley Railroad, with the original intent of extending to Gilbertsville to connect with the Delaware & Hudson. This never occurred. It was opened to Richfield Springs with much fanfare on May 30, 1870. That same year, the U.C. & S.V. was leased to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, eventually being absorbed by them. It was a segment of the Utica division that ran from Utica to Binghamton.

Abandoned right of way near East Winfield.
Abandoned right of way near East Winfield.

Originally the U.C. & S.V. was standard gauge, or four feet, eight and one-half inches. When the D.L. & W. took over, it was changed to six-foot gauge for a few years until being returned to the original gauge in 1876.

For several decades, Richfield Springs, with its many hotels, was the fashionable destination point of the rich and famous that traveled here in luxurious sleeping and parlor cars. By the mid 1930s, however, this era had faded and passenger trains gave way to automobiles. At one time the Hiteman Leather Co. of West Winfield was one of the largest customers on the line.

The line remained a part of the D.L.& W. system until 1960 when it merged with the Erie to become the Erie Lackawanna Railway Company. In 1974 the E-L sold the branch to the Central New York Railroad Corporation of Cooperstown. But on-line business continued to deteriorate. A ray of hope for the line appeared in the mid 1980s when a plastics company announced plans to build a plant in Richfield Springs.

Then-Congressman Sherwood Boehlert secured funding to rehabilitate the line, but this was never used when the company instead decided on another location in the Mohawk Valley. Since abandonment occurred, sections of the roadbed have informally been used as a recreational trail.

Stations or flag stops once located at Bridgewater (now the Bridgewater Historical Society museum); Unadilla Forks, West Winfield, East Winfield, Cedarvale, Miller’s Mills, Young's Crossing and South Columbia.

 


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