Jamestown, Westfield & Northwestern Railroad

History

This line ran from Jamestown to Westfield and serviced the famous Chautauqua Institution on Chautauqua Lake. In its 70 year life it changed its name numerous times utilizing almost every possible permutation of "Jamestown", "Chautauqua", and "Lake Erie." From 1881 to 1913 the line was a steam line, at which point it was electrified.  This first-person account described a trip on the line in 1927.

The Steam Years

The first segment opened was the Mayville Extension Railroad, a branch of a steam railroad which began operation June 20, 1881 and ran from Mayville to the Chautauqua Assembly Grounds. The next segment was the Chautauqua Lake Railway which opened from Jamestown to Mayville Jct. on July 25, 1887 with trackage rights on another road another 1.2 miles into Mayville. On September 28, 1887 it absorbed the Mayville Extension Railroad. On October 17, 1894 the company was reorganized into the Jamestown and Lake Erie Railway. A branch of the line was opened from Clifton to Falconer on February 15, 1897.

The company reorganized again on January 1, 1899 and emerged as the Jamestown & Chautauqua Railroad. The Jamestown, Chautauqua and Lake Erie Railway built a line from Mayville to Westfield on July 1, 1902 and leased the Jamestown & Chautauqua Railroad. The company also operated a fleet of steamboats on Chautauqua Lake. The Buffalo & Lake Erie Traction Company, an interurban line, bought up all the stock on 1907. Unfortunately, the line was unprofitable, went into receivership and was purchased in December 1913 by the Broadhead interests, owners of the Jamestown Street Railway and the Chautauqua Traction Company.

During this time the two branch lines of the road were disposed of. The Falconer branch was leased for a time to the Erie Railroad and was abandoned and torn up in 1908. The Chautauqua branch was leased and later sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad which operated it as a freight-only line until abandonment in 1926.

A 1933 Pass issued by the Jamestown, Westfield and Northwestern

Electrification

On December 8, 1913 the Jamestown, Westfield & Northwestern Railroad took over the line and began electrifying the main line from Westfield to Jamestown. During the electrification project the company built a new station about mile east of Mayville and abandoned their 1.2 miles of trackage rights of the Pennsylvania Railroad into the village. On August 20, 1914 the handsome interurban cars lettered with the slogan "America's Scenic Route" began operating. Power for the line was purchased from the municipal power plant in Jamestown and the company had a permanent substation in Westfield and portable substations in Greenhurst, Bemus Point and Mayville which converted the 11,500 volts AC to 650 volts DC.

An undated photograph from the Bill Volkmer collection shows a typical winter along the Lake Erie "snow belt."  The crew is clearing a switch at the crossing of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Mayville.

When the line was first electrified, the investment in conversion equipment was reduced by utilizing the facilities of the Chautauqua Traction Company, the interurban which ran along the west side of the lake and was also owned by the Broadhead family. Taking advantage of a Chautauqua Traction substation in Stow, the JW&NW ran two lead-covered cables on the lake bottom from Stow to its tracks in Bemus on the opposite side of the lake. The system employed a double throw switch so that if a cable became grounded the current could be reversed so it became the negative feeder and the line could continue to operate.

Passenger operations ended November 30, 1947 following the death leading members of the Broadhead family. The line began diesel powered freight service which continued until January 21, 1950.

The railroad was abandoned in stages beginning in 1938 and ending in 1950.  The following list shows when each segment was abandoned.  A special thanks goes to Richard Palmer who provided this information.

Jamestown Street Railway discontinued Jan. 16, 1938
Jamestown Street Railway (Falconer to Lakewood) discontinued Jan. 29, 1938 (18.29 miles)
Jamestown - Boat Landing March 31, 1940
Jamestown - Westfield (electric pass. service), Nov. 30, 1947
Jamestown - Westfield (diesel freight service) Jan. 21, 1950

Lines and Stations

Distance from
Jamestown

Station

Distance from
Westfield

0
2.1
2.5
3.1
3.9
4.5
5.0
5.4
6.0
6.8
8.0
9.0
9.5
10.5
11.6
13.5
14.4
15.0
15.4
17.4
18.4
19.6
20.5
21.7
22.2
24.2
26.5
27.0
28.5
30.6
32.2
Jamestown
Clifton
Cold Spring
Bonita
Elmhurst
Sunny Side
Greenhurst
Sheldon Hill
Driftwood
Belleview
Colburns
Phillips Mills
Shore Acres
Bemus Point
Bay View
Warners
Maple Springs
Midway Park
Chedwel
Dewittville
Point Chautauqua
Wooglin
Hartfield
P.R.R. Junction
Mayville, Chaut. St.
Parkers
Glenewen
Fitch
Nixon
Westfield, Main St.
N. Y. C. STATION
32.2
30.1
29.7
29.1
28.3
27.7
27.2
26.8
26.2
25.4
24.2
23.2
22.7
21.7
20.6
18.7
17.8
17.2
16.8
14.8
13.8
12.6
11.7
10.5
10.0
8.0
5.7
5.2
3.7
1.6
.0
Source: September 28, 1941 JW&NW timetable

Articles

Photographs

Timetables

Rosters

The JW&NW had a fleet of Interurban cars, freight motors and work equipment. Click on the car number for more information and/or photos of the car.

Interurban Cars

Number Builder Delivery Date Seats Length Disposition
300 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 60 (as delivered) 53' 6" Burned following a wreck in early 1920s.
301 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 60 (as delivered) 53' 6" Retired in 1947 when passenger service ended.
302 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 60 (as delivered) 53' 6" Retired in 1947 when passenger service ended.
303 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 60 (as delivered) 53' 6" Retired in 1947 when passenger service ended.
304 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 60 (as delivered) 53' 6" Junked after 1944 wreck.
305 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 60 (as delivered) 53' 6" Out of service in late 1930s.  Was used a lunch counter on Washington Street in Jamestown.
309 St. Louis Car Co. 1916 72 66' 0" Retired in 1947 when passenger service ended.
310 St. Louis Car Co. 1916 72 66' 0" Retired in 1947 when passenger service ended.
311 St. Louis Car Co. 1916 72 66' 0" Retired in 1947 when passenger service ended.
312 St. Louis Car Co. 1916 72 66' 0" Retired in 1947 when passenger service ended.

Work Equipment

Number Builder Delivery Date Type
111 ??? ??? Former Chautauqua Traction # 111
300 ??? 1930 Freight Motor
306 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 Express converted to a Plow
307 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 Express converted to a Line Car
308 Cincinnati Car Co. August 27, 1914 Rail Car
320 ???? ???? Sweeper
400 Baldwin-Westinghouse 1914 Locomotive
404 ??? ??? Snowplow
500 JW&NW 1929 Locomotive
409 ??? 1927 Caboose

References

  • Ahlstrom, Harold. 1942. "Jamestown Westfield & Northwestern", Central Electric Railfans' Association (CERA) Bulletin 40.
  • Coniff, William. Date Unknown. "Chautauqua Lake Route", "Electric Lines" section of Railroad Magazine.
  • Jamestown, Westfield and Northwestern Railroad, September 28, 1941 timetable.
  • New York State Department of Transportation Abandonment lists
  • New York State Public Service Commission Annual reports
  • Reifschneider, Felix E. 1949. Interurbans of the Empire State.
  • Woodbury, John. 1958. Unpublished notes.