History

The history of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad was a typical tale of the merger of many smaller railroads into a larger system. The story began on May 2, 1881 when the Olean Railroad was chartered to run a narrow-gauge line from Olean to Bolivar. This was quickly followed on May 10, 1881 when the narrow-gauge Friendship Railroad was chartered to run from Friendship to Richburg. A third narrow-gauge line chartered in May 1881 was the Allegany Central Railroad, running from Friendship to Swains via Angelica. All three railroads were consolidated into the Allegany Central on November 21, 1881.

Preliminary grading had been done previously by other railroad interests on the 23.5 miles between Swains and Belvidere.  This right-of-way was purchased for $25,000 by the Allegany Central and on December 2, 1881 they started laying rail at one mile per day.  The first locomotive pulled into into Angelica on January 10, 1882.

Lackawanna and Pittsburg Railroad was chartered on November 1, 1882 and merged with Allegany Central on July 1, 1883.  The company extended the north end of the line from Swains to the town of Wayland where it connected to the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.  The railroad also converted the line from Angelica to Swains from narrow gauge to standard gauge, but left the Angelica to Olean section as narrow gauge.

The Lackawanna and Pittsburg built a 6.5 mile extension from Angelica to Belfast in 1883. The line was abandoned sometime between 1890 and 1894.

The road was short-lived and by December 1884 was bankrupt. The company was sold in April 1889 and was reorganized as the Lackawanna and Southwestern Railroad. In October 1889 the Lackawanna and Southwestern absorbed the 10-mile-long Rochester, Hornellsville and Lackawanna Railroad which ran between Hornellsville Junction (near Canaseraga) and Hornellsville. This new company was also short-lived and by 1890 it had stopped operations.

The map at the left shows the routes of the Lackawanna and Southwestern and predecessors, including the:
  • The Olean Railroad (green)
  • The Friendship Railroad (red)
  • The original Allegany Central Railroad (dark blue)
  • The northern extension built by the Lackawanna and Pittsburg (purple)
  • The extension from Angelica to Belfast built by the L&P (purple)
  • The Rochester, Hornellsville and Lackawanna (light blue)

On September 24, 1892 the Lackawanna and Southwestern was sold and reorganized as the Central New York and Western Railroad.  In late 1893, the narrow gauge from Bolivar to Angelica was ripped up and in early 1894, the standard-gauge line from Belfast to Angelica followed suit. The Central New York and Western ended up with two disconnected sections: one from Olean to Bolivar and the second connecting Angelica, Hornell, and Wayland.

On August 2, 1899 the Central New York & Western (along with four other lines in Pennsylvania) was merged into the new Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern Railroad. The Olean to Bolivar section was relayed with standard gauge track in 1901 and the railroad was moved away from the river to reduce flooding.  Later that year the long-abandoned route from Bolivar to Angelica was rebuilt as standard gauge track.  One goal of this rebuilding was to remove many of the sharp turns and steep grades on the original narrow gauge line.  This required a large work force and huge amounts of material.  Workmen rushed to complete the line before the 1902/1903 winter and completed the work on November 20, 1902.

The PS&N was never financially healthy and the company declared bankruptcy in 1905. The line operated under receivership until 1947 when the entire system was abandoned. This reportedly remains a record for the longest period of receivership by a railroad.

The PS&N route tin New York presented some challenges to the builders of the line who sometimes had to build large structures to overcome nature.  The most well known was the tall bridge over Stony Brook Glen near Dansville.  Another impressive feat was the large horseshoe curve in Swains passing over the Erie Railroad tracks.

Lines and Stations

Station Mileage
Hornell
Arkport
Burns
Moraine (Hornell Junction)
Canaseraga
Garwoods
Swains
Grove
Centre
Birdsall
Scholes
Bennetts
County House
Angelica
Belvidere
Friendship
Nile
Wirt
West Notch
Richburg
Bolivar
Little Genesee
Sanford
Ceres
Prosser
0
5
8
10
13
15
17
20
22
25
27
30
32
34
40
45
47
50
52
56
58
60
62
65
66

Wayland Branch

Station Mileage
Wayland
Perkinsville
Rogersville
Stoney Brook Glen
Moraine (Hornell Jct.)
0
5.1
5.1
6.2
10.7

Olean Branch

Station Mileage
Olean
Weston
Gordon
Portville
White House
Prosser (State Line Jct.)
0
3.1
4.3
5.6
6.8
9.0

Newspaper Articles

Resources

Given its size and longevity there are not many resources for more information about the PS&N.  The definitive reference is Paul Pietrak's 1969 book "The Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern Railroad Company." It is out of print but can sometimes be found on eBay or in antiquarian bookstores.

The Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern Railroad Company Historical Society preserves and shares information on the railroad and maintain a small museum at the fairgrounds in Angelica, NY.  Membership is $12 per year and includes 5 newsletters.  Membership applications and more information can be obtained from the Membership Chairman, Russell Allen, 320 West State Street, Wellsville, NY 14895-1379.  Their web site is http://www.psnrrhs.org

The "PittsburgShawmutandNorthern" group on Yahoo! has photos and an email mailing list for questions and information about the railroad.  For more information and to subscribe to this group, see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PittsburgShawmutandNorthern.

The Cornell University Library has a collection of papers about the PS&N.  It is not digitized, but information about the collection can be found at http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/RMM02161.html

There are a few web sites with information and photos about the PS&N in New York State, including:

Timetables

References

  • Guillaume, Hugh. 2006. "When the Shawmut Went to Belfast" The Cannonball, Vol. 26 No. 3.
  • Palmer, Richard. Mileage and abandonment information.
  • Pietrak, Paul. 1969. The Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern Railroad Company. Self-published.