Predecessor Railroads – A History of the Lines that Comprise Today's LA&L and B&H
Inspired by the imminent completion of the 6-foot gauge New York and Erie Rail Road between the Hudson River and Dunkirk on Lake Erie, the Buffalo and Cohocton Valley Railway is incorporated to build what its backers hope
will become the Erie's route to Buffalo. Their projected line runs via Painted Post, Bath, Wayland, Livonia, Avon, Batavia, and Attica. In 1852, the company changes its name to the Buffalo, Corning and New York Railroad. Before BC&NY can finish its line, the only existing route between Attica and Buffalo is acquired by the rival Buffalo and New York City Railroad, which in 1852 completes a shortcut between Attica and the Erie main line at Hornellsville. In 1853 BC&NY opens between
Painted Post and Caledonia, and the next year it reaches Batavia. Today, LA&L operates the segment between Bronson Hill Road (Town of Livonia) and Avon.
Incorporated in 1851 to link
Rochester and Pittsburgh, the Rochester and Genesee Valley Railroad runs out of money after building a 6-foot gauge line between Rochester and Avon. Today, LA&L operates the segment between Mortimer (south of Rochester, near today's South Town Plaza) and Avon.
The Genesee Valley Railroad is incorporated to extend the R&GV from Avon to a connection with the Buffalo and New York City Railroad at Portage. After being sold at foreclosure in 1858 and reconstituted as the Avon, Geneseo and Mt. Morris Railroad, the company opens a 6-foot gauge line to Mt. Morris in 1859. Today, a remnant survives as LA&L's Avon Industrial Track serving Kraft General
Foods and King Cole Bean Company in Avon.
Incorporated in 1872, the Bath and Hammondsport Railroad completes a narrow (3-foot) gauge line between the Erie Railroad connection at Bath and the village of Hammondsport on
Keuka Lake. Today, this line survives as part of the rail lines owned by the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency (SCIDA) and operated by LA&L affiliate B&H Rail Corp., although it is currently inactive. In 1889 this line is standard-gauged. In 1903 B&H falls under the control of the Erie Railroad, which sponsors excursion trains to meet lake steamers at a pier on the south end of Keuka Lake. B&H regains its independence in 1936.
The Conesus Lake Railroad completes a 1.6-mile 6-foot gauge branch between a connection with the NYLE&W at Conesus Lake Junction (originally Trews) and the north shore of Conesus Lake, where a pier is built permitting excursion trains to meet
the lake steamers--what people did to escape the city heat in the years before air conditioning. Today, this line hosts LA&L's Lakeville yard and significant local industry. All the above line segments become part of the Erie Railroad.
The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, a major competitor to the Erie Railroad, completes its double-track line between Binghamton and Buffalo, via Corning, Bath, and Wayland. Today, the segment between Bath and Wayland is owned by SCIDA and operated by B&H Rail Corp.
The New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroad completes an expensively built railroad parallel to the dominant New York Central and promptly goes bankrupt, whereupon the Central buys control. Eventually, NYC merges into Penn Central. Today's LA&L operates 1.59 miles of the West Shore between Mortimer and Genesee Junction Yard.
The Lehigh Valley Railroad completes its Buffalo extension and Rochester Branch, the latter incorporated as wholly-owned subsidiary Rochester and Honeoye Valley Railroad (later renamed Rochester Southern Railroad). Today, LA&L operates a segment of the Rochester
Branch between Lehigh Station Road and Mortimer.
The Erie abandons the Rochester Division between the north side of Wayland and Livonia. Henceforth, the "Livonia-Lakeville Spur" is served out of Avon.
The Erie Railroad merges with its longtime archrival the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad to form the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. As the owner of two parallel lines between Painted Post and Wayland, EL proceeds to
abandon the ex-Erie Rochester Division between those points, leaving remnants at Painted Post, Coopers Plains, Bath, Cohocton, and from Atlanta to Wayland. This last segment, then needed to serve local customers at Wayland, is later abandoned. In 1963, the ex-Lackawanna main line itself is severed and downgraded, becoming the Wayland Branch.
The federal government's reorganization of the bankrupt Northeastern railroads creates Conrail from six bankrupt major railroads in the Northeast, including Erie Lackawanna, Penn Central, and Lehigh Valley. SCIDA acquires the former EL between Kanona and Wayland.
SCIDA acquires Bath-Kanona from Conrail, then acquires the Bath and Hammondsport Railroad's trackage and two locomotives, retaining a new operator, the Champagne Railroad, which goes bankrupt in 1996.
A Track Record of Success: The LA&L and its Affiliates since 1964
Faced with the Erie Lackawanna's abandonment of the Livonia-Lakeville spur, the Livonia community
pulls together to "save the railroad" under the leadership of local bank president Chester Haak and other interested citizens. Following a spirited fundraising campaign, the new Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad Corporation (incorporated on May 15) buys the Livonia-Lakeville Spur from EL for $13,000, or $1,000 a mile. Passenger excursions begin using General Electric 44-tonner No. 10.
After threading federal paperwork, the LA&L restarts freight service in 1965 with freight carloadings of fewer than 50 for the year. LA&L acquires 2-8-2 steam locomotive No. 17 for passenger excursion operations based out of the former Erie depot in Livonia. A small pole barn is built south of NYS Routes
15/20A in Lakeville to house No. 10.
After No. 17 develops mechanical problems, it is replaced by 2-8-0 No. 38.
The Lakeville pole barn is jacked up and moved by rail a few hundred feet northward to a new location on Stone Hill Road, where, expanded, it remains in use.
Western New York Syrup & Sugar Corp. begins operating at a new plant in Lakeville.
Alco RS1 No. 20 is acquired.
No. 38 is removed from service due to a need for extensive boiler repairs.
Conrail succeeds Erie Lackawanna as LA&L's sole connection at Avon. As Conrail is being planned, the United States Railway Association spurns LA&L's request to be allowed to acquire the EL line between Avon and Caledonia, which would permit LA&L to connect with both Conrail and CSX predecessor Chessie System. Instead, LA&L traffic is forced
to flow through Rochester using the ex-EL line to Mortimer and a series of other lines to connect with mainline train service at Genesee Junction. Despite the LA&L's interest, the Avon-Caledonia line is excluded from Conrail and abandoned.
Due to escalating insurance costs, passenger excursions end.
LA&L sells No. 10 and acquires Alco S2 No. 72, expanding the Stone Hill Road shop to
accommodate both locomotives.
The desire of the State of New York to avoid replacing an antiquated bridge carrying Bronson Hill Road over the LA&L dooms the line to Livonia. A new team track is built in Lakeville
to serve Livonia customers.
The LA&L acquires Alco C425 No. 425.
Sweeteners Plus, Inc., opens its plant in Lakeville.
The LA&L completes construction
of a five-track yard at Lakeville, begun in 1982
The LA&L constructs a new shop and office building next to the Lakeville yard.
The stub of the line from Conesus Lake Junction to Bronson Hill Road, unused since 1981, is rehabilitated to serve a new agricultural transload facility, Ag Network (now PACMA).
The LA&L acquires and extensively rehabilitates Alco C420 420. The Lakeville shop is lengthened to accommodate two coupled road locomotives. Total 1995 carloadings are 2,295.
In the first line sale to be completed pursuant to the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, the LA&L acquires Conrail's "Rochester South Cluster" in March and begins operating the new lines April 12. Due to their deteriorated condition, LA&L is anxious to close on the acquisition and
persuades the new Surface Transportation Board to permit it to proceed even though the rules for Section 10902 line sales have not been written yet. Immediately, LA&L launches a $1.4 million rehabilitation--during the first three days, track gangs, including most of the company's employees, work in pouring rain to fix the worst spots. From April to December, track work occupies 26 weekends and many weekdays.
On May 9, LA&L assumes operation of rail lines owned by the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, formerly operated by the Champagne Railroad. The 20-year agreement with SCIDA brings with it two Alco S-1 locomotives. Here again, rehabilitation of track and locomotives is urgently
necessary. Between this and the expansion to Rochester, LA&L mileage grows from 10 to 65 route miles, and employment more than doubles.
LA&L acquires four Alco C424M locomotives, bringing the fleet to ten (two
are stored pending further expansion). The Livingston County Chamber of Commerce names LA&L "Industry of the Year."
Railway Age Magazine names LA&L "Short Line Railroad of the Year." System
carloadings this year: 3,289
CSX and Norfolk Southern agree to divide Conrail.
In a busy year, the LA&L gains trackage rights across CSXT's Genesee Junction Yard, trackage rights on RSR between Genesee Junction and Brooks Avenue Yard in Rochester, and haulage rights on RSR between Rochester and Silver Springs, New York. These new extensions give LA&L industries access to Norfolk Southern
and Canadian Pacific in addition to RSR and CSX.
In addition, LA&L concludes three major track rehabilitation programs. Since 1996, the former Conrail trackage between Avon and Genesee Junction has had 17,940 crossties (35%) replaced and received 11,400 tons of ballast and a general resurfacing. Joint bars and track bolts have been replaced on a massive scale, four public grade crossings have been rebuilt,
and extensive improvements made to drainage and signals. The $1.4 million program upgrades a 5 and 10MPH railroad to 25MPH operation. In 1998 the Lakeville-Avon segment also receives 4,123 crossties (20%) and 5,600 tons of ballast. Its ballast shoulder is widened for future installation of welded rail. This program costs $332,450. Finally, the Bath-Cohocton segment gets 7,704 ties (17%) replaced and the Cohocton Industrial Track is completely rebuilt. Also in 1998, LA&L reopens ten miles
of long-unused rail line between Cohocton and Wayland and builds additional trackage at Wayland to serve a new road-deicer processing facility operated by Sweeteners Plus.
The 1888 bridge at Pole Bridge Road on the
LA&L is upgraded with additional steel to safely handle 286,000 pound cars. Rehabilitation of the former Conrail trackage continues with the rebuilding of Avon Yard; the Lakeville shop is expanded once again to accommodate three coupled road locomotives in a separate bay that frees floor space in the main shop for locomotive repair. Rehabilitation of two of the Alco C424M locomotives is completed, including repainting and renumbering to Nos. 423 and 424.
In April, LA&L affiliated company, the Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad assumes operation of the former Conrail Southern Tier Extension between Hornell, NY and Corry, PA. Service is initially provided only between Olean, NY and
Jamestown, NY, and is extended as out-of-service segments are reactivated. Total WNYP traffic this first year of operation is 903 carloads.
In October, the Conhocton Valley Rail Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad Corp., is re-named B&H Rail Corp. Reporting marks are BH.
November 3, BH leases the Bath Secondary between at Painted Post and Bath from Norfolk Southern, and assumes the responsibility for operation of SCIDA lines between Bath and Wayland and between Bath and Hammondsport. Preliminary rehabilitation of the leased trackage begins immediately with installation of 4,500 ties to be followed by further rehabilitation in subsequent years. Expansion of the Cohocton engine facility is undertaken to accommodate road locomotives.
WNYP acquires the former Erie Lackawanna main line between Corry and Meadville (Pa.), completing a link between NS's Meadville Line at Meadville, and its Southern Tier Line at Hornell. With the assistance of New York and Pennsylvania state grants on top of private capital,
rehabilitation continues .
During a snow storm in March, the first Norfolk Southern trackage rights coal train traverses the WNYP from Meadville to Hornell.\
In December the WNYP is expanded with the lease of Meadville Yard and the Franklin/Oil City branch, bringing the total affiliated mileage to 315.
LA&L main line track between Lakeville and Avon is rehabilitated in a project partially funded through a New York State Department of Transportation grant. 1910 vintage 90-pound-per-yard stick rail is replaced with heavier continuously welded rail, and thousands of new crossties are installed.
In a continuation of the 2006 program, LA&L's main line is further upgraded north of Avon with 127 pound welded rail, new crossties, ballast and surfacing. WNYP expands to its current configuration with the lease of 90 miles of Norfolk Southern's Buffalo line from Driftwood, Pennsylvania, to Machias Junction, New York. This
addition aggregates the LA&L affiliated system to 404 miles of route. WNYP's operating office is moved to the nexus of its operations, the junction of the Buffalo Line and the east-west main line at Olean, New York.
The site of the
LA&L's 1965 pole barn engine house at Lakeville is cleared of track in a State-funded project to improve State Routes 15 and 20A. All-time traffic records are set at both LA&L and WNYP, while B&H narrowly misses its all-time record. The LA&L carload number is 4,544 for the year. WNYP handles 8,267 car loads, excluding NS coal trains. B&H comes in at a healthy 3,136 loads. All three are on-course for further records in 2009.