ITHACA BRANCH

In earlier articles I have written about the Lackawanna, mention is made of the 34-mile former branch to Ithaca. Not only was it significant historically, but it was also a very interesting operationally. It ran between Owego on the DL&W main line and the college town of Ithaca on Cayuga Lake.

It was the second oldest railroad in the state and was constructed in 1833-34 by the Ithaca and Owego Railroad. This road had originally been chartered in 1828. In 1843 the Cayuga & Susquehanna Railroad acquired it through a mortgage foreclosure. In 1855 it was leased to the Lackawanna but did not become officially owned by the DL&W until July 23, 1946.

Into the 1920’s Ithaca was busy with several passenger trains pulled by 4-4-0 camelbacks, a daily freight, and a yard switcher which doubled as a pusher on the switchback leading out of Ithaca. There were even automatic block semaphore signals. Passenger service ended in 1942 and steam gave way to diesels in 1951. Passenger service was more popular on the Lehigh Valley (which also served Ithaca) because of the direct Pennsylvania Station connection in New York City. Until 1933 there was a New York sleeper serving Ithaca. It arrived at 7:30am and left at 11:05pm. When passenger service ceased, there were two scheduled passenger runs left (12:20pm and 6:00pm arrivals/9:30am and 1:25pm departures). In addition, student specials ran to Cornell University.

A trip over the branch featured a long bridge over the Susquehanna River leaving Owego. Intermediate stops were at Catatonk (5.4 miles from Owego); Candor (10.7 miles from Owego); and Willseyville (16 miles from Owego and 18 from Ithaca). The real feature of the ride began on the approach to Ithaca. At that point, the line was about 500 feet above the city. Originally, an inclined plane had been used, but it had been replaced by a switchback in 1850. There was a sensational view of the city and the lake. The track between the upper and lower switches of the switchback was 1.1 miles with a gradient of 100 feet per mile. It took five and a half miles to cover what a crow did in one and a half miles. One street crossed the line three times.

The end of passenger service was the beginning of the end of the branch. Signals were removed and there was no longer a switcher in Ithaca. LCL business remained only at Ithaca and Candor. The track between Ithaca and Candor was abandoned in 1956 and the Owego-Candor section in 1957. The branch was in bad condition as no maintenance had been done since passenger trains quit and the bridge at Owego needed heavy repairs.

The Lehigh Valley bought the trackage in Ithaca and operated it as an industrial siding.

Ithaca Branch

Originally, Ithaca & Owego, later Cayuga & Susquehanna.

Station Mile Note
Ithaca 0
Lower Switch 4.51 Switchback, originally incline plane up South Hill.
Upper Switch 5.62 as above
Conover 5.82
Summit 9.73
Caroline 12.24
Wilseyville 18.06
Candor 23.37
Catatonk 28.70
Owego 34.03

Abandonments:

Passenger service discontinued March 29, 1942

Abandonment authorized Oct. 25, 1956

Discontinued Ithaca-Candor, Dec. 4, 1956;

Candor to Oswego, May 25, 1957.

Bridge over Susquehanna River in Owego River removed in 1959.

Last locomotive on line: #409, Alco #69257 600 HP switcher. Became Erie-Lackawanna #325.

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