The Delaware and Hudson Railway, our country’s oldest still-surviving
transportation company has been in operation for three centuries now.
Indeed, while the railroad itself is now split between Canadian
Pacific and Norfolk Southern it still technically remains as a corporation on paper. While the D&H never carried a celebrity
status or owned more than 1,000 route miles it soldiered on and did its
job well for over a century operating independently. It also outlived
its Northeastern competitors by several years! The little railroad, tucked away in the northern reaches of New
England for much of its independent life carried on in relative
obscurity. Its life began in 1823, originally as the Delaware &
Hudson Canal Company to haul anthracite coal from Carbdondale,
Pennsylvania to New York City. It was not until six years later in 1829
that it began using steam power to move goods between Carbdondale and
Honesdale, roughly 16 miles of main line.
The Delaware & Hudson loved its Alcos as witnessed here with RS11 #5001 leading a local freight through Eagle Bridge, New York on September 28, 1980.
From this point on, of course, steel rail was the way to go and after the Civil War
the D&H began to expand both north and south. Like most now-famous
fallen flags the system came together through a series
of new construction and outright
takeover of smaller railroads. By the late 19th century the D&H had, for the most part, reached its pinnacle in route miles
(at least until the Conrail formation in 1976), operating over 700 miles
of track. Its lines extended as far south as Wilkes-Barre,
Pennsylvania, and New York City courtesy of a strong ally in the New
York Central. To the north the railroad served Montreal, Quebec and a
branch to Lake Placid, New York.
The railroad did not extend much to the east or west and held mostly its
main line between Pennsylvania and northern New York as its chief
source of traffic. Aside from Albany, New York (the railroad’s
headquarters), Binghamton and Rutland, Vermont the railroad’s other
branches did not extend to large towns or cities and mostly served the
anthracite regions. Anthracite, as was the case with so many other
Northeastern carriers that had banked their livelihoods on the coal,
would cheat the Delaware & Hudson following the Great Depression
(the railroad at one point earned over half its yearly revenues from
anthracite). To make up for the major loss in traffic the railroad
turned to a source of revenue that would sustain it for the rest of its
independent life, bridge traffic.
Two C424ms and an RS3 lead an eastbound train through Hornell, New York as it passes C424m #454 on May 31, 1981.
While it continued to carry
originating traffic from a number of different sources, bridge traffic
would be the main stable of its revenues.
The railroad never had a significant or large passenger
fleet, obviously due to the railroad’s small size. However, it did have
a few notable passenger trains including the Montreal Limited and Laurentian, the latter of which was the best known of its fleet. The Montreal Limited provided overnight service between New York City and Montreal, courtesy of help from the New York Central, while the Laurentian provided daytime connections throughout upstate New York as well as through the Great Lakes region.
Perhaps most interesting aspect of the railroad's passenger operations is that they grew in popularity
following the arrival of new president Frederic Dumaine in 1967.
Dumaine was a big proponent of passenger and rail and upgraded the fleet
with newer secondhand equipment. Purchasing two former Santa Fe's Alco
PAs, a very beautiful locomotive design, and streamlined equipment the
D&H’s two flagship trains transformed into rather stunning trains,
featuring a splendid and eye-catching mix of blue, yellow, and silver
livery. Curiously, while both trains were axed by Amtrak following its
startup in the spring of 1971 a push by the Delaware and Hudson and
State of New York actually worked in returning the New York-Montreal run
back into service with Amtrak naming the train the Adirondack (which still operates to this day).
RS36 #5023 sits at Watervliet, New York with U33C #759 on January 5, 1983.
The D&H, a company that probably should no longer exist,
remains today (at least on paper) because of a series of events which
took place in the 1970s beginning with the downfall of the Northeast
rail industry. With the collapse of the Penn Central and almost all
other Northeastern carriers the railroad was destined to likely disappear
into either Conrail, which followed, or another large carrier as well.
Instead, in an effort to retain some type of rail service in the
northeast the government decided to not only allow the D&H to remain
but also give the road a broader market to serve. The result was a
railroad, which nearly doubled in size when Conrail started up in the
spring of 1976! The new routes given to the D&H included trackage
rights over Conrail between Binghamton and Buffalo (and a connection
with the Norfolk & Western Railway) as well as Newark (New Jersey),
Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
The railroad's quartet former Santa Fe PAs made quite a public relations splash; seen here is PA-4 #19 (rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen before acquired by the railroad) loading passengers at Fort Edward, New York as it leads the Adirondack on July 8, 1975.
The Baldwin Locomotive Works
1205, 1216 (Ex-NYC)
U33C #761 and C420 #412 are helpers on train PYRO, assisting the climb out of Binghamton, New York on July 14, 1984.
The Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division
7401-7420 (Ex-Reading), 7601-7620
650-656 (Ex-PC), 751-753 (Ex-EL), 754-762
A parade of colorful locomotives lead train PYRO out of Binghamton on July 14, 1984 with GP38-2 #7317 up front.
Steam Locomotive Roster
B-4 Through B-7
E-2 Through E-7
Notable Passenger Trains
Laurentian: (New York - Albany - Montreal)
Montreal Limited: (New York - Albany - Montreal)
U33C #659 leads train SKCN across the International Bridge as it is bound for Ft. Erie, Ontario on July 25, 1987.
Alas, due to the railroad’s small size it was eventually destined to be purchased, which happened in 1981
when Guilford Transportation took over the railroad. The D&H
lasted a number of years in the Guilford system before being purchased
by the Canadian Pacific which slowly began merging the railroad into its
own system. In 2014, Norfolk Southern announced its intent to purchase a section of the former D&H main line. The acquisition was approved by the Surface Transportation Board in May of 2015; it consists of 267 miles of former D&H main line between Sunbury/Kase, Pennsylvania and Schenectady, New York as well as 15 miles from Voorheesville Junction to Delanson, New York. As a result, today most of what remains of the original railroad is split between NS and CP. The little D&H has certainly lived an interesting and fascinating life, a big
reason why it has gained a lot of interest over the years. While
the railroad itself is all but a memory it continues to live on in a
historical society dedicated to its history.