New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway

The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway (NYSW), better known as the Susie-Q, is a 400-mile+ regional operation based in Cooperstown, New York.

The railroad has its roots dating all of the way back to 1881 when it was created through the merger of several other smaller Northeastern lines.

Today the NYS&W operates between North Bergen, New Jersey (near New York City), runs along the New York/Pennsylvania border, then north through upstate New York connecting Utica and Syracuse.

Its lines are broken down into the Southern Division (southern New York/New Jersey) and Northern Division (northern New York).

Through the years the railroad has cut back and abandoned some of its original routes. However, it still remains an important railroad today in the New York area and retains its classic yellow and black livery.

Susquehanna SD45 #3624 and C430 #3000 enter the yard at Binghamton, New York on September 29, 1990 with their freight. Incredibly, the railroad continued to operate Alcos throughout most of the 1990s. Doug Kroll photo.

The Susie-Q has had a very interesting past in its 125+ year history. The New York, Susquehanna & Western officially began as a culmination of six small railroads that had been hit hard by the Financial Panic of 1873:

  • Midland Connecting Railway

  • New Jersey Midland Railway

  • Northern Jersey Railway

  • Paterson Extension Railway

  • Pennsylvania Midland Railway

  • Water Gap Railroad

These companies dated as far back as the Hoboken, Ridgefield & Paterson Railroad of 1866 and were quite small, serving primarily the region around and just west of New York City in New Jersey and extreme eastern Pennsylvania.

The new railroad was to be called the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Company, founded in the summer of 1881 as a means of handling coal from eastern Pennsylvania to New York City.

Initially, the new NYS&W was planned to simply function as a bridge line by not actually moving coal itself from the mines but using the larger Delaware, Lackawanna & Western to do so.

At Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania the black diamonds were interchanged to the NYS&W and carried eastward to New York City.

On an overcast fall day, a trio of Susquehanna SD60's and an SD40T-2 pull northbound freight BH-1 (Binghamton-Syracuse) near Cortland, New York on October 5, 2013. Doug Kroll photo.

This changed in 1892 when the railroad's management decided that there was more profit to be made in hauling the coal itself and set about constructed new routes through the Pocono Mountains to do so.

Up to this point the Susquehanna owned a line that stretched from Hoboken, New Jersey to Stroudsburg, as well as a branch never Beaver Lake northward to Middletown.

The new route, chartered as the Wilkes-Barre & Eastern Railroad stretched westward from the interchange at Stroudsburg to Kingston (near Wilkes-Barre) and Scranton.

Resources About The Susquehanna

Photos Of The Susquehanna

Official System Map (Current)

Official 1891 System Map

Steam Locomotive Roster Information

All-Time Diesel Locomotive Roster

New York, Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society

Additional Facts About The Railroad

Official Susquehanna Website

The new route, along with the construction of new docks on the New Jersey waterfront at Edgewater to export the coal, were opened by 1896.

These new projects made the Susquehanna much more attractive by other, larger railroads with its new, direct lines.

As such, in 1898 the Erie Railroad began purchasing the NYS&W's stock in large amounts and formally controlled the railroad by July of that year.

After Erie control the Susquehanna was not a well managed system, particularly after the United States Railroad Association took control of the entire industry with the onset of World War I in 1918.

In general the USRA did a disastrous job with the entire affair (save for some of the universal steam locomotive designs it oversaw) and the NYS&W exited the war in 1920 in disarray with little money and a completely worn out system.

Six-axle Susquehanna power has train BH-1 passing the old crossing watchman's tower in downtown Cortland, New York on October 5, 2013. Doug Kroll photo.

The Wilkes-Barre & Eastern had never been a particularly successful venture, partly due to the fact that several railroads already served the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region.

As such, it had little to offer except its connection to the Erie at Middletown and DL&W at Stroudsburg. These factors coupled with the Great Depression finally forced the NYS&W into bankruptcy on June 1, 1937.

After reorganization the trustee set to streamlining the company. First, it became an independent system no longer under Erie control and soon after abandoned the WB&E extension in the late 1930s, which was simply a money-losing line.

This, coupled with a vast reduction of its passenger services helped to buoy the railroad (including the vast amounts of traffic during World War II a few years later).

Susquehanna RS3 #101 was photographed here by James Leveille on August 7, 1984. This unit began its career as Delaware & Hudson #4088 in 1952. Author's collection.

When dieselization hit the industry following World War II the Susquehanna was already ahead of the game. By 1945 it had completely dieselized its locomotive fleet (the first Class I to achieve such stature) and particularly liked models from the American Locomotive Company (Alco), purchasing RS-1s and S-2s.

However, the 1960s found the railroad again in financial trouble.

In 1966 it ended all remaining passengers services and in the 1970s it lost a vital connection with the Central Railroad of New Jersey following Tropical Storm Doria that washed out its line. Additionally, the Penn Central collapse of 1970 did not help matters any.

The Susquehanna's pair of E9A's, #2402 and #2400 (ex-Burlington), are seen here in Binghamton, New York on April 12, 2003. These units are no longer on the property. Doug Kroll photo.

By the time Conrail was formed in 1976 the railroad was up for abandonment and was actually considering being shutdown and sold off altogether.

However, while the Interstate Commerce Commission contemplated the railroad's fate it was purchased by the Delaware Otsego Corporation in 1980, which had the capital to restored the company.

Throughout the 1980s the railroad rebounded from its woes a decade earlier. In 1982 it purchased former lines of the DL&W around Utica and Syracuse, New York from Conrail.

This created two divisions:

  • The Northern Division in New York include the "newest" lines operating from Binghamton to Chenango where the lines split to serve Utica and Syracuse.

  • The Southern Division in New Jersey  encompassed the original main line between Hoboken and Sparta Junction as well the former Lehigh & Hudson River line between Sparta Junction and Warwick that it purchased in the mid-1980s.

The divisions remain unconnected even today although the Susquehanna does have trackage rights over the former Erie (now owned by Norfolk Southern) between Warwick and Binghamton although this line is operated by the railroad as the Central New York Railroad. 

New York, Susquehanna & Western Locomotive Roster

Builder Model Type Road Number Notes/Disposition Quantity
EMDGP202062, 2064, 2066Ex-TP&W, For Sale3
EMDSD40T-23010-3016 (Evens)Ex-SP, Ex-D&RGW4
EMDSD403020, 3022Ex-N&W2
EMDGP403040, 3042Ex-A&WP, Ex-N&W2
EMDSD453618, 3634Ex-BN2
EMDSD70M4050, 4052, 4054On Lease, Stored3

Susquehanna SD40-2 #3018 rolls past the ex-Lackawanna station at Cortland, New York on October 5, 2013 heading back to it's train on the south side of town. Doug Kroll photo.

Today, the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway serves over 85 customers and has a diverse traffic base ranging from lumber/building materials, plastics, paper and chemicals to aggregates and food grade products.

The railroad also offers the option of bulk transfer facilities. It is now larger, hauls more tonnage, and is more profitable than it ever was at any point in its more than 130 year history. 

The NYS&W's current roster is an eclectic assortment of locomotives ranging from GEs and EMDs to Alcos (albeit all of the Alcos are currently out of service).  

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Wes Barris's is simply the best web resource in the study of steam locomotives. 

The amount of information found there is quite staggering; historical backgrounds of wheel arrangements, types used by virtually every railroad, preserved and operational examples, and even those used in other countries (North America and beyond). 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website.  It is a must visit!

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way. 

Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that. 

If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer

It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!