Minisink Valley Historical Society
Railroads and Port Jervis
THE RAILROADS OF PORT JERVIS
The New York and Lake Erie
The Erie
The Erie Lackawanna
The Port Jervis & Monticello Railroad
The Ontario & Western
by Raymond Pinglora
New York, Ontario & Western Historical Society

The New York & Erie Railroad was first chartered in April of 1832 to run from Piermont, N.Y. through Port Jervis and on to the shores of Lake Erie. It was to be of a broad six foot gauge. Even though ground was broken in 1835, construction began several years later in 1838 due to a financial panic that gripped the country. It was finally completed in 1851 with the first passenger train passing through Port Jervis on May 14 of that year. On board was President Millard Fillmore and Senator Daniel Webster.

In 1859 the name was changed to the Erie Railway and in 1874 to the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad. In 1880 the railroad was changed to standard gauge (4 feet 8 1/2 inches). In 1897 the name was changed again, this time to the Erie Railroad which remained until 1960.

In 1868 a new railroad came to town. The Port Jervis and Monticello Railroad built north out of town and in 1895 was leased to the New York Ontario and Western Railway (O&W). The O&W added a branch that ran off of the Port Jervis and Monticello and up to Kingston. At Summitville, it crossed the main line from New York City (Weehawken, N.J.) and points west.

Railroads began to decline as the twentieth century progressed and after the more lucrative World War II years the bottom fell out of things. On March 29, 1957 the O&W became the first Class I railroad to be abandoned . The tracks were torn up shortly thereafter. Then in 1960, because of financial difficulties, the Erie Railroad merged with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad to form the Erie-Lackawanna. This was a shaky union for the next 16 years and on April 1, 1976 the Erie-Lackawanna was merged into the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail).

In 1985 a new railroad came into Port Jervis. The New York, Susquehanna and Western gained trackage rights from Conrail and began transporting containerized and other freight through town. The Susquehanna, another railroad in poor financial condition, was resurrected in the early 1980's by Walter Rich, president and CEO of the Delaware Otsego Corporation which ran several short line railroads in New York State. Now in 1998, with the break up of Conrail on the horizon, Norfolk Southern, a product of merger itself, is coming to town.

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the C&O, 1995
The C & O 614 makes its way to Port Jervis, New York in the Fall of 1995.
Photo Courtesy of Ardneil Systems, Inc
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Future train excursions to the City of Port Jervis

There are no excursions planned at the present time however the city is interested in proposals that would bring steam and diesel locomotives back to Port Jervis regularly. There have been some preliminary discussions with the National Park Service facility at Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvania to see if excursions could be done.

For further information or for suggestions please call the mayor's office at (845) 856-4017 or email the office at pjnymayor@citlink.net 

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Excursions - Fall 1998

Port Jervis will once again be host to the Iron Horse Rambles being conducted by nationally renowned railroad buff Ross Rowland on October 10, 11, 17 & 18, 31, and November 1, 1998. The C & O steam locomotive No. 614 will be turned on the refurbished Port Jervis Erie turntable, the largest operating turntable in the United States. Last year some 30,000 people came to see the steam locomotive and participate in the excursions and festivals that were taking place in the city's downtown business district.

The trip begins in Hoboken, New Jersey, and arrives in Port Jervis around noon and returns at about 3:30 p.m. While in town visitors will be able to participate in walking tours, festivals, balloon rides and enjoy the small town charm of the city. The cost is $77 for adults and $50 for children and $250 for a first class ticket.
For trip information call Iron Horse Rambles at 908-236-2200 or for festival information call the mayor's office at 914-858-4018. Or, just press here to get to a web site dedicated to the 614:

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Other C & O 614 Web Sites include the following:
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Historic Erie Turntable Updates
Prepared by Peter Osborne, City Historian
Erie turntable
The Port Jervis Erie Turntable
January 25, 2000

The Port Jervis Erie Turntable stands completely ready for use by steam or diesel locomotives. While there were no excursions here in 1999 there is hope for additional excursions in the future. A new flag pole and interpretive display has been placed on the site, and visitors to our town regularly visit the only operating turntable in the region and the longest operating turntable in the East.

January 8, 1999

Last fall the shanty, housing the electrical controls, was completed and enclosed. It will be painted original Erie colors in the Spring of 1999. The turntable was host to the arrival of two steam engines - the 614 and Norfolk and Southern's Chinese made No. 142.

The 142 was under the direction of engineer Earl Pardini. The complex effort was coordinated by local architect Bernard Kozykowski and Pardini as the two engines stood side by side in mid-October.

April 6, 1998

The installation of an old semaphore tower near the turntable is underway. The tower, which was located on the Erie Main Line near Binghamton, New York, was going to be scrapped by Conrail. The tower has been repainted black and will be placed on one of the sidings that emanate out from the turntable.

January 14, 1998

Planning is now underway for more steam excursions in the spring and fall. Final dates for the trips should be announced in the next month or so. One of the projects that is planned for 1998 calls for the installation of an old signal tower near the turntable. The tower, which was located on the Erie Main Line near Binghamton, New York, was going to be scrapped by Conrail. Instead the city's DPW under the direction of the city historian brought it to Port Jervis and put it into storage.

October 21, 1997

At the uncommon hour of 2:30 on October 17, architect Bernard Kozykowski, flipped a switch and the Port Jervis Erie Turntable, began to turn under its own power again for the first time since 1981. Because of the planned excursions, additional testing with a substantial amount of weight on the turntable was not possible. As such, the first actual test occurred when the C & O 614 came to Port Jervis on Saturday afternoon.

There were several tension filled few moments as everyone waited to see if the electrification project would be successful. Using a temporary control panel Peter Osborne, Vince Lopez and Bernard Kozykowski flipped a switch and the engine began to turn and creak along the old ring rail. The two new ten horsepower motors drew a total of between 14and 16 amps as the engine turned meeting the expectations of Joe Fleming, the electrical engineer hired by the city to install the new motors. Everything worked as planned. The complete new control panel along with a lighting system will be installed in the coming weeks. The control shed, created using old photographs, will be finished in this week.

On Sunday, October 19, the Mayor of the City, Michael Worden, dedicated the Erie Turntable Park with the raising of a flag on a newly installed flag pole by local veteran's groups. Thousands came to cheer the return of the Erie Bell by the Port Jervis Football team and its cheerleaders. Dignitaries made presentations as well as Ross Rowland, the owner of the 614 steam locomotive. With the addition of this the newest of the city's parks, the heritage of the Erie will be preserved along with the Port Jervis Erie Depot on Jersey Avenue.

October 1, 1997

Work has begun to electrify the historic Erie Turntable in Port Jervis, the largest operating turntable in America. New utility poles have been installed and donated by Citizens Telecom, the regional phone company. A new electric service will be installed by Port Jervis Electric, Inc. as per the contract awarded to Fleming Controls, Inc. and work on the motors will begin during the week of October 11th. The turntable will be operating under its own electric power, controlled from a panel in a shed recreated from old photographs on the deck by the week of October 18, in time for the last of the six planned excursions. The work is being coordinated by Bernard Kosykowski, a local architect and Vince Lopez, the Director of the Department of Public Works.

August 21, 1997

The Common Council of the City of Port Jervis has authorized the Department of Public Works to enter into a contract with Joseph Fleming of Fleming Controls, Inc. of Ramsey, New Jersey (email address: fci@nis.net )and Port Jervis Electric to install new electric motors on the turntable. Their bid of approximately $54,000 was the only bid received on August 8. The work will begin immediately and the turntable's automated controls will be ready for the fall excursions beginning in October.

July 16, 1997

The Common Council of the City of Port Jervis has authorized the Department of Public Works to send out requests for proposals to electrify the Port Jervis Erie Turntable. It is hoped to have the proposals back in several weeks and then have the council award a contract. The work would begin immediately and the turntable's automated controls would be ready for the fall excursions. This would eliminate the need for pulling the turntable with a bulldozer as had been done in the Fall 1996 and Spring 1997 excursions.

June 6, 1997

The turntable was recently renovated under the direction of local architect Bernard Kozykowski and active railroader Richard Bachelder. A new decking was placed on the steel bridge, replacing a crumbling deck that had been temporarily blocked for last year's excursions. New railroad ties and decking materials were installed by volunteers and employees of the Port Jervis Department of Public Works.

Erie turntable tower
The Tower of the Erie Turntable

Another development concerns the electrification of the turntable operation. Proposals have been received to electrify the turntable and it is hoped that the entire contract will be completed by the fall excursions. The contract would call for bringing electric power to the bridge, the installation of two five horse power motors, a control shed with a removable control panel and lighting. Funding sources are currently being investigated.

Donations are being accepted to restore the Port Jervis Erie Turntable. Donations will be used to complete its restoration and regular maintenance and also the erection of an old Erie semaphore now in the Society's possession. Additional lighting, seating and interpretive exhibits are planned as well. Contributions can be made to the Depot Preservation Society, c/o James Browning, President, Post Office Box 1298, Montague, New Jersey 07827. Mr. Browning's phone is 973-293-3721.

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Web Pages About the Railroads in Port Jervis
The Middletown & New Jersey Railroad:
http://mnjrhs.raifan.net
The New York Ontario & Western:
http://www.nyow.org
The O & W was an important early twentieth century railroad that used the Erie Railroad's facilities in Port Jervis and had its corporate headquarters in Middletown, New York. It also purchased the Port Jervis & Monticello Railroad, a short branch line and incorporated it into its system.
Shohola Caboose Project (Shohola, Pennsylvania):
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Ridge/9765/
This page has a brief outline of the rail history of Shohola and the caboose as well as the Civil War accident that occurred in 1864. Improvements and new links are made on a continual basis.
New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad:
http://www.americaninternet.com/nyswths/index.htm
Erie Lackawanna Historical Society http://www.dnaco.net/~gelwood/
MetroNorth Railroad:http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us
MetroNorth, a commuter passenger train continues to serve the Port Jervis area bringing trains from the New York metropolitan area.
A few other sites that you may want to check out are:
The official web site of the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey: http://www.urhs.org
Railroad Records: http://www.rrb.gov
Copyright © 2009 The Minisink Valley Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Revised December 31, 2013