The New York
, and Western is a regional railroad
serving New Jersey
and upstate New York
. It is one of the last railroads in the area that still operates under its original name.
It started in 1869 as the New Jersey Western, a railroad intended to connect a precursor of the New York, Ontario & Western Railway in Middletown, New York with the port of Jersey City, New Jersey. The NJ Western gobbled up several other short lines and renamed itself the New Jersey Midland. The Midland opened for business several months before the Panic of 1873. The NJ Midland struggled on until 1875 befor falling into receivership. One of the trustees was Garrett Hobart, who would later be Vice-President of the United States.
Hobart then became president of the re-organized Midland Railroad of New Jersey in 1880. In 1882, the railroad received its fourth and final name, the New York, Susquehanna, & Western, after building a significant extension westward to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
The extension to Stroudsburg provided the Susquehanna with access to the coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania. The coal business was booming, such that by 1887, the Susquehanna had to lay double-track over part of the line. In 1894, there were two more expansions-- eastward in New Jersey to the waterfront at Edgewater, and westward from Stroudsburg to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. This line as called the Wilkes-Barre & Eastern, and gave the Susquehanna direct access to the coal region, insted of having to rely on its Stroudsburg connection with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western. In 1896, the Susquehanna made its final expansion, a few miles further west to Scranton, Pennsylvania.
In 1898, J.P. Morgan's Erie Railroad acquired a controlling interest in the Susquehanna. The Erie would operate the Susquehanna until 1940. The Susquehanna was profitable up until the Depression of 1929. The coal business fell off, and never recovered, as cheaper fuel substitutes were found. The Erie had troubles of its own, and neglected the Susquehanna. In 1937, the line went bankrupt.
The line between Stroudsburg and Wilkes-Barre was abandoned in 1938. It ran through a desolate and mountainous section of Pennsylvania, and generated no traffic except for what was now a trickle of Wilkes-Barre coal. Under the trustee-ship of fire extinguisher magnate Walter Kidde, the Susquehanna began to scale back. In 1940, the Erie sold its controlling interest, and took with it the trackage around Scranton. In 1941, the line was further cut back, to Hainesburg in western New Jersey.
The Susquehanna slowly recovered, and was reorganized in 1953. However, a severe economic slump in 1957 brought the railroad to its knees. The original northern line was abandoned, to Beaver Lake where the western extension joined it. Nearly-new equipment had to be sold off, and there were drastic cuts in the passenger service. In 1961, the western extension was torn up between Sparta Jct. and Hainesburg.
The railroad was sold in 1962 to Irving Maidman, a New York real estate dealer who proceeded to run it into the ground. Maidman was something of a character. He wanted desperately to end the unprofitable passenger service, and once offered NYC-bound commuters $1000 each to stop riding his trains. Finally, in 1966, he simply stopped running them. The Susquehanna suffered from deferred maintanence, and the line continued to shrink. Further abandonments followed, and the line once again went bankrupt in 1976.
In the early 1980s, the failing Susquehanna received a shot in the arm. The line was bought by Walter Rich, who operated several short-haul railroads in New York and New Jersey. Rich repaired the decrepit trackage, and re-opened the line between Butler and Sparta Jct. At Sparta Jct., the Susquehanna got trackage rights over Conrail to Binghamton, New York.
Rich also bought two ex-Lackawanna lines running north of Binghamton, and for the first time, the Susquehanna served Syracuse, New York, and Utica, New York. When one of the Susquehanna's connections in Binghamton, the Delaware & Hudson, went bankrupt, the Susquehanna became the court-appointed operator, and now had a mainline running from Montreal to Sunbury, Pennsylvania as well as trackage rights as far west as Buffalo, New York. This lasted for several years until CP Rail took over the property.
The Susquehanna returned to its main business of trailer and container trains destined for the Sea-Land facilities in Edgewater. The breakup of Conrail caused some further scaling back, as operations were no longer permitted west of Binghamton. However, the Susquehanna looks to be profitable for years to come.