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Columns

September 8, 2012

Bigger roundhouse, new gym were news in 1917 Oneonta

Already amongst the largest railroad roundhouses in the world, Oneonta’s was about to get bigger. A steeplejack thrilled a downtown crowd while painting, while gymnasium work began for Oneonta High School students. These news items were among the life and times in our area in September 1917.

•••

“Contractors are hard at work erecting a second set of seven new stalls in place of the old brick ones at the Delaware and Hudson roundhouse,” The Oneonta Star reported on Saturday, Sept. 8. It was a plan to bring the structure, used to repair and maintain steam locomotives, to “modern conditions within seven years. The new section, except for the rear, is being constructed of reinforced concrete including the floor and roof.”

“Twenty feet are being added to depth of the building, bringing it to 100 feet, and 10 feet are added to the height in the back.” Steam locomotives were getting larger, making the expansion necessary.

“When the Oneonta roundhouse was built, it was considered to be the largest one in the country. With the increase in railroad trackage, that distinction has passed, but still with its stalls for accommodating 52 engines, it ranks high.” The roundhouse was built in 1906, replacing two smaller ones in the D&H railroad yards.

•••

“Swinging gently in the damp, cold wind of yesterday,” it was reported on Sept. 11,“Steeple Jack Eddie Wood of Cooperstown, nonchalantly puffing on his jimmy pipe, worked away painting the pinnacle of the steeple of the First Presbyterian church for hours, while far below on Main street, crowds of people gasped at his daring.”

“There was not a minute during the day that some half dozen people, sometimes 50 or 60, gazed at the man sitting in his little chair suspended from a rope. Any extra strong gust of wind that swung him a foot or so either side, sent a thrill through the watchers.”

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