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Columns

December 3, 2012

Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society rolling along at 30

It passed quietly in 2012, but the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society commemorated its 30th anniversary of formation, to preserve the area’s railroad heritage. It was a year of some adversity, what with their excursion train being idled for awhile, but as with every other setback or triumph in the past, the Society is back to full strength and has no plans to call it quits anytime soon. Its ups and downs have been the norm since 1982.

Bruce Hodges, president of the LRHS since 1985, recalled when his father, Norbert Hodges, had been the superintendent of Oneonta’s parks before passing away. James Catella was the superintendent of public works, and was a family friend of the Hodges, as well as the city’s liaison with the Delaware & Hudson Railroad Co. They spoke often and Hodges recalled one Saturday how Catella had called to talk with his mother. By coincidence that same day, Bruce and his mother had been talking about how odd it was that Oneonta didn’t have a railroad museum, given its glorious history dating back to 1865.

Catella told Mrs. Hodges how he was going to meet with some railroad enthusiasts, Jim Loudon, Russ Hawkins and Dave Jones about such a museum, and suggested that Bruce attend this meeting.

The group met, with the initial objective to save the BRT Caboose in Neahwa Park, with other goals in the future. At the time the Smithsonian Institution was looking to remove the historic caboose to Washington, D.C. The caboose had been a repeated target of vandalism, and while the Smithsonian offered a safe place, many Oneontans vigorously fought the removal.

The result of that first meeting was to build a protective enclosure for the caboose. Loudon and Hodges wanted to take this project a step further, and start a railroad museum. Hodges credits Jim Loudon for getting this group together in the first place.

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