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May 2, 2013

Railroad history can be found at library

The Daily Star

---- — Oneonta has a long history when it comes to the railroad. Beginning in the 1860s, the railroad industry came to Oneonta, supporting its economic and population growth. The New York State Room has many resources for railroad buffs, students and researchers alike. There are many vertical files on the history of the railroad in our area and those clippings cover so many aspects of the railroad.

We have a long run of “Rail Times,” the publication of the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society, Leatherstocking Chapter, located in Oneonta. The “Rail Times” includes national railroad news as well as local news, book reviews and historical factoids about the railroad in years past. In one issue, there is an article about the “Castleton Cutoff.” Apparently, the New York Central Railroad had a traffic jam in Albany. Trains from Central, the Boston and Albany, the D&H, and the Boston and Maine all converged in one area and delays and confusion were a big problem. In 1924, they solved this problem with construction of the Castleton Cutoff, which cost $25 million and took 2½ years to complete. The article describes the decade long struggle to accomplish this feat.

Another publication in the New York State Room is “The Leatherstocking Journal” published by the Leatherstocking Railway Museum. Each issue includes news and updates, as well as interesting articles about the history of the railroad in our area. In one issue of the “The Leatherstocking Journal,” Jim Loudon writes about the American Caboose comparing it to America’s first mobile home. The crews of the train ate, slept and found shelter in their train’s caboose. According to this article, the first caboose appeared around the 1840s but they didn’t become known as cabooses until 1885. Some words used to describe a caboose were: Go-kart, Hack, Buffy, Brain-box, Bazoo Wagon, Palace Parlor, Monkey Cage, Den, Treasure Chest, and Glory Wagon.

A few books that researches are always interested in seeing are “Our Home Town Railroad” by James Catella, “Leatherstocking Rails” by Jim Loudon, and “The Oneonta Roundhouse” by Jim Loudon. Pictures in these books are captivating and also provide historical information on the railroads.

There are also have many postcards and photographs of the area in our collection that depict railroad depots, shops and other scenes representing mostly the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, but also include the Ulster and Delaware Railroad, the Albany and Susquehanna, and Electric Trolley lines. For a time, Oneonta was home to the biggest Roundhouse in the world. You can see photographs of that roundhouse here at the library. The collection is well worth spending your time looking at it, for it is the railroad industry that put Oneonta on the map.


Librarian Sarah Livingston is conducting workshops this week and next on a variety of topics. United Kingdom Genealogy is offered on May 8 and DNA Genealogy on May 10. Call 432-1980 for details on the workshops and to register.

Also, Sarah has workshops for e-readers and the Download Zone scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week. If you have a device and would like to learn how to use it, take advantage of this free workshop. Sarah will also show you how to download free ebooks available through the library’s Download Zone. An audio book workshop is available tomorrow and you’ll learn how to use your device and how to download books for listening as well. Call 432-1980 for more information and to register for these workshops.

Library Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.

Marie Bruni is director of Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. Her column appears in the community section of The Daily Star every Thursday. Her columns can be found online at