"Ride on the A&S RR"
In December, 1837, the newly-completed Auburn &
Syracuse Railroad, which passed through the towns of Geddes,
Camillus and Elbridge, contracted with Col. John M. Sherwood of
Auburn to operate the line using his horses and altered stagecoaches
until such time as the company could afford to purchase locomotives.
At the time, scrap iron was also unavailable,
so locomotive operation would have been impractical on the plain
wooden rails that had been laid. Sherwood was one of the major
partners in a consortium loosely called the "Old Line Mail," which
had controlled public land transportation between Albany and Buffalo
and had the mail contracts since about 1800. According to Thomas Y.
How, Jr., treasurer, as recorded in the company letter book, the
directors had decided it was in their interest to contract with
Sherwood and also secure his business rather than compete against
him. This arrangement lasted for about 14 months until locomotives
were purchased from Rogers Locomotive Works of Patterson, NJ.
Following is an account of a ride in one of the
horse car trains from James S. Buckingham's "Travels in the Eastern
and Western States of America," published in London in 1842. The
author and his party had traveled by canal packet to Utica, and then
by stagecoach to Syracuse. He noted that the journey from Utica to
Syracuse, a little more than 50 miles, took eight hours, from 8 a.m.
to 4 p.m., or an average of 6 1/4 miles per hour.
"On the following morning, Thursday, August 9th
(1838), we left Syracuse in a coach that conveyed us to a rail-way,
beginning at a distance of 3 or 4 miles from the town, to take us to
Auburn; but great was our disappointment at finding, that instead of
a locomotive engine, the cars were drawn by horses, of which there
were only two, to draw about 20 passengers, the horses being placed
one before the other, as tandems are driven, and not abreast.
"The rails, too, were of wood instead of iron,
and the rate of travelling was estimated to be about six miles an
hour. We had to wait half an hour before starting, and our progress
was then so tedious that we all thought of getting out to walk the
distance, as the most expeditious mode of the two. To add to our
mortification, we met a train of cars drawn by a single horse coming
right against us, and, the rails being single, and the places for
turning off being wide apart, we had to shift our tandem pair from
the front to the hind part of the train, and be drawn back about a
mile and a half to get off the track, and let our advancing rival go
past us. "After a very tedious ride of four hours in performing 22
miles, we reached Auburn, the entrance to which was by the great
State Prison, and the other public buildings, which gave it a very
This railroad was completed to Auburn in
November 1841. It and the Auburn & Syracuse were merged in 1850 to
form the Rochester & Syracuse Railroad Company. It was consolidated
into the New York Central in 1853. Passenger service discontinued
May 18, 1958. Abandoned Victor to Pittsford in 1960; Canandaigua to
Victor in 1978, and Pittsford to Rochester in 1982. Operated by
Conrail, April 1, 1976 to July 1, 1995, when turned over to Finger
Lakes Railway, along with remaining segment of Lehigh Valley
mainline, about 15 miles, Geneva to Kendaia.