"Ride on the A&S RR"

Source Unknown

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 striking appearance. 

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.

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