May 8, 2005

Looking in on the Elmira, Cortland, and Northern, 1891-2

After seeing some of the collectibles at last month's railfair, I went looking around eBay. I didn't find any stunning lanterns or other original memorabilia, but I did find (reasonably priced!) financial reports for the Elmira, Cortland, and Northern for 1891 and 1891. Sadly, they're ripped out of an old compendium of reports, but they're still a fascinating window into the past.

Elmira, Cortland and Northern 1892 introduction
The Elmira, Cortland and Northern's 1892 introduction

The Elmira, Cortland and Northern ran from Elmira to Camden, NY by way of Cortland. In the Town of Dryden, it ran from Game Farm Road opposite the present East Ithaca Recreation Way to Varna, Etna, Freeville (where it crossed the Southern Central), and McLean. In 1895 it became part of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, where it remained until the line's abandonment in the 1970s.

I can't say I find most modern annual reports exciting reading, but there are some interesting pieces here, especially because the reports provide some detailed breakdowns of expenditures. A freight house at Freeville cost $673.33 in 1891, while a new boxcar built in 1892 cost $666.80. Operating expenses include things like "Repairs of bridges (including culverts and cattle-guards)," "Wages of conductors and men," "Damage to cattle and property," and "Telegraph maintenance and operation." The average rate for carrying passengers per mile in 1891 was 2.39¢, while the average rate for freight per mile was .75¢.

Each of the years lists through and local passengers and freight, as well as total passenger miles and total passenger freight. Assembling them, we can see:

ThroughLocalTotal% Local
Number of Passengers, 189136,078219,374255,45285.8%
Number of Passengers, 189248,543212,170260,71381.3%
Tons of Freight, 1891422,93761,898484,83512.8%
Tons of Freight, 1892256,99267,501324,49320.8%

Passenger traffic was heavily weighted toward local traffic, while freight traffic was heavily weighted toward through traffic. And what was all that freight traffic?

Meats and Provisions2.01%3.1%
Live stock0.25%0.4%
Pig and bar iron and steel0.97%1.5%
Iron or other ores2.74%1.1%
Coal and coke70.06%51.1%
Petroleum and other oils0.36%5.0%
NYS manufactured goods4.93%9.7%
Other manufactured goods2.04%3.1%
Other merchandise1.42%3.1%
Other agricultural products2.59%5.8%
All other articles4.39%9.4%

The numbers for coal fall even more drastically than the drop in freight overall from 1891's 339,677 tons to 1892's 165,850. There isn't much information here about why, but it probably didn't make the railroad's owners - all 25 stockholders - very happy. It's also interesting to see that the two Ithaca members of the Board of Directors in 1891, Franklin C. Cornell and Frank J. Enz, disappear in 1892, when the entire Board is made of of downstate residents, plus one person in Greenwich, Connecticut and another in Philadelphia.

If you'd like to look at these more closely, I've scanned them in and posted them as PDFs:

The selectable versions aren't great, as the font and the age-darkened paper didn't lend themselves to clean optical character recognition, but they may still be useful.

Posted by simon at May 8, 2005 5:11 PM in
Note on photos


Gaylord Ewing said:

Hello, I've always had a interest in the Elmira,Cortland and Northern Railroad. It ran through my hometown of Breesport,N.Y. till 1938. Any pictures of the E C &N Railroad around the Breesport and Horseheads,N.Y. I would be interested in. Gaylord Ewing

Ted Laitala said:

Hi, I am originally from Swartwood - over the hill from Erin toward Van Etten. I too have had a great interest in the railroad between Elmira and Van Etten and beyond. I have some photo slides (B&W) photo copied from original photographs of the EC&N showing Swartwood and Erin stations and the trestles between Park Station and Swartwood. If I find anything regarding Breesport I will certainly convey that to you. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Ted Laitala
9 Federal Street
Brunswick, ME 04011

mark stromberg said:

It is interesting to note that your coments are just a couple of days old therefor I feel compelled to write. I was out riding my motorcycle on 14 May looking for the railbed of the EC&N. I got as far as Park Station but unfortunitly the cycle got a low tire and I had to return to Owego NY. What I realy want to know is there any part of the roadbed that is walkable. I am also interested in the site of the tresle.