Oneonta, NY. This is where MB-2 transformed from carrying traffic from the B&M for many destinations to a DL&W interchange train.
John W. Barriger III Library photo
J.F. Gorgrant’s Conductor Books
During 1954 – 1955 Conductor Gorgrant worked a regular turn between his home terminal of Binghamton and away terminal Mechanicville. His typical schedule involved going on duty in the predawn hours for BM-3 at Binghamton, getting his rest at Mechanicville, and then going back on duty predawn for MB-2 back home.
His conductor books provide the power on each train, the contents and interchange destination of each car handled, and arrival and departure times. Using his books with other sources of information can give a good picture of how these trains operated.
MB-2: Mechanicville to Binghamton
This train originated at Mechanicville with traffic received from the Boston & Maine. Two blocks were on the train: a mixed block of traffic for all points south of Oneonta, and a block of Delaware Lackawanna & Western traffic for interchange at Binghamton. The inbound connecting B&M train B-M 3 carried a block of DL&W Buffalo and beyond traffic along with a D&H Binghamton block. I am not sure if Mechanicville classified traffic received by other connections into DL&W and mixed Oneonta blocks, or if all of this traffic ended up in the mixed Oneonta block which did include DL&W cars.
Interestingly, the 1956 D&H Freight Schedule shows MB-2 handling only DL&W traffic from Mechanicville. This could be a change from the 1954-1955 time period covered, or the freight schedule was inaccurate, or wasn’t being followed during day to day operations at the time.
Undated but of the era freight schedule from archive.org.
At Oneonta, the mixed block was set out to be classified and additional DL&W traffic was picked up, making the train a straight DL&W train. Additional blocks of Binghamton traffic for other railroads or local D&H customers were sometimes handled.
The 1956 schedule, the closest date available to me, schedules MB-2 to depart Mechanicville at 0300 and arrive in Binghamton at 1000. While this might be slightly different than the 1954-1955 time period of Conductor Gorgrant’s books, it appears to be close, and the DL&W freight schedules show that MB-2 kept roughly the same schedule for years. So how did railroading reality compare with scheduled theory?
Actually, not too bad. The train was generally late: only 3 of 15 trains arrived in Binghamton on time, a dismal 20% on time record when viewed through that lens. But I suspect it was less important to be “to the minute” on time, and more important to be consistently close. Being close maintains scheduled connections and the integrity of the network as a whole. And by this measure this operation was very successful. The worst performing train arrived less than two hours late, close enough to maintain connections with DL&W’s BB-3 without shattering the DL&W’s downstream BB-3 connections. The overall network appears predictable and manageable.
For their part, the D&H did their job. The train generally made up time from its Mechanicville departure to arrival in Binghamton.
Inbound B&M Connections
Boston & Maine’s train B-M 3 (not to be confused with the D&H train BM-3!) appears to be the primary connection, as shown below from a 1953 schedule (available here). The hottest train was the earlier departing B-M 11 which was limited to box cars only and handled the morning Acme loadings. B-M 3 handled the later cars, as well as cars received by other trains.
Note the merchandise traffic dropped by the preceding W-M 1. This hot traffic is given to the B-M 3, which runs through East Deerfield and becomes the D&H’s MB-2. Though W-M 1 is scheduled to arrive at Mechanicville only an hour behind B-M 3, the MB-2 is not shown as a connection.
The earlier running B-M 11 also handled forwarder cars ready early in the day at Boston bound for the MB-2.
Traffic received from the Maine Central at Rigby moved on P-M 3. Much of the paper related traffic on MB-2 probably came from this connection.
Traffic from the Springfield area moved on S-M 1:
Most of the merchandise traffic was bound for the DL&W, received at Mechanicville. A car for the D&H at Oneonta was common, as well as cars for the D&H at Binghamton or Wilkes-Barre. Additional merchandise traffic bound for the DL&W was picked up at Oneonta from other trains.
Acme Freight Forwarder contributed much of this traffic. In addition, regularly scheduled railroad LCL cars were probably included as well. Here are the destinations of cars handled by MB-2:
Carloadings varied by day of week. B-M 3 and B-M 11 both handled Acme traffic, but how this was done varied each day. From the Terminal Division Freight Train Makeup Book dated 1954 (available from James B. Van Bokkelen), we see:
The Acme cars on Mondays go on BM-3; on Tuesdays BM-11 and BM-3; on Wednesdays and Thursdays on BM-11; on Fridays on BM-11 and BM-3; on Saturdays, Acme cars come from Lowell, Worcester, and Lynn and go on the head end of BM-3.
And the data seems to fit this pattern. No traffic is handled on Mondays (which would be Sunday loading at Boston), Saturdays are the heaviest days of the week, and the Sunday light totals probably reflects the cars received at Boston from other trains as indicated. Note the last train, April 8. This train had a much higher diversity of destinations than the others. Was it combined with another train? Or was traffic much higher than normal due to it being Easter weekend?
Paper and other paper products made up a significant portion of the loads. Most of this was bridge traffic from the B&M bound for the DL&W. Some additional traffic came was picked up at Oneonta, likely from mills located on the D&H. For example, a 1973 list of outbound loads from the International Paper mill in Corinth, NY shows a paper load destined to Dayton, OH via the Erie Lackawanna.
A few of the trains picked up at a location notated as “GL” by Conductor Gorgrant. I am not sure what location this is; I couldn’t find any station telegraph signs that match it. The carloads picked up seem to fit traffic that would originate on D&H’s northern lines, and the traffic is set out at Oneonta so it must be a location north of there. Glenville Jct. would be a possibility based on the “GL” name, though it seems Mohawk Yard north of Schenectady would be more likely operationally.
Ilmenite Ore Traffic
Ilmenite ore, a source of titanium, originated on D&H’s Adirondack Branch at Sanford Lake (Tahawus). Large blocks were sometimes picked up by MB-2 at Oneonta, bound for the DL&W and ultimately processing at a National Lead plant in St. Louis. This was handled in D&H hoppers such as this and this. Much more information about the ilmenite ore mine can be found on The Adirondack Branch and in January 1959 Trains magazine.
from Titanium – A Materials Survey available from Google Books
According to the 1956 schedule, it appears SC-5 handled the ore to Saratoga, where it was probably picked up by RO-2 (Rouses Point – Oneonta) for movement to Oneonta.
Some of the ore listed might be iron ore rather than ilmenite, but I would bet the large blocks of solid D&H cars contained ilmenite.
DL&W Connections at Binghamton
Upon arrival at Binghamton, MB-2’s traffic became DL&W train BB-3 (Binghamton – Buffalo) departing shortly after MB-2’s arrival. Thomas Townsend Taber notes in The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in the Twentieth Century Part Two that BB-3 handled D&H and Syracuse and Utica division freight. The following 1954 schedule is from his book and shows BB-3 departing at 12:30:
This traffic pattern appears to have been well established. A 1949 schedule from the book shows BB-3 on basically the same schedule, with MB-2 and Boston & Maine trains B-M 3 and S-M 1 as connecting trains:
With three different railroads involved just to get cars from Boston to Buffalo, multiple connecting trains to coordinate, and handling priority traffic and bulk commodities together in the same regularly scheduled trains, this was “Precision Railroading” long before the term became fashionable. Despite maintaining a much more complicated route structure, this previous generation of railroaders appears to have achieved better performance than is common today. Perhaps we could learn something from them?
And now it is time to make a plea. As can be seen, many different sources were needed to stitch together this story. I am grateful for all of the people that have shared information on various websites to make this story possible. If you have information of your own, please consider sharing it with others, whether here or elsewhere. You never know when it will be the key piece to someone else’s story. Thank you.