Edited by John Keel (deceased)
The Sodus Bay Branch ran from Stanley, New York to the shores of Sodus Bay in the town of Sodus Point, New York. Along the way, it passed through the towns of Flint, Seneca Castle, Orleans, Phelps Junction, Newark, Sodus Center, and Wallington. In addition, a branch split off from the north side of Newark to the town of Marion. Passing sidings were located in Stanley and "New," which was north (timetable west) of Newark.
The main purpose of the line was carrying coal to the large coal dock at Sodus Point. A Niagara Hudson power plant was opened at Oswego, New York, in 1940. This plant burned large quantities of coal, which were carried by rail to Sodus Point and then by boat to Oswego. The line also carried general freight. Until the 1930's ice was harvested in Sodus Bay and shipped south. Agricultural products were a major source of traffic into the middle 1950's. A quarry in Wallington, which opened in the early 1950's, generated hundreds of carloads of stone and gravel for road construction. The Genessee Brewing Company had a large malt house in Sodus Point which received several carloads of grain every five or six weeks. Jackson and Perkins shipped rose bushes from their facility in Newark until the early 1950's. During the coal shipping season, local switching was performed by coal trains. In the winter, a local ran as needed from Sodus Point to Stanley and back.
Passenger trains ran along the branch until 1934--first steam trains and then a gas electric car. A mixed train operated until November 15, 1935.
There was also a maritime component to the Sodus Bay Branch. PRR harbor tug Cornelia operated at Sodus Point, helping the lake boats dock and sometimes pushing barges of coal to Oswego.
The Sodus Bay and Southern Railroad opened in 1873 as a standard gauge railroad connecting Sodus Point, the largest protected harbor on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, with the Elmira, Jefferson & Canandaigua Railway in Stanley, New York. By 1873, the EJ&C was controlled by the Northern Central. The SB&S failed twice before being purchased as the first railroad venture of E. H. Harriman, who later became famous as the president of the Union Pacific. Harriman bought the line with hopes of selling it to either the Erie or the Northern Central. The Northern Central purchased it in 1884 and immediately built a coal trestle at Sodus Point. In 1886, the SB&S, the EJ&C, and the Chemung Railway were consolidated as the Elmira & Lake Ontario Railroad. The coal pier was enlarged in 1894.
In 1913, the Pennsylvania Railroad signed a 99 year lease on the Northern Central, and folded it into its system. The line was upgraded during the 1920's, with stone ballast and 130 pound rail. A new coal pier was built at Sodus Point during 1927-28, and the yard there was expanded.
The Pennsylvania purchased the Newark & Marion Railway, which ran between its namesake towns, on May 4, 1930. This line was originally constructed as an interurban; its light rail and sharp curves limited steam power to nothing heavier than an H6sb. This eight-mile line became the Marion Branch.
The opening of a Niagara Hudson power plant at Oswego, New York, in 1940, increased the amount of coal being loaded into lake boats at Sodus Point. This traffic was the mainstay of the line until 1963, when the Erie Lackawanna began running unit coal trains to Oswego. The coal pier was closed in late 1967. On November 5, 1971, while the coal pier was being dismantled, it caught fire and was severely damaged.
The Seneca Castle - Newark portion of the line closed in 1973. Track from Newark to Sodus Point was scheduled for abandonment in early 1978, but the governments of Wayne county and the State of New York purchased the line. As of 1993, track was still in place from Wallington to just south of where the Sodus Point yard began. This track was being operated by the shortline Ontario Midland Railway. In the fall of 1995, the siding at Sodus Point that ran in front of the roundhouse was still in place, but it had no connection to other rails.
Towns and Points of Interest
The following section lists towns and points of interest from south to north (timetable east to west). The following towns are in Ontario County: Stanley, Flint, Seneca Castle, Orleans, and Phelps Junction. The remaining towns are in Wayne County: Newark, Sodus Center, Wallington, Sodus Point, and Marion. The comments in this document about what there is to see are based upon two trips your author made to the area.
Stanley (1995) - There isn't much evidence of the railroad left in Stanley. The station, tower, signals, and tracks (both PRR and Leheigh Valley) are all gone. The fence that blocked off what had been a grade crossing is still there, as is the grain elevator building seen in several pictures in the Caloroso book.
Flint (1995) - The bridge over US Route 20, where decapods used to charge out of the trees, is still there. I don't remember if it still had track on it.
Seneca Castle (1997) - The grain elevator and the B & G Pickle factory buildings are still in use, just off of NY Route 4.
Orleans (1997) - There is a water tower along Route 488in the town. The local fire department apparently uses it, as there is a hydrant where the water plug used to be. The pump house and the concrete foundation for the water plug are still there, as well. The track is gone, however.
Phelps Junction (1997) - Most of the mainline and the crossing diamonds are gone, but you can still see most of the track arrangement at Phelps Jct. The old New York Central track is still in use. The siding at Phelps Jct. now serves a factory. The interchange track is still in service, as is enough of the old mainline to reach the siding with a switchback arrangement. The old mainline rails are still embedded in Phelps Junction road.
Newark (1997) - On the south side of the Erie Canal, the passenger and freight stations are still standing. They are now part of a business there. The bridge over the canal is still in place. On the north side of the bridge there is a small yard with a long, thin shack and a loading ramp. A few blocks to the north, the track heads up a ramp and crosses over the old NYC mainline on a girder bridge.
The line to Marion separated from the Sodus Point line in Newark.
Sodus Point (1995) - The coal pier burned in 1971, and the remains were cut down to make a commercial pier. Looking back from the pier, you can see the concrete abutment with the heavy timbers still embedded. The roundhouse is still standing. Sodus Point yard is now a grassy field, but one of the light towers still stands on Margaretta Street. The Customs House, where the PRR doctor had an office on the second floor, is abandoned and vandalized, but still standing.
The maritime museum in town has a very nice HO scale model of the coal pier.
Marion (1995) - Although all of the tracks are gone, it is pretty easy to trace the path of the railroad into and through this town. The station was still there in 1995, but it was leaning and sagging pretty badly. It had a "for sale" sign. Does anyone know if it has been purchased?
References and Sources of Information and Photographs
Pennsylvania Railroads Elmira Branch, by Bill Caloroso (Andover, New Jersey: Andover Junction Publications, 1993) ISBN: 0-944119-12-3. This book is the preeminent source of information about the Sodus Bay Branch (and the Elmira Branch in general).
The Story of the Northern Central, by Robert L. Gennarsson (Sykesville, MD: Greenberg Publishing Company, Inc., 1991) ISBN: 0-89778-157-0. History and photos of the branch.
Pennsy Diesel Years 4, by Robert Juan.Yanosey (Edison, NJ: Morning Sun Books, Inc., 1991) ISBN: 0-9619058-9-1. Color photos of a wreck at Orleans and of Sodus Point.
Railroads in Early Postcards, Volume One Upstate New York, by Richard Palmer and Harvey Roehl (Vestal, NY: The Vestal Press Ltd., 1990) ISBN: 0-911572-87-2. B & W postcard views of Sodus Center and Sodus Point.
Rochester & Sodus Bay Ry. Co., by William R. Gordon (no publisher information, 1952). Photo of Northern Central passenger train at Sodus Point Station, photos of trolleys at Sodus Point and Wallington.
Upstate Oddessy: The Lehigh Valley Railroad in Western New York, by Mary Hamilton Dann (Rochester: Railroad Research Publications, 1997) ISBN: 1-884650-05-8. Photo of Stanley depot, early track diagram of Stanley.
Morrison's History of Wayne County, New York, edited by Wayne E. Morrison (Wayne Morrison, 1970). Nineteenth century etchings of houses in Newark and Marion and of the Union School in Newark.
One Hundred Years of Newark, by Cecilia B. Jackson (Newark, NY: Newark Courier-Gazette, 1953). Pictures of several buildings in Newark, including the Newark State School.
Model Railroader, February 1978, "Sodus Point Welding Shop," drawings and photos.
Video: Memories of PRR Steam (New Milford, NJ: Mark I Video, 1994). Footage of Stanley, Orleans, Phelps Junction, and Sodus Point.
Calendar: 1996 Railroad Calendar, Rochester Chapter - NRHS. Two pictures of Newark, including one taken along the Marion branch.
New York State Atlas and Gazetteer (Freeport, ME: DeLorme Mapping, 1993) ISBN: 0-89933-230-7. Maps showing geographic features, roads, and railroads.