Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When the Trains Almost Came - IV - Buying a Pig in a Poke

The most serious attempt to bring the railroad to Bovina (and to connect Delhi and Andes by train) happened in 1898.  As reported in previous blog entries, the Delaware Railroad Company was formed in July 1898 and by September construction had started on the line between Delhi and Andes and on the spur to Bovina Center.  Construction continued for about seven weeks when it abruptly ceased.  The contractors and over 1000 Italian laborers were not being paid for their work. 

November came and went with no real movement.  Though the Delaware Gazette (Delhi) continued to try and be optimistic, they noted that little was happening.  After its November 16 issue, the Gazette pretty much went silent on the issue, as did other newspapers.  While not the last time a railroad to Bovina was considered, it was the closest citizens ever got to hearing steam whistles and seeing the smoke of an approaching train in their town.  Construction had actually taken place.  The rail beds still exist in a number of places.  See my blog entries of May 12 and November 8, 2009 and April 26, 2010 for information about Mike Kudish and his exploration of these abandoned rail beds.

Over the next three years or so, efforts were made to recoup the money owed by the Delaware Railroad Company.  In July 1899, most of the Italian laborers assigned their interest in the company to Michael J. Bove and Michael Marrone.  Later that month, formal legal action was initiated.  In October 1900, Bove and Marrone appear to have transferred their claims to Frederick W. Youmans, a Delhi attorney.  In January 1902, referee DeWitt Griffin held two days of hearings concerning the liens on the railroad.  In May, an order was issued to auction off the assets of the Delaware Railroad Company.  Who bought these, if anyone, I have yet to discover.  There were further discussions over the next decade about completing the railroad, however. 

As the Delaware and Eastern Railroad was being constructed, the New York Republican Watchman of December 23, 1904 reported that “those who claim to possess inside information say that the branch from Shavertown to Andes will be extended to Bovina in order to secure the milk traffic in that town; that a train load of milk can be procured each day, this alone being sufficient to make the road pay.” 

Almost four years later, the Catskill Mountain News reported the possible extension of the D&E to Bovina.  On August 22, it was reported that the President of the D&E and “other officials went over the route from Andes to Bovina on a tour of inspection. In the opinion of railroad men such an extension would pay if built to Bovina and no farther, as the milk, butter and feed business of that town is no inconsiderable item, and the trains on the Andes branch could handle the extra run without trouble and with no additional expense.”  The article noted that the old rail bed from 1898 could be easily used.  The paper also reported that an effort would be made to enlist the cooperation of Bovina farmers and that if the approvals can be received that construction could start in the fall of 1908. 

Nothing moved ahead beyond the talking stage, however.  In 1915, yet another attempt to revive the Delhi-Andes line by the Delaware and Northern Railroad, the successor to the Delaware And Eastern, was under consideration.  By this time, local interest was definitely on the wane – likely in part because of the development of the automobile (and the truck), but also, as the Delaware Express had noted, people had not forgotten the 1898 attempt.  A meeting was held in Delhi but the idea was not greeted enthusiastically.  The Delaware Express reported that “those who have fairly good memories will readily see the resemblance between this suggestion and the time honored practice of buying a pig in a poke. It was not welcomed at Delhi, and at a meeting held in Bovina with the business men of that place a similar view was taken. So for the present the matter rests.”

And it continued to rest, though there certainly were a few who continued to hope right up until the railroads in Delaware County and the surround areas ceased to operate.  The Age of the Railroads had indeed passed Bovina by.

NOTE:  Look at John Crocker’s 1997 book Tales of the Courthouse Square.  One of the chapters is devoted to the Delaware Railroad Company and the near riot from the Italian laborers. 

Thanks to Doug Kadow with the Ulster and Delaware Railroad Historical Society for further information on the railroad and the Delhi and Middletown Railroad attempted in the 1870s.  Thanks also to Tim Mallery, who directed me to some of the discussions to renew the railroad after its collapse in 1898.

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