The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway (reporting mark NYSW) (or New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad and also known as the Susie-Q or the Susquehanna) is a Class II American freight railway operating over 500 miles (800 km) of track in the northeastern states of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
It was formed in 1881 from the merger of several smaller railroads. Passenger service in Northern New Jersey was offered until 1966. The New York, Susquehanna and Western was purchased by the Delaware Otsego Corporation in 1980, and became a regional player during the 1980s in the intermodal freight transport business.
The NYS&W operates over 500 miles of track in three states. The railroad uses three main routes, one running from Northern New Jersey to Binghamton, New York and the other two branching north from Binghamton to serve Utica, New York and Syracuse, New York.
In 1881, the New Jersey Midland Railroad was consolidated with five other railroads to form the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway. The new New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway had extended west to Gravel Place, Pennsylvania, and a connection with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railway (DL&W). The NYS&W also had a connection to the DL&W at Delaware, New Jersey via the Blairstown Railway. Due to the increased volume of traffic, the railroad was double-tracked from Paterson to Jersey City in 1887. To reach the port on the Hudson River waterfront, traffic was handed off to the Pennsylvania Railroad at Marion Junction via the Hudson Connecting Railway. To keep more of the line haul revenue for themselves, the Susquehanna extended their line from their Little Ferry Yard through the new Palisades Tunnel to a new terminal at Edgewater where they had constructed coal docks for transfer from train to boat in 1892. The NYSW also reached west of the Delaware River and leased the Wilkes-Barre and Eastern Railroad to access the Scranton area directly and divert traffic away from the Lackawanna.
American financier J.P. Morgan began to take notice of this rapidly expanding coal-hauler, and quietly bought up its stock on behalf of the Erie Railroad. The railroad was leased by the Erie in 1898, and soon after took over complete operation of the line.
The NYS&W fell on hard times during the economic recession of 1957. The NYS&W lost its western connection to the Lehigh and New England Railroad when the L&NE ceased operations in 1961, resulting in the NYS&W pulling up all its track west of Sparta Jct. (which now comprises what is now known as the Paulinskill Valley Trail). Thereafter, the NYS&W sold off its nearly new Budd passenger cars and replaced them with second-hand used equipment. Desperate to close its money-losing commuter service, the railroad’s trustees offered its commuters $1,000 each to stop using the trains. Permission to end commuter service was granted in 1966. Washouts caused by Tropical Storm Doria (1971) cut off other connections, and the railroad retreated to Butler, New Jersey.
The NYS&W declared bankruptcy in 1976 after failing to pay New Jersey state taxes, though managed to stay out of Conrail, which had surrounded it. The bankruptcy court ordered that the railroad be abandoned and its assets sold. By then, the NYS&W was down to a 43-mile line from Croxton and Edgewater through Paterson to Butler. The State of New Jersey, aware of Delaware Otsego Corporation’s reputation at rehabilitating short lines, asked them to take over the railroad.
Delaware Otsego was founded in 1966 to operate a small section of the former New York Central Railroad Catskill Mountain Branch outside Oneonta, New York. This was the first of many cast-off short line acquisitions. Between 1971 and 1986, D.O. acquired several other branches and short lines, including the Cooperstown Branch of the Delaware & Hudson Railway in 1971; the Richfield Springs Branch of the Erie Lackawanna Railway (EL) in 1973, the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad in 1974, and the EL Honesdale Branch in 1976.
In 1980, the Delaware Otsego Corporation purchased the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway.
The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway was ordered to operate the Delaware and Hudson Railway until a new buyer was found for the Delaware and Hudson. The Delaware and Hudson Railway went bankrupt while owned by the Guilford Rail System (now Pan Am Railways).
1990 saw the NYS&W end service on its Edgewater Branch, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) long line connecting its former Hudson River terminal with the mainline in Fairview at Undercliff Junction. As of 2008, the tunnel carries a pipeline owned by the Amarada Hess Corporation.
In 1994, Onondaga County, New York purchased the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W) line into Syracuse, with the provision that the NYS&W operate RDC service in Syracuse between Syracuse University, Armory Square, and the Carousel Mall with the option for further routes, leading to the creation of OnTrack. With operations on this segment, the Syracuse branch was rehabilitated and the Conrail interchange relocated. Regular steam excursions were offered and RDCs refurbished for OnTrack use. Intermodal trains rolled beyond Binghamton to Syracuse for interchange with Conrail. After a few years, regular excursions were halted.
With the impending break-up of the Conrail system to Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation, the NYS&W was a ripe target for acquisition, as it could potentially siphon lucrative traffic away from either road. On October 3, 1997, DOCP Acquisition LLCannounced it had completed the short-form merger of Delaware Otsego Corporation (NASDAQ:DOCP) with a wholly owned subsidiary via a stock tender offer of $22 per share.
This deal essentially brought the D.O. System of Railroads, including the subsidiary New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway (NYS&W), under control of the much larger Norfolk Southern and CSX rail systems, because the new owner DOCP Acquisition LLC is owned 40% by Norfolk Southern, 40% by CSX and 20% by Walter G. Rich of the Delaware Otsego Corporation.
In 2005, the NYS&W leased the former Erie Main Line from Port Jervis to Binghamton from Norfolk Southern. Leased and operated under the name Central New York Railroad (CNYK). The CNYK is a “paper” railroad and all train operations and line maintenance is performed by Susquehanna personnel, while Norfolk Southern Railway retains overhead trackage rights. Currently there are only 6 trains a week operated by the NYS&W on the line, one in each direction, three times a week. At this time there is no traffic from the Norfolk Southern. The newly reactivated Stourbridge Railroad (SBRR) depends on the NYS&W for interchange at Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania.
In 2006, NYSW’s Utica Main Line had storm damage. The storm damage washed out sections of track in Chenango County putting the branch to Utica out of service. NYS&W continued serving customers on the line in the Utica area and south to Sangerfield from the CSX interconnection in Utica. In 2011, a project to restore the line was started by the Chenango County Industrial Development Agency with funding by the agency, Chenango County, the New York State Department of Transportation, and the federal Economic Development Administration. Work began in March 2016 with the clearing of brush along the 45.5 miles (73.2 km) right-of-way in Chenango County. Subsequent work included filling in washouts, replacing ties, resurfacing bridge decks, reactivating crossing signals, and other repairs. The restoration project was completed and rail service restored on May 2017.
On August 9, 2007, D.O. founder Walter Rich died of pancreatic cancer. After President Rich’s death, the new President Nathan Fenno, almost immediately cancelled all passenger operations and excursions and the fleet used on them was sold off. Many older diesel locomotives were sidelined, retired, and sold during this time as well.
In July 2011, NYS&W took possession of five leased CEFX locomotives, to ease the railroad’s continually worsening power shortage. These five locomotives were used as a supplement to its current EMD 645 fleet in road train service, and occasionally local duty. It was not uncommon to see road train line-ups consisting of entirely leased power.