The Milk Business of the New York Central R.R.

By Charles W. Brainard (Written about 1940. Resided at 105 Riverside Drive)

On Dec. 31st, 1939 train 570 came into Utica with only four wooden milk cars and one (enclosed) tank car. It also had on the head end one coach and combination smoker and baggage cars. A crew coach was on the end, which returns on 519. This is the lightest I ever saw the milk train off the St. Lawrence Division. This includes what used to be train 20 also which picked up the milk between Watertown and Rome. This last named train used to average at least six cars at this time of the year and train 70 averaged 10 to 12 also.

Train 64 which never went below six cars on this same date had one (enclosed) tank car. This is the lightest I ever saw this train. It did have three cars of paper from Lyons Falls and a crew coach. It must be remembered that a tank car with two tanks in each and of 3,000 gallons and were equal to about two ordinary cars of milk when loaded in cars, The average milk car now used and loaded with cans one tier will hold about 385 cans. Some cars have racks which let down over the first tier and cans are loaded on each side or double- decked as it is called. About 200 more 40 quart cans can then be put into the car. So it is seen that a full tank car will hold at least 600 40-quart cans of milk.

It will be seen from the above that main train #184 would have only six cars of milk for New York. This train takes the contents of St. Lawrence division trains 570 and 64 combined. If this keeps up it will be the end of these trains as that much milk will not pay operation. This looks as though the transportation of milk by rail was fast ebbing away. These new modern trucks can leave a milk station at ten in the morning and deliver the milk in New York by eight or nine in the evening or to to five hours quicker than by rail.

Up until ten years or so ago there were four milk trains on the Mohawk division. These trains were known as 180, 184, 186 and the West Shore milk 1088. No. 180 started out of Syracuse and loaded milk at Canastota, Verona, etc.,, then picked up the cars of St. Lawrence Division #20; also a car loaded at Rome. This train then wet on through to Rensselaer yard where it was combined with other trains from the D.& H. Train 186 received the cars from the Black River milk #64 then picked up at Herkimer the cans from the Poland branch and generally a car loaded locally at Herkimer. This train then beat it for Rensselaer yard unless occasionally it had to pick up milk cars at Little Falls or Fort Plain. This was sometimes combined with 180 or a D.& H. train there. No. 184 received the cars from 570 or what is still known as the big milk. In the summer time this train was run out of Watertown in two sections. The combined total of these two trains ran as high as 45 to 50 cars. I have know the Black River #84 to have 35 cars at one time into Utica. No. 184 after leaving Utica as A rule ran solid right through to New York.

Train 570 up until five or six years ago started out of Ogdensburgh generally with one car. Then it would pick up a car at the Nestles condensed milk station and another at the lower station at Morristown. Boxes of cheese would be loaded at Brier Hill into one of these cars and sometimes a car would be picked up. Then another car at Hammond and milk loaded off the platform at the station at Oakvale. One and sometimes two cars would be loaded at Redwood, and very frequently cheesed would be loaded there. The brakemen on the train were the stevedores and did the loading. At Theresa milk was loaded or picked up. Then at Philadelphia the cars of milk from the Clayton branch were picked up.

These cars were loaded at Clayton, Lafargeville and Orleans Corners and in later years a station was built at Douglass Crossing about two miles west of Rivergate junction. Those cars together with the cars from the Phildelphia station were attached and taken. At Evans Mills (as in later years this train ran via Watertown and Richland) 30 or 40 boxes of cheese were loaded. Also some was loaded at Watertown Depot, then the train proceeded to Watertown junction where it was combined with Train 16 from Massena. Also, a Black River car from the station of the same name, together with any cars from the Cape Vincent branch or originating cars from Watertown (generally the Hygenic Dairy Co.) were added to the train.

The train then ran solid to Utica (sometimes without a stop on a Sunday when no passengers from Rome for connection with the Empire State Express. United States Mail was also handled from Rome only. Once in awhile this train was stopped at Adams or Pierrepont Manor to load cream or take a rush car that could not be get ready in time for #20.

Number 16 started out of Massena and picked up cars and loaded milk at Potsdam, Canton and DeKalb Junction. At DeKalb Junction, milk from the Ogdensburg and DeKalb branch was received. This came from Rensselaer Falls and Heuvelton. These were milk stations at Gouverneur, Keene's and Richville. Cheese was loaded at Antwerp. From here the train went direct to Watertown doing no more work. It also handled passengers from Massena to Watertown,

Milk Stations Massena to Watertown No station
Massena1 stationDairymens League (Abandoned)
Plum Brook1 station torn down 
Potsdam2 stationsDairymens League across river, formally Brown & Bailey,
Eben2 stations 
CantonFormerly two - Now only 1 station 
Pyrites1 stationHenry Arnstein
DeKalbl station 
Red Rockl stationFormerly Brown & Bailey
Richville1 station in townhave to draw to railroad
Gouverneur1 stationformerly Hortons
Keenes1 station 
Antwerp Baumert Cheese Co. ships cheese
Philadelphia1 station 
Evans Mills Baumert Cheese Co.

Train #20 started from Watertown and did all the milk work, Watertown to Rome. It also handled deadhead baggage cars and coaches, Watertown to Utica. It started its work at Rice's crossing five miles from Watertown. It required a lot of time here years ago as the car to load into had to be ahead of the engine as the siding was so short, then it would have to be run around to get back in the train again. Milk was loaded or a car picked up at the condensary at Adams Center. There was also another station on the eastbound track. This was not used after the condensary was built. At Adams a car was generally picked up and in later years there was a station at the west end over the Henderson Road crossing in which case a car had to be put ahead of the engine as at Rice's.

At Pierrepont Manor the train nosed in at the old milk station at the east end of he freighthouse track. In later years this was abandoned and used for a storehouse by he condensary. All picked up cars and loading was done there after it was built. There was also a station at Mannsville which set back quite a ways and the milk had to be rolled out along a long platform to he cars. This had been abandoned quite a number of years. At Lacona there was a station at the east end near the last crossing. Here a tank was picked up in later years and trailer trucks mounted on flat cars were also used.

These cars were operated upon a swivel and swung around at the platform in New York and then run off then connected to a truck cab and run off. At Richland the cars from Pulaski and the Oswego branch (Mexico, Lycoming, etc.) were picked up. About a mile or so south of Richland is Centerville where the milk cars were iced. There is an abandoned milk station here where the trains used to load about fifteen years or more ago.

The next stop was Altmar where loading into the cars was done. Tis station has long since been torn down. Then milk was loaded at Williamstown, Westdale and Camden. There are still milk stations at these places, also at Blossvale. The train then went to Rome where the cars were given to main line train 180. Since the main line was straightened these cars were give to train at Tower 34 about two miles east of Rome. This was the end of train 20's run. The engine and train crew then picked the empty cars or these leaded with return empty cars nd distributed then back to the stations where loaded. After April they would stop at Centerville and put ice in the cars to cool the milk loaded the next day for less than carload shipments. In carload shipments the ice had to be furnished by the shipper.

Now let us return to the old Black River road or that part of it that extends from Carthage to utica. This section is and was the greatest milk producing country in New York State. Let's take a look at the work done by train 64 running between the above places about the year 1916. At this time there was more loading in cars then there was shipping by the carload. A great many of the stations had not yet put in sidings and the motor truck was not yet so much in use that the mil could be hauled farther and larger milk stations operated. In later years every farmer had a truck and would club in which his neighbors and they would take turns hauling the milk of each other with theirs and save the same one drawing every day.

We have seen how train #19, the return train of #20 mentioned, would stop at Centerville and put ice in the cars of empty cans for less-than-carload shipments. This was a lot harder for the brakeman as the cans would have to be piled up in the cars to make room for the ice. On train 64 at Carthage this was different as the cars were empty at the time of starting out in the morning, as the cars would be unloaded coming up the night before on train 77 (the opposite train of No. 64).

Let's see now how this ice is put in the cars. The train is made up in the yard and then proceeds over to the ice-houe where the cars are spotted with their doors opposite the doors in the ice house. These doors were so built and arranged that when the door of the rear milk car is place the opposite the last ice house door the other cars are spotted also. The doors being the distance of two milk cars apart.

Now the ice is dragged in by the brakeman who have long tongs furnished by the foreman of the ice house. The cakes are placed lengthwise between the car door and end of door on one side and usually between the door and end in the other end of the car on the opposite side. The milk messenger then chops them into four to six pieces and they are piled up so that half of the car floor on each side is clear to receive the milk. On arriving at a station the milk is loaded on one side opposite the ice and generally one brakeman is assigned to throw up the ice on the cans while the others are loading the one side. By the time this half is loaded the ice is all up on the cans and then the other half is filled and the ice is spread over. The water from the ice dripping down over the cans keeps the milk thoroughly cooled. As soon as the car is filled it is closed up and sealed thereby keeping out the hot air from outside. There are vents in each end to let out the water.

Most of this icing is done away with at the present time by the use of tank cars. These cars have two big tanks in each end with a capacity of about 3,000 gallons or the equal of 300 forty-quart cans. As a milk car olds about 385 cans, or about 200 more if double- decked it is readily seen that these cars hold considerably more. By double-decked it is meant where there are cars that have racks that drop down from the sides and lay on top of the cans. The loaded cans have to be lifted up on these and rolled back in position. In double decking the cans have to be back far enough from the middle of the car so they will not top over and spill, as there are no racks in the center the width of the doors. Milk car doors are heavy and well insulated as also are the tops and sides of the cars. There are heavy iron handles and levers which when securely in place make the doors practically air tight.

Now to return to train 64. In heavy times in the summer the train would go to Natural Bridge and Rogers Crossing before starting to Utica. The first place is 10 and the second, five miles above Carthage on the old Carthage and Adirondack branch. At the time spoken of before, about 150 cans of milk would be loaded at the first place above and about the same number at the second place. Later cheese in boxes was loaded at the second place.

The next loading would be at C.& C. Jct. where milk and cream was loaded and shipped by the Brown and Bailey firm at Copenhagen. This was received from the Carthage & Copenhagen Railroad. I have omitted to say that 200 to 300 cars of milk would be loaded at Carthage at the old station at Spring Street crossing.

In the earlier days milk was loaded off the milk station platform at Deer River. Later a siding was put in and shipments made in carload lots. Later yet it was fixed here so that only tank cars were loaded. When the C.& C. was abandoned a platform was built just west of the depot the other side of the crossing and the Copenhagen milk and cream was trucked here. When they had big shipments a car would be cut out on the back or team track and they would load same. The ice for this would be unloaded on the platform above and then when the loaded car was picked u the crew of 64 would spot it at this platform and drag the ice back off the platform into the car and lift the cakes up on the cans and the messenger would chop and spread it.

Milk would be loaded at the Borden plant station at Castorland off the main track, then the train would proceed to the other end of the passing siding and back in on the Smith Bros plant and load about 200 mire cans. This last name firm also shipped carload lots or at least nearly so. In this case if the crew has to bring ice the would just drag the ice into the station and the milk-station people would ice the car the next day when loading so all the train-crew had to do was pick up the car and leave the ice. The next picking was generally two cars of milk from the Lowville & Beaver River. Up until a few yeas ago this milk was picked up by train No.66 which later operated as train 70 via Watertown. Then it was picked up by train No. 72 for a number of years until this train's time was changed later when the L.& B.R.R.R. arranged to get it over for 64. Boxes of cheese were next loaded off the platform just east of the depot and over at the Sheffield plant over the river (across Mill Creek bridge) two cars were picked up and generally a surplus had to be loaded into cars in the train by the crew. This station now ships in tank cars as well as the ones on the Beaver River.

A car was nearlu always picked up at Glenfield, (Martinsburgh abandoned), then the next place would be Oliver, earlier known as Burdick's Crossing. About 200 would be loaded here. Later a siding was put in here. Fred Weibel was in charge of this station and a good fellow he was. At Lyons Falls was another Borden station. Loading would be done here or a car picked up. At Port Leyden was another heavy loading station - 300 cans loaded here in the flush of the season. This was later equipped to load into tank cars. This station is now closed and boarded up.

At Boonville at the old Empire station as many as 400 cans of milk have been loaded. This station was located just north of the depot a few feet beyond the passing track switch. This is now gone and a new station built up on the hill with a siding to it is in use. This station shipped in carloads and less than carloads. In 1916 thee was a station beyond the depot off no. 4 track called the Alec. Campbell station. The train would back in there and load. This station was later demolished and a small one later erected which was a heavy shipper of cream. This is now closed. Milk was also shipped at times from the condensary at Smith just south of the Remsen road crossing. Alder Creek and East Steuben did not ship such large lots - generally 150 from the first and sometimes 200 from the last named place. The station at Alder Creek is not used for milk any more and was last used for making cement blocks. The one at East Steuben finally fell down and has disappeared.

In 1916 there was a station just over the crossing south of the depot off the passing track. About 250 cars would be loaded there. This station burned down and a newer one has been erected by the Dairymen's League above the depot on the west side of the main track. But this station now has a private track to it and cars are frequently loaded. This station also manufactures skim milk which is shipped in bags and loaded into freight cars. Cream is sent by milk train also from here.

We pass Prospect by as I do not recall a milk station here on the U.& B. There was one on the Herkimer branch which took care of this locality. This is abandoned now also. At Barneveld there was a large station operated by the Dairymen's league. This place quite frequently shipped in carload lots. At least 200 cars were shipped from here in the flush of the season during the months of June and July. This station is now abandoned and boarded up. This milk is handled from the Holland Patent station. In 1916 the Holland Patent station was just north of the depot adjacent to the main track on the west side. This station shipped heavy at this time - 300 cans in the flush season. This station was abandoned for the lower one below the depot over the Fox Road crossing on the east side of the main track. The new station generally ships in carload lots. The old station has been torn down.

There was a station at Stittville at this time shipping 200 or more cans in flush season. This milk goes to Holland Patent also. The Stittville station has disappeared also, as well as the one at Marcy which was going in 1916. The Marcy station was not a very heavy shipper being never much more than 150 cars in flush season.

Now it can be seen that the motor-truck has caused the smaller milk stations to be abandoned and larger ones operated. The milk can be hauled farther and quicker so the smaller ones were a heavy operating expense. Milk used to be shipped in the flush of the season from Borden stations on the U. & B. to Newport on the Herkimer branch. This is now all handled by truck or otherwise at the present time.

Just let's make a summary of the abandoned stations from Carthage to Utica. We will not include where another station the place of the one abandoned. Carthage - 1; Casterland Hole - 1; Reeds - 1; Martinsburgh - 1; Port Leyden - 1; Boonville (middle station) - 1; Alder Creek and East Steuben - 2; Barneveld - 1; Stittville - 1; Marcy - 1 - a total of 11 stations gone entirely.

Located and Transcribed by Dick Palmer
Russ Nelson
Last modified: Sun Jul 16 16:10:29 EDT 2006