Historic Marker to be Dedicated
ANGELICA—The Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad Historical Society will hold a ceremony to dedicate its new roadside historic marker on Monday, July 17th, at 11:30AM, at its museum, located on the Allegany County Fairgrounds in Angelica, NY. The iconic blue and yellow marker is in honor of the society’s four-wheel caboose that has been restored and preserved at the museum.  The caboose, known as a Bobber Caboose, was constructed in Angelica in 1911 in the Shawmut’s own shops and is the last remaining example of a fleet of these cabooses that operated on the Shawmut in Western New York and North Central Pennsylvania.
The historic marker was funded solely by the historical society through fund raisers, book sales and direct donations.  It was cast by Catskill Castings at their foundry in Bloomville, NY.  Catskill Castings is the current-day successor of the historic Walton Foundry that cast the original NYS roadside historic markers in 1930s.
Society president Ken Clark explained, “These four-wheel Bobber Cabooses were once the standard for American railroads around the turn of the 20th Century.  But as trains became heavier and ‘pusher engines’ started to be placed behind the cabooses, they became unsafe for the train crews that rode in them.
“The railroad unions had a lot of political clout in those days,” continued Clark, “and they eventually persuaded state governments to systematically outlaw them.  In the case of New York State, they were outlawed in 1921, but the enforcement was delayed until 1924.  They were replaced by more modern, two-truck, eight-wheel cabooses.”
The PS&N then restricted operation of these cabooses to Pennsylvania which did not have such a prohibition.  The railroad, which had operated under bankruptcy protection for years, was abandoned and scrapped in 1947.  Company records for the sale or disposition of these cabooses have been lost or destroyed.  However, the PS&NRRHS archives has a photograph of the caboose being used as a hunting cabin in Marienville, PA in 1948.
Bob Sanders, of Wellsville, NY, a trustee and chief engineer for the society explained, “The society was made aware of the existence of this caboose in 1998.  The owners wanted to either donate it, or demolish it.  We quickly arranged to have it transported to our museum in Angelica.  That was the easy part.  The big job was the restoration.
Sanders continued, “We knew it was a Shawmut caboose, but we didn’t know which one.  As we started to peel off the layers of old siding, the number ‘175’ slowly emerged.  One of our volunteers ran up to our station building where our archives are housed.  They quickly located and confirmed that the 175 had been constructed right here in Angelica in 1911.  Our caboose had come home.”
The dedication ceremony as well as the museum is open to the public, free of charge.  The museum is located on the fairgrounds and normal admission fee to the fair is required.  The museum will be open daily, 12Noon-8PM during the week of the fair.
2017 Annual Museum Open House
The museum will be open daily from 12 Noon until 8PM.
Normal admission to the fair is required. However, there is no additional cost to enter the museum.
Come and see a piece of living Allegany County History.
PS&N Expired 70 Years Ago in April
[Webmaster's note: This column appeared in the March 2017 issue of the society's newsletter magazine, the Cannonball.]
This year, 2017, and specifically April the first, will mark the 70th anniversary of the demise of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern. I think it's safe to say that most everyone reading this is aware that the Shawmut entered financial troubles after only a mere five years of existence; it then spent the remaining 42 years in court-administered receivership.
The last two years of operations, from the end of WWII onward, were the times of greatest change for the Shawmut. Things started to move quickly and the speed toward the very end accelerated.
Above—Dr. Betty Hayes, company doctor for the Shawmut Mining Company, would be the one who would put events into motion that would eventually end the Shawmut.
|In August 1945, the sole “company doctor,” Betty Hayes, started investigating the sanitary conditions at the company-owned mining villages of Force, Byrnedale, and Hollywood, Pennsylvania. The conditions were so bad that the water had to be boiled before drinking and sewage overflowed into the streets causing mud bogs. The doctor confronted the Shawmut Mining Company officials with these deplorable conditions. The officials replied that there was nothing that they could do, especially since the mines would be worked out and abandoned in only five or six years. We know now that this was not the case, as some mines lasted well into the 1950s and 1960s.
The receiver, John D. Dickson, and some of the officials at the mining company viewed Hayes as an agitator and dismissed her. They locked her out of her company-owned house, even though she was paying rent to live there. An Elk County Sherriff’s Deputy was posted at the door. Her personal be- longings including her medical books, instruments and supplies were locked inside. The miners went
This strike was catastrophic to the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern. You may recall that the mining companies were subsidiaries of the railroad. The mines had been marginally profitable for their entire existence and there were many times where funds were shifted from the mining companies to the railroad to shore up its finances. The strike, however, caused a double blow to the railroad. Revenues from the sale of coal
were impacted, obviously. But the railroad’s main source of revenue, its raison d’être, was hauling the coal from these mines to customers, primarily in|
New York State. Without coal to haul, the railroad’s finances started to hemorrhage. And without revenue from the sale of coal, there was nothing to shore up the railroad.
With the help of Dr. Hayes, the issue came before Federal Judge Guy K. Bard, who had jurisdiction over the receiver and who then ordered an investigation. Receiver Dickson, an attorney from Wellsville, was removed. He had been the receiver since 1923.
In late November 1945, the court appointed two new receivers: Thomas C. Buchanan and Robert C. Sproul Jr. Judge Bard instructed them to investigate the situation involving the miners, the strike and the overall financial health of the Shawmut operations. However, taking the extreme
Above—Federal Judge Guy K. Bard, for the western district of Pennsylvania would oversee the final disposition of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern and all its subsidiaries. (United Press photo, PS&NRRHS archives.)
he also instructed the new receivers to “Wrap things up, quickly!”
What the new receivers found was a company that was about $30 million in the red. There wasn’t money on hand to meet their first payroll. There weren’t even enough serviceable locomotives on the property to operate the entire length of the line.
Faced with the reality that there was no way to save the railroad and with the court's blessing, the PS&N Railroad and the wholly-owned Kersey Railroad Company were sold at an auction presided over by Judge Bard on March 4, 1947. When the final gavel struck, the winner (for $1,505,000) was Harry W. Findley, a scrap dealer, of Carnegie, Pennsylvania. The last train of the Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern Railroad ran on April 1, 1947, at which time the Class I common carrier ceased to exist.
Findley created the Shawmut Railroad Supply Corporation to take ownership of the property and to execute its dismantling. The scrapping was done by two crews. Engine No. 72 worked the southern end, working from Tyler and Brandy Camp north to St. Marys and from Farmers Valley south to St. Marys. No. 72 was scrapped in St. Marys. Engine No. 71 worked the northern end, working from Wayland south and from Coryville north to Olean. It is unclear where No. 71 was scrapped. The Portville newspaper reported that No. 71 was to be hauled to St. Marys by the PRR for scrapping, but there is no record of this. It may have been scrapped in Olean.
I specifically selected photos for this column showing the scrapping operation. Although we might think of these pictures as being of the Shawmut, technically the PS&N no longer existed when they were taken. As you gaze at them pondering the fate of the PS&N, keep in mind that you are looking at equipment owned and operated by the Shawmut Railroad Supply Corporation.
Our society is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization chartered by the New York State Board of Regents as a Museum and Educational Society.