The history of the Ontario & Western Railway is tantalizing, even for those who take a mere passing interest in the state’s railway origins: Back in 1860s, The O&W was originally called the New York & Oswego Midland Railroad, and apparently, its visionary, Dewitt Littlejohn, was the spitting image of Abraham Lincoln. He was even a charismatic politician, to boot (although one could argue that Lincoln did not meet the criteria as conventionally “charismatic”, but we digress). Littlejohn’s grand idea was to put rail service in places in New York that had never seen rail service before, from Oswego all the way to the New Jersey border. He also thought it would be cool to build the railroad at right angles to the surrounding mountains, which, as you can imagine, was quite a feat of engineering, and an expensive one, at that.
Eventually, Midland went bankrupt and then rose from the ashes as the O&W Railway. Through the years, coal and dairy cargo kept the railway viable, even during the Great Depression. However, the use of electricity and gas eclipsed coal, and the O&W went bankrupt again in the 1930s, but the O&W’s legacy lives on at Roscoe’s O&W Railway Museum, which is free and open to the public.
We were hipped to the O&W Railway Museum by a reader, and we were excited to hear about it. We love to pop into small town museums, which can be chock-full of interesting facts not only about the history of the town in which they reside, but the history of upstate New York itself. The museum was established in 1984 and includes artifacts and railway ephemera, a refurbished caboose, watchman’s shanties, and the Beaverkill Trout Car. If you’re a railroad buff, or just someone intrigued by history and cool exhibits, check out the museum next time you’re passing through Roscoe on the way to your favorite trout fishing spot. The museum is free and open weekends from Memorial day until Columbus Day (which is 10/14 this year), 11am to 3pm. You can read more about the history of O&W here on the museum website. The museum is located at 7 Railroad Avenue, Roscoe. GMAP