Photo courtesy of the collection of Steven Heald and Richard Ransley.
The Sodus Train Depot located on Belden Avenue dates back to around 1872. In that year, the R.W.&O (Rome, Watertown & Ogdensberg) Railroad opened. The depot provided both passenger and freight services. In the early 1930’s, passenger service was discontinued but the freight business continues on to this day. In this 1908 photo, you can see the horse-drawn “Accommodation” omnibus on the side of the depot. It would pick up train passengers and transport them and their luggage to the Snider Hotel on Main Street.
All the following photos are courtesy of Edith Farrington and Sandi Saracen.
Amazingly, the train depot is still used today. It is now part of the Ontario Midland Railroad Corporation. Ontario Midland’s operations are headquartered in the village of Sodus and the depot is used for office space and storage. A two stall engine house with inspection pit was constructed adjacent to the depot in 1979 to facilitate repairs and maintenance as well as storage for the locomotives.
When you visit the depot today, you will be greeted by “Spike” the official adopted Ontario Midland cat who works for room and board at the depot. Spike is a hard working greeter kitty who will appreciate visitors giving him a treat from the treat jar on the counter.
Spike is joined by coworkers Sandi Saracen and her husband Paul. Sandi is the VP/General Mgr. and Paul maintains the three locomotives and keeps them in tip top shape.
In the upper left of this photo of the inside of the train depot (just above Spike’s bed) you can see the old ticket window where passengers purchased their tickets.
This photo shows the large freight doors that were used to unload the freight from the trains.
This photo shows the old wooden ramp leading to the wooden platform in front of the depot where passengers and their luggage would off load.
Bruce Farrington and Sandi viewing two locomotives in the two stall engine house with inspection pit. Both locomotives are currently undergoing extensive maintenance for an upcoming annual maintenance inspection. #3 is an Alco-Switch Engine and went into service on the OMID on July 3, 2001. Number 408 is an RS-36 built in 1962 equipped with an Alco 251 series engine rated at 1800 HP.
Waiting outside for its turn inside is Number 36 which is an RS-11 locomotive built in 1957 also equipped with an Alco 251 series engine rated at 1800 HP.
Sandi informs me that they currently have about 300 deliveries annually. Freight consists mostly of fertilizer and tomato paste. That number is expected to double next year with the addition of a new customer. Major customers are Dr. Pepper Snapple, KM Davies, Sodus Cold Storage, Crop Production Services, and Fleischmann’s Vinegar.
For a number of years, the Ontario Midland Railroad hosted fall foliage excursions put on by the National Railway Historical Society of Rochester which were a big hit. Unfortunately, after 9-11, the increased regulations and insurance made this impractical.
On the fall excursions, the railroad provided the following write-up of the history of the Ontario Midland Railroad:
ONTARIO MIDLAND RAILROAD
The Ontario Midland Railroad welcomes you aboard our ride through history. Sit back and enjoy the clickity-clack sounds in the background. Today our trail will travel over some of the 47 miles of trackage, which comprise the Ontario Midland Railroad.
Wayne County has been served by several railroads in the past, the New York Central, the West Shore, the Pennsylvania, and the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg are a few of them. Following the path of mergers and abandonments, we ﬁnd that only two railroads, CSX and the Ontario Midland now serve Wayne County. The Midland, or OMID, operates a tee shaped line comprised of a portion of the former Pennsylvania RR. line running north-south from Newark to Sodus Point and an east to west portion of the former RW&O Hojack Line. Our trip today will traverse these lines in both directions.
The Hojack Line was built in 1872-1873 as the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad, which was soon bought by the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad which operated tracks from Pulaski to Niagara Falls. The railroad was operated successfully hauling agricultural commodities and passengers, and became part of the New York Central System in 1891 with passenger services terminating in the early thirties and freight service continuing up to the Conrail mergers in 1976.
The railroad prospered as the area it served became the largest orchard industry in the U.S. by 1883. At that time there were four passenger trains a day, two in each direction. Passengers could go to the 1000 Islands or Niagara Falls for a holiday.
Connections were made at Oswego with the New York, Ontario and Western RR and at Niagara Falls with the Wabash RR. During the period 1890 to 1920 the “Wabash Flyer” ran over the Hojack Line on its route from New York to Chicago. Passenger service was terminated in the early l930’s.
The tracks now terminate in Webster, however prior to 1979 they ran through Forest Lawn and across lrondequoit Bay at Seabreeze. From there, the tracks ran along the lakeshore to Windsor Beach (Summerville).
The Hojack Yards in Webster were the site of a large canning operation from 1885 to 1952. The boiler room and smoke stack are all that remain now; the railroad station was moved from its original location on Railroad Avenue, just west of North Avenue. It can be visited today as a children’s day care center.
Across the tracks from the present Hojack Yards was a large steam powered basket factory that was in operation in 1894. It was located where the car wash is now and it operated until 1964. Baskets produced included wooden berry baskets, bushel crates, and a special lettuce basket used only in Irondequoit!
In the days of steam the creek was dammed and a water pump installed by the railroad. Union Hill boasted a sorghum and molasses mill for pressing sugar cane but the cane was difficult to raise and the mill lasted only 10 years. The former Union Hill Railroad Station is located just east of County Line Road and now serves as an electrical supply business.
The towns of Ontario and Williamson were part of the ﬂourishing orchard business and the railroad became a busy line shipping our fruit and farm machinery, canning factories and cold storage businesses located along the line and still provide a portion of the railroad’s business. Ice was cut from Irondequoit Bay and used to ice the refrigerator cars. In 1932, Webster Cold Storage started making ice for the railroad cars.
In the villages of Ontario and Williamson, Sodus and North Rose, you can see the unused sidings and right of ways to the many industries and businesses which were thriving in the railroad’s heyday. The size of the yard area in Williamson is an indication of the railroad activity that went on there, The constant passing of trucks on the adjacent Rt. 104 gives testament to the traﬁic which once kept these rails shiny.
The north-south leg of OMID is a remnant of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which operated coal trains to the trestle at Sodus Point from Williamsport, Pennslyvania. Originally built in 1872, the Sodus Point and Southern ran 33.6 miles from Sodus Point to the junction of the Elmira and Canandaigua Railroad at Stanley, New York, The Line became part of the Northern Central Railway Company in 1884 and was leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1911.
The Ontario Midland as it exists today is comprised of pieces of each of these two carriers. The Hojack is severed east of Phillips Road in Webster and east of the village of Wolcott. It is connected to the north-south former Pennsy with a wye at Wallington. This track runs from Wallington to Newark, terminating just north of the Erie Canal. A long passing siding in Mud Mills, north of the CSX main once served as the interchange track.
The former Pennsylvania Railroad use to continue north from Wallington Jct. to Sodus Point, The lines terminated where coal was transloaded from railroad cars to lake freighters on a large wooden trestle. The coal business to Canada died out in the late sixties but OMID did use the line to deliver 125 to 150 covered hoppers per year to the Genesee Malt House at Sodus Point. The Malt House closed in 1986 and there is no trafﬁc north of Wallington, the track was taken up the track in 2001. All that remains of a once bustling coal terminal facility are a section of roundhouse of what once was a large 1200 car holding yard. The trestle burned in November 1971 and the piling now serves as dock supports for Trestle Marina.
Ontario Midland’s operations are headquartered in the village of Sodus were the passenger and freight depot is now used for office and storage. A two stall engine house with inspection pit was constructed adjacent to the depot in 1979 to facilitate repairs and maintenance as well as storage for the locomotives.
The railroads motive power consists of two Alco Diesel Electric engines, both built by American Locomotive Company at Schenectady, New York. Number 36 is an RS-ll built in 1957 (former N&W #361), number 408 is an RS-36 built in 1962 (former N&W #408). Both are equipped with Alco 251 series engines rated at 1800 HP. We have recently completed an Alco-Switch Engine #3, which is an S4 and went into service on the OMID on July 3, 2001!