Travels Twelve Inches On His 146th Railway, Published 10 June 1950
Lowville and Beaver River Railroad
A Geography Lesson
I doubt if ever again I shall travel as short a distance on a railway as I did this week on the Lowville and Beaver River Railroad. This obscure line operates 10.44 miles of track from Lowville north through New Bremen and Beaver Falls to Croghan. Roughly, this is about 30 miles south and a little east of Watertown New York, in the Black River country, just on the fringe of a pulpwood and lumber terrain.
The head office of this line Is Lowville, N.Y. The low part of it rhymes with how, and now, and sow. The president is Fay L. Parker, a banker.
I determined that since I was coming back from making a speech to Kiwanis at Utica, I would never have a better time to ride this L and BR. As it turned out, I had my troubles.
I went into the old station, which is now an office. In the waiting room was a crated toilet. I went past this, and found a man whose name I later learned to be C. B. Roth, busily pounding a typewriter. He referred me to M. E. Burhans, the superintendent, who was over helping the New York Central unload express, In what might be called the sidewalk superintendent's manner.
I asked Mr. Burhans if he could give me a ride on an engine: The engine, he said, was locked up for the night. So help me, it was, too. Mr. Burhans had to go over and take out a key, and open the lock, before I could get a look at his new diesel. I was later to discover that the L and BR has small faith in human nature, and they keep everything locked up.
I asked about the steam engine.
"She's dead, so you can't ride her," he replied.
That eliminated the diesel, which was locked up, and the locomotive, which did not have steam up.
"What about a ride on the hand car?," I asked.
"Crew's through at four o'clock. The car's locked up, the foreman's gone," he explained.
Here then was the picture. Here is a perfectly good railway just waiting to be ridden. But (a) the diesel was locked up (b) the steam engine was dead (c) the hand car was put away under key for the night.
Then on my way down to the old roundhouse, which was not locked up, because these days nobody wants to steal a dead engine, I saw a hand car trailer.
"If the Lowville and Beaver River won't give me a ride, I'll take one myself," I exclaimed gleefully.
I immediately jumped on the hand car, and started to push myself along. Then I jerked.
Chained To Track
The handcar trailer was chained to the track too! In all I had travelled 12 inches. That was as far as the railway chain would let me go. I had to be satisfied to ride my 146th railway just one foot, a third of a yard.
The L and BR was built in 1906, and ran a passenger service of sorts over its 10.44 miles until a couple of years ago, when they got rid of the last remnants of passenger equipment. Yet the latest time table that of October 30, 1932, showed six trains daily, including one each direction on Sundays.
Today its equipment consists of one steam engine, one diesel, one caboose, and one flat car. No equipment is ever allowed to leave the main line, and it connects with the New York Central from Watertown to Syracuse at Lowville Station.
Of all the railways I have ever seen, none has the unusual method of numbering engines enjoyed by the Lowville and Beaver River. It numbers its engines for the year it gets them. For in stance, the steam engine, secured 27 years ago, Is 1923. The diesel. procured three years back, is 1947. They scrapped not so long ago, old No. 1912, which, as you might guess, was bought In 1912.
The Lowville line does a busi ness in pulp among other things. but it also hauls bowling pins and shoe lasts made at Groghan. And anything else it can. Things are not hurried on the L and BR. Life goes along evenly. Its past splendors mostly forgotten, it survives to haul its half dozen or so loads daily, and struggles against the encroach ments of old Anno Domini ana a new age.
So the 146th railway goes into the records, the railway I rode 12 inches, the Lowville and Beaver River Railroad.