Date With Don Brown (New York Central), Published 11 August 1956Don Brown and I have a date to try and ride the last caboose out of Ottawa on the New York Central Railroad. News that the old "New York and Ottawa" is about to give up the ghost strikes a pang in the hearts of us old timers. I go back to the time when four trains a day ran out of the Union Station to Cornwall and beyond on the New York Central; I recall, too, my brother cutting his eye teeth as a newsie on the NY & O, and having to sleep overnight in a cold day coach at Tupper Lake, New York, Nor can I forget the time I used to commute to Cornwall on the train when I was selling aluminum from door to door with George Sugdcn around Cornwall.
Note: The last train ran on 14 February 1957
But Don, for all his nostalgia about railways will scarcely remember the little eight wheelers of the NYC 1000 class that used to haul the two train locals down through Hawthorne and out to the big metropolises of Cambridge and Black River. Nor could he possibly envision the splendor of the full-coated conductor. I think the NY&O was the last railway in these parts where the "con" wore a full, long, knee-length Prince Albert type coat. (Speaking of real splendor, does anybody remember the conductor with the brownish red beard that used to run on the Montreal-Ottawa locals back about 50 years ago? Maybe Borts the Magician, himself a retired newsie, would recall this full bearded conductor)
The New York and Ottawa used to have one train a day that short-turned at Moira or Santa Clara or some such place across the line, but the other train ran right through to Tupper Lake, which was on the Montreal-New York line. Latterly, the services were cut to one a day each way and then even that was dropped. Yet, absurd as it may seem, as recently as 1948 the fastest way to New York was to take the NY&O to Nyando, hop a taxi, and catch your sleeper from Massena, N.Y. It was 10 minutes quicker than the National's "Washingtonian".
Freight-wise, I remember as a boy, seeing Eddy's sleighs hauling heavy newsprint through the streets on the way down to the New York and Ottawa freight shed on Nicholas Street, en route to some American paper.
Once I even saw some newsprint going this way to Dunedin, New Zealand.
But now the little coaches are gone, the little eight wheelers are gone, the old engine house is gone, everything is all but gone.
I saw diesel NYC 8250 switching this morning. I wonder how long it will be till Don Brown and I are trying to grab a ride on the last train to Cornwall, We may look like Brown and Cross, but we'll feel more like Hulse and Playfair.