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The Erie

As we all know, the “Erie“ has played an important role in the history of Port Jervis, but how much of an effect did it have on our economic development and life in general.

According to Wikipedia, the NY & Erie Railroad was chartered in 1832, its purpose was to connect the state from east to west, starting at the Hudson River and ending at Lake Erie. However, construction was delayed by nationwide financial panic and it was restarted in 1838. The line was not completed until 1851. On May 14th of that year, the first passenger train came through Port Jervis headed for Dunkirk, NY, its final destination, with President Millard Filmore and US Senator Daniel Webster aboard.

As an important point of commerce along the D&H Canal and located where three states merged, Port Jervis was a logical spot for the railroad to establish its presence. The first turntable and roundhouse were built in 1854.

Due to financial hardships, the NY Erie railroad was reorganized in 1861 as the Erie Railway. The railway still had its share of issues to deal with in order to expand the rails across the entire state, most dealing with the gauge of the tracks. As these issues were eventually solved the railroad’s presence grew steadily. This growth caused the original roundhouse to be replaced and a new 90-foot turntable to be built. According to a pamphlet dated 1908, the railroad’s monthly payroll, in round numbers, had grown to $125,000 which in today’s economy would be $3.8 million! By 1922, the Erie was running 20 passenger trains a day to and from Port Jervis and employed approximately 2,500 people.

A station was built in 1889, roughly where the current station is but it only lasted for one year as it was destroyed by fire. The new station was built of fireproof brick and located on Jersey Avenue which is still in existence today. That station opened in February 1892 and was later enlarged to handle the increasing traffic in 1912.

Despite its growth, the railroad could not survive the effects of the Great Depression and had to file for bankruptcy in 1938. It reopened in 1941 and with the need for rail transportation caused by WWII, the Erie thrived once more. With the success during wartime, the Erie was able to keep up with changing technology and began using diesel-electric locomotives instead of steam. The last steam locomotive that ran on the Erie was on March 7, 1954.

With the onset of the automobile, the Erie again began a bumpy road. Declining patronage caused the closure of the station in 1974 and passenger operations were changed to the current Metro-North station. The Erie started to sell off its property, the first being the station on Jersey Avenue. The remaining pieces of the railroad; the turntable, sand towers, and concrete coaling tower were purchased by the City of Port Jervis in 1989. Unfortunately, the coaling tower was demolished in the mid -2000s. The turntable was refurbished in 1996 and 1998, it is still operational today. This is the largest and only operating one in the eastern US. Today the rails continue to be used by various railroads for transporting freight; passenger service is available through Metro-North with Port Jervis being the western terminus.

More pictures to show the journey of the Erie through time.

Steam locomotive from 1870.

Locomotive from 1939.

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1 Comment

These historical articles are so interesting. Thanks for the looks back in time.

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