The Fabled Rutland Milk


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Pictured above is a “rider car” going through Troy, New York. Below is a milk car.

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So what was so spectacular about what was called the “Rutland Milk Train”? Well, it started out way up in New York State, ran across the top of the state, ran down the length of Vermont, then back through New York State into New York City! Used to go over Rutland Railroad’s “Corkscrew Division”, but when that track had no more on-line business, they cut through Troy. Besides the truck lobby, what killed the Rutland Milk was inability to sell Vermont milk in New York (Federal “milkshed” regulations). My goodness! Almost 500 miles!

The Rutland milk ran to Chatham as train 88 which held over for 90 minutes for the arrival of the northbound empties from the NYC on the Harlem Division. The trains were swapped over from one railroad to the other as the Rutland crew returned north with the empties. The Rutland milk train dropped one car at Mott Haven for the Bronx Terminal Market, dropped cars at 130th Street yard, and arrived at 60th Street yard at 3:20 a.m. In regards to the Rutland Milk trains, from the Jim Shaughnessy book: Trains #87 (northbound) and #88 (southbound) seem to be the milk trains that operated across the Rutland system to/from the New York Central connection at Chatham, NY. The “Corkscrew” division between Rutland and Chatham had little or no local business online, and was approved for abandonment in 1952. By the time #88 made the last run over the Rutland’s “Corkscrew” division to Chatham in May, 1953, the “milk train” looked more like a manifest local, with about 8 cars between the RS3 and the caboose. After the “corkscrew” was shut down, #88 ran via B&M & NYC trackage rights via Troy and Rensselaer to Chatham. On the last two pages of the book “Trackside in the Albany, NY Gateway”, there are shots of a Rutland train moving thru Rensselaer around 1960. The Rutland milk train had a long circuitous route, as cars came from Burlington and points north near the Canadian border as well. In the early 1950’s as trucks took over the bulk of the milk traffic from the railroads, the NY State legislation banned Vermont milk from being processed in NY state just about ending the Rutland’s milk into NY state, I think the Rutland took their business to Boston. On the Harlem Division, the station at Patterson was demolished after an interesting incident took place. Early one morning in August 1952, one of the cars of the eastbound Rutland milk train derailed as the train was passing by the station, crashing into the southeast corner of the station, and bringing other cars behind it off the rails, tearing up track a creating a big mess.

Rutland Milk running through MO Junction
Rutland Milk running through MO Junction

Here is the Rutland Milk running as a New York Central train from Chatham behind an Erie-built FM locomotive in the 1950’s.

Photo by Victor Zolinsky, courtesy of Wayne Koch.

Much of this information PLUS EVEN MORE is located on “Milk Trains In New York State”, “The New York Central Milk Business”, “Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg: The Rutland Connection” and “Harlem Division: The New York & Harlem Railroad Company”.

Both the D&H, and the Rutland milk trains had very interesting operations, starting out as passenger trains with milk cars cut in and out along the route until they hit a predetermined junction then split the passenger train and milk train for different destinations.

On milk trains in New York State, most railroad-owned cars were of the “milk can” variety while privately owned cars were bulk tank cars (usually two separate 3000 gallon tanks). The milk trains that traversed the New York Central’s Hudson Division at night were solid milk trains with a rider car on to the rear for the crew. An equipment breakdown from the mid to late 1940’s I picked up on the “Web” is as follows: General American Pfaudler (GPEX) 312 cars (1949), NYC 312 cars (1943), Erie 135 cars (1943), D&H 16 cars (1943), Rutland 43 cars (1943). The railroad owned cars above were AAR class: BM, while the GPEX were AAR class: BMT, as most private owned cars were classed.

Finally, here is an outstanding “first person” report on the “Rutland Milk”

The Milk Train

by George Cameron, 12/26/2005

While surfing I found Russ Nelson’s information on bicycling on the Rutland Railroad across Northern New York. I am an 83 year old retired radio station manager who, for a dozen years was a brakeman on the Rutland. In 1944 I was the baggage man on Trains 87-7 8-88 between Rutland, Vermont and Ogdensburg, N.Y. The milk train was numbered 87 and 88 on the main line and 7 and 8 on what was called the O&LC or Ogdenburg and lake Champlain. Our usual consist was a string of milk cars, empty north and westbound and loaded east and southbound, a combo smoker and baggage car, and a coach. We carried passengers but very few. We set the empties out and picked them up loaded on the return.

It is over 200 miles from Rutland to Ogdensburg. There were three crews running two trains. Two were O&LC crews and one, mine, was a main division crew. We changed engine crews at Alburg, Vt. The engine crews were mainline on the mainline and O&LC on the O&LC. Our power was usually 70 class hand fired locomotives. Norwood was a bustling place. Not a big town, but a major rail connection between the Rutland and the New York Central. There was a pretty good sized yard there.

Ogdensburg was a lovely town as I remember. I saw a lot of it because we had a day off every three and it was in Ogdensburg so the job was not the most desireable for a main line guy living in Rutland.

The principal topographical obstacle on the route, as I remember was a major hill at Churubusco, New York. My fellow brakeman was a man named Walter Hack. The conductor was James Alexander. The O&LC conductors were Ellis K. Stone who was called Pee Wee. And Adam Loffler who was called Rummy.

What I remember about that northcountry is how cold it was. Flat country with high wind, drifting snow and below zero temps. It was a tough job setting out those cars in winter and picking them up.

When we came into Rutland with the loads they were immediately directed to New York on an express train. No stops between Rutland and Chatham New York then down the Harlem Division of the New York central to be in New York city in early a.m. The only stop was North Bennington VT to water the locomotive and shovel coal forward for the stoker. Our crews went from Rutland to Chatham with a turn around and return with empty cars.

On our day off we sometimes took the ferry across the St. Lawrence to Prescott Ont to have a cold Canadian beer and do some shopping. It as something to do. I’m sure those towns are all different today. Chateguay, Burke, Norwood, Bombay, Ogdensburg. The railroad is gone the people are gone the cows are gone. Different world today. But you brought back some memories and made me think thoughts I have not though in a half century.

 

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