Railroad History before Ontario Pathways

Brief overview of the railroad history before Ontario Pathways  

The two “legs” of Ontario Pathways, the Canandaigua Leg and the Phelps Leg, are both rail corridors dating back to the mid 1800’s. 

The Canandaigua leg.

  • In 1845 a charter was granted to the Canandaigua and Corning Railroad Company to build a railroad line from Jefferson (later know as Watkins Glen) to Canandaigua.
  • 1850 saw a name change to the Canandaigua & Elmira Railroad Company.   
  • September 15, 1851 the rail line was completed into Canandaigua.  This is the Canandaigua leg of present day Ontario Pathways.   
  • April 23, 1857 Canandaigua & Elmira RR was sold at foreclosure.
  • May 2, 1857 it became The Elmira, Canandaigua and Niagara Falls Railroad Company.
  • February 18, 1859 sold at foreclosure it became The Elmira, Jefferson and Canandaigua Railroad Company. 
  • May 1, 1866 this line was leased to the Northern Central Railroad.
  • May 9, 1872 Northern Central Railroad purchases the EJ&C

The Phelps leg.

  • 1852 The Sodus Point and Southern Railroad surveyed the route and was granted a charter to build.  It would be 19 more years before track work was started.
  • 1872 the tracks and infrastructure were in place for the trains to run from Stanley to Sodus Point.
  • 1875 reorganized as The Ontario Southern Railroad Company
  • 1879 it was consolidated with the Geneva, Hornellsville and Pine Creek Railway Company to form The Lake Ontario Southern Railway Company. 
  • 1882 sold at foreclosure again.  Was bought by A.H. Harriman who reorganized it to become The Sodus Bay and Southern Railroad Company
  • 1884 this line was sold to The Northern Central Railroad

Shared history after the two combined to one:

  • 1884 both rail beds were part of The Northern Central Railroad
  • 1913 The Northern Central Railroad is incorporated into The Pennsylvania Railroad system, becoming the Elmira Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
  • 1968 Pennsylvania Railroad merges with The New York Central Railroad forming Penn Central
  • 1970 Penn Central files for bankruptcy
  • 1974 Penn Central abandonment of the lines results in the removal of tracks and rails.  
  • 1994 Newly formed Ontario Pathways negotiates the purchase of the unsold railroad right of ways. 


[compiled May 2016 by Tim Wilbur]