Railroad History

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 known 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; updated January 2019]