A Trip on America's Scenic Route:
The Jamestown, Westfield and
[Editor's Note: The following is an unpublished manuscript by Homer L. Danielson from the library of the Fenton Historical Society in Jamestown, NY. It really shows how the Jamestown, Westfield and Northwestern Railroad was integrated with the local community. I have attempted to maintain the substance of Mr. Danielson's original work while editing grammar for clarity.]
The Jamestown, Chautauqua & Lake Erie Railroad, a steam line, was purchased by the Broadhead interests in 1913 and converted to electricity in 1914. This road hauled freight and passengers, also express and U.S. Mail. The road proceeded up the east side of the Lake from Jamestown to Westfield. The new owners purchased five new 53 foot, 7 inch double ended cars from the Cincinnati Car Company. These cars were later painted a bright red with gold lettering with numbers 300 through 305. The next were two baggage cars, 306 and 307, along with center cab work car number 308. In 1917 the Company purchased four 62 foot, 7 inch cars from the St. Louis Car Company. These cars were designed by George L. Maltby, Superintendent of the road. The numbers were 309 through 312, with the 312 built a bit more elaborately than the others with an observation platform and comfortable chairs. Car 309 was the most powerful and speediest of them all, she hit a switch engine at the Boatlanding yard one night and never ran again, her powerful trucks were used to build freight engine Number 500.
This is not a history of the railroad, but an afternoon trip in Palace Car 312 about 1927.
The local waiting room was located on West Third Street between Cherry and Washington Streets and was known as the Russell House. This terminal contained a ticket office presided over by big Buck Carlson. Mr, Frank McCormak operated a news room here and dispensed the best buttered popcorn ever tasted. A bag of this was a must for anyone taking the big cars. To the rear was the rest and recreation room for the employees waiting for their runs here. A Mr. Harvey without hat or coat winter of summer would be out in the street bellowing the destination of various cars waiting for passengers. Our trip began here with car due to depart at 2:30 pm for Westfield and points west. Armed with a round trip ticket and two bags of popcorn we waited. Soon a car appeared on West Third Street by the bridge moving backwards. We were all pleased as it was the large 312 with the observation platform.
The conductor was standing on the rear platform directing the motorman 62 feet away with hand signals; due to the observation platform, this car had no controls on the rear end as the other cars had. The car backed in front of the waiting room and stopped. Mr. Harvey grayed "Car to Westfield and all points west. All aboard." The center door opened and conductor Bill Merrill helped the passengers on board. The young ones pushed to get to the observation platform, the men moved to the smoking compartment, the ladies and children to the regular compartment. The 312 was a very ornate car with special effort to provide comfort. At the front end motorman Reggie "Pee Wee" Phelps had finished loading the mail, express and local freight. William A. Pickard, General Traffic Manager, handed the crew their orders which called for a meet with southbound car number 303 which would take the siding at Curtis Stop. With all aboard the car started smoothly under the experienced hand of Mr. Phelps. The car proceeded west over Third Street, turned right at the bridge, and passed the car barn so close we thought sure the car would hit the building. On the right stood a long line of Chautauqua Traction cars forlorn and unwanted, dreaming of fast runs along the other side of the lake and the glory that was theirs so long ago, now sitting on the rip track waiting for the wrecker's torch to end their days. The 312's air horn blasted twice in salute to the derelicts whose last run was in 1925.
To the left and below the Erie railroad tracks with a steam engine switching and fussing about with a few boxcars, father along the Chautauqua Traction, JW & NW, and Jamestown Street Railway Power house with black smoke belching from the twin stacks. We proceeded across Fairmount Avenue to Third Street past the JW&NW freight station where workmen were busy loading furniture and other local products into cars to be shipped all ever the world. This is Boatlanding, The steamer City Of Cleveland (Later Jamestown) was loading passengers for a trip up the lake, no doubt a charter trip., The Cleveland was the only boat of the larger ones left as she had a steel hull and was easy to handle, the other boats were discontinued in 1925. The Cleveland and small steamer Mayville were used in ferry service from Point Chautauqua to the Chautauqua Institution after the latter was left without service with the abandonment of the Chautauqua Traction Company 1925. The car left Ninth Street and entered the boatlanding yards used jointly by the Erie and JW&NW FR. The car threaded its way through a maze of switches and frogs, all switches set for our passage, box cars, switch engines, cars of coal, all manner of goods being moved about. To the left is the Erie roundhouse where the switch engines are serviced, repairs, coal and water with a Brownhoist crane with a clam bucket loading coal into the tenders and clamming the cinders out of the ash pit for shipment along the line where needed. This is a noisy, smoky, steamy place although interesting we were glad to get to clean air again.
To the right of us is the old 400 Brewery long out of operation next the Pittsburgh Freeport Coal and Supply Company. Lumber yards and other industry crows close to the tracks. To the left is the abandoned Johnson Ice House which stored Chautauqua Lake Ice and peddled it out during the summer, beyond that the Erie RR wye where the engines were turned. We proceed slowly as the track is layed on swampy ground and very unstable. To the left again a large white object can be seen between the trees, as we draw closer we see it is the Palace Steamer City Of Cincinnati pulled into a dug slip and now used for a dwelling and bait sales. There is swamp on both side of the track, next on the right is the evil smelling City dump followed by Posen's junk yard with acres of rusting autos a crane has just finished loading a railroad car with scrap steel while car 306 waits for us to pass then the car will be switched to the yards where a north bound train is being made up.
On the left are several dwellings along the river a few boats are tied at the bait sales dock' while several fisherman are talking and gesturing no doubt trying to out lie the other about the size fish they had caught. The first stop is Clifton; now just a crossing but years ago a very busy place where the steamboats were pulled upon ways out of the water and the hulls repaired. In 1903 the most beautiful boat of them all burned on the ways the night before being launched. She was the 154 ft Chicago, only 2 foot shorter than the famed three decked City of Jamestown. There is no station at Clifton. Several school boys and girls who live in the Fluvanna Ave area got off along with a few workmen. To the left is the L.S. Areo Marine Co. a boat sales and repair owned by Dave Lawson. Several boats large and small are waiting for service. To the right are large gasoline storage tanks, further along are the tanks of the Richfield Oil Co. which later caught fire causing some deaths and many injuries. Next tile tanks of the Erickson Oil Co. owned by Harry Frickson later Mayor of Jamestown.
The car slows for Cold Springs, a tank car is being unloaded for the Cold Spring garage (where it looks like Parker Hollenbeck is working with a huge pipe wrench) owned by Albert Nelson and son. Mr. Nelson is loading hogs into a cattle car from holding pens along the siding. The northbound freight will pick up this car for exchange with the New York Central at Westfield.
We are out of the swamp now and the river can been seen through the trees to the left. Elmhurst, Bonita and Sunnyside are swiftly left behind and the car slows for Greenhurst, a regular mail stop. Mail, express and some local freight were unloaded along with several summer visitors. Shelden Hall, sometimes called Stockholm, is the next stop. This is a flag stop and two passengers got off and local freight was piled on the shelter platform.
The lake can be seen to the left most of the time and the car is running very close to the water. Many fishermen and bathers are enjoying the wonderful day and most wave as the big, red demon flashes past at high speed. Driftwood, Bellview, Philips Mills, and Shore Acres are left behind, these being flag stops. The 312 shows and stops at the Bemus Point depot. The station is a good distance from the village so all mail etc. is hauled by a truck which backs to the car door where the agent and driver transfer the contents. All material for Bemus is loaded on the truck, which leaves. The agent hands the two crew orders. One is a slow order to watch for gandy dancers (track workers) near Warners who are raising the track at this point. The second is to meet the southbound freight at Midway Park where Car 312 will take the siding. Bay View was swiftly left behind and the car slowed for Warners where Dave Westergren's track gang labored. Dave motioned the car to proceed with a slow signal and the car crept over the rebuilt stretch of track and again gained speed. At Maple Springs the car slowed to make its meet at Midway Park. The southbound train was not in sight and Bill opened the switch and 312 grandly backed into the siding. Bill closed the switch and Reggie joined him at the switch stand. Many of the passengers took this opportunity to purchase hot dogs, popcorn, and ice cream from the stands along the track under the roller rink. A picnic was in progress with bathing, boating, and riding the various rides that were available. This was sure a busy, happy place and people from away from this area remarked as they boarded the car that they would return and spend the day at Midway. Finally, the southbound train pulled in.
The train was ten minutes late and Engine 400 with Lou Hoadley at the controls whistled the meet signal and moved slowly past while Bill and Reggie inspected the running gear. Conductor Roy Anderson received the OK signal from Bill and gave Lou the highball. The train gained speed and disappeared down the track.
312 was in a hurry now; somehow the ten minutes must be made up. Bill opened the switch, 312 moved on to the main, the switch was closed, and Bill swung aboard. With a wave of his hand, the big car started and wasted no time getting under way. A stop was made at Chedwell for a passenger who flag the car. Dewittville was the next regular stop. The poor farm was located there and many of the old folks were sitting on the platform. The 312's crew was a favorite with these poor souls who had little to make them happy. Bill and Reggie produced candy, gum, and cigarettes and passed them among them. One asked Bill if he would bring a box of snuff. Bill assured him he would have it on the down trip. How those folks looked forward to the cars as most crews were generous. Many passengers got off; some visitors to the home and two pitiful old people with their meager belongings entering the home. Mail express, and some local freight was unloaded but no mail was picked up as it will be picked up on the down trip. The car took off as it had made up little time and the New York Central train at Westfield would not wait. There were many passengers who had to make connections with the NYC westbound express.
The car started with a roar, slamming through Hartfield in a cloud of dust and cinders then slowed for the Pennsylvania Railroad junction where the tower and dispatcher are located. A red light glowed and 312 stopped. The stop was for orders only - watch for Chautauqua Traction line car number 111 which just left for nearby Mayville. The JW&NW took over line car 111 when the Chautauqua Traction was abandoned. The 312 proceeded at reduced speed, much to the disgust of the crew. The 111 was just clearing the main as the 312 pulled into Mayville station. Many people got off here having business in Mayville, the county seat. A great deal was unloaded while sever bundles of license plates bound for the north end were loaded. The car rushed off at top speed for the uphill pull to Hogsback. At one point both Chautauqua and Lake Erie could be seen. There were no more regular stops until Westfield but there were some flag stops seldom used.
We passed Parkers, Fitch and Nixon and then the car gradually slowed. Bill shouted, "Everyone look to the left," the passengers gazed to the left and gasped in wonder as one of the beautiful vistas in the world unfolded before them. The deep Chautauqua Gorge with crumbling shale rock cliffs and what seemed like a small brook far below. The area was heavily wooded and, to say the least, awe inspiring. This is indeed one of nature's wonders.
The car gained speed as it's all downhill to Westfield. Mr. Phelps held to a safe, but very fast, pace as this was his last chance to make up lost time. As the car dropped down the hill Lake Erie could be seen blue in the distance. We crossed Main Street, went under the Route 17 bridge, and eased to a stop at the depot - two minutes early thanks to Pee Wee Phelps.
All mail and express was unloaded, the passengers claiming their suitcases and handbags while the trunks were loaded on a cart to transfer to the waiting train. Many passengers thanked the crew for a wonderful trip which made them feel good. The car was loaded for the trip south, backed around the wye, turned around and returned to the depot to await the eastbound New York Central train. The train pulled in, passengers and baggage were loaded, and Bill called the dispatcher for clearance. He received clearance to Pennsylvania Tower where further orders would be issued. The pressure was off and the 312 proceeded at a more leisurely pace, the passengers enjoying the Chautauqua County scenery which is the best to be found anywhere. The sad nickname for this road is "Jesus Wept and No Wonder," but anyone making this trip would know the good lord was smiling, not weeping.