Real Railroad History > GENESEE & WYOMING RAILROAD

Tiny 14.5 mile line the first railroad in today’s global family of shortlines of 108 railroads!

GENESEE & WYOMING RAILROAD Located in Livingston County, New York, the sixteen-mile Genesee & Wyoming Valley Railroad was chartered in 1891 and began operation between Retsof and Pittsburgh & Lehigh Junction (P&L) in 1894. When the G&WV passed into receivership in 1898, the line was sold to Edward L. Fuller, who rechartered the line as the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad on March 24, 1899.

View of Retsof mine shaft and yard, from highway overpass.

View of Retsof mine shaft and yard, from highway overpass.

The new “Gee Whiz” line consisted of a main line between Greigsville, Retsof (reverse spelling of investor William Foster, Jr. who had discovered salt on the site in 1879) and Caledonia, and included a two-mile branch between Retsof and the Retsof Mine. An early connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Retsof Jct. was abandoned in 1912 after a rate dispute and Supreme Court decision granted the G&W Class II Common Carrier Status.

 

The original salt mine shaft, completed in October 1885, had been excavated to a depth of approximately 1000 feet, where an extensive vein of rock salt was discovered almost 150 feet thick. The Retsof mine would become the largest producing rock salt mine in the world until a 1994 earthquake caused a roof collapse and subsequent flooding.

During its early years of operation, most of the railroad’s revenue was generated by hauling salt plus local passengers and baggage. After passenger service was discontinued in 1929, salt continued to be the main commodity hauled by the railroad, with nominal revenue generated from hauling coal, grain, and fertilizer.

Bagging salt at Retsof, NY mine.

Bagging salt at Retsof, NY mine.

Genesee & Wyoming steam locomotive.

Genesee & Wyoming steam locomotive.

From its formation until World War II, the railroad would roster a total of eighteen steam locomotives, but began dieselization as early as 1944. After the war, a fleet of 100 XP orange and black boxcars began hauling bagged salt to all parts of the US, interchanging at P&L Jct. with both the Lehigh Valley and Baltimore & Ohio railroads.

In 1977, Mortimer B. Fuller III, great grandson of Edward L. Fuller, purchased a controlling interest in the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad – still a 14-mile railroad serving principally one customer. A holding company, Genesee & Wyoming Industries, was formed and the GWRR merged into it to facilitate diversification of the business. The company would enters the rail car leasing and management business primarily focused on covered hoppers to serve the salt industry.

The tiny Genesee & Wyoming Railroad, only 14.5 miles long, would become the first railroad in today’s global Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. family of shortlines. With recent the acquisition RailAmerica, GWI further increased its North American footprint to 108 railroads and 13,500 track miles in 39 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.

G&W logo

Genesee & Wyoming logo.

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