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Tracking down the remains of the Old Woman... 4

Fifty Years Gone... So Why Do I Care?

A March,1957 calendar page from Smith's Feed Store, Livingston Manor (located in the old O&W freight house).
Courtesy of Wayne Levitt

The Roscoe historical marker that started it all...
(click for a close up)

The old right-of-way returns to nature
Near Norfield Tunnel.

March 29, 2007 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the O&W into the history books. Fifty years on, the road has attracted a close-knit and admittedly fanatical following. Bill Shaumberg, editor of Railroad Model Craftsman, has called the O&W the “Colorado Midland of the East” comparing it to that long-gone colorful western line, and he jokes about the O&W faithful facing Middletown at sunset, bowing and chanting “O and W…. O and W” (is this somehow odd?).

Many current O&W fans (myself included) never saw the railroad operate. The physical remains of the road are fewer every year as time as nature and development overtake the right of way. There are but a handful of surviving employees to share reminisces. Why then the allure? Perhaps it was the call of the underdog, the idea of the little railroad that struggled against the odds to survive in an area that (in later years) simply could not support it. Perhaps it was the dramtic scenery, the numerous bridges and trestles or the unusual steam locomotives and wood passenger cars. Who knows?

My first contact with the O&W was as a youngster riding in the back of my father’s Buick on route 17 as we worked or way up or back from my grandparent’s farm in McLean NY. The rest area just past Roscoe on the southbound side included a framed plaque that caught my eye. In bold letters it proclaimed: “They Came to the Mountains By Rail” At the bottom of the sign it mentioned, almost as a postscript, that “The Route 17 Quickway here was built on the roadbed of the O & W.”

I was young, impressionable, had somewhat of a romantic streak and was a certifiable train nut (I’m not so young anymore, but the rest…). That long, boring ride up route 17 on our way upstate suddenly became a highlight of the trip for me. From my back seat perch I would quietly search for remains of the old roadbed as it peaked in and out of the trees. I imagined steam locos and long trains winding along what was now just a scar on the hillside where the track had once been. As we wound along near Roscoe I would picture myself as an engineer who once saw essentially the same view from the cab of his loco. I also vaguely remember seeing the remains of the East Branch station sometime before it burned and crossing the ex-railroad bridge to get into Fish’s Eddy (its still there) when that old Buick broke down there, in the same spot, more than once!

In October, 1970 Tony Koester published an article in Railroad Model Craftsman magazine about building and detailing an O scale F-3 loco as O&W #502. I kept that one. Little did I know that years later Tony would have a hand in my modeling direction and that I would see that unit first-hand on the bookshelf in Bob Mohowski’s home where it resides today. Tony’s article would lead me to build an HO model of #502 when Stewart Hobbies introduced their F-3. I even went so far as to scratchbuild a caboose to go along with it.

When we moved into our new old house I had an opportunity to start a new layout with a fresh direction. Those old memories of the O&W just wouldn’t go away, so I joined the O&W Historical society ( and the spark became a flame. Through this group I met and developed friendships with several of its members and found a group of folks dedicated to preserving the memory of the line. I decided to model the O&W that I ‘knew” – the Roscoe area – and the rest is detailed elsewhere on this site…

Here are a few shots of the track crew tearing up the line in Livingston Manor, circa 1958. For more see
Courtesy of Wayne Levitt

The Dubois house in 1958 as the scrap gangs work....

and as it stands today.

The Dubois house today, about the only recognoizable reminder of the railroad in the Manor today.

Roscoe Station Circa 1951

The Roscoe Station site today

A vintage post card shows the old Sprague store to the left with the station canpoy to the right.

The old Sprague store today.

Track Plan