The Milk Train

by George Cameron, 12/26/2005

While surfing I found Russ Nelson's information on bicycling on the Rutland Railroad across Northern New York. I am an 83 year old retired radio station manager who, for a dozen years was a brakeman on the Rutland. In 1944 I was the baggage man on Trains 87-7 8-88 between Rutland, Vermont and Ogdensburg, N.Y. The milk train was numbered 87 and 88 on the main line and 7 and 8 on what was called the O&LC or Ogdenburg and lake Champlain. Our usual consist was a string of milk cars, empty north and westbound and loaded east and southbound, a combo smoker and baggage car, and a coach. We carried passengers but very few. We set the empties out and picked them up loaded on the return.

It is over 200 miles from Rutland to Ogdensburg. There were three crews running two trains. Two were O&LC crews and one, mine, was a main division crew. We changed engine crews at Alburg, Vt. The engine crews were mainline on the mainline and O&LC on the O&LC. Our power was usually 70 class hand fired locomotives. Norwood was a bustling place. Not a big town, but a major rail connection between the Rutland and the New York Central. There was a pretty good sized yard there.

Ogdensburg was a lovely town as I remember. I saw a lot of it because we had a day off every three and it was in Ogdensburg so the job was not the most desireable for a main line guy living in Rutland.

The principal topographical obstacle on the route, as I remember was a major hill at Churubusco, New York. My fellow brakeman was a man named Walter Hack. The conductor was James Alexander. The O&LC conductors were Ellis K. Stone who was called Pee Wee. And Adam Loffler who was called Rummy. There was one brakeman with the Lofflers named Goldie Chilton a remarkable looking young guy with hair like gold, handsome features, about six foot five or six. He really caused the ladies to bat their lashes.

What I remember about that northcountry is how cold it was. Flat country with high wind, drifting snow and below zero temps. It was a tough job setting out those cars in winter and picking them up.

When we came into Rutland with the loads they were immediately directed to New York on an express train. No stops between Rutland and Chatham New York then down the Harlem Division of the New York central to be in New York city in early a.m. The only stop was North Bennington VT to water the locomotive and shovel coal forward for the stoker. Our crews went from Rutland to Chatham with a turn around and return with empty cars.

On our day off we sometimes took the ferry across the St. Lawrence to Prescott Ont to have a cold Canadian beer and do some shopping. It as something to do. You can get sick of playing poker. That is all more than 60 years ago so I was a kid but I remember. I'm sure those towns are all different today. Chateguay, Burke, Norwood, Bombay, Ogdensburg. The railroad is gone the people are gone the cows are gone. Different world today. But you brought back some memories and made me think thoughts I have not though in a half century.

Have a nice day. George Cameron

Send comments to: Russell Nelson
Last modified: Tue Dec 27 09:43:50 EST 2005