The History of the Wellsville, Addison and Galeton Railroad

By Chris Bigham


The Wellsville, Addison and Galeton Railroad (WAG) was incorporated in 1954 to purchase 91 miles of former Buffalo and Susquehanna (B&S) trackage from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O). This former B&S trackage had seen dwindling profits for a number of years and the tracks were physically separated from the rest of the B&O system due to a flood that washed out track in 1942.

The B&O acquired this trackage back in 1932 when they merged with the B&S. The 37-mile Wellsville branch was built in 1895 between Wellsville, NY, and Galeton, PA, by the B&S and the Wellsville, Coudersport and Pine Creek Railroad. The Addsion and Northern Pennsylvania Railroad built the 54-mile Addsion Branch in 1883 between Addsion, NY and Galeton, Pa. The B&S built the 8-mile Ansonia Branch between Galeton and Ansonia, Pa in 1896.

The B&O's asking price for the property was $250,000, which many area businessmen proclaimed to be a steal. Included in the deal were six ex B&S steam engines, four cabooses, one snowplow and numerous work cars. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) approved the sale to Salzberg and the start-up date was set for January 1, 1956.

The WAG did not intend to use steam power when they began their operations. A small battery-powered diesel (#300) was sent from another Salzberg-owned shortline, The Southern New York Railway (S&NY). Two Whitcomb diesels, #1010 and #1012, were leased from the Rock Island Railroad and two unusual GE centercab diesels, #1200 and #1300, were purchased from the Ford Motor Company.

After the first few months of operation, the WAG discovered that these diesels were too light for a railroad with mountainous terrain and a severe grade of 2.85% on the Wellsville branch. The #300 was loaded back onto a flat car and returned to the S&NY. The Whitcombs were returned to the Rock Island. The WAG however did like the GE centercabs and arranged to purchase five heavier engines, #1400-#1800, from the Ford Motor Company. They were delivered in late 1956 and throughout 1957.

The delivery of new power allowed the WAG to scrap the six remaining steam engines. These engines did see some use in the beginning months of the WAG. Only one of the steam engines, #3127, was ever relettered for the WAG.

The Sinclair Oil Refinery announced in 1958 that they were closing their large plant in Wellsville. This was a major loss of traffic for the Wellsville Branch. The WAG had stationed a switcher in Wellsville to switch the refinery.

With the loss of the refinery carloads, the WAG looked elsewhere to supplement its freight operations. Seventy-eight wooden boxcars were purchased from numerous railroads and placed into interchange service. Steel boxcars, gondolas and tank cars were also purchased for the WAG interchange fleet. The total number of cars in interchange service soon grew to 761 cars.

When a bridge between Elkland and Addison showed structural weakness, the WAG quickly applied for abandonment of this trackage in 1959. The interchange in Addsion was with the Erie, which the WAG already connected with in Wellsville. A second interchange with the Erie was not needed. There were also no freight customers between Elkland and Addison. The ICC approved the abandonment petition and the #1700 powered the scrap train as the track was torn up in 1960.

Since the WAG had seven engines on its roster and only two or three were needed for freight operations, spare engines were leased out for scrap trains on abandoned railroads. WAG engines were used on scrap trains for the New York, Ontario and Western and the Leigh and New England Railroads.

In 1964, the New York Central (NYC) petitioned the ICC to abandon its trackage between Westfield and Elkland, which paralleled the WAG between the two towns. Abandonment was approved but the WAG bought two short segments of the NYC in Westfield and Knoxville to ensure freight service to local customers.

The WAG expanded again in 1964 by purchasing the Coudersport and Port Allegany Railroad (C&PA). This 16-mile shortline connected with the WAG at Newfield Junction on the Wellsville branch. The C&PA was originally built as a narrow gauge railroad between Port Allegany and Ulysses but now only stretched from Roulette to Newfield Junction. The C&PA had two GE 44-tonners, D-1 and D-2. The C&PA abandoned its track from Roulette to Coudersport when the WAG took over. Freight operations were infrequent; maybe once or twice a week with just three or four cars.

The WAG went looking for new motive power in 1968 when the aging GE centercabs kept breaking down on the two daily trains that left Galeton. The WAG purchased 3 F7s and an F7B from General Electric. These engines had seen service on the Southern Pacific Railroad out west before they were traded to GE. #2000 was quickly placed into service. The F7B was found to be unrepairable and used for parts. The F7s were a major improvement over the old GE centercabs.

Just when the WAG's motive power situation was looking better, traffic on the Wellsville Branch was seriously declining. Carloads on the Wellsville Branch and on the C&PA dropped to new lows. An abandonment petition was filed with the ICC for the abandonment of the Wellsville Branch and the entire C&PA.

#2100 had just been released from the Galeton shops in June 1969 when news arrived from another Salzberg shortline, the Louisiana & NorthWest (L&NW), that additional motive power was needed in Louisiana. The L&NW served an ammunition plant that was shipping large quantities of materials for the Vietnam War. The decrepit GE centercabs were put back into service on the Wellsville branch.

The WAG quickly placed another F7 order with GE when the centercabs became increasingly unreliable due to their old age. The shop crews spent more time fixing the engines than the engines spent hauling freight trains. Four F7s were ordered and delivered in November 1969. #2200 emerged from the WAG's shop in March 1970 with #2300 entering service later that year.

The ICC approved the abandonment of the Wellsville Branch and the C&PA in May 1970. The Erie Lackawanna (EL) and several shippers filed objections immediately citing their concern over the loss of rail service. The ICC considered the objections but still ruled in favor of the abandonment. More objections were filed but there were no objections to the abandonment of the C&PA. The C&PA's last run was in December 1970 but WAG trains would continue on the Wellsville branch.

A fire of unknown origin in January 1971 destroyed the WAG's carshop. The loss of the 1894 building and its contents was reported at over $500,000. Lost were five freight cars, engine parts, numerous tools and supplies. The WAG opened a new carshop/enginehouse directly across from its headquarters in December.

Penn Central (PC) gave the WAG more bad news at the beginning of 1972. The PC canceled the lease on over 300 WAG boxcars that the PC had been leasing. Changes in per diem rates stated that the wooden cars were too old for revenue service. The WAG's steel boxcars were kept in revenue service whereas the wooden boxcars were returned to the Galeton yards.

While the WAG waited for the ICC's decision on the Wellsville branch, the railroad was still running to Wellsville at least once a week. The remnants of Hurricane Agnes struck the region in June. The Wellsville crew made it to Pusher Siding when they encountered a washout and returned to Galeton with their train. The WAG filed with the ICC to reroute traffic due to flood damage from the Wellsville interchange to the Ansonia interchange with PC. The ICC agreed and continued to debate the abandonment petition of the Wellsville Branch.

The Elkland tannery burned down in 1972 dealing a major blow to the WAG. The tannery was the WAG's biggest shipper and responsible for most of the freight on the Elkland branch. The tannery decided not to rebuild its plant leaving the tannery at Westfield as the WAG's largest customer.

In April 1973, the ICC approved the abandonment of the Wellsville branch. Surprisingly, the ICC's decisions stated that the branch could be abandoned due to declining traffic levels and not because of flood damage from Hurricane Agnes.

C&PA D-2 began the scrapping of the C&PA in 1973. After the scrapping was completed in 1974, D-1 was loaded onto a flatcar and shipped to Mexico. D-2 was later sold to the Stewartstown Railway. Just as #1700 led the scrap train on the north end of the Addsion branch, the engine led the scrap train on the Wellsville branch. By this time, #1700 was the only centercab still in service. #1500 and #1800 were stored dead in the Galeton yard being used for parts for the #1700.

More flooding disrupted WAG service in September 1975. Heavy rains associated with Hurricane Eloise washed out the track below Westfield. Service resumed in October.

The WAG was having serious money problems as 1976 began. Flooding repairs and the loss of business from the flooding, put the WAG's operating expenses in the red for 1975. In April, the WAG filed with the ICC to abandon the rest of its 40-mile trackage. The railroad claimed it was delivering less than 34 carloads per mile operated. Flooding again washed out the WAG's tracks below Westfield. A decision was made not to repair the track resulting in a further loss of traffic. As the WAG waited for the ICC abandonment decision, employees were busy scrapping the wooden boxcars that were no longer in revenue service. #1700 was put up for sale and prospective buyers were visiting the Galeton yard in 1977 to inspect the engine. In September, the ICC gave permission for the WAG to abandon its remaining trackage Objections to the ICC's decision were soon raised buy the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PPUC). The PPUC claimed that the WAG knowingly made errors in bookkeeping to paint a bleaker financial picture when business was not that bad. They also claimed the WAG was making poor business decisions resulting in a loss of profits. The WAG filed its reply with the ICC to the PPUC's objections at the end of 1977. After looking at both sides' reports, the ICC again decided that the WAG could abandon in March 1978.

Around this time, #1700 was purchased by Bob Dingham for use on his new shortline, the New York and Lake Erie Railroad. #1700 was moved to the Ansonia interchange but was refused by Conrail because of bad wheels. The unit was returned to the Galeton enginehouse for repairs. The sale eventually fell through.

In September, the WAG employees filed with the ICC for employee protection from abandonment because they were union employees. The union employees were concerned about the loss of their jobs and felt that the ICC should protect them. The ICC later ruled against the union employees because the WAG was abandoning all of its trackage and not just a segment of its trackage, which would have protected their jobs.

The final freight run of the WAG occurred on March 13, 1979. Three days later, the WAG moved to Ansonia the stranded boxcars that had been isolated in Westfield and Knoxville from the flooding in 1976. These boxcars were loaded onto trucks and shipped back down to Gaines Jct. where they were put back onto the tracks.

Even though the WAG had permission to abandon, numerous runs were made to Ansonia throughout 1979 to retrieve boxcars that were being returned from revenue service. Scrapping of these boxcars was being done in the Galeton yard. Cabooses #C103 and #C104 were freshly painted for their new assignment for the L&NW and moved to Ansonia. On November 7, 1979, the last run of the WAG was made. About 30 railfans watched in misty rain as #2200 and #2300 (coupled nose-to-nose) left the Galeton yard for Ansonia. #1700 was at the end of the train as it was going to Ansonia in preparation for shipment to its new owner, the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society. The F7s were going to the GE plant in Hornell, NY, for rebuilding and resale. Twenty-four years of WAG service had come to a quiet end.

© 1999, Chris Bigham
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