Back in 1886, a group formed the Syracuse and Baldwinsville Railroad to service the mills on the Seneca River in the village. This bit of history of my hometown of Baldwinsville, New York fascinated me. I grew up hearing trains within a few miles of my home as they stopped to drop off supplies and get loads of flour from a large mill. The mill no longer exists. The tracks are still there but trains do not stop in town anymore.
The Seneca River was the largest obstacle between the north and south end points of the Syracuse and Baldwinsville Railroad. A bridge 350 feet in length was constructed south of the existing vehicle and pedestrian bridge to carry the line across the river. Limestone was used for the five supporting piers and two abutments. Weather in the fall of 1886 was severe but work continued. More than 100 men and 50 teams of horses were grading and laying track. Most of the laborers were immigrants from Italy and Hungary. On November 24th, the last spike was driven. That accomplishment prompted engineer Morris Finch (pictured standing on the engine) to christen the new road. The engine and nine cars filled with workmen entered the new bridge from the south to be greeted by cheers, church bells, factory whistles and the roar of a canon (Source: Greater Baldwinsville (page 70) by Sue Ellen McManus).
As you can see in the bottom photo taken last weekend, the only thing left are the limestone piers which have withstood the constant flow of the Seneca River for the last 125 years. There has been talk about using the piers to create a fishing pier but so far no progress has been made in that direction.
The Syracuse and Baldwinsville Railroad Engine No. 3 is photographed heading east across Syracuse Street on the spur that served riverside industries. The Baptist church is in the background. The private railroad fell into bankruptcy in 1891 (Source: Greater Baldwinsville (page 71) by Sue Ellen McManus).
The spur in the upper photograph is now Water Street and the location of the engine is about where the blue truck is in the bottom photo I took last weekend. I was at a loss where the historical picture was taken at first until I read the caption saying the bell tower seen behind a tree was the Baptist Church. The church still stands some 125 years later unlike the building just behind the engine which is no longer there. Nice to know the village ancestors also had to deal with long, snowy winters.
Due to safety fences and modern traffic, I could only get close to where the original photographer(s) set up with their large view cameras of the era. It made me appreciate the modern camera I held in my hand weighing and sized a fraction of what was used in the 1880’s and giving me instant previews of the scenes I photograph. We live in astounding times. Yet, someday, someone may use my “old” photos and marvel at the large and outdated digital camera used. 🙂
This is my submission to the Hometown History assignment.