The Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad (C&CV) is a heritage railroad that operates between Cooperstown Junction and Milford, New York. Significant portions of the line are either abandoned or out-of-service.
The Cooperstown and Susquehanna Valley Railroad Company (C&SV) was incorporated in 1865. The C&SV’s purpose was to construct a line from Cooperstown to Colliersville, where it interchanged with the Albany and Susquehanna Rail Road (A&S).1 Construction began in February 18682 3 and the first train operated over the line on July 14, 1869.4
The railroad’s gauge was broad to be compatible with the A&S.5 The C&SV converted to standard gauge on May 28, 1876.6
The first extension, from Cooperstown north to Richfield Springs, was ocurred in 1869.7 The second, in 1885, was for an extension south to Davenport.
The Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad Company (C&CV) was incorporated in 1888 to construct a line from Cooperstown Junction to Davenport.7 Work started after a blizzard hammered the region that winter, grading six miles from Cooperstown Junction to West Davenport before the winter of 1889. By early 1890, the track layers reached Davenport Center and grading was commencing east of Harpersfield.
The C&CV leased the C&SV on April 15, 1891. The Delaware and Hudson Railroad (D&H) purchased stock control of the C&CV for $112,500 in June 1903.9 The D&H acquired the line to block any extension of the New York & Mohawk Valley Railroad, which had been recently formed.
The C&CV at the time was self-sustaining, earning $43,000 per year for the Susquehanna Division of the D&H.9
On October 8, 1913, the taxpayers of Otsego, by a vote of 302 to 74, agreed to authorize the sale of Albany and Susquehanna Railroad stock owned by the town.11 The D&H agreed with the Cooperstown Board of Trade to bid $7,500 for the stock, which originally had a value of $200,000. As part of the deal, the D&H removed arbitrary freight rates and erected a new stone-faced freight and passenger station in 1916.
The segment of the C&CV from Cooperstown Junction to Cooperstown was sold by the D&H to the Delaware Otsego Corporation in 1970.10 The sale was negotiated by the company after it was forced to sell two miles of its former New York Central Railroad line out of Oneota as that land was being condemned for the construction of Interstate 88 between Binghamton and Albany.
Under Delaware Otsego, the C&CV brand was resurrected.10 New maintenance facilities were built at Milford with the Delaware Otsego Corporation moving into the former Cooperstown station. The C&CV was operated as a heritage railroad using an ex-Virginia Blue Ridge Railroad steam locomotive until 1974 and diesel locomotives for the remainder of the decade. Excursion trains were held occasionally until the mid-1980’s.
Freight trains declined on the C&CV throughout Delaware Otsego’s ownership, leading to the storage of St. Lawrence Railroad boxcars on the line. The last freight train operated over the C&CV in December 1987 with common carrier service discontinued on April 25, 1989.8 The Delaware Otsego petitioned to abandon the C&CV in November 1993 12 and was granted permission to abandon 16.4 miles of their line on July 1995.
The Leatherstocking Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society) was offered the opportunity to acquire the C&CV from Delaware Otsego on December 27, 1993.12 The Society undertook a fundraising campaign to not only purchase the railroad but to operate tourist excursions. In May 1995, the Society received $225,000 from the state Department of Transportation which was used as a 20% match for a $900,000 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) grant that was granted in June 1996. The funding was used to purchase the C&CV from Delaware Otsego on July 1, 1997, and to renovate eight miles of track from Cooperstown to Milford in 1998 and 1999. Two subsequent multi-modal grants from the state allowed for the purchase of rolling stock and locomotives.
On June 6, 1999, the first revenue passenger train by the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society operated over the new C&CV.12 The southern half of the railroad, from Cooperstown to Cooperstown Junction, is still out-of-service.
The C&CV features two disused GG-1 electric locomotives. Photographed is a circa 1942 Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) 4917, later reused as Amtrak 4934. Another on-site is a circa 1941 PRR 4909, later reused as Amtrak 4932. In a failed attempt to relocate the locomotive to Connecticut, it was partially repainted in 2001. PRR 4909 was acquired by the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in April 2008 and asbestos abated.