April 22, 2020

Milford Park Railway

Milford, NY… Not Just a One Railroad Town Anymore

Thanks to the efforts of several members and friends of the Railroad over the past several years, the Milford Park Railway is back in action once again to the delight of visitors to our property. The Milford Park Railway (MPR) started life as the Lindee Park Railway. Beginning in 1954, Otego, NY resident Donnell Sullivan, a Tool and Die Maker at Bendix Corporation in Sidney, NY, spent 30 years building and perfecting his railroad. Upon his death the entire railroad was sold at an estate auction on August 24, 1991 to area businessman Gene Bettiol, Sr., who grew up in Otego and was a family friend, and wanted to see the railroad stay in the area. After being approached by Leatherstocking Railway President Bruce Hodges, Mr. Bettiol donated the entire railroad in September, 1996.

On June 7, 1997, the newly repainted and renamed Milford Park Railway made its debut at the 2nd Annual Milford Railway Days, running out of the Milford Enginehouse on a temporary right-of- way next to the Milford Depot. The existing standard gauge track was used with a piece of mining rail attached to the tie butts to get the desired 18” track gauge. As originally designed, the locomotive was powered by a 1932 four cylinder Chevrolet engine which powered electric motors in the front and rear trucks. It has air horns and air brakes, true to the diesel locomotives of the D&H that passed by Mr. Sullivan’s house and which it was modeled after. Also included with the railway are two oak and cherry passenger cars which carry 15 adult passengers, as well as 8 other cars for work and track maintenance, spare wheels and motors, 2,790 feet of mining rail, and even a device Mr. Sullivan built to grind up old porcelain toilets and sinks for ballast. He built everything by hand in his extensive home machine shop, even harvesting the lumber for the two coaches from the family farm in Mt. Upton, NY. It truly was a long term labor of love for Mr. Sullivan, who enjoyed operating it for family and friends. When not operating the entire train itself, Mr. Sullivan operated a one person track car which could be used for track inspections.

Leatherstocking Railway operated the train out of the Milford Enginehouse until 1999 when we started operating full size trains on the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad. After that, a structure was built onto the existing Milford Enginehouse to store the locomotive and rolling stock, and a 1,200 foot loop track was built to operate the railway around the wetlands on our property, but interest waned, and continued mechanical problems prevented regular operations. The biggest mechanical problem involved the locomotive’s traction motors, which tended to overheat frequently causing the brushes to melt to the commutators of motors, requiring machining to repair. The main generator also began to fail, and repair estimates ran as high as $15,000. The MPR sat unused for years. In the meantime the right-of-way deteriorated. When we constructed the original right-of-way we did not use pressure treated lumber for ties, and they did not hold up to New York’s weather. A large number of ties rotted to a point where they could not hold gauge anymore.

Members Jim Loudon (with his brother Richard Grant), Patrick Cross, Paul Sternitzke, and the late Tom Eklund all worked on restoring the right-of-way, and Tom in particular worked on the locomotive’s mechanical problems until he passed away. In 2018, member Andrew Rock suggested to aspiring Eagle Scout Rudy Bohm of Cooperstown Boy Scout Troop #1254 that rebuilding the Milford Park Railway right- of-way would make an excellent Eagle Scout Project. Rudy reached out to LRHS President Bruce Hodges and worked commenced in the summer of 2018 with Rudy, his father and Scoutmaster Robert Bohm, their family, and several other members of Troop #1254 pitching in to complete the restoration. Member Jim Loudon served as supervisor and advisor to the project. Work included replacing most of the 1,200 foot loop tracks’ ties, as well as rebuilding the bridge at the outlet to the wetland the Railroad incircles. Most of the work was completed by the fall of 2018.

At the same time member Carl Ayres undertook the restoration of the locomotive itself, with assistance from members Paul Sternitzke and Bob Schorf, to make sure it would be ready to operate once the track structure has been renovated. Carl completely redesigned the locomotive’s electrical system so that the traction motors would operate off from battery power, and not the main generator as originally built. This saved a considerable amount of money from having to be spent either replacing or rebuilding the failed original main generator. New traction motors were purchased which were designed for extended continuous use, and new axles were machined to replace a broken one and to accept the new motors. The original 1932 Chevy engine was still used for the air compressor for air brakes, and will also be used to keep the batteries charged up while in operation.

The rejuvenated Milford Park Railway made its debut during the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad’s 150th Anniversary Celebration July 13 & 14, 2019 much to the delight of visitors and members alike. It was also used during the Fall Foliage Season to shuttle passengers from our auxiliary parking area next to Milford’s Wilber Park to the Milford Depot. Work to be completed in 2020 includes ballasting the right-of-way and cleaning up and landscaping the area behind the Milford Enginehouse to improve the ride’s eye appeal for our passengers. Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to get this valuable and popular asset back in service again.