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Jamestown, Chautauqua and Lake Erie Railway


Postcard Courtesy of Madison Kirkman – M.M.C.C.H.S.

In this postcard, you can see Ferris Wheel right in front of the motor car window, across the lake.  This would be the one in Celoron Park, Chautauqua Lake, New York.

Here’s another view of the car in an unknown rail yard.

Postcard Courtesy of Madison Kirkman – M.M.C.C.H.S.

A conductor on the #1.

The History of the Jamestown, Chautauqua and Lake Erie Railway

Following Information from Abandoned Rails

The railroad began in 1881 as a single track between Mayville and Chautauqua, New York and was strictly called Mayville Extension Railroad.  By 1894 they had reorganized and were then named the Jamestown and Lake Erie and were running between Jamestown and Chautauqua.  Later in 1899, they became simply the Jamestown and Chautauqua Railroad.  In 1902 they reformed as the Jamestown, Chautauqua & Lake Erie Railroad which only ran from Mayville to Westfield, omitting Jamestown from the route even though it was still in the name as the track was not owned by the railroad.  In 1911, they would purchase the McKeen Car #1 and use it for only 2 years before reportedly selling it to a railroad in Missouri. The railroad would later become the Jamestown, Westfield & Northwestern in 1913, and would cease all operations in 1950.  The right of way is now mostly abandoned, rails in place, and the car has been lost to history.

The following is from the 23rd Annual report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners of the State of New York for 1905.

On September 6, 1905, I made an inspection of the Jamestown, Chautauqua and Lake Erie railway, and respectfully submit the following report: The Jamestown, Chautauqua and Lake Erie Railway, a single track railroad, extends from Jamestown on the line of the Meadville division of the Erie railroad, to Westfield, where it connects with the Lake Shore and Michigan railway, a distance of 31.25 miles. It has also a branch line which connects with the Western New York and Pennsylvania railroad at Mayville, and extends to Chautauqua, a distance of 2.68 miles, and has trackage rights over the Western New York and Pennsylvania railroad from Mayville to where a connection is made with the main line; a distance of 1.20 miles. This branch line is called Chautauqua branch, and is only used as a freight road. It owns another branch line known as the Falconer branch which connects with the main line near Jamestown and extends to Falconer, on the line of the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley and Pittsburgh railroad, a distance of 3.46 miles; this branch road has not been in operation since the last inspection (May, 1903) and is now unfit for use; it cannot be put in operation again until the track and structure have been rebuilt.

Main Line. The road is very crooked and many of the curves are sharp. The maximum, aside from one of 18 degrees at Westfield, is 12 degrees. The grades along Chautauqua lake are generally light, but from Mayville to Westfield they are long and steep with a maximum of 106 feet per mile.{Editor note: this equates to a 2% grade} The cuts and embankments on the older portion of the road, from Jamestown to Mayville, are of fair width and the roadway is generally well drained, but on the newer portion, from Mayville to Westfield, many cuts are narrow, are not properly sloped, and ditches are lacking; the embankments are also narrow in places. The only span of iron bridge is an I-beam, deck structure over a street in Westfield; it has concrete abutments, standard ties and guard timbers and in good condition. A Howe truss over the outlet to Chautauqua lake in James town is the only span of wooden bridge, and that is in a track used for freight purposes only; the bridge is supported on abutments composed of piling and is very old and getting considerably decayed; it is to be replaced as soon as possible. There is a pile trestle at one end of the Howe truss bridge above referred to and a framed one about three miles from Westfield; both are of proper construction and in good repair. Small pile and framed trestles of two to five or six spans are also used for crossing small streams, the bents of which are generally in fair to good condition but some poor stringers were noted; also, many decayed ties and guard timbers; the attention of the superintendent of the railroad, who accompanied your inspector, was directed to all of them and assurance was given that prompt renewals would be made; at nearly all the places referred to the materials for the work were on the ground and a force of carpenters was engaged putting them in place and had the necessary repairs made to many of the trestles and also to open culverts and cattle passes, most of which are constructed entirely of wood and were in about the same condition. A few of the open culverts and cattle passes on the newer portion of the road, from Mayville to Westfield, have abutments of masonry, but some of them were improperly constructed of small stone with poor foundation, and need to be rebuilt. Inside guard rails are not maintained on bridges or trestles. Most box culverts are of wood, but appear to be in fair condition. The arch and stone box culverts and iron pipe drains are good. The cross-ties—about 60 per cent. oak and the balance chestnut—are 6×8 inches, 8 feet in length and laid at the rate of 2,816 to the mile of track, are in fair condition, fairly well spaced and full spiked. Twenty-one and seventeen-hundredths miles of the track, from Jamestown to Mayville, are laid with 60-pound, and the balance with 70-pound steel rail; the 60-pound rail is generally in good condition, but a few rails that have been worn by slipping driving wheels of locomotives need to be replaced; the 70-pound rail is in first-class condition; the 60-pound rails are connected by angle plates 24 inches in length with 4 bolts, and the 70-pound rails by angle plates 34 inches in length with 6 bolts; all of the connections are full bolted and but few loose bolts were observed. The switches are split point and have rigid stands, all in fair condition, and have targets fairly well painted. Switch lamps are only used in the yard at Jamestown. The frogs are rigid, and no foot-guards are used. Derailing switches are in all sidings where their use – appears necessary, but targets to the stands are lacking. The alignment and surfacing of the tracks have been materially improved but are only fair; the outer rail on curves is about correctly elevated for the moderate rate of speed at which the trains are scheduled. The older portion of the road is very lightly ballasted with gravel, and weeds and grass are growing freely between the ties; the newer portion of the road is fairly ballasted with gravel. Two main tracks and one siding of the Erie railroad are crossed at grade in Jamestown; the crossing is protected by an interlocking plant. One track of the Western New York and Pennsylvania railroad is crossed at grade at Mayville; the crossing is protected by an interlocking plant. One track of the Jamestown street railroad crosses at grade in Jamestown; the approach to the crossing of both steam and electric tracks, is on steep grade and the cars of the electric rail road do not, at all times, stop before crossing; derailing switches should be put in the track of the electric railroad on both sides of the crossing so arranged that the conductors must cross the track of the steam railroad to close them and hold them closed until the car passes, this to insure the conductor going ahead of his car to see that no train is approaching. The right of way is free from trees, but much small brush remains and very little grass and weeds have been cut this season. The fences are mostly of wire, considerably out of repair on the older part of and in good condition on the new portion. The highway crossings are very well graded, the plank ing in good condition, and are protected by signs of the diamond form. No cattle guards are maintained. Two crossings are protected by flagmen and four by electric bells. Mile posts are maintained and the whistle posts are correctly located. . There are no overhead obstructions. The track sections are about five miles in length and a foreman and six laborers are employed upon each. They are furnished flags, lanterns and torpedoes. All the track is patrolled daily. The only interlocking maintained is at the crossing of the Erie railroad, and at the crossing of, and junction with, the Western New York and Pennsylvania railroad at Mayville. The movements of trains are governed by the telegraphic train order system; semaphore signals have been recently erected at the telegraph stations. The station buildings are in good repair and have been recently repainted; they have plank and gravel platforms, are furnished with drinking water, have timetables posted in the waiting rooms and are clean and well kept. Station employees are not uniformed. The motive power and rolling stock is in fair to good repair; the passenger cars have automatic couplers and air brakes, are heated by steam and lighted with oil lamps; drinking water is supplied and emergency tools are properly located; chemical fire extinguishers are carried in the cars. The locomotives and freight cars have automatic couplers and all excepting a few flat cars, used only in construction and maintenance service, have air brakes. All passenger trainmen are uniformed.

Recommendations. That the cuts on the newer portion of the road be properly widened and sloped and ditches cleaned; the Howe truss bridge promptly replaced; neces sary repairs to trestles, open culverts and to trestle, open culvert and cattle pass floors (above referred to) be made as rapidly as possible; that inside guard rails be put on all the bridges and trestles; that worn rails be re placed; all the switch stands be equipped with lamps; all frog, guard rails and heels of switches be protected by foot-guards; targets be put on the stands to derailing switches; that derailing switches be put in the track of the Jamestown Street railway each side of the crossing at Jamestown, so arranged that the conductors must cross the track of the steam railroad to close them and hold them closed until the car passes, the derail to open automatically; that the brush, grass and weeds be cut and removed; the fences put in proper repair, and cattle guards with guard fences maintained at each boundary of all highways crossed. Chautauqua Branch. The Chautauqua branch is fairly level, has light curves, is very well graded and drained, has only small openings, for passage of water, all wooden structures in medium to fair repair, the ties same kind and about the same condition as the main line; the rail–60-pound steel—fairly good. This branch is only used to carry freight to and from the Assembly grounds at Chautauqua, trains only going over it about once a day in each direction, at slow speed, and is in suitable condition for that operation. Falconer Branch. The switch connecting with this branch has been taken out and the branch has not been in operation for a year or more. It is not in condition for use and cannot be operated unless very extensively repaired. A copy of this report was sent to the company with a letter making the recommendations those of this Board. The company replied that the items were being taken up in detail and most of the suggested improvements have already been made. (No. 41–1905.)

Other interesting Reads:

Electrification of the Jamestown, Chautauqua and Lake Erie Railroad, Includes notations of using Niagara Falls electricity to power parts of the line.

The Westfield, New York Train Station used for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad as well as the J.C.&L.E.R.R. still exists.


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