Southern Central's Little 'Jimmies'
Took Vast Quantity of Coal to Lake
Rails have been removed from the Lehigh Valley's coal trestle at North Fair haven, and the trestle has been sold to Whitman & Robinson of Weedsport, who are tearing it down. They have a saw mill on the job converting the timbers into saleable lumber.
The trestle was erected by the Southern Central Railroad Company and hundreds of thousands of tons of coal were handled annually, making North Fair Haven a busy lake port. Old residents along the Southern Central recall the coal "jimmies" of the early days of the railroad. The "jimmies" were 6-ton coal cars with four wheels. Coal trains were made up of an immense number of cars, coupled by hand with three links and pins, and braked by hand.
The first project was known as the Lake Ontario, Auburn & New York Railroad, for which articles were filed May 23, 1856, and its life was continued to July 1, 1875, by act of May 10, 1869.
Articles of the Southern Central Railroad Company were filed November 17, 1857, for a total length of 116 1/2 miles from Fair haven to Athens, Pa. The 68 miles from Auburn to Owego was opened in 1871. Trains were running over the southern part of the road earlier. Sounds of cannon fired at the Groton celebration in 1869 were heard in Cortland.
The Lake Ontario, Auburn & New York Railroad subscribers defaulted and did not take their stock and the Southern Central, delayed by the Civil War, finally beat them out.
The Lehigh's trestle at North Fair Haven had a capacity of 45,000 tons. The deputy collector of customs looked up some old statistics, showing shipments in 1877 of 140,000 bushels of barley, 1,500,000 feet of lumber, 2,000,000 lath, 1,000 cords of cedar posts, 3,000 tons of iron ore, and 65,000 tons of coal. From April to December, 360 vessels loaded at the port. In 1897 trestle handled 240,000 tons of coal.
The long trains of coal "jimmies" disappeared when the railroads began to haul coal in gondolas, and now lake shipments are thing of the past so far as North Fair Haven is concerned.