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Editor’s Note: Rex Ennis, Grindstone Island, is well known in the region for his historical knowledge of Charles G. Emery from Calumet Island and the Frontenac Hotel on Round Island. However, Rex continues to bring to light, many more interesting notes on the history of the Thousand Islands.

The Buffalo, Thousand Islands and Portland Railroad had the unique distinction of being the shortest railroad in the Unites States. According to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in 1904 the line was 1000 feet long!

It was controlled by the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad and connected it to the Lehigh Valley Railroad in Buffalo. ICC report goes on to say that the Railroad paid $32,000 in dividends or $32 per foot! It was probably the most profitable railroad, per foot , in the country; however this revenue was from rental of the company's properties.

The railroad was incorporated under the laws of New York State on 20 April 1850 and ceased operations 57 years later, on June 1, 1907. The control of the road was acquired by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad when it purchased the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad.

The President was William H. Newman, and William K. Vanderbilt was a director. Both Newman and Vanderbilt were fond of the Thousand Islands and were often guests at Charles G. Emery's world class New Frontenac Hotel on Round Island.

The railroad's capital was $500,000. Investors included the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York which reported in 1891 that their investment of $36,000 paid $2,200.

The R. W. & O's original plan for the B.T.I. & P. was for a railroad 24 miles long from Buffalo to Niagara Falls and the rail Suspension Bridge. Rights of way were acquired at a cost of $1,000,000. The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad decided, after getting control, constructing the additional track was not necessary as it already had facilities in the area.

The B.T.I & P had received an extension of its charter in 1890 with the provision that it complete construction of the 24 miles of track by 1 June 1907, when it failed to do so the charter was terminated. The Lehigh Valley Railroad was an investor and when the line ceased operations in 1907;  Lehigh wrote off the $334,885 investment.

By Rexford M. Ennis, Grindstone Island RexEnnis@thousandislandlife.com

© Copyright Rexford M. Ennis 2009, All Rights Reserved

Bibliography:

  • "The Story of the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad" by Edward Hungerford, McBride 1922 Note: this book was digitized in September 2007 and is available online.
  • "Annual Report" NYS Public Service Commission, 1910
  • "Journal of the Annual Convention" Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, 1889
  • "Evidence Taken by the ICC" Government Printing Office, 1911