Did you know that the small town of New Berlin NY used to have two separate railroad yards? To understand why, it is necessary to understand a little of the history of railroading in New Berlin. Here’s the thumb-nail version: Starting in 1868, when railroad fever was running rampant in upstate New York, the New York & Oswego Midland Railroad built a line from Oswego NY southeast to New Jersey (just opposite New York City). They also built a branch line called “The New Berlin Branch” from just north of Sidney to New Berlin along the west side of the Unadilla River. They also built a large depot and a small switching yard on what is now Railroad Street south of Genesee Street in New Berlin (indicated by “O&W Yard” in the map below). The depot was built in 1869, the branch opened in 1870.
“The Midland”, as it was known, had spent much more money building the railroad than it expected, so it didn’t have enough left to run the railroad very well. In 1873, the Midland filed for bankruptcy. It carried on for a few years until it was reorganized as the New York, Ontario & Western Railroad in 1879.
The O&W ran for years hauling coal and milk and other agricultural products.
In 1889, the Wharton Valley railroad built a line from the O&W yard to Edmeston, known as the “Edmeston Branch”. It was leased to & run by the O&W.
A few years later, in 1895, the Unadilla Valley Railroad built a railroad from Bridgewater NY, where it connected with the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, to New Berlin, where it connected with the O&W. The UV and the O&W were competitors in New Berlin. So the UV set up its own yard, shown on the map as “UV Yard”. Now the local farmers could ship their products north to Bridgewater on the UV or south on the O&W to points south including New York City. Suffice it to say that the UV, the O&W and the DL&W all coexisted and held their own for many years.
Skip ahead many more years. The O&W filed for bankruptcy in 1937 and started selling off unprofitable assets. In 1941, the UV bought the 29-mile New Berlin Branch, including all of the track, right of way and depots between New Berlin Junction (at East Guilford, a couple of miles north of Sidney) and New Berlin, as well as the Edmeston Branch.
So the formerly competing UV & O&W roads were now combined into one operating railroad between New Berlin Junction and Bridgewater, still with the Edmeston branch going to Edmeston. With a few customers around the O&W yard (specifically at least a lumber yard and a fuel dealer), it didn’t make sense to just uproot the O&W yard. So it remained, along with the larger UV yard a little ways north of it.
The UV chugged along from 1941 until things slowed down during the 50s as trucks took over much of the work that had been done by trains in earlier times. In 1957, the O&W, in bankruptcy since 1937, shut down. Also in 1957, the large milk plant in Mt. Upton, the UV’s largest customer, also shut down. The UV continued losing money until 1960, when the UV, itself, shut down as well. The track was ripped up, the rolling stock, buildings and right of way were sold off thus leaving behind the story of two separate railroad yards in New Berlin NY.