From Humble Beginnings: The Genesee & Wyoming Railroad

Known today as a railroad holding company with numerous short-line railroads in its portfolio, the Genesee & Wyoming itself started as a short-line railroad in Upstate New York, running 14.5 miles between Retsof and Caledonia, NY.

Genesee & Wyoming Railroad 17 Steam Engine

The railroad first ran in 1891, after salt deposits were discovered within Wyoming County, NY, and was then named the Genesee & Wyoming Valley Railway. A financier, William Foster Jr, invested in a project to mine the salt, and a town grew as a result. It was named "Retsof", or "Foster" backwards.

From Retsof, two spurs were located to the east and west of the town to connect with the other railroads in the area, namely the Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad, and the Delaware Lackawanna & Western. In 1894, the line north to Caledonia was completed.

In 1899, it omitted the "Valley" in its name, and other than abandoning a connection to Cuylerville, NY in 1934, remained roughly the same size for nearly a century until 1977, when it was reorganized as a holding company, making the railroad a subsidiary operation.

The G&W then began to acquire lines from larger railroads looking to dispose of unprofitable assets, a process that continues to this day. As short-line companies are subject to lower taxes and regulations than Class I lines, there are situations where a line can run profitably as a smaller operation than as part of a large railroad. In 1997, its portfolio expanded outside the United States for the first time.

The original Genesee & Wyoming Railroad was sold to the Rochester & Southern in 2002, which still operates under that flag to this day.

Thanks as always for reading!

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