5085 Martisco Road
2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Every Sunday and holiday, May 1 through October
Group tours may be arranged by appointment
For further information:
Central NY Chapter, N.R.H.S., Inc.
P.O. Box 229
Marcellus, NY 13108-0229
For almost a century and a half, the cities of Syracuse and Auburn have been tied together by two ribbons of steel. Chartered in 1834 as the Auburn & Syracuse Railroad, the line was part of the original rail link between Albany and Buffalo. The construction of the direct line connecting Syracuse and Rochester, completed in 1853, and the formation of the New York Central shortly thereafter, meant a shift from primary to secondary status. Today the line is simply the Auburn Branch of the former Penn Central.
The A&S bypassed the Village of Marcellus, but provided a station some two miles north. The present brick structure was erected in 1870 to replace the original wooden building. In 1897, the Marcellus Electric Railroad was chartered to provide a direct rail line between the Village and the Station. However, no electric train ever operated on the line.
In 1905, the Marcellus & Otisco Lake Railway was formed to take over operation of the short line. In order to avoid the confusion of two stations bearing the name Marcellus, the New York Central renamed its station Martisco as a contraction of Marcellus and Otisco.
Passenger service on the branch reached its zenith in the early 1900’s. A great variety of New York Central passenger equipment, including diners, parlor cars, and sleepers, was regularly assigned to the branch line trains, and excursionists and vacationers managed to fill every available seat. The private auto however soon forced “The Great Steel Fleet” to be reduced. The final Auburn branch passenger train left Syracuse on the morning of May 18, 1858; it consisted of a single diesel locomotive, baggage car, coach and sleeper.
The M&OL ceased operation in 1959 and was abandoned the following year. Conrail provides freight service five days a week; a single train runs from Dewitt to Auburn and returns. The Martisco freight house, suffering from old age, collapsed in 1970. If the train stops here at all, it is only to switch a car or two at the former A.V. Smith plant (now Wickes Agriculture). More often than not, the engineer just whistles for the grade crossing and takes his train thundering by.
In 1964, the Central New York Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society learned that Martisco Station was scheduled for demolition. Early in 1965, a lease was obtained from the New York Central and the station was purchased the following year.
Martisco was four walls and a leaking roof when the Chapter members started the renovations. Fixtures and furniture were obtained from other abandoned stations, fresh paint restored visual respectability, electric and water lines were reconnected, and a new roof corrected leaks caused by years of neglect. It is the Chapter’s aim to make this one of the finest station museums in the country.
Martisco Station is today’s museum of railroading’s past. Sit on the old wooden bench, prop your feet up next to the pot-bellied stove, hear the agent as he taps his telegraph key, relax and listen for the sound of a steam train coming up the valley.
NATIONAL RAILWAY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The Central New York Chapter of the national Railway Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of railroad history. In addition to the Martisco Station Museum, the chapter also maintains several railroad passenger cars that are located at the New York State Fairgrounds.
The Chapter is always receptive to contributions of photographs, timetables, and any other forms of railroadiana.
FURTHER READING RECOMMENDATIONS
Railroad books published by the Central New York Chapter, N.R.H.S., Inc. include:
“Gone But Not Forgotten” by Richard Palmer
Tracing the history of the shortest railroad in New York state, the defunct Marcellus & Otisco Lake Railway.
“The Corner of Hickory and Third” by Lawrence J. Meloling
A nostalgic review of the wistful trolley era in Liverpool and Syracuse
“Steam Railroads of Central New York”
A photo gallery of steam in Syracuse and the Central New York area
“Railroads in the Streets”
A look back at the time when great trains ran in the streets of Syracuse
“Lackawanna in Syracuse”
Photos and history of a colorful railroad in the Central New York area