Watco Launches Ithaca Central on Former Lehigh Valley Route

Ithaca Central RailroadA portion of Lehigh Valley’s former Ithaca Branch formerly operated by Norfolk Southern will soon by operated by the new Ithaca Central Railroad (ITHR), a newly-formed subsidiary of short line operator Watco. In a November 8 filing with the Surface Transportation Board, Watco has requested an exemption allowing the Ithaca Central to operate as a Class III railroad on approximately 48.8 miles of between Sayre, Pa., and Lansing, N.Y., just north of Ithaca. Tracks were first laid by the Geneva, Ithaca & Sayre in 1875, later becoming part of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The current main customers are Cargill Salt in Lansing and a Waverly company that receives plastic pellets.

The agreement extends about four miles beyond Ithaca to the troubled Cayuga power plant. The coal-burning power plant has been steeped in controversy for years, and new owners have spent the past year unsuccessfully seeking approval to convert it to natural gas. The 325-megawatt generating station is one of just two coal plants still operating in New York, where state government is working end to all coal-fired power generation by 2020.

Ithaca Central will be the fortieth railroad in the stable of Kansas-based Watco, a non-operating holding company which controls 38 Class III shortlines and Class II Wisconsin & Southern. According to a statement by Watco on their company’s Facebook page, the company expects to have the Ithaca Central up and running by before the end of the year.

—Eric Berger, Railfan & Railroad

This article was posted on: November 14, 2018