A 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