Recent visitor to our Tug Hill gamecam. I would like to have been there…well, maybe not…
Interesting to note how the very same commenter will post a complaint on my blog how slowly my blog loads up and that I need to fix it, then on the same day comment how wonderful my blog is and how fast it loads on his blackberryipod or whatever. Is it really about me?
Snowmobilers, hunters, fishermen, and lost hikers who have spent much time on the Tug Hill have surely visited or at least heard of such exotic locations as Montague, Osceola, Monteola, Page, Michigan Mills, Hooker, and Tabolt Corners. Many snowmobilers who have traveled past these locations probably never knew that they were visiting the site of Tug Hill’s short-lived Glenfield & Western Railroad, fondly known as the “Old Gee Whiz”.
I recently came across a delightful little book covering the history of this line, written by Brian D. Mumford, a Tug Hill native, and Frederick J. Schneider. Since most people will probably never see this book, which had a limited private publication, I will share with you some of the highlights.
The G&W came into being in 1900, when lumber companies like Page & Fairchild and Gould Paper decided they needed a better way than horses and sleighs to transport the seemingly endless supply of virgin logs and lumber from The Tug. The only waterway large enough for driving logs was too far south, others were either too small or ended in large gulfs where they left the plateau. The railroad was built from Glenfield, where it met the NY Central Railroad, up the steep sides of the plateau to Page, Michigan Mills, and other locations, eventually reaching 32 miles of tracks. The railroad used at least 3 different engines in hauling, each a bit larger than the previous version. These logging camps and sawmills were thriving communities for a while, with as many as 500 workers in the woods and hauling logs.
Many hardships hampered the railroad, with derailments, breakdowns, and especially, as you may imagine, the severe Tug Hill winters. It was a major task to keep the tracks cleared, and in later years, hauling was suspended from January to March. But the Gee Whiz hauled millions of board feet from The Tug. In later years, a second railroad, called, not surprisingly, The Glenfield & Eastern, was built into the Adirondacks near Brantingham Lake, with the idea of supplying the mills during winter.
The G&W, like many companies, faltered and died during the First Great Depression of 1929, and ended in bankruptcy. The engines, rails, and other equipment were sold and the route abandoned. Not much remains today except for bridge abutments, gradings, a few ties, and the right-of-way, which is now used mostly by snowmobilers and hunting camps. I rode the “railroad” a few times back in the early snowmobiling days of the ’60s and ’70s. A group of us once ran out of fuel on the railroad, after trying to snowmobile cross-country from Rector, and spent a long evening around a bonfire while one of our group rode to Houseville for fuel. It is remote. Anyway, next time you ride the railroad from Page to Tabolt Corners by sled, slow down for a few moments and contemplate the history of that beautiful area, and think of The Ol’ Gee Whiz running thru the snowy night.
Feeling kind of blue today…just read that my ol’ Tug Hill high school bud Steve passed on. Steve was probably the closest thing to a friend I had in high school. We both rode the bus to Lowville from The Tug, and being “outsiders” to the town kids, we stuck together. We both enjoyed hunting, fishing, and outdoor stuff, and both were easygoing. We drifted apart after school; I did 3 years in the army, then when I got out, he did his 3 years. It was standard back then. After that, though we both stayed in the area, and hunted and fished and camped on The Tug, we traveled in the same circles, but at different times, I guess. Saw each other at a couple of class reunions and vowed to get together, but never did.
Then last fall, I saw an article in the Watertown paper about Steve and Linda’s 50th Anniversary, so I looked him up, and we talked for a while on the phone. Seems we still had a lot in common, especially The Tug. I had been foliage photographing just a couple miles from his camp the month before…never knew he was there. He was not well, and I promised to visit them when I got back to Tug Hill this summer…waited too long. I guess that is what I feel worst about. Another on my growing pile of regrets.
Posted in communications, country roads, family, here'n there, history, Local news, lowville, military, montague, Random Thoughts, Regional, Tug Hill, tug hill, Tug Hill Stuff, upstate new york | Tags: death, friends, friendship, history, hunting, lewis county, life, lowville, montague, random thoughts, regrets, seniors, Tug Hill, veterans
I just found and purchased on ebay a book on the history of Tug Hill’s long-forgotten railroad, the Glenfield & Western, fondly known as the ‘Ol Gee Whiz. The G&W, though short-lived, moved most of the logs off the Tug, back in the day. I never knew there was a book on it, so I had to have it. Maybe the only copy. More later, for those who are interested.
Posted in country roads, Glenfield & Western, here'n there, history, lowville, montague, Random Thoughts, Regional, the tug, Tug Hill, tug hill, Tug Hill Stuff, tughill, upstate new york | Tags: G&W, history, lewis county, logging on Tug Hill, montague, New York, Tug Hill, Tug Hill Railroad
I just read on the newsjunky that a grassfire in Town of Harrisburg destroyed the old Amby Williams homestead. You remember…the old house with the big white silo still standing. Someday I intend to do a story of Amby, who was a very colorful neighbor back when I was growing up. I have a photo of his house, if I can get it to post. Grass fire? Ok.
I was just reading about the snowfall forecast for The Tug for the next couple of days: 18-30 inches on top of the foot or so they have so far this week. And today is, yes, the first day of Spring. All the snowmobilers love it, and if you live on Tug Hill, you enjoy it or live with it. If you enjoy winter sports, it makes for a long season to enjoy…even last year they got SOME snow when no one else did.
I can recall one winter, probably it was 1977, when my brother and I spent a day snowmobiling on April 15! And there was a lot of snow, with 6 foot banks on the roadsides. It got a bit soft in the afternoon when the temp went up…a few muddy spots and open creeks. Spring conditions, we always called it. But Tug Hill is THE place to be for winter sports, when the snow often starts to arrive in October, and stays into April. The old timers used to say The Tug had just two seasons: Snow Flies and Black Flies. Some truth to that, though we usually get some nice weather in August thru October. Usually.