Michael J. O'Brien's Beaver Creek, Midlakes & Eastern

photos by Michael J. O'Brien
Concocted Corporate History

"The Route of the Senecas"

Michael J. O'Brien

Construction Foreman & General Manager, Midlakes Eastern Railway


Somewhere along about 1865, in the quiet township of Farmington, in bucolic Ontario County, in the beautiful Western Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, a group of enterprising gentlemen saw the need that a vastly improved transportation system would fulfill concerning the movement of basic commodities. This also being the time when "Railroad Fever" was at a fever pitch, as it were, they decided that a railroad was just what their region needed to begin the push toward true progress and modernization. Visions of profit and cash flow must have entered into the equation somewhere, but history does not always record such details when the ventures are small and highly localized, so neither will I.

This group of investors, headed and encouraged by Isaac Payne, a well-known, well-heeled, well-spoken, well-thought-of local farmer and land baron, decided to plunge into these untested waters head first and with both feet. This uncomfortable starting position nevertheless netted them a railroad blessed with good traffic, full loads, and heavy but manageable tonnage. The Farmington and Midlakes Railroad, as it was christened handled those "basic" commodities of produce, grain, milk, livestock, sand, gravel, quarried stone, milled textiles and metal work both on-line and as traffic being shipped off-line. In-bound commodities not originating in that area included iron and steel stock, coal, fuel oil and the hundred-and-one different items that made up general freight and express shipments. Passengers were also an enthusiastic, if somewhat frugal aspect of operations. Connections to the outside world were made initially East of Midlakes with the New York Central and Hudson River RR.


One commodity that took some time to develop as a moneymaker, but that proved a wise investment nonetheless, was lumber. Not typically known as a focus of the lumber industry, this region developed a highly specialized trade in hardwoods for high-grade millwork and cabinetry stock along with some excellent results in lumber for the construction trades thanks in large part to Isaac Payne and friends. In order to keep their initial investments for this "branching out" of operations under control, minimize the impact on the countryside, and replicate the efforts of their relatives in the state of Maine (thereby utilizing the concepts of both nepotism and parts commonality to further reduce costs), it was decided that it would be best to begin the new lumber venture with a 30 inch gauge railroad. Thus began the history of the little known, but actually quite successful, Beaver Creek Eastern Hardwood Lumber Company.


Since this is supposed to be a "Brief" history, at this point we will summarize things by saying that after many, many decades of prosperity and black ink, the lumber business fell off sharply along with their general railroad traffic too. So in order to avoid receivership, the whole kit and caboodle was reformed into the Beaver Creek, Midlakes & Eastern Railroad. This version of the firm rolled along nicely until well into the 20th century, when the routing of the lines of the little company fell under the scrutiny of the larger railroads in the area, who proceeded to make such an attractive offer for the properties that the descendants of the original investors felt it their civic duty to surrender the BCM&E forthwith, so as not to hinder the progress of the communities served; communities into whose banks these investors would soon be depositing the net earnings of the line that had become known as "The Route of the Senecas".


A large gap has obviously ensued in the intervening years between the fall of the flag for BCM&E and the genesis of today's Midlakes Eastern. Such a gap in fact, that it was nearly impossible to even find records of the existence of the earlier road(s). Today's version of "The Route of the Senecas", being much easier to document, has no less entertaining a story to tell about its beginnings.

In the early spring of 1992, after years of planning and discussion, a group of serious railfans and railroad modelers from the Western Finger Lakes region of New York, banded together to attempt to bring rail transportation service back to this region of the state. They felt the time had come for a more cost-effective alternative to trucking, which was also more environmentally friendly and would serve well the newly emerging mid-to-high tech businesses in the area.

These efforts were aided by the sell-off of dozens of route miles of trackage by Conrail, and by the fact that almost none of the roadbed of the former Lehigh Valley in the area had been developed for any other uses. However the key ingredient in this fortunate mix of vision, demand and happenstance, although officially discounted by the railway's brass, would certainly seem to be the fact that every one of the founders is or was an individual winner of the New York State Lotto jackpot at sometime in the last ten years.

So after the necessary renovations and acquisition of equipment, trackage and structures, the lining up of shippers contracts, the generation of ever-present state and federal documentation and the hiring of a veteran staff of seasoned railroad workers, the Midlakes Eastern Railway, known as "The Route of the Senecas", was rolling. For a more detailed look at this developing short-line power, we invite you to watch for our upcoming work entitled:

The Midlakes Eastern Railway.hey, you never know!


Long view of Michael J. OBrien's BCM&E


FGLK 1704 and caboose