Waiting at Freeville
Up until the Great Depression, one of the busiest railroad junction points in this region was Freeville, New York. An old train register, which is a book that the station agent maintained to keep track of train movements, shows that on a typical day in the mid-1920s, as many as 25 freight and passenger trains a day passed through here.
Freeville was the cross-over point for the Lehigh Valley Railroad's Elmira & Cortland, and Sayre, Pennsylvania, to Auburn branches. As a consequence, passenger trains met here twice and sometimes more frequently to exchange passengers.
In the early days, a third railroad, the Auburn branch of the New York & Oswego Midland, also passed through Freeville. But this was abandoned in the 1890s. Freeville also boasted a large hotel known as the "Junction House."
Through the 1930s one passenger train after another was discontinued. In 1938 the large brick passenger station was closed and demolished. What few passengers still rode the "mixed" trains would wait in the less-accommodating surroundings of the freighthouse office. The Lehigh Valley finally discontinued this service in the early 1950s.
Eventually, in the mid-1970s, even these branchline railroads through Freeville were abandoned, and today only pleasant memories remain for such oldtimers as Kenneth Rice of Freeville, the last station agent there.
Although old timetables would lead one to believe that passenger service was more than adequate on these Lehigh Valley branchlines, those who actually experienced it have said that trains frequently ran behind schedule. One story is told of a woman in labor who was traveling aboard the mixed train from Sayre to Auburn to visit relatives.
When asked by the conductor why she chose to ride this particular train when she knew she was pregnant, she said, "I wasn't when I got aboard!"
This particular train, also known as "the accommodation," seemingly stopped at every crossroads to switch out freight cars. Very little effort was made to keep to a published schedule, particularly if it was the only train operating on the line at the time.
Such irregular service apparently also existed in the early 1900s when Irv Nichols, a traveling salesman, penned the following lines:
My pa he is a trav'ling man;