The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770

www.portvillehistory.org
Portville, New York
Credits
The lovely watercolor
in our toolbar above is
a depiction of the office
at 17 Maple Avenue.  
The artist is Portville's
very own talent,
Marilyn Reynolds.

Portville in the Limelight

Our little town of Portville has been given a lot of attention lately.  A few years ago, PHPS was
contacted by Ernest L. Clausing, who had worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad.  Olean was in his
territory and John Karuch was his track foreman at Portville.  Mr. Clausing is also a member of the
Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society and was researching and writing an article
concerning the PRR in the Olean area for possible publication in the Keystone, the society's magazine.  

One of the questions that had been eluding him is where the Olean-Bolivar trolley crossed the PRR in
the White House area.  We assembled a group of our folks to discuss the White House area and an
ongoing project had begun.
Railroad History in Portville
This page was last updated on 5-20-11
Ernest and Cleora Clausing


OLEAN, N.Y., THE WAY IT
WAS
by Ernest L. Clausing
Mr. Clausing's thorough research and attention to detail
information he needed to write a very interesting article.  
Keystone.  We are thrilled to have been included in his
project have been given his permission to present his article
on our website.  (Read
"Olean, N.Y., The Way It Was" by
Ernest L. Clausing).

In researching the article, we contacted many people who
we thought could shed some light on the subject.  Many
thanks to Gene and Marion Newburg who recently sold
their Spring Hill family farm at the end of White House
Road.  They recalled that the trolley went alongside White
House and behind their house.  The trolley then followed
the Shawmut tracks, heading east toward Ceres.  The
trolley line has been gone since the late 1920's when it was
replaced by the automobile for transportation.

Some of the best photographs used in the article were sent
to PHPS from Bernice Eastman.  They were taken back in
1920 by Clarence Evans from the roof of the old
Northwestern tannery.  He lived in a house on White
House.  Denny Griffith lived on Highland Terrace which is
across the tracks from North's block plant.  He wrote "I
walked those tracks to school and we would find mail
from the railroad, they would miss as they tried to get it
from the tower."  That tower was the WH tower that Mr.
Clausing mentions in his article (see the photo below).

Our fascination with the railroads goes way back into Portville's history.  Our PHPS treasurer, Bob
Fairbanks, maintains his grandfather Dutch Marsh's story about the clandestine night caper, tearing up
the tracks without the Pennsy railroad's knowing.  We all want to believe it, of course.  Mr.
Clausing's further research turned up this article:  "A temporary crossing will soon be secured over
the Pennsylvania at grade, the appellate division at Buffalo having upheld the decision of Justice
Kenefick. The Pennsylvania has proposed either an underground or overhead crossing be made.  They
are willing to bear a share of the cost."  Whether an event preceded this decision or not, we will
probably never know for sure.

The P S & N railroad had a passenger car affectionately known as the "Hoodlebug".  We scanned this
photo recently (see below) from the Shawmut book for a former Eldred resident writing his life
story.  Tom Pollock also recalled his Mother taking the Hoodlebug from Portville to Smethport.  He
says it was a single, self-propelled car that she got on at the Shawmut station here in Portville and
went back and forth to her parents' home in Smethport.
Portville Movie Fame
Another bit of fame that came Portville's way recently was the filming of the Denzel Washington
movie,
Unstoppable.  Mr. Clausing, author of the Keystone article described above, sent us some
interesting photographs and a story about the movie forwarded from his friend, Art Wheeler.  Those
of you who saw the movie may find the following article interesting:

"Unstoppable is inspired by the "Crazy Eights" unmanned train incident in 2001. The train, led by
CSX Transportation SD40-2 #8888, left its Walbridge, Ohio, rail yard and began a 66-mile (106
km) journey through northwest Ohio with no one at the controls, after the engineer got out of the
originally slow-moving train to correctly line a switch, mistakenly believing he had properly set the
train's dynamic braking system, just as his counterpart in the movie did.

"Two of the train's tank cars also contained thousands of gallons of molten phenol, a toxic
ingredient of paints and dyes harmful when it is inhaled, ingested, or comes into contact with the
skin.  Attempts to derail it using a portable derailer failed, and police were unable to shoot out the
fuel release valve, instead hitting the fuel cap. For two hours, the train traveled along at speeds up
to 47 miles per hour (76 km/h) until the crew of a second train coupled onto the runaway and slowly
applied its brakes. Once the runaway was slowed down to a speed of 11 miles per hour, a CSX
employee, trainmaster Jon Hosfeld, ran alongside the train and climbed aboard, shutting down the
locomotive. The train was stopped just southeast of Kenton, Ohio.

"When the film was released, the Toledo Blade compared the events of the film to the real-life
incident. "It's predictably exaggerated and dramatized to make it more entertaining," wrote David
Patch, "but close enough to the real thing to support the 'Inspired by True Events' announcement
that flashes across the screen at its start." He notes that the dead man switch would probably have
worked in real life despite the unconnected brake hoses, unless the locomotive brakes were already
applied. The film exaggerates the possible damage the phenol could have caused in a fire, and he
found it incredible that the fictional AWVR freely disseminated information such as employees'
names and images and the cause of the runaway to the media. In the real instance, he writes, the
cause of the runaway was not disclosed until months later when the National Transportation Safety
Board released its report, and CSX never made public the name of the engineer whose error let the
train slip, nor what disciplinary action it took."  (Author Unknown)
The train derailment on the set of "Unstoppable"
Photograph of the Hoodlebug was scanned from the publication Pittsburg, SHAWMUT & Northern
Railroad Company
, by Paul Pietrak, 1969
A Sad Goodbye to Our Friend, Mr. Ernest Clausing    (added 11-23-13)

We had not heard from Mr. Clausing in recent years so we decided to see what could possibly be the
matter.  We were saddened to find an obituary regarding his death, not long after his article was
published.  He was a railroad fan right until the end and we are so glad that his article on Portville and
Olean made it into print.  He will be sadly missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him,
especially in the circles of railroad history and research.

Ernest L. Clausing (1924-2011)