'Rail Transportation in Ontario County NY' answers a major question for author Robert Ward

CANANDAIGUA — Robert Ward asked a question back in 2000, that now, 20 years later, he’s answered.

“Can you tell me what were the railroads that operated in Ontario County?” Ward asked — and with no ready answers, he embarked on years of research that had him reading government and railroad reports, poring over old newspaper articles and attending model train shows for books that may have provided him with clues.

“I turned over every rock I could think of,” Ward said.

This search for answers resulted in the 400-plus page resource document, “Rail Transportation in Ontario County NY.”

“It’s been a long, long trail to get here and it’s probably the only book I’ll ever write,” said Ward, of Canandaigua. “But I’m pretty proud of it.”

Ward initially became interested in trains through his son, who at the time was interested in earning a merit badge in Scouting. So they put together a model train layout in the basement.

“I was spending more time down there than he was,” Ward said.

Ward was in the middle of a doctorate program in parks, recreation and tourism at Michigan State University when this project came to him, an opportunity to “clear the cobwebs,” he said.

Ward puts the official count of railroads that operated or were proposed in the county at 130. The number of railroad entities numbers more than 200. Railroad history, which begins in the early 1800s and continues to this day, touches in some way every town and city in the county, Ward said.

The book itself is organized into six parts, including listings by decade, information on rail corridors and where the railroads operated, and appendices of documents.

Ward also includes information on stops along the rail lines such as Ennerdale, in the town of Hopewell, that may not be familiar to many.

“Long forgotten names but memorable at the time,” Ward said.

Ontario County Historical Society Executive Director Ed Varno said Ward’s extensive detailed research is evident in this one-stop, comprehensive source of rail transportation information.

“Bob Ward is to be commended for this work,” Varno said. “It is a one-of-a-kind and will be an invaluable historical resource for generations to come.”

Ward plans to get copies of the book into the hands of town historians as well as historical societies and libraries. And as for that original question, he’s confident this is the answer.

“It’s the only book that’s been published that answers that question,” Ward said. “It’s got a lot of information in 420 pages.”