Great Lakes Photo Archive Title Image

The Coal Dock at Sodus Point, New York


FONTANA - 22 July 1955 - Photographed while she was loading coal at the Pennsylvania Railroad coal trestle at Sodus Point, New York. At that time the coal trestle was at the height of its operation, with coal shipments peaking the following year at 2,401.676 tons. As the 1950s became the 1960s, the ships continued to grow in size and by 1967 coal shipments finally came to an end.

FONTANA was built in 1904 at Ecorse, Michigan as R.W. ENGLAND for the England Transit Company of Cleveland, Ohio. In 1920 she became FRANK SEITHER following her sale to the Valley Steamship Company also of Cleveland. In 1923 she was renamed FONTANA and, following a number of subsequent sales, she ended up in the fleet of the American Steamship Company in 1942; bearing the same name.

She sailed for the American Steamship Company until the late 1950s and was often sighted at Sodus Point loading coal for numerous ports on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 and the advent of much larger modern ships, FONTANA was quickly deemed surplus and at the end of 1959 she was retired. On 6 November 1960 she arrived under tow at Hamilton, Ontario where she was subsequently cut up for scrap - a port to which she had often delivered cargoes of coal that had been loaded at the Sodus Point Coal Trestle.

The coal trestle seen in this photo was an extensively rebuilt version of the original structure; which was built in 1873 by the Sodus Point and Southern Railroad Line. In 1927 it was raised from 40 to 60 feet above the water, extended from 400 to 800 feet out into the lake, 4 additional coal chutes were added and a 12,000 car railway storage yard was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company; which had purchased the former SP&S Railroad and trestle back in 1884.

Coal loading increased steadily at the Sodus Point trestle through the '40s, '50s and the early '60s however it was not to last. Like the small FONTANA, the antiquated coal trestle was no longer able to compete, as the fleets of the 1960s began transforming transportation on the Great Lakes. Coal shipments ended in 1967 and in 1971 the trestle was sold to a local businessman, who had a new vision for the lakefront property. Demolition began in October of that year; however, a fire in November destroyed much of what had not yet been demolished. Once the structure was entirely dismantled, the land and surrounding property was reconfigured to include a new marina; a function which this location is still used for today.

With this one photo, Elmer Treloar captured a moment in time when people of a different generation worked in one of the only industries Sodus Point, New York ever had. Families grew, people worked, coal was loaded and ships carried Pennsylvania bituminous and anthracite coal to ports many miles away. A snapshot of life as it was 64 years ago.