In the middle 19th century, the town of Middlesex was quickly becoming a large agricultural community.
Fruit trees, berries and vineyards had been planted, and farms were producing more crops than were needed to feed their stock. Local farmers wanted a way to take their produce to a larger market, but the roads were not in good condition, especially in the spring. Their produce was taken by sled during the winter to Canandaigua and Geneva. When the steamboats were running, the produce was brought to Vine Valley, loaded onto the boat and taken to Canandaigua. This was a slow process, and since there was no refrigeration, perishable food soon spoiled.
In 1871, the Geneva and Southwestern railway approached the towns of Middlesex and Naples with the idea of building a railroad from Geneva to Naples. This would remedy the problem of getting crops the market. To accomplish this, the town of Middlesex was bonded for $50,000.
Grading of the proposed line started in the summer of 1872. Bridges were built and ties were purchased; however, this proved to be a more expensive project than originally thought. Construction was halted in 1873, but this bond would not be paid off until 1932.
In 1891, Frank Merrill, of Canandaigua, expressed interest in the abandoned railroad bed started by Geneva and Southwestern Railroad. People were skeptical about being involved in another expensive project; however, Merrill said that no money would have to be paid until 30 days after the train began to run. A tentative date was set for Sept. 1, 1892. Soon enough, money had been guaranteed for the project to start.
The new railroad, called Middlesex Valley Railroad, was incorporated May 11, 1892. This line was to run from Naples to Stanley, where a connection could be made with the Northern Central line. Depots were built at Naples, West River and Rushville, with the engine house and a turntable at Naples. Oliver Williams donated the land for the Middlesex station. The final stretch of the track was laid Aug. 24, 1892.
On Aug. 29, 1892, the first train went over the tracks. Large crowds gathered at each station to see this event. The train consisted of a locomotive, a combine and five coaches. This was the beginning of passenger service. The train made trips between Naples and Stanley twice daily, except on Sundays. The mail was brought to Middlesex daily, and was picked up by the postmaster. In December 1925, an electric gas dream was added for passenger service.
By July 1894, workers started to build an extension from Stanley to Geneva for a connection with Lehigh Valley. On Dec. 2, 1895, Lehigh Valley Railroad purchased the entire capital stock on the Middlesex Valley Railroad. It stayed as Middlesex Valley Railroad until Aug. 3, 1903, when the 29.4 miles of track became the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The engine house at Naples was abandoned, and work on the engines was done at the Geneva facilities.
In the early 1900s, freight trains were kept busy with bringing coal, building materials and farm equipment into the Middlesex and Naples area and taking out agricultural products. Sometimes, extra trains would be needed during the harvesting season.
Passenger trains continued to run twice a day until 1917, when mixed trains were used. These were trains with a passenger coach added to the rear of a freight train. For a while, a gas electric train was used between Geneva and Naples. These went into service in December 1925, but this service ended in July 1930 due to declining passengers.
In July 1915, the town of Middlesex celebrated the Fourth of July with several planned entertainments, yet there was one event that was not scheduled. The Lehigh Valley Railroad Station was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. In 1921, it was replaced with a new building with much the same design as the old one, but with much better materials. “The station was built up to the base of windows with a bungalow siding, and from there up shingled with red cedar shingles. The roof was covered with green slate shingles. The inside of the waiting room, office and lobby are finished with polish Georgians pine, and the seats, desk and counters of a polished oak. The entire partition between the office and the freight house is a filing case, and requires 14 panel doors to close it. The freight house is rat-proof, and painted black to the top of the freight house doors and is white from there up. The station is said to have cost $10,500.”
At a Washington’s birthday celebration in 1932 at Middlesex Town Hall, the town made its final payment on the $50,000 bond for the 1872 railroad that, because of financial difficulties, was never finished.
With the coming of better roads and larger trucks, the freight business was gradually declining. In June 1966, Lehigh Valley Railroad filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the Naples branch, but there were still some customers that did not want this to happen. Until 1973, service to Rushville operated biweekly. The trackage between Rushville Naples was abandoned in November 1970. The entire trackage was formally abandoned Feb. 28, 1975.
Patrick Hogan was the first engineer, and continued at this post for 40 years. Archie McClure was the first station agent in Middlesex, and Lee Finney was the last. When the railroads were operating, several small packing houses were built south of the depot to prepare goods for shipment.
In 1970, the railroad station was sold and torn down.