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“Next Stop, Ca-a-anton!”
The Canton Creeper lives on in older Laurentians’ memories

For many years, one St. Lawrence tradition involved traveling to and from Canton on the New York Central Railroad’s “Canton Creeper” train. Ted Shrady ’61 wrote about the train in the Winter 2003 issue of Classic Trains magazine (©Kalmbach Publishing Co., edited excerpts reprinted with permission):

The word “creeper” can connote an insect, a climbing vine, or maybe a slow rock movement.  In this case, it refers to a train.

It is thought that St. Lawrence students gave the train the moniker “Canton Creeper” for its slow schedule.  How or when the name came about, though, is uncertain.

Canton saw its first passenger train in 1857, a year after the founding of St. Lawrence University.  Students and other North Country travelers had several trains a day until the mid-20th century, some from Utica and some from Syracuse.

After World War II, the automobile began to make major inroads into transportation habits, getting people to the North Country faster than a train could.  In May 1961 the Creeper ended, leaving only a daytime round-trip “Beeliner,” the railroad’s name for a self-propelled car.  Even that service ended on February 15, 1964.

Fare increases and decreasing ridership played a big part in the reduction of North Country passenger service.  An automobile when I was in college could go a good distance on $5 or $6 worth of gas, and students often carpooled to save even more.

The train we called the Canton Creeper might well be a lifetime memory for many of us who attended St. Lawrence, because it was always there.  Some depended on it for transportation, while others took note of its meandering through town twice a day, reminding us of a certain hour to be somewhere.  The name is still heard to this day, as alumni fondly recall “the Creeper.”

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