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Fairbanks Feature: The Next Station Will Be . . . (the third and last in a series)

James D. Van Trump Library | Frank B. Fairbanks Transportation Archive | Fairbanks Features

Showcasing a variety of materials located in the Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive

No. 17 Presentation

Fairbanks Feature: The Next Station Will Be . . . (the third and last in a series)

This feature in “A New Train of Thought” is the third and last in a three-part series highlighting the 13-volume series of The Next Station Will Be . . . , published by The Railroadians of America, Inc. (For the other two articles, please read Fairbanks Features 15 & 16.) Volume 7 is featured in this article: ERIE RR, PORT JERVIS, SUSQUEHANNA, and SCRANTON.

The 13-volume series was published mostly in the 1970s, from glass plate slides taken of railroad stations in 1910. These books are no longer in print and thus are getting very hard to find; some volumes are into the rare status. Frank Fairbanks donated most of the issues, and patron-donated funds made it possible to purchase the rest, when and if they came on the market. We were just recently able to complete the set.

The first two articles in this three-part series featured pictures of some of the old stations, mostly found in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York along the Erie Line. This article was inspired by a photo caption in Volume 7 that appeared under a large three-story wooden building at Hancock, New York. The caption read:

AMERICAN HOTEL at Hancock was noted for the tragic love story of Fannie Read (1845-1932) who lived her life in the building waiting seventy years for her lover, Lieutenant John Bellows, who never returned. Fanny never retired until the midnight train had departed.

This caption encourages the reader to find out more of the heart-breaking story––and more of the story can be found on the internet in old newspaper articles. For the complete story, come to the Fairbanks Archive to read all the details, but in brief, the story is as follows, according to the Middletown Times Herald (August 13,1938).

During the Civil War, the American Hotel was a stopping place for soldiers on their way to and from battle. The Delaware Regiment 101st Infantry group, along with others, was often there. Fannie was 18 to 20 years old, the popular and pretty piano-playing daughter of the hotel owner. Life was exciting with all these soldiers coming and going, and one stole her heart: John Bellows. Fannie’s father was many times very upset with these wild young men, who often did not pay their bills and caused other troubles.

When John became the love of Fannie’s life, her father was not at all pleased. Her father ordered this young officer out of the hotel, at which point Fannie locked herself in her room, where her father had ordered her to go, and she vowed never to leave it. She never did. For the next 70 years of her life (she lived to be 90, dying in 1932), Fannie waited each night at the window with a lighted candle, until the midnight train passed by, hoping John would disembark. He never did. She spent the last two years of her life at the Binghamton State Hospital in Binghamton, New York, not aware of where she was. Thankfully, she was also unaware of her home being razed and its contents sold at auction.

Visit the Archive to read the complete story––and to discover why the officer never returned.

Sometimes in the summer breeze you can still hear Fannie playing her rosewood piano.

The following illustrations from the Fairbanks Archive help document the story.

  1. The American Hotel in Hancock, in 1862, when the story began.
  2. Page five, Middletown Times Herald, August 13, 1938
  3. Enlargement of Hotel Auction notice, August 13, 1938
  4. Fannie Read before she became a recluse.
  5. Fannie’s Café today (in search engine, Fannie’s Café in Hancock, New York)

The Frank B. Fairbanks Rail Transportation Archive is open by appointment on Mondays, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Use of the archive is free to PHLF members (one of the benefits!); non-members are assessed a $10 use fee.

The Archive is located on the fourth floor of The Landmarks Building at Station Square, in the offices of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

To schedule an appointment, email the Librarian James Halttunen:

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633