Catskill Mountain Railroad

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For the narrow-gauge railroad out of Catskill, New York, see Catskill Mountain Railway.
Catskill Mountain Railroad
Catskill Mountain Railroad New Logo.jpg
Terminus Section 1: Boiceville-Phoenicia, New York
Section 2: Kingston, New York-Ulster, New York
Commercial operations
Built by Ulster & Delaware Railroad
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Owned by Ulster County, New York
Operated by Catskill Mountain Railroad
Reporting mark CMRR
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Opened December 12, 1872
Closed 1976
Preservation history
1982 CMRR begins operations
Headquarters Phoenicia, New York
Website
catskillmtrailroad.com/

The Catskill Mountain Railroad (reporting mark CMRR), is a heritage tourist railroad based in Kingston, New York, that began operations in 1982. While freight service is no longer offered, regular passenger excursions are operated on two sections of track separated by massive washouts as a result of severe flooding. The railroad leases the former New York Central Railroad Catskill Mountain branch from Kingston to Highmount, New York, where it connects with the Delaware & Ulster Railroad (D&U). The railroad connects the Hudson Valley with the Catskill Mountains of New York State. The corridor was purchased by Ulster County in 1979 from the estate of Penn Central and subsequently leased to Catskill Mountain Railroad in 1982.

History[edit]

Ulster & Delaware to New York Central[edit]

The Ulster & Delaware Railroad was chartered in 1866, and was completed between Kingston and Stamford, NY on December 12, 1872, and extended to Oneonta in 1900. Generations of travelers flocked to the Catskills to vacation at the storied grand hotels and lodges. Lucrative freight traffic included coal, lumber, dairy and farm products. Passenger traffic diminished during the Great Depression. Improved roads and the rise of the private automobile doomed the line, which became the Catskill Mountain Branch of the New York Central system (NYC) on February 1, 1932. The line was cut back from Oneonta to Bloomville in 1965. ending the railroad's role as a through route.

Penn Central to Conrail[edit]

NYC merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form Penn Central (PC), and conditions continued to deteriorate. PC was bankrupt by 1970; the U.S. government ultimately created Conrail in 1976 to aid the seven bankrupt Eastern railroads at the time. Operations along the Catskill Mountain line were subsidized by the State of New York, with operations occurring on an as-needed basis. The six-month subsidy gave the remaining customers on the line time to switch to alternate modes of transportation.

The last train departed left Kingston for Stamford on September 28, 1976. Earl Pardini joined Conrail in 1976, and was the brakeman on the last train. Pardini was also president of the Catskill Mountain Transportation Corporation, a grassroots organization seeking to purchase the railroad from PC. However, an agreement on price could not be reached. The last freight train finally returned to Kingston on October 2, 1976. Conservationists campaigned to preserve the railroad, led by noted transportation attorney Donald L. Pevsner, who enlisted the help of The Catskill Central for Conservation and Development (starting in 1974) and of his long-time friend, author William F. Buckley, Jr., who toured the line in 1977 to help draw publicity.

Delaware County residents succeeded in convincing the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O'Connor Fouindation, of Hobart, NY, to purchase the railroad from the Penn Central estate, in 1980. This foundation then deeded the Highmount-Bloomville segment to the seven Towns in Delaware and Schoharie Counties through which it passed. The section between Highmount and Roxbury, New York would become the Delaware & Ulster Railroad (D&U). It is now owned by the nonprofit Catskill Revitalization Corporation. In 1979, Ulster County purchased the 38.6-mile segment from Kingston to the county line near Highmount.

Catskill Mountain Railroad[edit]

The seal of the Catskill Mountain Railroad has been is used as decoration on railroad equipment and structures

In 1982, Ulster County leased its portion of the line to the new Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR). On August 9, 1982, CMRR initially began operations in Phoenicia, using track cars and trailers to haul tourists and tubers three miles along Esopus Creek to Mt. Pleasant station. The railroad was incorporated on March 7, 1983 as a for-profit railroad corporation in the state of New York.

In 1984, the Empire State Railway Museum (ESRM) relocated back to New York State and made its home in the Phoenicia depot. The ESRM Joined the CMRR with the intended goal of reopening the line from Kingston to Phoenicia. Many volunteers came on board to help with various tasks, from brush-cutting to track maintenance to train operations.

In 1985, the CMRR began running full-sized equipment consisting of CMRR No.1, "The Duck", a flat car and caboose. Earl Pardini became President to help guide them through the transition. Pardini was with the D&U at its startup, helping to train its engineers and conductors. He agreed to come aboard, and the CMRR embarked on a period of serious expansion.

In 1986, Ulster County reconnected the line with Conrail at Kingston. The railroad purchased a variety of second-hand locomotives, coaches and freight cars which were all shipped by rail to Kingston. Some of the equipment was refurbished and put to work right away, while the rest sat in storage awaiting the call to duty. Also in 1986, the CMRR signed its first multi-year lease with Ulster County, for five years, and began switching freight for the Kingston Recycling Center.

In 1987, a devastating flood washed out Campground Curve, between Phoenicia and Mt. Tremper. In conjunction with NYSDOT and Ulster County, this damage was repaired and service restored in 1988. Operations focused on Phoenicia to Mt. Tremper, with limited operations in Kingston.

Expansion and Setbacks[edit]

The railroad entered into a 25-year lease with Ulster County in 1991, and once again turned its attention to expansion. Railroad operations ended at busy Route 28 in Mt. Pleasant. The crossing had been out of service for many years, and the railroad needed to replace it if it was to continue east toward Kingston. Initially approved for the project, it took almost ten years to release the funding to complete reconstruction of the crossing and installation of warning lights and gates. The new crossing was put into service in October 2004, offering the railroad its first significant expansion.

Then tragedy struck CMRR. On April 1, 2005, a devastating flood nearly wiped out the railroad, and caused much damage to the tracks and equipment in Phoenicia. However, after many weeks of volunteer effort, the line was reopened by summer 2005. Around this time, interest increased in using some segments of the rail corridor in Ulster County for a recreational trail.[citation needed]

Volunteer Resurgence[edit]

Throughout the winter of 2006, the railroad took the opportunity to regroup and refocus its efforts once more. Publicity from the rail trail proposal encouraged many new volunteers to come forward. A group from the nearby Ulster & Delaware Railroad Historical Society were among the first to offer assistance. As the weather warmed up, brush-cutting and clearing the right of way took first priority. A high-profile activity with immediate results, reaction from the community was positive, and more volunteers were joining to help. By the end of 2006, the ranks had grown to 45 full members and 30 provisional members. Together, they had cleared nearly 20 miles of brush from the mainline.[citation needed]

Kingston Operations Resume[edit]

In 2007 the railroad began track repairs in Kingston to fulfill the "ski lift" concept championed in the ALTA Engineering study for railroad operation from Kingston to West Hurley. The railroad worked hard to restore tracks in Kingston, with service opening to Washington Avenue in December 2008. In late 2009, the railroad opened more track west of Washington Avenue and offered additional seasonal service throughout that year. By December 2009, nearly two miles of track had been rebuilt in Kingston, from Cornell Street to the foot of Bridge C9.

For three years, the CMRR worked to complete the rehabilitation of Bridge C9 over Esopus Creek in Kingston. The bridge was opened for service on December 7, 2012, and allows for further expansion to the west, with Route 209 being the first destination. Route 209, MP 5.42, was reached on September 21, 2013, and Hurley Mountain Road, MP 5.94, was reached on November 16, 2014. The track is now open to MP 6.23 west of Hurley Mountain Road. The first passenger train to Route 209 ran on October 19, 2013, and the first to Hurley Mountain Road on November 21, 2014. Ultimately, this run will be extended to West Hurley to fulfill the ski lift concept envisioned in the Alta study.[citation needed]

West End Expansion[edit]

Through 2007 and 2008, work also continued on opening the .6 mile Cold Brook Extension. The first train arrived at Cold Brook Station on July 4, 2008: the first regularly scheduled passenger train to arrive at the station since 1954. Because Cold Brook station remains privately owned, the railroad maintains no agency there and there are no facilities to board or discharge passengers. In 2009, the CMRR repaired track another .8 miles to the Boiceville Bridge at MP 21.3, for work trains only.

By 2010, the physical limit of track restoration was reached on the "western" end of the operable railroad. To the west of Bridge Street in Phoenicia is a major washout preventing any serious restoration work beyond without sufficient outside funding. Volunteers have rebuilt tracks up to the limit of Bridge C30 (Boiceville Trestle), but Hurricane Irene washed away the entire trestle.

Work equipment and hi-rail trucks can traverse nearly the entire length of the railroad from Kingston to Phoenicia, however, and brush is cut and weeds are sprayed along the out-of-service segments regularly. The railroad has not relented in its efforts to negotiate for funding and other forms of assistance to rehabilitate Bridge C30, that would allow continued expansion east.

Construction equipment and workers in a stony depression at the side of a body of water on the left. Bent railroad tracks dangle into it from the foreground; traffic is backed up on a road in the rear
Tracks being repaired after damage from Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene[edit]

On August 28, 2011, CMRR was devastated by the effects of flooding as a result of Hurricane Irene's attack. Flood waters inundated the yard at Phoenicia, scouring the right of way and threatening the depot. A significant washout occurred at Campground Curve, similar to the situation encountered in 1987. All operating equipment had been moved to safe ground at Mt. Tremper, east of Campground Curve. Additional damage had been incurred where damage from a previous washout was already underway. In the non-operating segment east of Cold Brook station, the most significant damage was the loss of three of the four spans of Boiceville Trestle (Bridge C30) to rising flood waters. There was no significant damage to the restored trackage in the Kingston area.

The CMRR resumed operations on September 10, 2011, on a shortened length of track near Mount Tremper. The washout at Campground Curve was repaired in late 2011, except for reinstallation of track. Operations west of Mt. Tremper commenced on August 5, 2012. [1] In November, 2012, the County informed the CMRR that several repair projects had been approved by FEMA. The CMRR found out that seven projects, including restoration of the Boiceville Trestle, were approved for $2.3 million. However, the County has informed the CMRR that it will not release this funding until the CMRR agrees to terminate its lease from Kingston to the Ashokan Reservoir.[citation needed]

On August 3, 2013, the CMRR started reconstruction work of track on Campground Curve as part of returning to Phoenicia. This was done assuming that the County would never release the FEMA funding allotted for this repair.

Phoenicia Station, site of the Empire State Railway Museum

[citation needed]

Service threats[edit]

On January 24, 2006, when the Kingston Daily Freeman announced "Trail Plan Could Mark End of Line for Railroad", trail advocates began promoting a plan to convert segments of the county-owned railroad corridor into a recreational path, which would permanently limit the length and location of the tourist excursions. ALTA Engineering was hired to devise a rail-with-trail plan for the line in Ulster County. The final report stated the following:

"The future vision of the Ulster & Delaware Rail + Trail is a significant opportunity for local communities, Ulster County, and the region. The combination of two historic tourist railroads, the trolley and railroad museums, restored historic sites, and a trail for multiple uses will complement the tourism and recreation economy of the Catskill Mountain Region. The project can become a model of sustainable transportation and cooperation between a wide range of public, private, and nonprofit partners."[2]

On October 4, 2012, Ulster County Executive Michael P. Hein announced in his 2013 budget a plan to dismantle 32 miles of railroad in Ulster County to be replaced by a trail, leaving the Phoenicia-Cold Brook segment, and ending Kingston operations. He planned to start scrapping the railroad in 2013, using $642,000 in scrapping revenues to provide revenue for his budget. The budget was adopted by the Ulster County Legislature on December 4, 2012. The CMRR's lease, however, remains in effect until May 31, 2016. [3] However, there is no reference to scrapping the railroad in the proposed 2014 Ulster County Budget.

Three days after the 2013 budget was approved, the CMRR opened Bridge C9 in Kingston for passenger train service, and began bringing passengers across the bridge for the first time in over 50 years.

On February 19, 2013, CMRR published a rail with trail study for MP 3 to 11 in response to a request from the County made on October 15, 2012. The rail with trail plan was rejected without review by the county on March 7, 2013.[citation needed]

On June 12, 2013, CMRR was served with a Notice to Cure. In a meeting with the Ulster County Executive, held on June 24, 2013, the CMRR was asked to vacate the line from Kingston to the Ashokan reservoir, and told that unless it complied its lease would be terminated on July 12. CMRR filed a Yellowstone Injunction on July 9 and was granted a TRO prohibiting the county from terminating the lease pending the outcome of a court decision on August 6. The Yellowstone Injunction was granted on November 6, 2013. Ulster County issued a notice of appeal on December 17, 2013.[citation needed]

On December 11, 2013, the outgoing New York City DEP commissioner announced a plan to support a trail along the U&D right of way from MP 10 to MP 21.6.[citation needed]

On December 8, 2014, the Ulster County Executive announced that at least two miles of tourist passenger train service would remain in Kingston, from the eastern end of Kingston Plaza, MP 3.6, to Hurley Mountain Road, MP 5.94.

Operations[edit]

Phoenicia-Cold Brook[edit]

The CMRR operates a tourist excursion train from Phoenicia Railroad Station, Phoenicia, MP 27.5 to Cold Brook Railroad Station, MP 22.1. Its trains originate from the former U&D station in Phoenicia, which is also home to the Empire State Railway Museum. Passengers may board trains at Phoenicia or Mount Tremper Railroad Station, MP 25.2.

Initially, service was provided by track cars hauling trailers between Phoenicia and Mount Tremper. Realizing that the future lies in conventional railroad equipment hauled by locomotives, two flatcars were rebuilt as open air bench cars to accommodate passengers. A Porter 50-ton switcher was enlisted to haul the expanded consist. A 1922-vintage wooden caboose often (ex-D&H 35952) brought up the rear, and offered additional capacity.

In early 2004 the caboose was taken out of service and replaced with a restored coach of Lackawanna heritage. This coach greatly increased the capacity of each train, and also helped offer "all-weather" service. In late 2004, service was extended to MP 22.7. It was extended further to Cold Brook Station, MP 22.1, on July 4, 2008.

A second coach was put into service on October 2, 2010, just in time for the Fall Foliage trains. Work trains generally consist of transfer caboose 697 (ex-CR 18015) and "The Duck," a small Davenport switcher. Equipment restoration and maintenance takes place at the railroad's open-air facilities. The original Phoenicia section house is undergoing a multi-year restoration, and is used by the railroad to store tools and supplies for the track gang. CMRR work trains venture as far east as the Boiceville Trestle at MP 21.3, which will continue to be the eastern limit for Phoenicia operations until the trestle is replaced. On May 6, 2010, Phoenicia operations acquired a new locomotive, former LIRR/SIRY Alco S1 407, which was placed in service on May 7, 2010. It has been the workhorse engine for Phoenicia operations since the start of the 2010 season.

In 2011, construction of a new switch and siding began at MP 24.75, to park maintenance equipment and give the work train a place to alight. It was completed on May 25, 2012.

For the 2012 season, the train ran initially from Mt. Tremper west to MP 23.3 where subgrade repairs are necessary. On August 5, 2012, after repairs were made at MP 25.5, the passenger train began running west to the next damaged section at MP 25.8, one half mile west of Mt. Tremper, where repairs to the subgrade need to be completed,. The line will gradually be reopened to Phoenicia and Cold Brook as repairs to damage from Hurricane Irene are completed.

Kingston-West Hurley[edit]

CMRR also has a yard in Kingston, referred to as "Cornell Street Yard." In 2009, a new siding was constructed to expand the yard facilities to allow for the storage and restoration of passenger cars for expanded tourist train operations.

Since November 2006, volunteers have re-opened track in Kingston. The current operable section stretches from Cornell Street (MP 3.0) to past Route 209 (MP 5.52).[citation needed]

On December 6, 2008, the railroad inaugurated seasonal tourist runs between Downs Street (MP 3.2) and Washington Avenue (MP 4.37). A small ticket office and loading platform was constructed off Westbrook Lane (MP 3.78) opposite Kingston Plaza to support passenger operations in 2008. Trains are powered by Alco RS-1 401 (ex-GMRC 401), and consist of converted flatcar 278 (ex-LBR 26) and refurbished caboose 675 (ex-PRR 477672). The critical Washington Avenue crossing was reopened for limited use in 2008, and the track was opened to Bridge C-9 (MP 5) on November 15, 2009. As of August 2009, the regular operating section was extended across Washington Avenue to the Holiday Inn (MP 4.6) (now Garden Plaza), and service was extended all the way to Bridge C-9 (MP 5) on December 5, 2009 for the 2009 Kingston Holiday Train.

Repairs to Bridge C9 started in September 2011, and were completed on December 3, 2012. The bridge was certified on December 7, 2012, and the first passenger train ran across the bridge on December 8. Track rehabilitation to the west of C9 is ongoing.

On September 21, 2013, CMRR workers completed track rehabilitation up to NYS Route 209 (MP 5.42). The next day, work began on the next extension past 209 to Hurley Mountain Road (MP 5.94). Rolling stock was removed from the west side of the crossing in order to continue expansion of the railroad west. Track is now open to MP 6.0.

Shokan[edit]

CMRR's third base of operations is at MP 16.4 at Shokan, New York, at the site of the former Ashokan Railroad Station. Currently, the operating equipment there consists of a self-powered crane, flat car, and an ex-Susquehanna caboose (privately owned). Shokan also serves as a base for the CMRR's track car crews, who are now charged with maintenance of the section of the line currently inaccessible to full sized equipment, from Route 209 at MP 5.4 to bridge C30 at MP 21.3. A main line switch is being installed in Shokan, part of a future run-around, so that the equipment stored at Shokan can be moved off the main line.

Long-term goals[edit]

Kingston-Phoenicia[edit]

The CMRR's long term goal is to run tourist trains on the entire 25-mile run from Kingston to Phoenicia, which will include lengthy views of the scenic Ashokan Reservoir, and a stop at Ashokan Railroad Station.[citation needed] Track rehabilitation has until recently stopped at two bridges - Bridge C9 at MP 5 and Bridge C30 at MP 21.3.

With the recent restoration of Bridge C9 to service by the CMRR in late 2012, track restoration will be continued east up to West Hurley (MP 10.2) and beyond.

However, bridge C-30 (the "Boiceville Trestle") at MP 21.32 was washed away by Hurricane Irene on August 28, 2011. FEMA funding for its repair was approved in November, 2012, but until that repair is completed, no more track expansion east can be done. When C30 is restored, track rehabilitation will continue to Shokan (MP 16.2), where a new terminal for the railroad will be built.[citation needed]

Washouts at Hurley Flats (MP 5.53) and Butternut Cove (MP 18.6) also need to be repaired before the Phoenicia operation can be linked with the Kingston operation. Nearly the entire line from Phoenicia to Kingston is navigable by track cars and light maintenance equipment.

West of Phoenicia[edit]

A major washout at Bridge C34 (MP 28.8) west of Phoenicia effectively severs the CMRR. Many washouts and landslides between this bridge and Shandaken (MP 33.5) need to be addressed before more damage occurs to the right of way. Bridge C42 over Lasher Road needs to be restored to its original location; it was removed and set aside after the end of Conrail service to allow for greater vertical clearances. Volunteer crews continue to cut brush and keep the tracks clear all the way to the connection with the DURR at Highmount.[citation needed]

The DURR has also expressed interest in resuming service between Arkville and Highmount, and continuing south/east over the CMRR through the horsehoe curve at Pine Hill: possibly all the way to Big Indian (MP 36.4). With the recent developments in regards to Hurricane Irene, restoration of any track between bridge C34 west of Phoenicia and Shandaken (MP 33.5) appears to be an ever more remote possibility.

Interchange with CSX at Kingston[edit]

The CMRR has been isolated from the national network since Conrail removed its Kingston interchange switch in 1996. The CMRR plans to eventually reconnect its line to the national rail network: CSX (successor to Conrail) at Kingston.[citation needed]

Roster of equipment[edit]

Locomotives[edit]

No. 29

CMRR owns two American Locomotive Company (ALCO) RS-1 locomotives, No. 401 (Ex-Green Mountain Railroad (GMRC) No. 401, Ex Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad (GM&O) No. 1052, Ex Illinois Terminal Railroad No. 1056, née 756); and No. 2361 (former Alter Scrap No. 2361, Ex-Soo Line Railroad (SOO) 2361). Only 401 is operational at this time. In 2010, 2361 was repainted and evaluated for reactivation; it was given a new number, 400.

In May 2010, the CMRR acquired its latest locomotive, former Long Island Railroad/Staten Island Railway Alco S-1 407. This engine is the workhorse for operations out of Mt. Tremper and Phoenicia.

CMRR No. 29, "The Goat" is an Ex-Navy 50 ton H. K. Porter, Inc locomotive, which is a backup engine and main engine for worktrain service. CMRR No. 1, "The Duck", another worktrain locomotive, is an Ex-Army 38 ton Davenport Locomotive Works locomotive. Both of these locomotives are operational and located currently in Phoenicia.

Passenger equipment[edit]

Phoenicia equipment consists of two Ex-Navy 50 foot flatcars, No. 271 an 272, that have been converted to open-air passenger service with the addition of side walls and benches, and two former Erie Lackawanna Railway (EL) Multiple unit (MU) trailers that have been completely renovated: No. 4321 entered service as CMRR 701 in 2004, and No. 4332 entered service on October 2, 2010 as CMRR 702.

Phoenicia equipment also includes a privately owned N5G steel caboose, CMRR 673 (former LV 95041), which was placed in service on May 7, 2010, and will be a concession car. A wooden caboose, CMRR 671 (Ex D&H No. 35952), awaits restoration in Phoenicia after floodwaters damaged the car in 2005.

Kingston equipment consists of a 40-foot flat car, CMRR 278 (Ex-LBR 26), which is fitted with a canopy roof, a former Long Island Railroad commuter coach, CMRR 2940, recently acquired from the Empire State Railway Museum, and an N5B Caboose, CMRR 675 (Ex-PRR 477672, PC 22800, CR 20003).

Also stored west of Kingston at MP 5.5 are several passenger cars, including former EL MU Trailer 4322 and former Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) Coaches 1198 and 1204, awaiting restoration for future tourist train use in the Kingston area.

Two more U.S. Army 50 foot flatcars await conversion to passenger use. One is stored in Shokan, No. 35112 and the other, No. 35111, is stored in Phoencia.

Other equipment[edit]

CMRR also rosters several pieces of freight equipment used in work train and storage service.

In Kingston, this includes two 50-foot boxcars, former D&H 26076 and NYC 72462, used for storage. An ex-Army Difco dump car and 40-foot flat car (CMRR 201 (Ex LBR 27)) are used for work train service.

In Shokan, there is a self-powered ex-Navy crane, CMRR 991, a 40-foot tender flat CMRR 291 (ex-Army 35305), and a privately owned caboose CMRR 674 (ex Susquehanna 117), all used for work train service.

In Phoenicia, a 40-foot box car (Ex-LV 65100) is used for storage, and a former Army Difco dump car, a 40-foot flatcar, CMRR 202 (Ex-CV 7704) and an N6A transfer caboose, CMRR 697 (Ex NYC/PC/CR 18015), are used for worktrain service.

Additionally, the railroad has in storage west of Kingston a ballast hopper (former NYC 51467) and a gondola (former PRR 518399).

The frame and trucks of former LS&I caboose No. 6, which were bought by a CMRR volunteer in the 1980s, are in storage at Shokan.

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Bosch, Adam (September 19, 2011). "Ulster tourist train rolling on". Times-Herald Record. Retrieved September 19, 2011. 
  2. ^ Rail trail final report
  3. ^ co.ulster.ny.us Planner's Memorandum

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°56′07″N 74°00′54″W / 41.935354°N 74.015094°W / 41.935354; -74.015094