Ulster and Delaware Railroad

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Ulster and Delaware Railroad
U&D system map
HeadquartersKingston, New York
Reporting markUD
LocaleCatskill Mountains, New York
Dates of operation1875–1932
SuccessorNew York Central Railroad
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length129 miles (208 kilometers)

The Ulster and Delaware Railroad (U&D) was a railroad located in the state of New York. It was often advertised as "The Only All-Rail Route to the Catskill Mountains." At its greatest extent, the U&D extended 107 miles (172 km) from Kingston Point on the Hudson River through the Catskill Mountains to its western terminus at Oneonta, passing through the counties of Ulster, Delaware, Schoharie and Otsego.


Rondout and Oswego Railroad[edit]

During the early 19th century waterways formed the principal transportation network in New York. An important point on this network was Rondout. Located at the confluence of Rondout Creek and the Hudson River, in 1828 it became the eastern terminus of the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Here cargo and passengers were transferred from canal boats to the larger vessels navigating the Hudson.

By the end of the Civil War, railroads were pre-empting waterways as the preferred method of transportation. Thomas Cornell, founder of the Cornell Steamboat Company and a resident of Rondout, was among those who noticed. Although Cornell made plenty of money from shipping, he planned a railroad that would bring supplies from towns in central or western New York to his port in Rondout. So Cornell chartered the Rondout and Oswego on April 3, 1866,[1] with himself as the first president.

The railroad yard at Rondout

With the work of surveying and acquiring rights of way completed, construction started in 1868.[2] Cornell decided to construct this new railroad of 62- and 70-pound rail. It would go from Rondout to the busy city of Oneonta on the upper Susquehanna River, and then to Oswego on the shore of Lake Ontario. The R&O at 12 miles (19 km) long reached the summer vacation resort of Olive Branch, near the town of Shokan, on September 30, 1869.[3] By the next year, the first train was run and the railroad was finally operational.

In 1870 the railroad was extended to Phoenicia, where the railroad built a stucco station across Esopus Creek from the village.[4] The same year, ownership of the railroad was transferred to John C. Brodhead [5] and the line reached the small town of Big Indian. By 1871 construction reached Dean's Corners (now Arkville) (where it would eventually join the Delaware and Northern). However, the R&O folded upon completing construction to Roxbury, and the task of constructing the remainder of the route was left to its newly organized successor, the New York, Kingston & Syracuse (NYK&S).

Rondout and Oswego #7

It was a successful railroad, with plenty of passengers coming from surrounding towns and larger cities. Steamboat passengers could dock at Rondout and transfer to the railroad. Later, passengers could also transfer at Kingston, first via the Wallkill Valley Railroad (1872), then via the West Shore Railroad (1883) and much later via the New York, Ontario and Western Railway (1902). From the boats, it was a short walk to the R&O station to transfer to the train. Freight was also very well-handled. Much of the freight income was made from coal shipped along the D&H Canal from the Moosic Mountains near Carbondale, Pennsylvania, to the port at Rondout. There were also vegetables, fruit, and milk from the farms in the Catskills.

While steadily grading to Moresville (present-day Grand Gorge), the great number of curves and grades created a problem, as more digging, ties and rails meant greater costs to complete the remainder of the railroad. The railroad couldn't make enough money to pay the debt and continue building the railroad, so in 1872 Cornell appointed John A. Greene to be president pro tempore for a period of 10 years. Greene was expected to have the railroad finished to the town of Oneonta by 1874, pay all of the debts, and withstand future debts of as much as $700,000. However, the railroad was slowly losing money and eventually had to reduce service before going bankrupt in 1872. Later that year, it was re-organized as the New York, Kingston and Syracuse Railroad to continue with the project.[4]

New York, Kingston and Syracuse Railroad[edit]

After the Rondout and Oswego railroad became bankrupt in 1872, it was quickly re-organized as the New York, Kingston and Syracuse Railroad (NYK&S), directed by George Sharpe. The plan of extending to Oswego was now omitted, and the new plan was to extend to Oneonta and make a sharp turn north to Earlville, where the line would make a connection with the recently constructed Syracuse and Chenango Valley Railroad. Construction of the railroad had begun immediately, and the railroad was extending very quickly. As of 1872, it had already reached the towns of Roxbury, Gilboa, and Stamford, with the first train arriving in the village of Stamford late that year. Reaching Oneonta would have to wait another 28 years, to 1900.

This increased service provided the first real rail route into the Catskill Mountains, benefiting both passenger and freight customers. The railroad was further benefited by the many connections to other railroads, enabling passengers from as far away as New York City to visit the Catskills (via the newly constructed Wallkill Valley Railroad and its connection to the Erie Railroad). Another boon to business was a ferry that ran across the Hudson to Rondout from Rhinecliff, with a Rhinebeck and Connecticut Railroad and New York Central and Hudson River Railroad station (the current Amtrak station) connecting the cities of Hartford, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts, to the region.

The town (and later city) of Kingston, New York (centrally located on the Hudson River) was profitable to the railroad, due to the large number of industries of the area, including cement, concrete, bricks and bluestone. Kingston was also a popular passenger stop, as people would rely on the railroad to take them around the Catskills to jobs at mills and small factories.

Although this prosperity seemed good, there was bad news as well. The NYK&S still wasn't profitable enough to avoid bankruptcy. So in 1873, the NYK&S designated the Farmers Loan and Trust Company as trustee for the first-mortgage bondholders of the railroad. While this helped for a brief time, it was only another two years until even the trustee finally couldn't manage the railroad's problems. The railroad became bankrupt in 1875 and was sold by foreclosure to the bank. It was re-organized as the Ulster and Delaware Railroad later that year.[4]

Ulster and Delaware Railroad[edit]

Stony Clove and Catskill Mountain Railroad[edit]

The railroad station at Lanesville, New York

Cornell got the idea for another railroad that would start at the U&D junction in Phoenicia and go up along the Stony Clove Valley to the bustling village of Hunter. He decided to name it the Stony Clove and Catskill Mountain Railroad. Unlike the U & D, it would utilize a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge which theoretically would be cheaper to build and operate. Construction started on the railroad during 1881, with Cornell's son-in-law, Samuel Decker Coykendall, supervising construction. Originally planned as a summer-only operation serving the Ulster County communities of Phoenicia and Chichester, and the Greene County villages of Lanesville, Edgewood, and Hunter, the service was expanded to year-round operation. In addition to the major stations, there was a flagstop at Stony Clove Notch and a station between the Notch and Hunter called Kaaterskill Junction Station (originally Tannersville Junction Station), at the junction of the Kaaterskill Railway.

The difference in gauge between the U&D and SC&CM caused difficulties in transferring rolling stock from the mainline. So, in 1882, the two companies installed a Ramsey car-transfer apparatus in the yard at Phoenicia. This device allowed the standard-gauge equipment to be run on the narrow-gauge line. With the apparatus, the transfer only required about eight minutes, saving the railroads much time and money.

Industries on this line included the William O. Schwartzwalder Furniture Factory, in the company-owned hamlet of Chichester. Other large companies included the Fenwick Lumber Company in Edgewood and the Horatio Lockwood & Company Furniture Factory in Hunter. The railroad was acquired by the U&D in 1892, and these industries now had a new railroad to transport their products.[6]

Final years of U&D service[edit]

The U&D's peak year came in 1913, with 676,000 passengers carried up into the Catskills plus substantial amounts of freight. By the time of the Great Depression of 1929 and thereafter, most of the passenger traffic had been lost to private cars on improved highways, buses and shared limousines (called "hacks"); trucks had taken most of the non-commodity freight business; and the railroad was in serious financial trouble and a shadow of its former self. The New York Central acquired the failing U&D on February 1, 1932, under pressure from the Interstate Commerce Commission (see "Ulster and Delaware: Railroad Through The Catskills", by Gerald M. Best). In its latter years (the early 1950s) one morning train a day (except Sundays) ran on the route from Kingston to Phoenicia and Oneonta and one afternoon train in the east-bound direction ran from Oneonta back to Kingston. Passenger service on the route ended on March 31, 1954.[7][8]

Present condition[edit]

Ulster County[edit]

Starting at Kingston Point, Milepost 0, the Trolley Museum of New York once operated the remaining trackage in Kingston east of the CSX River Line up to about Milepost 2.4. The line in this section is owned by the City of Kingston and was leased to the Trolley Museum. The Trolley Museum emphasizes the preservation of the use of trolleys and restoration of the former U&D Rondout Yard. It built a new engine house and shop in 1987, and the idea of rebuilding the utility building and the station has been suggested. The museum currently operates from MP 0, Kingston Point, to MP 1, Rondout Yard, on a track along the Strand. The track from MP 1 to MP 2.8 has been removed and the westernmost portion of the right-of-way partially sold to private parties, who have since built some large buildings on it.

The line easements "for railroad purposes" from Kingston to the Delaware County line at Highmount are owned by Ulster County, which acquired the tracks from Penn Central in 1979 for $1.5 million in lieu of back taxes. Trackage between Kingston and MP 7.8 was cleared of debris and the line is in service from Kingston Plaza to milepost 7.8, with plans to extend about 2 to 3 miles (3.2 to 4.8 km) farther west. The Catskill Mountain Railroad commenced operations in Kingston in December 2008. Initial plans to run from Kingston to Phoenicia were dashed when Bridge C30, at MP 21.3, was washed away due to flooding from Hurricane Irene on August 28, 2011, severing the now-defunct Phoenicia rail operation from the Kingston rail operation.

The line between Phoenicia and Highmount is isolated by six washouts west of Phoenicia and has not supported a train since regular freight service ended on October 2, 1976. 11.6 miles (18.7 km) of track was removed by Ulster County in 2018 west of West Hurley, alongside the Ashokan Reservoir, which is being replaced by a new rail-trail. This should permanently remove any affordable future possibility of operating passenger tourist trains between Kingston and Roxbury, in cooperation with the Delaware and Ulster Railroad (D&U) beyond Highmount.

Delaware County[edit]

Ulster and Delaware Railroad Freight House in Fleischmanns, New York, photographed on August 19, 2021.

The D&U has operated tourist passenger trains from Highmount to Roxbury. D&U's operations are currently limited to the Arkville-Roxbury section as the line to Highmount is temporarily out of service due to a weak bridge abutment east of Arkville.

In Roxbury, the Roxbury station is being restored by the Ulster & Delaware Railroad Historical Society. Roxbury is the birthplace of railroad baron Jay Gould.

The Ulster & Delaware Railroad Historical Society owns former New York, Ontario & Western Railway (NYO&W) "Bobber" Caboose #8206, built at the NYO&W Middletown Shops in 1906, and former BEDT 14, an H. K. Porter, Inc Locomotive Works 0-6-0T steam locomotive, built in August 1920 at their facility in Pittsburgh. Both are presently being restored by the Society.

The Delaware County line segment from Highmount to Bloomville, a distance of 45 miles (72 km), was purchased from Penn Central for $770,000 in 1980 by the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O'Connor Foundation of Delhi, NY, which in turn conveyed it to the Towns through which it passed. It has long since been owned by the non-profit Catskill Revitalization Corporation, with offices in the historic 1872 U&D passenger station in Stamford, NY. The track ends at Hubbell Corners, where it becomes the Catskill Scenic Trail.

Right-of-way from Bloomville (MP 86.2) to Oneonta (MP 107), where Penn Central abandoned the line in July, 1965, has largely reverted to private ownership by abutting landowners since the tracks were removed in 1966. Notably, the old railbed runs directly past the rear of the historic Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith. It was far-sighted public benefactor Kenneth S. Kelso, a farmer from East Meredith, who purchased nearly all of the railbed from Bloomville to Oneonta from the bankrupt Penn Central on March 31, 1967, as well as the working water-powered 1846 sawmill, woodworking and grist mill, and donated this unique mill property for museum purposes. (Mr. Kelso died in 1993, and should be duly remembered.)

In Delaware County, the Halcottville Station, MP 53.0, was severed, with the passenger side moved a few hundred feet, where it serves as a shed on private property, and the freight side moved to Arkville, where it is now a tool shed for D&U. Both the Arkville and Fleischmanns stations have been razed, but the freight houses have survived. D&U uses the Arkville freight house as its passenger station.

The Kelly's Corners station was acquired by NYSDOT in 1964 and bulldozed during the reconstruction of State Route 30. The passenger station at Stamford has been restored and is owned by the CRC, owners of D&U, and used for offices. The stations at South Kortright, MP 81.5, East Meredith, MP 97.9, and Davenport Center, MP 103.2, are currently private dwellings, with the railbed in front of them also being privately owned.

Interstate 88 was planned during the 1970s to extend from Schenectady to Binghamton, New York, although the original plans suggested that it extend to New England and near the Atlantic Coast. The portion that was constructed covers a short portion of the U&D's railbed in the town of Oneonta, where it connected with the Delaware and Hudson Railway's main line. This local railbed was the only part of the Bloomville-Oneonta railbed not purchased by Kenneth S. Kelso (see above), but was acquired by New York State instead for I-88 construction, which made a costly Interstate overpass of it unnecessary.

Schoharie County[edit]

The South Gilboa Station, MP 70.6, is the only station on the remainder of the U&D, and it is in poor condition. It is still in its original spot, between the Delaware County stations of Grand Gorge and Stamford. The old right-of-way in front of it is part of the Catskill Scenic Trail. It is also one of two U&D railroad stations that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Town of Gilboa Historical Society has proposed that the South Gilboa station should have a full cosmetic restoration. However, this is only a proposal, and it is unknown whether or not it will occur.

Otsego County[edit]

The final station at Oneonta, MP 106.9, was part of a tourist line called the "Delaware and Otsego Railroad" that was created soon after the New York Central abandoned the line west of Bloomville, in July, 1965. It ran trains from the NYC Oneonta station 2.6 miles (4.2 km) east to a bridge ("Mickle Bridge") that crossed Charlotte Creek a little way from the old site of the West Davenport Station. The Oneonta station, built in 1900 by the U&D, is currently a pub and restaurant called "The Depot".

Greene County[edit]

The Greene County portion of the branches, which were torn up in 1940, along with the smaller portion of the branches in Ulster County, remain as overgrown paths and bridge abutments, with an occasional road covering the right of way. New York State Route 214 overlaps the former alignment at Stony Clove Notch. However, a 2-mile (3 km) section of the line from Bloomer Road to Clum Hill Road in Tannersville has been converted into a rail trail, known locally as the "Huckleberry Trail". There are also a few bridge piers, such as one on the southern side of Esopus Creek in Phoenicia, one in Chichester (both in Ulster County), and two in Edgewood.

There are only two surviving stations on what used to be the branches. The Hunter station, branch MP 2.5, is now a private dwelling. The Haines Falls station, branch MP 18.5, is currently the headquarters of the Mountain Top Historical Society.[9]

Narrow gauge rolling stock[edit]

SC&CM locomotives[edit]

SC&CM number Name Builder Type Date Works number Remarks
1st #1 (1882–1886)

2nd #2 (1886–1894)

Stony Clove Dickson Manufacturing Co. 2-6-0 July 1882 358 Purchased new. Redesignated U.&D. R.R. #2 in 1894. Sold to the Chateaugay Railroad in August 1899 (Chateaugay RR 2nd #8). Scrapped in December 1903.
2nd #1 Hunter Dickson Manufacturing Co. 2-6-0 May 1886 530 Purchased new. Redesignated U&D #4 in 1894. Sold to the Chateaugay Railroad in August 1899 (Chateaugay RR 2nd #2). Scrapped in December 1903.
1st #2 Gretchen[10] Dickson Manufacturing Co. 2-6-0 Dec. 1878 226 Ex-Plattsburgh & Dannemora #2, Louis D. Pilsbury (1878–1879). Ex-Chateaugay Railroad 1st #2, Louis D. Pilsbury (1879–1881).[11][page needed] Purchased in April 1881. Sold in November 1885 to Dexter Hunter, Sr., who was president of the Western Ry. of Florida. Leased to the Western Ry. from 1885 to 1892 (#2, Dexter Hunter, Jr.). Western Railway went bankrupt and was reorganized as the South-Western Railroad in 1892. Loco leased to S-W. R.R. from 1892 to 1894.[12]


Kaaterskill Railroad locomotives[edit]

KRR number Name Builder Type Date Works number Remarks
#1 Rip Van Winkle Dickson Manufacturing Co. 2-6-0 May 1883 423 Purchased new. Redesignated U&D #1 in 1894. Sold to Empire Steel & Iron Co. in August 1899. Resold to Birmingham Rail & Locomotive Co. in April 1905. Resold to Crystal River Lumber Co., Florida in May 1905.
#2 Derrick Van Brummel Brooks Locomotive Works 2-6-0 June 1883 936 Purchased new. Redesignated U&D #5 in 1894. Sold to F. M. Hicks & Co. between August 1899 & June 1900.
#3 Thomas Cornell Dickson Manufacturing Co. 2-6-0 February 1883 411 Originally Chateaugay Ore & Iron Co. #8 (Dannemora). Purchased by the Kaaterskill R.R. from New York Equipment Co. in July 1893. Redesignated U&D # 3 in 1894. Sold to F. M. Hicks & Co. in August 1899. Resold later in August 1899 to the Otis Engineering & Construction Co. for use on the Catskill & Tannersville Ry. (1st #2).[15] C.&T. Ry. 1st #2 became stationary boiler at Otis Summit, New York between July 1, 1901, and June 30, 1902.


Narrow gauge coaches[edit]

The coaches that ran on the Narrow Gauge Division had been built by Jackson & Sharp Co. in 1881 and 1883. Between August 1899 and June 1900, they were sold to F. M. Hicks & Co. of Chicago, Illinois.[13][16] In May 1901, Hicks resold four of the coaches to the White Pass and Yukon Route (WP&YR ##218, 220, 222, and 224).[18] Under White Pass ownership, these cars have been rebuilt several times.[19] They remain in operation.[20] After all of the rebuildings under White Pass ownership, about all that remains of the original cars are the architecture and the superstructure frames.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Best 1972, p. 19
  2. ^ Best 1972, p. 21
  3. ^ Best 1972, p. 22
  4. ^ a b c John M. Ham, Robert K. Bucenec (2003), The Old "Up and Down" Catskill Mountain Branch of the New York Central, Stony Clove & Catskill Mountain Press
  5. ^ Delaware, Ulster & Greene County NY Railroad Information (website), courtesy of Phillip M. Goldstein
  6. ^ John M. Ham, Robert K. Bucenec (2002), Light Rail and Short Ties Through the Notch: The Stony Clove & Catskill Mountain Railroad and Her Steam Legacy, Stony Clove & Catskill Mountain Press. ISBN 978-0-9720709-0-4.
  7. ^ 'Official Guide of the Railways,' January 1950, New York Central section, Table 79
  8. ^ 'Official Guide of the Railways,' December 1954, New York Central section, Table 96 (freight only)
  9. ^ mths.org
  10. ^ “Gretchen” was the name of Rip Van Winkle's wife in then-contemporary stage plays and operettas.
  11. ^ Shaughnessy, Jim (1997) [1982]. Delaware & Hudson. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-0455-6. OCLC 36008594.
  12. ^ Donald R. Hensley, Jr., The Lake Santa Fe Route (2009), at http://www.taplines.net/MELROSE/MELROSE.html (October 31, 2011).
  13. ^ a b PASSIM, Stony Clove & Catskill Mountain R.R. Miscellaneous Companies & Persons Subledger (Volume 208, unpublished), S.C.&C.M. R.R. Construction & Equipment Subledger (Volume 209, unpublished), Penn Central Transportation Co. Records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library Archived 2008-09-09 at the Wayback Machine. (Note: the N.Y.P.L. erroneously lists the S.C.&C.M. R.R. subledgers as “Boxes” 208 and 209; they should be listed as “Volumes” 208 and 209.)
  14. ^ a b PASSIM, Best, Gerald M. (1966). Locomotives of the Dickson Manufacturing Company. Golden West Books. LCCN 66-25059.
  15. ^ This possible disposition is based on the appearance of the locomotive acting as a stationary boiler, which appears on a postcard published about 1910. his postcard shows C&T Ry. Loco 2nd #2 and one passenger car waiting to leave the station at Otis Summit. The stationary boiler locomotive appears to the left of the passenger car. The appearance of the stationary boiler locomotive resembles the Thomas Cornell. Coincidentally, the sale of the Thomas Cornell occurred in the same month as the appearance of C.&T. Ry. 1st #2.
  16. ^ a b PASSIM, Kaaterskill R.R. Construction & Equipment Subledger (unpublished), New York Central R.R. Co. Records, Special Collections, Syracuse University Library Archived 2007-11-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ John M. Ham, Robert K. Bucenec (2005), The Grand Old Stations and Steam Locomotives of the Ulster & Delaware, Stony Clove & Catskill Mountain Press
  18. ^ Special Report: White Pass & Yukon Route 1901 (unpublished), and Record of Vouchers (unpublished, 1900–1901), Yukon Archives, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
  19. ^ Before Rebuilding.
  20. ^ Roberts, Earl W. and David P. Stremes (editors) (2008). "Canadian Trackside Guide 2008". Canadian Trackside Guide. Bytown Railway Society. ISSN 0829-3023. {{cite journal}}: |author= has generic name (help)


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