Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ulster’s tourist railroad is unique asset with deep history

From The Daily Freeman (

LETTER: Ulster’s tourist railroad is unique asset with deep history

Photo by Tony Adamis The Catskill Mountain Railroad's Kingston-area tourist train is shown at the east end of Kingston Plaza, where its trips start and end. 

Dear Editor,

There are over 75 miles of rail trail in the Hudson Valley, many in Ulster County. There is only one tourist railroad, the Catskill Mountain Railroad.
The CMRR pays its own way and pays rent to Ulster County. It is one of the most successful tourist railroad operations in the United States. Most survive on subsidies. The Delaware & Ulster Railroad, just across the border in Delaware County, requires several hundred thousand dollars a year to offset its losses.
A trail could cost as much as $40 million dollars according to union members hoping to build it. In addition, the trail will require an ongoing annual subsidy to cover operation.
The railroad also draws a group of tourists different from those drawn by trails and other existing attractions in Ulster County.
The railroad also is an important living piece of Ulster County’s history.
Rondout was the terminus of the famous Delaware & Hudson Canal, a modern engineering marvel when built in 1828. Drawn to Ulster County by the canal was Thomas Cornell, who, in 1837, purchased a sloop and went on to build an empire which dominated Hudson River traffic for nearly a century — the Cornell Steamboat Co.
America’s very first steam locomotive, the Stourbridge Lion, passed through Rondout on its journey from England to Honesdale for its trial run.
Cornell, a D&H board member, saw the railroad as a way to feed cargo to his fleet of boats plying the Hudson. Following the Civil War he built Ulster County’s first railroad, the Rondout & Oswego, intending to stretch all the way to Lake Ontario. That railroad followed lines originally surveyed by Jay Gould, originally of Roxbury, N.Y., who went on to have his own fame and success with railroads.
Today, we can still follow the route of the Rondout & Oswego, beginning down on the Hudson, coming past the Trolley Museum and up the hill and through a tunnel and into the heart of Kingston, before striking out across the Esopus plains to penetrate the Catskills.
Some of this railroad is already gone forever because the rails were scrapped and the right of way lost.
But it is still possible to go by train westward from Kingston into the mountains along the Ashokan Reservoir on a railroad which was conceived, built and operated by the people of Ulster County.
Demolishing this railroad in favor of trail would be tragic and irreversible. But that is precisely the course being charted by the recent actions of the Ulster County Legislature and County Executive Mike Hein.

Burr Hubbell
Kelly Corners, N.Y.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It's time for an Adirondack rail-trail (NOT!!!)

I respectfully disagree with this editorial.  The author makes valid point about the convenience of a year-round trail bisecting the Adirondack's. What the editorial doesn't consider is the rich-history of the Mohawk & Malone Railroad.  There is no mention of  The Adirondack's already having multiple trails for X-Country Skiing, biking and snowmobiling.  One of the most important factors is the fact that this railroad is intact and in fact operating.  Never, ever dismantle a working railroad.  Always choose a rail-bed that has had it's rails removed.  We should never at this point in time consider abandoning a working railroad with the intention of creating yet another rec-trail...

It's time for an Adirondack rail-trail

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Iowa Pacific E-8...Photo, or Paintings???

Greg Klingler is an excellent Rail-Photographer so I'm always happy to post his work to my Rail-Blog.  He sent along some of his recent shots, but with a little bit of HDR toning added!
Seen here is some of the Saratoga And North Creek Railroad's equipment stored above North Creek.  I especially love those former Central New York RHS E-8's.

PHOTO: Greg Klingler

PHOTO: Greg Klingler

PHOTO: Greg Klingler

Monday, May 11, 2015

Saratoga-North Creek Railway to rehab north end of line

Saratoga-North Creek Railway to rehab north end of line

May 06, 2015 7:00 pm  •  

Saratoga-North Creek Railway plans to rehabilitate miles of railroad tracks between and over a five-month span this year, and five jobs will be created as the railroad hires workers for the project.
The work will begin in late May and run until mid-December, said Justin Gonyo, general manager of SNCRR.
The work will take place along what is known as the “Sanford Lake Branch” from North Creek to Tahawus, a line that was used for decades to transport material from mines in Newcomb to points south.
He said the work was “general right-of-way” improvements, but would not discuss whether it involved trimming vegetation along the tracks or other specifics of the project. He pointed out it is a privately owned stretch of tracks.
“This is all to aid freight traffic,” he said.
Warren County Administrator Paul Dusek said the work will be done on the stretch of line north of Warren County, and Warren County leaders have not been informed of specifics.
The 33-mile stretch of tracks, which begins at the former NL Industries mines in Tahawus, was unused for more than two decades until SNCRR took over operations on the Warren County line in 2011. SNCRR’s parent company has been negotiating to remove thousands of tons of stone from the closed mines for industrial use.
Gonyo said additional loads of stone to be used by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will be taken out of Tahawus via rails later this year.
The railroad is also making some changes along the stretch of the line to the south.
The “concession caboose” that has been in place at the Riparius station for years will be moved to the recently renovated Thurman station.
The county-owned caboose had not been operated in Riparius, but Gonyo said it will be open in Thurman.
“We believe it will get better foot traffic,” he said.
A group of railroad enthusiasts was allowed to take a rail trip on the Sanford Lake line last fall. For the post and photos, visit

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on
Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The 1940 Gulf Curve Wreck and how Little Falls responded

From The Herkimer Telegram

  • Edward Gregorka is pictured in this April 20, 1940, photograph of the Lake Shore Limited crash site. PHOTO COURTESY/LITTLE FALLS HISTORICAL SOCIETY

    The 1940 Gulf Curve Wreck and how Little Falls responded

  • By Scott Kinville
    Special to The Telegram and Times

    Posted May. 3, 2015 at 10:37 AM 

    LITTLE FALLS — Friday, April 19, 1940, saw the Benton Hall Academy holding a dance for the high school students of Little Falls. A night filled with fun and dancing was winding down when suddenly at 11:33 p.m. the mood went from joyous to shock and horror. Less than a quarter of a mile down the street from the school was the Gulf Curve, which was the sharpest curve in the New York Central Railroad System. What happened that night on those tracks would forever be etched in the minds of all of those who witnessed it. What must have sounded like a bomb going off attracted many of the students and faculty at the school down to the Gulf Curve.
    Others heard the explosion as well. Gordon Brown, who operated a garage near the site of the wreck, was driving down Gulf Bridge Hill (Gorge View Highway) and Edward Guiney was on the back porch of his home on Petrie Street when they heard the blast. Like Brown, Guiney also saw a huge ball of blue flames shoot toward the sky. Guiney and his brother Melvin joined Brown and a passing motorist named John Urbis at the Gulf Curve to investigate what had just happened.
    What happened was passenger train No. 19 of the New York Central, “The Lake Shore Limited,” had jumped the four-track mainline with disastrous consequences. Engine No. 5315, a Hudson J-Class 4-6-4 locomotive pulling the train, had slammed into a retaining wall made of rock. Most of the cars behind the engine would suffer horrific damage as well.
    As the screams of the injured and the dying filled the cold, damp, dark night, the Little Falls Police and Fire departments were summoned. When they arrived, they knew they had their work cut out for them. They set up what portable lighting they had, rescued who they could and calls for additional help went throughout the Mohawk Valley and to Utica.
    In a short period of time, dozens of doctors, nurses, ambulances, clergy, undertakers, firemen and policemen, as well as hundreds of volunteers, descended on the Gulf Curve to begin the mammoth rescue, recovery and clean up task.
    Ladders were propped over the same rock wall that the locomotive had slammed into to remove the injured from the site. Other ladders were wrapped in blankets and used as makeshift stretchers to carry the injured. Cutting torches, like the ones brought by Little Falls DPW worker Alvin Brennan, were at a premium; as the torches were the most effective way to cut the twisted metal and steel that had trapped both crewmembers and passengers alike. Work continued through the night, and Little Falls Hospital was pushed to maximum capacity with what must have seemed like an endless wave of injured patients. Eventually, the Episcopal Church on Albany Street became a temporary shelter and first aid station.
    By daybreak, an estimated 15,000 people lined the Gulf Curve site to get a glimpse of the disaster and traffic was backed up for about two miles outside of the city.
    The investigation that followed determined the accident was caused by excessive speed around the Gulf Curve. The Lake Shore Limited was traveling westbound en route to Chicago. It had left Albany that night 21 minutes late and engineer Jessie Earl was no doubt trying to make up time. The speed limit on the Gulf Curve at the time was 45 miles per hour, and the speed of the locomotive at the time of the crash was 59 mph. This was proven by the speed tape that was recovered off the odometer of the engine. Was Earl aware of how fast they were going?
    We’ll never know, as Earl died in the twisted metal of the cab with his hand still on the throttle. Overall, 31 people lost their lives and over 100 were injured as a result of the wreck.
    This is but a quick overview of what happened on that tragic night of April 19, 1940. A far more detailed exhibit and telling of the story will be on display at the museum of the Little Falls Historical Society when it opens in late May. Were any corrective measures taken to prevent another tragedy on the Gulf Curve? I think we have the theme for a future article.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Rich Coffey's Pedalpoint Blog...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hillside Avenue RR Spur - Aqueduct, NY

After our trek down by the abandoned trolley bridge across the Mohawk River; Gino, Gary and drove up to the Hillside Avenue industrial complex to sniff out vestiges of the spur.

Hillside Avenue RR Spur (1951 to 1984) 
Right in the parking lot of the industrial complex is a surviving remnant of the rail spur. Intriguingly, rails were left in the pavement for just a short stretch and abruptly end a few feet later.

ALCO and the War Effort

 It is hard to imagine now but this empty off-the-beaten path spot was once a bustling center of activity.

In November of 1940, ALCO was awarded a government contract to produce tanks for the war effort. In just five months, the first tank was successfully tested in front of government officials.

In 1951, this spur was built for the Korean War. Production had increased substantially and the spur was needed to transport the tanks up to testing grounds without destroying the city streets. The tanks were assembled in the huge plant in downtown Schenectady and brought by train up the spur to the test track located off Hillside Avenue. The test track is still visible in Google Aerials. When combat ended in 1953, production dropped to a trickle.

The spur was officially abandoned in 1984.  It probably last saw service in the late 60s.  It's last use was servicing the CONDEC (Consolidated Diesel Equipment Corp.) and later the Nova Bus Company that located to the former ALCO Tank site.
Historical Photo
A Multitude of Tanks Parked by the Testing Grounds
The tank testing track
Google Aerial View

Hiking the Spur

Using Bing Bird's Eye View, the ROW is visible
Near the top of the hill, the ROW cuts thru an open field.

 Gino is on a mission! :-)

  We found coal all along the ROW...

...and even a half buried section of rail.

 As we hiked down the ROW, it became a little more picturesque thru the woods...

 but where the soil was softer, it was carved out by water runoff.

We reached the bottom...

 ...and Gino salvaged a tie plate along with a few S hooks (not pictured)

We then hiked back up to the top and found a huge stash of railroad ties. Rarely in any of our treks, do we find this many discarded railroad ties. When railroads were abandoned, they were generally bankrupt and hard up for cash. The rails and ties had monetary value and were resold for recycling. Since this spur was basically built as a government-sponsored war effort, apparently resale value
of ties wasn't considered!

It was an enjoyable few hours out in the fresh air, exploring railroad history. Gino had a blast as well and we will be planning more RR explorations together soon!