I Still Geek Out Over Old Trains

The rain has been no joke, this spring. The last two weekends in April it rained almost every day in our corner the Catskills. The last two weekends of the month, precipitation seemed merely to oscillate between drizzle and downpour, with little or no actual break. While this is awesome for all of the greenery that it starting to come out, I am not hardcore enough to get out for my typical outdoor activities when it is coming down like that, especially when the temps are still in the 30s and 40s. In an attempt not to spend the entire weekend indoors, we planned small excursions around our usual weekend errands. One such “excursion”, was just pulling over at a spot we drive by all of the time and walking a ~30 meters from the road. Arkville NY is the base of operations for the Delaware & Ulster Railroad and is less than a 10 minute drive from our little place in Catskill Park. Since we started spending a lot of time in the area (beginning Jan 2020), we have never seen the trains running. As of this publishing, the railroad’s website says that they are working on tracks in an attempt to recommence tours by 2022 (although the FAQ page has been updated to say that they are hoping to resume operations by this spring). It is unclear whether the target timeline was just delayed by the pandemic, or if the railroad is now totally defunct. At any rate, the trains are clearly visible from the main roadway (Rt. 28) and sat unmoved for at least the past three years, until recently. A few weeks ago I noticed that a few of the cars, including an old snow clearing engine had been moved about 1/4 mile east of the depot. I also noticed some of the older wooden framed cars being demolished and hauled away by truck. Based on the recent activity, and the fact that they are still sort of maintaining the website, I have hopes that the trains will be operating again at some point.

Some interesting background on the railroad from the above linked website–

The Ulster and Delaware Railroad Company (U&D) was a Class I railroad located in New York State, headquartered in Rondout and founded in 1866. It was often advertised as “The Only All-Rail Route To the Catskill Mountains.” At its greatest extent, the U&D ran from Kingston Point, on the Hudson River, through the heart of the Catskill Mountains to its western terminus at Oneonta, passing through four counties (Ulster, Delaware, Schoharie and Otsego), with branches to Kaaterskill and Hunter in Greene County. The U&D connected with six other railroads: the West Shore, Wallkill, and O&W in Kingston, the D&N in Arkville, the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley in West Davenport, and the D&H in Oneonta.

Although a small railroad, it was big in stature, as it went through many favored tourist hot-spots. Many elegant hotels kept business going, some of which were sponsored or built by the railroad. Besides the passenger business, there were also plenty of farms and creameries (most of them in Delaware County) as well as businesses shipping coal, stone, ice and various wood products.

The train is now run by the Catskill Revitalization Corp and runs trains throughout the summer and fall with special trains at various holidays and key times of the year.

As of last weekend, there were still a handful of old engines, a passenger car, and a pair of cabooses sitting on a section of track right next to the depot. I had been wanting to get some photos for a while, and I figured that my chances to do so might be waning, based on the recent activity I had witnessed. So on the way back from our weekly trash/recycle drop off, I pulled over and braved the wind and rain for about 15 minutes to walk around and get a few snaps.  Just based on my visual inspection of the trains that were still sitting at the depot, I’m guessing that these guys will not be running again without some serious restoration. The ones that had been moved down the track looked like they were in better shape. I honestly really hope that they get it up an running again at some point because (a) it is a pretty cool little piece of local history, and (b) I would love to take a ride on one of these old trains!

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