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The Delaware and Ulster Railroad Trip 6/13/2015

by Chris Guenzler

Robin and I pulled into the Delaware and Ulster Railroad parking lot and parked. To the south we saw a railroad car sitting by itself and went to took a picture of it.

Pennsylvania Railroad caboose 477479 which became Penn Central 19304 and later Conrail 19304, builder and year unknown, is on display to the south of the parking lot.

Ulster and Delaware Railroad

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 ran 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.


In 1866, the Rondout & Oswego Railroad was chartered to build west from Rondout, New York, now part of the city of Kingston. At that time, Rondout was a separate town and, more importantly, the east terminal and headquarters of the Delaware & Hudson Canal. The railroad's goal was not Oswego on Lake Ontario, but a connection with the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad (later Delaware & Hudson Railroad) near Oneonta. Construction began in 1866. By late 1870, 32 miles of line were in service.

The rails continued to push westward - over the Catskills and into the valley of the East Branch of the Delaware River, then up and over into the valley of the West Branch at Stamford, reached on December 12, 1872. That same year, the company was reorganized as the New York, Kingston & Syracuse Railroad, and in 1875 it was sold and reorganized again as the Ulster & Delaware Railroad (U&D).

The Catskill Mountains were rapidly developing into a summer resort area. The Stony Clove & Catskill Mountain Railroad was organized in 1881 by U&D management to build a three foot narrow gauge line from Phoenicia on the U&D to Hunter, with a branch, the narrow gauge Kaaterskill Railroad, to serve the Hotel Kaaterskill and the Catskill Mountain House. Service on the SC&CM began in mid-1882 and the Kaaterskill line opened in June 1883. That same month the West Shore Railroad opened between Jersey City and Kingston, giving the U&D a direct rail connection to New York.

In the mid-1880s work resumed to extend the U&D over another divide and into the valley of the Susquehanna River. While that was in progress, the U&D merged its two narrow gauge subsidiaries in 1893, and converted them to standard gauge in 1899. On July 16, 1900, the U&D finally arrived in Oneonta, where it connected with the D&H. The Delaware & Hudson Canal had ceased operation only two years before, and the U&D acquired some of its coal traffic. Coal traffic soon came to provide the bulk of U&D freight revenue.

U&D's peak passenger year was 1913, with 675,000 passengers carried. Paved highways began to penetrate the Catskills and the huge mountain hotels closed one by one as tastes in vacationing changed. U&D management approached the New York Central Railroad, asking if it would like to buy a railroad through the Catskills; NYC replied that it would not. Then the Interstate Commerce Commission added NYC takeover of the U&D (which entered receivership in 1931) to the conditions under which it would approve absorption of the Michigan Central Railroad and Big Four (the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway) by NYC. On February 1, 1932, the U&D became the Catskill Mountain Branch of the NYC.

In 1940, the Hunter and Kaaterskill branches, the former narrow gauge lines, were abandoned. Passenger service was discontinued on March 31, 1954. Coal traffic from the D&H disappeared, and in 1965 the NYC cut back the west end of the line from Oneonta to Bloomville, removing the rails in 1967. Conrail completed abandonment of the line in October 1976, with the final train operating between Kingston and Stamford on September 28, 1976; all remaining rolling stock returned to Kingston on October 2, 1976. Three short portions survive as heritage railways: Kingston-Kingston Point: Trolley Museum of New York, Kingston-Highmount: Catskill Mountain Railroad and Kelly's Corner-Arkville-Highmount: Delaware & Ulster Railroad.

The line remained out of service until transportation lawyer and New York native Donald L. Pevsner campaigned to preserve the railroad between 1962 and 1979. He enlisted the help of author William F. Buckley, Jr., who toured the line in 1977 and helped draw publicity to the tug-of-war between the communities and Penn Central over the sale price. Residents along the line succeeded in convincing local governments to purchase the line. Ulster County bought the 38.6-mile segment from Kingston to the Delaware County line at Highmount for $1.5 million in tax forgiveness in 1979, and leased it to the Catskill Mountain Railroad in 1983.

The A. Lindsay and Olive B. O'Connor Foundation purchased the railroad from the Delaware County line to the end-of-track in Bloomville for $770,000 in 1980, which would become the Delaware & Ulster Railroad (D&U). Then they conveyed it to the seven towns through which the line passed. Over $15 million has been invested in the D&U since then, which is now owned by the non-profit Catskill Revitalization Corporation.

Present conditions Ulster County

Starting at Kingston Point, Milepost 0, the Trolley Museum of New York operates 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 leased to the Trolley Museum. The Trolley Museum is focused on 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, with a branch along the Strand. The track from MP 2.4 to 2.8 has been removed and the right-of-way sold to private parties.

The line easements "for railroad purposes" from Kingston to the Delaware County line are owned by Ulster County, which acquired them from Penn Central in 1979 in lieu of backed taxes. The Catskill Mountain Railroad leases this portion from Ulster County for tourist operations between Phoenicia and Cold Brook Station. Trackage between Kingston and Cold Brook was cleared of debris, and is being upgraded between Kingston and Phoenicia; the line is in service from Kingston Plaza to the Hurley Flats bridge and from MP 21.3 (Bridge C30) to 27.9. The Catskill Mountain Railroad commenced operations in Kingston in December 2008. One bridge in need of repair separates the two ends of the railroad at MP 21.3 (Bridge C30). On August 28, 2011, Bridge C30 was washed away due to flooding from Hurricane Irene, severing the Phoenicia operation from the Kingston operation for the time being.

The line between Phoenicia and Highmount, also leased by the Catskill Mountain Railroad, is isolated by six washouts west of Phoenicia, and has not seen a train since regular service ended on October 2, 1976. However, a 2 1/2-mile section of the line, between Giggle Hollow and Highmount was cleared of debris in 2006. Another section from Big Indian to Shandaken was cleared in 2009.

Delaware County

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

In Roxbury, the 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 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 railbed from Highmount to Bloomville (45 miles) is owned by the Catskill Revitalization Corporation. The track ends at Hubbell Corners, where it becomes the Catskill Scenic Trail.

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 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 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 in the 1970s to go from Schenectady, New York to Binghamton, New York, although the original plans suggested that it go to New England and near the Atlantic Coast. The portion that was constructed covers a portion of the U&D's railbed in the township of Oneonta, where it connects with New York State Route 28.

Schoharie County

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 other U&D railroad stations that is 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 unclear whether or not it will take place.

Otsego County

The final station at Oneonta, MP 106.9, was part of a tourist line called the "Delaware and Otsego Railroad" that was created shortly after that portion was abandoned, in the late 1960s. It ran trains from Oneonta station to a bridge that crossed Charlotte Creek a little way from the old site of the West Davenport Station. It is currently a pub/restaurant called "The Depot". The line from Bloomville, MP 86.2, to Oneonta, MP 107, was abandoned in 1965, with rails removed in 1967, and is currently in the hands of private owners (mostly abutting landowners).

Greene County

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 two mile 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 the 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. Hunter Station, branch MP 2.5, is now a private dwelling. Haines Falls station, branch MP 18.5, is currently the headquarters of the Mountain Top Historical Society.

Our visit

New York, Ontario & Western four-wheel bobber caboose 8206 built in 1906 and belongs to the Ulster & Delaware Railroad Historical Society.

Delaware and Ulster Railroad S-4 5106, ex. General Chemical 4A, exx. Allied Chemical 4A, nee Chesapeake & Ohio 5106, built by American Locomotive Company in 1953.

Brooklyn East Terminal District 0-6-0ST 14 built by H.K. Porter as Mesta Machine Company 5 at West Homestead, Pennsylvania. In 1932, it was sold to dealer Birmingham Rail & Locomotive Company. Three years later, it was acquired by Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal 14 at New York then in 1964, sold to Rail Tours, Incorporated at York, Pennylvania and was leased to Black River & Western Corporation, which ended in 1967. It is currently owned by Ulster & Delaware Railroad Historical Society.

Flat car.

New York, Ontario & Western NW2 116, ex. private owner (Walter Rich), exx. Conrail 9264 1976, exxx. Penn Central 8684 1968, exxxx. New York central 8684, nee New York Central 9501 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1948.

Pennsylvania Railroad MP54 trailer 432 built by Pressed Steel in 1912, lettered as New York Central 444.

New York Central auto parts boxcar 153964 used for storage.

New York Central auto parts box car 153993 used for storage.

New York Central combine "Doodlebug" M-206 built by J.G. Brill in 1938, lettered as Delaware & Ulster M-405 "The Red Heifer".

A storage shed.

Pennsylvania Railroad MP54 trailer 639 built by Pressed Steel in 1914, lettered as New York Central 447.

Delaware and Ulster open car 297 built from flat car 301.

Delaware and Ulster open car 302 built from a flat car.

Pennsylvania Railroad MP54 trailer 414 built by Pressed Steel in 1912, lettered as New York Central 441.

Santa Fe baggage car 3519 built by Budd in 1953 and convereted to head-end power car.

Delaware and Ulster dome car "Locust Grove", ex. Mid-America Railcar Leasing 7891, exx. Philip Sheridan 2004, exxx. part of the short-lived "Acadian" Montreal-Maine-Halifax service 2002-2003, exxxx. Mexican American Railway division of MARA operating on the South Orient Express Mexico Copper Canyon tour service- based in Chihuahua, Mexico. Service terminated and car withdrawn from Mexico in 2001, exxxxx. DRC Railtours 1994, exxxxxx. Texas Southern lease for Texas Limited (Houston to Galveston), exxxxxxx. Denver Railcar DRCX 7891 "Maroon Bells" (converted to dome diner) 1989, exxxxxxxx. Roaring Fork charter 1986, exxxxxxxxx. Butterworth Tours (Golden Arrow, lease) 1973, exxxxxxxxxx. Illinois Central 2201 1967, retired 1970, exxxxxxxxxxx. Missouri Pacific 591, exxxxxxxxxxxx. Missouri Pacific "The Eagle", nee Missouri Pacific "Colorado Eagle" built by Budd in 1963.

Delaware and Ulster dining car "East Branch", ex. Amtrak camp car 16761, exx. Amtrak 8086 1971, exxx. Seaboard Coast Line 5956 1967, nee Atlantic Coast Line "Plant City" built by Pullman Standard in 1950.

Delaware and Ulster tavern-lounge car "Olive Branch", ex. Acadian "Silver Queen" 2002-2003, exx. DRCX 3363 "Silver Queen" (leased to Texas Southern), exxx. Hank Frazier (Ruston, Louisiana), exxxx. Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific 363 "Herington", nee Minneapolis & St. Louis 52 built by Budd in 1948. It was acquired in 2005.

Delaware and Ulster observation car 21, ex. Acadian "Silver Queen" 2002-2003, exx. MexAm Rail 1999, exxx. Denver Rail Car 9061 (leased to Texas Southern), nee New York central observation/lounge/parlour car 61 built by Budd in 1948.

Delaware & Hudson RS-36 5017 built by American Locomotive Company in 1963.

The rear end of our train today.

Pennsylvania Railroad caboose 477479 built by the railroad.

Pennsylvania Railroad caboose, number unknown.

Ulster and Delaware Arkville station built in 1871.

Station grounds scene.

Robin by the party caboose.

Delaware & Hudson RS-36 5017 being put on the front of our train.

Station grounds scene.

Our trip on the Delaware & Ulster Railroad

We left the Arkville station.

Good bye Delaware and Ulster Railroad S-4 5106.

We went by the Arkville Bed and Breakfast as we left town.

Out in to the forest we went.

The Catskill Mountains would be seen for the entire trip on this railroad.

The rear of the train on a curve.

Our conductor punched tickets.

Another Catskill Mountain view.

Stone mile marker K49.

Stone whistle post.

Passing an old factory.

The train taking another curve.

Our route was following the East Branch of the Delaware River.

Two Catskill Mountain views.

The train crossed the main road between Arkville and Roxbury.

Junction of two roads.

The East Branch of the Delaware River.

Beautiful views in the Catskill Mountains.

Looking back at our train.

The Round Barn farmer's market.

A look ahead of our train.

The Round Barn.

The East Branch of the Delaware River.

A view looking back at the rear of our train.

A view looking ahead of our train.

A lake on the East Branch of the Delaware River.

The view ahead

We ran by many barns on the trip.

The East Branch of the Delaware River.

Interesting stone wall in the water.

Flowers in bloom.

A nice assortment of trees.

The Catskill Mountains.

The view ahead of our train.

The train ran by another lake on the East Branch of the Delaware River.

The Catskill Mountains are very beautiful.

The East Branch of the Delaware River.

Interesting clouds in the sky.

Another beautiful vista.

The East Branch of the Delaware River.

The eyes are always watching.

The train pulled into Roxbury.

This was a first for me as I do not know what this is.

We arrived at the Roxbury station built in 1872 and I visited the station for a Coca-Cola before returning to a seat in a coach.

The power ran around our train at Roxbury.

We departed Roxbury for Arkville.

The interior of the coach in which I rode back. It was a faster trip back and we arrived in Arkville at 1:12 PM. I want to thank the Delaware & Ulster Railroad for having us today to ride their fantastic train. Robin and I went straight to the car and headed out the back way to get to Mt. Tremper.