Congratulations to the Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) for its successful hosting of the steam locomotive Viscose No. 6 this last weekend in Mount Tremper. Excited observers at the 3:00 train Sunday afternoon were cheering and taking pictures all along Route 28 between Mount Tremper and Phoenicia. Reports were of several trains during the weekend with 150-200 passengers.
This was the potential of tourist railroad in Ulster County at its best--in many dimensions. The steam locomotive itself was a tangible symbol and celebration of the history of the railroads in our area. It pulled into the station in Phoenicia that is the home of the Empire State Railway Museum where passengers might have easily disembarked to explore the historical past of the railroads, enhancing not only the tourist experience but providing welcomed visitors to the Museum. Perhaps most importantly the event demonstrated that, with compelling events, railroad enthusiasts will be willing to travel to Shandaken to attend, and that parking and logistics for 200 riders at a time can be accommodated.
This same event however, hosted in Kingston, would have lacked the beautiful scenic backdrop of the Shandaken mountains, would have foregone the synergy with the Museum, and the plume of black smoke which was historically picturesque in that setting would have been seen and experienced by many as unwelcomed pollution in a more densely populated urban environment.
With all of the potential advantages of a Shandaken operation demonstrated by this event it is puzzling therefore that the CMRR continues to focus inordinate amounts of resources on maintaining its grip on the Kingston site. The corridor in Kingston is currently empty over 320 days of the year in which it could be highly utilized by residents for a linear park. Kingston as the hub of an emerging world class trail network including the Ashokan Reservoir trail has enormous potential for economic development associated with biking/active tourist visits and events. The County has offered to help market and promote the Shandaken location.
With only a bit over 9 months remaining on its lease, the railroad should work with the County toward a migration to Shandaken. The County, the City and the railroad itself could benefit from a win-win rather than the continued contentious controversy over an ill-suited urban venue which is empty most of the time and blocks the development for higher and better uses.