RAILS TO THE CATSKILLS – Mountain Top Attractions

Beginning in the 1820's, the high peaks of the northern Catskills attracted visitors to the hotel and boarding houses located throughout the region. The Catskill Mountain House was famed worldwide for its setting on the eastern escarpment of the Catskills. It thrived with its mountain-top elegance and spectacular view over the Hudson Valley. Nearby were North and South Lake and the acclaimed Kaaterskill Falls. In the 1850's the Laurel House opened to guests and many farmhouses were enlarged to accommodate summer tourists.

In the beginning of this trade the only way to the Mountain House was to take a Hudson River train or steamboat to Catskill and a bone-jarring stagecoach into the mountains. After the Civil War this began to change as railroads pushed into the region.

By the 1880s, this traffic increased dramatically. The Hotel Kaaterskill, opened in 1881 and was the impetus for the Ulster & Delaware Railroad to build its narrow gauge branch reaching north from Phoenicia, through the Stony Clove to Hunter and east to Kaaterskill Station. Charles L. Beach, the owner of the Catskill Mountain House, countered with his own narrow gauge line from Catskill to Palenville, with a branch to Cairo. In 1892 he added the Otis Elevating Railway to bring guests up the Wall of Manitu and close to the Mountain House. In later years the Ulster & Delaware converted to strandard gauge on its branch lines and the Catskill Mountain Railroad disappeared.

Here are some images relating to travel to the Catskill High Peaks and the area around the Mountain House. The locomotive is Cairo Rail Road #3, the upsweeping rail track is the Otis Elevating, the railroad staion is at Haines Falls, the railroad trestle is on the Kaaterskill Branch, and the bottom locomotive is on the Catskill & Tannersville, affectionately known as "The Huckleberry." The film clip, from 1906, is one in which the Ulster & Delaware stands in for the Rocky Mountain Express.

We continue to be interested in receiving any items that might be useful for “Rails to the Catskills,” our documentary now in production. Contact us at video@hvc.rr.com.