RAILS TO THE CATSKILLS – Special Preview Showing Set for October 13th at Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston

RAILS TO THE CATSKILLS – Special Preview Showing Set for October 13th at Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston

Rails to the Catskills will have a special preview showing on October 13 at 2 PM at Kingston's Hudson River Maritime Museum. The feature-length documentary film, now in production, is the story of railroading in the northern and southern Catskills. Among the lines that had a connection to the Catskills are the Catskill & Canajoharie Railroad, the Catskill Mountain Railway/Otis Elevating Railway, the Ulster & Delaware, Wallkill Valley, New York West Shore & Buffalo, New York Ontario & Western, and Delaware & Northern railroads. In addition, Rails to the Catskills covers the Delaware & Hudson Canal and electric trolleys.

Rails to the Catskills presents interviews with noted railroad historians and photographers, including John M. Ham, William Helmer, Ph.D., Robert Mohowski, Bob Haines, Gene Dauner, and Dale Flansburg. Images, animated maps and vintage films come from historical societies, museums, libraries, private collections and other sources.

Rails to the Catskills begins with the early canals and railroads in the 1820’s and 1830’s and winds its way through the Gilded Age and into the 20th century. During this time many lines were consolidated, abandoned or went bankrupt. Today what remain in the Catskills are heritage railroads in Kingston and Phoenicia and from Arkville to Roxbury. These railroads are a vital part of the Rails to the Catskills story.

As recently as 2006, Ulster County placed a high value on its historic rail line. Recently it had a change of heart. The County Executive now proposes to build a “Rail Trail”in the Ulster & Delaware rail corridor. He wants to remove most of the rails as part of his plan to have a 60-mile trail from the Walkway Over the Hudson to Highmount. Over the past few months Ulster County has moved to revoke the Catskill Mountain Railroad’s lease and to close the rail-yard of the Kingston branch of the Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR).

In December, 2012 the County Legislature adopted a budget that includes revenues from scrapping the Ulster & Delaware tracks from Phoenicia west to Highmount. The County Executive also plans to rip up more than 20 miles of track from Kingston to Mt. Pleasant. Only a six mile stretch of tourist railroad from Mt. Pleasant to Phoenicia would be allowed to operate.

In the spring of 2013, the Catskill Mountain Railroad presented a “Rail with Trail” engineering plan to preserve and grow the historic railroad operation from Kingston to the Ashokan Reservoir, while accommodating a trail. The county has rejected this plan. Trails-only advocates and railroad volunteers remain at odds on how to proceed. Ulster County's attempt to revoke the CMRR’s current lease remains in court.

FEMA funds are available to Ulster County for seven projects to restore Hurricane Irene-damaged railroad tracks and bridges. These include rebuilding the line at Campground Curve in Mount Pleasant and restoring the large Boiceville Trestle, but to date no projects have begun.

Nevertheless, the Catskill Mountain Railroad continues restoring tracks on both ends of its system. In December 2012, they completed a two-year restoration of the newly named Earl Pardini Bridge, over the Esopus Creek west of Kingston. This puts the Kingston Branch within striking distance of Rt. 209, and the beginning of a possible run up Hurley Mountain to the eastern edge of the Ashokan Reservoir.

In August 2013, even without the FEMA funds, the Catskill Mountain Railroad began work to repair the washed-out section along the Esopus Creek and Rt. 28 and to restore train service to Phoenicia’s Empire State Railway Museum. As the track rebuilding and the political battles move forward, Rails to the Catskills will cover this contemporary story.

Two segments from the film are on YouTube for viewers to enjoy. These clips give some insight into the operations of the two tourist trains still running in the Catskills. Search YouTube for Rails to the Catskill – The Catskill Mountain Railroad” and “Rails to the Catskills – The Delaware and Ulster Railroad.”

Visit our web site at documentaryworld.com and our Facebook Page and blog page at Watershed Post for the latest information about Rails to the Catskills and other Willow Mixed Media projects.

Join us for a preview of Rails to the Catskills on October 13th at 2 PM. The Rails to the Catskills preview will be followed by a question and answer period with filmmaker, Tobe Carey. The documentary is slated for completion in Spring 2014.

Limited seating is available. The Hudson River Maritime Museum is located at 50 Rondout Landing, Kingston, NY 12401; Phone: (845) 338-0071; Email info@hrmm.org.

Photos: Thomas Cornell portrait by Matthew Brady/Library of Congress
Ulster & Delaware RR photos from NYYSA
NY O&W photos from Cornell University Library