O&W Virtual Bus Tour Part II
by Peter H. Putman
Hello, and welcome to Part 2 of the Virtual Bus Tour - an Internet trip over the remains of the New York, Ontario, and Western Railway. Last year's tour started in Cornwall and ended in South Fallsburgh. This year, we traveled from Kingston, NY to Summitville, and from Cadosia to Ferndale over a July weekend, missing only the Hurleyville (Luzon) station in the process.
As we traveled alongside the right-of-way and stopped to look for old grades, stations, etc. I was struck with two thoughts: First, how beautiful was much of the countryside traveled by the O&W - perhaps too bucolic and not industrial enough to sustain the road in the end. And second, how stubborn the Old Woman is in giving up what evidence remains of her once-important transportation corridor through Orange, Sullivan, Delaware, and Ulster counties.
Searching for the O&W is not unlike an archeological dig. You must have an active imagination to look through the underbrush, superhighways, parking lots, and buildings...look past the dry rot, rusty steel, cinder paths and fences and imagine what things looked like 50 and even 100 years ago.
It's a trip for dreamers, who can dip their toes in the East Branch of the Delaware River or Roundout Creek and still see a Y-Class Mountain chugging along with a mix of coaches, baggage cars and milk cars, or a solitary NW-2 drifting along through the woods, dragging a few boxcars north to Kingston from Summitville.
As Ross and I wandered south from Cadosia, we couldn't help but notice how many of the towns along the O&W are themselves in a slow decline. The rows of empty storefronts and lack of industry are testimony to that hard fact. Chasing the remains of the O&W conjures up stories and photos of a better time when New York state was full of vibrant, energetic small towns; self-sustaining economic engines at the heart of which lay a railroad, bringing goods from the outside world, transporting people and conveying a sense of status to the communities it served.
Somehow a four-lane interstate or state toll road and a bunch of gas stations and fast-food restaurants just don't evoke the same feeling. The O&W and her employees are long gone, and although it was the only economic option left I somehow feel we are all the worse off for having lost this railroad and what it represented.
Put the 1990s and the "next millenium" on hold for a little while and come along with us as we take a ramble through the countryside....Pete and Ross Putman
To make these photos more useful to you, we recommend
having a copy on hand of any of these books:
"To The Mountains By Rail" (Wakefield)
"O&W: The Final Years" (Crist/Krause)
"The Long Life and Slow Death of the NYO&W" (Helmer)
"The NYO&W In Color" (Lubliner)
"NYO&W In The Diesel Age" (Mohowski)
"Milk Cars & Mixed Trains & Motor Cars" (Mohowski)
"Minisink Valley Express" (Best)
Or any of the Society's publications including the Bus Tour Guides. The before and after comparisons become more dramatic and meaningful!
IMG001 - This bridge over US 209 in Hurley actually crosses the remains of the O&W trackage to Kingston on the right, although it was built in 1961. The extra length of the bridge was to accommodate a four-lane widening of the highway, which never happened. (Sacred ground?)
IMG002 - We're standing on the old Kingston Yards site, looking northeast towards the junction with the Ulster & Delaware RR (tracks hidden in the brush to the left). Nothing remains of this old site except for an old concrete foundation in the left foreground.
IMG003 - The entrance to the .7 miles long O&W Rail Trail, maintained by Kingston and Hurley. It starts at the end of the Kingston Yards and proceeds west under the NY State Thruway before ending. The U&D tracks parallel it for the entire length.
IMG004 - Looking east at the NY State Thruway overpass, built before the O&W shut down.This bridge has been repaired and upgraded a few times since the mid-1950s. There's another Thruway overpass to the south near Orrs Mills Road where the mainline crossed under - but you have to look sharp to see it at 65 MPH!
IMG008 - The beginning of the O&W trail section in Hurley/Marbletown, which is a pleasant, shaded walk for about 3 miles towards High Falls. It's perfect for biking, too.
IMG007 - This concrete structure was probably used for storing grain or feeds, and lies along the old ROW in Cottekill, NY across the street from the station.
IMG006 - The Cottekill station is well preserved as a currently-occupied residence.
IMG005 - No, it's not Orrs Mills Trestle brought back to life, but the old Rosendale Trestle of the Wallkill Valley Railroad. Abandonded by Conrail in the early 1980s, this magnificent structure soars over 150 feet above the Roundout Creek, and is accessible from the east end. Half of the trestle has been turned into a public walkway. Believe it or not, the current owner would like to restore railroad service on the line...some day.
IMG012 - Another view of Rosendale Trestle, this time from the bottom on Route 213. What a sight it must have been when the first steam locomotives cautiously crept across in the late 1870s!
IMG011 - The station at High falls survives nicely as a residence today. High Falls is where the Delaware and Hudson Canal crossed over Roundout Creek and the magnificent waterfall that has been long dammed up for hydroelectric power.
IMG010 - The old station at Accord, NY is now functioning as office space (vacant) and a delicatessen (recently vacated.) If you want to have a sense of the importance of a railroad to the community, this is a good place to visit. A steel ex-Erie caboose painted with O&W logos stands nearby.
IMG009 - This abandoned feed and grain building, coal storage shed and lumber dealer stands across the street from the Accord station. Imagine how busy it must have been in the early part of this century.
IMG016 - The center of town in Kerhonkson, NY. Once the O&W ran right through here, but virtually all traces of it have been obliterated save for a freight building just north of this open square. Kerhonkson also lies quietly in the sun; very little economic activity is evidenced save for a liquor store and hair/nails salon.
IMG015 - This lone iron beam is all that remains of a small bridge on the Kingston branch, just north of Wawarsing. Part of this section of ROW is also in the O&W Trail and is accessible to the public.
IMG014 - A side view of Wawarsing Station, which was once at a busy intersection/grade crossing and now slumbers away, partially covered by trees. It's in good shape but all closed up. The concrete post support for the grade crossbuck still stands outside the building.
IMG013 - A view of Napanoch Station, situated right on the Eastern New York Penitentiary grounds. The state is currently rebuilding the roof of the freight house and keeps the station in fine shape. Yes, you can visit it (right off US 209) and many people fish nearby in the Roundout.
IMG020 - A rear view of Ellenville station, once the showcase of the entire branch when it was built. The front is blocked by an adjoining warehouse, obliterating the magnificent curved drive and landscaping seen in older postcard views.
IMG0019 - A close-up of the old freight entrance to the Ellenville station, now a private residence and business. The tracks ran right alongside this part of the building.
IMG018 - This coaling tower still stands outside Wurtsboro, near the old station that is now aresidence.
CADOSIA TO FERNDALE
IMG0017 - Cadosia station and the old freight house still stand. The freight house is to the right rear. The station was recently a nightclub/bar, but is not in use although there is evidence that someone is living there.
IMG0032 - This concrete footings are all that remain of the Delaware River trestle outside of Hancock, NY; once single-track, then double-tracked, then again converted to single track as an economy move in the 1930s.
IMG0033 - This solitary stone bridge support bears witness to the vicious floods along the East Branch of the Delaware River that caused considerable havoc to the O&W more than once. It's actually a support for an old highway bridge.
IMG0034 - This view alongside the county road bridge into Fishs Eddy is actually a look at an old O&W bridge across the Delaware River. The state converted the old grade by recycling it into a paved road, and this single-lane bridge remains the only way to get into Fishs Eddy from NY 17.
IMG0035 - Looking across the bridge into East Branch, we see evidence of another fallen flag - the Delaware and Northern RR bridge support. The "Damned Nuisance" had a short but charmed life with plenty of ex-DL&W 4-4-0s and a Sykes Railbus. It was abandoned in 1941 during the construction of the Downsville Reservoir for New York City, the flooding of which obliterated not only the D&N tracks but also many communities in the valley of the East Branch.
IMG0028 - The station at Cooks Falls survives nicely and is occupied as a summer residence.
IMG0029 - This massive stone retaining wall lies just south (east) of the Cooks Falls station, and was built after one of the many floods eroded the fill. A girder bridge still spans a creek just to the left of this picture, and can be seen from across the river.
IMG0030 - One of the few remaining truss bridges along the O&W, this is privately owned and acquired the name "Hairpull Bridge" from O&W crews. (See Paul Lubliner's "O&W In Color" book for more details.) It lies just a few miles south (east) of Cooks Falls. Yes, it is still used!
IMG0031 - A fly fisherman concentrates on catching his trout just a few miles west of Roscoe. Behind him and up on the graded ledge is the remains of the main line.
IMG0024 - One of several ex-Erie steel cabooses painted with an O&W logo rests on the old Roscoe station site, adjacent to NY 17. The Roscoe O&W museum is just across the street.
IMG0025 - This crumbling bridge support lies just east of Roscoe, adjacent to a rest area alongside NY 17. It crossed the Willowemoc and shows evidence of having been rebuilt - the core is old stonework that goes back to the origins of the New York and Oswego Midland RR.
IMG0026 - This decaying building is the old Livingston Manor freight house. (The station is long gone.) It's part of a lumber yard, and lies directly behind the New York Telephone building, which itself sits on the old ROW.
IMG0027 - This small bridge jumps a creek in Parksville. The ROW is easy to find here, as it begins its steep climb up to Young's Gap where the Quickway obliterates all traces of the ROW.
IMG0023 - Looking east along the old grade in Liberty, NY. Most of the grade here is a mix of public and private roads. The station lay off in the distance to the right of the picture. The stone retaining wall to the right bears the inscription "1907" in several places.
IMG0021 - Although the station is gone, the Liberty freight house still survives and is being used as storage by the New York Electric and Gas Company. Trains passed to the left of the photo on their way to Ferndale trestle.
IMG0022 - This is Ferndale station, located at the south (east) end of the towering Ferndale trestle. It's currently being used by a fuel oil dealer, who has the freight loading platform in back littered with old gasoline pumps. If you walk past the large oil storage tanks in the rear, you can find the south (east) footing of the trestle buried in the trees.