"In the field" railroad history adventures...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

East Ithaca Recreation Way

Sunday Mid Morning I rode the East Ithaca Recreation Way.  There is a nice historical sign at the entrance detailing the railroad history of the ROW.

 The first stretch Is super flat and the biggest excitement is crossing the road (yawn).

Not “doing my homework” and just “winging it” was a mistake. When I got to the end of the first section (at 2) , I had no idea where to go, Being without any digital connectivity, I cussed out the lack of signage and rode back.

I then drove to the other trailhead and enjoyed this section a lot more. It travels along a stream  (Cascadilla Creek) and bridges the stream and road right before a sharp turn up a steep hill. All was rideable and enjoyable. The weather was cloudy but thankfully it didn’t rain until just as I finished. When I packed up and got in the car - it downpoured!

Short Video 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Black Diamond Trail - Ithaca, NY

The Black Diamond Express
This was the Route of the Lehigh Valley (LVRR) To Buffalo. The LVRR’s most famous passenger train was known as the Black Diamond Express as the railroad was known for primarily hauling coal from the Pennsylvania mines. (further info > )

BTW: The name in no way reflects any kind of difficulty for a biker - it is just a name to link the trail with its past!

The Ride
On Saturday--about a little before 6PM--I rode a bit of the Black Diamond.

I started out in the southernmost part of Cass Park and started riding on the trail I saw but ended up by the pool, so I retraced my route to try and find the actual trail I intended to ride!

 I found a gravel turnoff that led to the old ROW. It turns out, getting started was difficult because there wasn’t any signage. I believe this section of the trail is still considered not open.

The trail itself looks like a jeep trail and I was even blocked with deadfall at one point!

Although easy to ride  (the grade wasn’t much at all), the trail really was more appropriate for fat tires as there was a lot of ballast-sized rocks scattered about and I worried the whole time that I was going to pop a tire. :-(

After about 3 miles of riding, I decided to turn around. This section near the fallen tree pictured below had lots of loose rock just waiting to cause a flat! Fortunately I made it out with my tires still intact - riding back down over the clover was a redeeming moment of fun...

Short One-Handed Video:

South Hill Recreation Way - Ithaca, NY

This is an easy but pleasant trail built from the old DL&W switchback. Further historical info here > 

I started around 8:45 on a beautiful Saturday morning at the Burns Road entrance and rode south. It was super smooth and easy to make a one-handed video (see below).

As the map indicates, there are two sections to the trail and a connector. The connector trail was pretty steep and a rush to descend but I rode back up it without an issue on my return.

Coddington Road Entrance

Hudson Street Entrance

Short Video featuring one-handed riding views...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Vestal Rail Trail

On my way up to Ithaca, NY for a family reunion, I stopped in Vestal and rode this easy and short Rail Trail.  (3.8 miles)

The unusual shaped building was a former DL&W coal house moved from nearby. It now serves as an ice cream parlor /coffee house and community performance center - pretty cool!  Going eastward from this point, it is super flat and easy. 

Going west has a little more variety. It winds up over a bridge above a dry river bed and a little further, there is a stream in the forest that you can see. 

(close up)

 A partially-burnt fuel storage station is along the way as well...

Once I returned to where I parked, I stopped in to check out the ice cream parlor and had a tasty expresso coffee and vanilla ice cream concoction - Tasty!

There is a display inside that details the history of the building...

Further Info

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Riding The Old Putnam Line...

After the disaster yesterday on the Walkway over the Hudson with my Verizon tablet, I dug out my old Canon Powershot, bought an SD card and used it today. What a difference - one handed videos are back!

(click to enlarge)

I started out at a bizarre spot, south of Eastview at the end of Fairview Park Drive. Not sure why Google Maps sent me here as there was no place to park near the trail so I drove further up the hill and parked in a corporate lot.

The trail was easy and fairly flat and even though I paralleled the Highway - it was well forested, shady and peaceful. For a mile or so I was on the South County Trailway then it seamlessly turns into the North County Trailway.

There were very few folks out on the trail and I pretty much kept a steady brisk pace all the way to the first trail sign and “feature”: still intact tracks.

Forest areas alternated with open areas where massive power lines either criss crossed or parralleled the trail.
Roadways were usually crossed at the same level but there were a few times where the trail bridged a road or went underneath.

At Briarcliff Manor,  I stopped to take a photo of the Library which was the former depot.

There were a few signs along the way which detailed the railroad history of that section.

There’s couple of sections where you have to ride along the roadway. It’s a little weird but at least there's plenty of shoulder to ride on since it is considered part of the trail way.

The most popular section was where the rail trail went along the shore of the Croton reservoir and crossed it.  The reason for this was clear - this is beautiful and very picturesque!

I shot a few short one-handed riding videos as well as a 360 at the bridge

 Finally my butt was getting a little sore so after about 16 miles I stopped here (past the reservoir, up the hill in the Croton Heights area), and turned around and headed back. I'll be back to ride the rest of the trail (it goes up to Carmel/Brewster but I'll be sure to get a better starting point next time!

Further Info

-Rail Trail Info-
South County Trailway
North County Trailway

-Railroad History-
The Putnam Line

Duchess County and The Walkway Over The Hudson

Although I have been frequently biking riding and trail building since my last post, my activities were just the usual local stuff and not worth posting.

But this weekend was different! My son pleaded with me to lend him my mountain bike for the weekend so I opted to ride the rail trails east of the Hudson River instead of my usual mountain biking in Trumbull. As in previous posts, these excursions are hopefully an enlightened window into the world of yesteryear with a large dollop of railroad-related history added.

The Route
Well Friday the 4th was a bust due to all the rain but Saturday was gorgeous so I ventured up to ride the Rail Trail that connects to the now famous Walkway Over the Hudson. Three trails combined make an 18 mile ride (one way).
  • Duchess County Rail Trail
  • Walkway Over The Hudson
  • Hudson Valley Rail Trail

Hopewell Junction
I began my trek at the southern trail head at Hopewell Junction. In this small village, there is a old train station that has been painstakingly restored and turned into a lovely railroad museum. Being a train buff it was great to see all the old photos and maps as well as a large array of objects from the railroad’s hey day on exhibit and presented so professionally.

I got a personal tour from a cheerful and knowledgable guide named Jackie and lingered there for close to an hour! If you are ever in the area, be sure to pay this spot a visit - it will be well worth it!

Duchess County Rail Trail
The rail trail itself is super easy - flat and well paved. It seemed to be enjoyed by lots of folks. Hikers, roller bladers, bikers (both old and young) all were out on such a lovely day but it never felt too crowded as the trail is quite wide (it appeared to have been a double-track railroad line the whole way).

There is ample signage along the route, explaining the history and nature of the surroundings. I didn’t stop to read many as I was interested in not interrupting my riding flow but if you hike it, you will definitely return home an expert about the area! :-)

About halfway to the bridge, the trail becomes a very tall embankment that goes on for miles through a  forested area. This must have cost a fortune to build and is a testament to how important this line was. This was the first railroad to ever cross the Hudson and was a major shipping route delivering coal from Pennsylvania and goods from out west destined to the manufacturing states of New England.

Its amazing  (and sad) to to think about how much has changed for the railroads between then and now… 

I took a nice shot of the ROW as I got nearer to the bridge.

Walkway Over the Hudson
Once on the bridge, it got really crowded. This is a very popular destination and I am sure the great weather on a 3-day weekend brought the crowds out.

It is a spectacular view from 130 feet above the river. A myriad of informative signage mounted along the side fencing did a marvelous job explaining the history and construction of the bridge. 

Yep - that's my finger it the photo. 
My iPhone was stolen a few weeks back, so on this trip I used a small Verizon tablet. 
It was too big to take my usual one-handed video while riding 
and certainly not as easy to snap a decent photo :-(

- Watch a short video -

Hudson Valley Rail Trail
After weaving my way through the crowd, I continued westward to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail heading towards the Tony Williams Park in Lloyds, my final destination. 
Even though this trail is uphill the whole way, it is such an mild grade it was super easy. The truth be told… this is the most picturesque section of my ride as the trail spiraled slowly upward through rock cuts under a heavily-shaded dense forest canopy. There are even a couple of old railroad signals in place along side the trail, reminding you of the ROWs origins.

Once at the park I snapped a quick vid and headed back down, hungry at this point and eager to chow down at the first opportunity.  I veered off the trail and rode into Highland and found a pizzeria. The Sicilian was delicious :-) See street view of downtown Highland.

The ride back to the car at Hopewell Junction was uneventful yet pleasant and at the end of the day, my bike odometer showed almost 40 miles of riding. Not bad for a beautiful day of exploring.

Further Info

-Railroad History-
Hopewell Depot

New York and New England Railroad

The Maybrook Line

-Trail Info-
Duchess County Rail Trail >

Walkway Over The Hudson >
Built in 1888 to link New York and New England to the coal beds of Pennsylvania and the West, the steel-truss Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge was the longest bridge in the world at the time stretching 6,768 feet (approximately 1.28 miles) over the Hudson River

Hudson Valley Rail Trail >