"In the field" railroad history adventures...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

North County/Putnam Trail to Brewster

Biking the Rail Trail from Croton Reservoir to Brewster  

- 40 plus miles round trip -

I got off to a late start today but at 10:45 AM I was riding. I started from the parking lot just north of the Croton Reservoir. It was beautiful day  - not too hot and the Rail Trail had a lot of activity: bikers, hikers, skateboarders, etc.
Croton Parking
This trail was nice because it not only went thru some nice woodsy spots, but it also cut through a few towns so one could stop and buy a snack or whatever if you cared to.
Yorktown Heights Panorama
At Yorktown Heights, I bought a Powerade at the gas station and filmed traveling by the old train station  Photo of the station in earlier days here >.

A few miles north of Yorktown Heights, there was a long gradual hill going toward Mahopac (but on the return, it was a 15 minute joyride coasting back down it!). My tires were a little under pressure so that made the going a little tougher but Rail Trail hills are super easy compared to road or mountain biking in the area so it was no big deal…

I took a Pic of the old Mahopac station and stopped to snap a shot looking over the lake.
Lake Mahopac Station
Lake Mahopac
The trail itself went thru a variety of scenery, marshland, deep woods, farmland and of course small towns. Along the way there were a few bridges over roads or streams.

At Lake Gleneida there was a kiosk with a good amount of info on the Rail Trail efforts  on one side and on  the other side:  the history of the old Putnam line. My favorite item on the history timeline was "in 1972, A teenager steals a Diesel Switcher in Brewster and takes it on a joyride - and finally ends up crashing it"- Yikes!!
Kiosk at Lake Gleneida

Before reaching the end of the line, the Rail Trail cuts right across Middle Branch Reservoir - I have super short segment in the video. The photo is a street view from the highway to the North.
Street View South at Middle Branch Reservoir

Trail's End

There was a nice Pizza Place at end of the line where I gobbled down a couple of tasty slices before heading back...

As mentioned, my tires were soft so I stopped in at the Bikeway store in Mahopac where they pumped them back up to 100 psi. Man what a difference! 

The best part of the trip was—once I reached the high point south of Mahopac—the gradual hill I mentioned on the way up was a sweet coast back down on my return. I hardly had to pedal for about 10 minutes or so… I was flying and peaked at 29.7 mph without even trying! (I shot  a one-handed video of course :-) ) Most of the rest of the trip back was almost as easy as well.

I stopped for a quick break to eat my plum which I had hung from my handlebars: it was super ripe, juicy and delicious! 
Finally... I stopped to shoot-- IHMO--the perfect picturesque railroad cut photo...

Video - Riding the Putnam Rail Trail (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Part 1
  Riding The Old Putnam Line...

Further Info

The Putnam Line in 1902

TIP: To view maps at full size...
Click on any of the maps below and then
right click and choose "open image in a new window"

1 - East View To Croton Reservoir

The Rockefeller Diversion
John D. Rockefeller was annoyed by the railroad that ran through his family’s estate in Pocantico Hills. Rockefeller approached the railroad with a plan to move the line off his property. On April 15, 1930, a construction crew of 500 men began work on the railroad relocation. Three stations were closed: Tarrytown Heights, Tower Hill, and Pocantico Hills. The new route opened in 1931. 

2- Yorktown Heights Section

3- Mahopac to Brewster

4 - Mahopac Branchline to the Mine

Mahopac Falls Branch Line The Mahopac Iron Mine opened in 1879. A railroad was built to the mines in 1902. It was abandoned in 1931.

More about the Mahopac Falls Branch Line:
Guide To The Old Put (PDF)

-Rail Trail Info-
South County Trailway
North County Trailway

-Railroad History-
The Putnam Line


  1. Looks like progress is being made to extend all the way Southeast and Brewster! That's going to be awesome! Not sure if you know this but there was a branch line from Mahopac to a place called Mahopac Mines I think and then there is another line from Mahopac to Golden's Bridge, too.

    Would you be up for doing the whole thing sometime? It's like 90 miles round trip.

  2. Mark - Thanks for commenting
    Yes - they are digging from Brewster Square eastward - I was chatting with a local in the pizza shop and he confirmed.
    Re the Branch Line to the mines - I have updated the post with a plethora of new historical maps including a Branch line Map to the Mine - It would love to sniff around there and ride the old ROW with my mountain bike like I did upstate (see other posts).

    Yes the line from Mahopac to Golden's Bridge is on the old historical mps as well - great to know you are into this stuff as well!

    RE the 90 miles trip ?- maybe - but I would rather sniff out the branch lines first…

  3. The Tarrytown Lakes Extension is a pleasant ride, although not completely paved. I rode it to the then-current end of the trail last summer, where there was a bridge without a deck and orange snow fencing. Looking at aerial photos, I see no reason why the trail couldn't be extended, so maybe it will be?

    There's also a bit of railbed which is unpaved, but seems to currently be used as a footpath, the Mohansic Branch. They were going to build a state mental hospital in what is now FDR State Park. Because of concerns about development so close to Croton Reservoir polluting NYC's water supply, they abandoned the hospital construction. I am unsure about whether the railbed actually saw rails. I've seen claims that it did, and that they used it to bring construction supplies in. I've also seen claims that it was graded north of NY-35. It takes off of the trail in Yorktown Heights just south of Hanover Street. Followed Downing Drive to NY-118 where it crossed at grade and continued to Baldwin Road.

  4. Russ
    The Open Railway Map is brilliant! So much info… kinda a specialized child of OpenStreet Map - Great work! It is now featured on my other Blog:
    Thank you

    1. Wow, that open railways map is outstanding. I had always wondered how the branch line from Goldens Bridge over to CT ran, which by the way was a Trolley Line from Danbury to Ridgebury and according to the Ridgefield Town Historian continued on through the Sarah Bishop Preserve. I haven't found anything that says where and how it went further but I ride the dirt roads up in North Salem and you can see evidence of the bed.

  5. Hey Rich, check out this research on Danbury, CT lines.

    Someone finally connected all the dots.

    1. Yes Mark Great little site - there is a plethora of info there for sure! Let's explore the Hawleyville tunnels sometime, OK?

    2. Definitely, Rich, let's do it!