This blog highlights some of my adventures with the focus on railroad history. Originally intended as a blog of my rail trail rides, it now also includes hikes, railroad trips and even stop-and-go car trips if they are railroad history related...

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Exploring Catskill Railroad Remnants

Tuesday was set aside to document many of the Catskill's area oft forgotten railroad remnants. The goal was to retrace parts of the Catskill Mountain Railway and some of the Ulster & Delaware Railroad.


I started off at Catskill Landing - the section of the Town of Catskill that juts out into the Hudson River. This is where the steamboats used to dock to disembark passengers destined for the big hotels up in the mountains.
It's a beautiful spot ...
Looking north towards the bridge
...and even has a museum dedicated to its former glorious steamboat history (it was closed on weekdays).
Next I ventured  to the Catskill Mountain Railway's narrow gauge bridge now wonderfully restored as a pedestrian bridge.
That's the former West Shore Railroad bridge in the distance (now CSX)

Next stop was the remnants of the second bridge...

Otis Incline Railroad

I was anxious to see what the bottom of the incline railway might look like and on the way to that off-the-beaten path site, I saw this hilarious sign...
What I could discern is the ROW of the Otis Elevating Railway is very overgrown and is not really accessible from the downhill side due to its now all private land (I was in a small enclave of houses when shooting this photo). I hope to trek some of this in the fall - when the undergrowth is gone--and will need to enter from the uphill side.
I stopped in Palenville to try and find where the railroad ended but the photo I took at the southern end of the park/golf course didn't not convince me...

I then drove up Route 23 to Haines Falls. Its a magnificent ascent and--due to the steep grade--understandable why the incline railroad was built.

Haines Falls and the Kaatterskill Rail Trail

Locals have preserved the Haines Falls train station (I believe it is used for occasional lectures) - its at the start of the Kaaterskill Rail Trail.

The first stretch is deceiving - I thought I should have biked it as it was smooth gravel...
...but it soon turns into a rough surface of railroad ties which - even with a mountain bike - would have been a little annoying,

Once at the end (truthfully 1.5 miles of boredom!), I descended to the creek and snapped a bunch of photos of the two competing railroad's bridge/trestle abutments. It was amazing!
On the way back I saw a lonely protruding spike in the ties - the only one on the entire walk!

Tannersville and West

I drove south briefly at Tannersville to check out the Huckleberry Rail Trail but it was already mid afternoon and I wouldn't have time to ride it and get to Phoenicia, etc. to continue my intended documentation. (Plus it was hotter than hell and a heat advisory!)
Huckleberry Rail Trail - looking west
Form previous research, I knew I could find railroad abutments over on the Stony Clove Road side street. I even ventured up top to snap a photo of the railbed!

Stony Clove Descent

Next was the long descent on Route 214. I knew the railroad had paralleled the road but a good distance east. 
Luckily at Notch Mountain Road (a side road heading east) an abutment existed!


Hard to see in this photo but there is a bridge abutment visible from the Phoenicia bridge.
Once over the bridge, the U&D former mainline is clear.
The railroad yard and much of the current Catskill Mountain tourist train equipment sits idly by the Phoenicia Station.
The station is now  a railroad museum (only open on the weekend - bummer!)
But the Rail Bikes were in operation and I spent some time talking to the operators. Definitely need to do this ! :-)


I knew in advance this was a picturesque spot!

West Hurley

Last photo of the day was the bridge abutments on Bessemer Road east of Ashokan Reservoir,
As you drive north on Bessemer Road you first encounter the former U&D ROW (photo above) then you drive under the current U&D railroad. It was re-routed when the reservoir was filled.

About the Railway(s)

Completed in 1882, the Catskill Mountain Railway (CMRy) was a 3 ft narrow gauge railroad, 15.73 miles (25.31 km) long, running from Catskill to Palenville in Greene County, New York.  Unlike most railroads, the CMRR was built primarily for the purpose of transporting passengers and intended to operate seasonally. Most people using the line were summer tourists who travelled by steamboat from points along the Hudson River. Their final destinations were Hotels and boarding houses located high in the Catskill Mountains.

Competition soon arose, in the form of the Stony Clove & Catskill Mountain and the Kaaterskill railroad companies, both controlled by the Ulster and Delaware Railroad. These narrow gauge railroads brought passengers much closer to their final destinations, saving them the difficult stage trip CMRR patrons had. 

To counter the competition, the Otis Elevating Railway was formed. This railroad was completed in 1892. 7,000 feet (2,100 m) in length, it raised passengers 1,600 feet (490 m) in 10 minutes - saving a one-hour stage ride. At the summit, 1-mile of track was laid to connect with the terminus of the Kaaterskill Railroad. Source: WikiPedia
 -Click to View Enlarged View-

Further Info

Catskill Mountain Railway
Otis Elevating Railway
Catskill and Tannersville Railway
The “Rip Van Winkle Railroads”


  1. Hello Rich! I was so happy to find Your page. Ive been visiting the Catskills virtually (from Sweden) for many years mapping and reading about old hotels and buildings. Railroads are more exciting than anything else and I don't know how I missed the Phoenicia-Kaaterskill branch, but I'm now up to date on this part too thanks to You! I found some interesting info based on the abutment on Notch Inn Rd (Notch Mountain rd) - according to old maps there is a stop called "Lanesville" just south of the abutment You found. Google shows me this property as "Lanesville", could it be the station or perhaps more likely an old Inn very close to the station. The building is in a horrid state but it makes it all the more interesting. Did You have a look around or where You content with the stone pillars perhaps? Anyway, I thought Id share the link all the same. Thank You ever so much again from Sweden! Regards Fredrik

    1. Fredrick - Glad you enjoyed my railroad blog and yes the Lanesville old house/mansion is really cool - probably an old inn! I just stopped at this site on my travels that time,-74.2117787,3a,75y,130.86h,95.59t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s8XZcu4viHTbXiO9KJXBGjg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656