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...

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Otis Incline Railway (Part One)

After close to a year of planning and re-scheduling, I finally managed to explore the Otis Incline Railway. Although this trek was planned as a foursome, health issues sidelined two fellow trekkers. I was very thankful to have Greg Fealey join me. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have done it on my own!!.

The Otis Incline Railway

The main goal of this trek was to document the remains of the Otis Incline Railway, especially the trestle. Ever since I saw this aerial, I was obsessed to check it out close up. All that was needed was a bit of courage (perhaps mixed with a bit of insanity!) and a day set aside to do it!

Its a fascinating relic and an amazing engineering marvel from yesteryear and strangely not that well known:

Needless to say--as the photos below will all to clearly illustrate--with all the undergrowth, it wasn't the best time of year to bushwhack and regrettably to get the best photos. But too many previous postponements and re-scheduling necessitated this "jungle trek" ("now or never!").

Our Descent

Greg and I met at the parking lot closest to the top of the incline railway ROW and we gingerly made our way down.  Between unrelenting undergrowth, the hot sun beating down on us and ridiculously steep sections, it was a tough hike for sure!
-Photo Courtesy of Greg Fealey-
For quite a distance we made our way through a rock cut  (12 ft deep or so) which kept us a bit cooler.
-Photo Courtesy of Greg Fealey-
through the rock cut
An unnavigable drop forced us to bushwhack a steep "tumble down" through the adjoining woods but once back on the incline, we were rewarded with a series of the railway's foundations--probably supports for a wooden trestle.
the drop
before the side trek
Our "tumble down side trek"
-short video-

Descending further on the incline
The foundations - ooo yeah!
-super short video-
-Photo Courtesy of Greg Fealey-
-Photo Courtesy of Greg Fealey-
For much of the continued descent, we cautiously treaded over loose slag - mixed sizes of slate that originated from the blasted rock dumped downhill from the rock cut above us.

We did cross a perpendicular trail which was noted on our topo maps but our repeated mantra was "Keep going, it's gotta be just ahead!" Greg was leading the descent and the first to spot the trestle. Frustratingly it was somewhat obscured by overgrowth so snapping starkly dramatic photos of the exposed trestle wasn't in the cards for us :-(

At the Trestle

Greg securing footing for a good photo
at the trestle (obscured by greenery!)
a couple of close-ups

Greg shot quite a few excellent photos!

After a couple of high-fives and numerous photos of the trestle, we slogged back up the incline. We  decided to forgo the full ascent and take the trail we crossed over instead.

Continued (Part Two) >


  1. Excellent as usual, glad to hear Greg was with you, that could have ben a dangrous trek alone.

  2. I was still in Highschool when my friend, Mike Fisher and I did the entire length from bottom to top. Being very young and from Kingston, we both had no idea what to expect. Even then, I was a local history nut. I had volunteered as a guide at the Senate House and loved to know everything I could about the history of our wonderful area, including the Mountain House that had just been torched by New York State a few years earlier. We did the climb I April when the vegetation was at it's minimum, especially Poison Ivy! The trek was strenuous as we climbed straight up hilland, when we got to that 60 degree inclined trestle, we decided to walk on top of it. There are three, one-foot wide lenghths of poured concrete stauntions to choose from. We chose the middle one to balance as we walked in it. At one point, it was a terrifying 60 foot drop to the bottom where a trail or old logging road passed underneath.
    After that adventure over that bridge the rest of the trek seemed relatively easy. Soon, we reached the top, where we saw old machinery (now completely gone). The best part of the hike was that we had no idea that the top of the mountain was not forest as we had expected, but a beautiful park with many people. Boy, were we surprised to see that! It was my first "discovery" of North Lake! One of my fondest of memories.

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    2. BBlas - amazing adventure - thanks for sharing - back in high school everything seemed limitless didn't it? - just do it! I love the part where you balanced on the trestle - crazy and ballsy - but you remember things like that forever!!!

  3. Fantastic Rich! I would love to share this on my Rail-Blog! I have a dozen postcards of the Otis and have been meaning to build a blog entry with them. You did a great job as always!!!!

    1. Gino - great to hear from you - of course share it on your blog!! We need to do another trek together. Maybe in the fall?

  4. That the trestle remains is amazing.

  5. Some friends and I used the Otis ascent to go up to Palenville Overlook one time...over 20 yrs ago. I was pretty shocked to see this structure still standing! My companions were brave enough to walk on top of it, but not me! I stayed on the solid ground and scurried up the hillside to meet them. On the way back down I thought I'd built up enough courage to try walking on top of the Tressel. Got about 6 ft down the middle support, where I encountered a board. It was only about two inches higher that I had to step over. My foot would not do it! I could not get myself, at that downward angle to step over the board! I was like....."Nope! I tried" Went back to the solid ground....scurried my butt back down the hill. It was a great experience though! :)