Remembering the Upper Harlem Division, Part 2

In Wednesday’s post regarding the Upper Harlem, we took a look at some of the first abandoned stations on the route, and remembered the Harlem Valley Transportation Association that worked diligently to prevent the abandonment of the Upper Harlem. When passenger service was eliminated north of Dover Plains, the HVTA did not roll over and die – they instead pushed for a restoration of passenger service. Although difficult, they had to reevaluate their goals – retaining passenger service all the way to Chatham was becoming less and less realistic. By the late ’70s, the HVTA’s goal was to at least get service restored up to Millerton. In 1978 the HVTA, in cooperation with the MTA, State DOT and the Tri-State Regional Planning Commission, mailed out a survey to just over 6,000 people in twenty towns in both New York and Connecticut. The survey queried residents about their transportation habits, with a focus on trains.

This wasn’t the only survey that the HVTA carried out – another survey was directed specifically to employees of the Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Wingdale, and the Wassaic Development Center. Distributed to around 4,000 employees with their paychecks, the HVTA wanted to know whether employees would take the train to work if the schedules coincided with their shifts. Both locations did have their own station stops on the line – State Hospital, and State School – so it stood to reason that many employees would take the train if they could.

Below is a copy of the general survey put out by the HVTA, and the HVTA’s October newsletter, detailing the results of the two surveys:

HVTA survey part 1

HVTA survey part 2

HVTA Newsletter with survey results

As we know today, passenger trains to Millerton were never restored. At the time the tracks were still in place, and although they needed maintenance, it was not estimated to cost more than $2 million to restore the 16 mile stretch between Dover Plains and Millerton. For reference, when Metro-North rebuilt six miles of track in 2000 from Dover Plains to Wassaic, the cost was far greater – about 1 million per mile. As we lament that missed opportunity, let’s continue our tour of the Upper Harlem’s abandoned stations, starting with the one that was never restored – Millerton.

Millerton
Named for railroad contractor Sidney Miller, Millerton station is just over 92.5 miles north of Grand Central Terminal. Much of the Upper Harlem had various industries that used the rail, and just north of the Millerton station was the Irondale Furnace, which processed the ore from a nearby mine, and shipped it along on the Harlem. An attractive downtown area popped up around the station, and more colorful local lore states that dancing women could be found just across the street from the station (though this is potentially true in many locations).

Millerton Today

 
While a few of the communities surrounding Harlem stations fell off the map in the years that the railroad has been gone, Millerton is certainly not one of them. The village is a bustling hub of activity, with a collection of cute shops, and a trailhead for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Many local towns are lucky if they have just one of their former railroad stations still standing, but Millerton has two. The older Harlem station, which was moved away from the tracks and westward is home to a florist. The more modern station is visible right at the end of the rail trail, and houses a realty company.

The village itself, formed by the railroad, has been without trains since the early ’80s when the Harlem track was removed (the Central New England, which also made its way through Millerton, was removed at least 50 years prior to that). Despite that, Millerton is a testament that not all former railroad towns die when the track disappears. The village thrives – and Budget Travel has even recognized Millerton as one of the 10 coolest small towns in New York.

Mount Riga
Unlike the Hudson Line – part of the New York Central’s famed “Water Level Route” – the Harlem Division is hardly flat, and steadily increases in elevation along its route. Mount Riga was the highest point on the line, just shy of 800 feet above sea level. The station here was technically a Union Station, as it was jointly shared with the Central New England railroad. Alongside the station was a siding that had a 53 car capacity, generally used for freight.

By 1949 the station was eliminated for passenger use, and the depot itself was one of the first Harlem Division stations to be dismantled.

Mount Riga Today

The area where the Mount Riga station once was is for the most part now farmland. A small unpaved street called Mount Riga Station Road, which contains a single house at the end of it, is the last memory of the railroad here.

Boston Corners
The first stop in Columbia County, Boston Corners was previously a part of Massachusetts. The area was once considered lawless – separated by mountains from the lawmen in Massachusetts, illegal activities were aplenty, including several boxing prizefights. After a particularly rowdy fight, which led to a riot, the hamlet was transferred to New York’s jurisdiction.

Boston Corners was also at one point the home of three different railroads, including the Harlem. Like many nearby stations, there was a spur from Boston Corners serving a nearby iron mining company. The Harlem’s longest passing siding was also located here – with a capacity of 85 cars. The station’s importance waned over the years, and it was relegated to a flag stop before being abandoned in 1952.

Boston Corners Today

These days, Boston Corners is occasionally remembered for the historical prizefight that happened there – like this article in Sports Illustrated. Appropriately, the article makes mention of the Harlem, and how many took the train up to see the brawl. Besides the infrequent mentions in the media, Boston Corners station is but a memory – though Boston Corners Road is a reminder of what was once here.

Copake Falls
Approximately 105 miles from Grand Central Terminal is Copake Falls station, formerly known as Copake Iron Works. The Taconic State Park, and Bash Bish falls are both nearby the station. Several spurs from the Harlem led to various nearby industries, including a mine and a foundry.

Copake Falls Today

 
The former Copake Falls station is today a small convenience store called the Depot Deli. With the proximity to the Taconic State Park, the deli is an oft frequented stop by many campers. According to the owner of the Deli, when he purchased the building a requirement of the sale was that if the railroad was ever restored, he’d have to provide a place for passengers to wait. Unfortunately, that was never necessary.

Black Grocery
Above right photo shows the final Harlem Line train to ever cross the Black Grocery Bridge, photo by Art Deeks. Above left photo is the only known image of the Black Grocery. Lower right photo by Bob McCulloch.

Although not a station along the Harlem Division, Black Grocery was a hamlet that the Harlem ran through, and its existence is largely due to the railroad. In the early 1850′s the New York and Harlem Railroad made its final northward push through Columbia County, finally reaching Chatham in 1852. Many of the men that were on the construction teams were Irish immigrants that were paid 75 cents a day, as well as their board. Boarding was in several shanties that were constructed along the route, which usually housed between 25 – 50 men. A man by the name of Hezekiah Van Deusen sensed an opportunity, and opened a grocery store not far from the workers’ shanties, just north of Copake. Although the store stocked the normal staples like sugar and flour, its big sellers were “chain lightning” whiskey at 25 cents a quart, and tobacco at 3 cents a plug.

The origin of the name Black Grocery is not definitively known, but it generally references the color that the grocery had been painted. One account states that Van Deusen wished to paint the store red, but only had black paint in stock. Another account states that no paint was in stock at all, and Van Deusen asked the Irish laborers if they would paint the store. They were said to have painted the store black with the paint that was leftover from a railroad bridge they had just completed. Either way, the name caught on – not just for the store – but for the entire community that grew up around it and the railroad. The railroad bridge that crossed the Roeliff Jansen Kill (or as it was later called, Black Grocery Creek), about halfway in between Copake and Hillsdale and through Black Grocery, became known as the Black Grocery Bridge.

Black Grocery Today

 
  
  

The hamlet of Black Grocery has been lost to time – the only reference to in now is Black Grocery Road in Copake. Both the railroad and the road bridge that crossed here, which shared the name Black Grocery, are also gone. Remnants of the railroad bridge are clearly visible from Route 22, on the west side of the Roeliff Jansen Kill. The bridge was rebuilt several times over the years, but date markings from 1899 and 1905 are both visible on the ruins. Though the final train to cross over the bridge was on March 27, 1976, the bridge itself lasted at least up until the 1980s. The removal of the bridge makes continuation of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail into Hillsdale a bit more difficult – the original railroad bridge crossed over both Route 22 and the Roe Jan Kill. The HVRT is looking to go underneath Route 22, and purchase a pre-fabricated bridge to cross the Kill.

Hillsdale
Hillsdale is a quaint little area considered one of the more noteworthy places along this stretch of the Upper Harlem – at minimum its name was found on the front of Upper Harlem timetables. It was also another stop for freight on the line – besides a milk processing plant, Hillsdale also had a large cattle pen and barn used when shipping livestock was necessary.

As I once mentioned on the blog before, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was a Harlem Division rider that boarded at Hillsdale. Trains were occasionally mentioned in her poetry, and I like to think that she was writing about the Harlem Division (as opposed to the Hudson, when she studied at Vassar, or any other railroad she might have been a passenger on).

Hillsdale Today

Although Hillsdale seems to have a tiny Railroad Lane on the map, the road is barely visible in real life and has no street sign. Unfortunately, that is one of the few vestiges of the railroad here in Hillsdale – there was also a Depot Place, but that road has been completely wiped from the map.

For today, our journey ends. We’ll take a look at the remainder of the Harlem Division stations in Part 3.

As someone has taken offense to this post, I must of course remind you all that much of what we know about the Upper Harlem Division comes from Lou Grogan’s book, The Coming of the New York and Harlem Railroad, which has been cited numerous times here, and is listed in our historical sources page.

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Poughkeepsie


1890 photo of the previous Poughkeepsie station. Note that this station was on the west side of the tracks, while today’s station was constructed on the east side of the tracks.


1960 photo of Poughkeepsie station, not obstructed by Route 9 which now runs above the station’s front parking area.

Today we’ve arrived at the end of the line – both literally and figuratively. Today’s station tour is of Poughkeepsie, the northern terminus of Metro-North’s Hudson Line, and the final station on our Hudson Line tour. In fact, it is the final Metro-North station to be featured here. Over the past three years I’ve taken you to all one hundred and twenty three Metro-North stations, on both sides of the Hudson River. I saved Poughkeepsie for the end, as it is truly a gem, and a worthy send off for our Panorama Project.

tts
A wide variety of timetables from Pougkeepsie, including two of Amtrak’s trains that stop here.


Tickets and things from Poughkeepsie. My favorite is the Metro-North ticket listing the station as “Pokipse.”

Located on the east bank of the Hudson River, Pougkeepsie is roughly equidistant between New York City and Albany, and the station is about 75 miles from Grand Central. Both the access to the river, and later the railroad, played a significant part in Poughkeepsie’s growth. Over the years Poughkeepsie has been home to a various array of industries, including a glass factory, dye factory, brewery, carpet mill, shoe factory, and a chair manufacturer, among many others.

 

At Poughkeepsie station, 1971. Photos by Steve Baldwin.

Reflecting Poughkeepsie’s important status along the New York Central’s famed Water Level Route, a grand station was constructed in 1918. The four story concrete and brick building was designed by the notorious Beaux Arts architects Warren and Wetmore. No strangers to the New York Central, Whitney Warren was a cousin of the Vanderbilts, and designed Grand Central with duo Reed and Stem. Poughkeepsie station is not nearly as extravagant as Grand Central, but along with the station in Yonkers, it is certainly one of the Hudson Line’s real gems.

  

Poughkeepsie in the 1970′s. Top left photo in 1975, right and below, 1979. Top right photo by Panoramio user Scotch Canadian.

  

Top left photo in 1979 by Panoramio user Scotch Canadian. Top right photo in 1981 by Bob Coolidge. Amtrak photo by Ed Linde.

Fitting with the typical design of a Beaux Arts building, Poughkeepsie station offers a main, and large, focal point – in this case, the waiting room. Featuring five massive windows that stretch from almost floor to ceiling, during the day the station is well lit just from sunlight alone. To supplement that light, three chandeliers also hang from the ceiling, and similar to Grand Central’s chandeliers, boast their modern use of electricity with naked light bulbs. Interspersed throughout the waiting room are fourteen wooden chestnut benches, also similar to the benches that were once in Grand Central’s main waiting room. Historically, the north wing of the station was reserved for a railway express agency, and the south end with a kitchen and dining room. Today, the waiting room contains a Metro-North ticket window, some Quik-Trak machines from Amtrak customers, restrooms, a snack shop on the south side, and an MTAPD station on the north end.

 
Photos of the former Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, now the Walkway Over the Hudson. Photo on the right by Flickr user miningcamper.

Arriving at Poughkeepsie by train, likely the first thing you’d notice is the large bridge running overhead, and not the station building itself, which is less visible on the track side. Constructed in 1888, the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge stretches from Poughkeepsie on the east side of the Hudson River, to Highland on the west. Today this bridge makes Poughkeepsie an even more attractive destination. After serving railroad traffic for more than 75 years, the bridge was heavily damaged by fire and was for the most part abandoned until the early 2000′s when it was converted to pedestrian use as the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park.

 
CSX at Poughkeepsie. Photos by Mike Foley.


Poughkeepsie station in 2011, while undergoing renovations. Photo by Mike Groll.

Today Poughkeepsie station is quite attractive, with Metro-North having spent more than $22 million dollars to restore and improve it. This included an ample parking garage on the west side of the tracks, and a walkway and pavilion for people heading to the waterfront. Renovations to the area continue, including an elevator to make accessing the Walkway over the Hudson from the station easier.

Though a bit bigger than most Metro-North stations, the setup is relatively similar. Pretty much every station has ticket machines, wire benches, and blue trash bins, as does Poughkeepsie. Unlike most other stations, Poughkeepsie has one island platform, and two side platforms, although the one side platform is lower level and not used by passengers. All of the tracks are accessible to the main station by an overpass, which also connects to the parking garage. The overpass, covered in attractive wood paneling, is far nicer than the relatively utilitarian overpasses you see at most Metro-North stations.

In all, Poughkeepsie is a lovely station, and definitely worth visiting, if only for the lovely historic station, with the New York Central sign on the front. But a wide variety of restaurants and attractions in the area, most especially the Walkway Over the Hudson, make Poughkeepsie one of the nicest places we’ve seen on our now complete Metro-North tour.

 
   
 
 
  
 
 
  
   
  
  
  
   
  
 
  
 
  
   
 

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Thoughts on Minneapolis’ Stone Arch Bridge, and the Hiawatha Line’s Downtown East – Metrodome station


Early 1900′s panoramic view of the Stone Arch Bridge

Several weeks ago when I interviewed Metro-North’s president, a few people (especially @CapnTransit on twitter) called attention to the question about Millerton – and specifically the “how do you de-map a rail trail,” comment that Mr. Permut made. It is an interesting point – in some ways a rail trail preserves a former railroad’s Right of Way, but the restoration of a rail line from a rail trail is exceedingly rare. Railroad bridges that are converted to rail-trail use are even more problematic. Bridges are not cheap to build – and what happens if at some point in the future we wish to restore the rail? A passenger rail link over the Hudson would be nice – and the likelihood of it happening with the Tappan Zee project is practically non-existent – but let’s not forget that we did have a rail bridge over the Hudson, though it is now the Walkway Over the Hudson.

I’m really divided on my opinion of rail trails – obviously, I’d much rather see it as a railroad. But at the same time, it does preserve a little bit of the history – which is better than it being totally forgotten and lost to time. All of these thoughts came to mind recently when I visited Minneapolis. The beautiful Stone Arch Bridge, built in 1883 by the Great Northern Railway, is now a pedestrian bridge, and part of the Saint Anthony Falls Heritage Trail. The interesting part of the story is that passenger rail travel is being revived in Minnesota – I’ve introduced you to the relatively new Hiawatha Line light rail system there. A second line, the Central Corridor, is currently under construction. This new line will travel from downtown Minneapolis to Saint Paul – a journey that requires a crossing over the Mississippi River.

The map above displays Minneapolis’ river crossings, and their relation to the new light rail system. In order to accommodate the Central Corridor’s crossing over the Mississippi, the Washington Avenue bridge will be modified. It is interesting to note that there are two former railroad bridges – the Stone Arch, and Northern Pacific #9 – that could have been used for this purpose, had they not been converted to pedestrian use. Several other railroad bridges are visible on the map, only one of which is currently in use for passenger rail, MetroTransit’s North Star Line.


Postcards of trains crossing over the bridge. Visible in the background of the second postcard is the Cedar Avenue Bridge (now called the 10th Avenue Bridge), built in 1929. In 1964 construction began on the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge, located in between those two bridges. This was the bridge that tragically collapsed during rush hour in 2007. It has since been replaced by the Saint Anthony Falls bridge.

Though it may no longer be used by the railroad, it is undeniable that the Stone Arch Bridge is quite lovely. It provides attractive views of the river, and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of a boat passing through the lock at Saint Anthony Falls.


View from the Guthrie Theater… why, oh why, did you have to tint your windows?

   
 
   
 
 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  

If the Stone Arch Bridge is the old version of this post, Downtown East – Metrodome, a few blocks away from the bridge, on the Hiawatha Line would be the new. I think I’ve made it abundantly clear how much I love the public art along the Hiawatha Line – and I think that the art here at Downtown East – Metrodome may be the jewel of the entire system. The massive arches – designed by artist Andrew Leicester – don’t require you to be a rocket scientist to figure out. Created to evoke the image of the Stone Arch Bridge, the arches are decorated with beautiful colorful brickwork. The brick designs are influenced by the clothing patterns worn by the nineteenth-century immigrants to the area.

Leicester is a prolific public artist, and no public artist’s career would be complete without a commission for New York’s Arts for Transit program. Long Island Rail Road riders are more familiar with his piece in the city, however. Located in Penn Station, Leicester’s terra-cotta murals evoke the Penn Station of yesteryear. His blend of art and history is definitely something that I appreciate.

 
  
 
   
 
 
   
 
  

That is about it for today’s visit to Minneapolis – believe it or not, I still have a few more photos from my travels there, which I will likely share in the next few weeks!

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Riverside

 

Riverside station in 1954

In-between the stations of Cos Cob and Old Greenwich on the New Haven main line, lies the station of Riverside. A journey to Grand Central, approximately 30 miles, takes around an hour. Four tracks run through Riverside, and two platforms run alongside the two outer tracks. On those platforms you can find a few ticket vending machines, a soda machine, a couple newspaper boxes, and a bench or two. One side has a small shelter from the elements, though it looks pretty beat-up and is tagged with graffiti and strewn with trash.

Riverside station itself is not particularly noteworthy – though the bridge that carries traffic over the tracks is one of Connecticut’s historic bridges – and a little bit more interesting.

   

Aerial photographs of Riverside and the bridge in 1977


Various sketches of truss bridges, from the patents of bridge engineer Francis Lowthrop

The historic Riverside Avenue bridge is clearly visible to anyone taking the train from or past Riverside station. Not only does it carry traffic over the four railroad tracks, it has two stairwells and an area for pedestrians to cross over to the other side of the platform. Although this bridge was originally constructed in 1871, it did not find its current home until around 1894. Designed by Francis Lowthrop and fabricated by the Keystone Bridge Company, the current span was a portion of a larger railroad bridge over the Housatonic River in Stratford. That bridge was replaced in 1884.

  
 
 
Photos of Riverside and the bridge in 1984

The portion of the Riverside Avenue Bridge that was reconstructed here is smaller than original – the bridge is now 164 feet long and 22 feet wide, and about 20 feet above the tracks. Bridges similar to this one are very rare today, and the Riverside Avenue bridge is the last cast-iron bridge still in use in Connecticut. With the increasing weight of heavy locomotives, many cast-iron bridges were simply replaced due to safety issues, or modified to carry lighter cars instead of trains, which explains their rarity today. By 1986 the safety of this bridge was also being questioned, and parts were deemed unsafe. However, instead of replacing the bridge or restricting it to only pedestrians, a new bridge was built inside the historical bridge. This solution allowed the preservation of the historic bridge without compromising the safety of the drivers that cross it every day.

The Riverside Avenue bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and is one of roughly 55 bridges on the Register from Connecticut. It is also the oldest railroad bridge listed in Connecticut (though it only carried trains for a short period of its lifetime).

 
   
 
   
 
  
 
  
 
 
   
 
  
 

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The branches of the New Haven Line, in pictures

Yesterday I featured the only outstanding New Haven Line branch station on our Tuesday Tour, Springdale. Now that the branches are complete, I thought it might be nice to post one of my favorite images from each station in a single gallery. It gives you a quick idea of what each branch is like, and a glimpse into the life of a commuter from each station. The locales photographed vary from outstanding examples of historical stations and well-known landmarks, to bare-bones, concrete platforms that are just barely stations. Each branch terminates at a historically-important station, though only one of the three is being used in its original capacity as a passenger station.

The photographs below were taken on eight separate days, ranging from early March to mid-October.

The New Canaan Branch:

The New Canaan branch is the shortest of the three (8.2 miles), and the closest to Grand Central. It is also the only branch that is currently electrified. The branch first came into being when chartered as the New Canaan Railroad in 1866. By 1890 it had become a part of the The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

The awesome: New Canaan station may be the nicest station of all three branches (one could argue that Waterbury is more iconic, however it is no longer in use by the railroad, whereas New Canaan is).
Most underwhelming: Everything other than New Canaan.

 
 
 
 
 

The Danbury Branch:

Of the three New Haven Line branches, the Danbury Branch has the most stations, with a total of seven. Though the line continues further north, Metro-North service terminates at Danbury. The original Danbury station still exists, though it is not used by Metro-North. Service first began here in 1852, and the rail line was known as the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad. In the late 1800′s the line was leased to the Housatonic Railroad, and later the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. By 1925 the track was electrified, but due to a poor economic situation, it was de-electrified in 1961.

The awesome: Danbury’s original station, yard, and turntable, now occupied the Danbury Railway Museum. Bethel’s old station is now a bike shop (I never got a photo of it). Cannondale’s old station is also lovely.
Most underwhelming: Without a doubt, Merritt 7. It is the only New Haven Line station without the typical Metro-North station sign, and is probably the most bare-bones station listed here.


 

 
 
 
 
 

The Waterbury Branch:

The Waterbury branch is Metro-North’s easternmost branch, and it diverges from the main line just east of Stratford. Although service terminates in Waterbury, the tracks do continue further north, and are used by the Railroad Museum of New England. Waterbury is located 87.5 miles from Grand Central – making it the furthest from the city in rail miles. The branch was originally chartered in 1845 as the Naugatuck Railroad (named after the river the tracks run alongside), and construction was completed by 1849. It was merged with the The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1906. Today, the branch has a reputation of serving both commuters and many sketchy people.

The awesome: Waterbury’s historical station (no longer used by the railroad) is one of, if not the most iconic structures in the city. The Naugatuck Historical Society is housed in their old station, which is also nice. You can get cool photos of the railroad bridge in Ansonia.
Most underwhelming: Beacon Falls and Ansonia. Oh, and don’t leave your car or any other valuables at Waterbury.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Do you have a favorite?

If I had to pick the branch that I liked the best, I’d have a difficult time of it. New Canaan is certainly my favorite station, but the rest of the branch is relatively boring. The Danbury branch has the adorably-cute Cannondale, and the old station which is now a museum. The sketchy people of the Waterbury branch make me weary of choosing it as my favorite, despite the fact that I like that little railroad bridge over the Naugatuck river. It is, however, undeniable that Waterbury has the most recognizable old station – though it is debatable whether people actually realize it was once a train station. We can settle this right now, with a poll. Vote for your favorite branch here:
[poll id="2"]

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Ansonia

On Saturday my family had a surprise birthday party for my father, and I was the one tasked with getting him out of the house while everybody assembled at my parents’ house. Due to the fact that I don’t drive, this was somewhat easy – I just had to get him to give me a ride somewhere. Somehow, I convinced him to go over to Ansonia station so I could take photos, and then to pick up some tools to work on my railroad sign/lights. I punched in the address for Ansonia in the GPS, and when we arrived my Dad was like, “So, where’s the station?” I pointed and said that it was right in front of us. He was confused, “No really, where is it?”

Needless to say, the Ansonia station is very small. I almost don’t even want to call it a station, it is a railroad stop. There is a track, a small low-level platform, a canopy and bus-stop style waiting area, and that is about it. Well, actually there were crows that were probably feasting on something a train had run over, and stacks of Watchtower magazines left by the delightful Jehovah’s Witnesses (people with propaganda love train stations!). On the 71 mile ride to Grand Central, you’ll have plenty of time to read that aforementioned propaganda – especially since there are no direct to Grand Central trains on the Waterbury Branch. Slightly more interesting than the station was the railroad bridge just south of the station, where the tracks cross the Naugatuck River. I waited for the late north-bound train, and didn’t even get that spectacular of a photo.

  
 
   
  
 
   
 
  
 
   
 

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Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge

Fall Photos from the Walkway Over the Hudson

Several of my blog readers have been long convincing me that I needed to get over and see the Walkway Over the Hudson. At the end of October I cheated on the Harlem, and hung out over on the Hudson side of things – checking out the former station in LaGrange, Bannerman Castle, Milton-on-Hudson’s historic station (pictures yet to be posted), and the Walkway Over the Hudson. Other than the fact that I was pretty sick that day, the trip was great. The day was beautiful and warm. And considering I felt like crap and had to cough up a few hairballs (the perfect euphemism for me!) after taking these photos, I’m pretty proud that I managed to get some good ones.





Old postcard views of the bridge

Of course the Walkway has only been a walkway for a relatively short amount of time. The majority of its years were spent carrying trains over the Hudson River. The Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, completed in 1888, was a modern wonder – and one of the longest bridges in the world at the time. The bridge served as an important crossing, especially for troops during World War II. It is estimated that 3,500 train cars passed over the bridge every day during that period. After the 60′s the bridge’s importance declined, and it was damaged by fire in the 70′s. By the 90′s Walkway Over the Hudson proposed turning it into a pedestrian bridge, and in 1998 the bridge was deeded to them. Construction began in 2008, and was completed in 2009. The Walkway Over the Hudson State Historical Park was officially opened on October 3, 2009. It is accessible from both sides of the river in Poughkeepsie and Highland. It is also accessible from Metro-North’s Poughkeepsie station. The walkway offers gorgeous views of the Hudson River, the Mid-Hudson Bridge, and Highland and Poughkeepsie. It also connects with the Hudson Valley Rail Trail in Highland. A few of the photos below, such as the one of the caboose, is from that rail trail.

  
 
  
   
 
   
 
 
 
   
 
 

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History of my Hometown: The Railroad in Southbury

Despite the fact that I’ve been a Harlem Line rider for most of my life, I didn’t actually live in New York until two years ago (sorry regular readers, I’ve probably said that a million times). I grew up in a small farm town in Connecticut called Southbury. The place would be miserably boring, except for the fact that Interstate 84 bisects the town, making it easier to get to the more populated areas of Waterbury and Danbury. Southbury is just about equally distant from those two, with Danbury to the west and Waterbury to the east. But Danbury and Waterbury branch trains were hardly as frequent and reliable as those on the Harlem Line, so we always took a ride to either Brewster or Southeast and boarded the train from there.

Southbury isn’t much of a farmtown anymore, however. Many of the farms have been sold for commercial purposes. The place where I used to pick pumpkins as a child is now a strip mall, complete with grocery and office supply stores. A once-grassy hill is now home to a chain pharmacy. After the place had been constructed, a few finishing details were added to the outside of the building: one of which was the address. 14 Depot Hill. Apparently the construction workers were hardly typographers, and didn’t place the ‘p’ on the proper baseline, making it look like ‘DePot.’ It prompted an editorial in the local newspaper, reminding the town of why exactly the road was called Depot Hill – it was once the location of a long-gone railroad depot.

I had known there was a railroad past in the town. In school it was briefly discussed – including the head-on collision between two trains that supposedly was the end of the railroad. After reading much on the subject of rail history, I seriously doubted this. Railroading wasn’t the safest occupation, and accidents happened frequently. I hardly believed an accident would cause the line to be shut down. But on December 10, 1892 two trains did collide – and the engineer and conductor on one were thrown in jail for apparently forgetting they were scheduled to wait on a siding for an oncoming train to pass. It didn’t mark the end of the rail line, though.

 

Southbury’s station was part of the New York and New England Railroad, which operated from 1849 to 1898. In 1898 the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad leased the line. Service to Southbury continued until 1948. Today there is hardly any evidence that a railroad ran through the town, except for Depot Hill, and a few remaining portions of the railroad trestle bridge that spanned Lake Zoar. Some of the former rail bed has been converted into the Larkin State Bridle Trail. Below are some photos of the railroad around my old town that I found in a few books and such. Most of them aren’t the best quality.

   
  
 
   
 
 
 

I am not 100% sure that the railroad bridge shown in the last historical picture corresponds with the remaining trestles that are there today (two bottom photos). The geography doesn’t quite match… though it is possible that the photo was taken before the Stevenson Dam was erected, which presumably altered that area, creating Lake Zoar. If anybody knows more about this, or actually has a photo that is definitely of that railroad bridge, leave me a comment!

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Nature along the Harlem Line: The Muscoot Reservoir & Bridge L-158

I thought it might be fun to do something different this Friday… Tuesdays I visit train stations, but I don’t talk much about what else is around the station. The Harlem Line has plenty of intriguing spots along the route, and many for the nature lover. I do get emails every once and a while asking me questions about doing things – people wondering what is within walking distance of the stations, and what they can get away and do. And for those who, like me, do not drive, or don’t feel like driving, you can definitely take Metro-North to get to interesting spots.

As I mentioned, there are many nature-related locales on the Harlem Line. Some of the obvious ones are the Botanical Garden and the Appalachian Trail, but there are many lesser-known spots. Pawling has the Pawling Nature Reserve, which is not far from the Appalachian Trail. At the end of the line in Wassaic is the trailhead for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail which follows the old route the Harlem Line once took further north. Lower Westchester has the Bronx River Parkway Reservation which is more than 13 miles long and stretches from Valhalla to Bronxville – and passes by North White Plains, White Plains, Hartsdale, Scarsdale, Crestwood and Tuckahoe stations.

One of the lesser-known spots is near and dear to my heart, situated in Goldens Bridge and not far from my house. In the evenings it is here that I make laughable attempts at running off the past nine years I spent sitting on my ass in front of a computer. In all seriousness though, it is beautiful and quiet little spot that few people other than fisherman and neighborhood residents (and some deer, swans and bullfrogs) know about. The trails are not extensive, but they surround the beautiful reservoir and provide access to various fishing spots. I went one step beyond that and purchased a boat for use on the reservoir as well (boat use is heavily regulated, this is NYC’s drinking water, after all). However, the most noteworthy part of this “Public Access” DEP area is the old railroad bridge.


I created this map based on my own explorations of the area. Maps are actually fun to make. :P

I’ve mentioned Bridge L-158 a few times before. It is one of the few remaining vestiges of the branch of the Harlem Line that ran from Goldens Bridge to Lake Mahopac, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally built in 1883 over Rondout Creek near Kingston, NY, but was moved in 1904 by the New York Central Railroad to Goldens Bridge. Although the original bridge carried two tracks, the Mahopac branch was a single track line and when the bridge was reconstructed the width was shortened for a single track.





If you’re interested in visiting this part of the Harlem Line, it is within walking distance of Goldens Bridge station. Although it is rarely enforced, you do need an access permit to use the land for recreational use. But access permits are easy to get – you can register for one online and print it out immediately. If you’re interested in fishing or boating, you’ll need additional permits, so I advise checking the DEP’s site. People fish in the reservoir all year long, as the Muscoot is one of the reservoirs in which ice fishing is permitted. Although it is a lot smaller than some of the other nature spots around it is at least worth visiting to see the historic bridge. There are some times where it gets so quiet, except for the crunching leaves under the foot of a squirrel or deer, that you forget that you’re not that far from the city… only until you hear a train go by, yanking you back to reality.

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Snow Over Railroad Bridge L-158

A thick blanket of snow has covered New York today, a snow some media dramaqueens have called a “snowpocalypse”. I must admit I laugh every time I hear that term. While some folks were collectively crapping their pants due to snow, I instead decided to take a walk (after sleeping late of course, work was cancelled after all). Not far from my house (and from Goldens Bridge station) is an old railroad bridge with a lonely numerical designation: L-158. With the area covered in snow, it looked even more lonely.

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Additional photos of L-158 can be found in the image gallery.

L-158 was once a railroad bridge, though the tracks are long gone. It was originally built in 1883 over Rondout Creek near Kingston, NY. In 1904 it was dismantled and reconstructed in Goldens Bridge to cover the expanding reservoir. The tracks were part of the Lake Mahopac Branch, which opened in 1872, and went from Goldens Bridge to Lake Mahopac. The Lake Mahopac Branch ended service in 1959, and the tracks were removed soon after. In 1978 L-158 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



All historical information and photographs come from Louis Grogan’s book The Coming of the New York and Harlem Railroad. Years for the photos above are as follows: 1951, 1948 and 1946

Ever since I moved to Goldens Bridge, I’ve always been fascinated by this bridge. It is situated on land owned by the DEP, and thus you must have a Watershed Access Pass in order to visit. I have a rowboat on the Muscoot Reservoir, and many summer days I went out on the water rowing underneath the bridge. And as witnessed by the photo gallery, took way too many pictures of the bridge. I’m really longing for the return of the spring and summer so I can go out and row again, and to see L-158 surrounded by greenery, as opposed to today’s snowfall.

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