Letter to the Editor: Return to the mountains by rail

Dear Editor,

On September 10, 1953, the last NYO&W Railway passenger service to Sullivan County ended. Shortly later, on March 31, 1954, on the Ulster and Delaware railway corridor last passenger train of the New York Central Railroad rolled past Hurley Mountain Road for the last time. Railroad passenger service to Green County had faded away in the preceding decades.

A long era of traveling to the Catskill Mountains by rail diminished into history. Caught up in a haze of petro-based exhaust, most people would little remember the trains full of travelers and still fewer would think of them ever returning.

It was 60 years after that cold March day that an odd thing happened in a corner of the Catskills. Train horns could be heard approaching the Catskills instead of bypassing them. They were heading westward, with people on board! Coaches were filled to capacity with eager riders. On November 22, 2014 this transition was made by revenue-bearing passenger trains from the geographic Hudson Valley in Kingston, to the beginnings of the geographic Catskill Mountains above the Hurley Mountain Road crossing. The Polar Express event by the Catskill Mountain Railroad carried passengers from the Westbrook Station at the Kingston Plaza to the “North Pole” on the flanks of the Catskills. Over 16,000 passengers made this journey in 2014. In 2015 and the following years many more hundreds of thousands of passengers will experience that rail ride to the mountains.

Sometimes you have to wait a long time but energizing, forward thinking things can happen. And it’s fantastic when both happen together.

Steve Porter