Catskill Mountains, New York

Music and pictures portray a capsule history of the Catskills region.  Imagine the charming country railway around the Ashokan Reservoir running again.  This tourist-generating engine just might pull the area’s economy back into life. (16:00), Short Form (7:00)

All through the boom years from the 1850’s to the 1940’s, the railroad served as a central nervous system for the Catskills region.  Now the train runs from Phoenicia to the Coldbrook station with a few thousand passengers annually, instead of the many more who would flock to see the spectacular reservoir views only accessible by rail. 

The complete railway circuit returned to service might once more make the Catskills a national and international travel destination.  When Kingston reconnects along the reservoir to Phoenicia, folks can take their car, a bus, a train, or a boat to Kingston and transfer to a colorful scenic railroad for transport through the Catskill Park.  The system can later re-establish itself past Belleayre, a large all season ski center.  The line could then connect to the fully developed Delaware and Ulster railroad system from Highmount through Arkville to Roxbury.

Like on a rapid transit, at hub locations hikers and bikers can easily rejoin or disembark from the train all day.  Passengers might choose to ride back and forth using open tickets.  Electric jitneys or vans can enable groups of tourists to shuttle around to local attractions or trailheads once they step off the train.

Progress in restoring this charming country railway system depends on collaboration between the key government and community actors.

• The United States can readily afford the modest costs of repairing the railbed.
New York State has regulatory authority.
New York City owns the reservoir.
Ulster County bought the tracks and right of way in the late 1970’s.
• The Catskill Mountain Railroad holds the operating lease until 2016.
• The Empire State Railway Museum’s non-profit status enables it to apply for and manage grant monies.

These entities, pulling together with area municipalities, can bring this locomotive for local prosperity back on line.  Such a tasteful evolution forward to the past will mark out a regional identity.  Returning to yesteryear and projecting into the future, let us envision this ghost railroad along the reservoir running again. 

• Dakin Morehouse, President Empire State Railway Museum 
(845) 688-7501
• Harry Jameson, Catskill Mountain Railroad
(845) 688-7400
• Peter Manning Regional Planner
• David Lionel, Chairman Transformational Education Initiatives
(310) 795-4910 Cell EDT

Latest Developments and Next Strategic Steps – Read About Them Here! >

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