Mayors Of Magic Invite Town to Illumination of The Roxbury at Stratton Falls – A Thank You

Catskills Places, Travel Blog

“Orange! Blue! Lime Green! And there is illumination!”

Footage of the countdown

On a chilled November day, with the dreariness of winter looming and the promise of seasonal depression’s return, I decided to don my favorite boots and camera and actually leave my house. 

The reward was quite magical. I made it just in time to witness the “initial illumination” of the Roxbury at Stratton Falls. I watched as Dracula’s Fangs and the Terrazza of the Titans and The Faerie Forest simultaneously came alive, not to a traditional countdown, but to a countdown of colors, those of the property logo.

Roxbury_Stratton_Falls_Illumination with owners Greg and Joe on balcony
The Mayors of Magic, Joe Massa and Greg Henderson
(I think I came up with this term, but if it has been already coined to describe Greg & Joe, please let me know)

Beforehand, the Mayors of Magic (owners Greg Henderson & Joe Massa) stood on a balcony and thanked the gathered townspeople, contractors and friends for supporting their dream of two and a half years: The Roxbury at Stratton Falls – a sequel to the world-renowned motel, The Roxbury. Finally coming to fruition, the couple highlighted their gratitude for the “magical fairies in a fairy forest,” their employees. 

“The most important group we are to thank, because, without them, we are nothing. That is our staff,” said Greg. (I decided right then and there, if I ever needed a job, I will be sure to knock on one of their lime green doors.)

Roxbury_Stratton_Falls_Illumination Mansion House
The Mansion aglow, where fantasy and history collide

Next was a prosecco  toast. If that doesn’t cheer one, what will? Oh – perhaps the whimsical music floating through the air, emanating from invisible speakers. Or, the happy hugs from friends you almost forgot you had. That happens in these hills – we hunker down and forget there exists friends that are actually happy to see our face on something other then a mobile screen.

Overall all, the general effect was one of transportation to a scaled-down version of a Magic Kingdom experience. Here, in Delaware County, in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York.

Roxbury_Stratton_Falls_Illumination Terrazza of the Titans cottage
Terrazza of the Titans

For me, the Mountain Girl, the way cool part of the invitation was being welcomed to explore the grounds. Stratton Falls has always been off limits, a road-side capture, through obtrusive, low hanging branches. Access to the bottom of the cascade has always been on private property. And still is. When I heard  the Roxbury’s expansion included the falls, I wondered, as I always do, how one can own water, and the explorer in me was quite miffed. I don’t like being told where I can’t go. On the other hand, as a property owner myself, I understand there is a certain stewardship expected, with safety and liability playing key roles.

So Saturday afternoon, I descended the perfectly placed steps, steadying myself on the rustic log railings, winding past the rock faces dripping with icicles, along a path that could very well have been there forever. I heard the sound of  water rushing over a cliff, and chuckled as I passed the strategic seating areas, an invite to romance or rest. I didn’t feel the cold, or care about the burn my legs would feel on the return trek. Like a bride reaching a groom at the end of a long aisle, I reached the falls, breathless and excited.

Roxbury_Stratton_Falls_Illumination stairs to fall
Stairway to the waterfall
Roxbury_Stratton_Falls_Illumination path to falls
This path, a magical feat of engineering
Romantic seating – or just to catch your breath
Roxbury_Stratton_Falls_Illumination Stratton Waterfall
Finally, the falls

I almost missed this! I clicked away, finding an angle that kept me (mostly) dry. For a waterfall chaser, this is the penultimate moment, capturing a coveted falls at water level.

Sure, my photo shoot was rushed. This is the reoccurring punishment that a procrastinator self inflicts. I had to scurry back to the top, because I knew the illumination was due to happen. I followed the amplified voices of the Mayors of Magic, reaching the edge of the crowd just in time.

Yes, I made it.

And so did they. These hoteliers, creators, imagineers, they made it too. They made it happen. So many dreams are conceived in these mountains, not many make it to full term. On good weather days, anything seems possible. So we make plans and then Winter comes and good intentions grow as cold as the plunging temperatures. As a food and lodging writer, I have seen a high percentage of the Catskills businesses I report on end within their first three years. Sad but true. But this place, this place has staying power.

I guess what I am trying to say here is this. Despite the minuscule jealousy I may hold that I will most likely never have millions of dollars backing my dreams, and despite the speculation that such a fanciful design could fit into our landscape, I am grateful this place exists here, just a seven minute drive away. It is proof that dreams do come true, and hard work pays off. I am grateful I got to walk to the bottom of the waterfall. I wish I had seen the inside of the fanciful cottages and the restored mansion for myself, but that’s what social media is for.

Lastly, thank you to Greg and Joe, Mayors of Magic, Stewards of Stratton, for the marvelously fantastical and purely magical execution of your vision, and for inviting the community to join the experience.

Tap link above for a look inside the fantasy cottages

Book The Roxbury at Stratton Falls

Book The Roxbury Motel

To book by phone, call 607.326.7200

*****

Mountain Girl NY

Rebecca Andre wears many hats as a photographer, food & lodging writer, reporter, web designer and poet living and working in a lovely Delaware County hamlet with her husband and daughter. She promotes local businesses and musicians, and can be reached at MoonflowerRA@gmail.com – All photos within ©Rebecca Andre unless otherwise noted.

HBO's 'I Know This Much Is True' filmed at Delaware & Ulster Railroad, NY

HBO Comes To DURR For Filming Of ‘I Know This Much Is True’

Rails Upstate

Wally Lamb’s 1998 book ‘I Know This Much Is True‘, once an Oprah’s Book Club pick, is being brought to life by Catskills regular Mark Ruffalo, who is producing and starring in the upcoming HBO miniseries.

Woven into the novel that takes place in the mid- 20th Century is the story of the main character Dominick’s grandfather. Dominick dives into the memoirs of his Italian ancestor to help wade through the pieces of his life spent being the sane brother to his schizophrenic twin.

Having not actually read the novel, which I plan on rectifying very soon, as a twin myself, I am more than intrigued. One can only speculate the need for a turn of the century steam engine. That is how our little Delaware County, NY tourist-train-that could found itself the set of a movie.

The Viscose Company, Baldwin 0-4-0T #6, traveling steam locomotive, is the real star, in my opinion. There is just something incomparable to witnessing a slice of times gone by rolling along with the Catskill Mountains for a backdrop.

Viscose #6 Steam Engine fall run on the DURR

Viscose #6 Steam Engine 2018 fall run on the DURR

Back to the movie set at Delaware & Ulster Railroad I was able to snap a few photos. Jason of set dressing informed me this was the last of the three shoots to take place at the Arkville Station. Local heresay had it that a rain scene was to be staged at night, as the weather was not cooperating to match a previously filmed scene. Despite noticing the water truck at a crossroads, I was unable to confirm this. (Turns out, water was there in support of the steam engine).

I spent a few moments chatting with Connie McAffee, Station Master. She was tired but smiling from all the goings-on; glad for the financial boost the filming gave the non-profit, volunteer driven railroad.

Adrianne Davis, Props PA, paused for a moment from her job of polishing a satchel. It’s all in the details. Assuming she was from out of town, I asked her what she thought of our little Delaware County village.

“I’m from Shokan.”

Cool. Locals being employed by the big guys. This I like to see.

Enough chatter, here are the paparazzi inspired photos I grabbed from the filming of ‘I Know This Much Is True’. Enjoy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

*****

Rebecca Andre wears many hats as a photographer, food & lodging writer, reporter, web designer and poet living and working in a lovely Delaware County hamlet with her husband and daughter. She promotes local businesses and musicians, and can be reached at MoonflowerRA@gmail.com All photos within ©Rebecca Andre unless otherwise noted.

Mountain Girl NY

Mountain Girl NY

Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY

Faith American Ale is Born In The Catskills

Catskills Dining

Kelsey Grammer offered me a beer this afternoon.

Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY Kelsey Grammer bartending at Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY

This did not take place in “the city” at some trendy new hot spot. I wasn’t rubbing shoulders with movie stars and models at some Upstate upscale boutique eatery.

I was day-drinking. And eating food-truck tacos. On a dairy farm turned taproom. With friends (and a few influential locals) at the Faith American Brewing Company’s post-Labor Day Celebration and soft opening.

Only in the Catskills!

Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY
Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY Kelsey Grammer’s Faith American Ale on tap
Kelsey Grammer Faith American Brewing Company Margaretville NY Ale by the can at Faith American Brewing Company

A dream spanning several decades for father, businessman, and yes, TV star, came to fruition this afternoon as Mr. Grammer opened the doors and taps of his on-site seasonal tavern just outside the town of Margaretville, in Middletown, Delaware County, NY.

“Having visited the Catskills as a boy and spent some of my most precious days here, I always suspected I would have a future with these mountains,” writes Mr. Grammer.

Friends and neighbors mingled, made welcome by the warm smiles and handshakes of their host. I made the same observance I made at last month’s square dance. All kinds of kinds were there, politics didn’t matter. It was a bonus summer day in the Catskills, and beer was flowing instead of the promised all-day rain. Kelsey Grammar is a man of faith, and it paid off.

He most sincerely hopes that Faith American Brewing Company will “restore this magnificent corner of the world to a thriving and vital place in America’s economy.”

This concept is almost as refreshing as the beer being served up in the pint glasses freshly stamped, “Faith American Ale Born In The Catskills”.

Cheers!

*****

For many more details on Faith American Brewing Company, LLC, please visit FaithAmerican.com

*****

Update 9.6.19 Brief clarification: brewery is not currently located on the same site as the tavern. Also, many thanks to Don Cazentre of nyup.com for featuring my photos and giving this Mountain Girl a soundbite! Read his article here at Syracuse.com

Rebecca Andre wears many hats as a photographer, food & lodging writer, reporter, web designer and poet living and working in a lovely Delaware County hamlet with her husband and daughter. She promotes local businesses and musicians, and can be reached at MoonflowerRA@gmail.com

Learn To Square Dance – Change The World?

Catskills Music

After attending a community square dance this past Saturday night, I came away with this epiphany: If everyone learned to square dance, the world would be a better place. 

How lucky am I, that I live in the Catskills, where square dancing is making a comeback. Where the fiddler and caller bring together folks from both sides of the fence: young or old, local or Brooklynite, farmer or freelancer, Democratic or Republican. It doesn’t matter.

For a couple of hours, strangers link arms and all judgement gets stomped away. 

For those of us on the sidelines, not quite ready to dive in to a square, it’s easy to witness the growing joy as dancers, both experienced and newcomers, twirl and laugh as they attempt to follow the calls. Sounds coming from the fiddles, banjo, bass and guitar take over, and for a few moments all of us in attendance forget our problems. We forget our differences. All that matters is the music and the dance.

Most would agree that any kind of dancing to live music can induce this sort of swirling, breathless joy – if we let it. What sets square dancing apart is that the dancers must leave the comfort zone of dancing with a friend or a partner, and eventually reach out to someone they don’t know. 

Especially at a square dance like Saturday’s. Thanks to the event -spreading wonder that is social media, both the local community and city folk heard about a chicken BBQ and square dance taking place at Dirty Girl Farm, the smallest licensed goat milk dairy in Delaware County, NY. Owners Lester Bourke and his wife Cindi Wright are the quintessential salt of the earth. I really could write an entire article on what they have going on over in Andes, and probably will, one day.

Lester Bourke and Cyndi Wright of Dirty Girl Farm

For now, I will say they welcomed everyone onto their property, into their barn. Chicken and salads were served, and dessert by Two Old Tarts sold out. This chicken BBQ even  had a vegetarian option! Also, a portion of the proceeds went to the Andes Food Pantry. The Facebook invite went something like this.

“Inviting neighbors and visitors to an old time evening of square dancing story sharing, eating and good fun. Featuring the Tremperskill Boys with callers and fiddlers John Jacobson and Dane Scudder sponsored by Catskills Folk Connection.”

Coming across the invite rather late in the week, after I had already planned on setting up shop at the railroad crossing in Halcottsville, to witness a group of well-dressed New Yorkers from And North pass through my cute little hamlet on a party train, I almost didn’t go. Then, a storm whipped up. The weather wasn’t looking good for an outdoor photo op.  

Ironically, I have not been to a square dance since I was in 5th grade gym class, but I have promoted several square dances for a client of mine, Ben Rounds. He is an experienced caller and teacher, and often returns to his hometown in Chenango County to host square dances.

So…ever answering the call of country music and a cook out, my family decided last minute to go to Dirty Girl Farm for the square dance. Though I couldn’t find my cowgirl boots, at least I found my hat. My daughter had her boots, and so did my husband. Off we went.

And I am so glad we did. I saw people I had not seen in such a long time. Even though sometimes we don’t have everything in common, we have enough. Hugs, handshakes and stories filled the night. The goats and the kids, the fiddles and the dancers all provided a backdrop to a carefree evening in the country.

At one point a friend of mine, Karen Caskey Fairbairn, Program Director for the Roxbury Art Group  that just so happens to be hosting the amazing Fiddlers! 26 concert and square dance, looked to the dancers and leaned over to me, saying “Everyone seems so happy.”

That’s when it dawned on me, everyone IS happy. In this moment. Happy to be stumbling their way through a group dance on a plywood dance floor on the second story of a sixty year old barn. At a goat farm. 

For a few hours, there was unity, despite the odd mix of hipster and farmer, conservative and hippie, carnivore and vegetarian. News of the recent shootings hadn’t yet spread. Even if it had, I believe it would have made the dancing even more necessary, a reminder that life hangs on a thread, and we need to make the best of every day; dance every chance you get.

*********

For detailed info on the upcoming Fiddlers! 26 FREE performance, click here. Save the date, October 13.

Looking to host a square dance, or square dance lessons? Contact Ben Rounds here

Don’t Feed The Bears

Outdoor Catskills, Watershed Post

Co-existence with these beautiful omnivores requires respect and conservational balance. Oh, and common sense too. Walking today, I came across bear spore (aka sign of an animal including tracks, scat, hair,etc). This is common on the mountainside where I live on the Western Slope of the Catskills. I was reminded of an article I wrote a few years ago for the now archive-only online news site, Watershed Post. The information is just too in-demand to keep under wraps.

How To Stay Safe in Catskills Bear Country

by Rebecca Andre

Spring in the Catskills is a breathtaking season of roaring waterfalls, eagles taking flight and pastures covered in blooming wildflowers—and, thanks to our resident black bear population, of overturned trash cans, destroyed bird feeders and dented vehicles.

In May, Region 4 of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which covers a portion of the Catskills, received dozens of complaints about bears, according to Joshua Choquette, a DEC wildlife technician. By May 23, the agency had received 54 complaints about bears from its nine counties, Choquette said.

The majority of the complaints the DEC receives each year are calls from homeowners reporting that their trash or bird feeder is being feasted upon by a local black bear, according to Choquette.

But about 20 percent of the calls each year are of a more serious nature, with a bear causing damage to vehicles, property or agriculture, he said.

A bear’s search for food

Warmer temperatures in the spring bring the black bears emerging hungry from their dens. Choquette said. Immediately, they begin searching for food, which is still scarce at this time of year.

“Their whole behavior is driven by food,” said Choquette.

In an April 22 press release, the DEC issued tips for how bears and humans come into conflict.

“Bears can obtain all of the food they need from the forest, but they are intelligent and opportunistic animals that will find and consume whatever food they can find most easily,” the statement read. “Bird feeders, garbage cans,dumpsters, barbecue grills, unsecured out-buildings or vehicles containing food or waste are all potential attractants to bears. Once a bear learns to obtain food from people or certain structures, it is very difficult to change the animal’s behavior. These bears are more vulnerable to motor vehicle collisions in populated areas, more likely to be illegally killed, or may become a threat to public safety.”

The DEC encourages homeowners to call their regional wildlife conservation office if a foraging bear causes any damage to property.

In the Catskills, call the Schenectady office at 518-357-2450, the Stamford office at 607-652-7369 or the New Paltz office at 845-256-3000. The location and date of nuisance bear reports are all kept on record, and afford the agency an accurate assessment regarding wildlife activity in a particular area.

Greene and Delaware counties, especially the area in and around the town of Middletown in Delaware County, are known for a higher density of black bears, according to Choquette.

Just ask the Ingraham family. They live on Route 30 between the town of Roxbury and the hamlet of Halcottsville in Delaware County, and in May they had already had four encounters with a “brave bear that’s not tiny,” according to Lillian Ingraham.

The bear has left paw prints on the side of their house and has ripped a shed door off a neighbor’s house, Ingraham said.

The family reported the bear’s visits to the DEC, and was issued non-lethal rubber buckshot bullets by an environmental conservation officer, who instructed the family to shoot at the bear’s backside (not its face) if it returns.

They were told that the rubber buckshot is not intended to cause permanent damage, but to condition the bear to associate pain with a certain location, Ingraham said. Although the family’s trash is secured, the bear continues to return, she said.

Catskill black bear. All photos within article by Rebecca Andre, use with permission only.

Stay safe in bear country

According to statistics gathered by the DEC, there are between 6,000 to 7,000 black bears in New York state. A female adult bear weighs 170 pounds, and a male adult bear can weigh up to 300 pounds.

Humans can safety co-exist with bears in the Catskills if they follow a few simple rules, according to Larry Bifaro, the DEC’s Region 4 wildlife biologist. He said that he handles 80 percent of his bear conflict calls with some “simple advice:”

  • Do not feed bears. It is a dangerous and illegal activity anywhere in the state of New York, and the DEC requests to be alerted should anyone witness a person feeding a bear.
  • Remove bird feeders after April 1, even those up high, as fallen birdseed will tempt a bear.
  • Clean grills, and their grease traps, after use. Store them inside if possible.
  • Store your garbage securely in a locked building or in lidded cans with ropes and chains. Dispose of trash as frequently as possible. Clean garbage cans with ammonia products, and put cans out the morning of, not the night before, collection. Bears will forage on whatever they find, including life-threatening materials like soap, shaving cream and plastics.
  • Do not burn garbage, which is illegal and can attract bears.
  • Do not add meat scraps, bones or melon rinds to your compost.
  • Do not operate refrigerators or freezers outdoors.
  • Feed pets indoors and store pet food indoors as well.
  • Do not leave food, trash or wrappers in a parked vehicle.
  • Consider using electric fencing around vegetable gardens and bee hives.

Learn more about New York’s black bears on the DEC’s website. For more information about bears in your area or to report a problem with black bears, contact the nearest regional DEC office. Region 4 numbers: Schenectady office, 518-357-2450. Stamford office, 607-652-7369. Region 3 numbers: New Paltz office, 845-256-3000.

The above is a repost from the June 4, 2016 article, written by myself with edits by the WP team.
‘Prasmatic Light’, a refreshing wheat ale with notes of orange peel, peaches and grapefruit. @Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Catskill Living Along The Rt. 28 Scenic Byway – Outtakes

Catskills Dining, Catskills Overnight, Kaatskill Life

Being the food and lodging writer for Kaatskill Life Magazine is one of several gigs, most definately a treasured one. I find myself meeting all sorts of folks and tasting my way up and down the Catskill Scenic Byway of Route 28. The following photos are some outtakes that did not see print. Below are links to the articles to read online, with links to their Facebook or websites directly following. Online subscriptions to Kaatskill Life are also available, just click here: kaatslife.com/shop

Chocolate Semifreddo with smoked caramel, meringue and graham crumble at Scribbner's Prospect restaurant.

Chocolate Semifreddo with smoked caramel, meringue and graham crumble at Scribbner’s Prospect restaurant.

Kaatskill Dining:

Kaatskill Lodging:

Kaatskill Dining/Lodging

All Photos © Rebecca Andre, Mountain Girl Photography. Use with permission only please.

Scribbner's Prospect Restaurant Seasonal inspired cocktails include this nutmeg dusted lemon whiskey ©Rebecca Andre

Scribner’s Prospect Restaurant Seasonal inspired cocktails include this nutmeg dusted lemon whiskey ©Rebecca Andre

 

Family table at Cucina Woodstock ©Rebecca Andre

Family table at Cucina Woodstock ©Rebecca Andre

Bread baked daily in Brio’s wood-fired oven  ©Rebecca Andre

Potato Pancakes topped with applesauce at Brio’s, © Rebecca Andre, Mountain Girl Photography. Photo use with permission only please.

Potato Pancakes topped with applesauce at Brio’s ©Rebecca Andre

Chocolate & Caramel cupcake at Bite Me Bakery © Rebecca Andre, Mountain Girl Photography. Photo use with permission only please.

Chocolate and Caramel cupcake at Bite Me Bakery ©Rebecca Andre

 

Woodstock Brewing outdoor seating. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Woodstock Brewing outdoor seating. ©Rebecca Andre

Tap room at Woodstock Brewing. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Tap room at Woodstock Brewing. ©Rebecca Andre

Pine Hill Arms. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Pine Hill Arms. ©Rebecca Andre

Maeve, in charge at Maeve’s Coffee Shop at Pine Hill Arms, and friend. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Maeve, in charge at Maeve’s Coffee Shop at Pine Hill Arms, and friend. ©Rebecca Andre

Queen room with kitchenette at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Violet’s Suite with kitchenette at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre

Violet’s kitchenette at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Violet’s kitchenette at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre

Owners Tom and Dana Fraser Violet’s at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Owners Tom and Dana Fraser at Phoenicia Belle B and B. ©Rebecca Andre

Wintertime on the Mill Stream. ©Rebecca Andre of Mountain Girl Photography, NY. Use by permission only please.

Wintertime on the Mill Stream. ©Rebecca Andre

*As a photographer for hire well-versed in the hospitality industry, feel free to email me at MoonflowerRA@gmail.com if you are interested having photos taken of your own restaurant  or lodging establishment. 

Railroads in the Catskills busy this Memorial Day Weekend 2018

Rails Upstate

With CMRR’s Great Train Robbery event, DURR’s first Rip Van Winkle charter run of the season and the new Rail Explorers USA opening weekend in Phoenicia, both Ulster and Delaware Counties proudly demonstrate to visitors the rails are the place to be this holiday weekend.

DURR Rip Van Winkle Flyer charter run on Thursday, May 24.

In Delaware County, although the official opening weekend was held up due to weather induced track repair, Delaware and Ulster Railroad (DURR) ran its first revenue train of the season, a private charter. Folks were all smiles on the beautiful 75 degree Thursday as they gently rocked through the mountains on the the Rip Van Winkle Flyer. A round trip from Arkville to Roxbury and back passes through the quaint hamlet of Halcottsville and provides passengers with bucolic views of Wawaka Lake, the Round Barn and several farms along the way.

June 2 is the official kick off for public rides. Get your tickets at DURR.org. Pricing is:

• $18.00- Adults

• $12.00 – Children (ages 2-12)

• $15.00 – Discount Adult (Senior/Military/Veteran)

• Dogs are free!

In Ulster County, you can participate in the creatively curated Great Train Robbery on Saturday, May 25. This is my personal fav. The website describes it as follows:

“Board our exciting journey back in time as the Catskill Mountain Railroad celebrates the legend of the Great Train Robbery – the classic 1903 silent movie by the same name – shot on the New York state rails. This interactive adventure will kick off at the Westbrook Station in Kingston, NY and travel up the Hurley Flats. Expect the unexpected as this excursion includes a stop at a local festival with live music and vendors serving up some of the best local flavors in town. Seating is open, so it’s suggested you arrive approximately a half hour early and pick your spot in one of our covered flat cars or inside one of our historic coaches. Please make our crew aware in if someone in your party may have difficulty navigating steps and require additional assistance or enjoy and alternate detour.”

The Ben Rounds Band will be waiting for you as you break along the way, playing their recognizable mix of country and rock covers. Ben is a major supporter of saving the rails in Ulster County and has played several fundraisers contributing to the cause, and his music never disappoints!

This is an event for the whole family and not to be missed. Visit CatskillMountainRailroad.com for more details and to purchase tickets. Pricing is:

• $18.00- Adults

• $12.00 – Children (ages 2-12)

• $16.00 – Discount Adult (Senior/Military/Veteran)

•  $0.00- Toddler (Under two on lap)

If you have a little more coin, and energy, you can ride the new Rail Explorers USA rail bikes through scenic Ulster County. Boarding takes place at the historic Phoenicia station, aka the Empire State Railroad Museum.

Rail bikes lined up for their inaugural run following the Rail Explorers USA Catskill Division Ceremony this past Wednesday. Please ask permission for photo usage.

In fact, trail without rail advocates, UC politicians Mike Hein and Kathy Nolan, who some consider to be the driving force behind the currently segmented (interrupted, compromised, decimated, however you choose to view it) rail line, stood on this hallowed ground on Wednesday during the ribbon cutting ceremony for Rail Explorers. Paul LaPierre, on the board  of  the ESRM*, in an unexpected gesture, wholeheartedly welcomed them, thanking Ulster County for its assistance in cleaning up the museam property and for the promise of a permit to keep equipment and cars on the property for repair and display purposes.

I digress.

My point is, if you miss riding along the mighty Esopus, as the CMRR has not been able to operate there since the loss of their lease in 2016, you can still do an eight mile round trip pedal through Mt. Tremper, across Rt. 28, stopping just a mile shy of where the tracks now end. Bring plenty of water and snacks. The beautiful tour, though electric motor assisted on the way back, is still a workout, so eat your wheaties! Bring your rain gear too, as Rail Explorers operates in mild to moderately inclement weather.

For all details and to book, go to RailExplorers.net. Pricing is:

• $42.50 pp (2 persons on Tandem Rider)

• $37.50 pp  (4 riders on not Quad Explorer)

• 10 % Discount for groups of 10 or more

*****
Please stay tuned for full, objective coverage of the Rail Explorers USA Ribbon Ceremony. In the meantime, enjoy this weekend safely, be thankful for every moment given to you and those you love, never forgetting the price paid by those who fight for our country, and their families.

*Please note a previous version of this article referred to Paul LaPierre as “head of the ESRM”. He has since brought to attention he is only a member of its board.

Old Man Winter Delays Train Season

Rails Upstate

By Rebecca Andre – May 10, 2018 10:54 pm – Arkville, Delaware County, NY

If you are wondering why the May opening of Delaware and Ulster Railroad has been pushed to June 2, you can thank Mother Nature and Old Man Winter, who have once again conspired to hold off precious spring and summer in the Catskills.

DURR Train

Platform in Arkville will be filled with riders starting June 2

Despite best intentions to have track work complete, problems left over from winter weather derailed hopes of a Mother’s Day Weekend opening.

Namely, frost heaves and cross elevation.

As explained by Wes Coates, General Manager of DURR, the cinders used in the building of the railroad hold moisture, especially in the lower-lying areas, and freeze, pushing the tracks up and out of place.

Efforts were made to avoid this issue, including plowing the tracks for the first time in 40 years to open them up to the sun quicker.

A larger railroad would have a simple fix, using a track stabilizing machine to force the tracks back into place.

“We are a little country railroad,” explains Coates, so this has to be done the old fashioned way: by running a passenger-free train over the tracks back and forth to stabilize them.

Durrr Train

#5106 sits patient on the tracks

Crews have already installed 100 tons of ballast (gravel/stone) and almost 1,000 new ties. Work is being done in both directions from the station in Arkville, including towards Highmount. Word is the visiting steam locomotive planned for June and September could cross the trestle over the Bushkill.

Vic Stevens, Chief Engineer, and Coates are both extremely disappointed by the hold up. “But we need to make sure the tracks are safe,” says Stevens.

***

Go to DURR.org for full schedule and ticket information. Be sure to check for updates on Facebook as well. 

DURR

‘Tie Inserter’ machine

DURR ties

New environmentally conscious ties treated with copper naphthenate  instead of creosote, which has been classified as harmful to the environment as it can leach from the ties when heated by sunlight and allow a petroleum residue to seep into ground water.

temp 3

The ‘Ballast Regulator’ is used to spread the ballast out for the ‘Tamper Machine’

 

Blenheim Bridge officially sets down across Schoharie Creek

Catskills Bridges
First official photo of the bridge lowered and set, wood to concrete. Photos by Rebecca Andre of MGPAD, please ask for permission before use.

By Rebecca Andre,  Tues., 5.1.18 – 7:44 pm – North Blenheim, NY

Here is the first official look at the new “Old Blenheim Bridge” across the Schoharie Creek, steel free and solely supported by her arched trusses meticulously perched on the abutments. This is a momentous day.

Almost there!

“We are ecstatic,” said a group of locals that gathered for free hotdogs at Pastor Mike’s church, UMC of Blenheim, the previous Wednesday. The sign at the church declared “almost there” and “free hotdogs” as workers were treated to lunch.

“Almost there” sign at Blenheim UMC
Removal of the last temporary steel supports from the west end abutment

Now, on this first day of May, the Town of Blenheim has officially evened its score with Tropical Storm Irene. Six and a half years ago, the storm claimed victory, with floodwaters devastating the town and in a symbolic flourish, destroying the bridge, leaving the towns folk without their homes and without their bridge.

After a battle that spanned years and multiple appeals to FEMA, hope and the bridge have been restored over the troubled waters of the Schoharie Creek. (Please read the full Kaatskill Life story on the rebuilding of the bridge here and stay tuned for further coverage in the same quarterly magazine detailing the entire move of the 200 ton bridge.)

Completion timeline

Despite some local papers proclaiming the project as “almost finished” Richard Christman, Chief Engineer with GPI, or as he calls himself, “interpreter of the plans and the problems,” says that the projected completion is set for October of 2018. Due to Mother Nature, along with other unpredictables, even this forecast could change.

Stan Graton of 3G Construction, a third generation bridgewright, has hopes his part will be completed sometime in June, that is the building of the floor and roof and the pre-loading of 147 tons. ( An engineering requirement that means approximately 45 gallons of water per sq. foot, i.e. 168 IBC totes pumped full of creek water, must be placed the length of the bridge to test its strength against the 150 person capacity and projected snow load).

“And then we can lock in the center diagonals,” says Graton.

Stan and Arnold (JR) Graton make use of shims during the last connection;  the final setting of wood to concrete

But such activities, including but not limited to, installation of the standing seam metal roof, fireproofing, re-establishing electricity, staining of the concrete abutments, landscaping and site cleanup mean that the bridge is still half a year away from completion.

In the meantime, take a ride to North Blenheim and experience the lifting energy that the rebuilt bridge has bestowed upon this small Schoharie County town. Park by the Blenheim Honor Roll sign, across from the old school house, just shy of the construction site. For safety reasons, please stay behind the orange fence and snap away.

***

Richard Christman, Chief Engineer, watches the final placement
Stan and JR Graton breathe a sigh of relief that the structure they have so tirelessly worked on, built faithfully to original specs and at times with period appropriate (mid 19th century) handtools, sits proud and sturdy across the water
Bridge offices temporarily staged at the bridge museum, previously a school house. Banner boasts the coalition of companies and agencies responsible for the new bridge.

Economy Paving Company, Stan Graton II 3G Construction Inc., GPI Engineering, Expert House Movers, Lamont Engineers, Simmons Recovery Consulting, Hoyle, Tanner & Assoc., P.C., Town of  Blenheim, Shoharie County, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, FEMA

Covered Bridge , symbol of Town of Blenheim

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“Old Blenheim Bridge” built in 1855 by Nicholas Powers, drawing by Robert E. Shaffer 12.25.1939

Winds of Change Blow from Polar Vortex to Polar Express

Rails Upstate

The winter blues and snow race to pile up at my door step. Worry accumulates. Writing usually makes things better, but sometimes even that becomes a chore. When coming up with a captivating blog post takes longer than shoveling out from three feet of snow, I know I’m in trouble.

Time for a little help from my friends. I have never included someone else’s writing in my blog, I just don’t reblog. Lately, though, I have come to admire the writings of a certain accomplished gentleman. I gobble up his press releases and wish I owned a newspaper just so that I could print them. Larry Roth’s most recent correlation  between what is happening to our climate and what is happening to our rails stopped me in my tracks. Ahem. Pun intended. Please read his insightful words below.

The 21st Century is not going to be like the 20th. The sooner we face up to that fact, the better.

Two unprecedented March Nor’easters in rapid succession (with a possible third on the way) have caused millions of dollars in damage, left hundreds of thousands without power, and disrupted transportation up and down the east coast. Ulster County and New York State are choosing policies that will make matters worse.

These storms are what climate change looks like. Researchers attribute the strength and timing of the storms to the disruption of the Polar Vortex, changes in wind patterns that have left the Arctic much warmer than it should be this time of year because of global warming. Extreme weather events are increasingly likely in the years ahead.

Main Street Margaretville, NY March 3, 2018 after winter storm Riley. Photo by Rebecca Andre (Use of photo without permission is prohibited)

New York State is changing land use laws to make it easier to turn railroads into trails. Ulster County is turning a rail line that parallels a major transportation corridor into trails and disconnected rail segments. Trails will take no trucks or cars off the roads. They will do nothing to reduce carbon emissions. This is a policy catering to the short-sighted gratification of special interest groups, not prudent governance.

Over a quarter of the energy expended in the US goes to transportation, moving people and goods. Carbon emissions from that contribute significantly to global warming. Railroads are the most energy-efficient means of land transport — but the US has invested heavily in car-centric transportation for decades. We are now experiencing the consequences of that choice.

Railroads increase resiliency by broadening the economic base beyond tourism — trails can’t.

The importance of two Adirondack tourist railroads and one in the Catskills in dealing with climate change may seem insignificant — but enough small steps taken everywhere can and will make a difference. The rail lines in question once moved freight and provided passenger service to their regions. The only thing preventing them from doing so again is a refusal to recognize the world has changed and a reluctance to make the necessary investments. They can be much more than an amusement for tourists in ways a trail never can.

Rails recently scrapped in Ulster County photo by Rebecca Andre (use without permission is prohibited)

The Netherlands operate their trains with an electrified rail system running on 100% wind power. Biodiesel, hybrid locomotives, even hydrogen fuel cell trains all offer immediate ways to reduce carbon emissions. The rest of the world is investing in rail systems — only America is ripping up rail corridors for trails while still subsidizing everything that competes with railroads. It is a recipe for disaster in the face of changing global climate.

Railroads offer resiliency, vital in a world increasingly subject to climate disruption. When airplanes are grounded, when roads become dangerous, trains can keep running. When mudslides blocked a critical commuting route in California in January, Amtrak and other passenger rail carriers added trains and ran longer trains; the alternative was a 275 mile detour by road.

Meanwhile, our planet burns while Ulster County and New York State fiddle {with trails}.
*****

Visit UDRRCorp.com to learn more about the future of our rails and how you can contribute.

Please address all inquiries to:

Larry Roth, Media Relations

U&D Railway Revitalization Corporation

P.O. Box 503 Phoenicia, NY 12464

udrrc.media@gmail.com 518-965-5246