Railroads in the Catskills busy this Memorial Day weekend

Ben rounds, Catskill Mountains, new york, trains, upstate new york

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

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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.

Winds of Change Blow from Polar Vortex to Polar Express

Catskill Mountains, climate change, trains

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}.
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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