Old Man Winter Delays Train Season

#HardHatReporter, Catskill Mountains, trains

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’

 

Chasing trains

Catskill Mountains, trains, Travel

Steam and Diesel locomotives side by side DURR

I was a virgin train chaser until this weekend. Now I am an addict.

It is not every day a steam locomotive and diesel engine share the same track in a small upstate New York hamlet.  Train chasers travel all over the country to capture a shot like this. I needed only to drive down to the bottom of my hill.

If you are not a rail fan, you most likely will not understand the adrenaline rush and pure joy that comes from chasing trains.  No, I am not talking about traveling along a stretch of highway parallel to the rails, speeding up or slowing down to stay in synch with the train. This is dangerous.

The safer form of chasing trains entails researching and choosing a train you wish to photograph, mapping out strategic stops for photography ahead of time, and following the train from its departure station to its arrival station and back.

I was a virgin train chaser until this weekend. Now I am an addict.

It all began while location-scouting for an upcoming documentary project (about trains, of course.) I got wind that the local tourist train, Delaware and Ulster Railroad, had rented a steam engine this weekend for a “Haunts of Rip Van Winkle abbreviated rail tour. The steamer would come to my town, “turn around” and head back to the station.

Twice this weekend, overlapping departure times of the usual 116 diesel pulling the silver liners  all the way to Roxbury, NY from Arkville, NY caused these two historic locomotives to pass each other like two ships in the night.

Above is the money shot, a still taken from the video footage I captured of the event.

But true passion is never satiated, and I was not going to head back up the hill to my house. I rushed out to Rt. 30 (adhering to speed limits, of course) and hurried up and waited until the steamer rounded the curve with the Round Barn as its backdrop.

Running back to where my car was parked, across the tracks and across the road, I worked off the morning’s pancakes.

My next stop was at Kelly’s corners, and I kneeled down, prayer like, camera resting on the guardrail, and snapped shot after shot of the steamer crossing the bridge over the East Branch.

By the time I got to the parking lot at my last stop, the motley crew of chasers I had inadvertently joined had grown. A friend I wasn’t expecting to see was there. We hugged. The sun was shining. The whistle floated towards our ears, the scent of coal teased at our nostrils, we all took our places. We waited.

The wait climaxed into 10 or 15 seconds of the train’s approach, sun on her nose, brakes screeching, steam filling the cloudless sky, and following her cars with my lens.

Most of my footage from today is being kept under wraps for the above mentioned project. I really can’t wait to share it with the world. The world of rail fans that is!