Ulster and Delaware Railroad History

The Ulster & Delaware Railroad crossed the Catskills from Kingston Point on the Hudson, to Oneonta in the Susquehanna Valley. Chartered in 1866 as the Rondout & Oswego , and reorganized in 1872 as the New York, Kingston & Syracuse , it became the Ulster & Delaware in 1875, and was completed to Oneonta in 1900.  

Loading Mail on the U&DRR

elaware County Historical Association

 

To Arkville, Then North

Surmounting dramatic mountain scenery with four percent grades that demanded three Ten-Wheelers for an eight-car passenger train, the Ulster & Delaware was often called the most scenic line in the east. It helped create and then profited handsomely from a boom in the Catskill tourist trade, while providing outlets for the area's agricultural, timber, bluestone, and other products. It also provided a through, if roundabout, route for coal bound from northeastern Pennsylvania mines to New York City - indeed, one of the reasons it was built, was to bring Delaware & Hudson coal from Oneonta to the Hudson River steamboats of Thomas Cornell, one of the U&D's chief promoters.

The railroad thrived into the World War I era, especially on tourist passenger traffic, milk, and coal, and began to fade with the coming of the automobile and the truck in the 1920's. It was finally rendered insolvent by management financial shenanigans worthy of Daniel Drew, and was forcibly merged into the New York Central in 1932, then in 1968 into Penn Central, which abandoned portions; it was finally discontinued entirely after Conrail took over Penn Central in 1976.

Through the generous and foresighted act of the A. Lindsay and Olive B. O'Connor Foundation, much of the track and most of the right-of-way remain intact, in local public ownership. Portions are operated by our friends at the Delaware & Ulster Rail Road out of Arkville (see the February, 1998 issue of Railpace), the Catskill Mountain Railroad at Phoenicia & Mt. Pleasant, and the Trolley Museum of New York at Kingston. Efforts are presently underway to restore most of the railroad to operation, as the backbone of a historic corridor of 19th Century Catskill life and industry.

Long View of the Station

Delaware County Historical Association

Passengers - All Aboard

Delaware County Historical Association

To Arkville, Then West

The Delaware & Northern (started in 1905 as the Delaware & Eastern, and renamed after an early bankruptcy) connected with the Ulster & Delaware at Arkville, following the East Branch of the Delaware River through Margaretville, largely along the route of present New York Highway 30 to East Branch, NY where it met the main line of the Ontario & Western; there was also a branch up the hill from Union Grove to Andes. (Incredibly, the Andes station survives today, 70 years after the branch was abandoned, as part of a lumberyard). While there were at one time grand ambitions to extend the D&N south to the Pennsylvania anthracite regions, and north to the Mohawk Valley - and, astonishingly, enough money was actually spent to leave bridge abutments that survived into the 1960's, and grading that survives today - nothing ever came of that scheme, and the road languished for less than 40 years from birth to death along the East Branch of the Delaware. Its claim to fame was the Red Heifer, a Brill gas-electric that handled almost all the business from 1926 until the railroad's end in 1942.

 

Open Track Ahead

Delaware County Historical Association

Engineers At Work

Delaware County Historical Association

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