Boarding Houses Near Railroads

THE CATSKILL MOUNTAINS – the most picturesque mountain region on the globe
This book is issued by the Passenger Department of The Ulster & Delaware Railroad Company © 1894. Reprinted 1914.

The Catskill Mountains and the Ulster and Delaware System – summer rest and where to find it – scenic beauty and sanitary advantages – the only all-rail, standard gauge route and through car line.

Summer Rest…
There is a science of summer rest, and the sooner this fact is realized and reckoned with the better it will be for all those who live in the temperate zones. In the United States the vacation habit has now grown chronic and confirmed among all classes. And yet it is surprising that so few of these intelligent American millions fully comprehend the real lesson of the doctrine of rest. Men and women in every walk of life, rich and poor alike, hustle along day after day through the busy months of each year between store and office and the home or club, in quest of the elusive dollar and the happiness and pleasure it may bring. Few ever stop to estimate the pace or measure the speed of their activities. It is a restless energy that pervades this land of ours and we rarely spare the time to look into the faces of our neighbors at home or abroad, or study their methods of life. The frail arteries of our existence are continually distended by the pressure of individual effort toward supremacy and conquest over jostling rivals on every side. It is an ambitious age in which we live. But rather than seek to abate the noble energies and activities that so proudly characterize this epoch, shall we not learn to glean the fuel with which to feed the consuming fires of this glorious ambition, from the ample storehouses of nature in the wisest way? The careful conservation of vital force is the imperative lesson of the hour. Greater economy in the use and control of our bodies and brains is strictly enjoined. These houses of clay were not made to run at high pressure all the time. Nor will am ample supply of food suffice to repair all waste. There must be stated periods of relaxation, recreation and absolute rest. Lost strength and vitality can be regained in no other way. A breath of Nature, uncontaminated by the dregs of city civilization, is the unfailing panacea. The flabby muscles and pale cheeks, the feeble respiration and the exhausted brain, all these beckon us away to the green hills and valleys.

Where To Go…
…What manner of change do I need most? This is the great question to decide, and it is the easiest of the whole lot. An absolute change of air is the inevitable response which comes in asthmatic gasps from the exhausted lungs, half clogged by the organic atoms of the polluted city atmosphere. What you need is air at first-hand. For months you have been breathing in second-hand, warmed-over air whose identity and history youwere fully content to leave in obscurity, sniffing bit here and there, catching a whiff now and then as it floats out to sea for purification. Now you must pack your grip and flee to the distilleries of the skies, where the mystic breezes fling out their banners of invigorating welcome, and Nature sits enthroned to dispense her choicest gifts. And this brings us to the consideration of altitude, the hygienic importance of which as a factor in the summer vacation, is now so universally conceded.

The Importance of Altitude…
For years past we have found that vigor and tone were imparted by a sojourn at mountain resorts a few thousand feet above the sea. First came the exhilarating effect which seemed to renew lost tissues and repair old ones. But the exact processes were not so easy to explain scientifically. It was discovered years ago that the blood of animals living in the higher altitudes absorbed more oxygen than those on the lower levels. Next, that his blood was richer in the coloring matter (haemoglobin), and also that the number of red corpuscles was greatly augmented. Bearing in mind that the blood absorbs oxygen in the lungs and transfers it to the tissues of the body by means of these red corpuscles, the advantages of this increase of oxygen and its tiny carrier is at once apparent…..
Careful investigation has revealed other and more important ingredients in this mountain prescription. The cool air of the inland hills is a far different article from that found at the sea shore. Instead of the saturated product of moisture and condensation, the air is dry and strong from the rarefying processes peculiar to the laboratories of the skies…

Origin of Name…
The precise origin of the name “Catskill” is somewhat obscure. Some writers aver that it was derived from the catamounts which infested the region, and Irving was among those sponsors. But there is scant authority or reason for this assumption. The name is found spelled in numerous ways in the ancient records, such as “Kaatskills,” “Kaaterskill,” “Katskill,” “Cauterskill,” “Cautskill,” etc. It is believed to have been first applied during the Dutch domination over two centuries ago. And if this assumption is correct, Kaatskill or Katterskill would seem to be the proper orthography. The “kill” being Dutch for channel or creek. “Kaat” is also Dutch for cat, but the unusual abundance of the feline species, either wild or domestic, is not well established. The Indians are said to have called the mountains “Ontiora,” meaning hills of the sky, where the Great Spirit of Manitou dwelt and ruled the elements of earth and sky. And there seems no very good reason for ever having abandoned that poetic and appropriate title….

The Ulster & Delaware Railroad…
The construction of the Ulster and Delaware line was begun in 1866. Proceeding slowly and cautiously for a time, the iron horse did not really get very far into the mountains until four years later. Even then the project was generally considered wild and ill-advised, with certain failure at the end. But the projectors had faith in the final result and kept stretching out the rails until they reached and crossed the mountains.

Nature may never have dreamed that man would stretch a railroad through this lovely valley, and at times there has been some question as to whether she had been fully reconciled to the desecration. But the engineers found a natural pass here, crooked and tortuous though it was and they followed it up in laying out the line of the road, avoiding any aggressive liberties with the native conditions, as far as possible. Many heavy grades were encountered, and there was a cantankerous mountain creek, with a whole brood of wayward and excitable little tributaries pouring into it from every gorge and gulch which had to be dealt with in a dignified and earnest manner. These were normally quiet and inoffensive, of course; the speckled trout disported lazily in the crystal water which glittered in the noonday sun like silver threads in the woof of the mountain, and rippled in sweet refrain on its winding, woodland way to the river. But when the floods came these placid and pretty rills swelled into roaring torrents in a few hours, tumbling into the main creek, which in turn flooded the narrow valley and swept everything down before it. Of course, there was nothing about the railway that would be likely to exempt it from this inevitable rule, or evoke any sympathy from these arteries of the mountains. So the engineers acted squarely on the defensive and built the road on that theory, locating the line with utmost care and building in the firmest manner. The best materials were used in every case and the best methods employed to secure stability, security, safety, efficiency and comfort. The roadbed has recently been materially straightened and leveled and the curves perfected by a competent corps of engineers. This was made necessary by the increased traffic and greater speed of trains, which also called for heavier rails and ties and modern steel bridges, all of which have been supplied over the entire line. Several new and attractive station buildings have been erected, and important additions and improvements to the rolling stock and general equipment are continually being made. The new passenger locomotives are now heavier and more powerful than formerly and they are constructed from the latest improved designs for speed and efficiency. The new coaches which are added each year are elegant models of comfort and convenience from the best shops in the country. Nothing that will conduce to the comfort and pleasure of travelers has been omitted in the equipment of The Ulster & Delaware system. It therefore stands to-day second to none in security of roadbed, safety of appliances, generally efficiency and comfort of equipment.
The completion of the road of course proved the great factor in the development of the Catskills as a popular summer resort. A new impetus was imparted to the mountain boarding business, and hotels, large and small, began to rise here and there in the valleys and on the mountain slopes. It opened a new section of the range, which rivaled and even surpassed in beauty and other portion, while the entire region at once became easily accessible. Luxurious parlor and day coaches are not attached to the trains and the most infirm and debilitated may thus enjoy the benefits of this great natural sanitarium.
 

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