Catskill Mountain Railroad - History - Delaware & Ulster RR

Delaware & Ulster RR

The Ulster and Delaware Railroad was chartered in 1866, and was completed between Kingston and Oneonta in 1900. Generations of travelers flocked to the Catskills to vacation at the storied grand hotels and lodges. Lucrative freight traffic included coal, lumber and other commodities, as well as dairy and farm products. Passenger traffic began to fall off in the period between the wars, and plummeted during the Great Depression. Improved roads and the rise of the private automobile doomed the little railroad, and it became part of the New York Central in 1932. The last regularly scheduled passenger train on the Catskill Mountain Branch departed Oneonta on March 31, 1954. Freight service continued, though in diminishing amounts over the years. The line was cut back from Oneonta to Bloomville in 1965, ending the railroad's role as a through route. New York Central became part of Penn Central in February, 1968, and conditions continued to deteriorate. Federally backed Conrail took over the operations of Penn Central in April, 1976, and operated the Catskill Mountain Branch on a limited basis as an operator subsidized by New York State. The six-month subsidy gave the remaining customers on the line time to switch to alternate modes of transportation. The last freight train left Kingston for Stamford on September 28, 1976. Earl Pardini hired on with Conrail in 1976, and his first day on the job was brakeman on the last freight train out of Kingston. Pardini was also President of the Catskill Mountain Transportation Corporation, a grassroots group that was seeking to purchase the railroad from the Penn Central estate. However, an agreement on price could not be reached. The last freight train finally returned to Kingston on October 2, 1976, with all 32 cars that had been present on the branch. The connection to the mainline was then spiked-shut, and the former Ulster & Delaware was officially taken out of service.

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