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Dutchess Rail Trail – phase 1,2,3

pardon moi mes ami for the delay in posting this blog entry but I have been watching Le Tour – la Grande Dame des grand tour – en Versus – vive le tour! alez! Alberto,Andy and that “old guy” from Texas – bonne chance!

My other interest other than the obvious,cycling,is railroading.Therefore how nice it is for myself to combine my 2 interests when I ride one of the  local rail trails of the area.There,beneath the wheels of my bike,there once were rails and trains rolled across those rails with a rhythmic clickety-clack. And imagine my excitement when the Walkway opened last year and I was able to ride my bicycle across an old RR bridge high above the Hudson River.The high vantage point on the Walkway provides an excelent spot to watch the CSX mega freight trains on the west shore of the river, or Amtrak and Metro North trains on the east side Hudson line. As one travels along a rail trail,there are ocasional reminders of the past railroad history. An old signal (the one that was at Grand Ave. on the DRT,in Poughkeepsie, has been removed for restoration),the remnants of an old siding, an old station or other structures,and of course the requisite bright red caboose. (of note there are 2 cabooses – or is that cabeese? – in Highland,one on the Hudson Valley RT at the pavilion,and one at the west end of the Walkway – and cabooses are a thing of the past,RR’s now use a F.R.E.D. – flashing rear end device – at the end of a freight train) With construction on 2 rail trails,the Hudson Valley RT and the Dutchess RT,both on the old Maybrook line ROW,I have taken an interest in researching the history of the extant Central New England RR, and the Maybrook line of this RR.I had found a colection of some great historical photographs along this rail line,most going back to the late19th and early 20th centuries. However,there was also a colection of photographs after the fire on the RR bridge, which is now the Walkway Over The Hudson.One of the photographs I saw was a picture dated 1997 of the ROW overpass at Didell Rd. being removed. I had actualy been there at this time and saw this.I did not have a good camera at the time and so do not have any photos of my own.

Central New England RR – Maybrook Line

Poughkeepsie – Highland RR bridge – post fire (pre Walkway)

Walkway Over The Hudson

my Hudson Valley and a bit beyond photo
gallery (includes Walkway and some train photos)


06-27-10 phase 2

  On this sultry,early summer day I would take a short ride on the shady rail trail to see the new memorial, at the Morgan lake trailhead,for Michael Murphy. Michael Murphy is to the rail trails of Dutchess county what Fred Schaeffer is to the Walkway.Michael Murphy is the person who spearheaded the extension / development of the Harlem Valley RT in Dutchess county. This rail trail is the first one in Dutchess county.In 2006, as county public comisioner,he worked on the development of the old Maybrook Line ROW into the Dutchess rail trail. This RT would be the second one in the county.This would be his last public works project for the county before his retirement. He,sadly,died a short time after retirement in May of 2007.

  In addition to the above mentioned memorial,I had noted there are new black-on-white mileage markers for this section of the RT – “phase 2”. This section of the RT will remain, for at least a few more years, as a seperate rail trail from the “main” rail trail to the south. I guess the low green mileage markers from the southern trailhead in Hopewell Jct,were a bit confusing to some.There was some math involved when going in either direction to determine how far one has gone in this section.

the very northern end of the DRT – it is an additional 100 yards aproximately to the kiosk area and the memorial – for a total of 11.96 mi.

  One thing I found interesting when I had read the text on the memorial,was the phrase “Morgan Lake trailhead”. There,in a most permanent way in raised lettering on a Bronze plaque, set in a block of Granite,is Dutchess county’s intentions for the future of this linear county park. It is forever to be 12 miles in length (11.9 as per the green mileage marker) and Morgan Lake is to be the northern “trailhead” or terminus. Therefore,if that 1 mile section of abandoned ROW from here to the very east end of the Walkway OTH state park is ever purchased from CSX and developed as a connector trail to the DRT,it will not be an extension of the DRT and be under jurisdiction of the county. I don’t know under whose jurisdiction this section would be. The state as an extension of the WOTH park? Or perhaps the City of Poughkeepsie as part of a city trails system (like other cities such as Philadelphia,Denver,Seatle etc.) The latter may be a posibility. It seems the railroad,
CSX,is not wiling to sell just this section of the abandoned ROW’s in the City of Poughkeepsie it owns,but all of the ROW property it owns. IF a fair market price for all of the property can be agreed upon, and IF the funding can be obtained to purchase said property,then ALL of the former railroad’s ROW property in the City of Poughkeepsie will (leagaly) become public property ready to be developed into trails.



  I had read on the DC trails website that phase 3 will be from Old Manchester Rd. – CR49 (north end) to the north end of phase 1 and to SR 82 – the southern terminus / trailhead in Hopewell Jct.,which I had thought had been done as part of phase 1 (see the phase1 report below) Therefore phase 3 will consist of 3 sub phases – 3a north of CR49 – Titusville Rd. (town of La Grange) to Old Manchester Rd.(town of Poughkeepsie), 3b south to the north end of phase 1 (town of East Fishkill) and 3c that last 1/2 mile and the southern trailhead in Hopewell Jct. I had also read that the crossing at CR49 – Titusville Rd. will be an above grade crossing. This will be a change from the original ROW which was an at grade crossing.When phase 4,the new bridge over SR 55 and that last section to Overocker Rd is completed,there will be a a contiguous trail from there to at least SR 376 in East Fishkill.The “turbo jocks” will love that,doing rail trail time trials. The trail police will be busy handing out speeding tickets! The crossing at SR 376 in East Fishkill is currently an at grade crossing. My guess is that this may be changed to an above grade crossing as well.

  At CR 49 – Titusville Rd.,the access gates have been removed on either side. At Maloney Rd. there was additional concrete forms and rebar work for the new retaining walls / bridge supports. There was no activity at Diddel Rd. A few years ago I had ridden the ROW from Old Manchester Rd. to see the how far north the first section of the DRT – phase 1 – went. I had gotten south of Didell Rd. when I came to a small RR bridge over the Sprout Creek. I could see SR 376 just beyond the other side. At the time I was not wiling to tip toe across the bridge and turned around. This time I rode SR 376 to where the ROW crossed the highway.I then rode the short distance to the north end of the first completed section of the rail trail. On the return,I rode the old ROW north from 376 to the south side of the Sprout Creek bridge.This time I tiptoed across the bridge to continue north on the old ROW.I had noted that work was underway removing the remaining concrete suports for this bridge. This did not make sense at first,but if the crosssing at SR 376 is changed to an above grade crossing,then a new, higher bridge will have to be built to match the new grade of the ROW


07-02-10 phase 1

  After a refreshment stop at the nearby deli in Brookmead plaza,I returned to the ROW highway crossing and continued north on the old ROW toward the north end of the open and completed phase 1 section. In short time I spoted the parked cars at the litle parking lot at the phase 1 north end. One of the first surprises for myself, riding this section of the RT, is that only half is paved.The surface is split longitudialy.One side is hard surface asphalt for wheels,the other side is soft surface dirt / hard packed sand for horses or maybe runners / walkers who may want a softer surface. The other surprise came, after riding a short bit,when I passed a HJ 2.0 mileage marker. I had known that this section is suposed to be 1.7 miles in length, and so this had me puzled at first.Then I had realized this section does not go all the way to the old depot in the Hopewell Junction rail yard (in the village of Hopewell Junction) On the DC trails website it does indeed state that phase 1 goes from Bridge Street – SR 376 to Walton Lake. However,I am not familiar enough with the Hopewell Jct. village and rail yard to know that there is some distance from the highway to the old depot. In addition,it had seemed inconceivable by myself that this first section of the RT would not go from at least the old depot and include a trailhead parking area and kiosk as was done with phase 2 here in Poughkeepsie.This southern section was so different from the much “classier” and complete  phase 2 section here in Poughkeepsie,if not for the sinage,I would not have known I was indeed on the Dutchess rail trail.I now understand the coment by someone I had talked to last year, when the pahse 2 section opened,that the phase 2 section with the kiosks, paved parking lots,and full width paved trail surface,is “nicer” than phase 1.

  As I neared the southern end of phase 1 in Hopewell Jct. at SR 376,not at the old depot,I had seen some major construction of what apeared to be a new motor vehicle road,adjacent to the RT. With a bright red fire hydrant protruding up from the not-yet-completed grade and several long white small diameter pipes extending even higher than the fire hydrant,and several blue colored large diameter pipes not-yet-fully buried,it looked like some sort of large outdoor industrial Independence Day art exhibit.There was an at grade RT crossing at the south end.There is pedestrian crossing striping on the roadway. On the other side, though,there was a TRAIL CLOSED sign and some construction barrels. Undaunted by the trail closed sign,I continued south on the old ROW into the rail yard. The old balast had not been removed yet from this section and so this section was quite rough. I emerged from the woods into the open rail yard, and there it was ,in all of its dilapidated “glory”,the old depot. In some of my Maybrook Line history research,I had found some information about the restoration of the depot. The old depot aparently was not part of the DRT project and the county did not include money for the depot restoration by a seperate entity – a “friends” of the depot preservation / RR historical society. Actualy the depot should have been the trailhead and have been included in the overall rail trail project.The depot as part of phase 1 would have been restored,a paved parking lot would have been built. There would have been an access gate / entrance onto the actual trail at the north end of the rail yard where I emerged from the woods traveling south on the very un-developed ROW.

the still active Beacon-Danbury branch line looking east

  Conrail,now CSX,had removed all the track from the Maybrook line west branch – Maybrook to Hopewell Jct. – back in the early 1980’s. However, on the “east branch” – Beacon to Danbury CT – they left the track and still maintained the ROW and had rail (freight) operations along  this section. In the mid 1990’s,Metro North (commuter) RR bought this branch for a potential new line or division. (of course way back when there was passenger service as well as freight service along this branch) As far as I know,that has yet to happen. I remember when I was still living on the east side of the county in the charming village of Pawling (station stop PAWLING in RR parlance – I had lived there untill 1995),on a trip south on the Harlem line,I had seen that MNCRR had put up station stop signs. One I remember was the one for DYKEMAN,just north of what was called at the time BREWSTER NORTH. There is a small rail yard and repair facility here. (Metro North has since re-named this stop to the old name PUTNAM JUNCTION – there was a Putnam branch line that used to go west from here) This scenic,now single track, Beacon-Danbury branch crosses over the Harlem line near the hamlet of Towners,enters Dutchess county near the hamlet of Holmes (town of Pawling) then along Whaley Lake (elev. 700 ft. aproximately) to the north end,then a swithback descent down to Stormville, through a rock cut,to Hopwell Jct. and south east from there to the Hudson river where this branch line connects with the Hudson Line. In Hopewell Jct. the ROW of this still active line,under jurisdiction / ownership of Metro North, merges with the old ROW yet-to-be Dutchess rail trail (almost entirely) under jurisdiction / ownership of the county of Ductchess. It would seem from some of what I had read as part of my Maybrook Line research,there may have been a dispute over the the extent of ownership by the county in regards to the old ROW within the rail yard area in Hopewell Jct.This may explain,in part,the 3 year delay in doing that last bit of RT. Indeed one of the odities I had noted on the 2006 planning map of Hopewell that the map shows the RT extending beyond the depot to the SR 82 overpass (the map does not give any indication as to the elevation difference between the hwy. and the ROW) I had always kind of wondered about this. One could only go another 1/4 mile before one comes to a locked access gate with a no tresspassing sign. The RT should have started at the depot.This would have been mile 0.0.The depot is at the north end of the rail yard and should be far enough from the extent of Metro North’s ROW property as to not cause any issues.

the very south end of the yet-to-be Dutchess rail trail

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