The Catskills Revisited


| November/December 1985



Catskill Mountain Railroad

108 Garfield Ave. Madison, New Jersey 07940

Number 1 on the Catskill Mountain Railroad is one of twenty three locomotives in the 35 ton class built by Davenport-Besler for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It has been re-engined and given the affectionate name of The Duck, note the appropriate hood ornament.

From my vantage point in the fireman's seat I could see my granddaughter helping with the loading of inflated inner tubes, kyacks, rubber boats and all the clutter that goes with rafting on the Esopus, Across the cab, the engineer, my son Stephen, said, 'The conductor is coming to your side, watch for his highball.' His voice above the rhythmic beat of the idling diesel engine broke into my reverie for here was to be found three generations of Lathrops doing their railroad volunteering. With that I pulled out my late father's gold, 21 jewel, Illinois watch to check departure time only to realize, that the fourth generation was represented, for that was the watch that had not been used in train service since his days on the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway.

Following the conductor's signal, relayed across the cab, came the gentle nudge to the drawbars as the fully restored, Classic, 35 ton Davenport diesel-mechanical locomotive took charge of our train. We were away, on time, for the run from Mt. Pleasant in the Catskill Mountains of New York State to Phoenicia with the updated version of the 'Tubers Special'.

As we rumbled along the tracks of the former Ulster & Delaware RR that follow the Esopus Creek, now a conduit for New York City's water supply, I got to remembering how it was in the summer of 1983 when I was running those simple, restored, gasoline engined track cars hauling personnel carriers in a service to those who vacation here and float down the Creek. It was described in 'The Catskill Mountain Caper' (Gas Engine Magazine, Sept/Oct., 1983).

At that time, the lightweight track cars and their trailers were more like an amusement park ride compared with today's full scale railroad equipment. Now, the Cummins powered Davenport hauling two former U. S. Navy flat cars converted to open air passenger service along with a restored 1926 vintage Delaware & Hudson RR caboose made up our train on the CMRR, a tourist line manned almost 100% by volunteers. It is the volunteers who love the work of restoring, repairing and make to run again antique equipment that makes for a viable yet precarious museum type operation for there is a symbiotic relationship between the Empire State Railway Museum and the CMRR.