Take An Old-Timey Ride on The Catskill Mountain Railroad 

The kids oohed and ahhed as we passed Ulster County farmlands, now stripped of their corn and as flat as a pancake, and then surrounded by a forest of green, gold, red, and orange foliage. The “woo woo” of the whistle announced our arrival, causing traffic along major routes in this Kingston area to halt as the red lights of the “train crossing” sign blinked under overcast skies. Even on a grey day, Ulster County’s panoramic views are still a stunner and one way to enjoy them is a ride on the Catskills Mountain Railroad (CMRR). The train ride takes off from Kingston’s Plaza Station and heads east, and for the next 45 minutes, the views are spectacular; it’s a way to slow down and enjoy the scenery and think back to long ago times when this railroad was a major transport for tourists, freight, and goods going down to the city, then bringing city travelers up to the grand hotels of the Catskills.

Photo by MJ Hanley-Goff

The CMRR takes on seasonal décor, and on this day the Pumpkin Express was filled with orange and red leaves lining the cars, and a selection of pumpkins for the taking upon departure (one per customer).  We meandered along an eight-mile ride through Hurley Flats during a special time of year when upstate New York is experiencing one of its best fall foliage seasons ever, and then back again. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of CMRR

Throughout the year, the CMRR takes on different holiday hats with the much anticipated Polar Express and Catskill Christmas Express rides, visiting Santa’s North Pole, meeting and greeting Santa’s elves, singalongs, and a keepsake souvenir. Come spring, the calendar includes the Easter Bunny Express, Catskill Summertime Express, Ice Cream Sundays, and a Twilight Limited Special with live music and a moonlit night ride. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of CMRR

For over 150 years, the train was an integral part of the Ulster County/Catskill area, changing hands often as the tracks were continuously extended, eventually connecting boats on the Hudson River and Albany, and also connecting Kingston to Oneonta. The bluestone used for Manhattan city streets was quarried here and brought south, dairy products from area farms were brought to New York City restaurants and shops. One statistic shows that in 1913, more than 676,000 passengers rode the train, called the U & D at the time, to the Catskills. 

Photo by MJ Hanley-Goff

By the 1960’s, other modes of transportation took over, and monies once allocated for the railroads were sent elsewhere. The Catskill Mountain “branch” was no longer a priority and began to fall into disrepair.  Twenty years later, due to the outcry of the local communities, and the work of volunteers (and a little help from the NYSDOT), the railroad slowly gained momentum and by 2012, after withstanding a beating from Hurricane Irene, the CMRR began regular tourist rides along the eight-mile track that is maintained by over 150 volunteers (and they’re always looking for more!).

Restaurants within a short distance away include Savona’s Plaza Pizza and Kingston Bread & Bar. 

Top photo: Courtesy of CMRR

Catskill Mountain Railroad

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About MJ Hanley-Goff (140 Articles)
MJ Hanley-Goff has been contributing to Woman Around Town since its inception in 2009. She began her career at Newsday in the early 90’s and has continued writing professionally for other New York publications like the Times Herald-Record, Orange Magazine, and Hudson Valley magazine. Former editor of Hudson Valley Parent magazine, she also contributed stories to AAA’s Car & Travel, and Tri-County Woman. After completing her novel and a self-help book, she created MJWRITES, INC. to offer writing workshops and book coaching to first time authors, and college essay writing help to students. MJ is thrilled and honored to write for WAT for the amazing adventures it offers, like reviewing concerts, people, authors, events, and tourist attractions in New York, and around the world. “I enjoy drawing attention to the off-the-beaten path kinds of stories,” she says. “It’s great big world out there, with so many talented and creative artists, doers, and thinkers.”