Railroad beds and camps

On what was probably one of the hottest days so far this summer in the Catskills, I spent the day split between the eastern and the central Catskills.  In the morning it was off to the west to visit a few locations and have a few meetings for work.

Then it was back east to near Kaaterskill Falls to check out a culvert on the old railroad that went to South Lake and will soon be a rail trail.  This railroad was built in the 1800s and for the most part, the rail bed, beyond some wet spots, is in perfect shape.  Even the majority of the culverts carrying streams under the rail bed are still functioning, over 100 years later.  There is one culvert though, near where the railroad went by Kaaterskill Falls, that had clogged and has partially collapsed.  This is really the only serious engineering issue along the entire route for the rail trail and so we were investigating what would be involved in getting it back up to speed.  Unfortunately we discovered about a 5 foot section of the original culvert has collapsed, which caused the sink hole and collapse of the railroad embankment.  Fortunately though, it looks like with some heavy duty clearing, we can open up the culvert again and maintain a place for water to flow while shoring up and stopping any future erosion.

A very cool culvert though.  The rail bed is right on the edge of the escarpment that drops down into Kaaterskill Clove and there are massive retaining walls along this section of railroad.  The culvert, about 8 feet high and about 4 feet wide at the downstream end, tapers as it goes through the railroad embankment, but stays about 5 feet high and about 4 feet wide all the way to where it collapsed.  The original culvert was built with native stone on the floor and the walls and then cut steel rails were used as the ceiling.  We were able to walk in about 40 feet through the culvert to the start of the collapse.  It wouldn't be wise to go any further though, as the walls at that point have started to also collapse and the collapsed portion is not stable.  That said, it's an incredible example of the engineering that went into the mountain railroads years ago.  I could only imagine the ride passengers experienced as they came from Haines Falls and past Kaaterskill.  At the time there were no trees and the view down into Kaaterskill Clove must have been breathtaking from the train cars (if not downright scary considering the size of the drop). 

Should make for a great trail when all is said and done.

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