The Last Passenger Train to Stamford
By Karen Cuccinello 4-2019
It has been 65 years since passenger and mail car service was discontinued in Stamford. The final train, #527, carried customers along the 104 mile Catskill Mountain branch from Kingston to Oneonta on March 31, 1954 after 82 years of service. The train schedule had been: Train #527 leaves Kingston at 7:30 a.m., daily except Sunday, arriving at Oneonta at 12:15 p.m. then Train #528 leaves Oneonta at 12:45 p.m., arriving at Kingston at 4:45 p.m. The railroad that was best known as the Ulster & Delaware or U & D first carried passengers out of Stamford on December 8, 1872.
This train line began as the Rondout and Oswego Railroad, chartered in 1866, then became the New York, Kingston and Syracuse Railroad in 1872 when it reached Roxbury, then the Ulster & Delaware Railroad in 1875; U & D merged into the New York Central in 1932 and finally Penn Central took over in 1968. After March 31, 1954 the mail was carried by truck but freight service continued until October 2, 1976.
New York Central tried to shut the line down for a least a year before the final day because it was losing money and there was only an average of about three passengers per day in 1953. Another factor that probably came into play was that sections of the ground under the tracks by Phoenicia had been washed out four times between 1950 and 1952. The flooding took place where the Gilboa dam tunnel empties into the Esopus creek. Heavy rains and the reservoir gates being opened caused the Esopus to rise and wash out under the tracks. Despite opposition from communities along the route the Public Service Commission granted the NY Central Railroad the right to discontinue in February 1954 and gave 30 days’ notice.
Hundreds of people traveled in five coaches (usually there were two) on the final trip, getting on at any of the18 stops along the way. At least 125 of the passengers were Rotarians (who also had a piano loaded in their train car) and their wives who got on at Kingston, Phoenicia, Arkville, Pine Hill, Margaretville, Fleischmanns, Roxbury and Grand Gorge etc. The traveling Rotarians were met by Stamford Rotarians, and they all went for lunch at Jim Harwood’s Ye Old Delaware Inn in Stamford. The Stamford High School band also met the train and escorted the Rotarians to the Delaware Inn. School children traveled sections of the last trip; in particular, 60 students from Grand Gorge went to Stamford. People also got on at Oneonta for the four-hour trip to Kingston, then traveled back to Oneonta by taxi.
The last crew to operate the train was engineer Frank Falatyn,age 60, fireman Frank R. Barton, age 67, and conductor William T. Pelham, age 64, all of Kingston. Sinclair L. Snyder was the Stamford station agent from 1937-1959. James Benjamin, Stamford mail carrier, loaded the last pouch of mail.
In 1965 a group got together in Stamford to discuss getting the train going again as a tourist attraction but that, of course, did not happen.
Thank you to the Roxbury Town Historian, Anthony Liberatore, for sharing the Don Weyl photos that he received from Nancy (Weyl) German.