The Wallkill Valley Railway is a defunct railroad between Kingston and Campbell Hall, New York. It was founded in 1866 and ceased regular service under Conrail in 1977.
The inception of the Wallkill Valley Railway (WKVY) can be traced back to April 26, 1866, when local interests in the Wallkill Valley region of New York sought to establish a means of transporting agricultural goods. 1 The construction of the railway was funded by local capital, including substantial bond issues from towns along the proposed route. The WKVY leased its line to the Erie Railroad for the first ten years of its operation, which had constructed a local branch line from Montgomery to Campbell Hall that was subsequently leased to the WKVY.
By 1870, the WKVY had expanded its reach to the town of New Paltz. 1 2a The next phase of its expansion involved the construction of an extension to Kingston, which included the construction of a bridge over the Wallkill River in Springtown and a trestle over Rondout Creek and the Delaware & Hudson Canal in Rosendale. In August of the same year, the A.L. Dolby & Company began work on the abutments for the trestle over Rondout Creek, but due to issues with quicksand during excavation, the superstructure work by the Watson Manufacturing Company did not commence until 1872. 3 4 To expedite the construction process, sections of the superstructure were built in Paterson, New Jersey, and shipped north to Rosendale. 5a
In January 1872, the new Rosendale Trestle opened to traffic. 3 4 At the time of its completion, it boasted the highest span of any bridge in the nation, costing $250,000 to construct. 6 The crossing consisted of seven wrought-iron deck Post trusses and two shorter wooden spans. 2b 7
On April 6, the WKVY held a ceremony attended by 5,000 people to open the new Rosendale Trestle officially. 3 Despite concerns from skeptics who believed the trestle would collapse, a 4-4-0 locomotive with five boxcars and two passenger cars successfully made the inaugural run, proving the bridge’s stability. 2b
The completion of the railway line from Rosendale to Kingston took place in November; however, the WKVY soon faced financial difficulties, resulting in bankruptcy. 8 The WKVY was sold on June 26, 1977, and reorganized as the Wallkill Valley Railroad Company (WKVY) on July 2. 1 Plans were devised to extend the railway northwards towards Albany along the proposed route of the West Shore Railroad. In 1881, the West Shore Railroad acquired the Wallkill Valley Railroad, incorporating it as the Wallkill Valley Branch within its own railway network.
In 1885, the Rosendale Trestle’s supports were reinforced, 7 and in 1888, the railroad received a permit from the town to construct and maintain abutments for the bridge as long as the work did not interfere with traffic on the roadway below. The Delaware & Hudson Canal also allowed the railroad to temporarily use some of its property to place bents for bridge repairs. 9
The Rosendale Trestle underwent a significant renovation in 1895-96, carried out by the King Bridge Company. 10 The renovation addressed structural stability concerns, which were achieved by converting the bridge’s iron and wood structure to steel fabricated by the Carnegie Steel Company. 2b The height of the pier was raised by eight feet, 11 and the alignment was straightened. 12 The northern spans of the bridge were completed by February 1896, 13 and the entire project was finished by June. 14
The WKVY then fell under the control of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad on May 1, 1899, becoming more simply the New York Central Railroad (NYC) in 1914.
Over the years, the Rosendale Trestle required repeated reinforcement due to the increased weight of locomotives and rolling stock. 10 As a result, the bridge required frequent monitoring. 2b After the abandonment of passenger service along the WKVY in 1937, some of the former Ulster & Delaware locomotives were temporarily used to run the Wallkill Valley Branch, as they were light enough to cross the structurally deficient Rosendale Trestle. However, by 1949, these locomotives were no longer in use, as they were replaced by diesel locomotives.
In 1968, the NYC was consolidated with other railroads to form Penn Central (PC). By 1975, the structure of the Rosendale Trestle had deteriorated to the point where track speeds over the bridge were limited to only 8 MPH, 2c although engineers were instructed not to exceed 5 MPH. 2d
In 1976, the PC became part of Conrail. Conrail had considered using the Wallkill Valley Branch as part of a new route between the Northeast and Allentown, Pennsylvania, but this plan was derailed due to the discovery of substructure concerns with the Rosendale Trestle in 1977. Specifically, it was discovered that the piers supporting the bridge had shifted, and repairs would have exceeded the line’s value. As a result, the line from Walden north to Kingston was closed to traffic on December 31, 1977, 2c and was formally abandoned in 1982, with much of the infrastructure being dismantled in 1983-84.
Rosendale Trestle Reuse
In 1983, 15 Conrail attempted to sell the Rosendale Trestle to the town of Rosendale; however, the town was unwilling to accept the associated liabilities. 16 Ultimately, Conrail sold the bridge and 11½ miles of the WKVY to John E. Rahl for $1 in July 1986, 2e outbidding a competing offer from a homeowner association. 16 Rahl’s initial plans included the creation of a dining car restaurant along the railway and establishing a tourist railroad from Kingston to the trestle. 17 However, instead of pursuing these plans, Rahl installed planking and guard rails on the southern half of the bridge between 1989-1991 18 and opened it to the public. 2e Rahl also allowed bungee jumping 2f 19 until a court order in January 1992 declared it to be in violation of zoning laws. 20 21
Douglas Hase, an entrepreneur who had run bungee-jumping companies elsewhere, 22 23 tried in 2003-04 to get a variance to allow it from the trestle. 18 21 24 After Rahl failed to pay property taxes, 19 the county foreclosed o the entire 63-acre property in April 2009. It was acquired by the Wallkill Valley Land Trust and Open Space Conservancy in August 2009, with ownership of the trestle transferred to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Association. 25
Following an engineering assessment by Bergmann Associates, 26 the bridge was closed to the public in June 2010 for rehabilitation. 27 The $750,000 project began in early 2011 and involved the replacement of the walkway surface with a wood and plastic composite. 28 The project’s cost had risen to $1.1 million by March 29 and $1.5 million by the time work started. 32 The rehabilitated Rosendale Trestle was opened to the public on June 29, 2013. 30 31
Rail to Trails
The Walden–Wallkill Rail Trail is a 3.2-mile trail on the former WKVY alignment between Walden and the hamlet of Wallkill. The land was purchased by the towns of Montgomery and Shawangunk in 1985 and converted into a public trail. The portion of the trail in Shawangunk formally opened in 1993. The Walden–Wallkill Rail Trail was paved in its entirety in 2008-09.
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is a 22½-mile rail trail on the former WKVY alignment between Gardiner and Kingston. In 1991, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust purchased a 12-mile section of the corridor between New Paltz and Gardiner, with the first phase of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail opening in 1993. The Land Trust then acquired an additional 11½-miles of the former railroad, including the Rosendale Trestle, in 2009, with the trail between Gardiner and Kingston opening in 2013.
A 1½-mile gap exists between the Walden–Wallkill Rail Trail and Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, separated only by Wallkill Correctional Facility. Plans have been in the works to complete the segment since the 1990s although the trail’s proximity to the prison’s perimeter fence has been the dividing factor.
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- Mabee, Carleton. Listen to the Whistle: An Anecdotal History of the Wallkill Valley Railroad. Purple Mountain Press, 1995.
- p. 38.
- pp. 18-20.
- pp. 134–135.
- p. 124.
- p. 144.
- p. 141.
- “Opening of the Walkill Valley Railroad Bridge.” New York Times, 8 Apr. 1872.
- “A Bit of Extraordinary Railroad History–The Great Rosendale Bridge of the Wallkill Valley Railroad–Other Railroad Items.” New York Times, 19 Mar. 1872.
- Best, Gerald M. The Ulster And Delaware: Railroad Through The Catskills, 1972.
- p. 31.
- “Wallkill Valley Railroad.” The Commercial and Financial Chronicle. Willian B. Dana & Company, Jan.-Jun. 1872.
- Documents of the Senate of the State of New York. Weed, Parsons & Company, 1885, pp. 319–320.
- Gilchrist, Ann. Footsteps Across Cement: A History of the Township of Rosendale, New York. Lith Art, 1976.
- Gerstman, Marc. “Letter to John E. Rahl.” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 14 Aug. 1992.
- Sloan, Allan King. “King Bridges in New York State.” Century House Historical Society.
- New Paltz Times, 13 Sept. 1895.
- “Notes of Various Interests.” New York Times, 12 Mar. 1892.
- New Paltz Times, 14 Feb. 1896.
- New Paltz Times, 5 Jun. 1896.
- “Rosendale railroad owner whistles development tune.” Daily Freeman, 22 Mar. 1987.
- Hall, Wayne A. “A dollar a deal: Buyer spends $1 for railbed title.” Times Herald-Record, 16 Jul. 1986.
- Penna, Craig Della and Tom Sexton. The Official Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Guidebook. Globe Pequot Press, 2002, p 188.
- “Minutes of the April 20, 2004 Meeting.” Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes, Town of Rosendale, 20 Apr. 2004.
- Bosch, Adam. “Wallkill Rail Trail could double in size.” Times Herald-Record, 1 Jun. 2009.
- Rowe, Pat. “Foes jump all over Rosendale bungee plan.” Daily Freeman, 21 Apr. 2004.
- “Minutes of the May 20, 2003 Meeting.” Zoning Board of Appeals Minutes, Town of Rosendale, 16 Dec. 2003.
- Zezima, Katie. “Carolyn Kaplan and Douglas Hase.” New York Times, 30 Oct. 2005.
- Kladko, Brian. “Balloon operator gets hot over trade secret battle.” Boston Business Journal, 31 Dec. 2006.
- Rowe, Pat. “Leap of faith: Bungee-jumping may come to Rosendale.” Daily Freeman, 16 Apr. 2004.
- Rowley, Chris. “Wallkill Valley Land Trust: Rail trails, trestle bridges and the Pine Hole Bog.” Shawangunk Journal, 15 Oct. 2009.
- “Hanging by a Thread: Engineers Start Inspection on the Railroad Bridge.” Open Space Institute, 15 Nov. 2010.
- Bosch, Adam. “Rosendale trestle section of Wallkill Rail Trail to be shut down for repairs.” Times Herald-Record, 12 Jun. 2010.
- Platt, Frances Marion. “Renovated Rosendale trestle reopens, reconnecting long-sundered Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.” New Paltz Times, 4 Jun. 2013.
- “Fundraising effort begins to renovate historic Rosendale Railroad Bridge.” Mid-Hudson News Network, 24 Mar. 2011.
- “Groups plan rehab of Rosendale rail trestle for hikers.” Daily Freeman, 12 Jun. 2010.
- “Rosendale trestle closed for improvements.” Daily Freeman, 13 Jun. 2010.
- Pratt, Frances Marion. “Historic railroad trestle over Rondout Creek scheduled to reopen in June.” HV1 Magazine, 14 Apr. 2016.