An early view of Phoenicia station, home of ESRM. Photo by David Benkart, Jr., 1988.
History of ESRM's Home, Phoenicia Station
The Phoenicia station was built by the Ulster & Delaware Railroad (U&D) in 1899 and placed into service 1900. It replaced an earlier station located near the present entrance to the Globe Trailer Park further west on the line near Bridge Street. The new station solved the problem of trains blocking the bridge into Phoenicia while loading or unloading passengers. Like many railroad structures of its time, this building was constructed of prefabricated components and shipped in by rail. The Oneonta Station of the U&D, still in existence, is a near duplicate. One can also recognize many of the same architectural details in the Shokan Station, now in Woodstock.
The Ulster & Delaware Railroad was built starting in 1868 as the Rondout & Oswego. From Kingston Point on the Hudson River; to a connection and shared station with the New York, West Shore & Buffalo (which later became the New York Central, Penn Central, Conrail, and now CSX) near Cornell Street and Broadway in Kingston, the tracks extended through the Shandaken Valley to Bloomsville in Delaware County. It included a branch north from Phoenicia through Stony Clove to Hunter, Tannersville, and Haines Falls.
At the turn of the century the railroad was completed to connect with the Delaware and Hudson RR in Oneonta. The Stony Clove branch, originally built to narrow gauge, curved out across the Esopus just below the present brige into Phoenicia (a pier on the South side of the creek can still be seen), crossed Bridge Street, continued behind the building now occupied by the Town Tinker Tube Rental, crossed Main Street, and up the Cove parallel to what is now Route 214. Although the tracks were torn up for scrap at the beginning of the Second World War, the right-of-way can still be followed within Stony Clove State Park.
At the time of the new Phoenicia Station's construction, this branch was converted to standard gage, allowing the transfer of cars without the need to change wheel trucks. Until April 1st, 1954 the railroad carried vacationing factory hands and robber barons to the grand resort hotels and small boarding houses along the line. Coaches would stand ready at Kingston Point for the steamships of the Hudson River Day Line, then load additional passengers at Kingston Union Station connectingby train out of Weehawken, before taking on the steep mountain grades leading into the Catskills.
During the railroad's heyday, through coaches and Pullman sleepers coupled onto U&D trains to be brought to popular vacation resorts of the day. Indeed, traffic was so heavy in the first two decades of the century that automatic block signaling was installed to Phoenicia, and the entire line graded and aligned to allow 60 mph running. With the onset of the Great Depression and the increased use of the personal automobile, the railroad was suffering heavy losses of both freight and passenger business. The railroad was taken into receivership February 1932, then sold to the New York Central, becoming its Catskill Mountain Branch. The Central's successor, Conrail abandoned the railroad in 1976, with Stamford the end of the line. Action by Ulster County saved the remaining trackage from the scrapper and the right-of-way from returning to forest. The Ulster County portion, from Kingston to Highmount, was subsequently leased to the new Catskill Mountain Railroad, the current operator.
The home of ESRM today. Photo by Daniel Case, 2008.
In 1985 the Phoenicia Station was purchased by the Empire State Railway Museum, Inc. and the SHARP committee, a community based redevelopment agency. After substantial renovations, the former baggage room is now an exhibition gallery for the Museum's collection of photographs and local railroad artifacts. The waiting room hosts our regular seminars and membership meetings. From May to October, you can still board a train at Phoenicia for a short scenic ride through the beautiful Catskill Mountains.
Flood damage from Hurrican Irene, September 2011