Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Railroad into Bovina

I met with Mike Kudish on Sunday to discuss the effort in the late 1890s to bring the railroad into Bovina Center. Mike is an author, railroad historian, forester and retired professor from Paul Smith's College in the Adirondacks, now living in the Catskills. He has been exploring the railroads in the Catskills and the Adirondacks for years. We met to discuss one Catskill railroad of particular interest to me -- the Delaware Railroad, which was to have run from Andes to Delhi, with a branch off to Bovina.

The Delaware Railroad Company was established in 1898. Two of its directors were from Bovina - T.E. Hastings and Alexander Hilson. David Murray, in arguing the case for the railroad to the New York State Board of Railroad Commissioners, noted that while Bovina's human population was smaller than earlier in the century, "there are more cows. The object of the [rail]road is to let New York get plenty of good pure milk." The railroad company did not last long, and construction only got as far as constructing some of the railbeds.

Dr. Kudish has explored a number of areas along the planned route and has found evidence of some of these beds. In March, he explored some of the Bovina section along with Bovina residents Steve Roberts and Paul and Becky Manning. The route essentially came down from present day Route 28 and mostly on the right side of County Route 6 (as you head into Bovina). If the purpose of the railroad was to help bring milk to New York City, it would seem that it would have ended up in the vicinity of the Bovina Center Co-op Creamery. The route explored by Dr. Kudish shows it to have fallen somewhat short of this - and maybe a bit too high up in the hills. Any evidence of a railroad bed ends barely into the hamlet. Since the Bovina Center Creamery was not established until 1902, and it appears that no railroad work happened after the turn of the century, it is possible that a different placement was planned for the creamery. But this is just speculation at the moment.

My hats off to Mike for his work in tracking down the existing railroad bed. We hope to do some further hiking in the late summer or early fall to see where the Bovina Branch connected to the main Andes/Delhi line.


  1. My brother Matt and I walked the old railroad bed a few years back, starting beyond Clarence Burns' farm and continuing on toward Russell Hill-- a lot of work went into it, to no end.


  2. You should talk to Dick Makse who did a lot of research on both the proposed Delhi to Andes railroads. Back in 2005 he led a bus trip for the Ulster & Delaware Railroad History Society, tracing the routes of the Delaware & Eastern railroad and the 2 two Delhi to Andes railroads (neither were finished). We must have been quite a sight turning the Greyhound type bus around in "downtown" Bovina!

  3. Thanks Tim. I've actually had some e-mail contact with him and hope to have more - though Mike noted that Dick apparently is really busy right now and hard to track down.

  4. The Davidson Brothes furnished me with a topographical map of area from Rt. 28 to Russell Hill Road, several years ago, which presented the topography for the proposed railroad - I had fantasized when walking my property (across road from old Bill Burns (now Gary and Sue Burns)) that the flat area could have been site of longhouse - great hillside view of and access to brook. Incorrect.