In preparing for the long-overdue repaving of state roads in New Paltz, workers removed some remaining pieces of trolley track last week. New paving technology involves grinding up and reusing the old asphalt, and those rusted rails would have made mincemeat of the equipment if they hadn’t been pulled out in anticipation of the paving, which is expected to occur beginning July 18. Some community members expressed interest in what would become of that metal, and the DOT workers cut it into roughly foot-long pieces, which are now in the possession of Mayor Tim Rogers, who asked his board members if they had any preference as to their disposition. Despite being covered in asphalt for some years, the pieces were quite rusted and clearly could not be used for restoring the trolley to operation.
Rogers suggested that they might be auctioned off as a fundraiser, or given to local non-profits for that purpose. The owners of A Tavola had already expressed interest in displaying a piece of the track, he noted, and board members did not know if such an artifact might be a suitable addition to the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at Elting Memorial Library.
That collection is largely one of papers, and those papers include an entire file on the New Paltz-Highland trolley, dating back to newspaper mentions in 1894. The “electric road” was conceived as a way to ensure Poughkeepsie businesses did not lose New Paltz trading partners to competitors in Newburgh, which could be reached via a Wallkill River route. By the time the first car made the trip in 1897, the trolley had already been sold more than once. During its 28 years in operation, there were several stories about accidents along the route, including one that resulted from boys placing a washer on the tracks, nearly sending a car into a lake. The line was decommissioned in 1925, and the tracks were purportedly pulled up in 1949, although the recent road work casts the thoroughness of that effort in doubt. Talk about restoring the trolley was reported in the 1990s, but nothing ever came of that effort.
Board members were comfortable allowing the mayor to dispose of the pieces according to his own judgment. In addition to the one delivered to A Tavola, another piece now adorns the desk of Town Supervisor Neil Bettez. Rogers did not indicate how many more pieces he’s got, only that he wants to get them out of his yard.