Delaware & Ulster Railroad offers train robberies & twilight tours

Screenshot from The Great Train Robbery (1903).

Audiences in 1903 thrilled to the innovative and realistic filmmaking techniques used in Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery, a ten-minute one-reeler that delighted and startled spectators with its ending, when an Old West bandit points his gun straight at the audience and fires. The non-profit Delaware & Ulster Railroad, operating between Arkville and Roxbury against the backdrop of the Catskill Mountains, offers passengers the opportunity to experience a real Old West-style train robbery first-hand while enjoying a railroad excursion through some of the best scenery around. Rumor has it that the bandits will strike again later this summer, and the Railroad is currently seeking passengers brave enough to dare the trains departing Arkville on Saturday, August 25 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and again on Saturday, September 15 at the same times.

Historically accurate desperados dressed in period garb will recreate the flavor of the Old West as they “hold up” the Delaware & Ulster trains and their passengers; but Dave Riordan, president of the Railroad, says that lawmen can be counted on to keep order, and are sure to arrive in the nick of time to restore all valuables to passengers.

It turns out that the Railroad has been staging train robberies for years. “We’ve been held up hundreds of times now,” says Riordan. The group conducting the hold-ups this season is “Shadows of the Old West,” a performance troupe who stage reenactments of that era for all kinds of shows, fairs and events. “They’re quite devilish in their ways,” says Riordan.

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The Railroad also offers twilight excursions for those seeking a stimulating experience of a gentler nature: “a slow-moving train with all the romance out there,” says Riordan. Passengers are invited to bring along a picnic dinner and the beverage of their choice, and live bands play out on the open-air flat cars as the train “rolls along the river,” Riordan says.

Round-trip passage covers 24 miles and lasts approximately two hours. The train winds past rural hamlets, farmland and historic sites, such as the Hubbell Family Farm in Kelly Corners and the Round Barn in Halcottsville. The grade is relatively gentle.

“The equipment is great, the scenery is beautiful and it gives you a unique way to see the Catskills,” says Riordan, “since you’re not in the car, bound to the road.” He points out that the railway got its main features by following the river almost all the way, which contributes to the scenic ride. “It’s also nice and cool out there,” he adds.

“Twilight on the Rails” excursions are hosted several times throughout the year. The next scheduled departure will take place Saturday, August 4 from Arkville at 6:30 p.m., with the band Encore playing upbeat rock ‘n’ roll. On Saturday, September 1, the Blues Maneuver will perform classic rhythm-and-blues with a horn section on the 6 p.m. twilight excursion.

Round-trip passage on Delaware & Ulster trains costs $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 for children ages 3 through 12. There is also a Weekend Special for $26, which includes admission, a guided rail tour of the East Branch Valley, a narrated program of the region’s natural and historic resources and attractions in the area plus a stop at the Roxbury Depot Museum.

The website www.durr.org offers details on these trips and more, including regular daytime excursions Thursdays through Sundays until Labor Day and weekends through the fall, along with other special offerings like the fall foliage train excursions and the first-class luncheon service on specific trips of the Rip Van Winkle Flyer, complete with linens and china, fresh flowers and Big Band music accompanying full gourmet meals. The Delaware & Ulster Railroad is located at 43510 State Highway 28 in Arkville. For more information, visit the website, or call (800) 225-4132 or (845) 586-DURR.

The Delaware & Ulster Railroad offers train-robbery excursions on Saturday, August 25 and Saturday, September 15 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Twilight excursions featuring live music take place on Saturday, August 4 at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, September 1 at 6 p.m. Round-trip passage on trains costs $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 for children ages 3 to 12. The Delaware & Ulster Railroad is located at 43510 State Highway 28 in Arkville and also has a depot in Roxbury. For more information, visit the website, www.durr.org, or call (800) 225-4132 or (845) 586-DURR.

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