Railroad panel sets Dec. 14 as due date for U&D corridor plan

kt logoThe legislature’s special Rail Corridor Committee, appointed last April, has given itself a fast-track Dec. 14 deadline to file formal recommendations with the full legislature on the future of county-owned Ulster & Delaware railroad corridor.

The nine-member committee faces not only a tight deadline — the last regularly scheduled meeting of the legislature is Dec. 15 — but a heavy lift, considering legislators and the public received a consultant’s 74-page report on “the highest and best use” of the corridor only Tuesday afternoon. It was due Nov. 29.

Several legislators complained at a committee meeting that they had had insufficient time to peruse a report that details the pros and cons of rail and trail and dual usage along the 38 miles of 19th-century U&D track from Kingston to Highmount.


Of particular concern to several legislators was that the county’s consultants, Stone Consulting and Design of Warren, Pa., did not offer an executive summary of its findings, i.e., its recommendations.

Randy Gustafson, the Stone Associate representative who compiled the report, stated, via speakerphone, that formal recommendations were not in the scope of the $30,000 contract his firm signed with the county last spring. Some legislators differed.

Committee Chairwoman Tracey Bartels of Gardiner allowed that “the consultants did a lot of work for $30,000, but there are numerous things we wish they had done.”

Critics also questioned why the consultants did not include cost estimates for the various alternatives they detailed and why they relied on Catskill Mountain Railroad’s 2015-20 business plan as the basis for its determinations on the future of rail operations. Kevin Smith of Woodstock, a trail advocate, called the report “railroad-oriented.”

The committee meeting attracted about a dozen trail supporters, a handful of rail advocates, led by CMRR President Ernest Hunt, and three members of the Hein administration.

Bartels chaired a mostly orderly meeting, considering the bile built up over several years of controversy between rail and trail advocates. It ran an inordinate two hours, achieving little more than raising questions about the consultant’s report.

She said the committee would meet “three, maybe four” more times, beginning Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Karen L. Binder Library. “Will we meet our deadline?” she said after Tuesday’s meeting. “I hope so.” Should the committee fall short, a new panel would have to be named by the legislature in January.

The county’s 25-year lease with CMRR expires on May 31, 2016.

There are 22 comments

  1. CP

    while the fast-tracking could be considered politically motivated, let us hope that the Rail Corridor Committee considers the successes that CMRR has achieved – and is achieving yet again with Polar Express – and that Mike Hein’s victory was hardly the coronation he had hoped for, in significant part because of his war on the increasingly popular railroad. Rail alone or rail and trail are both good options; trail alone kills a unique and highly attractive resource.

  2. Choo Choo Charlie

    Rumor has it that the Catskill Mountain Railroad has had around 10,000 people ride the Polar Express already.

  3. dewy crow

    The tourist railroad will work just fine in Boiceville…read the Stone report…’siting a train station in Boiceville is no more challenging than developing rail with trail from Hurley Mountain Road’ (paraphrased) another thing that Stone found is that there is a lot less Class 1 track than has been reported…it will take a lot of easy money to put that right…millions and millions…

      1. dewy crow

        There is much more viable track West of the Ashokan, cooperate, consolidate…you have no station in Kingston…a loading platform with rented porta potties is not a station by the way…

        1. CP

          First, there are 8+ miles of viable track to Glenford Dike and more to the west. There is a workable station at Shokan which could also be a destination. There is more viable track westward to the Boiceville Bridge washout – about 16 miles in all from the current boarding point vs. about 4 on the Phoenicia-Boiceville end. So much for “more.” Yes, work needs to be done, but the profits to do it are there if CMRR doesn’t have to keep plowing them back into legal costs.

          Second, a station and tourist center has been proposed where the current loading platform is. There is space for it, it is viable and workable. Building it just takes money; see above.

          Finally, I’m told that CMRR volunteers have refurbished a new coach and will add it this weekend to satisfy Polar Express customer demand. The ever-increasing demand for the railroad and its events is speaking loudly; let’s hope the Committee hears it.

          1. dewy crow

            your track condition statement ignores the opinions of now 3 engineering firms who claim there is little class 1 track in that section…proposing a station where you do not own the land is more dreaming not planning…with conditions as they are now it would be easier for the railroad to move to Boiceville than to build up a Kingston location…it is nice that Polar Express is still going strong here for now…I thought the hula hoop would last forever too!

  4. Steven L. Fornal

    Choo Choo Charlie: Thanks for my biggest laugh of the day.

    I do believe Dewy Crow said what needed to be said.

    The Stone Report doesn’t paint a very good picture of CMRR’s efforts over 24 years. It essentially maintains what has been obvious: CMRR or another operator will basically be limited to what exists or with sleight increases of track from Boiceville side and/or Kingston side because of cost factors and the NYCDEP factor. There is much money to be spent to bring Kingston “depot” up to decent standards. Track improvements just simply haven’t been done.

    Which makes you wonder, with volunteer labor and very little improvement provided, coupled with all the success of the CMRR special events, where have all the profits gone?

    1. CP

      To paraphrase Pete Seeger, “Gone to lawyers, every one,” so that CMRR can stay in business and grow the railroad despite the unwarranted opposition. And it is succeeding.

      Ask yourself, Mr. Fornal, if you are the same person you were 24 years ago – or even 5. No? Neither is the CMRR. Its success over the last five years indicates that it is on the right track (sorry for the pun) and deserves to continue and grow. Get rid of the litigation and you’ll see – on the ground and in the rolling stock – where those profits are going, and you won’t be disappointed.

      1. Steven L. Fornal

        A more apt analogy would be to ask, “Mr. Fornal, did you sign an agreement 24 years ago, the provisions of which you reneged upon in every instance?”

        That’s really the story here. CMRR wants to make a case against its failure but reality will be harshly applied come the judicial decision.

    2. Choo Choo Charlie

      Steve thanks for my laugh of the day….”where have all the profits gone?” Answer, Ha ha ha… Legal fees.

  5. CP

    How about, “Mr. Fornal, have you tried to make things better over the last five years, only to be stymied by the process?” It appears to me that CMRR has been forced to take legal action to continue their legal operation, and then being accused of under-performance because all the money it would take to perform has either been sequestered or has gone to lawyers. The equivalent would be someone tying your hands behind you, throwing you into a lake, and then saying that you drowned because you couldn’t swim.

    And yet CMRR still manages to expand its trackage, its fleet, and the money it brings in. I would take that to mean there is a demand for its services. That really should tell you something – and if it doesn’t, I would suggest that you aren’t listening.

    1. Steven L. Fornal

      CP, it seems it is you and the rest of CMRR supporters who aren’t listening/learning. CMRR sued the county, not the other way around. The county served CMRR with a Notice to Cure:


      That meant CMRR would either have to comply with the obligations it had agreed to via the lease stipulations. Rather than comply, it CHOSE to sue.

      And, that went out on June 13, 2013, less than three years ago. So, for 21 years CMRR blatantly (as the Stone report verifies) refused to uphold its obligations under law then when requested to do so, it sued. Why? Because it knew better than anyone else that it had been delinquent and was now past the point of compliance with its lease. So, hoping for a miracle to continue operating (which happened by way of getting essentially a stay from the first judge) it CHOSE to sue.

      Debating with CMRR supporters is much like debating with pro-Zionist supporters of Isreal; whenever ANY point of fact is produced that shows violations of law, they turn it around in a ludicrous way in order to be able to avoid facing the truth.

      CMRR really went beyond the beyond with its negligence for over two decades: Something like less than 20 percent of the track that was supposed to be brought up to Class 1 standards has been accomplished; it hasn’t provided a real depot (with actual toilet facilities) at its Kingston location; it usurped land in the Cornell Street area it has no claim to for “storage” which local folk see as a junk yard; it hadn’t provided a financial breakdown re GROSS receipts which was required etc etc

      Now, 24 years later, when the time has run out, CMRR supporters fight dirty via half-truths and twisting of facts in order to extricate itself from the repercussions.

      So, don’t blame the lack of fulfillment of the lease on the legal action now taking place. That was fully the responsibility of CMRR to uphold its lease obligations.

      It remains to be answered, over the 21 years of operations, where did the CMRR profits go? I think anyone familiar with capitalism knows the answer to that: In the pockets of the owner(s)/shareholders of CMRR.

      1. Choo Choo Charlie

        Steven, You seemed to have forgotton to mention one thing. Every member of the Catskill Mountain Railroad from top – president, to bottom – the one who cleans the cars after each trip, – is a volunteer. Not some greedy capitalist as you imply.

        1. Steven L. Fornal

          Then you’re saying the CMRR did NOT make ANY money???? If paid, you’re not volunteers. If not paid, where did the money go for 21 years? If there was no money made for 21 years, that then proves the CMRR did NOT uphold its lease agreements because it had no money to do so.

          Stop avoiding the facts. If you spent as much time dealing with the reality rather than propaganda maybe you would have come up with a better plan to survive. Simply ignoring the reality of CMRR’s failure to uphold lease obligations will get you only one thing: Extinction.

  6. Hokeystuff

    It’s pretty obvious that the CMRR supporters have not read the Stone report. The report clearly states that CMRR knew that operations beyond the Glenford dike had no value and weren’t cost justified. Had they read it, they’d realize that the owners have left them to hang out to dry with the myth that the railroad would ever offer a tourist train that connected Kingston to the Catskills which is the vision most supporters have had. The CMRR owners have remained silent while letting supporters propagate that myth and even let un-informed(to be polite) politicians base their campaigns on that myth.
    The real tragedy in this story won’t be the unfulfillment of a vision of a tourist train riding the rails to the Catskills because that was NEVER a reality, but how a lot of volunteers were mislead and taken advantage of.

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