Story and photos by Leni Santoro
MOUNTAINDALE – The story of trains is also the story of our nation. The railroads built the country and shaped its future in a way that no other event has done.
In celebration of all things railroad, and the birth of a new old train station, folks gathered in Mountaindale early on Saturday morning, November 14, to give credit where credit was due and to say thanks for a job well done; in the 1800s and now.
Although the new train station-slash-visitor center is a state-of-the-art new construction, its design is based on the original 1920 architectural plans for the New York, Ontario & Western Railway (O&W) building proposed for Mountaindale that was never built.
The new train station was originally proposed for Mountaindale by then County Planning Commissioner Alan Sorensen and local architect Robert Dadras sometime around 1998. It was Ken Schmitt of the Mountaindale Community Development Project, Inc. that recalled having seen the old blueprints for a train station in the O&W Railway Historical Society archives in Middletown, NY. All in all the names of those involved might well encompass the entire town.
Located on Railroad Station in Mountaindale, across from the Post Office, the new building features public restrooms and lots of parking access for the trail head of the Rails to Trails to Woodridge and beyond.
Both the interior and exterior have been painstakingly modeled after actual O&W stations of decades past. Inside, visitors to the station will find a permanent exhibit of dozens of black and white photographs of trains that ran along the O&W rail lines through Mountaindale, as well as other railroad memorabilia.
On Saturday among those there to celebrate and help with the ribbon cutting ceremony were Senator John Bonacic, Sullivan County Legislator Alan Sorensen and Legislady Leni Binder, Town of Fallsburg Supervisor, throughout the project, Steve Levine, Will Illing, architect and engineer, County Historian John Conway, members of both the Mountaindale Action Committee and the Mountaindale Community Development Project, John Taibi, renowned author of numerous O&W books, Helen Budrock from Sullivan Renaissance and Paul Lounsbury who gave a moving performance of his musical, multimedia tribute to the railroad era entitled, “A Catskill Trilogy.”
Refreshments were provided by the Mountaindale Community Development Project and the Mountaindale Action Committee, which also provided the flowers.
Both the Mountaindale Community Development Project and the Mountaindale Action Committee have received numerous Sullivan Renaissance awards for their efforts to beautify Mountaindale and its Rails to Trails.
The emotions of many of the speakers were visible as they surveyed the room and those in attendance and often recalled the many years it took to get to this day.
“We decided we were going to do this project; no matter what, said Steve Levine, recalling a twenty year dream. “I’m just grateful the project is completed and it’s in Mountaindale.
Others recalled the history of the railroads the advantages the era of rail travel would bring to areas previously difficult to reach by other means.
Speaking of how the railroads changed the towns they ran through or near and how people would turn out to celebrate the coming of the railroad, John Taibi said, “The fact is that what we are doing here today is very similar to what they did a hundred years ago…It developed a pipeline…a magic carpet…through all the years it was the depot…it became the heart of the community. Today we can still walk along the trails we have set up and still feel the thunder and hear the laughter and the giddiness of people who came to this area.”
He spoke of the golden age of the health resorts and the entertainers that followed creating a new industry, inspiring those gathered with hope for the future of Mountaindale and all of Sullivan County when he said, “ I can tell you this is something that doesn’t happen every day…they built the depot first..but maybe there will be the need for the railroad again.” To which those listening responded with oohs and aahs and whispers of “Don’t you wish it were so?”
When Senator Bonacic spoke he told of what the new visitors find when they come to Sullivan County, the things people don’t often find in big cities, the Rails to Trails, the peace and quiet, the friendliness and the welcome ways of the people here. Then summed it up by saying, “Congratulations, Town of Fallsburg,” and taking a look around at the faces of those gathered, the photographs hung upon the walls and looking out the window as if he was waiting, as everyone seemed to be for the sound of a train whistle.
Also speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony was County Historian John Conway, whose expertise in all things historical regarding the county has no equal.
As Paul Lounsbury set up and the screen came alive with images of trains and the mountains that held them close not a sound was heard other than the music and the song of a man from Hurleyville whose grandfather and father could recall when trains were an important part of the daily existence in the county.
Listening were young people with wide-eyed wonder staring at images of trains they’d only heard about or seen in books and middle-aged folks wishing they were perhaps a bit older, older enough to have ridden upon or been visited by these magnificent dragons of the past And standing off to the side, two gentlemen who could stand there and recount the times they had.
Trains had brought people to the county. Saturday, people dedicated a new old train station that will bring future generations of people to the trains.
To view more photos from A Brand New Old Train Station Opens in Mountaindale visit the Chronicle on Zenfolio.
To view Paul Lounsbury’s video presentation just click the play arrow in the center of the YouTube video below. Enjoy!