How to reach the Catskills
This is no longer a problem of any moment and few will need any explicit directions. And yet there are uncomfortable, undesirable routes and methods which may easily be avoided by a little study of this book, which is largely devoted to the details of the best route, the only through car line and all-rail connection.
For some fifty years after its summer charms were first discovered, the region remained practically inaccessible. There was a long and tedious stage-ride from the river, over an atrocious road and up the steep mountain-side at a snail's pace, which was often attended with some danger, and it took a man of vigor and endurance to stand the trip. The steep and stony miles, the jaded horses, and the lumbering old stages were pretty apt to awaken sympathies and feelings not wholly akin to the picturesque sublimity on every side, leaving scant time or mood to indulge his love for mountain grandeur. Invalids, who would be most benefitted by the change of air and scene, were unable to make the ascent, the effects of which were so unlikely to be palliated or overcome by the scant facilities for accommodation and comfort then afforded on the mountain. But this was the condition of affairs in the Catskills, with slight improvements, down to 1870, when the iron-horse began to sniff the air of the hills. Here was a charming summer resort wholly undeveloped; even the old Greene county section, which was about the only part known at all. The wildest and most charming region, lying in the counties of Ulster and Delaware, was largely unexplored and completely inaccessible except to the sturdy hunters and bark-men. The great chain of mountains had never been entered on this side where the great popular and easy approach for the entire range was destined to be. The giant Slide Mountain crag, which had overshadowed every other peak for countless ages, was practically unknown, and its superior height quite unsuspected. Thus the varied magnificence of this entrancing region which has now so greatly enhanced the fame of the Catskills, was yet to be revealed.
Building The Ulster & Delaware Railroad
The time having finally arrived for a railroad, the men were found to build it in spite of the unfavorable current of public opinion which then prevailed. Thus, the construction of the Ulster & Delaware line was begun in 1866. Proceeding slowly and cautiously for a time, the iron horse did not really get very far into the mountains until four years later. Even then the project was generally considered wild and ill-advised, with certain failure at the end. But the projectors had faith in the final result and kept stretching out the rails until they reached and crossed the mountains.
Nature may never have dreamed that man would stretch a railroad through this lovely valley, and at times there has been some question as to whether she had been fully reconciled to the desecration, But the engineers found a natural pass here most of the way, crooked and tortuous though it was, and they just followed it up good naturedly in laying out the line of the road, avoiding any aggressive liberties with the native conditions, as far as possible. Many heavy grades were encountered, and there was a cantankerous Mountain creek, with a whole brood of wayward and excitable little tributaries pouring into it from every gorge and gulch which had to be dealt with in a dignified and earnest manner. These were normally quiet and inoffensive, of course; the speckled trout disported lazily in the crystal water which glittered in the noonday sun like silver threads in the woof of the mountain, and rippled in sweet refrain on its winding, woodland way to the river. But when the floods came, these placid and pretty rills swelled into roaring torrents in a few hours, tumbling into the main creek, which in turn, flooded the narrow valley and swept everything down before it. Of course, there was nothing about the railway that would be likely to exempt it from this inevitable rule, or evoke any sympathy from these arteries of the mountains. So the engineers acted squarely on the defensive and built the road on that theory, locating the line with the utmost care and building in the firmest manner. The best materials were used in every case, and the best methods employed to secure stability, security, safety, efficiency and comfort. The roadbed has recently been materially straightened and leveled, and the curves perfected by a competent corps of engineers. This was made necessary by the increased traffic and greater speed of trains, which also called for heavier rails and ties and modern steel bridges, all of which have been supplied over the entire line. Several new and attractive station buildings have been erected, and important additions and improvements to the rolling-stock and general equipment, are continually being made. The new passenger locomotives are now heavier and more powerful than formerly and they are constructed from the latest improved designs for speed and efficiency. The new coaches which are added each year, and elegant models of comfort and convenience from the best shops in the country. Nothing that will conduce to the comfort and pleasure of travelers has been omitted in the equipment of The Ulster & Delaware system. It therefore stands to-day second to none in security of' road-bed, safety of appliances, general efficiency and comfort of equipment. The policy of the company and its management is to get the best, and operate the line in the best possible manner.
The completion of the road of course proved the great factor in the development of the Catskills as a popular summer resort. A new impetus was imparted to the mountain boarding business, and hotels, large and small, began to rise here and there in the valleys and on the mountain slopes. It opened a new section of the range, which rivaled and even surpassed in beauty any other portion, while the entire region at once became easily accessible. Luxurious parlor and day coaches are now attached to the trains, and the most infirm and debilitated may thus enjoy the benefits of this great natural sanitarium.