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THE ORIGINAL STARTING PLACE.

Piermont, the original starting point of the Erie, was twenty-four miles from New York. The trip from New York up the Hudson River to the cars had its inconveniences, but it also had its pleasures in fine weather. On a bright summer morning, with a grateful, refreshing breeze, it was a delightful sail. It was this trip on the river that was used for years by those opposed to the changing of the terminus to Jersey City as the argument in favor of maintaining the original arrangement. The river trip, it was urged, was so restful and healthful a diversion from the tedium of travel by rail, that its benefit to the travellers was greater than the saving of time by the New Jersey route would be—but the travellers and the Company failed to look at it in that way.

In the original days of Erie, as now, the view of Piermont from the river was very beautiful. The village made a pretty show, while the steep heights above were dotted with neat cottages amid gardens and cedar groves. To the left, the hillside sloped suddenly to a glen, up which lay the course of the railroad. The great pier, one mile long, and 300 feet wide at the river extremity, where there was a spacious basin and dock for the accommodation of the Company's boats, was covered with tracks. All the space occupied by the depots and the freight and car-houses—in fact, by all the shore terminal facilities—was made ground, the river having been filled in over an area of ninety acres; otherwise there would not have been room for a single track to run along the river shore. The shops were on the north side of the Company's grounds. They were large for those days, and for years were the main building and repair shops of the railroad. They employed more than 200 men in 1851, when the railroad was opened to Dunkirk. The round-house at Piermont had stalls for thirty locomotives in 1851. The repair shops were continued at Piermont until the summer of 1869, when the work was transferred to Jersey City, and the abandonment of Piermont by the Erie, so far as it could abandon the place, was complete. While it was the terminus of the Erie, Piermont was a place of much importance. The village was divided into two parts, on the north side of the railroad being the business section. The home of Eleazar Lord, Erie's first President, was there, and there he died. The great pier was a constant scene of bustle and activity, where scores of men were employed transferring, loading, and unloading freight from the cars to the boats. The pay-roll of the Company at Piermont amounted to many thousands of dollars a month. The pier is now abandoned except as a storage place for coal, with here and there a man at work upon it, and the passenger trains that are run to-day over that part of the original Erie, to and from that former liveliest railroad terminus in the country, are scheduled to depart from and arrive at Sparkill, a station a mile from Piermont, and unknown when the railroad first went through.

As the time when the railroad between Suffern and Piermont was the main line is now only a memory, and as locomotives and cars were an old thing in that section years before they were new fifty miles farther west, reminiscences of the pioneer Erie days along that stretch of road are interesting and important.

David P. Demarest kept the Red Tavern, at what is now Nanuet, and in 1839 began supplying the railroad with ties, and subsequently with fuel. Railroad laborers to the number of thirty-five boarded at the tavern, and his young wife attended to all the work alone, having also two young children to care for. In 1849 he was appointed agent of the Company, and the station was named Clarkstown. With the coming of the railroad he constructed two water tanks to supply the locomotives with water. They were filled by hydraulic rams, driven by water power from the Naurashank Creek. These required his constant attention. He was station agent at Nanuet until his death in 1881. He was succeeded by his son, Joseph G. Demarest, the present agent (1898). The station is in part of the house built by D. P. Demarest in 1849. Tickets were not sold at Nanuet until 1852, and the station and date were written on them in ink by the agent. The station was known as Clarkstown until 1856, when it was changed to Nanuet, which is said to have been the name of an Indian chief who once lived in the vicinity.

Tallman's came into life through the building of the railroad, and was named for Tunis I. Tallman. It was known to the first Erie railroad men as the fifteen-mile turnout, it being fifteen miles from Piermont, and a long switch had been made to enable one train to "turn out" for another.

When the Erie was surveyed through this locality the present station of Monsey was a wet swamp and tangled morass. The Company drained it. Eleazar Lord, while President of the Company in 1840, purchased eight and a half acres of land there with the intention of making an important water station. A platform was built for passengers to stand on while waiting for trains, and the word Kakiat was cut on it by a contractor named Jessup, that word being the Indian name for the surrounding country. It was afterward named Monsey, in honor of an old Indian chief. In 1841, when the railroad was opened, Angus McLaughlin put up a shanty or shed where the present depot stands, for a refreshment saloon. It was patronized by railroad men and train men. Aaron Johnson bought the Lord tract in 1843, and became first station agent at Monsey. At the opening of the railroad a log pump was sunk by the Company in a brook just east of the Spring Valley station. A platform was built around it, on which two men stood and pumped water into the tank of the locomotives. Subsequently a well was dug at Monsey which was fitted with a pump so arranged that the engine of the train, by adjusting its driving wheels to wheels placed in the track, could pump its own water. This was succeeded by a tank which was filled by hand pumping from the well. This remained until 1855, when the tank building burned.

Where Spring Valley now is was only a crossing at a farm road when the railroad was built. The farmers thereabout, believing that Eleazar Lord had given undue preference to Monsey because he owned land there, protested that trains should be stopped at the crossing for their better convenience as shippers, and soon after the road was opened to Goshen they held a meeting and prepared a petition to that effect. The Company replied that if the farmers would build a depot, freight trains would be stopped there, but no promise would be made to stop passenger trains. The farmers built a depot, which consisted of a board shanty on a platform 10 x 12 feet, which was promptly taken in possession by Henry Iseman, who started a store in it. The railroad named the station Pascac, but the name was subsequently changed, at the suggestion of Isaac Springsteel, a prominent farmer, to Spring Valley, and a board with that name on it was nailed to a cherry tree stump near the "depot." When trains began stopping there, soon afterward, Iseman was forced to move his store elsewhere.


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This page is from Thomas Ehrenreich's Railroad Extra website, and is reproduced here as a memorial to him and his dedication to preserving the history of railroading in America. Please note I have no access to the original source material and cannot provide higher resolution scans.
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