Wednesday, May 14, 2014


A cancelation of our annual Boy Scout Car Show fundraiser, where we man the grill for the day, led to a rare day off for me.  To be sure, I could have worked as I have an incredible backlog of projects, but my wife was visiting her mom up in New York, so I joined her.    It was one of our typical road trips with a plan formulated on the fly - wherever the wind takes us....     It's odd how one thing tends to lead to another for us, but was much needed.  Besides my tiring seven day a week work schedule, we recently lost our fourteen year old golden retriever, Roxy.   The first dog either of us have ever had, and a pure sweetheart, it's been so hard without her lately.  

Poughkeepsie Bridge 
After spending the morning with my mother-in-law, a quick look at my too trusty iPhone map for a quick way to the highway home, I realized we were a 5 minute drive from the Teatown Nature Preserve.  Lacking any sort of coordination, dexterity, and skill needed for sports, but having a mother who wanted me to do something other than sit home while my peers were at sporting practice, I spent many of my saturdays of my childhood at Teatown, hiking, helping out, grafting plants in the greenhouse,  learning to make soap, baskets, honey, dandelion salad,..etc.. with the coolest group of mostly hippie adults that I've ever met.  Formerly the country estate of the CEO of GE, the base of operations was the old Carriage house.  Setting foot there for the first time in probably 32 years, everything was surprisingly familiar down to the smell of the land.   The hippie tree huggers are mostly gone and being located in the heart of the most affluent area of mostly affluent Westchester County, New York, the emphasis has shifted a bit toward heavy duty fundraising and of course bland children's programs, but it's still Teatown.  I asked when they removed the bee hive in the wall - a massive glass fronted honey bee hive that I'm guessing was at least 8' across.  They said they didn't remove it and directed me to another room in the remodeled nature center - a much abbreviated 2x2 new glass hive - at least they still have one I guess.   I always thought the awesome thing about Teatown in the 1970s was that they didn't differentiate between children's and adult classes - all were open to any age.   Despite my pre-teen age, I always felt treated like an adult there, probably my first experience with this.  
Ties on fire after train passed in 1974.  Penn Central hadn't maintained the fire suppression system and there was no water to extinguish the blaze, and they had laid off the watchman, responsible for watching for fires.   Conrail inherited the damaged bridge and, while still under government control, convinced a convicted felon to create a bs corporation that they could sell the bridge to for $1
Walking around Teatown generated an appetite - I figured we were only a 20 minute drive from Cold Spring New York - a quaint little town on the east side of the Hudson River, slightly north from West Point.   The town is full of antique stores.  We had lunch outside at the former New York Central Hudson Line station.  Two Metro North Trains and an Amtrak passed while eating.  Cold Spring was the site of the West Point Foundry - a major industrial operation from before the Civil War, onward.  There were several blast furnaces on site and numerous foundry and machine shop buildings.   The foundry is famous for their heavy guns and cannons - Dahlgrens, Rodmans, and most important, the Parrott Rifle.  They also were an early builder of steam engines, locomotives, sugar mills, and all sorts of machinery.    In my early 20's my brother and myself spent time exploring the abandoned iron mines of Putnam County - the nearby Sunk and Denny Mines supplied ore to the the West Point Foundry's blast furnaces.  A mid-1800's railroad bed used to transport the ore out of the mountains is part of the Appalachian Trail.  
It's a long bridge -  the only reason it is empty is that they had closed it temporally due to a passing thunderstorm - being 214' high on a steel bridge isn't the best place to be I guess.  We waited out the storm under a pavilion on the west end - they had just reopened the bridge and we were in front.    20 minutes later there were at least 200 people on the bridge.  

While walking around Cold Spring I picked up a pamphlet that talked about the "Walkway over the Hudson", about 30 minutes north in Poughkeepsie, NY.   I'd been slightly involved as the President of the New York/New Jersey chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology in the late 90s with this project - the conversion of the former New Haven Railroad Bridge into a pedestrian walkway.    It was finally completed in 2009 and has been on my bucket list since then.   As you can see from the photo, this is a massive bridge - over 200 feet high and a mile and a half long.  It carried the New Haven to Maybrook where it connected with the Erie, Lehigh and New England, and Lehigh and Hudson River.   It was the furthest southern railroad bridge over the the Hudson, as all freight south in New York City was moved via car floats.    Besides the beautiful Hudson River Valley panoramic views from 200 feet above the river, you can rail fan the former New York Central Hudson Division on the east side of the river and the West Shore on the west side.     This bridge is worth a visit - you can park on either the eastern or western approaches and walk the bridge.  Ironically, the city of Poughkeepsie, which is directly under the bridge, has no direct access - an elevator is almost complete and should be opened soon - the elevator would put the bridge within walking access from the Metro North Railroad Station.  The walkway is now part of the New York State Park system - it's newest state park.  The early volunteers involved in promoting this walkway met with a lot of skepticism with how many people would actually want to walk across this bridge - in it's first year open,  750,000 people walked the bridge - triple the projected 250,000
West Shore - Freight Only - Very busy line
Hudson Line - Metro North push-pull trains tied up at Poughkeepsie Station

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