One of the railroads that formed the Central New England Railway was the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut.
The CNE / ND&C from Dutchess Jct to Matteawan.
The CNE / ND&C Glenham to Hopewell Jct.
The CNE / ND&C from Hopewell Jct to Millbrook.
The CNE / ND&C from Bangall to Pine Plains.
The CNE / ND&C from Pine Plains to Millerton.
East-West Rails in Dutchess County
Dutchess & Columbia Railroad
From the earliest east-west railroad proposals in Dutchess County there was disagreement over exactly where the tracks and terminals should be. As early as 1831 there were factions advocating locations along the Hudson River such as Poughkeepsie, Fishkill Landing and Rhinebeck. Even after the Harlem and Hudson lines were built the squabbling continued. The success of the two north-south lines in the 1850’s held out a greater incentive for building eastwest lines but there was still disagreement. As it turned out there were lines constructed to all 3 locations along the river by 1872, but the first rails actually laid down were on the southernmost line in 1868 near what is now the City of Beacon.
The new railroad was called the Dutchess and Columbia. After organizational meetings in Verbank and Millbrook, the line filed articles of association in Albany on 4 September 1866. A Millbrook resident named George H. Brown was elected president. With $500,000 of financial backing Brown enlisted the help of Oliver Weldon Barnes to design the new line. Barnes was perhaps the best known and most successful civil engineer and railroad designer of his day. By 1867 the line had been surveyed and preliminary contracts arranged.
A much older survey had used a surveyors plummet (actually a weight on a string) to place a “Plumb Point” marker along the banks of the Hudson River south of Fishkill Landing. For whatever reason the letter “b” was lost from the old map, and it became Plum Point. There was no point and not a plum tree anywhere nearby. This Plum Point became the starting location of the new rail line and later was named Dutchess Junction.
Grading began in 1868 and teams of horses pulled wagon loads of rails to be distributed along the right of way through Matteawan, Glenham, Fishkill and Brinckerhoff to near Old Hopewell. Bridges were built over Fishkill Creek and Sprout Creek. After this section was in place more rails would be hauled by trains to complete the line. Construction reached Millerton in the northeast corner of the county in November 1871.
Clove Branch Railroad
A short four-mile connecting Railroad called the Clove Branch was chartered in 1868 and opened in 1869. The CB connected with the D&C near Old Hopewell, and it’s main purpose was to haul iron ore out of the mine at Sylvan Lake. Later the CB was extended another four miles and ran passenger and freight service to a few customers and an iron furnace in Clove Valley. The president was the same George H. Brown who was President of the D&C RR.
Boston Hartford & Erie Railroad
The first name change for the new D&C Railroad came before the first revenue run. The Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad had purchased property at Dennings Point adjacent to the Dutchess Junction starting point of the D&C RR. The BH&E also bought one half of the right of way of the D&C from Hopewell to Wicopee. In a surprise move, with about eleven miles of D&C track built, George H. Brown leased the entire operation of the D&C to the BH&E in November 1868. Part of the agreement stipulated that the D&C had to finish the construction of the line in 10-mile increments for a compensation of $200,000 per year. Railroad historians are still speculating about the reasons behind this sudden change of plans.
The D&C RR continued building the line and bought a used locomotive from a railroad in Pennsylvania naming it “Tioronda”. It was a 4-4-0 wood burner that had been built in 1856. It arrived at Dutchess Junction on 8 February 1869. A week later on 15 February two more used wood burners arrived from New Haven. These were named “Washington” and “Pine Plains” for the towns which the D&C/BH&E ran through.
The station at Plum Point/Dutchess Junction was not yet completed. On Monday, 21 June 1869 the first trip on the line left Fishkill Landing. The chocolate brown coaches were lettered BH&E Railroad. They ran south along the Hudson River line to Plum Point/Dutchess Junction and then ran east on the new rail line. Trains used this route for a short time in 1869 until the station was finished at Dutchess Junction. By the winter of 1869/70 the rails had reached Bangall.
The grand plan of the BH&E was to connect New England cities with a shipping terminal on the Hudson River. They owned Dennings Point and set in place a curve of pilings from the east bank of the river across a small bay to Dennings Point with the intention of laying track. As late as 1957 these pilings were still shown on a US Government Geological Survey map. The right of way from Hopewell to Waterbury Connecticut was partly graded but not yet completed. The BH&E had started to lay track eastward from the D&C main at Hopewell toward Connecticut. This was not to be. In March of 1870 the BH&E failed.
The D&C Returns
George H. Brown did not hesitate when word came about the BH&E failure. About midnight on 22 March 1870 he roused up locomotive fireman Roswell S. Judson and the two of them got steam up in the engine “Washington”. At 2:00 AM they started for Hopewell. At Hopewell they captured the BH&E rolling stock and locomotives by removing the connecting rails to the construction site just east of Hopewell. With the BH&E immobilized they proceeded to occupy the stations along the line and placed guards. Within a few days the D&C was again in operation with borrowed coaches. Three BH&E locomotives trapped at Hopewell were later returned to the BH&E. Of course the BH&E attempted to reclaim the line through the courts but withdrew after several months of wrangling. The line was once again the Dutchess and Columbia Railroad with George H. Brown as the boss.
To tap the Pennsylvania coal traffic, the D&C built a ferry terminal at Dutchess Junction. Railroad cars were transferred across the Hudson River to connect with the Erie Railroad in Newburgh. There was also passenger and general freight service using Hudson River steamboats and barges. A steamboat called “Fannie Garner” shuttled freight and passengers back and forth across the river to and from Newburgh. Loads of coal from the Delaware and Hudson Canal came down the river from Rondout Landing near Kingston, NY and were transferred from barges to train cars at the long dock. Dutchess Junction became a busy place with all that activity plus connections with the Hudson River RR, which included a pedestrian bridge over the main line.
Construction of the D&C RR continued at the northeast end of the line. In November 1871 the tracks reached Millerton. In the original plans the D&C was supposed to go north to Hillsdale in Columbia County. Instead of building to Hillsdale the D&C turned east just north of Pine Plains to Millerton. They built a one mile connector from Millerton to the Connecticut border at State Line where the rails joined the Connecticut Western RR. In hindsight this move would prove to be unprofitable for the D&C because the CW RR made agreements with the Rhinebeck and Connecticut RR after 1875 when the R&C RR made direct connections at State Line. Then much of the coal business went through Rhinebeck instead of Dutchess Junction.
But we are getting away from our story. Let’s get back to the D&C.
Ironically by 1871 the tracks of the Dutchess and Columbia Railroad ran 58 miles diagonally across Dutchess County from corner to corner and ran less than one mile from the northern line but they never actually reached Columbia County.
The New York, Boston & Northern era
George H. Brown had grander dreams. In December 1872 he became president of the New York, Boston and Northern Railroad with the intentions of connecting several smaller railroads together to run trains from New York City to Northern New York State. It lasted only about a month into January 1873 when he extended the scope of this new venture to include Montreal, Canada.
The New York , Boston & Montreal era
January 1873 saw George H. Brown become the president of the New York, Boston and Montreal Railroad. The plan was to build a few short link railroads to connect existing lines into a complete route from New York City to Montreal, Canada via Rutland, Vermont. The D&C and the Clove Branch RR were to be segments of this route. New links were to be built from Brewster, NY to the Clove Branch RR near Hopewell and also from Pine Plains to Chatham, NY. These links were never built. The financial panic of 1873 ended George H. Brown’s dreams of a Canadian American railroad empire. The NYB&M failed and the linked railroads reverted back to independent lines. One of the NYB&M segments became the four mile long extension of the Clove Branch RR out to Clove Valley. The Clove Branch RR did not actually own the extension. They leased the tracks from the NYB&M court trustees. NYB&M equipment was divided up between the smaller lines or simply sold to the highest bidder. In 1874 there were 12 brand new NYB&M RR locomotives stored at Dutchess Junction awaiting their fate. Three of them eventually went to work on the D&C and ND&C.
Aftermath of the NYB&M Failure
Some years later in 1885 the ND&C letterbooks contain a sort of hindsight view of events following the failure of the NYB&M. Superintendent Kimball wrote two long letters to President Schultze detailing the disposition of NYB&M property. The actual records were destroyed in a fire at Dutchess Junction in 1876 so a good bit of the description is from Kimball’s memory.
Kimball’s nostalgic description gives us a pretty good idea of what happened to most of the NYB&M property after the failure. In February 1888 there is a mention of the deteriorating condition of trustees box cars stored on a siding at Arthursburgh. Over the years these box cars were sold to other railroads. As late as 1896, a full 23 years after the failure, the ghost of the NYB&M still haunted Dutchess County rails.
15 May 1896
“The 4.1 miles of track used by the Clove Branch RR are actually owned by the NY Boston & Montreal RR which was never completed. That road is now in the hands of a trustee under the direction of the court.”
The End of the D&C Railroad
After the NYB&M failed the line across Dutchess County once more became the D&C Railroad. The D&C struggled to stay afloat, but within a year the mortgage was foreclosed in 1874 only five years after the first run. A sale was held on 5 August 1876, and John Crosby Brown bought the assets of the D&C Railroad for less than half of the original price. Rolling stock was stenciled “Jno. Crosby Brown Trustee”. The D&C operated under the direction of a court receiver for three years and competition was growing. Those three years, from 1874 to 1877, must have been discouraging indeed for everyone involved.
By that time there were two other east-west railroads across Dutchess competing for the business. The Rhinebeck and Connecticut RR ran across the northern part of Dutchess to connect with the D&C and the CW RR near Millerton. The Rhinebeck and Connecticut RR used the D&C Millerton to State Line connection until 1875 when they opened their own direct connection. Later, in 1881, the CW RR became the Hartford & Connecticut Western RR. By 1882 the H&CW RR took over the R&C completely and large shipments of D&H coal were routed through Rhinebeck instead of through Dutchess Junction. The D&H barges had a much shorter trip from Rondout across the river to Rhinebeck instead of sailing 30 miles south to Dutchess Junction and besides the rail mileage to State Line was also much shorter from Rhinebeck.
A railroad from Poughkeepsie through Pleasant Valley to connect to the D&C at Stissing was completed by 1872. This line was called the Poughkeepsie & Eastern Railroad, but they went bankrupt in a year and a half. The line was sold and renamed the Poughkeepsie, Hartford and Boston RR.
The Beginning of the Newburgh, Dutchess & Connecticut Railroad
On 8 January 1877 a new corporation was formed and a charter was granted for the railroad line. It was to be called the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad, the ND&C. This new corporation took possession of the old D&C railroad line on 1 February 1877. The ND&C did not own any rolling stock. It was all rented from the trustees of the D&C. Later, as business improved, the equipment was to be purchased. This was not exactly a flying start but things were looking up.
The ND&C Railroad began operations with a collection of well-used rented equipment Coaches used link and pin couplers and relied on hand-operated brakes. Three of their locomotives were wood burners that had been in service for over 20 years. The ND&C had a total of 58 miles of track, all in Dutchess County. Stations along the line had been built from the same set of plans and looked alike. Standard station colors were ochre yellow with brown trim around the windows and doors. Station roofs were made of slate to combat the ever-present danger of fire from sparks from locomotive smokestacks. Many of the streams and ravines were bridged with wooden trestles not suitable for any heavy trains. There was certainly a lot of room for improvement, but at least they were up and running. Loads of ore were coming out of the Clove Branch RR at Sylvan Lake. Coal and freight were moving across the Hudson River at Dutchess Junction. Milk shipments from local dairy farms were on the increase. With a little bit of luck the ND&C RR might make it yet.
In less than 10 years the Dutchess and Columbia Railroad had seen a series of financial failures resulting in several name changes. You can be sure that this period of chaos and failure was also a period of learning. Many of the people who lived through those 10 years were still there working for the management of the new ND&C Railroad. The new owners and management of the ND&C railroad were not the flamboyant empire builders that George H. Brown had been but they proved to be much more stable and successful. The ND&C was to survive through good times and bad for more than 25 years until it was absorbed into the CNE and later, the New Haven Railroad system in the early years of the 20th century.
Executives from other railroads could ride for free on the ND&C RR.
On 22 November 1890, the ND&C RR ordered a replacement set of cylinders for engine #2 from the Grant Locomotive Works in Paterson New Jersey.
After the New Haven RR took over the NE RR, trackage rights the ND&C from Hopewell Junction to Fishkill Landing were known as part of the “Highland Division”.
Letterbooks of the ND&C RR at the Beacon Historical Society
B L Rudberg photo
When the ND&C RR headquarters building was renovated, the workers found the record books in the loft. They gave the books to the Beacon Historical Society. The books are 11 X 17 handwritten ledgers with 700 pages in each volume. There are 48 volumes for a total of more than 30,000 pages of office records. The oldest is dated 1879 and the last one is 1904. These original record books are the basis of the book “Twenty Five Years on the ND&C”.