This film, “The Narrow Gauge, Catskill Mountain Railway” was produced by Blackhawk in 1959. It was made from one of the two 35mm “paper print” positives in the Library of Congress that were the original copyright registration copies deposited with the library on March 9, 1906, by American Mutoscope. George L. Wasson and Harold Schecht of Catskill, N.Y., supplyied much of the historical data on which the text titles are based.

The Catskill Mountain Railway was a 3-foot gauge line that started from Catskill Landing on the west bank of the Hudson River about thirty miles south of Albany and ran, some thirteen miles, via Leeds and Cairo Junction, to Palenville, the legendary home of Rip Van Winkle 1:00. Five people stand on the back of a rocking railway boxcar and go under an overpass 1:23. The camera follows the rocking car 1:45. The boxcar goes over a bridge 2:02. Women waive their handkerchiefs from the back of the car 2:35. The engine billows black smoke as the train goes around sharp turns, passing houses 3:06. The line from Cairo Junction to Palenville was a “summer only” operation for the benefit of vacationists 4:15. The engine continues and now 2 more people have been added to the back of the boxcar totaling 7 persons 4:55. At Palenville, the CMRy connected with the Otis Elevating Railway, considered one of the most remarkable pieces of engineering in the world at the time it was built 5:25. The camera pans up and views an overpass and a very steep hill ahead line with track 5:42. By means of a cable over a mile in length, the cars were drawn up the steep mountain wall to the summit, and elevation of 1600 feet in only 10 minutes 5:46. The engine begins its towed climb to the top of the mountain 6:27. The large white building scene at the top left of the screen is Catskill Mountain house, built in 1823, and a showplace for more than a century. This famous building was demolished in the late 1950s 6:45. A boxcar comes the other way down the mountain 7:25. The train reaches the flat level peak and crosses a gully 8:25. Hoisting of the cars was done by means of a great stationery engine at Otis Summit. The cars were equipped with automatic clutches that operated in case of a break in the cable. 8:34. The engine reaches Otis Summit 8:57. From Otis Summit, at the top of the cable railway, another 3-foot gauge line, the Catskill and Tannersville, ran 6 miles to the village of Tannersville where it connected with the standard gauge Ulster and Delaware. 9:04. And from Otis Summit, travelers of long ago could catch an inspiring view of the Hudson Valley floor. 9:20. The engine begins its descent with the Hudson Valley floor beneath 9:38. The engine goes under an overpass and comes into the station 10:31. At the station at the foot of the Otis Elevating Railway, the Catskill Mountain train is seen on the opposite side of the platform. It was a 45-minute run back to Catskill Landing. 10:34. The engine enters the station 10:53. The Catskill Mountain Railway in the Otis Elevating Railway were abandoned soon after World War I. The right-of-way of the C. M. Ry. Can still be seen, and one of its bridges is being used as a footbridge in the town of Catskill. The gash up the mountainside that was the root of the cable road is now utilized by an electric power line 11:00.

The Catskill Mountain Railway (CMRy) was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad, 15.73 miles (25.31 km) long, running from Catskill to Palenville in Greene County, New York.
Organized as the Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) in 1880, construction was begun in 1881 and completed in 1882. Unlike most railroads, the CMRR was built primarily for the purpose of transporting passengers and intended to operate seasonally. Most people using the line were summer tourists who travelled by steamboat from points along the Hudson River. Their final destinations were Hotels and boarding houses located high in the Catskill Mountains. While the railroad served its purpose of bringing passengers closer to the mountain top resorts, it still left them with an arduous hour-long stage trip up the face of the Catskill Escarpment (also known as the Wall of Manitou). In 1885 a branch was built to Cairo, NY with the intent to carry bluestone, hay and fruit and run year around. That same year, the CMRR was reorganized as the Catskill Mountain Railway. The principals had interests in shipping on the Hudson and in hotels in the Catskill Mountains. A great boon to the CMRR was the development in 1888 by the Elmira Shale Brick Company. The last trains were run in 1918.

This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD and 2k. For more information visit


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