Amenia to Coleman Station

LENGTH: 4.5 miles

PRESENT STATUS: Paved and open

Section 2 contains a marvelous beaver pond near Sharon Station and some other interesting habitat as noted below. The rail trail association’s 4-color Botanical Brochure will be posted at the website soon!

(northwestern side of Route 343 intersection)
A hillside pasture and farm pond west of the trail just north of Rt. 343 is an excellent illustration of the ecology of grazing and the vegetational structure of a grazed landscape. The animals select for plants which can survive or resist their grazing: low-growing herbs with terminal buds below the cropping level of the animals’ teeth, tall herbs with irritant foliage (e.g. nettles), and prickly shrubs that resist or limit the animals’ attempts to eat them. Horses that have been in the pasture feed eagerly on common reed, an invasive plant in wetlands of our area. Of the wetland plants, the horses seemed to prefer reed to native sedges and grasses. Their grazing does not seem to have much effect on the reed, however, which is abundant around the edge of the farm pond. The grazing horses, short-growth meadow and scattered red cedars make an attractive picture. The view is already open, so there is no need to remove any trees or shrubs.

(#13 on the botanical brochure map)
A very good example of this shrubland is located a little less than half a mile north of the Route 343 intersection. The shrubland is located just yards north of a short stretch of low wooden fencing installed when the trail was built.

The red cedar shrubland is characterized by eastern red cedar and the near absence of tall trees. This reflects the high calcium content of the soils. The cedar layer may be very dense, with almost no breaks, or fairly sparse with grasses, low shrubs (especially gray dogwood, silky dogwood and northern arrowwood), and broad-leaved herbs in open areas between groups of cedars or individual cedars. Two regionally rare plants are located in the cedar shrubland: common juniper (the squatter and pricklier relative of the red cedar) and the yellow-flowering shrubby cinquefoil (see photo and line drawing in botanical brochure). It is also the home of a regionally rare butterfly, olive hairstreak, which in northern Dutchess County, would be near the northern limit of its range.

(#12 on the botanical brochure map).
This marsh-like wetland is home to a variety of semi-aquatic animals and plants. Signs of beaver activity include well-worn grooves in the banks. Three tall herbs – purple loosestrife, common reed, and cattail – dominate the shallow edges of the pond. These invasive plants compete for wetland space and resources; any of the three may gain an edge and supplant the others, or they may coexist for many years before the balance changes.

(#10 on the botanical brochure map)
The cinder flora habitat is the strip of vegetation located immediately south of Coleman Station between the rail trail and the gravel mine along the trail’s western side. Cinders of the rail bed berm have unusual chemical influences which favor particular plant species, some native, some alien. Wet and dry cinder soils have different species of plants. There are “wet” cinder flora and “dry” cinder flora. The habitat here is the latter (dry). Plants here are well adapted to dry conditions. Two grasses, big bluestem and little bluestem line the margins of the path, along with the dry-loving plants such as cypress spurge, sleepy catchfly, lowbush blueberries, clack oak and scrub oak. Big bluestem, the tallest grass here, is regionally rare and may have been transported by trains from the midwest.

Amenia: Amenia was Mile Post 84.59 of the original New York & Harlem Railroad (for more general railroad history, please go to the Railroad History page). In 1762, Dr. Thomas Young named Amenia for the Latin word “Amoena,” which means “pleasing to the eye.” The town includes the hamlets of Leedsville, Amenia Union, South Amenia, Smithfield, and Wassaic. The original Amenia Center, settled in 1742 by Captain S. Hopkins, was located a mile north of the Amenia traffic light. When the Dutchess Turnpike (Route 44) was built in 1805 to connect Hartford and Poughkeepsie, the town grew to its present location.

After the Revolutionary War, abolitionists were active in the area. They were led by Ezra Reed, who freed his slaves in 1788. Then in 1794, Jacob Bockee introduced a bill to the New York legislature for the abolition of slavery. The bill was passed on July 4, 1827.

Amenia had local industries and manufacturing. This included iron ore mining, carriage and wagon makers, a marble works, wood finishing mill, brickyard, and manufacture of tin ware and household utensils. Amenia also had a cattle pen to ship livestock to New York City slaughterhouses. In the opinion of one local historian, “The industrial, manufacturing and commercial activities of the Harlem Valley towns are often minimized with today’s Grandma Moses bucolic view of past history.”

Noted Amenia residents included Decost Smith, author, and Ammi Phillips, the noted colonial “borderline painter” of primitive portraits in New York and Connecticut. James Bockee, Ephraim Paine, and Elisha Barlow were early politicians from Amenia. Lewis Mumford, twentieth century architectural historian and city planner, was a resident of Leedsville.

North of Mechanic Street, the Amenia railroad station was located on the west side of the trailhead opposite the rail trail parking lot. The former train station located here had a ticket office, waiting room for passengers, telegraph office, freight platform, and a Railway Express Agency office. There were spur tracks for unloading the contents of freight cars on to horse wagons, and later, trucks. A spur used to run west near Broadway Avenue to an iron ore bed behind Dill’s Best Hardware Store on Route 44 west of the current traffic light. Along Railroad Avenue (which the rail trail parallels as you approach the Amenia trailhead from the south), another spur serviced a brickyard on the west side of the tracks. The brickyard later became a feed mill operated by the Wilson & Eaton Company which the the railroad also served. Wilson & Eaton Company had a large warehouse for bagged feed, building supplies, and other commodities on one of the rail spurs. The company also had a coal unloading facility for home and business heating needs until oil replaced coal in the 1950’s. The mill closed in the 1960’s.

The rail trail parking lot in Amenia was the site of the “Barton House,” also known as the “Colony House,” a large hotel serving travelers and businessmen. Summer vacationers from New York City de-trained in Amenia to stay at Lake Amenia resorts and several other bungalow colonies and camps.

Sheffield Road: As you head north, at the first road crossing is the former Sheffield Farms milk plant located on the west side of the trail (the large white concrete structure). Unprocessed milk in cans was shipped by rail to Sheffield Farms bottling plants in New York City. The building is one of the few remaining “creameries,” or “milk plants.” The building is now an artist’s residence.

Route 343: The second road crossing north of the Amenia trailhead is Route 343, or Sharon Road (Sharon, Connecticut is the next town to the east). The agribusiness complex on the east side received carloads of fertilizer by rail until rail service ended in 1980. Fertilizer is now trucked in from bulk distribution terminals on the railroad trunk lines located upstate.

Sharon Station: There is an old restored railroad station in Sharon Station. It was severely damaged by fire in 1997. A local family purchased it and restored to its original 1870’s appearance. The station now is a private residence. You might have difficulty knowing exactly where it is located without the following information.

In Section 2, the trail is intersected by two different roads each named Sharon Station Road. When traveling north on the rail trail from the Amenia trailhead, the third road intersection is with Amenia’s Sharon Station Road. As you continue northward another 7/10’s of a mile, you cross into the Town of North East. The next intersection you encounter traveling north is with North East’s Sharon Station Road. The two Sharon Station Roads eventually merge to the west, just a few hundred feet from an intersection with Route 22. To the east, both roads remain separate but bring motorists into Sharon, Connecticut. The restored train station is located at the intersection in the town of North East.

The Sharon Station railroad station was both a passenger and freight station. The south end of the restored station was the warehouse-like freight section. It had an apartment upstairs for the railroad agent. Sharon Station was a busy facility as it served patrons from Sharon, Connecticut and other nearby Connecticut towns.

Besides having a train station, Sharon Station was the site of the huge Manhattan Mining Company mine. Large quantities of iron ore were shipped to local and regional iron furnaces via the railroad until the late 1890’s. The company also operated a blast furnace that produced “pig iron” that was shipped out to foundries to make cast iron products. In the 1960’s, Agway constructed a modern fertilizer plant on the north side of Sharon Station Road with a rail spur. It was dismantled after rail service ended in 1980.

Coleman Station: Before the railroad came to Coleman Station in 1851, farm goods were taken by oxen to the Hudson River and shipped south to New York City by barge. Amasa D. Coleman successfully petitioned the New York & Harlem Railroad for a depot stop, thus the name Coleman Station. Once the stop was established, local goods were shipped to New York City by rail, traveling faster and arriving fresher than ever before. By 1911, Coleman Station had its own commercial dairy, Sheffield Farms. Sheffield Farms was one of the model commercial farms in Dutchess County and one of the largest suppliers of milk to New York City.

On September 30, 1993, the Coleman Station Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Coleman Station is one of the last areas in Dutchess County to retain its original historic and architectural integrity. Still in use today are early homes, Sheffield Farms’ row houses, and Hiddenhurst Mansion.

On the east side of the Coleman Station parking lot, some remnants of the foundation from a large Sheffield Farms milk bottling plant can be seen. Carloads of bottled milk for New York City were shipped out via daily milk trains. Coal for the boiler house and empty glass bottles were shipped in by rail. The workers’ frame houses are still standing on Sheffield Hill Road which runs east from the Coleman Station parking lot. Ice was harvested in the winter at local ponds and lakes, stored in large ice houses, and used to keep the milk chilled when shipped in warm weather. Ice harvesting was a source of extra income for farmers and working men.

On March 16, 1888 five locomotives pushing the snowplow, “Old Eli”, derailed while clearing the first large rock cut north of Coleman Station. Five employees were killed and four others were injured. The locomotives, traveling at 40 mph or faster, hit the hard-packed snow causing the deadly wreck. The rail rrail passes through the rock cut which was dug before the advent of power tools. The cut was made with hand drills and black powder before the days of TNT and pneumatic drills. The rock was taken away with wagons pulled by horses and mules. Men with sledgehammers had to break it up small enough to be carted away.

DIRECTIONS to the Amenia trailhead:
Note: Please be sure to see the note further below about parking at the trailhead.

From New York City: Take Saw Mill Parkway (from Manhattan) or the Hutchinson River Parkway (from Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn) north to interstate 684. Take 684 north to Brewster where 684 becomes Route 22. Continue north on Route 22 to the traffic light in Amenia. Turn right on to Route 343 heading east for about a quarter of a mile. Make a right on to Mechanic Street just before the Cumberland Farms Store on the left. Proceed about a quarter of a mile and the trailhead is on your left.

From Poughkeepsie: Take Route 44 east to Amenia. At the traffic light, continue east (i.e. go straight through the intersection). Continue for about a quarter of a mile. Make a right turn on to Mechanic Street just before the Cumberland Farms Store on the left. Proceed about a quarter of a mile and the trailhead is on your left.

From Connecticut: Take Route 4 to Sharon, CT. At the clock tower in Sharon take Route 343 west heading toward Amenia. When the speed limit drops to 35 mph as you approach the hamlet of Amenia, begin watching for a Cumberland Farms Store on the right-hand side. You will need to turn left on to the street immediately past the entrance to the store. The street is Mechanic Street. The trailhead is about one-quarter mile in on Mechanic Street on the left.

From the north: Take Route to the traffic light in Amenia (the junction of Routes 22, 44 and 343). Turn left on to Route 343 heading east for about a quarter of a mile. Make a right turn on to Mechanic Street just before the Cumberland Farms Store on the left. Proceed about a quarter of a mile and the trailhead is on your left.

PARKING: If the parking lot at the Amenia trailhead is full, please backtrack towards Route 343 a few blocks and park in the Amenia town hall parking lot on your right (which is also next to the firehouse).

*Note: Many thanks to local railroad historians Heyward Cohen, Jack Shufelt, and Lou Grogan (The Coming of the New York and Harlem Railroad, Pawling, NY: Louis V. Grogan, 1989) for much of the railroad history that appears above.