Coleman Station to Millerton

LENGTH: 3.6 miles

PRESENT STATUS: Paved and open.

Section 3 has six bridges, all of them fully and tastefully reconstructed. There are three picturesque rock cuts which in the summer feel many degrees cooler than anywhere else on the trail. The Webatuck Creek and Ten-Mile River periodically run alongside and cross underneath this section. The rail trail association’s 4-color Botanical Brochure will be posted at the website soon!

Many stretches of trail in this section are built atop “pyramided” rail bed. This means that the rail bed was built up higher than the adjacent land by the original railroad builders, in some instances as much as fifty feet higher. This pyramiding affords impressive views of farmland and Indian Mountain to the east on the border of New York and Connecticut. A t the same time, the pyramiding also makes for very steep drop offs on either side of the trail, so don’t gaze at the views for too long while riding your bike, or you may wind up down the embankment!

(#8 on the botanical brochure map).

Railroad companies blasted rock cuts to allow their train tracks to remain level despite hilly terrain. The water that trickles from a rock cut face during most of the year forms a “vertical wetland,” which supports a few plants that can survive in this unusual habitat. Two of the most successful plants here are Herb Robert and Marginal Wood Fern.

The Webatuck Creek floodplain, on the east side of the rail trail about 1.5 miles south of Millerton (just north of the Downey Road bridge), has very rich, deep soil deposited by the stream over hundreds of years. This stretch of stream has large, old silver maples, eastern cottonwoods, and sycamores. The several-hundred year old trees in this floodplain make it a fine example of the floodplain habitat. This area retains its serene timelessness through a century of development. This habitat is too fragile to permit public access.” The sycamores are off the trail a bit and have huge white splotches on their bark.

Millerton: Millerton was founded in 1851 when the New York & Harlem Railroad was built through the area. The village was named for the railroad’s chief engineer, Sidney Miller. In 1873, Commodore Vanderbilt acquired the New York & Harlem Railroad, and it became the Harlem Division of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad (later shortened to the New York Central Railroad).

By 1875, three additional train lines came to Millerton: the Poughkeepsie and Eastern; the Dutchess and Columbia; and the Connecticut Western. These three lines had their own station separate from the Harlem Division line. It was located on Century Boulevard (“the post office street”) in Millerton. These three additional rail lines were eventually incorporated into a single railroad in 1907 called The Central New England Railroad.

As part of the Vanderbilt empire, The New York Central’s Hudson Division superseded the Harlem Division as part of the primary route between New York City, Albany, Buffalo and Chicago. The Harlem Division, however, served as an important rail corridor for eastern New York and western Connecticut and Massachusetts. It had connections to Vermont, northern New York, and Canada. Until the 1950’s, it was the primary means of transportation for milk, raw materials, farm supplies, industrial products, consumer goods, mail, express and inter-city passenger travel.

The New York Central Railroad’s Harlem Division passenger station built in Millerton in 1912 is remarkably well preserved. It stands on the east side of the rail bed just north of the main street intersection. The original New York & Harlem Railroad station built in 1851 still exists, too. It stands on the west side of the railroad right-of-way, opposite the New York Central one, and is occupied by a florist. Both stations are still used by local businesses.

The Millerton station was open 24 hours a day for many years to facilitate the movement of milk and freight trains that operated mainly at night. All trains, with few exceptions, stopped at Millerton to fill the locomotive tender with water until steam operations ended in 1952. The passenger station was closed in March, 1972. The freight agent’s office closed in 1974, although freight service continued until 1981. The freight station is now a beauty salon located at the north end of the current parking lot in between to two former railroad stations. Until the railroad shut down in 1980, several agribusinesses and a propane distributor received rail shipments.

North of the passenger station is the old Borden’s Milk plant located on the east side of the rail bed. Borden’s is visible on the smokestack. This plant was either a processing plant that shipped fresh, refrigerated bottled milk or a shipping station to New York City for raw, chilled milk in large cans. South of Main Street in Millerton, a spur track on the east side of the rail bed served a fuel oil and gasoline distributor. On the west side stood the famous Brick Block Hotel, an archetypal railroad hotel.

Millerton is now a thriving village of just under 1,000 residents and is part of the Town of North East. The trailhead for the rail trail is in the heart of the village business district.

Millerton trailhead:
From the South: Take Route 22 north to the traffic light in Millerton. Turn east on to Route 44. Designated parking areas for rail trail users are planned, but for now please park on side streets, and avoid parking in the parking lot of Taro’s Restaurant immediately next to the trailhead. Actually, if you don’t mind, after turning east on to Rt. 44 (Main Street) at the Route 22 traffic light, travel up Main Street to the big orange building on your left called Saperstein’s. Turn left on to Dutchess Ave. and then turn right on to Century Blvd. There is a lot of parking on Century Blvd.and you are only a few hundred feet from the trailhead. Thanks for your patience and cooperation.

From the North: Take Route 22 south to the traffic light in Millerton. Turn east on to Route 44. Please read notes about parking under “From the South.”

For a longer bike ride: To continue onward to completed Section 5 of the trail and its parking lot on Under Mountain Road, make a right as you exit the trail in Millerton coming from the south. Proceed uphill through the village about a half mile to the traffic light by Cumberland Farms at the intersection of Main Street and County Route 62. Turn left on to County Route 62 also known locally as Rudd Pond Rd. About 2.5 miles from the traffic light, you will pass the entrance to Rudd Pond (Taconic State Park). Six-tenths of a mile past the park entrance is the intersection with Kaye Road. Proceed straight (do not veer left). You are now on Dutchess County Route 63, also known as Boston Corners Road. Continue 4.3 miles to the intersection with Under Mountain Road. At this intersection, go straight. You are now on Under Mountain Road. It is 1.6 miles to the parking lot on Under Mountain Road for Section 5 of the trail.

An alternative hiking trail: Between Kaye Road and Under Mountain Road on Dutchess County Route 63 is Whitehouse Crossing Road. It’s 2.4 miles north of Kaye Road. A few hundred yards north of Whitehouse Crossing Road is a road on the right called Deer Run/Quarry Drive. It leads to a parking lot for the South Taconic Hiking Trail which runs parallel to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail along the western ridge of the Taconic Mountains. A “South Taconic Trails” map is available at Oblong Books and Music in downtown Millerton.

The South Taconic Hiking Trail travels north from Deer Run/Quarry Road to Bash Bish Falls and Copake Falls. It offers a steep 1000 foot vertical ascent with the reward of spectacular views of the Harlem Valley, Columbia County and the Catskill Mountains to the west. The Tri-State New York-Connecticut-Massachusetts boarder is located on the side trail to Mount Frissell.

*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.