The Wallkill Valley Railroad
The Wallkill Valley Railway was built during the post Civil War railroad boom. Ultimately it ran from Montgomery through Wallkill and Gardiner to Kingston, over 33 miles in length, with spurs running to other communities, and connections to trolleys and ferries. The railroad was a boon to Wallkill Valley farmers who had been sending produce the slow and uncertain way down to New York City via the Hudson River, but it also transformed life for ordinary people who used the train to travel to NYC, to hitch a ride or to hop a freight car to school in the next town; it also transported celebrities to the New Paltz station en route to the Mohonk Mountain House, already well known as a summer resort.
Construction of the railroad began in 1868, using young Irish immigrants and teams of horses. The trains were leased from the Erie Railway. The original Wallkill railroad station was built in 1866. Like many station houses on the line, the building was "in poor order and crudely furnished with benches," which "ought not to be." Regardless of the condition of passenger comforts, the railroad played an important role in the economic growth of Wallkill and Gardiner and the other towns along the line. The Gardiner station was opened in 1869, and like the Wallkill station, was built by Theodore V.W. Swift of Gardiner, a lumber dealer. Most fruit growers from Gardiner and Modena shipped out their fruit on the new rail line, and milk plants, including the Borden condensed milk plant which ran a creamery at Gardiner as well as in Wallkill, shipped dairy products to 'populations in and around New York City from the 1880s to the early 1930s. The railroad also brought in lumber, grain and other products to Wallkill and Gardiner.
In 1877, the Wallkill Valley Railway reorganized, changed its name to the Wallkill Valley Railroad, and ~ purchased its own rolling stock.
The Wallkill station was destroyed by fire probably about 1920 and the station agent Charles Bostwick seriously injured trying to extinguish the fire. For about ten years after, a rail passenger car served as the station house. So much of the station had been damaged by the fire that a decision was made to build a new and smaller station.
With the increasing availability of cars and buses and the decline in farming in the 1920s and 1930s, passenger and freight service use dropped significantly in the agricultural towns along the railroad, including Shawangunk (Wallkill) and Gardiner. Passenger service ended in August 1937,although regular freight service continued for. while.
The old freight station, in back of the Wallkill passenger station featured a turntable that allowed trains and cars to make return trips until freight services ended in 1957. In 1965 the Wallkill railroad station and land around it were purchased by James Howell, a Wallkill feed and lumber dealer. The Gardiner station was occupied by Dolson's Shawangunk Sporting Goods.
In 1983-84, the tracks were pulled up for salvage. Today the "rail trail" in Wallkill and in Gardiner have taken on a new life, providing many happy hours of hiking, biking, and bird watching for a new generation of Wallkill Valley residents.
References: Carleton Mabee, Listen to the Whistle, An Anecdotal History of the Wallkill Valley Railroad in Ulster and Orange Counties, New York, Purple Mountain Press, 1995
Citizen Herald, Vol. XLIV, No. 63, Section 2