In the early years of railroading, grand schemes and dreams sprang up in almost every county and town. Duchess County, New York was no exception. This was particularly true in Duchess County because of the geographic location. North to south, Duchess is between New York and the state capitol of Albany. East to west, Duchess is the gateway between southern New England and the coal fields of Pennsylvania or the western states. Duchess also is bordered on the west by the Hudson River, which provided water access but at the same time was a barrier to east-west rail travel.
When the idea of taking advantage of this economic potential took hold, there were plenty of people with high hopes ready to join in and get rich. As in any new undertaking, there were lessons to be learned and often, people had to cope with a dose of reality. Some actually did get rich, but for most the lessons were unfortunate.
The earliest railroads in Duchess County were the north-south routes that served New York, Albany, and Montreal. These routes were relatively stable and successful. With that success as added incentive, an east-west railroad was chartered and built. The first nine years of east-west railroad operations in Duchess County saw turmoil, conflict, and multiple financial failures.
The railroad tracks that ran from Duchess Junction and Matteawan (Beacon, New York) through Hopewell and Millbrook to Millerton and to Connecticut at State Line had several different names in their first few years of existence. Out of that chaos grew the Newburgh, Duchess & Connecticut Railroad. The ND&C Railroad under the leadership of John Schultze and Charles Kimball established an operation that survived through good times and bad for over twenty-five years until it was absorbed into the Central New England Railway later becoming part of the New Haven Railroad. Still later, eleven miles of the old ND&C line became part of the ill-fated Penn Central, next Conrail, then the Housatonic Railroad, and currently Metro North.
Early sections of Twenty-five Years on the ND&C set the stage for the entrance of the ND&C Railroad. The heart of the book is the twenty-five years of ND&C operation from 1879 to 1904. Recently discovered ND&C record books (thirty-three thousand pages in forty-eight Volumes) are a window into the everyday events and problems of running a railroad in the late 1800s. They contain everything from compensating farmers for cattle run over by trains to dealing with the great blizzard of March 1888, as well as ordering locomotive repair parts or reporting the office washroom drain is clogged again. After spending more than a year of spare time reading the books, the author came to think of Schultze and Kimball as old friends even though both have been gone for over 100 years.
The author conveys the human side of the struggle to build a successful business and preserves the contributions that Schultze, Kimball, and the railroads made to the world we live in today.
Purple Mountain Press, softcover, 208 pages, 8.5 x 11 x .5 in., illustrated, appendices, index.