COPAKE FALLS—Passenger train
Friends of Taconic State Park has received permission from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to construct a small railroad track at the Copake Iron Works National Heritage Area Site in Taconic State Park.
An old, abandoned iron works facility is embedded in Taconic State Park, said Jim Mackin, president of Friends of Taconic State Park. The Copake Iron Works was established in 1845. In 2007, the Iron Works site and 18 acres surrounding the area were listed on the State and National Register of Historic Sites. The Friends of Taconic State Park organization repurposed the blast furnace into a showpiece while also taking remnants of the historic facility to create a museum, followed by the creation of a visitor center, Mackin said.
“We finally realized, ‘gee wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could recreate some of the railroad story that was there,’” Mackin said. “Initially in the 1870s, a railroad was constructed to bring in the iron ore from the nearby mine to the iron furnace. So, that’s what we’re doing now.”
The train will hold 15 passengers and transport them through the historic site on a 900-foot-long loop track. The locomotive will evoke the feel of the one that existed back starting in the 1870s, Mackin said.
“And we’re building the cars that will hold the tourists, which will look like ore cars that carried the iron ore,” he added. “They’re kind of trapazoidal in style. So, people will sit in those as they ride and we talk about the history there.”
The group, which has so far raised $174,000 through private donors, is looking to raise another $192,400 for a total of $366,400 for the project.
“We don’t think we need to obtain any public money, which we have in the past to do certain things,” Mackin said. “But we’d love to get our hands on some grant money, if possible.”
The path the train will run on has been bulldozed, Mackin said. They have also put down geo-textile cloth on the ground topped with 9 inches of crushed stone.
“All of that will settle over the winter,” Mackin said. “And then come spring, if everything goes well, we’ll have railroad ties and the actual rail itself ordered and delivered. And then as soon as we can in the spring, we’ll start putting the ties down and the rails on top of it.”
The challenge will be bending the rail, Mackin said. He explained after the track is complete they will put the locomotive, which is currently being stored in a nearby barn, on the track.
Friends of Taconic State Park expect the project to be finished next summer.
The train will operate from 2-4 p.m. on weekends and holidays from mid-May to mid-November. The train will circumnavigate the historic blast furnace, departing from and returning to a station house on Valley View Road in Copake Falls.
“The railroad, along with other planned improvements to the historic site, will make the Copake Iron Works a major attraction in the larger area and provide a great economic boost to the community,” Alexia Lalli, preservationist and board member of Friends of Taconic State Park who is chairing the campaign, said in a statement.