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Warren County Bicentennial

Floyd Bennett speaking at Shepard Park

The Railroad

During the buildup to and early years of the Civil War, railroads in our nation became increasingly important for moving troops and supplies around. However, it was not until after the war that the trains came to Thurman. The railroad influenced Thurman in many ways, making it easier for tourists to come visit, for goods formerly inaccessible to be shipped in, and for locally produced goods to be shipped out. It created jobs in the area, and many Thurman families proudly remember relatives who served the railroad.

It was 1870 when Dr. Thomas Durant’s Adirondack Company pushed north from Saratoga to Thurman, the same year Thurman Station (known for a period as “Griffin Station”) a combination passenger and freight house, was built beside the road that runs from Warrensburg to Stony Creek. The tracks continued north along the west bank of the Hudson to North Creek and another three miles beyond.

From the 1800s to mid-1900s, the “cargo” brought northward by the railroad varied. In the early years, the railroad brought in tourists to fill the hotels and boarding houses, in Thurman and surrounding towns. Freight cars carried cattle hides from as far away as South America, to be processed in the Adirondack tanneries -- until the tanneries closed toward the end of that century. Food, manufactured goods and coal needed by North Country residents came in by rail.

In the 1930s northbound trains began bringing skiers, eager to schuss down the snowy slopes in North Creek. In that era they carried city children, bound for summer camps in the mountains. They rounded up cowboy wannabees, and herded them to the multitude of dude ranches that mushroomed in the area starting in the 1930s. Southbound trains carried garnet from Barton Mines in North River, locally manufactured goods, some milled lumber and, of course, travelers. The rails linked this rural mountain community to the rest of the country—the rest of the world, in fact—in a way that it had never known before.

Between 1889 and 1902 the Delaware and Hudson Company gained control of the line. With the United States’ entry into World War II in the ’40s, the railroad was extended to the mines in Tahawus, so valuable titanium could be transported south for the war effort.

Economic changes forced the D & H to dismantle Thurman Station about 1933, leaving in its place a small three-sided shelter. Passenger and freight service continued, and history recorded several derailments of freight cars along the tracks. A much worse accident has become a sad chapter in our history, and many in our area recall or have heard first-hand accounts of the fateful events of August 26, 1946, when two trains collided, resulting in the death of one of the engineers.

Passenger service was discontinued in 1956. Freight traffic was gradually phased out, until the line, then owned by CP Rail, was shut down completely in 1989. It was the end of an era, the death of a tradition cherished for over a century. Thurman’s ties to the railroad had been severed — forever, it seemed.

But in the 1990s Warren County obtained large grants with which to purchase and rehabilitate the tracks and build stations, with the goal of once again connecting Warren County with Saratoga Springs, and of one day transporting a new generation of tourists to and through our area. They contracted with the Upper Hudson Railroad to operate the train.

In 2006 Thurman celebrated the arrival of the first passenger train in fifty years, as the railroad began making weekly tourist excursions from North Creek to 1000 Acres Ranch Resort in Stony Creek. In 2009 the county completed a new “Thurman Station” – an open pavilion — on the property where the historic one had stood. Today train traffic on our rails is brisk, served by Saratoga and North Creek Railroad since 2011. The company is reopening the line to Tahawus to freight. As in the past, Thurman looks to the railroad as an aid to enhancing tourism and other business in town.

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