Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

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Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

Postby jaystreetcrr » Sat Mar 06, 2010 10:30 am

Last year I hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail in Fahnestock State Park that is on an old iron mine railroad grade. It was obviously an old railroad with gentle grades, cuts and fills, etc. I only walked about a mile due to limited time but want to get up there again and see more. Near there is the "Old Mine Railroad" trail which is a continuation of the same line. I'm wondering if anyone out there has more information on this--there doesn't seem to be much out there. Here's what I know. This area was the first major iron mining region in the US until better ore was found out west and was pretty much played out by the end of the 19th century. Iron ore was transported to a foundry at Cold Spring on the Hudson but the railroad didn't run all the way down there. The curves and narrow grade suggest that this might have been narrow gauge. Motive power? Locos, horses, even gravity (all downhill loaded)? Don't know. Any info appreciated and I'd love to talk more on this topic or even meet up for a hike.....John
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Re: Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

Postby RussNelson » Sun Mar 07, 2010 12:35 am

I suspect that you've come across the Sunken Mine Railroad. You can google around a bit and get more information. I have what I believe to be the route documented here:
http://rutlandtrail.org/list.cgi?sunken ... d.ny.track
This railroad was disconnected from the national railroad network. It served to bring the ore down to Route 301.
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Re: Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

Postby jaystreetcrr » Sun Mar 07, 2010 10:16 pm

Yes, that's the one. I also looked on my topo map from the NYNJ Trails Conference and it said the line was built during the Civil War, narrow gauge, mule powered, and like you said, ended at present day highway 301 where ore was transfered to wagons. I hope to explore the rest of the line once the snows melt.
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Re: Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

Postby RussNelson » Sun Mar 07, 2010 10:45 pm

Yeah, I was thinking about the earliest railroads in Quaker Meeting today (don't ask why). I think that the technology of road-building necessitated the use of rails in some situations. It wasn't so very important that they be motor-operated, or that they connect to the rest of the world, but instead that they be able to haul very heavy loads over otherwise-uncertain terrain.

There's an iron mine in Clarksboro, NY (actually just south of it) which has four ROWs going to it. The first, built during the Civil War, was a wagon road built to very stringent specs, but the wagons couldn't haul enough ore even so. They abandoned it, and built a railroad with iron straps on wood rails. That could haul the ore, but the straps ended up pulling up and off the rails. Only ran for about a year. I'm sure that their plan was to replace the wooden rails with iron rails once they started to make money.

They didn't make money. The mine languished until WWII when again, massive amounts of iron and steel were needed. They extended a logging railroad (on a different ROW, coming from the south) to the mine, and built a highway from the north (closest community) on another ROW than the wagon road. That mine was worked for about ten years.

I've bicycled the entire logging railroad ROW. It's kept open as a road into the mine, now a hunting camp. Found the wye at the end. I've traced portions of the wooden railroad. It's hard to do because they used a lot of the trees they cleared for trestles, figuring that they could fill them in with mine tailings. I found one place where the trestle was partially filled-in. But in many other places the trestles and ROW are vanished.

I just now noticed your username. I "discovered" the Jay Street Connecting Railroad last summer. Was running some http://OpenStreetMap.org mapping parties in DUMBO. I've got a bunch of pictures of it here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/russnelson ... 111114966/ and if you search on Flickr in Everybody's Uploads, there's a bunch more.
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Re: Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

Postby AMK0123 » Sun Mar 14, 2010 5:28 pm

Jaystreetcrr, you are correct. The mine railroad ended up on Route 301 in the area of Dennytown Road, in the town of Putnam Valley. The hill on Route 301 going from the AT&T tower toward Dennytown Road is referred to as Dump Hill by the locals. The railroad would dump there ore on the hill and then take it by wagon down to the Foundry at the end of present day Kemble Ave in the village of Cold Spring. The foundry was the location were they made the parrott cannon from. I suggest a good place to park is on Dennytown Road at Sunken Mine road. Sunken Mine road is seasonal, I believe opening in middle of April but there is a dirt parking lot there. I've been through there several times. I suggest you walk unless you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle. There are a couple of old bridges and several ROW's throughout there. Also if you venture down to the old foundry (which is currently state owned land) you can see the right of way were they had a rail spur coming in from the Hudson line were they had hauled contaminated dirt from out of the former Battery plant located on Kemble ave just before the Foundry property. That is the same right of way that they took the cannons out earlier and test fires them across the river onto the mountain just north of West Point in Highland.
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Re: Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

Postby jaystreetcrr » Fri Apr 16, 2010 5:42 pm

Lat weekend my 7 year old son and I went exploring the iron mine railroads. All of the following descriptions will make more sense if you're looking at NYNJ Trail Conference Map #103 East Hudson Trails. We parked on Route 301 at the Charcoal Burners Trail and started south. After less than a mile we hit the Old Mine Railroad trail and headed east. It looked like it had been used as a jeep or logging road, a little wider than the Appalachian Trail section to the east, but still had that railroad grade look with built up retaining walls and stone culverts. At Hidden Lake the grade continured east through an off-limits area while the trail got sketchy to the south.
After some bushwhacking we came to the Lakes trail, then bushwhacked over a ridge to the Sunk Mine. It's a nice scary shaft, rotten timbers and cave-ins, going down at a 45 degree angle. We hung out a while then went downhill to the rock dump by the swamp, through insane swarms of mosquitos (bring bug spray! we picked up some ticks too) There's a lot of interesting looking rocks there and the Reading Prong iron ore vein down through New Jersey contains a lot of interesting minerals.
Heading southwest from the Sunk Mine we found two parallel grades, seperated by about five feet of retaining wall. I'm guessing that one was the mine railroad and one was a wagon road. Near the Hamilton Mine the grade was obliterated by the present day Sunk Mine Road. There was some light T-rail sticking out of the flooded Hamilton mineshaft that looked a little newer than post Civil War...maybe this mine was worked later though I thought everything was played out by the late 1800s. After checking out the Denny Mine we made our way back to our car on the Charcoal Burners Trail, leaving me to speculate on the route of the Sunk Mine railroad to Dump Hill at #301...but that's another hike.
By the way, nearby Cold Spring is a great railroad town with a million Metro North and Amtrak trains, views of the West Shore line across the Hudson, a restaurant in the old station and a model railroad shop on the main street. It's a great day trip on the train from the city, a little far to Fahnestock Park but you could probably find a reasonable cab ride up there.
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Re: Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

Postby RussNelson » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:23 pm

I visited this on Monday. Was downstate for the weekend and took a day off the go poking around.

jaystreetcrr wrote:Last weekend my 7 year old son and I went exploring the iron mine railroads. All of the following descriptions will make more sense if you're looking at NYNJ Trail Conference Map #103 East Hudson Trails. We parked on Route 301 at the Charcoal Burners Trail and started south. After less than a mile we hit the Old Mine Railroad trail and headed east.

Red trail markers.
It looked like it had been used as a jeep or logging road, a little wider than the Appalachian Trail section to the east, but still had that railroad grade look with built up retaining walls and stone culverts.

It started at the Cold Spring Institute, which doesn't have a sign in front of its gate, but instead says "OFARM". It looks wide enough to be a road. Given that it's 2' gauge, I am speculating that it was double-tracked from there to Hidden Lake.
At Hidden Lake the grade continured east through an off-limits area while the trail got sketchy to the south.

Yeah, they yellow trail used to follow the railbed on the northwest edge of Hidden Lake, but it's now been developed to the south (not sketchy) to the Blue Trail.
After some bushwhacking we came to the Lakes trail, then bushwhacked over a ridge to the Sunk Mine. It's a nice scary shaft, rotten timbers and cave-ins, going down at a 45 degree angle. We hung out a while then went downhill to the rock dump by the swamp, through insane swarms of mosquitos (bring bug spray! we picked up some ticks too) There's a lot of interesting looking rocks there and the Reading Prong iron ore vein down through New Jersey contains a lot of interesting minerals.

I didn't have any idea where the Sunk Mine (or any of the other three mines there) so I didn't see any of that. I guess that means that I have to go back.
Heading southwest from the Sunk Mine we found two parallel grades, seperated by about five feet of retaining wall. I'm guessing that one was the mine railroad and one was a wagon road. Near the Hamilton Mine the grade was obliterated by the present day Sunk Mine Road. There was some light T-rail sticking out of the flooded Hamilton mineshaft that looked a little newer than post Civil War...maybe this mine was worked later though I thought everything was played out by the late 1800s. After checking out the Denny Mine we made our way back to our car on the Charcoal Burners Trail, leaving me to speculate on the route of the Sunk Mine railroad to Dump Hill at #301...but that's another hike.

Do you have GPS locations for these mines?

Here's what I found:
http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/way/187355071 This section of the "Old Mine Railbed Trail" (Yellow blazes) starts on the north side of a little creek, and goes mostly straight and level until it connects to the main line. I don't know what purpose this spur served. There were cuts and fills, though, so it was pretty clearly a railbed.
http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/way/181686470 The main branch of the railbed. It continues to the west all the way to 301, but there's a fence and gate. It continues to the east as the yellow trail until it hits Hidden Lake. The railbed continues to the northeast, but the yellow trail has been rerouted to the south, for "habitat and vegetation" renewal.
http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/way/187193871 This is the Appalachian Trail portion. It is very well defined, and has two rock-sided fills ... almost stone trestles, really. This is very clearly narrow-gauge track. I didn't see any spurs to connect to adits, nor did I see any adits. The railbed continues to within a few dozen feet of the foot of Canopus Lake, almost as if it continued past that point before the dam was built and the lake flooded.
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Re: Iron mine railroads in Fahnestock Park, NY

Postby RussNelson » Thu Jan 01, 2015 1:15 am

More information: http://philipstown.info/2013/01/14/mini ... derground/

That leads me to think that the first of those OSM urls is actually the Sunk Mine Railroad, and goes further than I thought. Also that I never went all that close to Sunk Mine; it was over on another ridge from me. Also that this reference claims that the railbed between Canada Mine and Sunk Mines was graded but never had tracks ("A narrow-gauge rail bed was laid between the Canada and Sunk Mines; however, it was never used and today is part of the Appalachian Trail. ") That would be the third URL from above. I had never before heard that it was an unfinished railroad.
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