Monday, March 5, 2012
My local history obsession
Once in a while, something can really capture my imagination and not let it go. Ever since I saw these photos years ago, I've been somewhat obsessed with the idea of a gigantic railroad trestle that once went across the Brooktondale valley. This is my quiet little hometown in upstate NY, in a valley formed by a largish creek. I've driven down the main road through town easily 1000 times in my life, and there's a small historical marker next to some trees under a very empty sky that stands where a large railroad trestle once must have dominated the landscape. I can barely imagine this gigantic thing spanning my little town's valley.
The wooden trestle was built in 1875, and lasted until 1894, when it was replaced with a simpler, sturdier steel structure. It was part of the Lehigh Valley train system, connecting Elmira and Ithaca and then on to points north and east. Tiny towns, little stops along the way. Trains ran through this route until 1935, hauling passengers and mail and milk and coal.
Today there are still beautiful little train stations scattered around, which have been turned into gift shops and B&Bs and history centers. The train tracks are gone, but the right-of-ways are still there. Two of my favorite running trails are built on the former tracks.
(I hope these photos are in the public domain, I apologize if they aren't.)