The Way it Was: (Pine Plains and the Railroads)
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Vol. 4: Pine Plains and the Railroads

Bicentennial Publication


By: Lyndon A. Haight
1976

§3 The Way it Was


The calendar on the wall reads 1917. The 6:42, the first morning passenger train, has arrived at Pine Plains on time from Millerton via Ancram Lead Mines and is now well on its way to Beacon. A few people have begun to gather for the second train of the day from Millerton by way of Copake, Ancram and Silvernails, due in Pine Plains at 7:41. Pat Clifford is seated behind the wooden railing which encloses the ticket window and telegraph bay. Mart Wheeler has just clicked out on the telegraph that westbound train No. 909 was out of Silvernails at 7:32. Pat has acknowledged the message and looks up from his armchair with the glass telegraph pole insulators on its four legs, to see a man standing before the ticket window. Pat gets up and speaks to him, reaches into the ticket cabinet on the right of the window and selects a ticket. He inserts it into the ticket-dater standing on the window shelf and whacks the rubber-covered top with his fist. After the resulting thump, Pat removes the ticket and hands it out the window. In a few seconds there is a rattle and clang as Pat opens the money drawer under the window and deposits the money received.

Bill Owens, the local expressman, mail carrier and taximan, is seated in a chair similar to Pat's while several other men lean against the rail and the stand-up desk. Most of them are railroad people awaiting the arrival of the 7:41. A few people are in the waiting room which is quite airy and light.

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Inside the Pine Plains CNE station. Clockwise from left: Seeley; Wm. (Bill) Owens; Pat Clifford; Herb Seeley
Varnished benches with tall backs extend along each sidewall, and there is a long double bench in the center, flanked on each end by large, aluminum-painted hot water radiators. At the far end are the doors to the women's and men's lavatories and between them a water faucet with an accompanying paper-cup dispenser. The bulletin board is covered with train schedules, and posters pertaining to railroad safety or special excursions are displayed in the wall spaces between the windows. Kerosene lamps in wall brackets hang on each sidewall. There are doors on the opposite sides of the waiting room, one opening on a parking lot. The ticket window occupies the window nearest the platform, with handy vending machines on the wall next to it offering the traveler a choice of penny boxes of Chiclets, Dentyne chewing gum or miniature chocolate bars. Nearby is a tall penny weighing scale with a large round dial.

At any moment now, those standing outside the station will hear the train whistle for the West Pine Plains crossing, then for the Lake Road crossing and, shortly after, a plume of white smoke will appear as the train pulls into the Newburgh, Dutchess & Columbia junction, preliminary to backing into the station. (Westbound trains have to back in since there is no wye.) In another minute they will hear the air whistle blown by the brakeman from the rear coach platform as the train backs into view. The train comes into position alongside the station and Conductor Bill Cole, genial and rotund, swings down from the coach step and reaches for the stepstool

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Another view inside Pine Plains Station. Left to right: Pat Clifford (Agent), Henry Hart (Telegrapher), Wm. (Bill) Owens (taxi and express delivery operator) (V04-08.GIF)
used to help passengers alight or board safely. Behind Bill comes a bunch of noisy high-schoolers carrying books and lunch buckets, on their way to Seymour Smith Academy, the local school. They will have a long day before boarding this same train when it returns in the evening. One or two other people may descend, but the traffic is light.

The departing passengers climb aboard immediately. Some are teachers on their way to one-room schoolhouses. They, too, carry books and lunch pails which they may bring home at night filled with berries, fruit or nuts gathered during their lunch hour or while awaiting the train home. Other passengers may be shoppers going to Poughkeepsie for a day of bargain hunting at Luckey Platt's, Wallace's, or some other Poughkeepsie store, with perhaps lunch at Smith Brothers or the Nelson House. Some are business people who have jobs in some small town along the line, or in the Big Town itself.

Meanwhile, Pat Clifford and Bill Owens have been busy at the baggage car door, unloading mail and express and putting aboard the outgoing mail and express. On some mornings there is a case of fresh bread from a Millerton bakery, still giving off its yeasty aroma. The paper boy, who has picked up his already-opened package of the Knickerbocker Press, an Albany morning newspaper, is woefully counting the change which T. H. Snyder, the baggage master, has handed him from sales made to the passengers. He well knows, from the money received, that Snyder has sold more than the extras which have been supplied and that some regular customer will have to go without his morning paper.

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The 7:41 into Pine Plains, ca. 1912. Left to Right: J. Devans (Fireman), T. H. Snyder (Baggage Master), F. Evans (Brakeman), W. J. Cole (Conductor), T. Farrell (Engineer) (V04-09.GIF)

Conductor Cole looks up and down his train. The passengers are all on and the baggage truck has been pushed away to the back of Bill Owens stage. Board!' cries Conductor Cole, and waves his hand to the engineer. The engine bell begins to ring and, with a hiss of steam, the train pulls away.

In a few minutes the section gang will be going out. It has been collecting, one man at a time, the men lounging on the platform or in the station agent's section of the building, waiting for the tracks to clear before starting their handcar and trailer preparatory to their day's work.

Charlie Bounds, with his rolled-up red flag, spike hammer, wrench and can of oil for the switch lamps, is starting his rounds. His job is to walk the track looking for loose spikes, bolts or broken rails and to make sure that the switch lamps are filled with oil and the switches in working order.

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Bill Owens stage, outside "The Pines", Pine Plains. (V04-10.GIF)

At 11:24 A.M. an eastbound train from Poughkeepsie arrives and goes by way of Ancram Lead Mines to Millerton, making connections there with a train to Hartford .At 11:47 A.M. an eastbound train arrives from Beacon and goes on to Millerton by way of Bethel and Shekomeko. Trains return by both of these routes in the afternoon, one by way of Ancram Lead Mines reaching Pine Plains at 2:11 P.M. and going on to Poughkeepsie, and the other by way of Shekomeko arriving at 2:01 P.M., bound for Beacon. From Poughkeepsie and Beacon two evening trains come in; the first at 5:13 P.M. goes on to Millerton by way of Ancram, and the second at 7:35 P.M. heads for Millerton by way of Ancram Lead Mines.

There are freight trains, too, both day and night. Some long freights are double-headers. Their engines send out clouds of smoke, their whistles blow and their bells ring as they run through the village. There is a hollow rumble as the train crosses the trestle over Shekomeko Creek just east of the village, and often a red glow at night when the fireman opens the firebox doors to add fuel. To a growing boy, tucked into bed for the night, there is a serenity, a feeling of not being alone, when he hears a train at night. All is right with his world!


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