Metro-North Station in Wassaic north to Mechanic Street in Amenia
LENGTH: 2.6 miles
PRESENT STATUS: Paved and open. This is the southern terminus of the rail trail.
NATURAL FEATURES, FLORA & FAUNA: The results of a commissioned wildlife survey and the contents of our 4-color Botanical Brochure will be posted at the website soon!
Wassaic: The Wassaic railroad station was Mile Post 81.33 of the original New York & Harlem Railroad that brought service to Wassaic around 1850. (For more general railroad history, please go to the History page). Wassaic derives its name form “Washaick,” the Indian work for narrow valley. The original railroad station was in the hamlet across from the current post office, not where the current Metro North station is located. As a major customer for the local Gridley Ironworks, the early railroad used iron for railroad construction and equipment as well as transporting pig iron from the ironworks.
Around 1860, Noah Gridley convinced his friend Gail Borden to bring his milk condensery to Wassaic citing good transportation and an agrarian setting perfect for a dairy-related business. Although the area seems very rural now, in the 19th century, it was an industrial center with hills stripped of wood for charcoal and air filled with the smoke of iron production. Gail Borden developed the process of condensing and canning milk and founded The Borden’s Milk Company. In 1861, Mr. Borden established his first large factory for condensed milk in Wassaic. Condensed milk produced here was supplied to the Union Army during the Civil War. It was manufactured under the name “Eagle Brand Condensed Milk” and is still sold today. The Borden plant was a boon to local farmers who converted their farms to dairy production to satisfy the huge demand. The product was shipped nationwide by rail. Coal for the boiler house and tin cans was shipped in to the plant by rail. A portion of the original milk plant has been preserved by its present owner, the Pawling Corporation, which maintains a visitors center in the building.
In the early 1900’s, the train also carried children to and from the Amenia and Millerton High Schools. Almost all consumer and retail goods were shipped in by rail. Before the telephone, the Western Union Telegraph was the sole means of fast communications – the railroad agent sent and received the telegrams. US Mail was picked up and received at the station, and newspapers were delivered from the cities by train.
Conrail freight trains used the track in Wassaic until 1993 to deliver freight cars to Maxon Mills and Tri-Wall Container Corporation in the hamlet of Wassaic. Service ended when both businesses closed their doors. The railroad tracks were not removed as they were in 1979-80 when 45.8 miles of track were removed from just north of Wassaic to Chatham, NY. In 2000, Metro North Railroad built a new Wassaic train station north of the hamlet.
Amenia: Please see Section 2: History.
To the Wassaic trailhead:
From New York City (south): Take Saw Mill Parkway (from Manhattan) or the Hutchinson River Parkway (from Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn) north to interstate 684. Take 684 north to Brewster where 684 becomes Route 22. Continue north on Route 22, and after passing through the town of Dover Plains, continue northward about 5 miles to the traffic light at the train station.
From Poughkeepsie (west): Take Route 44 east to Amenia. At the traffic light, turn right and proceed south on Route 22 about 3 miles to the traffic light at the Wassaic train station.
From Connecticut (east): Take Route 4 to Sharon, CT. At the clock tower in Sharon take Route 343 west heading toward Amenia. At the Amenia traffic light, turn left and proceed south on Route 22 about 3 miles to the traffic light at the Wassaic train station.
From the north: Take Route 22 south to the traffic light in Amenia (the junction of Routes 22, 44 and 343). Continue southward on Route 22 for about 3 miles to the traffic light at the Wassaic train station.
To the Amenia trailhead:
Refer to the Amenia to Coleman Station Section for directions.
Parking at the Wassaic train station is free on weekends and holidays. Parking at the Amenia trailhead is free every day. The trail is open from dawn to dusk. To get on the trail once you’ve parked at the Wassaic train station, cross the tracks where you drove in. The trailhead is on your right. From New York City, you can take Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line to Wassaic. For schedules, maps and info, call 800-Metroinfo, NYC 212-532-4900 orwww.mta.nyc.ny.us.
**Note: Many thanks to local railroad historians Heyward Cohen, Jack Shufelt, and Lou Grogan (The Coming of the New York and Harlem Railroad, Pawling, NY: Louis V. Grogan, 1989) for much of the railroad history that appears above.