The GreatRails North American Railroad Photo Archive
Photo of Otis Elevating Railway at Palenville, NY
Otis Elevating Railway at Palenville, NY

What appears to be a ski trail running up the side of the mountain is actually the right-of-way for the Otis Elevating Railway. The Otis was a cable-driven inclined railway that was approximately 8,000 feet long and ascended 1,600 feet on a 20% grade from the base station at Palenville, NY to the top of the “Wall of Manitou” at the legendary Catskill Mountain House. It was designed to compete with the NYC and the Ulster and Delaware for tourist traffic to the Catskills. Passengers would disembark steam boats at Catskill, NY (on the Hudson River) and then board the narrow gauge Catskill Mountain RR (not to be confused with the present-day tourist line operating out of Phoenicia, NY) for the ride to the base station at Palenville. From there, passengers were treated to a spectacular ride to the summit. The Otis opened in 1892 and only operated until 1918 – a victim of WWI and changing times for the Catskills in general. By this period, vacationers were increasingly discovering the wonders of “the west” (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc.) and the Catskills were rapidly declining as a summer destination. Sharp-eyed observers can spot the Otis from the New York State Thruway by looking to the west at EXACTLY Milepost 108 (between the exits for Saugerties and Kingston) where the Thruway crests a short hill.

Photographed by Rich Kugel, May 25, 2008.
Added to the photo archive by Rich Kugel, May 30, 2008.
Railroad: Otis Elevating Railway.

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