On Track


Eve and I ringing the bell

This weekend my husband and I met our son and his family at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY.  The place is interesting and its grounds are lovely with quite a wonderful view of the much of the lake, but for me, besides the fact that a pair of moleskin britches and a diary belonging to my father are housed in the museum’s archives, the main attraction is the old steam locomotive that once carried the wealthy over the 3960′ between Racquette Lake and Blue Mountain Lake which could not be navigated by boat.

IMG_4640-1-2I was about seven years old when my father parked our station wagon beside Rte. 28 and led us a short distance into the woods on a seldom-used trail.  He didn’t tell us where we were going, probably because he wasn’t sure just what we’d find, but eventually we emerged onto a broad, cindered opening.  There were no rails remaining, but we followed the cindered bed a very short distance past a worn, elevated water tank, and then caught our first glimpse of what we would later always refer to as “The Old-Timer”:  two open-air rail cars and an old steam locomotive.  It was a thrilling discovery!  We spent a very long time climbing all over it, pretending to be engineer, passengers, and crew, and taking imaginary trips.  It was an excursion that came to be part of several future family camping trips.

Years later, I took my own children to visit The Old-Timer, but to our great disappointment, it was gone.  The roof that had covered it was falling in, and the water tank was down and broken.  Empty beer bottles told a much more modern story than the one I knew.

Although I did not know it, The Adirondack Museum was created in 1947 by Harold K. Hochschild as an effort to protect the steam locomotive and two cars that had been abandoned on the Marion River Carry between Utowana and Racquette Lakes.  Although the museum opened in 1957,  The Old-Timer wasn’t moved there until some years later.

My father knew of the train because he had taken the canoe trip through the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Racquette Lake, then through Utowana and the Marion River to Blue Mountain Lake, a ninety-mile route that eventually ends in Saranac Lake.  Although he never rode the train, there was a small conveyance that carried his gear over The Old-Timer’s tracks.

Marion River Carry Bill Toporcer and friends 1931 (2)








My father on the right atop the canoe.

Marion River Railroad 1931 (qf)

The train cars in 1931 (above), and history repeating (below).


What a wonderful 71st birthday gift!