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!

7 thoughts on “On Track

    1. I’m so happy that you took the time to read it, Dorothy. My father had a great deal to do with my love for nature and for the Adirondacks, and it was fun to revisit my childhood with family and friends.

  1. Loved the story Judy. I spent a few (but far too few) summers in the Adirondacks too and savor the memories. Did you ever visit the hunting lodge (well, estate) called Uncas? It was only open to the public for a few years.

    1. Wow, Dale, the work “Uncas” brings back a memory of “the Uncas road” – but I can’t remember just what it was. Did the estate have any other name, or can you describe exactly where it was or what it was near?

    2. I have a memory of the Uncas road – although I can’t remember for sure if it’s what I think it is. It was the “back way” from Eagle Bay to Racquette Lake Village, going past both Brown’s Tract ponds. I think there was once a scout camp or something on Upper Brown’s Tract Pond, before it became a public campsite. The road followed the abandoned railroad bed, and there were, at first, squatter’s camps here and there. Eventually eminent domain turned them into much fancier camps, and the road was “improved” (I would say ruined) to the extent that large campers and vehicles towing huge trailers could drive it easily. My father took us there once before the campsite was established. I think he had memories of camping there back in the 1930s. We spent many of his 2-week summer vacation trips there, and back in 1998 we scattered my parents’ ashes from the island in Upper Brown’s Tract Pond where we had enjoyed many wonderful picnics.

    1. I was so lucky to have the parents I was born to. They were each quite interesting people from very different backgrounds: one the poet, dreamer, forever young; the other with her feet well-planted in the moment and so many talents unusual for a woman of her generation. Both were artistic, and both loved me beyond what the luckiest of children might hope for.

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