In the Dutchess County Spotlight
Hopewell Depot Restoration Visitors' Center
Recently the Hopewell Depot Restoration held a grand opening of their newly refurbished visitor center, located along the Hopewell Junction section of the Dutchess Rail Trail. Phase III of the Dutchess Rail Trail Park was recently opened, with 6.5 new miles trail through the LaGrange and Wappinger, linking to East Fishkill! www.dutchesscountytrails.com
A team of volunteers began restoring the Depot in 1996. Now it serves as a Visitors Center, and will also house museum exhibits in the future. www.HopewellDepot.org
Hopewell Depot is the last remaining railroad structure in the area and is the symbol of the transformation from rural farming to today's suburban life style. The mission of the Hopewell Depot Restoration Corporation is to preserve that heritage and provide a museum and educational facility. It's located at 36 Railroad Avenue in Hopewell Junction; contact them at 845-221-9330.
Two Dutchess County Executives, our present CE, Marc Molinaro, and past, William Steinhaus, helped cut the gold ribbon. Group president Bernie Rudberg, dressed up in a conductor's uniform, punched tickets for the crowd. A lovely bronze plaque was presented from Dutchess County to be attached to the building for future generations to see. There was a mini car show in the parking lot.
In the mid-1800s, few residents ever went farther than 20 miles from home. Transportation meant walking, horseback riding, or for those with money, riding in a wagon or stagecoach. Around 1850 the railroads transformed the area economy from farming to a commuter life style. You could board a train in Hopewell Junction and in a few hours be in New York City, Albany, Hartford or even San Francisco. A boon to the local economy, farm products could be sold in major cities instead of just locally.
The railroads brought city life to the country, with daily newspapers and magazines. Hotels and guest houses sprung up overnight. City folk could weekend in the country and be back to work on Monday. A farmer could go into the city for a show and get home for chores in hours. A new name came from the joining of three railroads: Hopewell Junction.
The original Hopewell hamlet is on Beekman Road, but is just a church at a crossroads. When the railroad came along, business gravitated to the depot, and Hopewell Junction became the business center of East Fishkill. News and weather reports were posted there for all to read. Western Union telegrams became a common means of communications. In many towns, the first telephone was at the depot. Town meetings were scheduled there, so the railroad station became the town center. Now, the Hopewell Depot has new life as a Visitors Center for the Rail Trail! The trail is a wonderful opportunity to connect with family, friends and neighbors. Grab your sneakers, your bike or your rollerbladers and get out and discover the Dutchess Rail Trail, and also the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in Millerton & Amenia.
- 1868 Construction of the Dutchess and Columbia (D&C) begins out of Fishkill Landing (later part of Beacon). The railroad was reorganized five times in as many years.
- 1869 Passenger service begins under the Boston, Hartford and Erie.
- 1871 Track construction progresses northward to Millerton.
- 1873 The Depot at Hopewell Junction is built at the intersection of Bridge Street and Railroad Avenue (across from the Hopewell Inn).
- 1877 The Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut (ND&C) is formed and begins its reign of 25 years.
- 1881, December, the New York and New England (NY&NE) turns Hopewell into a "Junction" by initiating service to Connecticut. The first run is a load of turkeys bound for Providence, Rhode Island. The Route over Stormville Mountain required pusher service based out of Hopewell Junction. A roundhouse, maintenance facilities and an extensive yard were constructed.
- 1888, December The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge opens
- 1892 The Dutchess County Railroad (later known as the Maybrook line and currently the Dutchess County Rail Trail) begins service connecting Hopewell and Poughkeepsie. The Signal tower is constructed for the grade crossing at the current Depot location.
- 1904 The Central New England Railway took over operation of the ND&C, the route to Poughkeepsie and the NY&NE to Connecticut.
- 1905 The Depot is moved to the crossing to serve both the ND&C and the Maybrook routes.
- 1910 The Depot is moved again when the Maybrook line is double tracked to handle more freight. Curves were streamlined for higher speeds.
- 1933 Passenger service in Hopewell Junction ends.
- 1938 ND&C track was torn up. The signal tower and freight house were removed.
- 1951 The last steam engine was retired.
- 1963 A freight train derailment nearly wipes out the depot.
- 1969 The New Haven Railroad goes bankrupt. It would merge with New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad to become Penn Central, then Conrail.
- 1974 Through traffic on the Maybrook line ended when the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge (now the Walkway Over the Hudson State Park) burns.
- 1982 Last local run on the Maybrook line. The Depot is abandoned.
- 1983 Maybrook track was removed.
- 1986 Arsonist sets fire to The Depot.
- 1996 Hopewell Depot Restoration Corp was incorporated. Cleanup work and tarping the roof was begun.
- 2005 The Depot floor beams and window bays are rebuilt.
- 2010 The rail trail at the Depot is opened. Major restoration begins.
- 2012 Visitor Center and Hopewell Depot Railroad Museum open.