August 21 Program: The Hudson & Berkshire Rail Road; Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of the Canaan Historical Society will be held on Saturday, August 21, beginning at 2 pm. Elections will be held to fill a number of open positions on the board.

Following the business meeting there will be a presentation on the Hudson & Berkshire Rail Road, the first railroad east of the Hudson River in New York State.

Presenters will be Ed Englehardt, Amtrak engineer #3; W. George Cook, retired engineering manager of Conrail; and Dale Flansburg, retired IBM manager and “railroad collector extraordinaire.” The presenters offer the following preview of their program:

“This will be a review of the earliest experiment of rail road track construction with the flat bar rail. We will display several pieces of this lightest rail that carried revenue passenger and freight trains in New York, being only 10 pounds per yard. This rail was later given the slang name of Strap Rail, and we’ll discuss the fable of ‘snake head’ which was likely a newspaper invention. We can also show the second generation rail which replaced the wood rail with the flat bar spiked to it. Discussion will review our on-going research into the nature of this construction of this track and rail and why it failed in 11 years.

“Maps will be shown of the exact location of this line from Hudson to West Stockbridge through Pleasant Valley, half being removed in 1865, only 29 years after beginning service. The other half from Chatham to Hudson existed to the mid 1950s with part of the line still operating to ADM in Upper Hudson, NY. We will touch on its construction dates and nature of operation. A few years after it was completed, a second railroad [was] built directly next to it which took much of its traffic account better rail and end points. The H&B was used to construct this competitor eastward to Pittsfield, and then it used that new line to access Pittsfield with its own trains. The history will continue showing how and why it failed and was taken over by this competitor which became the major national system of the Boston & Albany, and now CSX.”

Light refreshments will be served following the program. Admission is free.

The Canaan Historical Society’s Meeting House museum is open Saturdays from 1 to 4 pm during July and August. It is located at 13 Warner Crossing Road, just east of County Route 5, in Canaan, New York. To request additional information, please leave a message at (518) 781-4605 or e-mail


The Society’s summer season concludes on August 28 with an outdoor multi-vendor tag sale and bake sale at the Meeting House. Local artists and artisans will show jewelry, paintings, photographs, and hypertufa planters. Among items offered by our tag sale vendors will be Star Trek TNG figures, rubber-stamp-making supplies, life-size cardboard talking Smeagol and Gollum from Lord of the Rings, women’s plus-size clothing, handmade antique country benches, a vintage toy farm set, and much more.

Mike Slattery will preside at the grill, selling burgers (meat and veggie) and hot dogs. Chilled gazpacho and beverages also will be available.

At 3 pm the drawing will be held for the painting of our Meeting House done for us by Canaan artist Robert Fair. (See June 30 post “You Can Win ‘The Meeting House'” in the links under the News category at right, above.)

As of Monday, August 9 all available artist and vendor spaces have been reserved. To be placed on the waiting list for space, please contact Sue Connolly at (518) 781-3148.

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