Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The 'Peg Leg' Railroad

           By Richard F. Palmer (Copyrighted)

    "The true lover of the Adirondack sport knows no other entrance to the gateway to the North Woods than by way of Boonville. From thence to the Forge House and the far-famed Fulton Chain of Lakes. The idea that there is any other entrance or gateway to the woods of importance to the true sportsman is an utter absurdity."  Boonville Herald, May 11, 1882.

   For generations the southern gateway into the Fulton Chain of Lakes region of the Adirondacks was over the rough and tumble Brown's Tract Road from Boonville to old Forge. The first 12 miles to Moose River was fairly smooth. But the rest of the journey aboard Frank Barrett's "Lightning Express" buckboard was an eleven-and-a-half-mile bone-jolting ride not soon to be forgotten. (1)
    Public transportation between the Fulton Chain of Lakes had long consisted of several buckboard lines that carried passengers, freight and mail on a scheduled basis. In 1882 an old timecard shows the so-called "Old Line" buckboard leaving the Utica & Black River Railroad station at 8 a.m.,  and arriving at the Forge House  at 4 p.m. In the other direction, the buckboard was to leave the Forge House at 9 a.m. and arrive at Boonville at 5 p.m. The distance was 26 miles. (2)

    By the 1880s the Adirondack  region was rapidly becoming a sportsman's and vacationer's paradise, and hotels and camps were springing up to cater to this burgeoning business. As people in ever-increasing numbers began to "discover" this unspoiled region, it became evident that a better mode of transportation was warranted.  Travelers were becoming less tolerant of these primitive  horse-drawn conveyances  since the inception of railroads.  Some efforts appear to have been made to improve the Brown's Tract Road over the years, but to not much satisfaction.

The Lowville Journal & Republican reported on Nov. 11,1886:

   Some improvements are to be made on the Brown's Tract road next week, a route that is noted for its exceeding roughness. The work will be under the supervision of Mr. F.A. Barrett, who will see that the funds for the purpose are honestly and judiciously expended. The work will  consist in rebuilding the corduroy bridges, removing some of the boulders that are in the road and corduroying the mudholes. The work is greatly needed, and tourists will appreciate it.