I said that you would be amazed at how the Marion River Carry was transformed in the late 1800’s. It began as a mere dirt track used first by Native Americans and then by guides to skirt the Marion River rapids. Then, with the advent of steam power, steamboats brought a more enjoyable and faster trip across Blue Mountain to Raquette Lake and back again. Of course, those steam-borne passengers would miss the homespun tales and romance that guides with their boats could provide.
The Carry stayed much the same for about 20 years until the very late 1890’s. Then the New York Central opened a direct line from Penn Station to Raquette Lake. Passengers would board the train in early evening, travel overnight, and arrive at the Raquette Lake Terminal at about nine in the morning,
The Adirondack Experience (Adirondack Museum to us old folks) has a superb diorama that depicts the impact of this second direct rail line to Raquette. Below is a photo of the Museum’s diorama of a view facing east of the Raquette Lake Rail terminal and the Marion River (upper left).
Previous to the New York Central coming on the scene, the flow of new visitors to Raquette was mainly from east to west, from Blue Mountain Lake to Raquette because of the rail line to North Creek. The NYCRR changed that so that the flow of arriving tourists was now overwhelmingly in the opposite direction. This must have put great stress on the Marion River Carry. Apparently it could not handle the upsurge in passenger volume. Then too, passenger must have included many women who where disdainful of walking three or four miles across the Carry in their best attire. Also there were very posh hotels on Blue Mountain Lake that would attract tourists to Blue Mountain Lake. One of these was the Prospect House, the first hotel ever to boast electric lights in every room. So expectations may have run very high so that tourists were looking for much more than walking a dusty dirt track to get to their accommodations.
Regardless, someone dreamed up a solution to the problem, a very small standard gauge railroad. Never officially named, it became known as the Marion River Carry Railroad. At a little over 4 miles in length it became the shortest standard gauge railroad in the world. Here is the original locomotive with its open-air cars as they appear in the Marion River Carry Pavilion at the Adirondack Museum.
Here is a view of the locomotive on the carry.
Several people have produced maps of the carry. Here is one by S. Berliner III.
The Carry was much more elaborate than I expected. There was a station at each end of the Carry and each had a restaurant. There was also an Inn. I imagine that these luxuries were to entertain travelers as they awaited the next steamboat.
S. Berliner III has done a nice job of documenting the history of the Marion River Carry railroad. He says it was commissioned by William West Durant in the summer of 1899, Durant obtained the passenger cars, which were horse drawn streetcars from Brooklyn for $25 each! This rolling stock operated for nearly 30 years, It was retired in September , 1929 and placed in a shed near the carry. There it remained until its preservation became part of the impetus for the founding of the Adirondack Museum in 1955. There it has amused and educated thousands of Museum visitors for over 60 years.
Next time I tell how I traversed the Marion River Carry in my ultra light canoe on my way from Blue Mountain Lake to Long Lake.