Pomeroy Family Railroad at Copake Iron Works historic site nears completion
A $100,000 grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation will help the Friends of Taconic State Park finish the development of a 1,000-foot loop railroad at the Copake Iron Works historic site. Once complete, visitors to the park in New York’s Hudson Valley will be able to ride in one of two train cars around the Columbia County site.
WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with Deryn Pomeroy of the Pomeroy Foundation about the grant and her family’s connection to Copake Iron Works.
Pomeroy: We were contacted back in December of 2021 by Edgar Masters and Jim Mackin from the Friends of Taconic State Park. And, you know, they had already raised a significant amount of money for this project. At that time, I think it was around $174,000, which really demonstrated a commitment by supporters in the community. And, you know, dad forwarded that on to me and told me to dig into this, and what does this look like? So, you know, I began corresponding with Edgar Masters and Deborah Cohen, the FTSP treasurer. And Deb provided an update at that time that I reached out, which was in March of 2022, that she had raised $290,000 towards their projects, and they had a budget of around, I think, was $366,000 overall for the project. And so we saw that they were just so close to reaching this goal. I mean, that was a tremendous fundraising effort that they made in a relatively short amount of time, which again, just really impressed the Pomeroy Foundation trustees. So, you know, we made a decision that we wanted to make an impact there. There are Pomeroy family ties that go back a little ways a little deep for Copake Iron Works, and so it just was a very easy decision for us to make to support the railroad. And it's really just short track railroad, it's going to be next to the Copake Iron display. We got to take a little ride on it. It's not open to the public yet, but they did give us a little preview ride when we were visiting in July and it was a lot of fun.
Levulis: And you mentioned that family connection there, connection between the Pomeroy family, your family and the Copake Iron Works. Can you detail that a little bit more?
Pomeroy: Lemuel Pomeroy was a gun manufacturer in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and he's related to my dad, Bill. He's his second cousin, five times removed. And I did ask to have that verified, because I wasn't able to do that by myself. But, you know, that's the connection with Lemuel and he moved to the area and established the Copake Iron Works around 1845 because that area really had rich resources to produce high quality iron. And so, you know, he built a church, he brought in laborers, and really there was this community that, you know, grew up around that area, and it was served by the New York and Harlem Railroad. So that certainly helped that development. But unfortunately Lemuel Pomeroy Sr., he passed away not long after creating Copake Iron Works, in 1849. And then his son, Captain Lemuel Pomeroy Jr. took the reins, but unfortunately, he passed away not too long afterwards in 1853. So after that, it fell out of Pomeroy hands to some various partners. I believe it went right to Frederick Church after Lemuel Pomeroy Jr. passed. But, that's a little about the relationship. And you know, my father is very passionate about genealogy. And so having this extra piece to this grant, you know, it was really exciting for him.
Levulis: And now your family will be honored as some of the railroad components I understand will be named for your ancestors. Is that right?
Pomeroy: That is correct. We we are still finalizing some of that, but I can share that the overall name of the railroad will be the Pomeroy Family Railroad at Copake Iron Works. But yeah, we have the opportunity to name the engine and passenger cars and we're digging into Pomeroy family lore to come up with some ideas for what they might be.
Levulis: And it's anticipated that the railroad will open for tours for the public this spring. Is that right?
Pomeroy: That's the latest that I heard. When we were there, they had really done a great job in pulling the construction together. I believe that they were just waiting on some permits from New York State and once that's in and everything is looked at and approved so there'll be ready in that target data spring of 2023.
By way of disclosure, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation supports WAMC’s podcast, A New York Minute in History.