By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — Although the Cooperstown Blues Express will be making the final run of its 2013 season this Saturday, the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad is just getting started.
The Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad is owned and operated by the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society.
“We run this operation almost exclusively on volunteers,” said Bruce Hodges, president of the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society, who added that the society also had a few part-time employees.
Hodges said that the railroad was initially built as an independent railroad in 1869. Purchased by the Delaware and Hudson Railroad in 1903, it became a part of the Delaware Otsego System in 1971.
The line stood derelict for 10-15 years before the 16 miles of track was purchased by the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society in 1997. The society refurbished the eight miles of track from Milford to Cooperstown and began running passenger trains on it in 1999.
The society operates on donations, dues from its members, tickets from those who ride the trains, and grants from the state.
Aside from the Cooperstown Blues Express Trains, all trains on the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad are run by the historical society.
This weekend is the start of three weekends of Fall Foliage Trains on the railroad, which leave from the Milford Train Depot on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.
Oct. 5 the society will run it’s Oktoberfest Train, which leaves at 6 p.m. and stops at O’Neil Station at the Cooperstown Dreams Park baseball camp, where a German band will play and German food will be served.
Oct. 12 will be this year’s final Train Robbery Train.
Oct. 19 there will be a Pumpkin Patch train leaving from Milford at 1 p.m. The train will stop at a pumpkin field, and each child on board will be able to pick one pumpkin.
“Everybody just had a blast, it was great,” said Hodges, describing the event last year.
Oct. 25, 26, and 27 there will be Haunted Halloween Trains that will take riders up to a haunted maze at the baseball camp.
Friday of Thanksgiving weekend is the beginning of four weekends of Santa Claus and Christmas Lights Trains.
“Our volunteers spend hours and hours and hours getting everything all decorated up,” said Hodges, speaking of the Christmas Lights Trains.
He also said that the Santa Claus Trains were the railroad’s most popular.
“Can’t beat Santa for bringing folks to the trains.”
Tickets on the trains range from $12-$16 for children and $14-$18 for adults.
When asked about what those interested in helping out the railroad can do, Hodges emphasized the importance of volunteers.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” said Hodges. “There’s tons of stuff for people to do.”
In addition to repairing the tracks, decorating the trains and doing mechanical work, volunteers also drive the trains on the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad.
“We train our own folks,” said Hodges, who also said that there was a guest engineer program for those who’ve always dreamed of driving a locomotive.
Those interested in learning more about the railroad and the historical society can visit www.lrhs.com.