I moved to Beacon, NY after living in NYC for 11 years on the last day of August, 2009. My apartment was on the far end of Main Street and had a view of Mt. Beacon and Fishkill Creek as it ran around the edge of town. There were also a set of train tracks running along the creek that seemed neglected. After some research I discovered that the rail line had been purchased by the MTA in 1995 after the Maybrook line had been largely unused since the mid 70’s. Like much of the Hudson Valley’s industrial architecture it wasn’t needed and the land it sat on wasn’t valuable enough to tear it down.
While I had done site studies in NYC on Union Square and Coney Island the Maybrook line offered something very different. It was entirely empty of people or purpose. The rail line existed primarily as a legal framework for keeping Right Of Way rather than for the carrying of freight or passengers. After living in a city where every location had purpose and the constant presence of people having the opportunity to be entirely alone with your subject was engaging.
At the time I didn’t own a car or possess a driver’s license so I was limited to a few miles of track between its terminus at Dutchess Junction and Fishkill, NY that I could walk or bike to. This gave me the opportunity to revisit the same stretches of track again and again with different cameras and during different seasons. The rail line never changes. It points in two directions. Its a line through the environment. No noise. No motion. Nothing happens.
The project ended on the last day of March, 2011 when I left Beacon, NY to move to Seattle, WA.
Before I left the city of Beacon had demolished several former factories along the Maybrook line to make way for new developments. While the land was finally worth enough to clean up the remains of the Hudson Valley’s industrial past its unlikely that the line will see a similar renewal. The crossings and signals are too decayed to support train traffic and the MTA is unlikely to give up its right of way to convert the line to a rail trail. I may visit the Hudson Valley at some point in the future but I expect to find the Maybrook line entirely unchanged.