There are two sets of railroad tracks snaking their way through Brewster and the surrounding area. One is Metro North’s Harlem Line, which hosts dozens of commuter trains everyday. The other lies dormant, which seems like a bit of a waste.
That second route is the Beacon Line, originally known as the Maybrook Line of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. As a freight route, it brought in Pennsylvania coal to power New England factories and shipped out the resulting manufactured goods.
Consolidation in the railroad industry saw traffic routed off the Maybrook in the 1960s and ‘70s. The final blow came in 1974, when the line’s connection to the outside world, the Poughkeepsie Bridge, (now Walkway Over the Hudson State Park) caught fire. The original line between Hopewell Junction and Poughkeepsie was torn up; tracks now reach the Hudson exclusively via a branch to Beacon (and a connection with Metro North’s Hudson Line).
Metro North bought the line west of the New York-Connecticut border in 1995, but the commuter railroad has not done much with it. The Maybrook/Beacon Line connects all three of Metro North’s active lines, so it is sometimes used to shuttle trains between them and for training employees.
To be fair, the Maybrook would not be a very good commuter route. It runs east-west; New York City is, of course, south. It also has a lot of curves and grade crossings, which dictate slower speeds. Instead, a little lateral thinking might be in order.
The Maybrook does not connect Putnam County with New York, but it does connect it with Poughkeepsie and Danbury, CT. Anyone who has driven on Route 55 or I-84 knows that there is a significant amount of east-west traffic, potentially enough to warrant passenger rail.
Any restoration would be expensive: track would have to be rehabilitated and Metro North would probably have to buy more equipment. But such a project could create jobs, and possibly help people find jobs by giving them more access to a bigger market (not everyone can afford a car).
Letting the line go fallow seems like a waste of a valuable resource. The tracks are still in place, and they are owned by a railroad, not a developer. The next logical step is to run some trains.