Marvin H. Cohen Library

The Marvin H. Cohen Library of American Railroad History contains over 500 books covering American railroads, with an emphasis on those in the northeastern United States and New York’s Hudson Valley. Books are also included covering railroads in other regions of the United States—the majority of which had connections to Gilded-Age businessmen that lived in or near the Hudson Valley. Among the collection’s noteworthy features include a first edition copy of Edward Harold Mott’s Between the Ocean and The Lakes: The Story of The Erie, several editions of New York State railroad reports ranging from the late 1860s to the turn of the twentieth century, a complete assortment of the New York, Ontario & Western Railway’s first twenty-six annual reports, and a turn-of-the-century ledger of engineers and firemen from the New York, Ontario & Western Railway.

Marvin H. Cohen American Railroad Library
The Marvin H. Cohen American Railroad Library contains literature covering railroads of the United States, with an emphasis on the northeast and New York’s Hudson Valley.

Marvin H. Cohen

Marvin H. Cohen (1927-2020), who was once the guardian for many of these books, was a life-long resident of Middletown, NY. Marv was surrounded by the city’s bustling railroad traffic from a young age and, when the Middletown & New Jersey Railway, in conjunction with the Empire State Museum, ran excursion trips from Middletown to Unionville with the No. 103 steam locomotive in the 1960s, Marv served as a conductor wearing an authentic New York, Ontario & Western Railway conductor’s uniform. During this time, Marv created the directory for tourist railroads in North America; known popularly as the Steam Passenger Directory, it is still published today by Kalmbach. Many of the directory’s earliest volumes are preserved in this library. Marv’s career as an author and printer would continue, with several histories of both the city of Middletown and the Monhagen Fire Department credited to his name as well as the co-founding of Quadrant Press—a publisher of regional railroad history. Marv additionally served as president and curator of the Historical Society of Middletown & Wallkill Precinct for seventeen years, president of Middletown’s Monhagen Hose Company No. 1, and co-founder of the Orange County Fire Museum.

The library welcomes those seeking to research the intricate history of local railroads. Many of the books are on display in the library room while others are stored in the humidity-controlled archive room.

Marvin H. Cohen (left) with Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman (right) during the operation of excursion trips on the Middletown & New Jersey Railway in 1964 (from Middletown: Revisited).
Myself with Marv and a display of New York, Ontario & Western Railway memorabilia during the Ontario & Western Railway Historical Society’s 2015 Middletown Railroad Day venue.
Marv’s grand library as it appeared before his passing in 2020.
After being transported from Middletown, Marv’s American railroad library was organized and stored briefly before being put on display.
A look at the construction of shelving in the new library, this wall would be for the railroad selections.
Books from Tri-State area railroads (NJ, NY, PA) in the Marvin H. Cohen library.

The centerpiece of the library is this ticket cabinet, once used in the Middletown & Unionville Railroad’s East Man Street station in Middletown, NY. Until recently, the structure was claimed to have been the oldest continuously-used railroad building in the country.
Various items from the Edward J. Crist collection of Orange County Railroad History are displayed with the library. Some of the items shown here include an American Federation of Laborers Seal for the New York, Ontario & Western Railway, a mining accidents booklet produced by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railway Company, and an early profile map for the Middletown, Unionville & Water Gap Railroad—the predecessor of the previously-discussed M&U.
Stamps from railroads related to Orange County, on display in the Marvin H. Cohen Library.

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