PALMYRA TWP. (Wayne) - It's not just an old ditch. It's far, far more, and though its appearance these days ranges from obliterated (much of it) to easily visible (a few places), there's a group of historians from Carbondale to the Hudson River who are determined to see it appreciated by the modern era.
    The story of the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal involves 70 years of operation starting in 1828; its legacy far exceeds that. Called the first million dollar private enterprise in the United States, the 108 mile canal and its 16 mile gravity railroad moved anthracite coal to market in the most efficient way in its time, only gradually eclipsed by the developing era of steam railroads.
     The D&H raised towns including Carbondale, Waymart, Honesdale, Hawley, Lackawaxen in PA; Barryville, Port Jervis, Cuddebackville, Wurtsboro, Summitville, Ellenville, High Falls, NY, and others, as it stretched to the Hudson, near Kingston, NY.  The canal helped lead to the enormous growth of New York City; besides coal, quarried bluestone for urban walkways and monumental buildings came by D&H canal boats. It brought the first use of a commercial stream locomotive to this continent.  Its images of horse-drawn boats and locks remain symbols for the entire corridor, of a vibrant industrial history, enterprise and determination that echo to this day.

••• Societies working together

    To expand ts appreciation and preservation, historical societies along the route banded together several years ago to form the D&H Transportation Heritage Council. Meeting quarterly at varying host sites, for the first time they convened at the D&H Canal Park at Lock 31, Wayne County's sole project to restore, protect and interpret the canal in its domain.
     Wayne County Historical Society opened the park officially in August of 2013 with a festival.
     Sally Talaga, retired Wayne County Historical Society Director and active volunteer, gave a tour of the grounds and explained their vision.
   The second annual  Canal Festival is set for Saturday, August 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. About 20 years in the planning, the park grounds are open daily for walks (there is a full mile of restored canal towpath), and the circa 1820 building exterior is largely complete.  Pending funds, the interior is to be restored as a living history museum. More plans are foreseen on the grounds, including a canal boat replica to double as a pavillion, and also a barn.
   The Society is presently looking post-1850 D&H canal boat plans on which to base the pavilion. An application has been made to the PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. If the grant is awarded, the Society expects to start building the pavillion in the summer of 2015.
     The Council assembled inside to talk business.
        D&H Canal Park at Lock 31 is only one of several museums or heritage parks along the way of the gravity railroad and canal dedicated to telling the D&H story. The combined efforts of the Council aim to better market the corridor as a whole, making it a desirable destination for heritahe-minded visitors as well as residents. Together, they hope to better be able to expand efforts at preserving sections of the canal and towpath or gravity rail bed, as well as display its artifacts and enlighten a new generation to what came before them.
   The Council is planning its third version of a combined brochure, which should be available in August. Also in August, they expect to launch a Facebook page. They are already online with a website.
   Video documentaries are being planned, with different sections done one at a time. The plan is to post these on YouTube. There was considerable discussion of finding a videographer, at the right price. The Council may decide to do its own filming but will need an editor.
   Cliff Robinson Jr., D&H Canal & Gravity Railroad Conservancy, is president of the Council. Members present gave updates on their individual museums or canal park projects.

••• Along the D&H:

Here is a list of D&H Transportation Heritage Council member (or affiliate member) organizations along or near the route of the D&H, and where you can find information on their museum or canal park:

• Carbondale Historical Society, Carbondale, PA. 570-282-0385.
• Waymart Area Historical Society, Waymart, PA. 570-488-6750.
• Wayne County Historical Society, 810 Main St., Honesdale, PA. 570-253-3240.
• National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreaional River (including the Roebling Bridge/former D&H aqueduct at Lackawaxen, a toll house D&H museum on the NY side and a section of towpath to walk). 570-685-4871,
• Town of Deerpark Schoolhouse Museum, Huguenot, NY 845-856-2702,
• Minisink Valley Area Museum, Port Jervis, NY. 845-856-2375,
• Neversink Valley Area Museum, Cuddebackville, NY. 845-754-8870,
• D&H Canal Linear Park, adjacent to Route 209 between Wurtsboro and Phillipsport, NY. Sullivan County Park & Recreation Commission. 845-794-3000 x3072,
• D&H Canal & Gravity Railroad Conservancy, Hugeunot, NY
• D&H Canal Historical Society & Museum, High Falls, NY 845-687-9311; A new exhibit, "Plight of the Common Worker (on the D&H)," opened in July.
Also contact:
• D&H Transportation Heritage Council,

In addition,  Ellenville Public Library & Museum is located at 40 Center St., Ellenville, NY, on the D&H Canal route.  845-647-5530