THE GOLDEN AGE
Excerpt From the
By 1880, both the New York Central and the Delaware and Hudson systems were well established and constituted the two primary carriers within the Capital District. All of the first primitive rails had been replaced with modern “T” rails, the small 4-4-0 American style locomotives had been replaced with powerful 4-6-2 Mogul style locomotives, safety devices such as automatic couplers and air brakes had been installed, and interstate timetables had been synchronized.
The Golden Age of railroading represents the peak of operations in terms of both passenger and freight service. The length of track mileage reached 254,000 miles in 1916, reaching nearly every city, town, and village in the country. Special trains like the “Twentieth Century Limited” and the “Empire State Express” whisked passengers across the state in luxury and comfort at speeds previously unheard of for regular service. Freight from the industrialized cities of Albany, Troy, Watervliet, Schenectady, and Cohoes was hauled to all parts of the country, while coal and other raw materials were fed to the factories cheaply and reliably. During the Barge Canal hearings of 1922, the following statement was made to illustrate the importance of the region at that time:
The Capital District is unusually well provided with shipping facilities, being a railway and canal center. Here meet the important lines from west, east, north and south. The Boston and Albany, the Boston and Maine, and the Delaware and Hudson railroads reach into New England and Canada; the New York Central four-track road and the West Shore double-track line connect with the Great Lakes and the Middle West, also with New York City; the Delaware and Hudson extends into the coal fields of Pennsylvania. The district has more freight and passenger trains daily than Buffalo, showing its importance as a railroad center. Here meet the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal and the southern terminus of the Champlain Canal. No other point on the Atlantic slope is so favorably situated as a distributing center for commerce destined for the Great Lakes and the north central states by either rail or water.