A History of its Industries, Railroads and Inventions





Of New York’s

Capital District

Early Railroads of New York's Capital District covers what was perhaps the most exciting time in railroad history from 1826 to about 1900. The first railroad in the Capital Region was among the first in the country, and helped herald in a new age of transportation. After many had been built, capitalists such as Erastus Corning and Commodore Vanderbilt consolidated and expanded the railroads until they were part of a vital national network. The rise of the street railway lines (trolleys) capped the end of the century.

The book features many early photographs from the collection of the late Joseph Smith, provided by his grandson Kenneth Bradford.

Description: paperback perfect-bound, size 8.5 X 11 inches, 85 black & white photographs and maps, 125 pages, indexed, appendix (complete Capital District railroad listing), self-published March 2011, ISBN 978-0-578-08097-0, Library of Congress Control Number 2011903564. First Edition print run - 250 copies (as of December 2011, there are still about 75 First Edition copies available).

A companion book was written at the same time titled "The Golden Age of Railroading in New York's Capital District" that covers the years 1880 to 1950. This book was released in January 2012.


Table of Contents



The Pioneer Railroad


To The Tourist Mecca


Gateway to the West


Connecting to Canada and Boston


Railroad Wars


The New York Central


The Delaware and Hudson


Into the Wilderness


Rise of the Street Railway




Early Railroad Listing






About the Author



Excerpt From the Introduction
Copyright 2010-11 Timothy Starr

New York State was geographically well-suited to become the leading developer of new transportation networks in the early 1800s. It lay between the well-settled New England states and the unsettled west, making it a gateway through which hundreds of thousands of people passed on their way to better lives. Vast forests and mineral reserves convenient to the Hudson River allowed for industry to develop in the Capital District and points south. New York harbor served as an important hub for trade with the outside world and was linked directly to Albany and Troy. The accumulation of wealth in New York enabled several important projects to be funded, most notably the first canals and railroads.

The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad proved to be profitable from the first, and its success created a change in public sentiment concerning railroads. The funding and construction of the Saratoga and Schenectady and the Utica and Schenectady Railroads were carried out in direct consequence of the popularity of the Albany road.

These few railroads were quickly followed by many more as investors wanted to cash in on the new technology. Forty-nine applications were filed with the New York State legislature to build railroads in 1832, of which twenty-nine were granted and six were constructed (Brooklyn and Jamaica; Hudson and Berkshire; Erie; Rensselaer and Saratoga; the Tonawanda; and the Watertown and Rome). Within a decade almost every state in the country had at least one railroad.

The early railroads of the Capital District were among the most important in the country. The New York Central, born from the merging of the first railroads in the state, became the famous “Water Level Route” that was able to transport goods and people in the most economical manner to the west. The Delaware and Hudson, running roughly south to north, became the famous “Bridge Line” to the Adirondacks and Canada in addition to providing much of New York State with anthracite coal used in manufacturing. The Boston and Albany became the primary outlet for the city of Boston, then one of the country’s most important cities. By the end of the century, these systems were firmly established and served as vital transportation systems for the entire nation.



Perhaps the nation's first "union" station was built in Schenectady
for the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad in 1836 (Efner Collection).

New York Central locomotive "William H Vanderbilt" outside
 of the Delavan House in Albany (Joseph A. Smith collection).



Railroad Book Connects Past to Present

The Ballston Journal


A recently published work about some of the country's first railroads, many of which were in nearby in the Capital District, is now available at The Brookside Museum. Timothy Starr wrote “Early Railroads of New York’s Capital District,” published in March, and it features local history, spanning the years 1826 to 1900.

“Early Railroads of New York’s Capital District” features 85 vintage photographs and maps showing scenes throughout the Capital District. Starr said many of the photographs come from the sizeable collection of Joseph Smith through his grandson Kenneth Bradford. Others were provided by Ed Bond and local historian Chris Morley.

"The beginning of the railroad era in New York State took many by surprise," Starr said. "The Erie Canal had just been completed a few short months before application was made for the state’s first railroad. It was considered to be one of the greatest engineering accomplishments in human history, permitting boats to make the trip from New York City to the Great Lakes clear across the length of the state for the first time. Many believed that the state-sponsored marvel would be an unchallenged transportation system for years to come."

Starr said some forward-thinking people recognized the shortcomings of the slow and warm weather-dependent canal system and believed that there was a viable alternative.

In 1826, when only one or two other railroads existed in the entire country, a charter for a privately-funded steam railroad was applied for to be built between the Hudson River at Albany and the Mohawk River at Schenectady. The charter was granted on March 29, and ground was broken four years later. The first run of the sixteen mile Mohawk and Hudson Railroad was made in the summer of 1831, witnessed by thousands of awe-stricken citizens from both cities.

"In an effort to avoid any pretense of competing with the canal, the first extension of the line was constructed north to the tourist destinations of Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs. The Saratoga and Schenectady was opened in 1832 and enjoyed a thriving passenger trade during the summer months, sometimes carrying hundreds of people in the primitive coach cars," he said.

Eventually, railroads were a part of life for those living in Upstate New York, and according to information from Jon Patton, a railroad enthusiast who collects first-hand memorabilia relating to 1800s railroads, an 1848 railroad from Sackett's Harbor to Saratoga was a key economic generator.

Starr discusses the history of competing economic interests, Troy, Albany, Saratoga, and Schenectady and how they all became connected via railroad. Eventually, other states were accessible too.



999 (locomotive), 81, 84
Adirondack Railway, 98-100

Air-brake, 43-45

Albany and Hudson Railway and Power Company, 109-110 
Albany and Hudson Railroad, 109
Albany Northern Railroad, 50-52, 54
Albany Railway, 108
Albany and Schenectady Railroad, 23
Albany and Schenectady Turnpike Company, 11, 14
Albany Southern Railroad, 109
Albany and Susquehanna Railroad, 63-65
Albany Union Station, 85
Albany, Vermont and Canada Railroad, 54
Albany and West Stockbridge Railroad, 54

American Locomotive Company, 42
Ballston Terminal Railroad, 111

Boston and Albany Railroad, 54

Boston, Hoosac Tunnel and Western Railway, 56-57

Boston and Maine Railroad, 57

Brown, William, 18
Cambreling, Churchill, 12, 17
Cattle mart, 74-75

Corning, Erastus, 37, 67-71, 74-76

Davy Crockett
(locomotive), 25
Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, 87-95
Delaware and Hudson Company, 95

DeWitt Clinton
(locomotive), 15, 17, 20
Dickson, Thomas, 87-89
Durant, Thomas, 98-100

State Express
, 84
(locomotive), 16
Fargo, William, 78

Fast Mail Express
(New York Central), 80-81
Featherstonhaugh, George, 9-12

(locomotive), 25
Fisk, James, 63-65

Fitchburg Railroad, 57

Free pass, 20
Gilbert and Eaton, 32-33
Goold, James, 20
Gould, Jay, 63-65
Grant, Ulysses, 101-103

Green Island shops, 90-91

Hoosac Tunnel, 54-56

Hudson River (bridges), 31-32, 47, 76-77
Hudson River Railroad, 59-61
Hudson River Water Power Company, 116
Hudson Valley Railway, 111
Inclined planes (Mohawk and Hudson), 15, 23
Jervis, John, 13, 16-17, 25-27, 30, 60-61
Jervis-type locomotives, 16-17, 23, 26
J.M. Jones’ Sons, 113, 114-116

John Bull
(locomotive), 18
Lake Ontario and Hudson River Railroad, 98
Lansingburgh and Cohoes Railroad, 106
(locomotive), 42
Lumber District (Albany), 108
McQueen, Walter, 23
Mohawk and Hudson Railroad Company, 9-23

Mohawk Valley Railroad, 45

Mount McGregor Railroad, 103

New York and Albany Railroad, 59
New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, 79
New York Central Railroad, 67-85, 94
New York and Harlem, 63
New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railway, 83
North Troy and Iron Works Line, 107

Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad, 31-35, 89

Richmond, Dean, 76-78
Rutland and Washington Railroad, 49-50
Sackets Harbor and Saratoga, 97
Saratoga Electric Railway, 110

Saratoga Limited
, 95
Saratoga, Mount McGregor and Lake George Railroad, 101-103
Saratoga Northern Railroad, 103
Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad, 25-31

Saratoga Traction Company, 111

Saratoga and Washington Railroad, 49
Schenectady and Duanesburg Railroad, 90
Schenectady Locomotive Works, 42
Schenectady Railway, 111-112
Schenectady (stations), 39-41
Schenectady Street
Railway, 111
Schenectady and Susquehanna Railroad, 90
Schenectady and Troy Railroad, 43-45

Steamboats, 61
Stevens, John, 9

Stillwater and Mechanicville Street Railway, 110

Strike (1877), 81-82
Subway (Schenectady), 29-30
Trolley, 105

Troy and Boston Railroad, 50
Troy City Railway, 112
Troy and Cohoes Railroad, 106
Troy and Greenbush Railroad, 60
Troy and Greenfield Railroad, 56
Troy and Lansingburgh Railroad, 106
Troy and New England Railway, 107
Troy and Rutland Railroad, 50, 52
Troy, Salem and Rutland Railroad, 56

Troy Union Railroad, 34-35, 46-47

Twentieth Century Limited
, 84
United Traction Company, 112-114
Union Electric Railway, 110-111

Utica and Schenectady Railroad, 37-39

Vanderbilt, Cornelius, 61-63, 78-82
Vanderbilt, William, 82
Van Rensselaer, Stephen, 9-13
Vibbard, Chauncey, 71-72

Waterford and Cohoes Railroad, 106

Water-Level Route, 82
Watervliet Turnpike and Railroad Company, 108

West Albany shops, 74

Westinghouse, George, 43-45

West Point Foundry, 16
West Shore Railroad, 84