A History of its Industries, Railroads and Inventions








“The Golden Age of Railroads in New York’s Capital District” describes the exciting history of rail transportation in the Capital Region of New York State during the height of operations from the late 1800s to mid-1900s. Although the book was designed as an easy-to-read overview of railroading in Upstate New York, it contains many details that will be of interest to beginners and rail historians alike. Important but sometimes little-known facets of the rail systems include detailed descriptions of the local yards and shops of three interstate systems, the towns and industries served, and the effect that the electric street railways had on the steam railroads and life in general.

The text is aided by more than 100 vintage photographs and maps. Several appendices help readers comprehend just how massive the railroad industry was in the Capital District, such as a list of some 120 individual local railroad companies, junction points, interlocking tower locations, and two different freight customer directories.  

The Golden Age of Railroads in New York’s Capital District: 161 pages, 8½ X 11, perfect bound soft cover, LOC #2011911119, includes bibliography and index, self-published (first edition print run of 250 copies), released in January 2012.

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

Some of the vintage photographs include two track layouts of the West Albany yard in the late 1800s and in 1920, the floor plan of the Saratoga trolley station, multiple photos of the three largest stations (Albany, Schenectady, Troy), multiple maps showing how the railroads operated through villages and cities, photos of all the principal yards in the area, photos of the railroads serving various industries, and dozens of previously unpublished photos of steam locomotives and trolleys as they served the Capital District.

A companion book was written at the same time titled "Early Railroads of New York's Capital District" that covers the years 1826 to 1900.


Excerpt From the Introduction
Copyright 2012 Timothy Starr

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.



The Troy Union Station in the 1920s (Joseph Smith collection).



Adirondack Division (New York Central), 25
Albany, 79-80, 100-102, 113
Albany Southern, 54-56, 133-134
Albany Union Station, 113-114
Albany waterfront, 3, 10, 78, 81, 115
Alfred H. Smith Memorial Bridge, 66-67
American Express Company, 58, 112
American Locomotive Company, 109-111
Amsterdam, 94, 128
Baker and Shevlin, 103
Ballston Spa, 91-92, 124
Ballston Terminal Railroad, 56, 134
Boston and Albany, 15-16
Boston and Maine, 37-39, 111
Bridges (railroad), 80
Cambridge, 94, 127
Carmen Cutoff, 65-66
Castleton Cutoff, 66-68
Clifton Park, 90-91
Cohoes, 82-83, 122
Colonie (shops), 70-73
Corinth, 127
Corning, Erastus, 8
Delanson, 87, 124
Delaware and Hudson Administration Building, 115-117
Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, 13-15, 31-37, 58, 138-139
Eagle Bridge, 127
Early railroads, 7-16
Electric Railways, 41-58, 130-135
Express trains (New York Central), 29
Featherstonhaugh, George, 7
Fitchburg, 38
Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville, 54
Fort Edward, 93, 128
Fort Orange Paper Company, 106-107
Foundries, 100, 104-105
General Electric, 103-104, 107-109
G.F. Harvey Company, 102-103
Glens Falls, 93, 128
Green Island, 84, 124
Green Island (shops), 68-70
Hoosick Falls, 86
Hudson Valley Railway, 41-47, 131
Industries, 97-112
Lake George, 94, 128
Locomotive No. 999, 27
Loree, Leonor, 33-36
Lumber, 100
Mail order houses, 105
Mechanicville, 90
Mechanicville (shops), 73-77
Menands, 123
Milk trains, 102
Mohawk and Hudson, 7
Molding sand, 98-99
New York Central, 8, 17-30, 136-138
Paper mills, 105-107
Rensselaer, 80-81, 137
Rensselaer and Saratoga, 14-15
Rotterdam Junction, 88-89
Round Lake, 124
Salem, 127-128
Sandy Hill, 128
Saratoga and Schuylerville, 39-40
Saratoga Springs, 89-90, 124-126
Schenectady, 86-87
Schenectady Detour, 65
Schenectady Locomotive Works (see American Locomotive Company)
Schenectady Railway, 50-54, 134-135
Schenectady Union Station, 119-122
Selkirk (yard), 66-68
Shops (railroad), 59-77
South Schenectady, 88
Steam (end of), 137-139
Strike (1890), 63-65
Strike (1922), 65
Track miles, 18, 31
Track pans, 29-30
Trolleys (see Electric Railways)
Troy, 9, 84-86
Troy and New England Railway, 53
Troy Union Station, 117-119
Twentieth Century Limited, 27-28
United Traction, 47-50, 131-133
Vanderbilt, Cornelius, 10-12
Voorheesville, 84
Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Company, 111
Waterford, 92, 122
Watervliet, 83, 123-124
West Albany (yard), 59-68
West Shore, 20-25
Yards (railroad), 59-77
YMCA, 123

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