A History of its Industries, Railroads and Inventions




Over the course of a decade of research, Tim Starr has amassed over 700 newspaper articles about Capital District railroads. The vast majority of them cover the years 1830 to 1920, when railroading in general was vital to both passengers and businesses.

The most interesting articles were gathered together and reprinted in this fascinating book. A few minutes after delving into its pages, the reader is transported back to the glory days of railroading and all of its accompanying excitement. The opening of new railroads, labor unrest, accidents, crime, and battles with Mother Nature are all chronicled through dozens and dozens of articles, the vast majority of which are reproduced in their entirety. Two indexes aid the reader in finding articles of greatest interest (subject index and newspaper article index). Some two dozen advertisement scans, train schedules, and graphics that accompanied the articles add to the overall feeling of "being there."

Any railroad or Capital Region history enthusiast will find this to be one of the most fascinating books in their personal library.




Preface (Copyright 2011, Timothy Starr)

Over the course of nearly a decade of research into Capital District history, I had amassed over 700 newspaper articles relating to local railroads and kept them in a binder in my office. Every once in a while I would find myself reading through them, until one day it dawned on me that others might find the same enjoyment in browsing these articles that I did.

There is something special about reading an article that was written at the time an event happened, unfiltered by the decades that have passed since then. After a few minutes, it is easy to be transported back to a time when railroad transportation was the only viable form of travel and feel the thrill of reading the same words that thousands of other local citizens read three or four generations ago.

It is not necessary to have an in-depth knowledge of local history to enjoy the articles presented in this book, but familiarity of the subject matter will likely result in a more enjoyable read. I have provided a short introduction to each chapter that gives context to the articles that follow, but thereafter they are left to stand on their own without further commentary, so that the effect of “being there” is preserved as much as possible.

It will be seen that all of the articles are dated from 1830 to 1922. There are two reasons for this. The most important reason deals with copyright infringement. All works created on or before 1922 are in the public domain; therefore they are not protected by copyright and may be freely used by anyone. Many literary works dated from 1923 to 1968 are also in the public domain, however, it is better to be on the safe side of copyright law.

It is likely that this time period would have been chosen even without the concern for copyrights. In my mind, the mid- to late 1800s represented the most exciting time in railroad history. Great changes came about in the next century as the widespread use of safety devices cut down on the number of accidents, the use of diesels and modern snow plows reduced the adverse affects of nature, and strange incidents on the rails declined as more people used automobiles and airplanes instead of taking a train or trolley to their destination.  

There is also a distinct difference between the style of writing in the 1800s versus the 1900s and beyond. Articles from the 1800s were much more sensationalized and contained a writing style that is no longer used. The writing of today, designed to state “just the facts” in an unbiased and unemotional manner, is preferable in obtaining the true story but cannot compete with the interest factor of articles written a century ago. The following passage is not likely to be published today: “Above the noise produced by the collision was heard a half-suppressed shriek and two or three stifled groans, and as soon as the excitement consequent upon the accident subsided, search was made for the cause. Upon finding it, a horrible sight presented itself.” (Collision on the Rensselaer & Saratoga Bridge, Oct. 29, 1866.)

In most cases, except when an obvious spelling error was made in the original article, all spelling, capitalizations, and punctuations were maintained, even when certain words and phrases were not consistent. For example, the word “railroad” was a new one in the 1830s, and there was no standard method for writing it. Some preferred “rail-road,” while others preferred “rail road” without the dash. Still others capitalized the word, while some did not capitalize it even when writing it as part of the rail company’s name.

Although transposing some 90,000 words from the original newspaper articles to paper was somewhat tedious, the preservation of two hundred articles dated over a century ago was a satisfying endeavor. Future editions may contain additional articles from my large and growing collection in an effort to preserve even more of our railroading past.


Sample page from the book:



Here Come The Railroads!

Mohawk and Hudson Railroad (partial opening, 1831), 2

Hudson and Mohawk Rail Road (locomotive testing, 1831), 3

Railroad Excursion (Mohawk and Hudson, 1831), 3

Railroads in the Winter (Mohawk and Hudson, 1831), 5

Rail-road to Fort Edward (Saratoga and Fort Edward, 1832), 5

Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad Commences (opening, 1832), 6

Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad (update, 1832), 7

Letter of John B. Jervis (Saratoga and Schenectady, 1833), 7

Rail-road Between Troy and Ballston (construction, 1835), 9

Rensselaer and Saratoga Rail road (opening, 1835), 10

Utica and Schenectady Rail-road (nearly completed, 1836), 11

Completion of the Utica and Schenectady Rail-road (opening, 1836), 11

Utica and Schenectady Railroad (receipts, 1836), 12

Route to Balston and Saratoga Springs (excursion of Rensselaer and Saratoga, 1836), 12

Troy and Schenectady (completed, 1842), 15

Railroad Statistics (Albany and Troy railroad comparison, 1845), 15

Map of the Central and Business Part of Albany (depot, 1845), 16

N. Y. Railways (receipts of New York railroads, 1846), 17

Hudson River Railroad (opening, 1851), 19

Important Change (Rensselaer and Saratoga schedule, 1865), 21

A Mammoth Railroad Company (Rensselaer and Saratoga expansion, 1867), 22

Important Rail-road Consummation (Rensselaer and Saratoga expansion, 1868), 23

Opening of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad (opening, 1869), 24

The New York Central System (description, 1881), 25

On Mt. McGregor (opening, 1882), 28

Railroad Development in New York (New York railroads, 1896), 30


Mother Nature Strikes!

The Freshets (Albany flooding, 1857), 32

The Great Storm (snowstorm, 1866), 33

The Recent Gales (windstorm, 1869), 34

The Hudson River Rising (flood, 1885), 34

New York Central Blockaded and Express Trains Laid Off (snowstorm, 1888), 35

Unparalleled (Blizzard of 1888), 37

Shaking It Off (Blizzard of 1888), 40

Railroads and Highways Buried in Snow (Blizzard of 1888), 43

Abandoned to Their Fate (Blizzard of 1888), 44

Swept by the Flood (flood, 1891), 45

Many Trains Delayed (snowstorm, 1893), 47

Damage by Floods at Schenectady (flood, 1893), 48

Hudson Out of Its Banks (flood, 1896), 49

Blockade in This State (snowstorm, 1899), 51

Albany Bridge Made Useless (flood, 1900), 52

No More Danger From Snow-Storm, Says Forecaster (snowstorm, 1902), 53

All Trains Delayed by Snow Storm (snowstorm, 1903), 54

Ice Gorge Threatens Bridge (flood near Glen Station, 1904), 54

Flood Conditions in Albany and Troy Were Most Serious (flood, 1913), 55

Albany in Center of One of the Worst Blizzards Since 1888 (snowstorm, 1914), 56

Crime on the Rails!

The Boldest Crime Yet (American Express train, 1871), 60

A Daring Robber (American Express train, 1871), 60

The Albany Express Robbery (American Express train, 1871), 62

A Desperate Struggle (Delaware and Hudson, 1881), 63

A Brakeman’s Dastardly Act (Delaware and Hudson, 1884), 64

Fiend’s Work (New York Central, 1890), 65

Two Strikers Arrested (New York Central Montreal Express, 1890), 67

Central Officials Puzzled (New York Central Montreal Express, 1890), 67

Kidnapped by Pinkertons (New York Central Montreal Express, 1890), 68

They Have Confessed (New York Central Montreal Express, 1890), 68

The Troy Suspects (New York Central Montreal Express, 1890), 69

The Fiends Confess (New York Central Montreal Express, 1890), 71

The Train Wreckers (New York Central Montreal Express, 1890), 78

The Central Wreckers Sentenced (New York Central Montreal Express, 1890), 78

The Work of Masked Burglars (Delaware and Hudson, 1896), 79

A Daring Robbery (Albany Union Station, 1902), 79

Rob Cars to Get Coal (Hoosick Falls, 1903), 80

The Coal-Stealing Habit (Hoosick Falls, 1903), 80

Train Robbery Attempted on the N. Y. Central (Schenectady, 1903), 82

Hold Up of B. & M. Wrecking Train (Mechanicville, 1910), 83

Given 180 Days in the Penitentiary (Boston and Albany, 1911), 84

Prosecution of Train Offenders Sought in Cohoes (Delaware and Hudson, 1922), 84

Saratogians Seize Coal (Saratoga, 1922), 85


Labor Unrest

Strike on the Troy and Schenectady Railroad (laborer strike, 1841), 88

The Central Railroad Laborers on a Strike (strike, 1863), 88

The Strike Spreading (Railroad Strike of 1877), 89

The War Against the Railroads (Railroad Strike of 1877), 90

The Riots (Railroad Strike of 1877), 91

The Central Strikers Yielding (Railroad Strike of 1877), 93

Extra Blocked (Railroad Strike of 1890), 95

Every Switch Turned Red (Railroad Strike of 1890), 96

Another Tie Up (Railroad Strike of 1890), 97

Freight Moves (Railroad Strike of 1890), 98

Winchesters at Albany (Railroad Strike of 1890), 100

Bloody Encounter (Railroad Strike of 1890), 102

Trouble at Albany (Railroad Strike of 1890), 103

Fifteen Strikers Taken Back (Railroad Strike of 1890), 105

How the News Was Received (Railroad Strike of 1890), 106

Strike Is Over (Railroad Strike of 1890), 106

Freight Handlers (Mechanicville strike, 1905), 107

Strikers Defeated (Mechanicville strike, 1905), 107

Mechanics Do Not Want Piece Work (Delaware and Hudson, 1912), 108

5,000 Employes of D. and H. Road Heed Strike Call (Delaware and Hudson, 1914), 109

Railroads Will Break Up Unions if Men Strike (threatened strike, 1916), 110

Strike of Short Duration (Boston and Maine strike, 1920), 111


Accidents and Injuries

Accident at the Inclined Plane (Mohawk and Hudson, 1842), 114

Fatal Accident on the Hudson River Railroad (Albany, 1851), 114

Disaster on the Troy and Greenbush Railroad (Greenbush, 1854), 115

Fatal Accident on Green Island (Green Island, 1865), 115

The Rotten Bridge (Albany Northern, 1859), 116

The Last Railroad Slaughter (Albany Northern, 1859), 118

A Piece of Railroad Management (Albany Northern, 1859), 118

Another Rotten Bridge on the Northern Road (Albany Northern, 1859), 119

Collision on the Rensselaer & Saratoga Bridge (Troy, 1866), 120

Terrible and Fatal Railroad Accident (Albany, 1869), 121

The Last Disaster (Hudson River, 1871), 122

Serious Accident (Cambridge, 1873), 124

Railroad Accident and Loss of Life (Fort Ann, 1874), 124

The Railroad Accident at Round Lake (Delaware and Hudson, 1880), 125

One Man’s Head Completely Crushed (Albany, 1883), 126

Railroad Smash-Up (East Line, 1881), 127

Dashing Into a Freight Train (Green Island, 1886), 128

Injured By Boiler Explosion (Eagle Bridge, 1888), 128

One Passenger Killed and Many Hurt (Kenwood Junction, 1889), 129

Collision in Troy (Troy, 1892), 129

Caught in a Freight Wreck (West Albany, 1892), 130

A Freight Train Wrecked (East Albany, 1892), 130

Struck By an Engine and Killed (Fort Edward, 1893), 130

Upset a Coach (Albany, 1893), 131

Dashed Into a Siding (Waterford, 1898), 131

Effects of a Blast (Mechanicville, 1898), 132

Freight Trains Collide (Schenectady, 1898), 132

Legs Severed (Rotterdam Junction, 1904), 133

Two Men Killed (Mechanicville, 1905), 133

The Train Ran Into an Open Switch (Ballston Spa, 1906), 134

Three Deaths From the Wreck (Saratoga, 1906), 134

Investigating the Wreck (Saratoga, 1906), 138

Passengers Were Saved by Quick Action (Duanesburg, 1906), 139

Central Crash Kills Seven (Albany, 1907), 140

Beheaded By Locomotive (Voorheesville, 1906), 141

Saratoga Express Train Wrecked (Ballston Spa, 1906), 142

Montreal Flier Wrecked (Hoosick Falls, 1906), 142

Five Dead; Many Hurt (Lansingburgh, 1906), 143

Blames New York Central (West Albany, 1907), 145

Rear Collision on the D. and H. (Mechanicville, 1912), 146

Man is Crushed Between 2 Cars (Mechanicville, 1912), 146

Derailed at High Speed (Hoffman’s, 1912), 147

Skunk Car (Mechanicville, 1912), 147

Under Engine For 4 Hours (Albany, 1916), 148

Twenty-Two Injured in Crash of Trains (Troy, 1917), 149

Wreck Toll of 14 Dead Due to Ignored Signal (Schenectady, 1920), 150


Railroad Life

Destructive Fire at East Albany (Hudson River, 1856), 154

Remarkable Accident (Troy Union Station fire, 1859), 155

President Lincoln at the Capital of the Empire State (funeral train, 1865), 156

The Bridge at Albany (Hudson River bridge opening, 1866), 159

Destruction of Central Railroad Paint Shops (West Albany fire, 1872), 161

New Depot in Albany (New York Central, 1872), 161

Fire on Green Island (Delaware and Hudson, 1874), 161

A Railway Race to Saratoga (New York Tribune train, 1884), 163

Great Fire in Albany (Albany and Susquehanna, 1885), 165

Resting at Mt. M’Gregor (Ulysses S. Grant, 1885), 166

Lying in State at Albany (Ulysses S. Grant, 1885), 168

Eight Acres Burned Over (West Albany stock yards, 1890), 170

The Arkell Interest Foreclosed (Mount McGregor, 1891), 170

N. Y. Central Shops Burned (West Albany fire, 1891), 171

Fastest in the World (Empire State Express, 1895), 171

Coal Failing Them (New York Central, 1894), 173

Nearly Out of Coal (New York Central, 1894), 173

The President in Troy (President McKinley, 1897), 175

Vanderbilt an Inventor (West Albany, 1899), 176

Fatal Fire in Saratoga (Delaware and Hudson station, 1899), 177

The Saratoga Limited (express train description, 1899), 177

Fast Time to Saratoga (express train first run, 1899), 178

Roosevelt’s Flying Trip from Adirondack Woods (Adirondack, 1901), 181

Losses By Fire (Boston and Maine, 1901), 182

New West Albany Buildings (West Albany shops, 1902), 182

Saratoga’s Crowd Arrives (season opening, 1902), 183

Double Tracks for the D. and H. Road (Delaware and Hudson construction, 1907), 185

Whitehall Is Hopeful (Delaware and Hudson shops, 1908), 186

Swift Riding Railway Engine (inspection locomotive, 1908), 187

New Hump Yard at Mechanicville Hurts Rotterdam (Boston and Maine yard, 1913), 193

Albany to be Transformed Into A “City Beautiful” (riverfront, 1914), 194

New York Consoles Albany (Castleton cut-off, 1917), 197

West Albany Band to Give Concert (West Albany, 1919), 198

Fire Impedes Traffic (Rensselaer roundhouse, 1920), 198

Starts Big Improvements (West Albany, 1921), 199

Big West Shore Yards at Albany (Selkirk yard, 1922), 199


Strange Tales of the Rails

Singular Accident on a Railroad (Rensselaer and Saratoga, 1869), 204

Judgment Against the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad Company (Albany, 1869), 204

A Trade in Unhealthy Meat (West Albany stockyards, 1881), 205

Risked Her Life For Her Hat (Troy, 1884), 205

A Dying Man’s Charge (Troy, 1884), 206

An Engineer’s Unlucky Day (Schenectady, 1884), 207

Buried Under a Wall (Albany, 1885), 208

Building Funeral Cars (West Albany, 1888), 208

Railroad Jack (Dog, 1890), 209

Railroad Jack’s New Experience (Dog, 1890), 210

A “Barber”-ous Act (East Albany, 1890), 211

Found Unconscious in His Cab (Hudson River, 1891), 211

A Brakeman’s Terrible Fate (Fitchburg near Jonesville, 1891), 212

Rounding Up Knights of the Road (Rensselaer, 1903), 212

A Wild Horse Injures Boy at West Albany (West Albany yard, 1903), 213

Nude Woman Found in a Freight Car (West Albany, 1905), 214

Girl Would Run an Engine (West Albany, 1906), 214

How Old Locomotive Got Its Name (“Farewell,” 1914), 215

Gypsies Cause Much Wrangling (Amsterdam, 1922), 216


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