Fullfilment of the Remarkable Prophecies
Relating to the Development of
By Henry Whittemore1909
A well known writer on railroad affairs said in 1861: "Thus
in the last twenty-five years a thousand million of dollars has
been spent in the construction of roads . . . . These rails give
circulation to all the surplus capital that is created by labor
within that circle. It is on this principle that may be explained
the immense prosperity that has been seen to attend the enormous
expenditure of railroads, particularly during the last ten years.
The great advantage of railroads is that they practically diminish
distances between places in proportion to the speed attained."
The same writer says: "In New York the question of railroads
had been early discussed. A publication of Col. Stevens of Hoboken,
in 1812, advocated a railway instead of a canal to the lakes,
but his proposition was opposed by Chancellor Livingston on grounds
which indicate very odd ideas of the nature of the work."
New York was the pioneer State in railroad enterprises, and
while others were doubting, hesitating and discussing their practicability,
railroad companies were being organized in every part of the State
involving millions of dollars. Col. John Stevens who first suggested
and demonstrated their practicability was a native of New York,
though his experiment was in New Jersey. Hundreds of capitalists
in every part of the State were ready to invest their money in
what seemed to them a safe and sure enterprise, which would yield
satisfactory returns. During the first twenty-five years-from
1830 to 1855 there were, in addition to the roads which proved
successful, or partially so, ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE COMPANIES
organized which never laid a rail.
The first regular application for a railroad charter made to
the New York Legislature, was by Stephen Van Rensselaer and others
in 1826 for power to construct a railroad between the Hudson and
the Mohawk rivers, and they "received the grant," says
one writer, "for the reason that no railroads were then in
the country at all, and that as the petitioners were willing to
make the experiment at their own cost it was a good opportunity
to permit it." The surveys for the road were not made until
1830, and the road was opened in September, 1831."
"Meantime the charters of the Harlem, and the Saratoga
and Schenectady had been granted. The opening of the Mohawk road
caused much excitement. A road from the Hudson to the lakes was
agitated, and applications were made to the Legislature in 1832
for forty-nine roads, of which twenty-nine charters were
granted, and of this number six were constructed, viz.: The Brooklyn
and Jamaica, Hudson and Berkshire, Erie, Rensselaer and Saratoga,
Tonawanda, Watertown and Rome. In 1835 six railroads were chartered;
of these, the Utica and Schenectady, the Whitehall and Rutland,
and Buffalo and Black Rock were constructed. In 1834 ten railroads
were chartered, and of these five were constructed, the Auburn
and Syracuse, Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Long Island, Lockport
and Niagara, and the Saratoga and Washington. In 1836 forty-three
railroads were chartered, seven of which were built, the Albany
and West Stockbridge, Albany and Buffalo, Auburn and Rochester,
Attica and Buffalo, Lewiston, Schenectady and Troy, Skaneateles
and Utica. In 1837 fourteen railroads were chartered, but none
of them were constructed. In 1838 the State authorized a loan
of its credit to the extent of $3,000,000 to the Erie Railroad,
and $100,000 to the Catskill and Canajoharie, and $250,000 to
the Auburn and Syracuse. In 1839, the Oswego and Syracuse railroad
was chartered; and the city of Albany lent $400,000 to the Albany
and West Stockbridge road. In 1840 acts were passed by the Legislature
to loan the credit of the State to the extent of $3,478,000 to
six roads; and provision was made for a sinking fund to be paid
into the treasury by the railroad companies except the Erie. In
1840 the city of Albany was authorized to invest $350,000 in the
Albany and West Stockbridge road. The Erie, having defaulted on
its interest, was advertised for sale by the Comptroller, which
did not take place, however. This was not the case with the Ithaca
and Orange, which was sold for $4,500, and the Catskill and Canajoharie
for $11,000. In 1845 the several railroads from Albany to Buffalo
were, for the first time, permitted to transport freight on the
closing of the canal by paying the State the same toll as the
canal would have paid. In 1846 the Hudson River and the New York
and New Haven roads were chartered. In 1847 the seven roads, making
the line from Albany to the lakes, were required to lay down an
iron rail of fifty pounds to the yard. They were likewise authorized
to carry freight all the year by paying canal tolls; and all the
railroads were made liable for damages in case of death by neglect
of the companies' agents. In 1848 the general railroad law was
passed. The law provided, however, that the Legislature should
decide whether the 'public utility' of the road justifies the
taking of private property. From 1826 to 1850, one hundred and
fifty-one charters were granted, and of these thirty were carried
into effect. The line from Albany to Buffalo was composed of seven
distinct companies finished at different times. Most of these
were restricted as to fares. The Mohawk and Hudsonor Albany
and Schenectadywas not restricted."
ALBANY, VERMONT AND CANADA RAILROAD
This company was formed Feb. 26, 1851. The road was built from
Rouses Point to the Canada line, 2½ miles; and subsequently
leased to a road in Canada of the same name, which extends to
St. John and road Prairie, opposite Montreal.
ALBANY AND WEST STOCKBRIDGE RAILROAD
This was formerly known as the Castleton and West Stockbridge
Railroad. The Company was organized April 9, 1830, but nothing
was done under the first name. The name of Albany and West Stockbridge
Railroad was assumed May 5, 1836. The road was opened from Greenbush
to Chatham, December 21,1841, and to the State Line, September
12, 1842. It was leased to the Western (Mass.) Railroad, Nov.
18, 1841, for the term of its charter, and later was operated
as a part of that road, including the ferry at Albany. The city
of Albany at different times issued bonds for $1,000,000 to aid
in building the road, the lessees paying the interest and $10,000
annually toward the sinking fund. It connected at Albany with
Springfield and Boston.
ATLANTIC AND GREAT WESTERN RAILROAD
This company was organized December 9, 1858, extending from
the New York and Erie Railroad at Little Valley to the southern
line of Chautauqua county
ATTICA AND HORNELLSVILLE RAILROAD
This company was incorporated May 14, 1845, with a capital
of $750,000. Time extended April 11, 1849. Other roads allowed
to take stock April 9, 1851. Capital increased and company allowed
to purchase the Buffalo and Rochester Railroad from Attica to
Buffalo, and to change its name March 3, 1851. Name changed to
Buffalo and New York City Railroad April 16, 1851.
AUBURN AND SYRACUSE RAILROAD
This company was incorporated by act of the Legislature passed
May 1, 1834. Daniel Sennett, Ulysses F. Doubleday, Bradley Tuttle,
Daniel Munroe, Grover Lawrence and William Lawrence, Jr., were
the original incorporators, with power "to construct a single
or double railroad between the villages of Auburn and Syracuse,
on such route as a majority of the directors of said company might
determine." The capital of the company was placed at $400,000.
The law required that $20,000 should be expended in the construction
within two years after the passage of the act, and that the road
should be completed and in operation within five years thereafter,
otherwise the corporation should cease to exist and the charter
become null and void. Hon. Elijah Miller was the first president.
Work was commenced in December, 1835, and the first payment
to contractors was made in January, 1836. On April 4, 1837, an
act was passed authorizing the Commissioners of the Land Office
to sell and convey to the company such portion of "farm Lot
No. 253, of the Onondago Salt Springs. Reservation to the town
of Saline lying between the Canal and the streets across said
lot as may be necessary for the track of said roan upon said land
for a depot, and for the construction of a basin for the accommodation
of said company."
The road was opened from Auburn to Geddes with wooden rails,
June 8, 1838, at which date Sherwood's stage horses were put upon
the line between Auburn and Geddes, and continued to draw the
cars till June 4, 1839, when the "iron horse" was put
on in their place. On that day the first engine ran on the road;
the "Syracuse" was connected with the train, and an
excursion was made over the entire road, and brought into the
city, the bridge across the mill pond having been completed in
the spring of 1839.
BOSTON AND ALBANY RAILROAD
Though not a New York corporation, the connections of this
road form a part of the great railroad system that has contributed
so largely to the wealth of the Empire State, and assisted in
developing its towns, cities and villages along the line of its
route. The charter of the road is dated March 5, 1833. The road
runs from Worcester, 44 miles west of Boston, to the Massachusetts
State line, and thence 38¼ miles over the Albany and West
Stockbridge Railroad, leased and operated by the Western road
into Albany, 200 miles from Boston. The first passenger train
that left Boston was on April 7, 1834, for Davis's Tavern, Newton,
to which place the Worcester road was then opened. It was completed
to Worcester July 3, 1835. The Western in continuation was opened
to Springfield, Oct. 31, 1839, and reached Greenbush Dec. 21,
1841, thus establishing the route from Boston to the Albany basin
in seven hours. It then connects with the New York Central road,
which carries the line 229 miles to Rochester, where, by the Lockport
division of the Central road, 77 miles, connects at Suspension
Bridge with the Great Western Canada road, and thus with the Michigan
Central to the Illinois Central and the Ohio and Mississippi to
BROOKLYN AND JAMAICA RAILROAD
This was one of the earliest companies formed in the southern
portion of the State. It was chartered in 1832, and was opened
from the South Ferry to Jamaica, a distance of about twelve miles
in 1836; and not long after the Long Island Railroad, chartered
April 26, 1834, ran cars over the same track, reaching some of
the towns in Suffolk county. The route was along Atlantic street,
and what is now Atlantic avenue. Although this road was a great
advance on all previous modes of travel, its value as a means
of local travel was limited to the immediate vicinity of the street
through which it passed, and it served even this need imperfectly.
The equipment, even at that period, was not by any means up to
date. The best locomotive on the road at that time seldom exceeded
a speed of twelve miles an hour, and the Long Island Railroad
having no competition to fear, was not then, nor for many years
after, equipped in the best manner. "More than twenty years
later," says a local writer, "in its passage through
Atlantic avenue, an active boy or man found no difficulty in keeping
up with its express trains for two or three miles."
Although chartered in 1834 the main line was not opened for
travel through to Greenpoint until July, 1844. It was designed
to be a direct route between New York and Boston by connecting
at the eastern end of Long Island with a line of steamers for
the main land. But the competition of the New Haven all-land route
diverted the through travel. The Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad
leased, from its completion in 1836, extended its line to the
South Ferry in Brooklyn. The new line to Long Island City having
been completed in 1861, the line in the city of Brooklyn was abandoned,
but rebuilt some years later as far as the intersection of Flatbush
and Atlantic avenues.
The road was not a financial success, and was for some time
in the hands of a receiver, but subsequently revived, and with
additional capital and other management, it became a paying enterprise.
BUFFALO, BRADFORD AND PITTSBURGH RAILROAD
This company was organized in 1859 by the consolidation of
the Buffalo and Bradford, and the Buffalo and Pittsburg Railroad.
BUFFALO AND ERIE RAILROAD
A local history of Erie county says: "In 1836 we had but
a single railroad running into Buffalothat from Niagara
Fallsof not less than twenty miles in length, with no connection
whatever with any other road.
"Out of the wreckage of the period of disasters came the
first steam railroad in Erie county. Besides the Buffalo and Black
River Road two railroads were incorporated as early as April,
1832, neither of which, however, constructed its proposed lines.
One of them was the Buffalo and Erie Railroad Company, which proposed
to build a road seventeen miles long to East Aurora. Considerable
stock was subscribed, and the line was surveyed. In the midst
of the most hopeful anticipations came the crisis of 1836, and
the project was abandoned.
BUFFALO AND NEW YORK CITY RAILROAD
This was formerly known as the Attica and Hornellsville Railroad.
Articles were filed January 23d, 1851. On October 31, 1857, thirty-one
miles of the road were sold to the Buffalo, New York and Erie
Railroad Company, and the name changed to Buffalo, New York and
"THE BUFFALO AND NIAGARA RAILROAD COMPANY
Was another product of the inflated period, and when the first
ominous signs of the crisis were seen in 1836, the road was in
process of construction. On the 26th of August of that year the
first steam locomotive in the country was placed on this road
at Black Rock, and ran from there to Tonawanda at a speed of fifteen
to twenty miles an hour. On the 6th of the following month its
trips were extended to Buffalo; and on the 5th of November were
running regularly to the Falls."
BUFFALO AND ROCHESTER RAILROAD
This company was formed by the consolidation of the Buffalo
and Attica Railroad Company, which had constructed a road from
Attica to Rochester, and in. 1862 opened a new direct line from
Buffalo to Batavia, and sold its line from Buffalo to Attica to
the New York and Erie Railroad Company. The latter leased their
line to the New York and Erie Company, which built a branch from
Attica to Hornellsville, thus forming a continuous line from Buffalo
to New York; the whole line was ready for traffic in 1852.
BUFFALO AND STATE LINE RAILROAD
This company was formed June 6, 1849. The road was opened from
Dunkirk to the State Line January 1, 1852; and to Buffalo 22d
of February following. The company purchased the North East (Penn)
Railroad under act of April 13, 1857, and later formed one company
from Buffalo to Erie, Penn., which was opened under the name of
Buffalo and Erie Railroad.
THE CATSKILL AND ITHACA RAILROAD
This road was incorporated April 21, 1828, for the purpose
of constructing a railroad from Catskill to Ithaca "to transport,
take and carry property and persons upon the same by the power
and force of steam, of animals, or any mechanical or other power,
or any combination of them which the said corporation may choose
to apply." The capital stock was fixed at $1,500,000, in
fifty dollar shares, and the State reserved the right to subscribe
for one thousand shares. In case the right was exercised, the
comptroller was to become ex-officio a director. Jacob
Haight, Thomas B. Cook, Francis A. Bloodgood, Ebenezer Mack and
associates were named in the act, and Jacob Haight, Thomas B.
Cook, and Orrin Day were appointed commissioners to open subscription
books at Catskill. The corporation was authorized to allow persons
to use the railroads with "suitable and proper carriages,"
by paying tolls at the gates which the company might erect as
soon as ten miles of the road were completed. An act of March
29, 1829, extended the time for opening subscription books to
the following year. While the enterprise did not prove successful
it indicated the interest which had been awakened in Greene county,
which culminated in another project a little later.
THE CANAJOHARIE AND CATSKILL RAILROAD
The scheme of constructing a railroad from Catskill to the
West, which gave birth to the Catskill and Ithaca project, found
another expression in this enterprise. The act of incorporation
was passed April 19, 1830, naming as incorporators William Deitz,
Thomas B. Cook, Clarkson Crolius, Henry Leiber, James Lynch, George
Spencer, Israel Foote, John Adams, Herman J. Ehle, Harmon J. Quackenbos,
and George Sprakes. The capital stock was to consist of $600,000
in fifty dollar shares. The commencement of the work was opened
with great display; the following, comprising only a part of the
For celebrating the breaking o f ground o f the
CANAJOHARIE AND CATSKILL
On Thursday the 27th Oct. 1831
Thirteen Guns at Sunrise
This was followed by the ringing of bells and an immense gathering
of people who marched in procession, with bands of music, and
orations by the distinguished men of the day.
The company was organized and ready for business early in the
summer of 1835, but nothing was done on the road except surveying,
until the fall of that year, when ground was broken near the creek
at Catskill. In 1836 contracts were given out through the whole
length of the line, and it was expected the road would be completed
by the close of 1837. The charter was amended April 20th, 1837,
so as to increase the capital stock $1,000,000, and authorized
the directors to borrow to the amount of $400,000 for the completion
of the road, and to secure the loan by a mortgage upon the property
and stock of the company.
The railroad was not successful. It was used mainly for the
transportation of freight in connection with the great tanning
Among the earliest railroad enterprises following that of the
Mohawk and Hudson was the Ithaca and Oswego Railroad which subsequently
became the Cayuga and Susquehanna Railroad.
CANANDAIGUA AND CORNING RAILROAD
This company was incorporated May 11, 1845, with a capital
of $1,500,000. Time extended to April 15, 1847, and again, March
24th, 1849. Surveys were begun in June, 1845, and the construction
in 1850. The road was opened from Canandaigua to Jefferson (now
Watkins) 46-and-74/100 miles, Sept. 15, 1851, the New York and
Erie Railroad furnishing engines, cars, etc., for a specific rate
per mile. The road was allowed to connect with the Chemung Railroad
at Jefferson, and to change its name Sept. 11th, 1852, to Canandaigua
and Elmira Railroad; it subsequently became a part of the New
York Central system.
THE CAYUGA & SUSQUEHANNA RAILROAD
This road under the former name was chartered June 28, 1828,the
second railroad charter granted in the State. The road was opened
in April, 1834. An inclined plane at Ithaca rose 1 foot 4 28-100
feet, and stationary steam power was used for drawing up the cars.
Above this was another inclined plane that rose one foot in 21
feet, on which horse power was used. 'The road was subsequently
sold to the comptroller on stock issued by the State, on which
the company had failed to pay interest. A new company was organized,
and the above name assumed April 18, 1843. The road was reconstructed;
the inclined planes were done away with, and on January 1, 1855,
it was leased to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad
Company, and operated by them as the Cayuga division. This became
an important route from the coal mines of Pennsylvania; coal and
iron forming the principal item of business.
THE CHEMUNG RAILROAD
Which became a part of the Erie system, was incorporated May
14, 1845; the commissioners appointed to procure subscriptions
being Charles Cook, William Maxwell and Lyman Covell. Not much
was done at that time.
FLUSHING RAILROAD COMPANY
This was formed February 24, 1852, and opened June 28, 1854,
extending from Flushing to Hunter's Creek, and by ferry to New
York, a distance of twelve miles.
HUDSON RIVER RAILROAD
The construction of a railroad parallel with the Hudson River,
connecting the City of New York with the City of Albany, affording
a communication between the two cites at all seasons of the year,
was considered an object of so much importance that, in 1833,
a number of enterprising citizens of Albany obtained from the
Legislature a charter for a company with a capital of $3,000,000,
and permission to construct the road, but the amount of capital
was not subscribed, and the project for the time was abandoned,
and some twenty years elapsed before it was again undertaken.
The then estimated cost for a road for a single track, was $12,000
per mile, which would amount to nearly $2,000,000 for the entire
line. It was believed that branches of this road might easily
be constructed to Hartford and New Haven, and a large amount of
business might me expected, not only from the eastern counties
of New York, but from Berkshire county, Mass., and Litchfield
and Fairfield counties, Connecticut.
The failure of the first project probably discouraged any further
attempt for many years, and it was not until the early part of
1846 that the matter was again revived, and this time by prominent
citizens of Poughkeepsie, among whom was Matthew Vassar, D. B.
Lent and N. J. Coffin. Associated with them were a few capitalists
from New York and other places, who were convinced of its feasibility,
its safe investment and its practical advantages as a connecting
link with the commercial channels of the North and West. The first
survey of the route was paid for by the people of Poughkeepsie,
and it was through their influence that a charter was obtained
May 12, 1846. The construction of the road was begun in 1847,
and seventy-five miles were completed in 1849, which year it was
in part first opened to the public. It was opened to Peekskill
from New York, September 29, 1840; to New Hamburg, December 6,
1840, and to Poughkeepsie, December 31, 1849. The road was rapidly
completed, and the northern section was opened from Albany to
Hudson, January 10, 1851; to Tivoli, August 4, 1851; and through
its entire length from New York to Albany, a distance of one hundred
and forty-three miles and a half, October 1, 1851. It has 3,595
feet of tunnels, varying from sixty to eight hundred and thirty-five
feet; one of which is through solid rock, just above New Hamburg,
in Dutchess county.
"On the 29th of September, 1849, passage travel over the
road as far as Peekskill was commenced. The average number of
passengers per day for the first month (October), was 830; and
the total number for the month, 21,593; and for the next month
(November), the average number per day was 1,055; and the total
number for the month 27,441. At this time it was calculated that
the land taken for the roadway in Westchester county had cost
the company, exclusive of agencies and other charges, $185,905.02
; and also that the grading had involved an expenditure of not
far from a million dollars, which was about three hundred thousand
dollars above the cost estimated in the original contracts in
The Vanderbilt influence came into control of the New York
and Hudson River Railroad in 1864, but the road between New York
and Albany was operated independently of the Central Railroad
until 1870, when, in accordance with the legislative act of November,
1869, authorizing a consolidation of the whole interest between
New York, Buffalo and Suspension Bridge, the consolidated organization
assumed the title of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad
Company. The Hudson River Railroad cost to build and equip $78,014,954or
$76,272 per mile.
THE MOHAWK AND HUDSON RAILROAD COMPANY
Stephen Van Rensselaer and others, on April 17, 1826, obtained
a charter from the Legislature of New York to construct a railroad
between the Mohawk and the Hudson, connecting Albany with Schenectady.
This, as has already been stated, was the first charter ever granted
for any railroad in the United States. The company had a capital
of $300,000, and by charter obtained the privilege, if necessary,
to increase the capital to $500,000.
The credit of this enterprise is
probably due to Mr. George W. Featherstonaugh more than to any
one else in the State. The History of Albany County, N. Y., states
that Mr. George W. Featherstonaugh, an honored and influential
citizen of Schenectady, and his father, George W. Featherstonaugh,
were among the first and leading projectors of this enterprise.
As early as 1812 he published a pamphlet explaining the superior
advantages of railways and steam carriages over canal navigation.
In 1825 a writer in the Albany Argus urged upon capitalists
the absolute necessity of their building a railroad from Albany
to Schenectady, under the plea that it was the only course to
take to prevent Albany going to decay through the rivalry of Troy.
It thus appears that local jealousies had much to do in furthering
"Mr. Featherstonaugh, in a letter to the Mayor of Albany,
said the transportation of property from Albany to Schenectady
was seldom effected in less than two, and sometimes three days.
By railroad, he argued, the communication between the same points
could be made in winter and summer in three hours at no greater
cost than by canal, paying for sixteen instead of twenty-eight
miles. He regarded this experiment, which he believed to be practical,
as a test whether this economical mode of transportation would
succeed in this country.
"The bill introduced by Mr. Featherstonaugh passed the
Assembly March 27, 1826, as stated, granting a charter for fifty
years, and limiting the time for construction to six years. Stephen
Van Rensselaer, known as the 'old patron,' of Albany, and George
W. Featherstonaugh of Schenectady, were the only persons named
as directors in the charter. On the 26th of June of that year
books were opened for subscription to the stock of this road,
and the stock was eagerly taken up by capitalists, but for some
cause the company moved slowly; for more than four years elapsed
before the road was begun.
"On the 20th of July, 1830, the ceremony of breaking ground
for the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad took place near Schenectady,
with a silver spade, by Stephen Van Rensselaer. In September it
was announced that stock had risen ten per cent.; and the editor
of the Albany Daily Advertiser predicted that trains would
run from Albany to Schenectady in a quarter of an hour, and reach
Utica from Albany in four hours.
By the 25th of July, twelve months from the time when the ceremony
of breaking ground was performed, the road was completed from
the junction of the Western Turnpike and Lydia street, Albany,
to the brow of the hill at Schenectady. Both of these points were
at first reached by stages, and afterwards by an inclined plane,
the passengers being carried to the railroad station in a car
drawn by a rope by means of stationary engines.
The first locomotive used on the road was called the DeWitt
Clinton, which was the third locomotive constructed by the West
Point Iron Works of New York. On August 3d a trial trip was made
a distance of twelve and a half miles in forty-five minutes; and
on the 10th they ran a train a day each way.
The August 9th Excursion.
On August 13th a large company assembled to take a trip on
the railroad, but the engine proved defective in her boiler and
was retired for repairs. At this trial, and on previous ones coal
or coke had been used for fuel, but wood was finally adopted.
On the 9th of September the DeWitt Clinton was again put upon
the railroad and succeeded in drawing a train over the road in
On September 24, 1831, another excursion over the road was
given by the directors, to which were invited the State and city
officials and eminent citizens. Of those who were present on this
occasion were Governor Enos T. Thropes, Lieut.-Governor Edward
P. Livingston, Senator Charles E. Dudley, Comptroller Azariah
C. Flagg, ex-Governor Joseph C. Yates, Chancellor Reuben H. Walworth,
Stephen Van Rensselaer, Francis Bloodgood, Joseph Alexander, John
Meigs, Erastus Corning, Lewis Benedict, John Boyd, Thurlow Weed,
William Bay, Simon DeWitt Bloodgood, William B. Winne and L. H.
Tupper, of Albany; Samuel Swartwout, Philip Hone and Jacob Hays,
of New York; John L. D. Grant, of Schenectady; David Matthews,
builder; Churchill C. Camberling, President of the road; Chief
Consulting Engineer F. C. Ward; Paymaster, Dudley Farline; W.
Benedict, Superintendent, and others.
In the spring of 1832 the road was completed through the whole
line, and the inclined plane being in working order, another grand
excursion was given on the 14th of May, extending from the foot
of Ganesvoort street, Albany, into the heart of Schenectady. The
cars were drawn up the incline by means of a long rope attached
to them, and a stationary engine at the top; the whole steadied
and balanced by a car loaded with stone, descending on the opposite
side track. The same ceremony was observed at both terminations
of the road, occupying much time. The same style of coaches were
still used. In the fall of this year a new pattern of car was
built at Schenectady, more nearly like those now in use, the architecture
of which was modeled from Dr. Nott's parlor stove, and was called
the "Gothic Car."
In 1833 the company had a road fifteen and three-quarter miles
long, with a double track. The width between the rails was four
feet six inches. The rails were made of timber on which iron bars
were fastened. In January, 1832, the Company reported to the Legislature
that the amount actually paid and disbursed in the construction
of the road was $483,215, and that $156,693 would be required
to complete it. In 1833 the cost of the road had run up to $1,100,000.
Its shares sold at thirty per cent. premium to begin with, but
later they sold for only twenty-five cents on the dollar. It was
then bought up by more enterprising parties; the inclined plane
system was abolished; a longer grade, curving up the hill from
Albany was substituted, and the twelve miles replaced by heavy
iron ones. On September 22, 1843, a train of three cars ran from
Albany to Schenectady in thirty minutes.
From 1843 to 1851, when the first great trunk line was put
in operation the intervening years were filled with railroad enterprises,
and almost every portion of the State growing even more bold in
conception, and more successful in execution of operation. It
was believed and asserted by many, that, as predicted by some
of our great statesmen, the State of New York was hastening on
its way to supremacy, and could be justly entitled to the name
of the Empire State.
The legitimate and successful railroad enterprises led to many
speculative schemes that resulted in considerable expenditure
of means to promote, but with very unsatisfactory results. Among
these was the Catskill and Ithaca Railroad in Greene County, N.
THE NEW YORK AND ALBANY AND THE NEW YORK AND HARLEM
The first road projected between New York and Albany was known
as the New York and Albany Railroad. This was incorporated by
act of the Legislature, April 17th, 1832, authorizing the construction
of a road, commencing at the. termination of Fourth avenue, New
York City, and extending along the line of the Hudson River to
the city of Albany.
The Company not being able to avail itself of its privilege,
"after six years of vicissitudes and vain efforts,"
surrendered its rights in Westchester county to the New York and
Harlem Railroad which was incorporated the year previous. The
Legislature in May, 1840, affirmed the compact between the two
companies, empowering the Harlem Company to construct a bridge
over the Harlem River, and a railroad through Westchester county
to an intersection with the New York and Albany's line of road,
which would be at the southern boundary of Putnam county. The
first portion of the road which it was determined to build was
as far up as White Plains. The question was raised as to the ability
of Westchester county to support a railroad. A careful estimate
was made as to the prospective income from the enterprise. It
was estimated that $47,788 would be received from the passengers,
and $60,980 from freight, or a total of $108,768, which it is
said would fully meet all expectations and yield a profit of at
least twenty-five per cent. on the capital invested. Another
engineer estimated upon an immediate income of $60,000, of which
amount $950.00 would come from the Catholic School at Fordham
and Powell School at Westchester. Another gave it as his belief
that the town of East Chester "will contribute along with
Ram's Marbel Quarry $15,000; and six other towns of Westchester
county $10,000 to support a railroad." Among those particularly
interested in this new enterprise was Governeur Morris, who had
been so very active in promoting the New York and Erie Canal.
The "estimates" of the prospective income from Westchester
county were doubtless satisfactory; for the road was constructed
to Fordham in 1841; to Williams Bridge in 1842; to Tuckahoe, July,
1844; and to White Plains the same year, passing through the towns
of Morrisania, West Farms, Yonkers, East Chester, Scarsdale, Greenberg
and White Plains. The company reported in 1846, that the cost
of construction of six miles of road from the south side of Harlem
River Bridge to Williams Bridge was $38,475 per mile, while its
thirteen miles of road from Williams Bridge only cost $11,177
The road was formally opened to Croton Falls in June, 1847,
and passed through the towns of White Plains, Mount Pleasant,
New Castle, Bedford, Lewisboro and North Castle, and through,
it is said, ninety-seven farms.
The original capital of the company was $350,000, which, in
1832, was increased to $500,000, with a stipulation that the road
should be completed to the Harlem River in 1835. Although this
was not done, the Legislature in the latter year authorized the
company to increase the capital to $750,000; to borrow $400,000;
and in 1839 to convert the bonds into stock. When the extension
through Westchester county was begun, the capital had been increased
to $1,950,000; and still another increase of $1,000,000 was needed
to carry the road through the county. When the line was completed
to Chatham Four Corners, in January, 1852, it had cost $7,918,118,
and its liabilities were over $11,000,000. At Chatham Four Corners
it connected with the Albany and West Stockbridge Railroad.
William T. Jones, of New York, who had already constructed
a steam carriage in 1829, finished a locomotive in 1832, which
was the first one used by the Harlem Railroad. This was sold to
the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and exploded in 1834. This was
provided with a "spark arrester."
NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY
This corporation was formed by consolidating several railroads
already in operation, and some projected roads between Albany,
Troy and Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The act following the consolidation
was passed April 2, 1853, and was carried into effect the 17th
of May following. The consolidated capital amounted to $23,085,600,
and debts were assumed to the amount of $1,947,815.72. The following
is a list of the roads which came under the first organization,
with the date of charter of each road:
Albany and Schenectady
Utica and Schenectady
Syracuse and Utica
Auburn and Syracuse
Auburn and Rochester
Schenectady and Troy
Rochester and Syracuse
Batavia and Attica
Attica and Buffalo
Rochester and Buffalo
Rochester and Lockport and Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls and Lewiston
Lockport and Tonawanda
Rochester and Charlotte
When the project of consolidation was under consideration the
stocks rose rapidly to high premiums, and the principle of consolidation
was to create a scrip stock to the amount of the aggregate premiums,
and divide the pro rata among the stockholders of all the companies.
That scrip to the amount of about $8,100,000 was figured as a
part of the cost of the road. The road was straightened so as
to make the direct line only 298 miles from Albany to Buffalo,
but the other lines and routes added to it make a total of 594
miles. The capital stock of the company on September 30, 1868,
was $28,780,000, and there was an indebtedness of $11,520,000,
mostly in bonds. The total earnings of the road in 1854, the year
of the consolidation, was $5,918,332. From this sum they had risen
in 1857 to $8,027,253, but receded to $6,200,000 in 1850. From
1865 to 1868 inclusive they had averaged $14,350,000 per annum.
In 1869 a stock dividend of 84 per cent., amounting to nearly
$24,000,000, was declared under the plea that the surplus earnings
had accumulated, and the stock had amounted to nearly fifty-three
million dollars, and was consolidated with the Hudson River Railroad;
the united capital of the two being called seventy-five million
dollars; though the actual cost never exceeded forty-five million
dollars. The net earnings of the consolidated roads in 1869 was
about seven million dollars.
NEW YORK AND NEW HAVEN RAILROAD
The Hartford and New Haven Railroad had been in operation for
some years before serious thought was given to a land connection
of New York with New Haven by rail. Steamboats were running regularly
between these cities, and the need of railroad communication was
In 1844 public sentiment had changed, and the Legislature of
Connecticut, on application, granted a charter, and soon after
application was made to the New York Legislature for permission
to run to New York City, but failed on account of the strong opposition
of the Harlem Road and of the Westchester Turnpike Company. An
agreement was finally reached with the Harlem Road almost on its
own terms, in 1846, and later with the Westchester Turnpike Company.
In May, 1846, the New York and New Haven Railroad was authorized
to join with the Harlem Road at or near William's Bridge.
In 1846 a contract was made with Messrs. Alfred Bishop, Mr.
G. L. Schuyler and Mr. S. G. Miller. Mr. Schuyler subsequently
transferred his interest to Mr. Bishop. By Dec. 31, 1848, the
whole of the capital stock was subscribed. By the spring of the
following year the line had been located and approved by the commissioners.
The line adopted was in the main that surveyed by Professor
Twining, except from the Harlem Junction to New Rochelle, the
entrance into Bridgeport, and the entrance to New Haven. Professor
Twining's line was run to a point on the western edge of the head
of the harbor, and from thence was indefinite, except that it
contemplated crossing the harbor and the canal basin on piles,
and running along the shoal waters to the Hartford Road.
The cost of the road and equipment entire was $2,701,879.13,
exceeding the original estimate by a very large amount. The fares
were made very low: $1.50 from New Haven to New York, and fifty
cents from Bridgeport on account of the steamboat competition.
It continued in a prosperous condition, however, for some years
until overtaken by two great disasters, one following the other.
The first was known as the "Norwalk Disaster." On the
6th of May, 1853, a train heavily laden with passengers plunged
through an open draw into the Norwalk River. Forty-five passengers
met instant death, and many more were seriously injured. The heavy
claims for damages prevented the payment of the dividend for that
year, which the earnings would have warranted. The several claims
were settled amounting to $252,311.50, and the report for 1854
showed only two or three still in litigation.
When again everything looked promising for the company, the
whole country was startled by the report of a defalcation by one
of the most trusted officers of the company, whose name hitherto
had been above reproach.
The suspension of the dividends in consequence of the Norwalk
accident had caused a fall in the stock of the road in 1854, from
85 on June 23, to 79 on July 1., and to 67 on July 3. An examination
of the books showed that stock to the amount of $1,000,000 had
been issued by the banking firm of which the President of the
road was a member, and by it pledged as collateral to raise money.
There had been no check upon the President except his honor, and
the non-payment of dividends gave him the opportunity to issue
certificates in unlimited quantities without exciting suspicion.
On July 3, 1854, he wrote a letter to the Directors, resigning
his office, calling attention to the condition of the books, saying
that much would be found there wrong, and excusing his brother
(his partner) of all blame. He disappeared from New York and is
supposed to have died abroad.
In order to restore its credit as a result of these irregularities,
the company, in 1855, was empowered to issue $3,000,000 of mortgage
bonds for the purpose of retiring the old bonds, and securing
and paying just claims. In the same year the Directors Of the
road were authorized, for the purpose of adjusting the claims
against the company incurred through the transactions of their
President to increase the capital stock to an amount not exceeding
the sum of two million dollars. In 1857 arrangements were made
with the New York Central Railroad Company and the New Haven Railroad
became a part of that extensive consolidation of several roads.
THE NEWBURG BRANCH OF THE NEW YORK AND ERIE RAILROAD
Was allowed to Newburg April 8, 1845, and opened January 8,
OSWEGO AND SYRACUSE RAILROAD
This Company was formed April 29, 1839, and the route was surveyed
during the summer of that year. The Company was fully organized
March 25, 1847. The road was opened in October, 1848, thirty-five
miles and a half in length. In 1872 it passed under the management
of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company.
PLATTSBURG AND MONTREAL RAILROAD
This company was formed February 25, 1850, commenced running
in August, 1851, and opened July 20, 1852, connecting with the
Lake, St. Louis and Province Line Railroad, crossing the Ogdensburg
Railroad at Mercer's Junction.
RENSSELAER AND SARATOGA RAILROAD
This road was chartered April 14,
1832. The articles of incorporation named as the first directors
John Cramer, Elisha Tibbets, John Knickerbacker, Richard P. Hart,
Townsend McCann, Nathan Warren, Stephen Warren, LeGrand Cannon,
George Vail, Moses Williams, John P. Cashin and John Paine. John
Knickerbacker and John House, of Waterford; Stephen Warren, William
Pierce, William Haight, James Cook and Joel Lee, of Ballston Spa,
were designated as commissioners to open the books of subscription.
Work was commenced the following year, and on October 6, 1835,
the first passenger train north bound, left Troy. The northern
terminus of the road near the present depot in Ballston Spa.
While this road extended as far north as Ballston Spa, only
the Schenectady and Saratoga Railroad had been built as far north
as Saratoga Springs; the latter road thereby receiving a majority
of the traffic between Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa. As soon
as the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad had been completed, an
agreement was entered into with the other road whereby the passengers
and traffic of the Rensselaer and Saratoga Road might be carried
on north of Ballston Spa over the tracks of the Saratoga road.
This road finally went into the hands of the creditors, and
was purchased by a new organization, which raised the capital
stock to $600,000, and later to $800,000. In June, 1860, it leased
the Saratoga and Schenectady and the Albany and Vermont Railroads.
All these with other additions subsequently passed into the possession
of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Co.
ROCHESTER AND GENESEE VALLEY RAILROAD
This company was formed June r, 1851; allowed to extend the
road to Portage. Work was commenced in 1852, and the road opened
to Avon in 1854, connecting at Avon with the Buffalo, New York
and Erie Railroad.
RUTLAND AND WASHINGTON RAILROAD
This road was constructed from Rutland to Eagle Bridge about
1851-2. The company neglected to send reports for several years,
and information could not be obtained at the proper source.
SACKETTS' HARBOR AND ELLISBURG RAILROAD
This company was formed May 23d, 1850. The road was opened
June 1, 1853, connected with the W. R. and C. V. R. at Pierrpont
THE SARATOGA & SCHENECTADY RAILROAD COMPANY
This Company was chartered by the State Legislature February
16, 1831, and was empowered to "construct and maintain a
steam railroad between Schenectady and Saratoga Springs, passing
through the village of Ballston Spa. The incorporators named in
the act were Henry Walton, John Clarke, William A. Langworthy,
John H. Steele, Miles Beach, Gideon W. Davison, Rockwell Putnam
and 'such other persons as shall associate with them for that
purpose.' " The road was directed by law to be either single
or double track; to pass as nearly as practicable through the
village of Ballston Spa. The charter was for fifty years. Churchill
C. Cambridge, Samuel Young, Thomas Palmer, Daniel T. Toll, John
J. DeGraff, William James, James Stephenson and John Townsend
were designated as commissioners to receive subscriptions to the
capital stock of $150,000.
The road was commenced September 1, 1831, and was opened for
business July 12, 1832, except a short distance at Ballston, which
was completed in April, 1833. The length was twenty-one and a
half miles, and cost $217,201.22, exclusive of the land it occupied.
Incidental and other expenses brought the cost up to $297,237.00.
About three miles of the road was laid on a stone foundation.
Trenches were dug about two by two and a half feet, and filled
with broken stone, closely rammed, and upon this square blocks
of about two cubic feet were placed three feet from centre to
centre. On these stone blocks cast iron chairs were placed to
receive the wooden rails upon which the iron plate cross-ties
of timber secured the rails from spreading. The remainder of the
road was laid upon longitudinal sills, upon which the sleepers
rested; notched on both sides to secure the sills in their place,
and also to receive the wood rail upon which rested the iron plate
as in the first part of the road. It had a single track with turnouts.
The road was comparatively low; in no case exceeding sixteen feet
grade to the mile. "Steam power was used to good advantage,"
and the net increase in the earnings of the road from April 1,
1833, to February, 1834, was about ten per cent. on the capital
THE SARATOGA AND WASHINGTON RAILROAD COMPANY
This company was chartered May 2, 1834, with a capital of $600,000,
but the company was not fully organized until April 20, 1835.
The work of construction was at once begun, and over $60,000 expended,
when it was stopped until 1838. The time was extended to April
13, 1840; again to May 6, 1844; then to April 4, 1850; and the
capital stock was increased to $850,000 April 7, 1847. April 7,
1848, the company was granted permission to extend the road east
to Vermont. Upon resuming work a route was in part adopted, and
the work of laying rails begun April 16, 1848. On August 15th
of that year the road was opened from Saratoga Springs to Gansevoort;
Dec. 10, 1848, it was opened to Whitehall, and April 9,1851, to
Lake Station a mile and three-quarters beyond Whitehall Junction.
The road was sold Feb. 27, 1855, on foreclosure of second mortgage,
and the name changed to
SARATOGA AND WHITEHALL RAILROAD
The new company was organized June 8, 1855, with a capital
stock of $300,000. It ran from Saratoga Springs to Castleton,
Vermont, fifty-two and a half miles. It became the successor of
the Saratoga and Fort Edward Railroad, which was incorporated
April 17, 1832, with a capital of $200,000 to construct a road
from Saratoga Springs to Fort Edward, seventeen miles. By the
act of May 2, 1834, nothing in the meantime having been done toward
the building of the road, the surveys, maps, etc., were allowed
to be sold to the Saratoga and Washington Railroad Company.
The Schenectady and Troy Railroad was incorporated May 21,
1837. The stock was divided into five hundred shares at one hundred
dollars each. The building of the road began in 1841, and trains
began running to Troy in the fall of 1841. It was constructed
by the city of Troy, the corporation issuing its bond .s to the
amount of $649,142.
SYRACUSE, BINGHAMTON AND NEW YORK RAILROAD
This company was originally formed July 2, 1851, as the Syracuse
and Binghamton Railroad. It was opened through Oct. 23, 1854.
It was sold Oct. 15, 1856, under foreclosure of mortgage, and
the name changed to the Syracuse and Southern Railroad. The above
name was .assumed under act of March 31, 1857. In 1858 the company
was authorized to purchase the Union Railroad to the canal at
SYRACUSE AND UTICA RAILROAD
This road was chartered May 11,
1836, and was entitled "An act for the construction of a
railroad from Syracuse to Utica." The Company was required
by law to pay the President and Directors of the Seneca Railroad
the amount of damages which the said railroad company might sustain
by the construction of the railroad, and also to pay toll to the
Canal Commissioners on all freight other than the regular baggage
of passengers carried by the railroad during the season of canal
navigation. The Schenectady and Utica Railroad Company was absolutely
prohibited in its original charter from carrying any freight.
This prohibition was removed by act of March 7, 1844, and the
above named road was allowed to carry freight during the suspension
of canal navigation by paying the Canal Commissioners such tolls
as would have been paid on the goods had they been transported
by the Erie Canal. This opened tall the roads to freight through
to Buffalo subject to the same conditions as those imposed upon
the Schenectady and Utica Railroad. The road was formally opened
The line from Syracuse to Rochester composed of the Auburn
and Syracuse, and the Auburn and Rochester Railroads, was 104-miles
over a crooked route with heavy grades. In 1849 the attention
of Mr. John Wilkinson and others was called to the necessity of
constructing a more direct route and level railroad between Syracuse
and Rochester; and with that object in view they organized the
Rochester and Syracuse Direct Railroad Company. The surveys were
made by O. Childs, and showed that a level railroad could be constructed
twenty-two miles shorter than the old line. In 1850 three companies
consolidated under the name of the Rochester and Syracuse Railroad
Company, and the Direct Road was built in the ensuing year under
the direction of James Hall, engineer, and opened in 1853, at
the same time of the grand consolidation, forming the New York
TROY AND BENNINGTON RAILROAD
This company was formed May 15, 1851, and work commenced in
June, 1851. The road was opened Aug. 1, 1852; connected the Troy
and Boston Railroad with the Western Vermont Railroad; subsequently
leased to the Troy and Boston Railroad Co.
TROY AND GREENBUSH RAILROAD
This Company was incorporated May 11, 1845, and organized May
14, under a lease from the New York and Albany Railway Company.
According to the charter the road extended from Washington street,
in Troy, to where it intersected the track of the Schenectady
and Troy Railroad, to Greenbush, where it connected with the track
of the Albany and West Stockbridge Railroad. On its completion
trains were drawn by locomotives up through River street to the
intersection of King and River streets, Troy, where the depot
was situated. On January 1, 1851, the road was leased to the New
York and Troy Railroad Company. This was subsequently leased to
the Hudson River Railroad for seven per cent. on $275,000 its
TROY AND RUTLAND RAILROAD
This company was formed March 6th, 1851, and the road constructed
from Hoosick, near Eagle Bridge, to Salem. It was opened June
28, 1852, and leased to the Rutland and Washington (Vt) Railroad
until March; 1855, when it was placed in the hands of a receiver,
and run by the Albany and Northern Railroad.
TROY UNION RAILROAD
This company was formed July 21, 1851, and the road commenced
in February, 1853, and opened February 22d, 1854. It was owned
by parties representing the interest of the Troy and Greenbush,
Troy and Boston, Rensselaer and Saratoga, and New York Central
This company was formed January 10th, 1851. The road extends
from Paterson and Ramapo, N. J., to the New York and Erie at Suffern.
It subsequently became a part of the New York and Erie Railroad
WATERTOWN AND ROME RAILROAD
This Company was formed April 17, 1852. It was clothed with
powers to build a road from Rome to Watertown, and thence to the
St. Lawrence, or Lake Ontario, or both, with a capital of $1,000,000
in shares of one hundred dollars. Work was to commence within
three, and end within five years.
In April, 1852, just twenty years after the formation of the
company, the railroad was completed and put in operation from
Watertown to Cape Vincent, twenty-five miles. The total length
of the entire line was seventyseven and a half miles, and its
total cost $1,957,992. The road is now known as the Rome, Watertown
and Ogdensburg Railway.
WILLIAMSPORT AND ELMIRA RAILROAD
This road was incorporated by Pennsylvania April 9th, 1850,
and allowed to extend the road to the New York and Erie Railroad
at Elmira. The village of Elmira was authorized to loan its credit
for $100,000 toward the construction.
New York | Early Railroad
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