Steve's Railroad Pages

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CSXT: Selkirk Yard and the Selkirk Branch

[ Selkirk Radio Feed at Railsrtream ]

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General Information

There are a number of interesting railroad places in and around the capital district of New York State, roughly centered on the triangle bordered by the cities of Albany, Schnectady, and Troy. The area surrounding that triangle includes CSX's former Conrail (former NYC) Selkirk Yard, the crossroads of CSX's major freight lines in the northeast, branching from Selkirk to Boston, Buffalo (and thence to Chicago), and New Jersey and (thence to points south). Canadian Pacific completes the cross, interchanging with CSXT at Selkirk by way of its former Delaware and Hudson. Paralleling CSX eastward is Guilford's former Boston and Maine. Amtrak maintains a major maintenance facility in Rensselaer, directly across the Hudson River from the city of Albany.

There is a privately operated terminal at the Northeast Industrial Park (formerly the Vorheesville Army Depot), now known in railroad parlance as Guilderland Center (jointly serviced by CSXT off the Selkirk Sub-division (i.e., Conrail's Selkirk Branch) and NS (ex-CP, ex-D&H) off the Freight Main in Delanson (I believe that a private contractor operates the trains between Delanson and Guilderland). Serving southern Washington County is the Batten Kill Railroad. (Varous and sundry links to some of these and a plethora of other railroads and rail-related sites are on my links page.

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Albany Port Railroad

The Port of Albany complex is serviced by the Albany Port Railroad, itself serviced by both CSXT off the Port Subdivision (ex-Conrail's Albany Secondary) and CP (Delaware and Hudson) from Kenwood Yard. The port is operated by Federal Marine Terminals/Albany

The railroad is a sort of loop around the port complex, with a southward spur out of the yard (now out of service) extending to the Niagara Mohawk power plant (parallel to CSXT's Port Subdivsion across the Normans Kill), which is actually the Delaware and Hudson's Cabbage Island Branch. The railroad frequently handles high and wide loads from GE for export. Cargill has had its own GM switcher here to service its grain facility, although not they appear to be using a track. The Albany Port Railroad is jointly owned by the D&H and CSXT (50-50), with the General Manager of the Port Railroad coming alternately from the D&H and CSXT. The Port has two GM switchers and an ex-D&H caboose.

Adjoining D&H's Kenwood Yard, the Port is just east of I-787, which runs north from the N.Y. Thruway Exit-23. Leave I-787 at the State Route 32, Port of Albany exit. The entire port area is to the east of the interstate. Take Broadway south and continue through the port area. There are several places where the roads cross active tracks. Be sure to pause near the molasses tanks, as the air there is usually rich with sweet smells: the railroad offices and engine shed are behind these tanks, across the street from the Cargill grain elevators.

The Albany Port RR uses radio frequency 161.355, while the harbor itself (including CSXT's LAB interlocking, the Livingston Avenue Bridge) is on 156.650 (note, the CSXT LAB interlocking is on the CSX NC road/dispatch pair, 160.8 road [AAR 46/46], 161.07 dispatcher [64/64]; but the interlocking/bridge operator is also on the harbor frequency).

[ A Somewhat Stylized Map of the Albany Port RR ]

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Across the Hudson River from Albany is the present Amtrak station, Albany/Rensselaer. North of the station is Amtrak's Renswelaer shop, where locomotive and passenger car maintenance is conducted. (This is the former site of New York Central and Boston and Albany shops, where each had their own roundhouses.) The Amtrak Rensselaer facilities may be reached from I-787. Take the exit for US-9/US-20 and follow the signs for the station.

The Amtrak stationis on the CSX NC road/dispatch pair, 160.8 road [AAR 46/46], 161.07 dispatcher [64/64], as is the CSXT NC (ex-Hudson) dispatcher and the CSXT LAB Interlocking operator (as noted above). The shop is on 160.455.

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Boston & Maine

Although no longer a player in its own right, The Boston & Maine Railroad, now under Guilford's Springfield Terminal, continues to maintain a presence in the Capital Region. The B&M mainline -- what is left of it -- crosses the Hudson River at Mechanicville, turns south and joins with the D&H Colonie Main at the former XO tower, which was the eastern approach to the now-abandoned Mechanicville yard. Joint track begins here and continues westward to Crescent Junction, where the B&M diverges from the D&H and continues westward to its interchange with CSXT at Rotterdam Junction (where CSXT interchanges a unit coal train). Along the way is the former Super Steel locomotive production facility at the Glenville industrial park.

If you are in Troy sometime and want to see the last extant roundhouse in the area, go up Hoosick St. to the street before the first light after getting off the bridge (I think its 9th St), turn left and go north a few blocks to Middleburgh St., turn left and go down the hill one block to 8th St. The former B&M roundhouse is on the corner of 8th and Middleburgh (painted light green). Along 8th St. south of the roundhouse was the B&M's Rensselaer St. Yard.

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West Albany Yard

CSXT's only yard that is actually in Albany is the ex-Conrail, ex-New York Central West Albany Yard. This was one of the Central's principal shops, complete with heavy maintenance facilities and the like. The yard is now only a small yard for freight service (Conrail's only known caboose in the Capital Region has been based out of this yard). This used to be a major freight center, but much of the trackage (to the west of the present yard) is now out of service or outright abandoned (according to Conrail's economic development staff, some would-be customers have discovered to their dismay that the track outside their building no longer goes anywhere, but Conrail is working with these folks to restore some service to their rusty rails). One drives over the yard on I-90, which passes over the yard between the Hudson River and the New York Thruway/Adirondack Northway interchange.

Leave I-90 at the Everett Road exit, Exit-5. North of I-90 turn right onto Exchange Street and continue onto Anderson Drive to reach the north side of the tracks, while south of I-90 turn onto Watervliet Ave and find the tracks to the north in the industrial area. Further to the west, an occasional box car may be found off Fuller Road, Exit-2, north I-90: take Fuller road north under the CSXT overpass and turn onto Railroad Avenue. There seems to be a better liklihood of finding a live train to the east.

is on This area is on the CSX NC road/dispatch pair, 160.8 road [AAR 46/46], 161.07 dispatcher [64/64].

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The D&H in and around Albany

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Kenwood Yard

The Delaware & Hudson's main yard in Albany is Kenwood Yard, in the Albany port area. Kenwood sits at the south end of the D&H line running north to Mechanicville (and the now abandoned Mechanicville Yard). From Kenwood the now-abandoned Albany Main (later the Voorheesville Running Track) branched to the west and the Northeast Industrial Park in Guilderland Center (now serviced from the west end); this line is described below with the section on Delanson. At the south end of the yard CSXT's Albany Secondary (the former West Shore) runs south to SK interlocking and Selkirk Yard. Kenwood services the adjoining Port of Albany Railroad's yard. The yard hosted Norfolk Southern's Albany Intermodal Facility (which was formerly CP's facility), whcih is now located in Mechanicville. The former intermodal facility is now a fuel trans-loading facilit.

The D&H runs a daily train round trip between Kenwood to Selkirk Yard. The southbound usually leaves Kenwood in the morning (9-10ish) arriving at Selkirk about half an hour later. After turning on the Selkirk loop track the the power returns to Kenwood in the early afternoon.

There are also CSX locals into the adjoining Albany Port and the occasional grain train.

Kenwood is just east of I-787, which runs north from the N.Y. Thruway Exit-23. Leave I-787 at the State Route 32, Port of Albany exit. The entire port area is to the east of the interstate.

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North from Kenwood

The D&H Building, Albany Union Station, and north

What is now the State University of New York's Central Administration building is known locally as the D&H Building, the D&H's old office complex, known to D&H employees as "The Plaza Building". While Empire State Plaza today dominates the Albany skyline, The D&H Building still commands attention at the foot of State Street. The State University of New York hosts a page on this striking building, SUNY Plaza and Buildings

Just north of the D&H Building is Albany Union Station, now Fleet Bank. Corporately, what is now Fleet Bank was originally the First National Bank of Albany, later Northstar Bank, and finally Fleet. The First National Bank of Albany was a backer of both the Erie Canal and the Mohawk & Hudson Rail Road.

To the north of the D&H Building and Union Station the D&H passes under CSXT's Chicago Line as it comes off the Livingston Avenue Bridge. The D&H also has a connection with CSXT here, just off the end of the bridge.

The D&H has a second, occasionally-used yard at the north end of Albany between the Hudson River and Broadway, just to the south of the I-90 bridge across the Hudson. With the service shifts of the past year that parent CP has introduced, it appears that this yard is now used for bulk transfer, with often appearing covered hoppers in the yard.

Colonie Shops and north

North of the city in Colonie, behind the Watervliet Arsenal, is the sight of the D&H's former Colonie Shops, built in 1911-1912. These were the railroad's principal shops until the D&H was purchased by CP Rail. The shops were not purchased (from Guilford) as part of that transaction, and are now abandoned and mostly burned-down.

Further north in Watervliet, at Watervliet Junction, the D&H's former Green Island Branch diverged to the east, while the New York Central's Troy & Schenectady Rail Road passed overhead.

Further north in Waterford, the former Troy Branch (originally the Rensselaer and Saratoga, built in 1835) joined. The present line north to Mechanicville is on the R&S right-of-way.

Mechanicville and west

Joint trackage with the Boston and Maine begins at the fomer XO tower in Mechanicville. This was the site of the former B&M Mechanicville Yard. Today, it is the site of Norfolk Southern's intermodal facility, which was previously located in Kenwood. The D&H had a roundhouse here, and the Hudson Valley Railway, an electric interurban line, passed over the D&H.

West along this line, Crescent Junction marks the end of joint trackage. The B&M diverges to the west and CSXT at Rotterdam Junction (CP-RJ on the Selkirk Branch). The present D&H is the "New Connection," built by the D&H in 1965 when the Mechanicville to Ballston line was abandoned. At Crescent Junction the D&H line from Mechanicville joins the "Canadian Main." This part of the line was built by the Saratoga & Schenectady in 1832 and is the oldest portion of the railroad presently in operation.

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Mohawk Yard, Schenectady, and south

Mohawk Yard is just to the south of Crescent Junction, an interchange point for the D&H and Guilford (Springfield Terminal). South of Mohawk Yard the D&H crosses the Mohawk River and the right-of-way passes the site of the American Locomotive Company factory complex. South of the Amtrak station are the buildings of the General Electric Company. A variety of dimensional-load flatcars may be found here.

South of Schenectady is Delanson, where the Canadian and Albany Mains diverge. The town was originally named Quaker Street in but the name was changed in 1895 (but there is still a Quaker Street post office at the top of the hill on the east side of the village). The name Delanson is a contraction of the railroad's name: DELaware ANd hudSON. Delanson was once a busy railroad center that included a roundhouse, a wye for turning locomotives, large coal stockpiles, and a large passenger station.

Thirty-five miles south of Schenectady is Richmondville Hill. The railroad here is on one of its steepest grades. It is located on a shelf cut in the hills overlooking the valley and the adjoining I-88.

Throughout this area the D&H uses radio frequency 161.100, its north system radio frequency, for communications, including all communications with its dispatchers, who are (or maybe were - - not sure where they are as they move around) located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The changeover to the south system radio frequency is at Central Bridge

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The Albany Main

The earliest part of the Albany and Susquehanna Rail Road, this is now called the "Voorheesville Running Track." Until June of 2000, the Albany Main saw regular freight service between Kenwood Yard and Voorheesville. The late 1990s saw locals on the track every weekday evening. Between Voorheesville and Delanson, the Albany Main was out of service for several years but never abandoned. Occasional inspection trains travelled between Voorheesville and Delanson, and beginning in June 2000, there was extensive track work under way between Delanson and Guilderland as Canadian Pacific rehabbed the long out of service southern end of the line to Delanson, where it joins the D&H Freight Main. This allows traffic to and from Binghamton more direct access to the Guilderland facility, interchange with CSXT at Selkirk, and access to Kenwood, without the need for the present long detour via Schenectady and Mechanicville.

Following heavy storms in June of 2000, the east end of the line went out of service: citing concerns with the bridge over the Normanskill Creek, Canadian Pacific placed the line from the Port of Albany as far as CP-VO out of service. In fact, the diamonds with CSXT's Selkirk branch were removed (but they were kept on site for possible future use). This caused intensified work to bring the west end of the line back into service by mid-August.

CP immediately began operating over the CSXT Albany Secondary between CP's Kenwood Yard and CSXT's Selkirk Yard, over the CSXT Selkirk Branch from Selkirk to Voorheesville, and -- after rebuilding and placing into service a connecting track from the Selkirk Branch to the Albany Main (connecting south of the diamonds) -- onto the D&H. Beginning August 15, 2000, the Albany main was returned to active use from Delanson, with road trains setting off at there for the local to the industrial park. Alas, keeping the diamonds on hand was a futile gesture as the east end of the line was formally abandoned and the rails removed in the summer of 2004.

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Operations for D&H Trains

D&H operations into and out of Albany included to Binghamton and Montreal. Until the abandonment of the eastern segment of the Albany Main between Kenwood and Delanson (which followed the return-to-service of the western segment) traffic could flow to Binghamton southwesward through Voorheesville. With the Albany Main not a through route, all traffic has flowed north. Today, along with mixed-merchandise and grain trains (whcih also arrive at the yard from the south via CSX), the yard sees fairly heavy petroleum traffic. And of course, the circus train is in the Port Yard either by CSX or CP at least once a year.

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The New York, West Shore, and Buffalo

After the New York Central had been operating in its more-or-less mature form, a spat of spite railroading errupted between it and the Pennsylvania. Each railroad began building parallel lines to the other.

The Pennsylvania, under successive presidents Tom Scott and George B. Roberts, invaded the territory of the New York Central, which was then headed by William H. Vanderbilt. The New York, West Shore, and Buffalo was chartered in 1881 to build a line on the west side of the Hudson paralleling Vanderbilt's property all the way to Buffalo. The original West Shore started at Jersey City, with stations at Hoboken and Weehawken before continuing north. It ran its first passenger train to Newburgh on June 4, 1883 and by the end of that year was running all the way through to Buffalo.

Vanderbilt retaliated with the South Pennsylvania Railroad, which was to be parallel to the Pennsylvania's main line between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Added to this mix, the West Shore received financial aid from George M. Pullman who despised Vanderbilt, who would not use Pullman sleeping cars on his line (he used Wagner Palace Cars instead). Vanderbilt, on the other hand, was aided by Andrew Carnegie, who did not like the Pennsylvania's monopoly in Pittsburgh. The cutthroat competition between the West Shore and Vanderbilt's New York Central caused the West Shore to founder first. It went bankrupt in June 1884. However the financial damage the West Shore was doing to the New York Central alarmed J.P. Morgan, the prominent railroad financier and a friend of Vanderbilt's, and he decided to intervene.

In July 1885, Morgan invited Roberts of the Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt of the Central to a meeting on his palatial yacht, the Corsair, in an attempt to arrange a truce (this while slowly cruising the East River, Hudson River, and Long Island Sound). Morgan succeeded, and in return for control of the bankrupt West Shore, Vanderbilt agreed to stop all further construction on the South Pennsylvania, which had been graded and tunneled, but on which track had not been laid. Morgan received fees estimated at between one and three million for arranging this deal, and the New York Central kept the West Shore name on its rolling stock, tickets and timetables for years.

Today, the eastern end of the old West Shore still sees heavy use. The Central's old River Division, Conrail's old River Line, CSX's River Subdivision (under the NJ dispatcher), runs from Selkirk Yard south, CSX's critical freight line into North Jersey. The trackage from Selkirk Yard west to CP-RJ also sees heavy use (from CP-RJ it departs from the West Shore proper to cross the Mohawk River to the former NYC main line at CP-169 as CSX's Selkirk Subdivision, which actually runs west along the Mohawk to CP-175). Other than the West Shore branch along the south side of Rochester and the industrial track to the west of Rotterdam Junction, just about all the rest of the old West Shore is gone.

See also The Pennsylvania Tunnels: A Selkirk Branch Footnote.

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The Boston & Albany

Here are just a few notes.

Joining with the New York and Albany in Chatham, N.Y., the Western Railroad of Massachusetts (organized in 1836, completed from Worcester, Massachusetts to the New York State Line in 1841) was a key link in the original rail line of Cornelius Vanderbuilt and the catalyst of the nascent New York Central and Hudson River Rail Road. The Boston and Albany was Chartered on Nov. 2, 1870, and was formed by the merger of the Western Railroad of Massachusetts and the Boston & Worcester Railroad. In 1880 the B&A was acquired by the New York Central during the development of the J. P. Morgan-era "communities of interest." It was formally consolidated with New York Central & Hudson River Railroad in 1900.

The Boston and Albany had its own roundhouse in Rensellear, next to the New York Central facilities on the sight of the present Amtrak shops. Although the United State's Supreme Court's Northern Securities decision of 1904 (ordering the dismantling of James J. Hill's Northern Securities Corporation) spelled the end of railroad consolidations -- mergers, acquistions, and their informal cousin, "communities-of-interest" -- for generations to come, and in fact, together with the ICC's investigation of E. H. Harriman -- finding that his combination of Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Illinois Central was a restraint of trade not in the public interest -- began active divestures, some holdings remained intact: the Pennsylvania retained ownership of the Long Island and the Norfolk and Western, while the Central held onto a number of its small roads, such as the Walkill Valley and the Ulster and Delaware in the Catskills and -- through the Berkshires -- the Boston and Albany. Today, Conrail's Selkirk yardmaster's may still be heard referring to trains to or from the Boston Line as "the B&A."

For additional information on the B&A try the Boston & Albany Page.

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The Mohawk & Hudson Rail Road

The Mohawk & Hudson was one of the very first railroads in the United States, chartered in 1826. The DeWitt Clinton locomotive made its first run on the Mohawk & Hudson Rail Road during a test run on July 2nd, 1831.

New York State already had a successful transport system in place when railroad fever hit the coutry in the mid-1820s -- the Erie Canal had been profitable from its inception, unlike the Main Line in Pennsylvania or the C&O Canal in Maryland. However, the Erie Canal merged with the Mohawk River in Schnectady, beginning a widning route with several locks down river to the Hudson and Albany: the 40 mile water route took more than a day. Passengers would disembark to take the 17 mile land route by coach, passable in a quarter the time and half the expense of the water route, rather than stay with the barges. Seeing the potential for an expanded land transportation system between Schnectady and Albany, on December 28, 1825, George Featherstonhaugh (pronounced fen-shaw, as near I can can determine), of Duanesburgh, ran a newspaper notice announcing the formation of the Mohawk and Hudson Rail Road Company.

Today, remants -- both in use and long abandoned -- may be found in and around the cities of Albany and Schnectady. There is a historical marker for the Mohawk and Hudson in the City of Albany where Western and Madison Avenues meet. It was here that the Mohawk and Hudson crossed the Great Western Tumnpike at what is now "the point," the wye-intersecton of Madison and Western Avenues. (Historically, it has been recorded that at one time the railroad had to change from steam on the north side of the turnpike to horse carts to cross and travel south of the turnpike, as it could not obtain rights to cross the turnpike with a steam locomotive.)

From the historic marker northwest to Schnectady was the road's original right of way, opened for service on August 9th, 1831, ending south of the present Amtrak staion. On May 14, 1832 the road opened an extension southeast to and along today's Holland Avenue, past what is now the intersection of Morton and Delaware Avenues, east to Gansevoort Street on the Hudson River. In September of 1841 this line was extended north to Ferry Street and Broadway. In 1833 a line parallel to Western Avenue to a site at Lower State Street was opened. In 1843 the line in Schnectady from Hamburg Street to the present station was opened and the original line was abandoned.

In Albany, all tracks east of Fuller Road on the original alignment across Western Avenue (the original line to Morton and Delaware and a second line down State Street) were abandoned on September 30, 1844, when a new line from Fuller Road east to the Hudson River was opened. This is the present CSX line, known when it was contructed as the Tivoli Hollow line. The longest in-tact (more-or-less) remaining segment of the original line east of Fuller Road may be found opposite SUNY Albany's traffic circle facing Washington Avenue, a segment of about 1000 feet that was breached in 2000 for about 100 feet by Crestline Suites. A historical marker is located at this location.

Between Albany and Schnectady, west of Fuller Road, this is the alignment still in use today as CSXT's Hudson Subdivion (ex-Conrail, ex-New York Central Chicago Line). (In his book on the collapse of the Penn Centrail, The Fallen Colossus [New York: Weybright and Talley, 1977], Robert Sobel makes frequent mention of the Mohawk and Hudson in his chapters on the origins of the northeast railroads.) Historically, the fact tht the Mohawk & Hudson dates to 1826 impacts on CSX and its railroad heritage: as noted, between Fuller Road in western Albany and Hamburg Street in Schenectady, 8.3 miles, CSXT is now on the original Mohawk & Hudson right-of-way: this active right-of-way may (as far as I can determine) predate any of CSX's present ancestors (including the B&O): it is now the oldest right-of-way over which CSX operates, and The Mohawk & Hudson is, along with the B&O, which was also chartered in 1826, the earliest corporate predecessor to CSX.

Regardless of the age of rights of way, the critical point is that the Mohawk & Hudson was the first successful steam railroad running regularly-scheduled service. This was due to the agressive stance New York merchants were already taking with regard to commerce with the West. Together with the Erie Canal, the Mohawk & Hudson -- ultimately Erastus Corning's New York Central -- paved the way for New York's domiance in trade and finance as the industrial revolution swept the United State.

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The New York Central

The East/West Axis: Albany to Buffalo

Early in 1851, a convention was held of the ten railroads that more or less end-to-end linked Albany and Buffalo. These ten included Mohawk & Hudson successor Albany & Schnectady (the name of the company having been changed in 1847). The intent of the convention was to lay the groundwork for consolidation into a single company. On Februay 12th, 1851, the convention authorized that an application be made to the New York State Legislature to consolidate. On April 2nd, 1853, the Consolidation Act was passed by the Legislature (Section 76 of the Laws of 1853) authorizing the consolidation. On May 17th, 1853, the consolidation agreement was signed forming the New York Central Railroad Company, and on July 7th of that year the agreement was filed with the Secretary of State, thus officially forming the New York Central. (See below for the <ten railroads> forming the New York Central.)

North/South: Along the Hudson

From the south, rail activity was being conducted apace. On August 25, 1831, the New York & Haarlem Railroad Company (note the Dutch spelling of Harlem) was chartered by act of the New York State Legislature to build a railroad line on Manhatten Island. The first run of the new road was on November 14, 1832. On April 17, 1832, the New York & Albany Railroad was chartered to build north from the Harlem River to Albany (backed by several of the same backers as the New York and Harlem [the English spelling quickly became common]). However, the New York & Albany never materlialized, and it was the New York & Harlem that assumed the broadened charter of the New York & Albany and built north through the Harlem Valley, by 1852 reaching the Western Railroad of Massachusetts (later the Boston and Albany) in Chatham. In 1863 this was to become the original rail line of shipping mogul Cornelius Vanderbuilt and the catalyst of his railroad empire, bringing the New York Central south from Albany to New York City. It is today's somewhat shortened Metro-North Harlem Division.

The New York and Harlem Railroad built well inland from the Hudson River to avoid direct competition with river boats, but demand from the seasonally frozen river towns -- espeically Poughkeepsie -- resulted in the construction of the Hudson River Railroad, chartered in 1846, up the east bank of the Hudson, today's CSX Hudson Subdivision (ex-Hudson Line of Conrail) and Metro-North's Hudson Line. The line opened to Albany in November of 1851, actually preceeding by several months the opening of the older New York and Harlem's inland route to Albany. It too came under Cornelius Vanderbuilt's control, following the New York and Harlem by a year. The Spuyten Duyvil & Port Morris Railroad formed a seven mile link between these two raods in 1871, and was quickly leased to the (by then) New York Central & Hudson River: in 1913 it was finally merged into it.

Final Consolidation

Vanderbuilt acquired control of the New York Central in 1867, and in 1869 the New York State Legislature passed legislation authorizing the merger of the Vanderbuild roads into the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. Along with his other holdings to the west, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad between Buffalo and Chicago, and the Canada Southern and Michigan Central railroads -- an alternate Buffalo/Chicago route through Ontario -- the modern New York Central was formed.

The Original Railroads Forming the New York Central

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  • The Voorheesville Running Track (Albany Main) is abandoned between Kenwood Yard and Voorheesville
  • For maps of Selkirk yard and the Selkirk Branch (the CSX Schodack, Castleton, and Selkirk Subdivisions) see the Selkirk pages.
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