Selkirk, Castleton, Albany and Hudson River
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Castleton Cutoff

Welcome to our "Castleton Cutoff and Hudson River Connecting Railroad" WebSite

Here's a preview of some of the exciting projects we have put together for you:

Our feature article is about the Castleton Cutoff

We have other interesting articles about the Hudson River Connecting Railroad , the White Elephant Line , and Railway Express Agency .

We have maps of the Castleton Bridge area and Selkirk Yard . You can fly around the Albany area on Google Earth.

Starting with our Selkirk Photo Gallery , we have lots of interesting pictures. There is a collection of New York Central Railroad pictures , tunnels and bridges on the New York Central , the Hudson Line south of Beacon and a link to Albany County Historical Pictures .

There is a special section on The Hudson River , another on the Port of Albany , one on the Capital District .

, and a story on Transportation in Albany .

Other sections you shouldn't miss are rumors about Selkirk , railroads East of the Hudson key to Castleton Cutoff , some questions answered , and our reference section .

Take a quiz on Which One of These People Hurt New York City the Worst?

We hope you enjoy your visit to our WebSite. We offer a wide range of great sites. We have a great "Portal to the World", excellent weather, golf and tourist sites. As well as great WebSites on trains run for the President of the United States We are not "FLASHy" like many WebSites, but we offer you, among other things authentic railroad history material. Much of this material is not available elsewhere on the Internet. It was painstakingly collected over many years from such sources as Yale University. We never knowingly link you to any WebSites that contain a virus, collect your personal information, or are those machine-generated sites rampant with "Ads by Google".

Remembering the last New York Central Railway Post Office (RPO) Through Syracuse (by Richard Palmer)

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state applied for $517 million in federal funding for eight projects to advance New York’s high-speed rail plans.

• $294.7 million to construct a new route for Amtrak along two miles of the Northeast Corridor at the Harold Interlocking, where Amtrak trains cross over MTA Long Island Railroad trains, causing significant delays. The bypass routes would enable Amtrak to improve reliability, on-time performance and travel times between New York City and Boston, and provide a direct path through the Harold Interlocking.

• $112 million to construct a new high-capacity signal system between Croton-Harmon and Poughkeepsie that would result in improved on-time performance and increased capacity.

• $49.8 million for final design of Phase 2 of the Moynihan Station project, which would provide new passenger and back-of-house facilities for Amtrak. The project would improve reliability and on-time performance at the station by enabling trains and people to move more efficiently through the Penn Station complex.

• $35.4 million for the final phase of fourth-track construction at Rensselaer Station. The project includes constructing a new fourth track, extending platforms, realigning existing tracks and installing a new signal system.

• $18.6 million to replace the final 48 miles of the Hudson Line signal system between Poughkeepsie and Albany, and bury the signal cable.

• $4.1 million for the final phase of track construction at Schenectady Station.

• $1.75 million to conduct preliminary engineering and environmental analysis for a project to construct the first heated, indoor maintenance facility west of Schenectady on the Empire Corridor West.

• $1.4 million to conduct preliminary engineering and environmental work on the Rochester Intermodal Station.
On June 13, 1845 the Troy & Greenbush Railroad opened between Troy and Greenbush, NY. It is the last link in an all-rail line between Boston and Buffalo. See more random dates in railroad history.
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Just Around the Corner by Bertrande H. Snell

Bertrande H. Snell, author of the following article, a native of Parish, Oswego County, N.Y., was a telegrapher all his working life. For many years he was employed by the New York Central Railroad, and for 33 years was a telegrapher for Western Union in Syracuse.

Bertrande Snell commenced his writing career with the Syracuse Syracuse Post-Standard in 1945 and continued it until shortly before his death in 1949. His columns were primarily of a reminiscent or historical nature, which included railroad stories.

If you like his column, we have more.
Syracuse Post-Standard, May 25, 1947

Just Around the Corner
By Bertrande Snell

As one looks back from a distance at the happenings of other days, there are always certain characters and certain incidents that stand out against the background of the past. In recalling my earlier years as a telegrapher on many different railroads from Oklahoma to the Atlantic Ocean, I never fail to think of one outstanding personality in the bygone parade. His name was (or is) Harry L. Schneider, and he was, indeed, a character.

When I first knew him he might have been in his late 20s, a rather stocky man, dark-haired, pleasant-featured, always well-dressed and seemingly as carefree as a dust-particle in the sunlight. The thing you first noticed about him was the fact that his left arm had been amputated close to the shoulder, and a second glance showed that his right hand had been badly mangled, leaving him possessed of only one thumb and the first two fingers.

However, Harry could do more and better with his thumb and two fingers than the average man could ever hope to accomplish with a full digital equipment. He was an expert telegrapher, he knew the railroad game inside and out, he was familiar with the routine of commercial telegraphy, having "sat in" on some of the fastest wires east of Chicago ˆ and he professed no modesty in the narration and fulfillment of those capabilities.

He was a consistent lover of good company, good food and good liquor, the last of which he consumed in vast quantities, with no apparent ill effect. His spirit was seemingly unconquerable. Quips and "wisecracks" showered from him like sparks from a red-hot horseshoe; he was the personification of good humor and the apostle of good fellowship.

I recall with a grin the cards he was always passing out:
Harry L. Schneider
The Ragtime Millionaire
The World's Only Two-Fingered Telegrapher
Today a Plutocrat, Tomorrow, a Bustocrat
Always An Aristocrat Have One on ME!

During the course of the last half-century, I have met railroad telegraphers of all sorts and conditions; I've seen them come, and I‚ve seen them go. And it has been a rare and wonderful experience ˆ almost worth the penalty of growing old to have viewed such a panorama. I have met lowly "hams" who later became high officials; vice presidents who ended up as bums; and a vast army of the ordinary boys who just stayed as they were and drifted along with the tide.

If I ever make good on my 20-year-old threat to write a book titled, "Tales of the Telegraph," there will be more snickers than sighs among its few readers; for I shall recount but little of the obvious insincerity and blatant incompetency of the great and near-great; concentrating rather on the whimsical situations that 43 years of laughter and tears cannot have failed tio evolve.

For instance, reverting to our deluxe boomer, Harry Schneider, let me spin you a little yarn about him.

The first time I laid eyes on Harry was in the fall of 1911. He blew in to the New York Central train dispatcher's office in Corning, immaculate of attire, clean-shaven and reasonably sober. He was after a job, and Chief Dispatcher Lynahan was, as always in those days, desperately in need of telegraphers. Explaining with evident success that his handicap would in no way interfere with performance of duty, he was duly hired and sent into the message room for a telegraph test.

At that time, I was trying to hold down the division message job, with not too great success. We had a couple of "fast" wires, one to New York City and another to Buffalo and the men at the other ends of these circuits were first-class telegraphers, speedy and accurate.

Well, "Uncle" John, as we all called Chief Lynahan, brought Harry in and introduced us. At the moment I was working the New York wire. The sender was a man named Relyea, a very speedy and competent man, but personally a "grouch." He‚' just informed me that he had a "file" of some 50 telegrams and we had just started on them.

I opened my key, jumped up and greeted Harry and was about to resume when Uncle John said:

"Let Mr. Schneider sit in for a few minutes, Bert, and tell me how he makes out." And he ambled back to his office.

At my invitation, Harry tipped me a slow wink, dropped into the chair, took a swift look around, saw that we were alone in the little room, and pulled up his left trouser-leg halfway to his knee. Nestled neatly there, between his skin and his Paris-gartered long sock was a full half-pint of the genuine old telegraphers‚ oil.

He grasped the bottle and removed the cork by the simple expedient of pulling it out with his teeth. He passed the full flask to me with a flourish of invitation. In the sacred spirit of brotherhood, I took a vigorous swallow and returned it. I fancied I saw a fleeting shade of contempt on his features as he noted the negligible amount I had consumed, but without comment he tilted the container and the contents ran down his throat without let or hindrance until the last drop disappeared.

Burying the dead soldier in the depths of the big wastebasket, he turned to the business in hand. Lighting a cigarette with one simple motion, he leaned over, tapped "GA" (go ahead) and closed the key.

By this time, Bro. Relyea in New York was fit to be tied. The wire had stood open, of course, ever since I had stopped him, some six or seven minutes before, and when he started, he really opened up.

Schneider listened a second or two, smiled and pulled the ancient Remington nearly into his lap. His thumb and two fingers hovered over the keys for an instant ˆ and he went to it!

He flashed those completed telegrams from the typewriter to the message-hook in a continuous and blurring stream of paper without halt or hesitation, as his three flashing digits banged the old "mill" like the roll of a snare drum. As I stood, awestruck, he turned to me with a smile and spoke low-toned, without altering his stride.

"That guy's good, but I know where there's a better one ˆ and he's sittin' right in his chair," And I believed him!

I soft-footed over to Uncle John‚s office and beckoned to him. He entered silently, observed the scene with appreciation, and as the sender finally came to a halt, with the signal "NM" (no more), he said quietly:

"Young man, you are a telegrapher." - Than which no higher praise could be asked or given.

It later developed that Harry had, by actual count copied 27 messages in 21 minutes ˆ and that‚s going some, even for a guy with a full complement of fingers.

Morse telegraphy is dead - pushed aside and strangled by the cold hand of mechanized communication. The day of the boomer, with his battered "bug," his threadbare suit, his gin-flaunting breath, and his eager, questing soul, is gone forever. But the drudgery and the romance, the despair and the exuberance, the woe and the happiness that were the traveling companions of the old-time telegrapher, still swell in the hearts of the few who survived the awesome ordeal.

And may heaven bless us, because that's all we need, now!
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Will the last section to the mine come back to life?
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The Central New England Railway Yard at Maybrook, New York

We have a really new and really cool feature about the Central New England Railway / New Haven Railroad. It is a Journal of the Maybrook Yard. All kinds of previously unpublished and fascinating things!

The Maybrook Line across Dutchess County The "Maybrook Line" was important to New England before the advent of Penn Central and before the Poughkeepsie Bridge burned. This piece of the railroad carried freight from Maybrook Yard, across the Poughkeepsie Bridge to Hopewell Junction where it joined a line from Beacon. The railroad then went to Brewster, then Danbury, and finally to Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven.

The New Haven's Maybrook Line and connections to other railroads

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The New York Central Railroad

See some historic photographs of the New York Central Railroad. First-generation diesels! Passenger and freight runs. Much more!

Capital District Overview

Some observations as of the end of 2005:

West Albany is largely a bulk transfer facility: propane and corn syrup loading from rail to trucks. There's one lumber yard left on Railroad Avenue, one outfit that takes in loads of paper, thus providing the last traffic on the Capital District's last street trackage.

The street trackage itself has been used twice in recent years for unloading the Strates Shows carnival train. Unlikely that will be repeated, since the last gig at Crossgates Mall left an unpleasant taste in the mouth of Strates' management.

There's also an ongoing contaminated soil removal project going on at NL Industries just west of the rte 5 overpass, with the soil going out in half-length, half-height roll offs on flat cars.

At the other end of the former RR avenue, CSX maintains what amounts to a team track behind what used to be Northway mall. Somebody has been loading in hay, using a chopped up 45 foot highway trailer as a loading dock. Also some lumber coming in here, don't know who its for. None of the sidings into the industrial buildings are active, most grade crossings are paved over.

GE is, methinks, the last shipper in Schenectady for CSX. You still see high wides spotted out at S Schenectady waiting for a local to take them down the Carman branch into town. Nothing at all from Schenectady out to Hoffmans.

Troy local goes out dependably Mondays, less so on Weds and Friday, generally out in the mid AM back in the mid afternoon. He's been pretty big lately, 15-20 cars commonly.

On Troy's off days, they run to Rensselaer, generally into the port with former coal gons loaded with scrap. Much smaller train, and less certain that it will operate on any given day.

Both of these locals had been originating in West Albany, but the last few times I've seen them, they have originated at S Schenectady and blown right through W Albany. There's a good sized local that feeds the tankers into W Albany, haven't figured out when he's supposed to run--I've seen him at different times.

Ft Orange hasn't taken any cars in a few years,a s far as I know. You rarely if ever see boxcars going over the river to Rensselaer, so I doubt they're shipping or receiving anything.

Information from Gardiner Cross
Rensselaer Amtrak

Rensselaer is one of Amtrak's busiest locations. It is the third station since passenger traffic moved out of Albany Union Station.

Head End

Railway Express and Railway Post Office

REA RPO Header On passenger trains, railroads operated lots of equipment other than sleepers, coaches, dining cars, etc. This equipment was generally called 'head-end' equipment, these 'freight' cars were at one time plentiful and highly profitable for the railroads. In the heyday of passenger service, these industries were a big part of the railroad's operations, and got serious attention.
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REA Express

In 1966 REA Express was operating a system primarily engaged in the expeditious transportation of express packages, less-than-carlot, and carlot shipments requiring special handling. REA Express also provided a world-wide shipping service through contracts with air carriers, acted as an ocean freight forwarder to many countries of the world, and provided local truck express service in some large cities of the United States. A subsidiary company of REA Express leased truck trailers to railroads, forwarders, and shippers for the use in trailer-on-flat car service. Such miscellaneous services as pick-up-and-delivery services for railroads, custom brokerage on import traffic, sale of traveler's checks and money orders, and collection of C. O. D. charges were also performed. REA Express conducted its business through 8,200 offices and used in its operations 137,000 miles of railroad, 132,000 miles of air lines, 79,000 miles of motor carrier lines, and 6,600 of water lines. The company employed 30,000 persons and operated a fleet of 12,000 trucks. The company handled some 66,000,000 shipment annually. (Association of American Railroads)

-with all those assets and experience, even though rail shipping was in decline, REA dominated the private package business. It was already into trucks, had name recognition, a customer base etc. -why did it finally fail? Why didn't it follow the trends and morph into something successful like UPS and FED EX?

We have a lot of information on the Railway Express Agency, later known as REA Express and also have significant background information available that will help you understand why REA Express failed.

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Railroads On The Rebound

Over the last 50+ years, railroads have changed a lot. Now they are about to change again.

It is all about a combination of economic factors and climate factors.

Since 1950 , railroads have consolidated. Freight moved from a "box car mentality" to a "unit train,mentality". Passenger went from a robust business to a "caretaker" arrangement called AMTRAK. This happened as everybody could drive for free on the Interstate Highway System or fly on an airline system where the government subsidized both airlines and airports. In the meantime, railroad express and railroad post offices went "down the tubes". The old Post Office Department and the Railway Express Agency could not adjust to the new way. UPS and Fex Ex could.
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Some of these are well known because of PGA Tour events held there. Pinehurst; The Greenbrier; and Pebble Beach certainly belong in this catagory. Others are located in towns with even more than golf as an attraction. In this Category is The Otesaga in Cooperstown, New York; Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain.

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Railroad Biographies
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Capital District Trolleys

On November 29, 1899, the Albany Railway, the Troy City Railway, and the Watervliet Turnpike and Railroad Company merged to form the United Traction Company (UTC). At this time there were over 100 miles of territory covered by trolleys and interurbans. 6 years later the Delaware & Hudson Company purchased United Traction. The D&H didn't like the fact that the extensive trolley system was competing with their intercity routes. The D&H and NY Central developed an Albany-Troy "Belt Line" with 30 trains travelling each weekday between Albany and Troy and suburbs only 25 minutes apart.

In 1904, the Schenectady Railway was jointly purchased by the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad and the Delaware & Hudson Company.

The Albany & Southern Railroad served the City of Albany and surrounding area. Perhaps most unique about the A&S was that it used third-rail for electric power instead of the more traditional overhead catenary. The line lasted until the 1920s when it was abandoned.

The Hudson Valley Railway (owned by the Delaware & Hudson) connected Mechanicville and Stillwater and operated until 1928 when the service was abandoned due to increased competition from automobiles and highways.

The Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad was more of a traditional railroad than an interurban but it did operate some electrified lines. The FJ&G beganoperations in 1867 and at its peak reached a maximum length of 130 miles. Its interurban operations lasted only until the latter 1930s but freight operations remained through 1974 when it was taken over by the Delaware Otsego System.

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