Early Railroads of New York

dewittclinton-200.jpgFor the year ending Sept. 30, 1865, the Railroad Commissioners of the State of New York offered the following statistics for a year in which steam and horse railroads were both still operating:

New York that year had 3089.84 miles of steam roads, with 962 engines, 820 first class passenger cars, and 181 second class cars. The horse roads only covered 256 miles. (Horse-drawn rail tended to persist within densely populated cities, where fear – or experience – of fire caused a ban on sparky steam engines. Troy was one such city.)

Steam passenger trains in that year ran 7,978,889 miles, carrying more than 16 million passengers. The average speed, including stops, was figured at 20.57 miles per hour; without stops it was 25.43. Express trains were higher, at 26.25 and 30.44. Horses, despite having much less road, must have run much much more frequently, as they ran 18.4 million miles and carried more than 107 million passengers.

In that year, steam railroads killed 24 passengers, 92 employees, and 111 others; 227 in all. Another 272 were listed as injured. The horse railroads only killed 8 passengers, 1 employee, and 21 others, for a total of 62. So for the steam roads, that worked out to an average of 30.5 million miles of travel for each passenger either killed or injured, and for each one killed, 675,643 weren’t. These are published statistics.

The report also helpfully tabulates “the date when the several Railroads of this State were opened for public travel.” Although many of them, of course, aren’t local, I thought it would be useful to show them here. We all well know that the first passenger rail of any kind was right here between Albany and Schenectady, but it’s surprising how quickly rail service grew in the immediate Albany area, and perhaps also surprising how slow it was to expand elsewhere. The report included the date, the name of the railroad, and the number of miles opened each year.


In 1831. The Mohawk and Hudson, 17 miles,

In 1832. The Saratoga and Schenectady, 22 miles, and 1 mile of the New York and Harlem.

In 1834. The Ithaca and Owego, 29 miles, and 2 miles of the New York and Harlem.

In 1835. The Rensselaer and Saratoga, 25 miles.

In 1836. The Utica and Schenectady, 78 miles.

In 1837. The Tonawanda, 44 miles; the Lewiston, 3 miles; 15 miles of the Long Island, and 2 miles of the New York and Harlem.

In 1838, The Hudson and Berkshire, 31 miles.

In 1839. The Syracuse and Utica, 53 miles, and 2 miles of the New York and Harlem.

In 1840. None.

In 1841. 46 miles of the New York and Erie and 5 miles of the Long Island.

In 1842. The Albany and West Stockbridge, 38miles; the Auburn and Rochester, 78 miles; the Schenectady and Troy, 21 miles; 10 miles of the Long Island; and 6 miles of the New York and Harlem.

In 1843. The Auburn and Syracuse, 26 miles; the Attica and Buffalo, 31 miles, and 7 miles of the New York and Erie.

In 1844. 52 miles of the Long Island, and 12 miles of the New York and Harlem.

In 1845. The Cayuga and Susquehanna, 29 miles; the Buffalo and Niagara Falls, 22 miles; the Troy and Greenbush, 6 miles, and the Skanaeateles and Jordan, 5 miles.

In 1846. 8 miles of the New York and Erie.

In 1847. 25 miles of the New York and Harlem.

In 1848. The Saratoga and Whitehall, 40 miles; the Oswego and Syracuse, 35 miles; 140 miles of the New York and Erie, and 29 miles of the New York and Harlem.

In 1849. The Chemung, 17 miles; 59 miles of the New York and Erie, and 75 miles of the Hudson River.

In 1850. The Northern Ogdensburgh, 118 miles; the New York and New Haven, 14 miles; 78 miles of the New York and Erie; 18 miles of the Watertown and Rome, and 69 miles of the Hudson River.

In 1851. The Canandaigua and Elmira, 47 miles; 128 miles of the New York and Erie, and 52 miles of the Watertown and Rome.

In 1852. The Buffalo and State Line, 69 miles; the Troy and Boston, 26 miles; the Plattsburgh and Montreal, 23 miles; the Sixth Avenue, 4 miles; 51 miles of the New York and Harlem; 20 miles of the Watertown and Rome, and 44 miles of the Buffalo, Corning and New York.

In 1853. The Albany Northern, 33 miles; the Troy and Bennington, 5 miles; the Troy Union, 2 miles; the Canandaigua and Niagara Falls, 99 miles; the Buffalo and New York City, 91 iles; the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls, 77 miles; the Sackett’s Harbor and Ellisburgh, 18 miles, and 46 miles of the Buffalo, Corning and New York.

In 1854. The Syracuse and Binghamton, 80 miles; the Flushing, 8 miles; the Brooklyn City, 17 miles, and the Third avenue, 4 miles.

In 1855. 26 miles of the Black River and Utica, and 30 miles of the Potsdam and Watertown.

In 1856. 9 miles of the Black River and Utica, and 24-1/2 miles of the Potsdam and Watertown.

In 1857. 2 miles of the Brooklyn City, and 21 miles of the Potsdam and Watertown.

In 1858. 11 miles of the Buffalo, New York and Erie.

In 1859. The Genesee Valley, 15-1/2 miles; the Ninth Avenue, 3-1/2, and the Broadway Railroad of Brooklyn, 4-1/2.

In 1860. The Atlantic and Great Western in New York, 49 miles; the Staten island, 13 miles; 4 miles of the Brooklyn Central and Jamaica; 5 miles of the Brooklyn City, and one mile of the Ninth Avenue.

In 1861. 4 miles of the Brooklyn City, and 5 miles of the Warwick Valley.

In 1862. Coney Island and Brooklyn, 10-1/2 miles; 5 miles of the Brooklyn City and Newtown; 17-1/2 miles of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburgh, and 5 miles of the Warwick Valley.

In 1863. Albany and Susquehanna, 35 miles; Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island, 4 miles; Forty-Second Street and Grand Street Ferry, 7 miles; Rochester City and Brighton, 6-1/2 miles; Utica City, 2; Van Brunt Street and Erie Basin, 1-1/2 miles.

In 1864. Albany and Susquehanna, 1 mile; Broadway and Seventh Avenue, 8 miles; Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island, 2-1/2 miles; Central Park, North and East River, 19 miles; Forty-Second Street and Grand Street Ferry, 1 mile; Long island, 5-1/2 miles; Harlem Bridge, Morrisania and Fordham, 5 miles; Troy and Cohoes, 3-1/2 miles; Utica City, 2 miles.

In 1865. Adirondack Company, 25 miles; Albany Railway, 3 miles; Albany and Susquehanna, 46 miles; Oswego and Rome, 18 miles; Saratoga and Hudson River, 26 miles.

Image of the Dewitt Clinton from Schenectady County Historical Association.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *