The first railroad in New York sign

Steam!

Here’s a picture of the sign designating the first railroad chartered in the US. As you can see, the sign had been there since 1940.


“The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad was the first railroad built in the state of New York and one of the first railroads in the United States. It was so-named because it linked the Mohawk River at Schenectady with the Hudson River at Albany. It was conceived as a means of allowing Erie Canal passengers to quickly bypass the circuitous Cohoes Falls via steam-powered trains.

“The railroad was incorporated on April 17, 1826, as the Mohawk and Hudson Company and opened for public service on August 9, 1831. On April 19, 1847, the company name was changed to the Albany and Schenectady Railroad. The railroad was consolidated into the New York Central Railroad on May 17, 1853.”

This sign was located along historic Route 20 in Albany on Madison Avenue near Allen Street, just two blocks from my house.

That’s not the same sign!

I would not have mentioned this except for one thing. The sign has been replaced, apparently in 2021, though I never noticed until mid-May 2022.

Notice the more definitive wording. Not “near here,” but here. Yet it’s narrowed the scope of the accomplishment.

The other noteworthy element is who paid for the sign. “The William G. Pomeroy Foundation  is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history, and working to improve the probability of finding appropriate donor matches or other life-saving treatments for blood cancer patients.”

Here’s the description of this sign.

“In August of 1831 the first steam-powered passenger train in New York State, powered by the locomotive DeWitt Clinton, traveled between this place (junction of Railroad and Great Western Turnpike, now Western Avenue in Albany) on the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad line and Schenectady.”

“From the August 2, 1831 edition of Morrisville’s Republican Monitor:

We learn that the company have decided on using steam power only; and there is probably no road in this country or Europe more admirably calculated for locomotive engines…The Mohawk and Hudson rail-road has an important advantage over other roads, in being perfectly straight, and consequently less liable to lateral pressure; and the engines placed upon it will not be retarded by any intervening inclined plane, as they will be employed upon the level between the hills at Albany and Schenectady.

History

The Pomeroy Foundation, which began in 2005, “is interested in opportunities to partner with 501(c)(3) organizations, nonprofit educational institutions, and local, state, and federal government entities that have identified a unique and historically significant project that could incorporate physically placed roadside markers.”

I’m fascinated by this in part because something that I had taken for granted, sitting by the nearby bus stop for decades, had changed, and I missed it until now. Also, I’m interested in entities that will provide signage designating historical places to not-for-profit entities, but also to the governments.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “The first railroad in New York sign”

  1. The tracks were laid on undeveloped land along what was then the edge of the City, which ran right through today’s South End. The main boarding station was downtown past South Pearl Street, not sure where off the top of my head. But according to the esteemed local historian John Wolcott the odd looking old saltbox house across the street from my house, located way up the hill at South Swan and Catherine, was the “uptown” station. That would have been the western edge of the City back then. Just behind the old saltbox house is an odd rise in South Swan, John identified that as the old railroad embankment. The DeWitt Clinton RR was a very popular novelty, everybody wanted to ride the new machine that travelled up to 15 MPH, it was a profitable attraction. So they needed more than one station.

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