On September 24, 1831, the first successful steam passenger train to operate in the United States, the DeWitt Clinton, made its inaugural  “grand excursion” from Albany to Schenectady in one hour and forty-five minutes. Its route eventually joined other rail lines in the formation of the New York Central Railroad Company in 1853, which was guided by the business acumen of industrialist and railroad owner Erastus Corning.

The New York Central Railroad, Hudson River Railroad, and the Delaware and Hudson Rail and Steamer lines were the premiere rails servicing the Hudson River Valley for more than one hundred years, until the mid-twentieth century. The New York Central Railroad also operated a large repair shop in the Capital Region known as the West Albany Shops, which employed hundreds of workers.

Some of the best known trains running in the Hudson Valley included the Empire State Express, or the 999, which set a world land-speed record in 1893 of 112 ½ miles per hour, the Commodore Vanderbilt, built in 1934, and the 20th Century Limited, which ran between 1902 and 1967. The rise of the automobile and the building of roads and interstate highway systems eventually led to the demise of most passenger rail systems.

 

Magnifying Glass
Model of New York Central Steam Locomotive 999
Made by Frank DeSantis
c. 1940–1970
Painted metal, glass, and wood
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of R. Paul Carey, 1999.29
Magnifying Glass
Storm King in the Heart of the Hudson Highlands
Walter L. Greene
c. 1927
Oil on canvas
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of the New York Central Railroad, 1959.130.165