Troy Union Railroad


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Picture of Green Island Bridge above is from an old postcard.

First of all, see a great movie about the last days of the Troy Union Railroad.

TROY UNION RAILROAD

The first railroad in New York State, and one of the first anywhere, was the Mohawk & Hudson, connecting Albany and Schenectady. The Rensselaer & Saratoga Rail Road followed in 1832, only a year late. Within twenty years, three more railroads came into Troy:
(1)
Troy & Greenbush;
(2) Troy & Boston; and
(3)Troy & Schenectady.
The resulting congestion led to the formation of the Troy Union Railroad in 1851, owned jointly by the four roads. It opened in 1854. The tracks were moved from River Street to Sixth Avenue and a new station built. One of the lines was eventually bought by the D&H RR (Rensselaer & Saratoga RR), two were merged into the New York Central RR (Troy & Schenectady RR and the Troy & Greenbush RR), and the fourth became part of the Boston & Maine RR (Troy & Boston RR).

Although the tracks in Troy were moved inland to avoid congestion, the growth of the city overwhelmed it still. Row houses, stores, and factories crowded in on all available land near the track. There wasn’t room for the conventional two-storied interlocking towers needed to control the switches at each end of the terminal, so both towers had to straddle the tracks. Switches were thrown by the tower operators through a series of rods and cranks.

In other major cities, early 1900’s grade crossing elimination programs rebuilt the right-of-way above or below the streets. Similar plans were drawn up for Troy, but never were built. Numerous streets required a gate guard, to flag the crossing or drop the gates. The track ran part of the way in the pavement of Sixth Avenue, and steam road locomotives inched their way past parked cars. This looked like industrial trackage but was a passenger main.

Troy’s first depot (before the Troy Union Railroad) was the “Troy House” on River Street. The second one burned (1862) when Troy had what is known as the “Great Fire”. The third one was built shortly afterwards, and lasted until 1900, when Troy finally got a “modern” one. The depot was designed by Reed & Stem, who eventually worked on Grand Central Terminal. The Troy station pioneered individual train platform sheds reached by an underground passageway instead of one huge shed.

The 1900 station was a colonial revival design with Beaux Arts columns and decorated by Grecian castings.”

The station was 400 feet, and the passenger tracks weren’t much longer. Most trains blocked grade crossings at each end of the station. In 1910, there were 130 passenger trains a day. Most of these, except the Albany- Troy beltline, required an engine change.

The station was torn down in 1958, with only a single track left in place because of Rutland trackage rights for their milk train to Chatham, NY. This track came out in 1964, after abandonment of the Rutland. The tunnel for the tracks was between Congress and Ferry Streets.

This area was known in history as the first “red-light district”. Off-duty railroaders visited houses of “working girls”. The railroaders hung their lanterns outside so the crew- callers could find them.

The D&H Troy Branch went to Green Island (from Waterford Jct), and the Green Island Branch went to Troy (from Watervliet Jct).

The Troy Branch was the southern end of the original Rensselaer and Saratoga RR, later absorbed by the D&H. The Green Island Branch was a D&H connection to the former Albany and Vermont RR, which formed the later D&H Saratoga Division Main Line.

The B&M connected with the D&H (and New York Central) at Troy via the Troy Union RR, which was owned by all three (D&H, B&M and NYC). The TURR was formed around a wye, with the passenger station at the south leg. NYC came onto the TURR at Madison St, and from Schenectady via a short stretch of trackage rights on the D&H, which came onto the west leg of the TURR at River St. The B&M came via the north leg at Hoosick Street.

The Rutland originally operated a joint passenger service with the B&M, with Rutland trains and crews becoming B&M trains at the Vermont State Line (White Creek) and running to a NYC connection at Troy. In 1954, after the Rutland passenger service ended, the Rutland gained freight trackage rights on the B&M to Troy and NYC/B&A to Chatham, running three round trips per week out of Rutland.

END OF THE TROY UNION RAILROAD

The only reason for retaining the Troy passenger station at the bitter end was the remnant of B&M service from Boston with one or two Budd RDC’s. The NYC and D&H had the alternative of using Albany as their passenger interchange, and actually it switched back and forth between Albany and Troy for individual trains over the years. The B&M had nothing but Troy.

The D&H preferred Troy over Albany, because the distance from Colonie Shops (the Capital District locomotive service point and crew HQ) was shorter to Troy, and then they didn’t have to run the North Albany Yard Engine to Albany to handle the occasional passenger switching. The Troy Station Switcher (NYCRR crew) was in the station anyway. I don’t think the individual railroads paid for it per move, just a on a fixed percentage.

NYC preferred Albany, because it avoided running light engines the longer distance between Troy and Rensselaer, their locomotive service point, if they didn’t come back with a train.

The D&H paid NYC to use the upper level at Albany on a pro-rata basis, but, all three railroads that owned the Troy Union RR paid a fixed percent of the operating expenses. NYC paid 50%, D&H and B&M 25% each, because NYC took over the ownership of two predecssor RR’s – the Troy and Greenbush and the Troy and Schenectady. The Rutland had no ownership – they operated as B&M trains between White Creek and Troy.

The passenger station was demolished as soon as the last B&M train left town, mostly to avoid the high property taxes levied on railroad property in New York State. The Troy Union RR employees once said, only half in jest, that they knew the end was near when they put a new roof on the station. That was usually the kiss of death for any railroad building.

A serious problem that always plagued Troy was the number of highway grade crossings in the city. Every switching move blocked Fulton Street or Broadway, and the TURR needed about ten crossing watchmen per trick, or a total of more than 40 for the 24/7 passenger operation.

As for the demolition of Troy Union Station, the last passenger service left town in January of 1958 and it was demolished by the end of the summer that same year. So, no, there was never a post-classic- era shack.

Probably the reason Troy lost its direct passenger service relativley early is because it wasn’t far from more-than-adequate remaining service in Albany (7 miles, and with good local transit connections) . The cost saving from shutting down TUS was probably enormous.

Around 1959 D&H and NYC had brought running B&M to Albany, but they couldn’t make an agreement with the operating brotherhoods to allow B&M crews to run to Albany. It wouldn’t work out if a D&H crew had to take the train over that distance. The B&M wasn’t about to put any more money into maintaining that service west of Fitchburg, and this was another good reason for them to dump it.

Either way, the B&M would have had to either run via TURR to the NYC at Madison Street or to the D&H via the Green Island Bridge, and they would have still needed most of the TURR with all of its crossings, and the Green Island Bridge. A route via Mechanicville would not have worked, either. All three railroads wanted to be shed of the entire TURR, not only the station, and the best way to get regulatory approval was to let the expenses pile up and then dump the whole thing. The only fly in the ointment was the Rutland operation, and when that went away in 1961 the fate of the TURR was sealed.

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31 thoughts on “Troy Union Railroad”

  1. Hey! With all the info about Troy (I lived there 1947-’49), how come you don’t have pic’s or actual date of the last train to Boston out of there (not just “Jan. 1958”)???

    Like

  2. Nevertheless, I make a hypthesis that the best potential proportion of games
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  3. Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your
    articles? I mean, what you say is important and all. However imagine if
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    UNFORTUNATELY will have to be from existing content. Everything is GONE: bridge,station and most of the tracks. Have an old slide show I use and often go to the R.P.I. railroad club

    Like

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