Here you go railfans. Although the Harlem Division to Hudson line was severed, Part Is Still In Operation


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Junction of old Harlem Division branch and Hudson Division in Hudson, NY

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Destination of the “Grain Train” just a few miles from Hudson

Here you go. Note that although the Harlem Division to Hudson line was severed in 1959, and operated from Hudson, it was still a B&A or Harlem Div. crew that drove to Hudson to work the line due to union agreements.

Hudson and Boston Railroad was a railroad that spanned across Southern and Central Columbia County, New York. It was chartered in 1855, acquired by the Boston and Albany Railroad in 1870, only to face its gradual demise beginning in 1959. Despite its name, it never actually reached Boston, but it did serve as an important connecting line for the Boston and Albany Railroad, which converted it into the B&A Hudson Branch upon acquisition. The line formed a cutoff between the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad towards New York City and the Boston and Albany Railroad, toward PittsfieldSpringfieldWorcester, and Boston.  In the 1869 Official Guide, it is listed under the B&A as the Hudson and Boston Railway. One can tell that it was operated by the B&A as the name of its General Supt. is the same as the GS of the B&A. At that time there were five passenger trains in each direction.

In the 1913 B&A timetable, it is shown as the Hudson and Chatham Branch, with four daily round trips from Hudson to Chatham and return. In the 1957 ETT the branch is shown as just a line between Hudson and Ghent. The B&A track between Ghent and Chatham was removed in 1937 and Hudson trains used the Harlem (Hudson division) on that line segment.

At some time between 4/57 and 4/59 the line was transferred to the Hudson division. That ETT shows it as the Hudson Branch. By the 10/60 ETT, the line had been abandoned east of Claverack, a cement company location. Lot of interest on the Internet, there is even a YAHOO Group: The Hudson Grain Train Group Now serves a grain plant just the other side of Hudson.It has street running in the city of Hudson.

The Hudson and Boston was originally chartered in 1828 as the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad by James Mellen in order to build a railroad line from Hudson, New York to the Massachusetts state line. Construction began in 1835 and was completed in 1838. The company was leased to the Berkshire Railroad, along with the connecting West Stockbridge Railroad, in 1844, but was sold at foreclosure to the Western Railroad of Massachusetts on November 21, 1854. The name was changed to the Hudson and Boston Railroad on February 23, 1855, and the part east of Chatham was abandoned around 1860, since it was redundant with the newer Albany and West Stockbridge Railroad (part of the Boston and Albany Railroad main line).

The line was acquired by the B&A on November 2, 1870, and thus became their Hudson Branch, also called the “Hudson and Chatham Branch.” It was important both for passengers and for freight services especially those used by the various mills in the county. In its waning years, the Hudson Branch would serve freight exclusively. In the summer of 1892 an accident took place in Claverack, New York. In 1900 the line along with the B&A itself were acquired by the New York Central Railroad, thereby making Hudson, Harlem, and B&A Main Line work as one with the former H&B. However, the B&A would run under its own name until 1961. 1936 was the year Mellenville station, the station named for the founder of the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad, was closed and converted into a local grange. The same year, the “BA” Tower in Ghent which controlled movements between the NYC Harlem Division, and the B&A Hudson Branch was closed, and the segment between Ghent and Chatham became exclusively part of the Upper Harlem Division. Maps from the 1950s still show the line as existing, however by 1959 it only ran as far east as Claverack. As NYC merged with Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form Penn Central Railroad, they renamed it the “Claverack Secondary Track” and kept cutting the line back further west, and abandoned all passenger service on their Upper Harlem Division north of Dover Plains. When Conrail took over in 1976, they continued the cutbacks with the line moving further west from Claverack, while the UHD segment was abandoned between Millerton and Ghent, transforming it into little more than a freight spur between Ghent and Chatham. That segment would be gone as well by 1983. Today the only remnants of the line are that of the former Lone Star Cement factory east of Hudson, at a spur off the line once known as “Greenport Center.”

Tracks along the Hudson IN SUMMARY

The old B&A line to Ghent and on to Chatham was the old Hudson & Boston (about 1840), then the Western and then the Boston & Albany. The local freight went from Chatham on west to Hudson via Ghent. The line was intact all the way through until just a few years ago and then was cut back to Claverack/Hudson after that. Passenger service was discontinued on 12/21/32; as of the June 26, 1932 timetable there were still two daily excluding Sunday trains. Freight service was abandoned from Claverack to Ghent in late 1959/early 1960, leaving a 4 mile spur from Hudson to (about) Claverack. In 1986, this was reduced to about 2 miles, i.e., about from Hudson to Upper Hudson.

Hudson, NY, off the NYC Hudson Line had several industries and an industrial spur that eventually led over to the NYC Harlem Line’s terminus in Chatham, with connections there to the Rutland. Right near the Hudson Line south of the Hudson Station was a spur to a cement plant (Universal Atlas), a glue factory (yup, from horses), and the Hudson Secondary led to the Lone Star cement plant (now an ADM plant, still served by CSX with a bit of street running in Hudson and a God-awful grade to pull to get there). There was (and still is) a lot of track in place, and some other facilities were served by rail, including lumber, textile manufacturing and a coal gas plant. The Secondary also served a feed mill in Claverack and led out through Mellenville and on to Chatham. There was also local trolley service in the City of Hudson itself, and a car barn near the NYC Hudson line for the Albany-Hudson Fast Line that ran all the way to Albany, threading its way through Columbia and Rensselaer Counties (you can still find the right of way if you are perceptive and have a little help knowing where to look; the car barn in Greenport off Fairview Ave is now a Niagara Mohawk/National Grid building). Some good modeling options, including the street running (right outside the front door of the “Iron Horse Bar and Grill”) in the City of Hudson.

The right of way in question is the Hudson & Berkshire Railroad that dates back to 1836. This pre-dates any other RR in the area and ran from Hudson,NY to West Stockbridge, Ma. It was laid with wooden rails with iron straps. In 1840 when the Albany & West Stockbridge Railroad (which was governed by the Western Railroad) was building east from Greenbush (Rensselear) to connect with the Western Railroad at State Line they attempted to buy the H&B to no avail. They wanted to avoid building a tunnel, but were forced to build a separate right of way which paralleled the H&B to State Line. The H&B was relaid with T rails in 1848 to improve service but folded in 1854. The Western which now owned the A&W bought the H&B and used it as a second main track between State Line and Chatham until a second tunnel was bored and double track was laid on the Western(later it became the B&A). The H&B rails were removed in 1865 between State Line and Chatham but the portion between Chatham and Hudson survived as a Branch Line for the Western and successor Boston & Albany. A portion of the H&B is still used between Hudson and Hudson Upper by CSX to reach the ADM grain facility.

This B&A (Boston & Albany RR) line extended NE to Ghent where it joined the Harlem Div. right-of-way and went to Chatham where it junctioned with the B&A mainline.

The Hudson Branch connected with a car ferry operation which crossed the Hudson River to a connection with the West Shore RR. The B&A originally crossed the Hudson Div. just south of the NYC station and there were connections in the NE, SE, and SW quadrants of the crossing. After the Branch was severed, a B&A prior rights crew was deadheaded from Selkirk to pick up the power and cars for the Branch which had been dropped at Hudson. The B&A Local designation was LC-25 / 26 (IIRC).

Looking at the Google map aerial view I see where that Hudson branch splits before the ADM mill. Two tracks , one goes to the mill the other to a factory. It looks like a trailing point switch by a factory and then the line goes into the woods and stops by an abandoned bridge.

As far as I know there were three spurs off the ex-NYC Hudson Line. The north spur is the Hudson Upper (ex-B&A) which runs up to ADM in Greenport. The middle spur, unused but still in place, served a factory which sits between the Hudson Line and Rte 9G. The southern spur was called Hudson Lower. Fragments remain between the Hudson Line and the east side of Rte 9G. It once went up an incline called either Jones Mountain or Becraft Hills (depending on the date of the map you reference) where a large quarry complex exists to the current day. At some point over its lifetime the Hudson Lower was pruned back from its original terminus at quarries east of Rte 9 (not 9G) and west of Newman Road to a large processing complex on the west side of Rte 9. Service on this spur ended in, I think, the 1980s, but that’s just a rough guess from previous posts on this and other boards. Most of the ROW is off-limits and clearly posted as such by St. Lawrence Cement.

When that service to ADM started in the 1980’s, the job was called out of Selkirk as a WVSE-99 travelling switcher. The loaded grain trains inbound were symbolled as a GRU-series (GRain Upper Hudson). The trains were figured for one per week, and it usually took 4 crews for the round-trip between Selkirk and ADM. During test runs, 15,000hp could take 21 or 22 loads up that hill through the city to ADM. All units were 4-axles as 6-packs were barred at that time due to the track conditions

It is a 3.22% grade. Under Conrail, I believe it was their steepest grade. Under CSX now, I’m not sure it is their steepest. The ADM job is usually called out of Selkirk and the crew takes 10 cars up at a time, with empties “usually” brought down after 3 runs up. It is also very rare that a Selkirk-Oak Point / Oak Point-Selkirk train will drop cars off at Hudson. Up until last year, the local could be seen 4-5 days a week climbing the hill. It may be less now with the economy slowing down. And 6-axle power can be used on this trackage.

The branch ran from Hudson to Chatham. The Harlem Division connected at Ghent and ran over the B&A to access Chatham.

The stations on the Hudson Branch were as follows: – HUDSON – Hudson Upper – A&H Junction – Claverack – Country Club (near the present day Columbia Golf and Country Club) – Pulvers – Mellenville – Ghent – Harlem Division connects and thence to: – Payn’s – Chatham

The grade is not the only problem as there is a sharp curve coming around the wye at the bottom of the hill to start the run upgrade as well as a second sharp curve where the line curves to begin the 2 blocks of street running. When service started, the traffic signals had not been re-connected to warn of the approach of the train, so crew had to flag the crossing at the start of the street running as well as the 4 intersections (2 in the street running and 2 on the far side of the city park). The line was the B&A’s connection to the West Shore RR by means of a car ferry across the river to Ravena. The original layout of trackage had 2 B&A tracks crossing the 2 NYC&HR tracks at grade with connections in all quadrants except the NW. Some people may remember the 2 old B&A boxcars which were on the SW for many years until they were scrapped in place in preparation for a [President L. Stanley] Crane inspection trip.

How do they get from Selkirk to Hudson?  They used the Castleton bridge to Hudson Line. 

An interesting aside: The New York Central Lines magazine from the 1920’s contained some entertainment as well. There was a story almost every month written by George H. Wooding who was a towerman in Ghent, NY. It was labeled “a series of merry minglings of fact and fable, chiefly along the Harlem Division but just as interesting to the folks all along the main line”.

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