Tag Archives: Chatham

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


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


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”.

The Fabled Rutland Milk


Pictured above is a “rider car” going through Troy, New York. Below is a milk car.


So what was so spectacular about what was called the “Rutland Milk Train”? Well, it started out way up in New York State, ran across the top of the state, ran down the length of Vermont, then back through New York State into New York City! Used to go over Rutland Railroad’s “Corkscrew Division”, but when that track had no more on-line business, they cut through Troy. Besides the truck lobby, what killed the Rutland Milk was inability to sell Vermont milk in New York (Federal “milkshed” regulations). My goodness! Almost 500 miles!

The Rutland milk ran to Chatham as train 88 which held over for 90 minutes for the arrival of the northbound empties from the NYC on the Harlem Division. The trains were swapped over from one railroad to the other as the Rutland crew returned north with the empties. The Rutland milk train dropped one car at Mott Haven for the Bronx Terminal Market, dropped cars at 130th Street yard, and arrived at 60th Street yard at 3:20 a.m. In regards to the Rutland Milk trains, from the Jim Shaughnessy book: Trains #87 (northbound) and #88 (southbound) seem to be the milk trains that operated across the Rutland system to/from the New York Central connection at Chatham, NY. The “Corkscrew” division between Rutland and Chatham had little or no local business online, and was approved for abandonment in 1952. By the time #88 made the last run over the Rutland’s “Corkscrew” division to Chatham in May, 1953, the “milk train” looked more like a manifest local, with about 8 cars between the RS3 and the caboose. After the “corkscrew” was shut down, #88 ran via B&M & NYC trackage rights via Troy and Rensselaer to Chatham. On the last two pages of the book “Trackside in the Albany, NY Gateway”, there are shots of a Rutland train moving thru Rensselaer around 1960. The Rutland milk train had a long circuitous route, as cars came from Burlington and points north near the Canadian border as well. In the early 1950’s as trucks took over the bulk of the milk traffic from the railroads, the NY State legislation banned Vermont milk from being processed in NY state just about ending the Rutland’s milk into NY state, I think the Rutland took their business to Boston. On the Harlem Division, the station at Patterson was demolished after an interesting incident took place. Early one morning in August 1952, one of the cars of the eastbound Rutland milk train derailed as the train was passing by the station, crashing into the southeast corner of the station, and bringing other cars behind it off the rails, tearing up track a creating a big mess.

Rutland Milk running through MO Junction
Rutland Milk running through MO Junction

Here is the Rutland Milk running as a New York Central train from Chatham behind an Erie-built FM locomotive in the 1950’s.

Photo by Victor Zolinsky, courtesy of Wayne Koch.

Much of this information PLUS EVEN MORE is located on “Milk Trains In New York State”, “The New York Central Milk Business”, “Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg: The Rutland Connection” and “Harlem Division: The New York & Harlem Railroad Company”.

Both the D&H, and the Rutland milk trains had very interesting operations, starting out as passenger trains with milk cars cut in and out along the route until they hit a predetermined junction then split the passenger train and milk train for different destinations.

On milk trains in New York State, most railroad-owned cars were of the “milk can” variety while privately owned cars were bulk tank cars (usually two separate 3000 gallon tanks). The milk trains that traversed the New York Central’s Hudson Division at night were solid milk trains with a rider car on to the rear for the crew. An equipment breakdown from the mid to late 1940’s I picked up on the “Web” is as follows: General American Pfaudler (GPEX) 312 cars (1949), NYC 312 cars (1943), Erie 135 cars (1943), D&H 16 cars (1943), Rutland 43 cars (1943). The railroad owned cars above were AAR class: BM, while the GPEX were AAR class: BMT, as most private owned cars were classed.

Finally, here is an outstanding “first person” report on the “Rutland Milk”

The Milk Train

by George Cameron, 12/26/2005

While surfing I found Russ Nelson’s information on bicycling on the Rutland Railroad across Northern New York. I am an 83 year old retired radio station manager who, for a dozen years was a brakeman on the Rutland. In 1944 I was the baggage man on Trains 87-7 8-88 between Rutland, Vermont and Ogdensburg, N.Y. The milk train was numbered 87 and 88 on the main line and 7 and 8 on what was called the O&LC or Ogdenburg and lake Champlain. Our usual consist was a string of milk cars, empty north and westbound and loaded east and southbound, a combo smoker and baggage car, and a coach. We carried passengers but very few. We set the empties out and picked them up loaded on the return.

It is over 200 miles from Rutland to Ogdensburg. There were three crews running two trains. Two were O&LC crews and one, mine, was a main division crew. We changed engine crews at Alburg, Vt. The engine crews were mainline on the mainline and O&LC on the O&LC. Our power was usually 70 class hand fired locomotives. Norwood was a bustling place. Not a big town, but a major rail connection between the Rutland and the New York Central. There was a pretty good sized yard there.

Ogdensburg was a lovely town as I remember. I saw a lot of it because we had a day off every three and it was in Ogdensburg so the job was not the most desireable for a main line guy living in Rutland.

The principal topographical obstacle on the route, as I remember was a major hill at Churubusco, New York. My fellow brakeman was a man named Walter Hack. The conductor was James Alexander. The O&LC conductors were Ellis K. Stone who was called Pee Wee. And Adam Loffler who was called Rummy.

What I remember about that northcountry is how cold it was. Flat country with high wind, drifting snow and below zero temps. It was a tough job setting out those cars in winter and picking them up.

When we came into Rutland with the loads they were immediately directed to New York on an express train. No stops between Rutland and Chatham New York then down the Harlem Division of the New York central to be in New York city in early a.m. The only stop was North Bennington VT to water the locomotive and shovel coal forward for the stoker. Our crews went from Rutland to Chatham with a turn around and return with empty cars.

On our day off we sometimes took the ferry across the St. Lawrence to Prescott Ont to have a cold Canadian beer and do some shopping. It as something to do. I’m sure those towns are all different today. Chateguay, Burke, Norwood, Bombay, Ogdensburg. The railroad is gone the people are gone the cows are gone. Different world today. But you brought back some memories and made me think thoughts I have not though in a half century.


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