Tag Archives: Schenectady

Could Amtrak Extend Services in Saratoga and Schenectady in the Future?

What's New in Saratoga

and Schenectady in the Future?

Being only a short train ride away from New York City is one of the many reasons why living around the Capital Region is great. The only downside is you may have noticed that it’s a rarity for Amtrak to have more than a few trains scheduled from Saratoga or Schenectady on a given day.  However, there could be potential plans for this to change in the future.

A second track between Albany and Schenectady would help break up the congestion that commonly happens. The service will be financed by New York State, which will have to decide whether it’s worth the expense of extending train service beyond Rensselaer.

The trains that do stop in Schenectady and Saratoga are often at inconvenient times for those who wish to commute to New York City. Oftentimes, passengers will have to drive to Rensselaer and catch an early departure from there.
Both the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Empire State Passengers Association have expressed interest in additional service in Saratoga Springs. The Times Union reported that Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber said, “Rail service for us is a huge opportunity.
For now, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope that additional services are extended to Saratoga!
What do you think about Amtrak services extending more trains to Saratoga County?

Early Television in Schenectady, New York

GUEST POST BY KEN KINLOCK

Recently I read in a daily history blog that on May 13, 1928 that “WGY-TV in Schenectady, NY began regular television broadcasting”

Having once worked in Schenectady, I had heard other things about television (and radio) both before and after that date. Matter of fact, We updated a WebSite about early radio history.

http://www.ominousweather.com/VacationFrenchRiviera/Entertainment.html#WGY

1928: General Electric establishes an experimental electro-mechanical television station, W2XB, at its factory in Schenectady, NY. The station broadcasts a moving image from a “camera” using a Nipkow disk with a 24 line resolution. The star of these early transmissions was a 13″ tall Bakelite statue of Felix the Cat slowly rotating on a turntable. In addition to the statue of Felix the Cat, W2XBS also broadcast images of a human subject. These broadcasts were used by GE engineers to test the new technology. In 1942, W2XB becomes WRGB, sister to radio station WGY.

The regular television broadcasting was not only local, but sent to New York City also. Wonder where it was rebroadcast from? At that point, General Electric owned a significant portion of Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Other owners were Westinghouse, the American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) and United Fruit Company.

Above picture is from 1939 and shows the General Electric Broadcasting station in the Helderberg Mountains near Albany, New York.

A block diagram of the GE electro-mechanical television system, Radio News, April 1928.
Note that two radio transmitters were used in these experimental broadcasts. The visual image was broadcast on experiemntal shortwave station W2XB operating on 37.33 meters (7.7 MHz) and the sound was broadcast over radio station WGY operating on 379.9 meters (790 KH).

1928: On September 11, 1928, W2XB (video) and WGY (audio) broadcast American first television drama, a 40 minute one-act melodrama titled “The Queen’s Messanger.” Because the TV screens were small, only the actor’s face or hands were shown. Three “cameras” were used, two for the actors faces and a third for the actors hands or stage props. The play had only two characters. A female Russian spy and a British Diplomatic Courier. Four actors were used. Two for the character’s faces, and two for their hands. Amateur radio operators in Los Angeles and Pittsfield, Mass. watched the experimental broadcast on home built television sets. In a story published in the Washington Post on September 21, 1928 under the headline: DRAMA IS RADIOED THROUGH TELEVISION, these radio operators reported: “Results only fair due to fading in 21 meter band, voices very strong with occasional glimpses of faces.” General Electric took a number of staged publicity photos of the event and a short clip of the “broadcast” was included in a GE produced newsreel.

Divesture of RCA. In 1930, General Electric was charged with antitrust violations, resulting in the company’s decision to divest itself of RCA. The newly separate company signed leases to move its corporate headquarters into the new Rockefeller Center in 1931. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. , founder and financier of Rockefeller Center, arranged the deal with GE chairman Owen D. Young and RCA president David Sarnoff. When it moved into the complex in 1933, RCA became the lead tenant at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, known as the “RCA Building”.

 

RCABuildingRCA Building in NY City

GE570Lexington

570 Lexington Avenue went to GE. It was used as a “Executive Offices” until 1974 when General Electric corporate headquarters moved from Schenectady, NY to Fairfield, Connecticut.

30 Rockefeller Center (known as 30 Rock and now as the COMCAST Center) not completed yet. Opened in 1933.

RCA (also known as Radio Victor Corporation of America) owned 570 Lexington Avenue but 570 not complete until 1931. NBC was never there. Radio Victor, one of the most powerful of the postwar radio companies, owned the National Broadcasting Company and the R-K-O theater chain. Its headquarters were at 570 Lex until 30 Rock was completed.

Prior to occupying its location at Rockefeller Center, NBC had occupied upper floors of a building at 711 Fifth Avenue. Home of NBC from its construction in 1927, until moving to 30 Rock in 1933.

 

WanamakerNYC

Wanamaker building? That was where Sarnoff received broadcasts from the sinking Titanic.

Was TV broadcast by WRCA or WNBC?

Was WEAF (owned by AT&T) involved? AT&T was the only company who could have laid the cable. WEAF became CBS. On April 7, 1927, a group of newspaper reporters and dignitaries gathered at the AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories auditorium in New York City to see the first American demonstration of something new: television. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover provided the “entertainment,” as his live picture and voice were transmitted over telephone lines from Washington, D.C., to New York.

From “Early Television” http://www.earlytelevision.org/NBC_prewar_programming.html

When RCA introduced their television sets at the 1939 Worlds Fair, NBC began regularly scheduled television broadcasting. The schedule consisted of about 2 hours of broadcasting in the afternoon, and an hour or so in the evening. Much of the programming was done using remote pickup equipment. Sports events, plays, and other events were covered.  Even in 1939, NBC conducted audience surveys to help determine their programming. A 1940 article in Electronics magazine summarized the data from the surveys. The first television commercial was broadcast by NBC in 1941. NBC even broadcast television from an airplane in 1940.

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 1941 ruling that the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) had to sell one of its two radio networks was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1943. The second network became the new American Broadcasting Company (ABC), which would enter television early in the next decade. Six experimental television stations remained on the air during the warÑone each in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Schenectady, N.Y., and two in New York City. But full-scale commercial television broadcasting did not begin in the United States until 1947.

By 1949 Americans who lived within range of the growing number of television stations in the country could watch, for example, The Texaco Star Theater (1948), starring Milton Berle, or the children’s program, Howdy Doody (1947). They could also choose between two 15-minute newscasts:CBS TV News (1948) with Douglas Edwards and NBC’s Camel News Caravan (1948) with John Cameron Swayze (who was required by the tobacco company sponsor to have a burning cigarette always visible when he was on camera). Many early programs such as Amos ‘n’ Andy (1951) or The Jack Benny Show (1950) were borrowed from early television’s older, more established Big Brother: network radio. Most of the formats of the new programs: newscasts, situation comedies, variety shows, and dramas were borrowed from radio, too (see radio broadcasting and television programming). NBC and CBS took the funds needed to establish this new medium from their radio profits. However, television networks soon would be making substantial profits of their own, and network radio would all but disappear, except as a carrier of hourly newscasts. Ideas on what to do with the element television added to radio, the visuals, sometimes seemed in short supply.

Between 1953 and 1955, television programming began to take some steps away from radio formats. NBC television president Sylvester Weaver devised the “spectacular,” a notable example of which was Peter Pan (1955), starring Mary Martin, which attracted 60 million viewers. Weaver also developed the magazine-format programs Today, which made its debut in 1952 with Dave Garroway as host (until 1961), and The Tonight Show, which began in 1953 hosted by Steve Allen (until 1957). The third network, ABC, turned its first profit with youth-oriented shows such as Disneyland, which debuted in 1954 (and has since been broadcast under different names), and The Mickey Mouse Club (1955; see Disney, Walt).

The programming that dominated the two major networks in the mid-1950s borrowed heavily from another medium: theater. NBC and CBS presented such noteworthy, and critically acclaimed, dramatic anthologies as Kraft Television Theater (1947), Studio One (1948), Playhouse 90 (1956), and The U.S. Steel Hour (1953). Memorable television dramas of the era most of them broadcast live included Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty (1955), starring Rod Steiger (Ernest Borgnine starred in the film), and Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men (1954). By the 1955 television season, 14 of these live-drama anthology series were being broadcast. This is often looked back on as the “Golden Age” of television. However, by 1960 only one of these series was still on the air.

From here on out, just refer to the WIKI. It is a long and beautiful story.

LIKE it, LOVE it and I will write more.

Our New York State Tourist Page

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YES! Traveling to New York State? Check out our New York State Tourist WebSite.

We just added some new and interesting things about Albany. Start with a story about how bobsledding originated in Albany. Makes it the only Olympic sport started by the USA. The pictures above are from Albany too:

Amtrak Second Track to Schenectady is Moving Ahead

ImageFinally!

Ties have been delivered, access roads and staging areas built, and work is getting under way on nearly $200 million in passenger rail improvements in the Capital Region.

The wooden ties will be used to rehabilitate the existing single track between Albany and Schenectady, which has caused delays for years as trains waited for other trains traveling in the opposite direction to clear the track.

A fourth track was always planned for the Rensselaer rail station, but was postponed when money ran out.

The result: Trains often have to wait just outside the station for other trains to clear one of the three existing tracks.

While the improvements — which also include new signals south of Rensselaer that are more resistant to adverse weather, as well as improvements that will make road crossings safer — won’t speed your trip, they’re intended to reduce delays that can add minutes and occasionally hours to your trip.

The Empire Corridor is one of Amtrak‘s busiest. Nearly 100,000 people used the line between the Capital Region and New York City in July alone.

From Rensselaer, passengers can also take trains east to Boston, north to Montreal and Rutland, and west to Chicago.

So where do the improvement projects stand?

State Department of Transportation spokesman Beau Duffy said Amtrak would request proposals from a short list of contractors later this fall for work that includes the second track between Albany and Schenectady, and the fourth track and platform work at the Rensselaer station.

Troy and Schenectady Railroad once crossed an Interstate Highway

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The former Troy & Schenectady line was still operating when the Northway (I-87) was built (1960’s) and there still was a grade crossing on the Northway a short distance south of the “Twin Bridges” over the Mohawk River (this was probably one of only a very few grade crossings on an Interstate Highway in the United States). It wasn’t there long, as the line was cut back within a couple of years to an industrial site just east of Route 9. You can still see where the line passed under Route 9 perhaps a mile north of Boght Corners.

During the period that the line crossed Interstate 87 (ETT has a typo “89”) at Dunsbach Ferry, the following instruction appeared in the Employee Time Table under “special instruction 103 public crossings at grade: Manually controlled traffic signals:” “Trains or engine must stop in rear of stop sign and a member of crew must operate pushbuttons in manual control box. After traffic signals have been operating for at least twenty seconds train or engine may proceed over crossing, signals must be restored to normal position after movement over highway has been completed.”

See more about the T&S Railroad

UPDATE in 2012:

Railroad and trolley historian and author  Gino DiCarlo has done some research and actually found pictures of this crossing.

See his article on “CROSSING THE NORTHWAY

 

Update June 3, 2012 from Gordon Davids:

The T&S Branch highway grade crossing was in place and active on opening day of I-87 in 1959. Traffic signals hung over the highway, and cross bucks were on each side of the road.

The state engineers told us at the time that the railroad was up for abandonment, and the state wasn’t about to spend the money necessary for a grade separation. They got a waiver from the Public Roads Administration (pre-FHWA) to permit the crossing for a limited period. I think they had to extend the waiver a few times.

I looked on Google maps street view today, and saw an aluminum pole alongside the northbound highway and an aluminum instrument case still in place just south of it. I’m sure that they were part of the highway signal system that protected the crossing.

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