A Historical Sketch of the NEB&W R.R.
Issued on this Centennial Date
NOVEMBER 15, 1947
NOVEMBER 15, 1947 is an important date on the calendar of New England, Berkshireand Western Railroad Company for it marks the running of the first train over the completed line of the New England and Berkshire Railroad from Bennington Country, on Lake Richelieu to Troy, the Hudson River, where connection was made with the Troy and Greenbush Railroad running south to Rensselaer, and with the Troy and Schenectady Railroad running west.
The Richelieu and Berkshire Railroad Company had received its charter from the Vermont State Legislature on March 16, 1832 (the anniversary of this date was fitly observed by us 15 years ago) giving the Company: “All rights to construct a railroad from some point at Bennington, thence southwardly through the counties of Bennington, Windsor and Saratoga, to some connection with Saratoga and Schenectady Rail-road Company as such company shall designate for the transportation of persons and property by steam or horse power.” The Company proceeded the same year to make contracts for beginning construction work. It was not, however, until 1845, when the Company was consolidated with that of the Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad, that the contacts were signed for making the final construction work which unite the portions already finished.
The Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad Company was incorporated on April, 1832, for the purpose of building and operating a line of railroad extending form Troy, N.Y. to White Creek, N.Y., six miles southwest of Saratoga, where connection was to be made with the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad. From a letter of Stephen Van Rensselaer, President of the Rensselaer and Saratoga, to Samuel Blatchford, we read: “We have established a railroad to run north of Troy, in this state, for the purpose of conveyance of the common persons as shall afford themselves of this new means of transportation, for the betterment of agriculture, domestic economy, the arts and manufactures.”
The first portion of this road, from Cohoes to White Corners, was completed in 1834, and the first train ran on December 19 of that year. At each end of the unfinished line, stagecoaches provided a connection for those passengers wishing to continue further. Typical of the excitement caused by the advent of the railroad, the following item appeared in an issue of the Cohoes Clarion of January 14, 1835 - a few weeks after the movement of the first train: “The engine came up in grand style and when opposite our village the Monster gave one of its most savage yells, frightening men, women and children considerably and bringing forth deaf-howls from all the dogs in the neighborhood.” The following year saw the completion of the bridge over the Hudson River, and service extended to Troy. Horses were used as motive power in the streets of Troy and over the bridge to Green Island, where the locomotive was hooked on. The first depot in Troy was at No. 10 River Street, now the site of the Athenaeum Building.
Mr. Rensselaer wrote two weeks prior to this extension of the road; “You are probably aware that the Rensselaer and Saratoga R.R.] is not quite completed, but will be so in a few days - commencing at the Troy House, in the heart of the city, and terminating at White Creek.
- “It was originally intended that our road should run along the eastern margin of the Hudson, through the Burgh, crossing the river at Waterford. Obstructions, however, of various kinds were thrown in the way of the company, and prices demanding for the use of the bridge - under the impression that the road must be carried across it and nowhere else - which caused the directors to change the route, despite initial purchases of property in North Troy. The road was accordingly constructed on the west side of the river, being carried by a succession of bridges from island to island across the Delta of the Mohawk until it arrived near the lower extremity of Green Island, opposite the city of Troy.
- “From thence it leaps the Hudson by one of the noblest bridges in the Union. This bridge is upwards of two hundred and forty feet in length, resting on four massive piers of rough hewn stone. It has a draw of thirty feet on the eastern end, for the accommodation of the river craft of the upper Hudson.
- “This draw is constructed upon an entire new principle, and can be drawn and closed by 1 man, in the short space of two minutes. I commend it to the attention of the public. The bridge is of course covered, and an iron water-pipe for the extinguishment of fires is carried through the roof the whole extent.”
On September 30, 1839, a connection with the Saratoga and Schenectady Railroad not being afforded the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad, an amendment was granted to the charter of the Richelieu and Berkshire Railroad Company to allow it to extend its line south to meet with the Rensselaer and Saratoga road at the state line. The following year the two roads were consolidated under the terms of an agreement dated August 20th, and the road was operated under the direction of both owners until September 23, 1845 when it was reorganized as the New England and Berkshire Railroad.
The entire line of track, 52.2 miles in length from Saratoga to Bennington, was then laid in six and one-half months by one contractor, the work being completed twelve days prior to the expiration date. On November 15, 1847, the first trains were operated over the completed line of the New England and Berkshire Railroad. “The ceremony of celebrating this auspicious event was a momentous occasion. Trains from Bennington and New York met at the rock excavation near the top of Mount Holly, at Summit, where the last spike was driven.
Salt water from New York Harbor was mingled with fresh water from Lake Richelieu and thus the new road was christened.
From the pages of an old history we read:
- “The line of the New England, Berkshire and Western Railroad from the Hudson Valley, over the Berkshire Hills and thence on to the Richelieu Lake region is older than any historical record. First an Indian trail, then a bridle path for white settlers, then a military road, then a turnpike and state route and it finally becomes the course of a great railway link forming an important link between the traffic systems of New England, New York, Canada and the West.
- “Whether as a warpath of savages or guide to the pioneer, or as a channel of commerce, the history of this natural highway is of absorbing interest.”
At the 1849 session of the Vermont State Legislature an amendment to the original charter was obtained permitting the building of a branch line of track from the main line to the navigable waters of the Winooski River below the falls north of Bennington, to a place called Lake Station, in order better to handle traffic moving on Lake Richelieu.
The excavation in connection with the general construction involved the removal of approximately 3,000,000 cubic yards of earth and gravel, 325,000 yards of solid rock and 25,000 yards of loose rock which, together with the necessary masonry, required in the culverts, bridges and supporting walls, aggregating approximately 80,000 yards, presented a formidable task with the facilities then available.
It is of more than passing interest to note that when contractors began to clear the rocks at Summit, where the elevation is 1,243 feet, preparatory to blasting, they were obliged to clean out a small pond or pot-hole near where the station now stands. The draining of this pond disclosed a bed of mud and silt. When clearing away this mud, the skeleton of a mastodon was uncovered. Only three months earlier a similar skeleton was found in Cohoes in connection with the digging of a power canal. These two skeletons attacked the attention of many scientists which led to the formation of the Albany Museum of Natural History to house them.
On November 16, 1847, the day following the movement of the first trains over the completed line, the following notice was issued by the Assistant Superintendent:
Through to Bennington
Change of Hours!
- “On and after Monday, November 20, 1847, Trains will leave Bennington for New York at 6 A.M., Sundays excepted, stop an hour at Troy for dinner, arriving at New York 5:55 P.M. fare $6.00; connecting at Troy with the stage for Greenfield and thence to Boston, also at Rensselaer with Western Railroad of Massachusetts arriving at Boston, 4-1/2 A.M. next morning, fare $8.80.
Returning, leave New York 7-1/2 A.M. arriving Bennington 6 P.M. leave Boston 6-1/2 P.M. arriving at Bennington the next morning in the first train from New York, connecting at Troy both ways, with Troy and Schenectady Railroad and connecting at Saratoga both ways, with the Schenectady and Saratoga Railroad. Also accommodation train will leave Troy at 7:30 A.M. for Saratoga, returning 1:30 P.M. arriving at Troy 3 P.M.
All further information, together with tickets, can be obtained at the Ticket office in Troy, and at the Station Agents on the line. D. Sackett
Nov. 16, 1847
In 1849 an engine hours, to accommodate ten locomotives, and a machine shop were placed under construction in north Troy, on land originally purchased for the right-of-way, to take the place of the temporary structures then in use, and a passenger station and engine house and repair shop were built in North Bennington.
The planting of the poles of extending the wire of the Morse Magnetic Telegraph Line between Troy and Bennington along our right-of-way was begun in June, 1848. The company controlling the line rented an office in the basement of the depot in Troy. In Saratoga a special key was installed in the lobby of the Occidental Hotel for public display purposes. On July 24 the first telegram was transmitted from there to Troy. Records indicate that two later the first train in the United States ever to be operated under order received by telegraph was operated over the New England and Berkshire Railroad between Saratoga and Troy.
Early in 1834 two six-wheel locomotives, weighing 10 tons each, were built by the Matthias W. Baldwin Co. of Philadelphia for the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad. These were named the “Savoy” and the “Conqueror.” The first cars to be used were manufactured by Gilbert, Veazie & Eaton of Troy - the initial rolling stock consisting of 18 passenger cars and 20 baggage and freight cars. The iron used in the construction of these cars was procured from deposits along our line.
In 1845 another order went out for locomotives, this time to the Taunton Locomotive Mfg. Co. of Mass. for 5 eight-wheel engines of 18 tons each for passenger service and 4 eight-wheel engines of 20 tons each for freight service. The first three of these locomotives, delivered in May of that year, where named the “Red Bird,” the “LeGrand Cannon” and the “Nathan Warren,” and two more obtained later that month were named “John A. Conant” and “Elisha Tibbetts.” Four more obtained the same year bore the following names: “Ambrose L. Brown,” “Calvin Townsley,” George Griswold,” and “William Henry.” These were followed by six engines purchased in 1850, which were named for the following stations: “Troy,” “Gassetts,” “Proctorsville,” “Bennington,” “Mt. Holly,” and “Saratoga.” In 1851 the following three were added to the locomotive roster: “Cohoes,” “Cuttingsville,” and “Rockingham.” This practice of naming engines after our principal stations continued for several years.
The increased weight of these locomotives, along with the rapid rise in freight traffic on our line made it necessary to replace the strap rail in use since the line’s opening with 58-pound “T” rail.
In 1851 - four years after opening the road - the Rolling Stock consisted of the following items:
- “20 Engines
- 2 Mail cars
- 2 72-seat passenger cars
- 12 60-seat passenger cars
- 4 Accommodation cars
- 202 8-wheel box cars
- 2 8-wheel saloon cars
- 3 Way freight cars
- 76 8-wheel platform cars
- 66 gravel cars
- 16 handcars
- 20 4-wheel box cars
- also 6 horses all in good condition and repair
Early in 1831, there was incorporated, by special act of the New York State Legislature, the Saratoga and Schenectady Rail Road Company to build between Saratoga and a point opposite Schenectady. At the end of only 17 years of corporate independence, its property was leased to the Albany and Susquehanna R.R. Co., a railroad that ultimately became a part of the system of the Delaware and Hudson Company.
On July 12, 1832, the road was opened to Saratoga, except for a half-mile gap at Ballston Spa, which was finished the following year. In 1838 an agreement with the Utica and Schenectady R.R. Co. allowed the Schenectady & Susquehanna R.R. Co. to enter the city of Schenectady over the former's bridge.
On November 12, 1842, the Troy and Schenectady Railroad Company was incorporated to run from Schenectady to a connection in Green Island with the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad. The ticket office of the Troy and Schenectady Railroad Company and that of the Troy and New York Steamboat Association were located in Troy in the building No. 199 River Street, now the Robinson, Church, & Co. Drug Store. Through the building a long passage extended from River Street to a flight of broad steps descending to the steamboat wharf, made for the convenience of the passengers. The steamboat “Francis Saltus”, 294 feet long began plying between New York and Troy, on July 17th, 1840.
To further the building of a railroad from New York to Troy, some of the prominent men of Troy and Albany united to obtain the passage of the act on April 17, 1832 to incorporate the New York and Albany Railroad Company to build from Fourth Avenue and Harlem River in New York City to a point opposite the city of Albany, “with power to continue and extend the same to the city of Troy.” The building of the road from New York was delayed by various causes until later years. The people of Troy obtained on May 11, 1845 the incorporation of the Troy and Greenbush Railroad Company. On June 12th, that year, trains began running on the road from the city of Rensselaer, to the intersection of the Troy and Schenectady Railroad on Washington Street in Troy.
In Troy the inconvenience attending the running of passenger and freight cars on River Street, particularly the drawing of these cars by horses, suggested the removal of the tracks in the streets. To accomplish the change, the New York State Legislature, on June 20th, 1851, authorized the city and the different railroad companies to subscribe and become the members of the Troy Union Railroad, which was organized on July 21st that year. On March 14th, 1853, the Troy Union Railroad Company purchased the property of Orsamus Eaton on Sixth Street, between State and Fulton Streets, for the site of “a passenger-house.”
The erection of the new station, a brick building four hundred feet long, with an arched roof of one hundred and fifty-one foot span supported by a succession of wooden trusses was begun that year. A new line of track connecting with the Troy and Greenbush Railroad in the south was laid along Sixth Street, where a small stream had flowed to the Poestenkill. Another line of track laid to the New England and Berkshire Railroad bridge over the Hudson; the wooden structure being widened that year by an addition on the north side.
The opening of the Union Railroad and new depot was celebrated on February 22, 1845, a train of five passenger-cars, containing 300 invited guests, came up from Rensselaer and passing through the depot and over the new track as far as Rutland Street, and then after backing on the Y, returned to the depot, for a banquet in the upper rooms of the building.
The annual report for the year ending May 31, 1855 - the first full year of operations for the consolidated line where no charges pertaining to construction were included - showed total revenues of $224,790.63, with total expenditures of $159,450.91, or net gain of $65,339.72. The following year was much better, with total revenues of $395,397.45 and total expenses of $228,858.33, or net earnings of $166,539.12.
On November 19, 1856 the property passed to mortgage trustees who operated the railroad until June 23, 1867, when the company was incorporated as the New England, Berkshire and Western Railroad Company and the reorganized effective July 9, 1867 under existing state laws.
By 1851, we were building all of our freight cars in our shops in north Troy.
About noon, on Saturday, May 10, 1862, the shingle roof of the eastern section of the railroad bridge, between Green Island and Troy was set on fire by sparks from a passing locomotive of the Troy and Schenectady Railroad. A gale was blowing from the north-west, and the wind at once carried the flaming shingles and glowing brands to the dry roofs of the numerous buildings in the central part of the city. In less than an hour and a half a broad belt of fire lay across the city, from the river to the eastern hill; despite the strenuous efforts of Troy's indefatigable firemen. The conflagration, about six o'clock, was stayed at the north-west corner of Seventh and Congress Streets, having destroyed fire hundred and seven buildings, including the new depot.
As soon as it became apparent as to the extant of the blaze, the New England and Berkshire Railroad, and the other roads, suspended regular operations to help rush in men and equipment from the surrounding communities, and afterwards food, bandages and clothing, to alleviate the sufferings, a sum of $10,000.00 was subsequently allocated by our railroad company for relief for the unfortunate.
The citizens of Troy were quick to rebuild after the terrible calamity, the firm of W. and L.E. Gurley, whose building was one of those totally destroyed, had rebuilt by that December, and a new depot was ready for use the next year.
The use of coal as locomotive fuel as locomotive fuel began in 1868, its economy having been proven by extensive experiments, and eight wood-burning locomotives were converted into coal burners and two new coal-burning locomotives purchased.
American steel rails were first used by our company in 1869, three hundred tons being purchased and laid.
On April 19, 1851, the Albany and Susquehanna Rail Road Co. was incorporated and a president, treasurer, and secretary elected and, although this line to Binghamton was not completed prior to the Civil War, it was successfully finished in 1869.
Our Annual Report for 1869 had this item: "In October, 1869, New England was visited by a powerful rain, producing an unprecedented flood which greatly injured your road, preventing trains running through to Bennington for twenty-two days. The most damage was in the towns of Cuttingsville and Gassetts, where the road is the valley of the Mill River. Four bridges were swept away and the abutments of three others undermined.
"About 5,600 feet of the road bed was entirely carried away near Bartonsville and the new depot at that point was destroyed.
"Cost of repairs account of this freshet $119,825.00
Loss of revenue in October $50,000.00
Total $169,825.00 The North Country Railroad Company was incorporated on August 5, 1847, for the purpose of building and operating a line of railroad extending from Oldensburg, on the St. Lawrence River to Rouses Point on Lake Richelieu, a distance of 127 miles, and construction was commenced and road opened October 1, 1850.
On January 6, 1858 this road was reorganized as the Oldensburg Railroad, and on June 18, 1864, reorganized as the Oldensburg and Lake Richelieu Railroad.
On June 1, 1850, the Chateaugay and Montreal Rail Road was incorporated to build a line from Chateaugay north to the Canadian border, there to connect with the projected line of the Lake St. Louis & Province Railroad and Montreal & Lachine Railway. Tracklaying began in May two years later, and on June 26, 1852, the road was opened to Alburgh, where connection was made with the North Country Railroad. By September 20, the line was opened to the International Border.
The Chateaugay and Montreal R.R. passed into receivership of Kent Moss in the second month of 1857. In June of 1868 the company was reorganized as the Montreal and Chateaugay R.R.
The Caldwell and Chateaugay Rail Road was chartered on February 7, 1866. The projected line of road was to avoid some of the more rugged terrain along the west shore of Lake Richelieu by heading inland at Caldwell along the Ticonderoga River several miles, crossing over to the valley of the Ausable River and thence down to Chateaugay.
By summer of 1868 the track was completed from Chateaugay to Point-Au-Roche (now the village of North Creek) in Clinton County. In May 1, 1869, this section was leased to the Montreal and Chateaugay Railroad Company.
Inasmuch as the anticipated connection with a railroad to be run into Bennington from the east had not materialized, it was necessary, in order to effect an outlet north to Canada, that freight be transported by boat between Lake Station and Rouses Point, and in 1853, this tonnage amounted to 22,000 tons. However, this traffic was halted the following year, when an agreement was reached between the Vermont and Canada R.R. and the North Country R.R. which permitted transfer of freight to a boat of our company "New York" only at a punitive rate differential.
Later, a boat named the "Oakes Ames" was built by the Richelieu Steamship Company, a railroad owned enterprise incorporated for the purpose of building and operating steamboats to carry cars and freight of the railroad across Lake Richelieu from Lake Station to Chateaugay, where connection was made with the Montreal and Chateaugay R.R. which extended to Alburgh, where it joined the North Country R.R. and afforded outlet to Oldensburg and the West, the Montreal and Chateaugay road having been previously acquired by a group of Troy stockholders and later leased to the New England, Berkshire and Western R.R. This operation was established in 1868 and it carried an average of 1,000 cars per month across the lake.
On August 14th, 1868, the Oldensburg and Lake Richelieu R.R. Co., and the Vermont and Canada R.R. Co. completed a line of track from the Oldensburg and Lake Richelieu's terminus at Rouses Point to a connection with the projected line of the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R. in Chateaugay. On September 1, 1869, the Oldensburg road was leased to the Vermont and Canada R.R. for a period of twenty years.
The directors of the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R. Company opened negotiations, on June 23, 1869 with James Forsyth and Levi Underwood for finishing the line from North Creek to Caldwell. This effort proved fruitless, and was terminated in June, the following year.
On December 7, 1870 the Vermont and Canada Railroad Company acquired the lease of the Addison Rail Road. This line extended from Shoreham, three miles from the west shore of Lake Richelieu to Larrabee's Point and then to Ticonderoga in Addison County in Vermont, on the east shore where connection was made with the Vermont and Canada R.R. As no construction work had been done by the owning company, the entire length of road was built and operated by the Vermont and Canada R.R.
In order to reach Ticonderoga it was necessary to cross Lake Richelieu on a unique form of bridge span which was in reality a barge, hinged at one end to a pier and which could be floated out of position to permit lake transportation to pass north and south and also adjust itself to the changing water level of the lake. This bridge was designed by Henry G. Campbell, bridge engineer on the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R., and operated under the steamship laws then in effect.
In 1870, an extension of the charter was sought, and granted to the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R. Company to build from Shoreham to Chateaugay, to connect with the Addison R.R. and the east side of the lake. The section of the road from Shoreham to Port Henry was completed, when the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R. was leased by the New England, Berkshire and Western R.R. Company for twenty years, from October 1, 1871.
The branch line of the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R. was leased September 26, 1870. Only that portion of the branch from Shoreham north 32 miles to Port Henry had been constructed, this being for the purpose of effecting connection of the Addison R.R. with the three-foot gauge railroad of the Crown Point Iron Co. at Crown Point, and the Lake Richelieu and Moriah R.R. at Port Henry.
On January 23, 1871 a lease was made with the Montreal and Chateaugay R.R. for their line, running 24 miles north from Chateaugay to the International Boundary north of Alburgh. Included in this lease was the right to operate the northern section of the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R. by virtue of the Montreal and Chateaugay R.R. Co.'s lease of this section two years earlier.
On January 30, 1871 the Vermont Central Railroad Company and the Vermont and Northern Railroad Company leased our property for a period of twenty years from January 1, 1871, together with the assignment of the leased roads herein mentioned.
Late in April, 1871 on the recommendation of the Railroad Committee of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, the purchase from W.W. Marcy of about eighty per cent of the securities of the Adirondack Railroad Company was authorized; and these securities were acquired, thus putting the former in control of the Adirondack Road.
Early in 1872 the Honorable Charles M. Weed met with the managers of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, and together they drew up the articles of association for the New York and Canada Railroad Company. This projected line would run from a connection the Adirondack Railroad up to Chateaugay and then to Montreal, making use of those portions of the line already built.
On January 15, 1873, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Co. authorized the purchase, for the New York and Canada R.R., from the Vermont interests, of their control and leaseholds of the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R. and the steamer "Oakes Ames". Under an agreement dated February 25, 1873, the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R., the Montreal and Chateaugay R.R. and the New York and Canada R.R. of 1872 were merged into the second New York and Canada R.R. Company.
As construction proceeded, the question of the utilization of the Clinton County Division, between Chateaugay and the Ausable River, as part of the through line, did not cause anxiety, as a bolder and more expensive plan was adopted of pushing the construction from Chateaugay to the Ticonderoga River in an almost direct line adjacent to the shore of Lake Richelieu. South of Caldwell, the line was to be carried across the mouth of the Ticonderoga River by means of a long trestle to the shore along Horicon Bay until at Chubbs Dock it would climb over to the Schroon River, thereby avoiding Tongue Mountain.
The consolidated New York and Canada R.R. utilized, as desired, the existing trackage between Vergennes and Port Henry, with certain minor modifications and track relocations.
The road was opened from Vergennes to Chateaugay, a distance of thirty-nine and three-fourths miles, on November 30, 1874, the sixteen miles from Port Henry to Chateaugay being entirely new construction. The line from Caldwell was opened a year later, on November 29, 1875 and the Richelieu Transportation Co. provided, via the steamboats it maintained on Lake Richelieu, through service to the south.
In much of the new construction, almost insuperable difficulties had been overcome. From Chateaugay to Caldwell, five ranges of the Adirondacks were encountered. As the road heads south out of Chateaugay, the first range, the Clinton, just south of Alden, ends in the high promontory of Cholmondeley Bluffs, around which the road passes by means of a deep rock cut and several fills. The second range encountered, the Kayderosseras, terminates in Bulwagga Mountain overlooking Port Henry, where the line is carried along a ledge along the continuous rocky bluff. The third range, a continuation of the Schroon Range, ends in Split Rock Mountain north of Port Reeves. By keeping back from the lake, a location was found which avoided any heavy rock excavation until the shore of Willsboro Bay was reached. At this point, the Sage, the fourth range, ends in high bluffs extending along the shore of the bay for 6 miles, and the line lies high up on the face of the bluffs. Further south, the line skirts the almost perpendicular face of Mount Adamant, at the end of the fifth of these ranges, the Black Mountains.
The building of the track along Willsboro Bay, where the Sage Mountains meet the shore, was where the heaviest difficulties were encountered. In places, drillers had to be let down by ropes from the tops of the ledges, to commence blasting. Along this section the scenery compares favorably with similar locations in the mountainous western portion of the United States.
The Chateaugay Republican said of the track along Willsboro Bay: "On this six-miles the rock cuttings are almost continuous. The track runs about 90 feet above the surface of the lake while on the left the perpendicular wall grows, as we move northward, until finally it culminates in the Great Red Rock Cut, a smooth perpendicular precipice one hundred and five feet above the track at the highest point, while below it also extends ninety feet down to the water's edge. One hundred feet out from the shore, the bay is 210 feet deep. A halt was made here to give all a chance to view this wonderful piece of work, and then the train crept along on this shelf and through the tunnel. The tunnel is one of the handsomest ever constructed, the shape of a perfect arch through a rock which sparkles in the sunshine as if it were made of crystals." Work now began on the thirty-six mile link between Caldwell and the Schroon River. Twenty-eight miles were to be built along the marsh on the west shore of Horicon Bay, which at places seemed to be bottomless. Old canal boats, trees, timbers and great quantities of rock and earth were being used to make a solid roadbed. Two months after construction had begun, the call for the second installation on the stock met with nonpayment and construction stopped at once.
The discontinued project lay dormant for twenty-five years although repeated efforts were made to start anew. An appeal to the legislature, in the early winter of 1878, by the inhabitants of the northern counties, for state aid to the company failed in the assembly.
The Troy Eagle wrote: "The problem of the building the line of the New York and Canada R.R. along the shore of Lake Richelieu has been primarily of an engineering nature, but is now greatly augmented by the commercial depression that has followed the Panic of '73. It is therefore remarkable that the D.& H. Canal Co., through its agent the New York and Canada R.R. Co., was able to continue construction to the point at which they did. However, the traveling public must still look forward to the day it will be possible to travel wholly by train from New York City to Montreal, via Troy and Chateaugay, eliminating the water portion of the trip on Lake Richelieu." During the year 1885, ten years after the last construction on the New York and Canada line, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Co. sustained a loss of $313,000 on its leased lines, nearly equal to the loss on the properties of $316,000 that had occurred six years earlier. Thereafter followed a policy for several years of improving and perfecting the existing railroad and canal properties, and abandoning any idea of further railroad expansion on a considerable scale.
As it became available, the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company had gradually bought up stock in the New England, Berkshire and Western R.R. Co. and by 1887 had enough to control the line. On December 31, 1890, the lease with the Central Vermont R.R. Co. was renewed for a period of ninety-nine years from January 1, 1891. Our road was operated under the terms of this lease until March of 1896, when the Vermont Central was forced into receivership and announced it was abrogating its lease.
On May 7, 1896 the property of the New England, Berkshire and Western Railroad was returned by the courts from the lessees to the owners, the lease of the Montreal and Chateaugay R.R. and the Caldwell and Chateaugay R.R. having been extinguished in the interim.
During the interval of the Vermont Central lease, several notable advances were made in the area of safety on our road. In 1874 Miller "Patent Platforms" were added to all the passenger coaches, and during 1877 the Westinghouse Air Brake began to appear on passenger engines and cars. In April, 1885, by an order of the Assistant General Manager of the Vermont Central R.R., enginemen and other employees required to use prescribed signals were required to submit to an examination in regard to vision, color sense and hearing.
As a result of the cancellation of the lease by the Central Vermont R.R., it was perceived by the managers of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. that the N.E.B.& W. R.R. would be unable to meet its financial obligations. To protect its stock ownership, the president of the D.& H. Canal Co. was authorized to make necessary advances to the N.E.B.& W. R.R. as its business might require.
In the later part of 1898, the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company entered into agreement with Honorable Albert E. Powers for disposition of its stock interest in both the N.E.B.& W. R.R. and the A.& C. R.R., as part of the general policy to consolidate responsibilities. This contract consisted of the transfer of thirty thousand shares of preferred stock and ten thousand shares of common stock in the N.E.B.& W. R.R. Co., and $5,000,000 of the bonds and debentures of the Adirondack & Canada R.R. Co.
By 1900 the New England, Berkshire & Western R.R. had built a track (Berkshire-Richelieu Railroad Company) between North Bennington and Lake George and had made use of the large islands, South Hero and Grand Isle, as stepping stones along the route - this being at that time something novel in the art of railroad construction - the road bed being laid on a series of long fills built up from the bottom of the lake, the longer of which is the so-called "Long Fill" between the northern end of South Hero and the mainland south of Lake George, near the ruins of the Fort William Henry, a distance of 2.63 miles. This fill is protected against the action of wind and water by the application of blocks of marble from the quarries of the Vermont Marble Company. This line of gleaming white marble presents a very pleasing appearance.
The completion of the 30 mile-long island line of the Berkshire-Richelieu Railroad was the final link in an all-rail route between Montreal and Troy and hence to New York City. A special train was run from New York City to Montreal amidst much general celebration. A week later, on January 7th, 1901, the maiden run of the Richelieu Shore Express was turned over to the N.E.B.& W. R.R. by the New York Central R.R. in Troy. The passenger cars were especially built for the new service by the Wagner Palace Car Co. of Buffalo. The train in each direction consisted of a combination buffet, smoking and library car, four large parlor cars, and a parlor-observation. The run of 210 miles was made in 180 minutes.
By 1899, it was apparent that a new Troy station was needed. The increased number of trains caused considerable amounts of smoke and fumes inside the covered train shed, which had been standing since 1863. The managers of the Troy Union R.R. Co. hired the relatively unknown architect firm of Reed & Stem of St. Paul, Minnesota to design a new station. Their design called for a station in the neo-classical form, using a harmonious blend of brick and white marble for the exterior, while the interior was done in marble of a shade of Paris green.
Demolition began on the old station later that year, and on January 7th, 1901, the new Troy station was open to the public, just in time for the inaugul run of the Richelieu Shore Express.
The new station was much admired, and the firm of Reed & Stem was subsequently commissioned by the New York Central to help in the design of the new Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
On January 21, 1901 a consolidation with the Berkshire-Richelieu R.R. Company was effected, from the second New England, Berkshire and Western Railroad Company. The third company of the same name was formed by consolidation of the second company with the Adirondack and Canada Railroad Company.
From time to time the New York Central R.R. had bought substantial amounts of N.E.B.& W. R.R. stock and in January, 1898, acquired control. January 18th, 1899 Mr. J.H. Peck, its President was also elected President of the N.E.B.& W. R.R., and for ten years the N.E.B.& W. was one of the N.Y.C. Lines although operated independently. At this time, the New York, New Haven and Hartford R.R. was expanding and later desired to obtain the Berkshire Lines in order to effect western connections.
The stock purchased the New York Central was held until February, 1909 when a one-half interest was sold to the New Haven. Subsequently, the New Haven made application for permission to purchase the remaining portion of the N.E.B.& W. R.R. stock held by the Central, but litigation prevented this action and holdings of the N.E.B.& W. stock in the hands of the New Haven were gradually relinquished.
In 1936, the New York Central effected disposal of the balance of the shares which it was carrying.
In 1911, a firestorm consumed the Fort William Henry hotel in Caldwell. A new hotel built along modern European lines was constructed, along with a lakeside pergola and a new depot in the Spanish-Colonial style. The village of Caldwell elected to rename itself to the old colonial name of Lake George, the English name for Lake Richelieu.
A torrential rain storm beginning in the night of November 2, 1927 and continuing through the following day and until the morning of November 4, during which the water in the Williams River reached a maximum elevation of twenty feet above normal, about four feet higher than any previous record, caused great damage.
There 356 washouts, varying in depth from one foot to seventy feet and aggregating over 17 miles of track and there were also many slides which covered the track with earth and boulders for a total distance of more than one mile. The cost of restoring the property was approximately $750,000 with an attendant lose of revenue during the suspension of traffic of $285,000.
(to be continued) We have thus come to the date marking the first one hundred years of a career of rigorous railroading.
We feel that we have had a small part in our country's era of progress and we look forward with confidence to the opportunity of continuing to function as an integral part of New England's rail transportation system.
The following men have served as Presidents since the establishment of the New England, Berkshire and Western Railroad.
Richelieu and Berkshire R.R.
1832-1845 Samuel Blatchford
Rensselaer and Saratoga R.R.
1832 - 1839 Stephen Van Rensselaer
1839 - 1845 Samuel Blatchford
New England and Berkshire R.R.
1845 - 1851 John Chester
1852 Eliphalet Nott
1853 - 1860 Nathan S.S. Beman
1861 John F. Winslow
1862 - 1865 Thomas Brinsmade
New England, Berkshire and Western
1866 - 1881
1882 - May 1, 1899
Albert E. Powers
May 1, 1899 - Jan. 20, 1909
John H. Peck
Jan. 20, 1909 - July 9, 1934
Palmer C. Ricketts
July 9, 1934 - Oct. 29, 1935
Oct. 29, 1935 - Apr. 22, 1943
William O. Hotchkiss
Apr. 22, 1943 -
Livingston W. Houston
The list of presidents is based on RPI's presidents, in actual order, but the dates shifted to correspond with the railroad's history. Local residents may recognize many of these as names of streets and buildings on campus (the Ricketts Building, the Houston Field House, the Winslow Building - now the site of the new Junior Museum, Beman Park). - John Nehrich