NEB&W Guide to Cohoes, NY

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NEB&W Layout Table of Contents



Most of the interior of New York State is drained by the Mohawk River, which tumbles into the Hudson over the Cohoes falls, the second largest falls east of the Mississippi, second only to Niagara Falls. In 1922, Cohoes had a population of 22,900.

Stephen Van Rensselaer was one of the organizers of the Cohoes Company in 1834, formed to build a dam and power canal system around the falls. The Harmony Manufacturing Co. was established two years later, to make cotton cloth. By the 1870's, a single building of the extensive Harmony complex was claimed to be the largest cotton mill in the world. (This building was called the "Mastodon Mill" because the skeleton of this animal was unearthed during the construction.)

Cohoes became a mill town, where the Harmony Mills Company owned the houses, churches, stores and most other components of the workers' lives, thus by this total control preventing strikes and other labor organizing. Other independent mills sprang up around the system of power canals. Besides cotton, several of these mills made "shoddy" or cotton waste, used to contain the lubrication in the journal boxes of railroad trucks. By the 1930's, the Harmony Mills ended production.

The power canals were a series of block-long canals at graduated elevations and connected by underground tunnels. Factories located between two such adjacent canals would be powered by a water wheel or turbine, taking advantage of the water flowing from the higher canal to the lower one. The Cohoes Company charged the various mills for how much water they used.

The Rensselaer & Saratoga's main hugged the west bank of the Hudson River from Green Island and through the Van Schaick Island section of Cohoes to reach Waterford. In the 1850's, the Albany Northern built a parallel line north from its namesake city through Cohoes and over the Mohawk River, then swung eastward to cross the Hudson heading toward Johnsonville. Eventually the D&H acquired both lines, made the AN line their main and used trackage rights over the B&M in lieu of the AN's Hudson River bridge. (We model the AN line through Cohoes but the R&S line through Green Island.

The D&H's original freight station was built in 1853 and torn down after the D&H built a new freight station in 1914. Just north of the original freight depot was a similar-looking freight house for Harmony Mills. The passenger station was built in 1883. It is surrounded by over five major churches, an unusual grouping to be found near the tracks.

Next to the freight house was Peck's Coal.

Panoramic Views

  • From the D&H's 1951 Traffic Report. (First column is inbound carloads, the second, outbound, the third, totals for the year.)

  • Normally most of the industries in a town are located along the track. However, because the major industries in Cohoes were water powered, they were distributed throughout the city, each was located between a pair of power canals. The station area was instead surrounded by five major churches. There was St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church and associated parochial school (Keveney Academy) to the north, St. John's Episcopal to the south, a Baptist Church and two other churches to the west. The fourth church was the Dutch Reform one, and I think the one in the background is the Methodist Church.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps




Altered For Our Layout

  • Also, due to lack of space on our layout, we cut out a couple of the blocks. What makes this really confusing is that it isn't the same block on both sides of the track. Hope Knitting Mill, on the east side of the tracks, was really two blocks north of Pine and one block north of Keveny Academy, on the west side.

Organization of This Section

  • I try to start at the west and north-most of the scene, working east, then tackling the next block south. A bit confusing as I write this and hopefully you can navigate this okay.

River to Cortland St.

Corliss-Coon ("Faux Mill") Collar Factory

  • Roughly based on a mill on Van Schaick Island but we used it to hide the hole through the backdrop. See this section for more info.

Cohoes Rolling Mill

  • Between Cortland and the Mohawk River, on the west side of the D&H line. We aren't modeling this (no room). See this section for more info.

Star Woolen Mills

  • The prototype is located on the north side of Cortland, on the east side of the tracks. We moved it one block south. See this section for more info.

Cortland Street to Oneida

Cortland Street Gate Tower

  • The crossing shanty at Cortland Street c. 1919 was a nondescript one, akin to a tool shed.
We won't be modeling this as we basically eliminated Cortland and moved Star south two blocks to Ontario.

Harmony Mills Freight House

  • Across from Star was the freight house or warehouse for Harmony Mills.

John Leggett & Sons

  • West side of the tracks on the block between Oneida and Cortland, on the Cortland end. See this section for more info.


  • West of the Harmony Mills freight house, facing in Oneida. The firehouse was built in 1867 and retired a century later, c. 1967. Although built for horse-drawn steamers, the door on the left was rebuilt bigger for motorized fire trucks.


  • We "suggested" the prototype with a kitbash of the Bachmann City Hall (formerly Heljan/Con-Cor) with the Walthers firehouse side and tower. (Cornice is made from Code 100 snap track ties.)

West of the Firehouse (Between Cortland & Oneida)

  • Trying to figure out what buildings, false-fronts, photos, etc. that we should be adding on the other side of the firehouse, including nos. 44-50 Canvass St. The firehouse is butted right up against the backdrop and very little room to add anything.

No. 50 Canvass St.

  • Indicated on the Sanborn to be a one-story storage building.

Nos. 41-43 Oneida St.

  • Two-story store which faces Oneida, on the north side. Has a back porch.
We basically bury the firehouse into the complex of buildings and don't really have an Oneida St.

Nos. 45-47 Oneida St.

  • Building on the north side of Oneida. I think this was a three-story building, another one owned by John Leggett & Sons. Had a one-story annex running halfway down the east side of the building and some type of separate section (elevator hoist house?) on the southwest side of the building.
In 1915, it was listed as W.W. Synder Manufacturing, who also made paper boxes (like Leggett did).

Hope Knitting Mill

  • On the block between Oneida and Cortland and the east side of the railroad. (For our layout, we eliminate Oneida and move Hope Knitting south to Ontario St, opposite Keveny Academy. For more information on Hope Knitting, see this section.

Oneida Street to Ontario

Ogden Mills

  • On Ontario St. running past Oneida, west of Remsen. Built c. 1844 and became the largest maker of woven cotton. Now refurbished as apartments. This was a four and five story building which should make a great background flat of sorts for the far side of the Keveny/City Hall/George House Warehouse.

Oneida Street Crossing Shanty

  • The crossing shanty on the south side of Oneida c. 1919.

  • On our layout, Oneida on near side of the tracks becomes Ontario on the west (because we moved the Hope Knitting block one street south). We won't be modeling this crossing shanty, instead will do the two-story one that was next to Keveny.

Old Freight House

  • The old freight house was built in 1853, between Ontario and Oneida, on the south side of Oneida St. It was torn down after they built a new one in 1910-'14.

Grandilly Monument Works

  • In the site of the old freight house was a monument company, Grandilly's. They must have been established (or moved to the spot) after 1914. In '35, they were still advertising in the Troy City Directory. In the '40 Directory, they were listed but not advertised. They were gone by '51.

  • Grandilly was west of the tracks, south of Oneida. We have moved it across the tracks and tucked it in between Star and the faux-mill. With but one photo to go by, we are attempting to model it with a kitbashed Woodland Scenics Tucker Bros. Machine Shop and an Alexander stiff leg derrick. (Alexander has been purchased by Tomar, who kindly donated a kit to us.)

George House Warehouse

68-80 Canvass

  • This would be the block just north of the rear of City Hall, which looks like it was all two-story rowhouses.

Rear of 65-59 Canvass Street

  • One of the power canals ran along the east side of the tracks from Ontario Street to Courtland. This close-up view of the above photo shows the crossing shanty on Oneida also shows one of the city water mains rising above to clear the power canal. (We are looking east, and it looks like there was a gravestone loading facility on the other side of the track. This was the site of the original D&H freight house.)

Ontario & Remsen

  • We will be modeling (probably just as flats), the buildings where Ontario meets with Remsen, particularly the northeast corner, the block next to Silliman's.

Silliman Church

  • The Silliman Memorial Church, a Presbyterian Church, was just to the west of City Hall, facing west on Remsen St. Ontario St. ran along the side and Mohawk St., along the back. It had been built in honor of Horace Silliman's parents. It was torn down in 1997. I don't know if we have space to model it except as a flat or very VERY reduced-depth structure.

City Hall

  • On the east side of Mohawk St, alongside Ontario St, with Canvass St. running along the back. See this section.

Nos. 62-80 Canvass St.

  • Row of buildings next to City Hall. On the earlier Sanborn, shows as a bunch of small dwellings. No. 80 was the only to still be standing later, and still stands today, a two-story rowhouse.

Keveny Academy

Ontario Street Gate Tower

  • The gate tower was like one of the enclosed versions of the two-story tower, only the upper windows are missing.

Ontario Street to Pine

  • Going west to east, in terms of the discussion on this page.

Victor Knitting

  • Victor Knitting was later Cohoes Carrybag. It was torn down around 2003. It is claimed to be one of the largest knitting mills in the world.
On our layout, this might make an excellent flat along the backdrop. Too bad Walthers doesn't make an N scale version of their Front St. Warehouse, which would be a great starting point for kitbashing.

St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church

Dutch Reformed Church

  • Faces Mohawk on the north side of Pine St. See this section for more info.

St. Bernard's Convent

  • This was a Queen Anne type house at 100 Mohawk St., which burned in 1939.

Post Office

  • The Post Office was on the west side of St. Bernard's church, built in 1924. Morgan Desmond took a bunch of contemporary photos. He said his wife is 5 ft. 4 ins. high, for scaling purposes. Originally the site contained a bunch of rowhouses. Sometime after 1910, they must have burned down as this block became a small park to honor the soldiers of WWI.

St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church

Armour Meat Packing Plant

  • This was across the tracks from St. Bernard's. We don't model it because we are only finding info about it. And we moved Hope Knitting one block south on Pine.

Pine Street

  • A couple of old postcards c. 1900 show the depot on the street side, looking north.

  • A section gang poses on the Pine Street crossing just north of the depot. (We told you steam-era railroading was labor intensive!) Note the fourth church in the background, and just beyond that, the steeple of the fifth. The mansard roofed building was the YWCA.
(The buildings to the left of the YWCA are discussed in the "Behind the Depot" section.)

Pine Street Gate Tower

  • A couple of old postcards c. 1900 show the depot on the street side, looking north. In these earlier views, the elevated gate tower is still on "stilts". (By 1919, the base had been enclosed.) We are including it on the west side of the tracks but on the north side of Pine instead the depot grounds.

Methodist Church

  • On our layout, we might be able to model the rear and the steeple of the fifth church, the First United Methodist Church, facing on Remsen (121 Remsen) with its back facing east, toward Mohawk. It also was a Norman building.

The Depot

Canvass St., Behind The Depot


Baptist Church

New Freight House

St. John's Episcopal Church

Peck's Coal

Mohawk Street Houses

Columbia Street (Between Remsen & Mohawk)

On The Layout


Cohoes, Not Being Modeled

Van Schaick Island