Created By: Upper Madison Improvement Group
As the state historic marker suggests, this unassuming site looms large in American railroad history.
The first steam-powered passenger train in the country left from the junction of Lydius Street and the Great Western Turnpike in 1831. (Where was that, you ask? Right here: Lydius' name was later changed to Madison, and the Great Western Turnpike is now Western Avenue.) The company behind this grand experiment was the Mohawk and Hudson, one of the first railroads in the country. The locomotive was the DeWitt Clinton, one of the earliest built in America. The cars were souped-up stagecoaches fitted to run on rails. And the passengers? They didn't know what they were in for.
Why start the railroad up here, so far from the bustle of downtown Albany? Because from here a train could make a relatively flat run to the outskirts of Schenectady. That summer day in 1831, civic officials and honored guests boarded the train, sitting both inside and atop the carriages. A blast from a tin horn, and – thump – the cars, connected by lengths of chain, lurched forward and threw the riders from their seats. Burning embers showered down on them, and they struck at each other to put out the flames. But the train was moving.
Farmers and their families lined the route, at least till the engine neared. Then their horses bolted, sending carts tumbling in every direction. The train made it to Schenectady and back – and as a mode of transportation, the horses’ days were numbered from that moment forward.
In 1844 the train was rerouted to leave downtown Albany through Tivoli Hollow.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Pine Hills