New York By Rail 14th ed. - Page 98

P assengers riding Amtrak Empire Service trains often don’t know about the line’s interesting evolution. New York State’s Amtrak Service’s Empire Corridor extends from New York to Buffalo and Niagara Falls (440 miles) in two sections: The Hudson Valley section, running between New York and Albany, along the Hudson River; and the Mohawk Valley section, passing through Utica, Syracuse and Rochester before reaching Buffalo and Niagara Falls. After the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad was chartered in 1826, several small railroads were built to link the state’s growing number of cities: Utica & Schenectady Railroad (chartered in 1833), Utica Railroad (chartered in 1836), Rochester & Syracuse Railroad (chartered in 1850) and Buffalo & Rochester Railroad (an 1850 merger of additional small lines). In 1853, Albany industrialist and Mohawk Valley Railroad owner Erastus Corning brokered a merger and the New York Central Railroad was formed, consolidating the smaller companies to create a more efficient regional system. The Mohawk & Hudson had received a connection at Albany with the completion of the Hudson River Railroad in 1851. Initially, many scorned the idea of a railroad along the Hudson River, believing its curves would slow trains, making them no match for the river’s steamboats. But the Mohawk & Hudson railroad was faster than the steamboat, prompting business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt to invest in the Hudson River Railroad to protect his steamboat investments. After purchasing the Hudson River Railroad, Vanderbilt, who was known as “the Commodore,” bought shares in the New York Central, forcing the company’s reorganization and Corning’s retirement. New York Central became one of North America’s major railroads with its “Great Steel Fleet.” The Empire State Express was introduced in 1891, and in 1893, its 999 locomotive, with driving wheels of over seven feet, set a new world’s record of 112 miles per hour. By 1950, over 120 trains daily passed through Albany Union Station. But New York Central’s dominance eroded. In the 1930s, new airlines began flying between New York and ups tate, and in 1955, the New York State Thruway began operating from New York to Buffalo, giving the bus a competitive edge. Many passenger trains had disappeared, including New York Central’s flagship line the Twentieth Century Limited in 1967. To salvage its service, New York Central launched a new Empire Service for New York–Buffalo trains, but finally succumbed, merging with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968. The Penn Central Company, proving that bigger is not always better, quickly plunged into bankruptcy. But trains continued along the Empire Corridor, although without the 1941 Empire State Express’s glamor. When Amtrak launched in 1971, seven daily trains ran on the New York—Albany—Buffalo corridor: four operated the New York—Albany route and three ran to Buffalo. Service west of Buffalo was discontinued. Each train retained its number but was otherwise 96 | New York By Rail New York Central 4-6-4 ‘Hudson’ #5344 (Class J-1e), named the 'Commodore Vanderbilt’ departs Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station with the flagship “20th Century Limited” (Chicago—New York) during the 1930’s. One of New York Central’s two 4-6-4’s (J-3) streamlined for the “Empire State Express” service, #5426, is seen here ahead of the train. The other was #5429 and both lost their shrouding in 1950. nameless. Westward service resumed briefly on the Chicago—New York Lake Shore Limited, but was canceled in 1972. Despite the public’s doubts, Amtrak reestablished discontinued services along the Empire Corridor, including service beyond Buffalo to Niagara Falls, with the Niagara Rainbow and the Maple Leaf, the Lake Shore Limited service to Chicago, and service to downtown Schenectady for Empire Service trains traveling beyond Albany. In 1991, Empire Service trains began using the new Empire Connection into New York’s Penn Station instead of Grand Central Terminal. In 2011, Amtrak leased the Hudson Subdivision between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady, assuming control on December 1, 2012. Today, Amtrak partners with the New York State Department of Transportation to operate and continue making improvements to the service. HISTORY The Dewitt Clinton Train of the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad, 1831