As the United States entered World War I, it was thought that the Nation’s transportation facilities were not up to the task of mobilizing and supplying large quantities of materials and men to the east coast for shipment to the war front.
What took place over the next three years was an experiment in the nationalization of the railroads, and to a much smaller extent, the waterways.
In 1917 New York State found itself with a rather big problem. After fourteen years of planning, engineering and construction, the new Barge Canal was almost ready for use. Although terminal space was still being built, plans were to have the entire canal channel and locks ready for use in the spring of 1918. However, there were few boats available for use on the canal, for a number of reasons: Continue reading
TRAIN: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World-from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief (Viking, 2014) takes a global inventory of railroads while weaving a light history of this important mode of transportation and telling an entertaining story of an around-the-world rail journey by author Tom Zoellner.
From the birth of the locomotive in Cornwall, England, to traveling along the frozen trans-Siberian railroad with a past as dark as the arctic sky, and crisscrossing the antiquated yet magnificent Indian Railways, the world’s eighth largest employer, TRAIN examines the mechanics of these grandiose machines, and the impact on the societies through which they run. Continue reading
On December 18, 1867, the Buffalo and Erie Railroad’s eastbound New York Express derailed as it approached the high truss bridge over Big Sister Creek, just east of the small settlement of Angola, New York, on the shores of Lake Erie.
In a dramatic historical narrative, Charity Vogel tells the gripping, true-to-life story of the wreck and the characters involved in the tragic accident in The Angola Horror: The 1867 Train Wreck That Shocked the Nation and Transformed American Railroads (Cornell University Press, 2013). Continue reading
The film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” is an apt metaphor I frequently return to and during this holiday season, it’s useful to reflect on the Bedford Hills Historical Society. What role should the Bedford Falls Historical Society have played?
I’ve offered my view of the role of historical societies in communities here at The New York History Blog before. My contention has been, among other things, that historical societies fall into a dangerous and unsupportable trap if they think of their primary function is to support tourism. Quite the contrary, they are community organizations, part of the social fabric like schools and libraries which also are chartered by the New York State Education Department. Continue reading
The hill that separates the outlet of Lake George from the creek that opens into Lake Champlain is among the oldest portages in continuous use in North America.
The Native Americans gave it a name: Ticonderoga, “the place between waters.”
Up and down its slope have passed explorers and naturalists such as Isaac Jogues and Peter Kalm, travelers such as Thomas Jefferson and, of course, the armies of the French, the British and the Americans as supremacy over North America and its strategic waterways shifted from one nation to another. Continue reading
The Amtrak GreatAmericanStations.com website has been upgraded with new tools, resources and information to help local communities discover and develop the economic power of America’s train stations.
Since 2006, the site has provided resources to communities contemplating preservation and renovation of their publicly- or privately-owned stations, as well as the construction of new passenger rail or multi-modal facilities and the associated economic and social benefits they offer. The site includes step-by-step tools and resources, project ideas, suggested tactics and lessons learned from the station redevelopment experiences of others. Continue reading
Many famous ships can be linked in one way or another to Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain in northern Clinton County. There was the Philadelphia under Benedict Arnold’s command in the Battle of Valcour, and the Saratoga under Thomas Macdonough, hero of the Battle of Plattsburgh. There were steamers, like the Vermont, the Chateaugay, and the Ticonderoga. And as noted here in the past, Plattsburgh also owns an unusual link to the largest seagoing vessel of its time, the Titanic.
There is yet another tied not only to Plattsburgh, but to the entire Champlain Valley, and from Whitehall to Albany as well. And like the Titanic, its name became synonymous with disaster. Continue reading
“The sun shone brightly August 26, 1946, and the sky was blue — a gorgeous summer day in the Adirondacks. The southbound train on the Adirondack line of the D&H was bubbling with excited children–318 of them–all headed south to New York City to return to their families after a summer at camp in the Adirondacks. Neither they nor the train's crew knew that at that very moment passenger train 181, from Saratoga Springs, chugged steadily northward toward them—unaware of their presence on those very same tracks.” Continue reading
The historic Nellis Tavern museum on State Highway 5 east of St. Johnsville in Montgomery County will present “A Handsome Assortment: Chairs of the Turnpike Tavern Era,” an exhibit scheduled for September 21-22, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The “turnpike era” in upstate New York corresponded roughly with the first half of the nineteenth century. The exhibit will feature examples of the types of seating pieces which would have been found in common use in establishments like Nellis Tavern during its heyday between 1800 and 1840, when it faced the Mohawk Turnpike (present State Highway 5). Today, objects like these are regarded as distinctive examples of early American artisanship. They are often examples of early American mass production, as well. Continue reading
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced today that they will hold four public meetings in September about the management of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, a 119-mile nineteenth-century rail line in the western Adirondacks.
A bitter debate has raged in the Adirondacks over the past several years after rail-trail advocates began pushing to have the historic railroad tracks torn-up. In 2011, an organization calling themselves Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates began calling for the outser of the tourist railroad operation and for conversion of the rail bed to a multi-use trail. More than 10,000 people have signed-on to a petition calling for the removal of the tracks. The trail advocates’ call for a reassessment of the corridor’s management plan has resulted in this round of public hearings. Continue reading
On August 8, regular contributor to the New York History Blog Peter Feinman wrote a post entitled “Old Roads: Byways of the History Community” in which he made a proposal to create “Paths” following the historic and scenic roadways of New York.
This article made two things abundantly clear: there is a need for pathways that create a driving experience and many people in the history community are unaware that these programs already exist! Continue reading
The Brooklyn Bridge was completed about 130 years ago in 1883, and remains an icon of New York architecture.
However, Brooklyn looked much different back then, as seen by this illustration done soon after the bridge was completed. How did the illustrator even get up there? Continue reading
I confess to a bias in support of trains since my father was an electrical engineer for General Electric. He rode the rails with GE’s state-of-the-art engine (which he helped design) and appeared in the final scene of the movie Union Pacific at a time when movies played in Bijous in communities across the country. Those days are gone, but what can Amtrak contribute to the history community in New York?
Amtrak is underutilized contributor to cultural heritage tourism. I have ridden the Amtrak rails from Albany to Niagara Falls, from New York City to Plattsburgh and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Amtrak train service in New York is not designed to promote tourism in New York. Continue reading
Route 66 is perhaps the most culturally iconic road in American history. Not to take anything away from other byways, but how many have had TV shows and become tourist destinations?
New York has its share of numbered roads with historic connections. In Westchester County where I live there is Route 1 (the Boston Post Road into New England); Route 9 (the Albany Post Road from NYC to Montreal), and Route 22 (the White Plains Post Road to the Canadian Border). These roads follow the lay of the land and have been used for centuries. We should be promoting them as access points to our history community.
Recent news about the new bike sharing program in New York City and an upcoming bicycle tour of the Champlain Canalway Trail illustrate the ongoing love affair New Yorkers have with two-wheel transportation.
Statewide interest in bicycling exploded in New York State 144 years ago when newspapers began to warn readers about an impending “fearful outbreak” of “velocipede mania.” According to the January 10, 1869 issue of the New York Times, the first sight of a velocipede created “wonder and amazement among all classes” which made them “anxious to mount the fiery steed.” Continue reading
On a recent drive in Clinton County, I was reminded of a story told to me by my grandfather, James Lagree. Jim was a Churubusco farmer near the Canadian border in Clinton County, but he also worked other jobs, including road construction. We both loved fishing, and in my pre-teen years, he took me to all his secret places, including Bradley Pond near Lyon Mountain. It happened to be that he had worked on construction of the Bradley Pond Road.
The conversation that day drifted to other roads, and that’s when he told me the story of a truck losing its brakes on Dannemora Mountain. It was hilarious the way he told it (he was great with jokes and embellishments), but not long ago, I learned just how true the story was. Continue reading
The Journal of Transport History (JTH) is now accepting manuscripts through ScholarOne Manuscripts.
The JTH publishes scholarly research on the histories of all instances of transport, travel, tourism and mobility, including their relationship with planning and policy. Submissions may be original research essays of up to 8,000 words (including endnotes), short surveys / speculations (up to 2,000 words), or reviews of transport history museums and exhibitions (1,500 words). Continue reading
If you like horses (and who doesn’t?) and some funny grammatical errors, check out these two sentence segments from regional newspapers. From 1927: “Mounted on his favorite and favored horse wearing a white broad-brimmed hat … ; and from 1980: “Fans hurled confetti at third baseman George Brett, who was atop a horse wearing a grey cowboy hat.” Both excerpts contain misplaced modifiers: it’s a pretty safe bet that neither horse was wearing a hat.
But as silly as it sounds, it’s an idea that was actually once in vogue. About a century ago, many of northern New York’s horses were sporting the latest craze―hats for horses.
In parts of Europe and the West Indies, it had long been a practice for operators of hacks―horse-drawn taxis, carriages, and the like―to bedeck their horses with hats, which minimized the wearing effects of the hot sun during long days of strolling the streets. Continue reading
What follows is a press release issued by Bethan Maher, Executive Officer of the Adirondack Railway Preservation Society.
The New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced on June 6th that the State will initiate a public process to review the Unit Management Plan for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, part of the 141 miles of track on which the Adirondack Scenic Railroad operates. Although the Railroad does not feel that revisiting the UMP is necessary in determining the future of the rail corridor, the Railroad remains confident that the State will once again determine the best use of this public asset is to maintain its designation as a multi-use corridor with a completed rail line and blended recreational and trail opportunities along the completed line. Continue reading