Mechanicville to Saratoga Springs and Schuylerville

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  • States: New York   
  • Railroads: S&S   

The Saratoga and Schuylerville Railroad

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Remains of trestle across Fish Creek outlet of Saratoga Lake, a popular sitting spot for fishing. Photo by Paul Smith.

The Saratoga and Schuylerville Railroad was one of many short lines which proliferated in upstate New York in late-1800s and early-1900s. It was based in the summer resort community of Saratoga Springs — a spa and horse race/gambling mecca — and ran east for approximately eight miles to Schuylerville, a small community on the west shore of the Hudson River. From there the S&S ran south through Wayville to Stillwater Jct and Mechanicville — site of a once major freight yard for the Boston & Maine, the Delaware & Hudson and the New York Central. The combined sections totaled 26 miles.

Originally chartered in 1833, the Saratoga and Schuylerville was built later in that century by the Fitchburg Railroad, soon after the 1875 completion of the Hoosac Tunnel in Massachusetts. The S&S was envisioned as a link in the scheme to build a line from Boston to Buffalo. The Fitchburg Railroad was eventually absorbed into the Boston & Maine.

The Saratoga and Schuylerville passenger service included popular Saratoga Lake on its route. Freight service prospered from the shipment of sand from pits adjacent to the line, as well as transport of coal and manufacturing supplies to and finished products from businesses along the way. The largest customer was the paper mill in Victory Mills — on the southern side of Schuylerville. The Battle of Saratoga, turning point in the Revolutionary War, was fought in what was to become Victory Mills.

In Schuylerville, the S&S connected with another short line, the Greenwich & Johnsonville Railroad, operating in Rensselaer County on the east side of the Hudson River. There was no connection in Saratoga Springs with the Delaware & Hudson.

From the 1920s on, the Boston & Maine wanted to unload the Saratoga & Schuylerville as well as some other failing short lines. Finally, in 1946 the line was sold to Samuel Pinsly for a reported $25,500. For that sum he obtained some 26 miles of track, a 2-6-0 Mogul, plus a caboose, a snowplow and an engine house in Saratoga. The S&S was his second of many acquisitions.

In the early 1950s, traffic began a steady decline. The commercial and home use of oil rather than coal for heating put a significant dent in the line's business. Likewise, the increasing switch from rail to truck shipping for small loads was the death knell for the Saratoga and Schuylerville Railroad. It ceased operation in 1956. The estimated scrap value for tearing up the line was $239,000, nearly 10 times the purchase price just 10 years previous.

Portions of the roadbed are still visible today, particularly the remains of a trestle crossing the Fish Creek outlet of Saratoga Lake and the Bog Meadow Nature Trail on the outskirts of Saratoga Springs. A "welcome" sign at the start of the trail warns visitors to be alert for bees nests in old railway ties. Curiously, the S&S is not identified on the sign as the source of those ties. The old engine house in Saratoga is a retail beverage store and the freight house in Schuylerville is a residence, with a home-made sign identifying the structure as the old Boston & Maine freight house.

Thanks to Paul Smith for contributing information about this route.

the greenwich and johnsonville is in washington county and only the last mile of the former G&J was in rensselear county.

other than that one and only error I found great job

brooks
shushan, NY
6/6/2010

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My father had a cousin that lived on 9P. We would vacation their in the early 1950's. A couple of years ago I was in NY and by chance found their home. What a change 50 years makes. The old RR tracks were gone and you could hardly tell they ran across the front yard. Nice to go back memory lane through this web site. Tlanks to Paul Smith for this article.

Jake
Columbus, OH
8/19/2012

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As a child I saw steam engines chugging across Saratoga Lake (Fish Creek)Then in the 60s there were just the trestles, without tracks. Now hardly a trace. Another giant step backwards for New York. The state that had everything but gave it all away in the name of progress.

Bill
Camden, NJ
1/12/2013

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My granddaughter and I were kayaking on Fish Creek last year and again last week, and noted the ruins of the bridge in the narrows north of the Fish Creek Marina, and also went under the small bridge on the tiny stream that enters Fish Creek from the east a little ways further along. Did not give them much thought except remains of some old road or railroad perhaps. Then on the way home we stopped at the trail at Bog Meadow off Rte 29 and it was obviously along an old railbed. Found it was this railroad on an Internet search, and then looking at the maps, realized it was also reamins of this same railroad that we had been kayaking around on Fish Creek. Thanks for the webpage.

Phil
Averill Park, NY
10/3/2013

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Did this railroad have telegraph lines and if so where they removed when I was decommissioned?

alex
saratoga, NY
10/26/2013

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