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.