CAPITAL DISTRICT When it comes to America’s booming railroad revolution, the tracks to what became a booming industry were laid right here in the Capital District.
In a special presentation by the Historical Society of the Town of Colonie, Harry M. Steven will discuss the important role local companies helped make transportation more efficient in America and the world over.
Schenectady’s railroad history began with the DeWitt Clinton’s initial run from Albany to Schenectady in 1831. John Ellis created the Schenectady Locomotive Works, which was the biggest company in the city until the end of the 19th century until General Electric came to the area. Ellis merged his company with others in the Northeast to create the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in 1901.
“A good part of the history of the United States is how it was held together by the transcontinental railroad,” Steven said. “One of the previous companies that consolidated with ALCO made the locomotive for the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific.”
Steven said in 1901 ALCO was forced to get into diesel locomotives and decided from there to form a partnership with GE.
“It was a GE engineer who designed the first diesel locomotive,” Steven said.
Throughout the presentation, Steven will also talk about the Civil War and the Louisiana Purchase.
“When the United States obtained the Louisiana Purchase and had all this land out west, it was difficult for the government to really control it (with the) threat of Mexico coming from the South, or England penetrating the Northwest,” Steven said. “The railroads made it possible for the government to supply the troops and have the troops available in case of any more penetrations.”
The discussion, “Locomotive Manufacturing in Schenectady; 1848-1969,” is free and will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 2 p.m. in the Town of Colonie Library.