Travel advances changed the landscape of New York as once-laborious journeys were whittled down by the advent of the canal system and rail travel. A new exhibit at the Schenectady County Historical Society Museum highlights those changes.
SCHENECTADY Advances in technology change the way we live, and life in the 18th century was no exception when tracks were laid, creating a new path for change across New York state.
In 1825, the creation of the Erie Canal made a trip that once took weeks from Albany to Buffalo, now only a five-day
IF YOU GO
• What: Canals and Railroads: From Collaboration to Competition
• When: Saturday, June 28, through November
• Where: Schenectady County Historical Society Museum, 32 Washington Ave., Schenectady
• How much: $5 per person
• Info: schenectadyhistor... or 887-5073
journey on the canal. Often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the canal made New York the Empire State. In 1825, more than 40,000 passengers traveled the new waterway. That is, until the railroad came to town. The invention of the steam locomotive and the creation of a vast network of railroads changed history in New York.
The Schenectady County Historical Society Museum is now offering an in-depth look at New York State’s railroads and canalways in the exhibit “Canals and Railroads: From Collaboration to Competition,” which opens Saturday, June 28.
“The first railroads in New York state were built not to compete with the canal, but to enhance and improve it by providing improved traffic and transit times,” said David Gould, historian and exhibit curator from the ALCO Technical and Historical Society. “The best example is the Mohawk and Hudson which provided a shortcut across the Pine Bush from Albany to Schenectady, avoiding the locks in the Erie Canal on the Mohawk.”
The Mohawk Hudson Railroad, the brainchild of George W. Featherstonehaugh, an Englishman who lived in Duanesburg, was completed in 1831, despite the fact that there was resistance to the railroad because it would compete with the Erie Canal.
Mary Zawacki, curator at the Schenectady County Historical Society Museum, said the railroads were initially meant to be a lateral system connecting the canals, but that quickly changed when passengers realized they could ride the railroad on a direct 16-mile journey from Albany to Schenectady, saving 10 miles.