Castleton, Selkirk and Hudson Valley





Top Left: Castleton Cutoff in 1950

Bottom: Selkirk Yard in 1950

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Castleton Cutoff

In the 1920’s, one of the biggest projects of the NY Central of this era was the Castleton Cutoff which would replace the grades and drawbridge at Albany with a high-level river crossing several miles south of Albany. The Castleton Cutoff was not only a bridge (later named the A.H. Smith Memorial Bridge) but included the new yard at Selkirk which eventually replaced West Albany in importance. In 1924, A.H. Smith, the president of the New York Central, predicted a greater Albany. He expected Albany to grow to the Castleton Bridge. The bridge cost $25,000,000 and is 135 feet above the river. It consists of a 600 foot span and a 400 foot span. The bridge contains 23,000 tons of steel and 52,000 yards of concrete. The bridge, and 28 miles of track owned by affiliate Hudson River Connecting Railroad, connected the Boston & Albany, Hudson Division and West Shore (River Division) with the Mohawk Division. The new yard at Selkirk had 250 miles of track connected by 430 switches and served by 2 roundhouses. The opening ceremonies were attended by a large crowd including the Van Sweringen brothers who owned the Nickel Plate, W.H. Truesdale of the Lackawanna. William K. and Harold Vanderbilt, Mayor Hackett of Albany and New York Lt. Governor Lunn. Two bridges then served Albany. One bridge to the passenger station (now a bank computer center) lasted until the late 1960’s. The northern of the two bridges is the present Conrail bridge used mostly by Amtrak. At that time it was considered the “freight” bridge but also was used by those few passenger trains that didn’t stop at Albany (some sections of the 20th Century Limited and a couple of limiteds to the midwest).

Conrail’s Boston-Buffalo freights cross the Hudson River on a long high bridge at Castleton on Hudson. It is east and slightly south of Selkirk Yard. It is next to the New York State Thruway bridge across the Hudson River. There is a track connecting Conrail’s Selkirk-Boston line across the bridge with Conrail’s line along the east shore of the Hudson River. For a number of years, the Boston section (448/449) of the Lake Shore Limited made a time consuming backup move over this connecting track on her journey between Rensselaer NY and Pittsfield MA; this move was eventually eliminated when the direct connecting track between Rensselaer and the CR Boston Line (previously eliminated by PC during the Roger Lewis era at Amtrak) was replaced.

Commodore Vanderbilt had actually envisioned a route similar to the present-day Selkirk-Castleton route that would have used the then-abandoned Saratoga & Hudson RR (the so-called “White Elephant” route that was built by the old New York Central to Athens on the Hudson River to connect with river steamboats there instead of at Albany) and bridged across the Hudson connecting with his New York & Harlem RR somewhere near Philmont, NY. In later years, of course, the “White Elephant” was used by the New York, West Shore & Buffalo which was built in direct competition to the New York Central’s main line from New York to Buffalo. The West Shore also built a branch north from the Ravenna/Coeymans area to meet the Delaware & Hudson’s line heading into Albany from the south.


Hudson River Connecting Railroad

Hudson River Connecting Railroad
Organized 1913 by the New York Central
Constructed 1924

Included the following trackage:
· From the junction of what is now the Boston Line/Post Road Branch (Boston Line, CP-187), which was then the B&A Mainline, west across the Castleton Bridge


to what is now the western-most end of Selkirk Yard (Selkirk Branch, CP-Unionville), which was then the western junction with the West Shore;

· From the junction at the eastern end of the Castleton (Alfred H. Smith) Bridge (Boston Line/Selkirk Branch, CP-SM) south to Stuyvesant (Hudson Line, CP-124/CP-125), which is now the eastern-most (southern-most) extension of the Selkirk Branch;
· From the junction of what is now the Selkirk Branch (CP-SK) south to Ravena Yard (West Shore MP 132), which was then the southern junction with the West Shore.

There were originally two tracks diverging at Stuyvesant to go up the Castleton cutoff. The (presumably) up-bound track diverged right at Stuyvesant station, and the (presumably) down-bound track diverged a mile, perhaps more, farther north (compass north, railroad west!!) on the river side, and crossed the Hudson main on a flyover. In recent years the longer track was taken up, and what remains today is only the shorter one with the flyover. It was determined that the several raisings of the track over the years had exceeded the support limits for the light cinder material which made up much of the fill. In other words, the base was too narrow to support what was on it. The alternatives were: (A) dump x-amount of new fill to provide the needed additional support; (B) drive steel piling on both sides for the length of the fill; or (C) to permanently remove the track from service most cost-effective).




See Penney’s Blog on:




Railfanning Selkirk Yard

Mosher Bridge at the east end of the yard (route 396), Jericho Bridge over the fuel plant area just west of the hump and finally the Feura Bush Bridge over the very west end of the yard (route 32). There is also an overhead bridge over the tracks east of the east end close to CP-SK (US-9W) which will give you an overlook of the junction between the River Line, B. & A. and the Port Secondary.

Strongly suggest you stay out of the yard and off railroad property, there are CSX police officers on duty here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Some good places west would be Game Farm crossing or further west county road 308 crossing which is known as New Scotland South Road. Probably the best spot of all is at Voorheesville which has two crossings, the west one of the two has a good spot to park very close to CP-VO which is where the diamond crossing with the D & H used to be. The earlier in the AM that you get there the better as there is a parade of westbound vans for the Mohawk leaving.


White Elephant Line

The Athens Line was the Saratoga & Hudson River Railway, which was driven into bankruptcy and absorbed for next to nothing by New York Central & Hudson River Railroad. Central called it their Athens Branch, and used it very little.

The line went from Schenectady south through Fullers, Guilderland, Voorheesville, New Scotland, Unionville, Feura Bush, South Bethlehem, Coeymans, Coxsackie, and on to Athens where it met the Hudson.

It was generally known as the “White Elephant Line” — because it was mostly useless.

Most of the ROW was leased by Vanderbilt’s NYC&HRR to NYWS&B when they built up through that area. Of course, in due time, it came back to the Central as part of the West Shore Railroad.

The portion of the then NYC Athens Branch from Carmen to Fullers was indeed abandoned in the 1920s. The ROW was still visable from both ends when I was working around that area in the early 1980s.

The section between Fullers and Coxsackie is occupied and heavily used, for the most part, by the former West Shore Railroad (now CSX). New York Central leased the Athens line to the New York, West Shore & Buffalo when that company was putting together their route about 1880. The portion of S&HRR from Coxsackie to the river at Athens is also abandoned, as is the part between Feura Bush (Selkirk Yard) and Coeymans. The route the S&HRR took through Coeymans (now Ravena) was somewhat west of the current alignment of the CSX River Sub — closer to the current alignment of US 9W. The original S&HRR route through Coeymans is pretty much obliterated by development. There are gas lines and power lines on parts of it south of Ravena.


Railroads East of the Hudson key to Castleton Cutoff

As well as the obvious Boston & Albany Railroad, Hudson and Harlem Divisions, there were several railroads that played an historial role as building blocks for these divisions:



This was formerly known as the Castleton and West Stockbridge Railroad. The Company was organized April 9, 1830, but nothing was done under the first name. The name of Albany and West Stockbridge Railroad was assumed May 5, 1836. The road was opened from Greenbush to Chatham, December 21, 1841, and to the State Line, September 12, 1842. It was leased to the Western (Mass.) Railroad, Nov. 18, 1841, for the term of its charter, and later was operated as a part of that road, including the ferry at Albany. The city of Albany at different times issued bonds for $1,000,000 to aid in building the road, the lessees paying the interest and $10,000 annually toward the sinking fund. It connected at Albany with Springfield and Boston.



see Boston and Albany Railroad Company.
Albany & West Stockbridge Railroad (Post Road Branch)
Chartered May 5, 1836 Completed East Albany to Massachusetts State Line (38.0 mi.) 1842 Consolidated into Boston & Albany Railroad 1871



On April 26, 1832, the State of New York chartered The Hudson and Berkshire Railroad Company and made certain advances to aid the construction of its line, which was completed from Hudson to Chatham Four Corners and was opened for use in September, 1838. Owing to a default in the repayment of its advances, the State of New York sold the line November 21, 1854, and it was purchased in the interests of the Western Railroad Corporation and was then reorganized as the Hudson and Boston Railroad Corporation.



It is 1954 and Mayor Corning of Albany is shown inspecting historic locomotive 999.


Some Questions Answered About Selkirk and Castleton Cutoff

Why was the Castleton Cutoff built?. Back in the early 1900s, the Central found that traffic was growing beyond the capacity of West Albany Yard (which was geographically constrained from expanding), and that West Albany Hill had a tremendous detrimental effect on freight movements. With trains growing in length and weight, many needed helpers or even doubling to get up the grade.

The West Shore gave an alternative: Its route from Rotterdam Junction to Feura Bush had very minimal grades, and there was a lot of land available in Feura Bush for a new yard to relieve the congestion ongoing at West Albany. A line was surveyed across the river up to Post Road and the Alfred H. Smith Bridge was built, and a connector was constructed down to the Water Level Route. The line split a few miles north of Stuyvesant, with one track spanning the mainline to connect on the west side, allowing movements from NYC to access the Castleton Cutoff without fouling all the other mainline tracks while crossing over.

The original West Shore mainline remained in place after the first Selkirk Yard was constructed; the new yard leads split off around where CP-Unionville is located today. The old main ran along the base of the Helderberg Escarpment and curved to the south towards Ravena, where it connected with the line that led to the Port of Albany somewhere around Ravena High School. The Port line was upgraded to become the mainline to Selkirk, and a diamond (with wyes in all four quadrants) was constructed at the village of Selkirk: today’s CP-SK.

The Alfred Perlman Selkirk Yard we know today was built in the 1960s to replace the original facility, which had essentially separate yards for eastbound and westbound cars. New technology was extensively used, and for a time Selkirk was the most advanced class yard of its kind in the world.

What is the Fullers Flyover? When the original dual-hump Selkirk Yard was constructed, it was arranged opposite of the current-of-traffic for freight trains on the Water Level Route west of Hoffmans. Instead of causing delays by having trains use a traditional crossover to flop tracks, what is now Main 2 was constructed to allow trains to “switch sides” without conflicting other traffic. Interestingly, there used to be a second main track alongside Main 1 from Voorheesville to somewhere around the county line, which explains a) the wide track centers west of CP-VO and b) the apparently-overly-wide bridge abutments over Frenchs Hollow and Route 20.


DeWitt versus Selkirk Yard

Selkirk Yard was opened in 1924, as part of the Castleton Cutoff, a low grade bypass around Albany, avoiding both the low level freight swing bridge and the steep westbound grade up to West Albany. It was a hump yard, but, until the very late New York Central period, only the eastbound hump was retarder equipped. The principal NYC yard on Lines East (of Buffalo) was DeWitt at Syracuse, and this yard classified, for practical purposes, just about every train east or westbound; it handled about four or five times as many cars as did Selkirk. Selkirk originated and terminated trains for the Boston and Albany and for the River Division (West Shore), as well as locals for the Albany and Hudson/River Division points. It also served as a “trimmer” yard for DeWitt. This all changed when, under the Young/Perlman management, a massive yard improvement problem was initiated. Selkirk was selected to become what it is today, or at least was under PC/CR, one of the most important yards on the system. Rebuilt and modernized, it completely replaced DeWitt, which today no longer exists. There were two reasons for this, one of which is for certain: there was much more room at Selkirk for expansion than at DeWitt. The other, which is an educated guess is this: one of the first yards built under Perlman was Frontier Yard at Buffalo, replacing a complex of several old yards, the largest of which was Gardenville. If trains were to be reclassified at a modern complex in Buffalo, the DeWitt was too close to reclassify them again, so Selkirk was in the right place geographically. Selkirk as you know it today, never operated as a NYC yard; it was not completed until after the PC merge.







The GM plant in Tarrytown

Received a lot of rail shipments inbound. Many times when there were “shutdown” carloads of parts for the plant that were hustled off down the Hudson Line from Selkirk with a single unit, caboose, and a full crew. They were using just-in-time inventory for many years, working right out of the boxcar, with next to nothing on hand as a buffer. For many years, there were no outbound racks of finished autos, though. The clearances on that line were never high enough until very recently. In the late 80s GM wanted the clearances improved on the Hudson line in order to ship out autoracks north of the Tarrytown plant. The State of NY and the railroad paid for this and when it was done GM did ship outbound autoracks for the plant’s remaining years, but the plant closed in the early-mid 90s.
Just south of the plant there is or just was a company that shipped outbound boxcars of scrap paper, and behind them there is or was a small 4 track stub end yard that, at the time of my many trips by there in the 80’s was mainly used by MOW. The yard for the GM plant was north of Tarrytown by a few miles.


Fort Orange Paper Co.

located in the village of Castleton-on-Hudson, NY (about 9 miles south of Rensselaer) was serviced by the NYC and was one of the last customers served by Conrail/CSX along this stretch of the Hudson River line. They had (and may still have) a company owned switcher to shuffle cars between the plant and the siding off the main line tracks. The plant is located just north of the village limits on the eastern side of the former NYC mainline, nestled in the valley of the Moodnerkill stream. Originally built as the New York Central, Hudson River and Fort Orange Railroad.


At one time there several industries between Croton and Spuyten Duyvil.

The biggest, already mentioned, was Chevrolet and Fisher Body at North Tarrytown. The railroad kept about 500 cars on hand at Croton West Yard (its sole reason for life) and sent them to GM when ordered in. Eastbound trains like DM-2 set off at Croton, and there were several traveling switchers picking out cars and taking them to GM.
Burnham Boiler and Lord & Burnham (greenhouses) were at Irvington, but not a lot of business there.
Anaconda Copper at Hastings kept one switcher from Yonkers (KD-12) busy all day, and at one time was the major reason for HS tower. Anaconda received copper, insulation material and all sorts of stuff, and shipped mostly copper cable.
Same thing with Habershaw Cable and Wire Co. (Phelps-Dodge) at the north end of Yonkers Yard. Yonkers also had Refined Syrups and Sugars (formerly Sprekles Sugar) that received covered hoppers and tank cars of sugar and corn syrup. There were several lumberyards too. Polychrome Corp at Yonkers received boxcars of paper and ink or dye material. Chateau Martin received wine in insulated tank cars just like milk cars – they looked like wooden express cars, with passenger trucks, and had glass-lined tanks inside. They also got cheaper wine in standard tank cars. The county sewage treatment plant at Ludlow received chlorine in ton tanks – placed crossways on a car like a flat car, but they were classed as tank cars. Besides KD-12, the railroad had KD-11 and KD-16 working Yonkers directly, and making at least one round trip to 72nd Street each evening. BF-1 and later SLX-1 picked up the westbound traffic each night at Yonkers, off of track 6 at GD tower.


The Hudson River

The Hudson River begins in the Adirondacks region of New York State.
Delaware & Hudson had a route to North Creek and an extension to Tahawus


Glens Falls is located in Warren County and is known as the “Gateway to the Adirondacks” because of its unique location bordering the Adirondack Park. Glens Falls and the Adirondack Region are world-renowned vacation destinations with an estimated 7.6 million annual visitors.


Boston & Maine Railroad crossed the Hudson River here.


The Albany main of the Delaware & Hudson railroad enters Waterford from Cohoes and a mile above the village joins the Green Island branch enters the southern part of the village within three hundred feet of the Hudson and partially runs through streets. From Waterford Junction the road extends northerly through the town.


Also known as “Lock 1”, the Federal Lock is the northern limit of ocean-going craft and the beginning of the canal.


Green Island Bridge this fuel tank was right on the river nearby.


Livingston Avenue Bridge The New York Central Railroad
built this bridge to carry freight trains over the Hudson.
Passenger trains came across to the station on the Maiden Lane Bridge.
This bridge is gone and Amtrak uses the Livingston Avenue bridge now.


Albany The capital of New York State.
The first NY State railroad (Mohawk & Hudson) started here.
Nearby West Albany was once the site of New York Central’s largest shops. The Erastus Corning Tower stands 589 feet high, the tallest building in New York State outside New York City.


Castleton Bridge (Alfred H. Smith Memorial Bridge)


Poughkeepsie Bridge
See a full story on the Poughkeepsie bridge


Newburgh-Beacon (was ferry)


Croton-Harmon Harmon was a New York Central-created community and came into existence because it was a logical point to be the outer limit of the electric zone.


Tarrytown had a ferry at one time and now has the Tappan Zee highway bridge.
The sailboat is my grandfather, who was the New York Central Paymaster.


New York City Pennsylvania Railroad Tunnels
PATH Tunnels



Rensselaer is one of Amtrak’s busiest locations. It is the third station since passenger traffic moved out of Albany Union Station.


Capital District Trolleys

On November 29, 1899, the Albany Railway, the Troy City Railway, and the Watervliet Turnpike and Railroad Company merged to form the United Traction Company (UTC). At this time there were over 100 miles of territory covered by trolleys and interurbans. 6 years later the Delaware & Hudson Company purchased United Traction. The D&H didn’t like the fact that the extensive trolley system was competing with their intercity routes. The D&H and NY Central developed an Albany-Troy “Belt Line” with 30 trains travelling each weekday between Albany and Troy and suburbs only 25 minutes apart.

In 1904, the Schenectady Railway was jointly purchased by the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad and the Delaware & Hudson Company.

The Albany & Southern Railroad served the City of Albany and surrounding area. Perhaps most unique about the A&S was that it used third-rail for electric power instead of the more traditional overhead catenary. The line lasted until the 1920s when it was abandoned.

The Hudson Valley Railway (owned by the Delaware & Hudson) connected Mechanicville and Stillwater and operated until 1928 when the service was abandoned due to increased competition from automobiles and highways.

The Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville Railroad was more of a traditional railroad than an interurban but it did operate some electrified lines. The FJ&G beganoperations in 1867 and at its peak reached a maximum length of 130 miles. Its interurban operations lasted only until the latter 1930s but freight operations remained through 1974 when it was taken over by the Delaware Otsego System.


A New Hudson Bridge, Revived Beacon Line, HYPERLOOP and More

The Maybrook Line was a line of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad which connected with its Waterbury Branch in Derby, Connecticut, and its Maybrook Yard in Maybrook, New York, where it interchanged with other carriers.

If one looks at the most popular Pages on our WebSite, over half directly reference the Maybrook Line. Lot’s of folks have an interest in it. The “Maybrook Line” was important to New England before the advent of Penn Central and before the Poughkeepsie Bridge burned. This piece of the railroad carried freight from Maybrook Yard, across the Poughkeepsie Bridge to Hopewell Junction where it joined a line from Beacon. The railroad then went to Brewster, then Danbury, and finally to Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven.

WHY and How To Fix The “MAYBROOK LINE”?

Container port/intermodal facility/rail bridge

The construction of a railroad bridge between New Hamburg and Marlboro is likely the least expensive place to build a Hudson River crossing between Manhattan and Albany.    The stone for ramps, sand and gravel for concrete and a steel beam assembly and storage area would be right on sight.  All materials and equipment could be transported by barge or boat.  The bridge itself would have only four or five piers (the most costly part to build) since the Hudson River is about the same width as it is in Poughkeepsie.

The Hudson River component connects Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties to the world economy (finished goods, spare parts, components parts, raw materials, food stuffs) and the railroad and interstate road components connect these NY counties to the rest of North America (US, Mexico, Canada).

With the container port/intermodal facility/rail bridge, the flow in and out of raw materials, spare parts, partially finished goods, foodstuffs and components will allow for new industries and businesses to locate near this facility and add to the tax base of these three NY counties: Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties.

Although the Dutchess County Airport is a tiny regional airport with a 5,000 foot runway, it has some big potential. The airport land extends a mile Northeast of the present runway end at New Hackensack Road and borders on the former New Haven Maybrook Line/Dutchess Rail Trail. As the NY Air National Guard gets crowded out by international air traffic at Stewart International Airport their operation could be moved over to Dutchess Airport without disrupting the lives of the guard members and their families through forced relocation.

Beacon itself is exploding with “developer” activity, and it needs a trolley or light rail for the city only to transform back into a pedestrian oriented city.

Other activities include: Solidization of rail links in Connecticut to handle increased traffic; a possible HYPERLINK for improved service along the Beacon Line and in/out of New York City 

Now you are going to ask. What does the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority have to do with the “BEACON LINE”? IT OWNS IT! Must realize that NYCMTA is a “regional” organization. With all that went on with Penn-Central and CONRAIL somebody had to own it!

So what would a “revised” rail line look like?

To begin with, the line from Maybrook to the Hudson River is gone. Railroads that previously entered Maybrook can reach the Hudson River and head up the old West Shore to the proposed bridge at New Hamburg. But the old Poughkeepsie Bridge is no longer in service, as well as the tracks to Hopewell Junction. At Marlboro, trains would take the old New York Central Hudson Division to Beacon, New York. Yes, with both Metro North and Amtrak using the Hudson Line, it may require an additional track.

From Beacon trains would travel the Beacon Line over the Housatonic Railroad to Derby-Shelton, Connecticut. Trains would go to Cedar Hill Yard. Some traffic may go to Long Island. With traffic revitalized, other trains will even go to Waterbury!


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