Railroad Bridges and Tunnels


About the

Livingston Avenue Railroad Bridge Coalition (LARBC)

The Livingston Avenue Rail Road Bridge between the cities of Albany and Rensselaer is slated to be completely rebuilt in 2017 as part of New York State’s High Speed Rail initiative.

December, 2013; We received some new information from Gordon Davids on the Livingston Avenue Bridge: The existing bridge at Livingston Ave., including the swing span, was built in 1902 to replace the original timber truss bridge of 1866. However the stone piers are original. When Lincoln’s funeral train went through New York City to Illinois in 1865, it could not cross the Hudson at Albany, because the bridge had yet to be built. I believe that the coffin crossed the river from East Albany (Rensselaer) to Albany on a boat, and the train went around via Troy and Green Island to Albany, from whence it continued its trip west. The Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad (D&H) had built its first Green Island Bridge in 1835. The connection from Green Island to Albany was opened in 1853.

The Hudson River Bridge Company at Albany

Maiden Lane Bridge at Albany (left) and Livingston Avenue Bridge (right) (also known as freight bridge or north bridge).

Livingston Avenue Bridge was built by The New York Central Railroad to carry freight trains over the Hudson. Passenger trains came across to the station on the Maiden Lane Bridge (South Bridge) (picture at right bottom) .
This bridge is gone and Amtrak uses the Livingston Avenue bridge now.

These two bridges were owned by a separate corporation:
The two railroad bridges crossing the Hudson River between Rensselaer and Albany were owned nominally by a separate organization called The Hudson River Bridge Company at Albany, incorporated April 9, 1856. This ownership was vested in The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company, three-fourths, and the Boston and Albany Railroad Company, one-fourth. Except for foot passengers, the bridges were used exclusively for railroad purposes. The north bridge was opened in 1866, and the south bridge in 1872.

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 result was the Castleton Cutoff (and the newest of the Hudson River bridges in the Albany Area).


Construction of the Livingston Avenue Bridge over the Hudson River, which today connects Amtrak’s New York City trains with western New York, began when Abraham Lincoln was president.

The Livingston Avenue Bridge stands as a working monument to steam-age rail thinking in the Empire State. The 144-year-old swing bridge is the sole link for Amtrak passenger trains crossing the Hudson River. Between trains, a 230-foot draw section still pivots open and closed on a turntable mechanism some 100 or more times each year so big boats can cruise through. As passenger rail advocates push for development of modern high-speed tracks and trains that would move at speeds of 110 mph or more, the daily reliance on this relic of 19th-century technology carries great irony. If the bridge were to be out of commission for an extended period, Amtrak’s alternate route across the Hudson for trains traveling out of New York City would be another CSX bridge across the Castleton viaduct. This route would miss stops at Rensselaer and Schenectady. Rensselaer Rail Station was Amtrak’s 10th-busiest in the country last year, with nearly 724,000 boardings and arrivals.

Information came from Cathy Woodruff of the Albany Times Union published June 21, 2010.


Albany Night Boat

Picture (undated, from the Library of Congress) shows the “Night Boat” from New York City docked in Albany. Everything is different in the picture except the
Livingston Avenue Bridge in the background that still carries AMTRAK between New York City and Chicago.


Up until 1941, The “Night Boat” from New York City to Albany could carry 2,000 passengers. It ended an era in American history of grand boats with staterooms, ballrooms, etc running up and down the Hudson River. Passengers could be young couples on a weekend trip, couples evading detection by spouses, “ladies of the evening”, etc. There was even a Broadway farce in the 1920’s called the “Night Boat“.

But by 1941, everybody was in a hurry. You could make the trip by car, train or even airplane. Saratoga horse racing and gambling was slowing down as more options opened up near NY City. So when it went down the tubes, few cared about the “Night Boat”.

The first “crack” in the monopoly of the Hudson River steam boats was in the 1860’s when Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Hudson River Railroad (part of the great New York Central Railroad) started running trains, first only in the Winter. At their beginning, trains stopped at Rensselaer with passengers walking across a foot bridge. A NY Central subsidiary, The Hudson River Bridge Company at Albany solved that problem with the Maiden Lane Bridge into downtown Albany (now gone) and the Livingston Avenue Bridge (originally a freight bypass).

Now, New York State is considering changes to gambling laws, and guess what? A “gambling” boat between NY City and Albany might become legal.

Not going to get into the topic of Saratoga and gambling (other than horses), but it could help Rensselaer too. Imagine a “class” hotel there!

Both Penney Vanderbilt’s blog and the Albany Times Union have carried stories on the return of the night boat.


See our special section on New Haven Railroad Bridges along the Connecticut Shore Line

This section, also gives you:
New Haven Railroad history from 1844 to 1967.
How the Farmington Canal was converted to a railroad.
Naugatuck Line and other abandoned railroads in Connecticut.
The Essex Steam Train and when new steam came to Essex.
Story of the ‘Pullmans on a hill’



From the collection of the late Austin McEntee

Here is a portrait of the completed bridge with the City of Poughkeepsie in the background.

Click here to see more about the Great Poughkeepsie Bridge


North of Albany, the Northway bridge that crossed the original Delaware & Hudson Railroad main thru Round Lake was not the only bridge removed (some quite new) that had a short life due to D&H abandonments or relocations in the 1950’s or 60’s.

Among them:

-RR overpass over Route 9 in Round Lake (on old main)

-Route 67 overpass over old main near Curtis Lumber in Ballston Spa

-RR overpass over Route 20 on the Cherry Valley Branch (rumored never to have carried a train)

-RR overpass over Route 9L on Lake George Branch across from Howard Johnson’s.



Poughkeepsie Bridge

Struggles define railroad bridge’s 126-year history

By Dion Sunderland
For the Poughkeepsie Journal

The first railroads in the United States were built in the 1830s. As the country grew and the economy expanded, railroads popped up all around the country, and the Hudson Valley was no exception. Most of the railroads radiated out from major metropolitan areas like Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

By the 1870s, rail lines were moving people and freight up and down the Hudson and Harlem valleys. Others ran from Poughkeepsie and Beacon toward the northeast corner of Dutchess County and the border of Connecticut to connect with several railroads from New England.

One of the first east-west lines through Dutchess County ran from Danbury, Conn., to Beacon, and brought traffic from New England. The Hudson River was an impediment. Passengers and freight had to cross the Hudson River by ferry – a slow and inefficient process. In Newburgh, passengers could connect with the Erie or Philadelphia and Reading railroads.

Starting around the 1850s, serious consideration was being given to a bridge crossing the Hudson River, somewhere between New York City and Albany. The editor of the Daily Press first publicly suggested a bridge in January 1854.

The years between 1868 to 1873 were boom years for Poughkeepsie and the surrounding county. Small railroads crisscrossed Dutchess County. Harvey Eastman was elected mayor of the city in 1871, and was elected to the state Assembly in November 1871. Eastman believed that Poughkeepsie would become a great crossroads on one of the mainlines in America, and as assemblyman, he hoped to influence the state Legislature in this regard. Eastman and his partners had visions of trains moving coal from Pennsylvania, Virginia and the West to the manufacturing interests in New England, while trains moved merchandise to markets in the West. At that time, the nearest railroad crossing of the Hudson River was between Albany and Troy.

After bitter fighting in Albany for several years, the Poughkeepsie Bridge Company was incorporated in May 1872 with capital of $2 million. The charter provided that the work of construction should begin before July 1, 1872, (then changed to Jan. 1, 1874) and finished before 1876. The bridge had to be designed so as not to obstruct navigation on the Hudson River, hence the height and minimal clearance of 130 feet above the high water level.

Construction actually began with a cornerstone placed on the western shore in December 1873, and was completed 15 years later, in December 1888. On Feb. 22, 1887, the Union Bridge company moved the cornerstone, with all its records intact, and set it in the east shore anchor pier.

The Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, though scarred by a 1974 fire, maintains a strong presence between Highland and Poughkeepsie.

The first train crossed the bridge on a cold and miserable Dec. 29, 1888, but railroad connections on the western side of the bridge were not fully completed until 1889. Harvey Eastman had died before the bridge was complete. Over the course of the construction, the original investors in the railroad lost their money as Poughkeepsie Bridge Company became insolvent and was twice reorganized.

Many of the small railroads in Dutchess County, such as the Dutchess County Railroad, Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railroad, and Poughkeepsie Bridge Railroad had become insolvent and were absorbed into the Central New England, which itself was partly controlled by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Eventually the CNE, with its principal offices in Poughkeepsie, became part of the New Haven. The New Haven was absorbed by the Penn Central Railroad (a merger of the New York Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968). Two years later, the Penn Central was bankrupt and was subsequently folded into Conrail, along with several other failed railroads in the Northeast in 1976.

Mission to open walkway
A fire in May 1974 rendered the bridge inactive. Penn Central, and later Conrail were in no shape to maintain, let alone repair, the bridge. In 1984, in an effort to eliminate a liability, Conrail disposed of the bridge and approximately 10 miles of right-of-way for $1.

For more than a decade, there were disputes over ownership, liability and access. Various groups and individuals put forth a variety of ideas for the future of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge. One of the most talked-about plans was to convert the bridge into a walkway across the Hudson.

In June 1998, the deed for the bridge was transferred to Walkway Over the Hudson, a nonprofit group working to open the pedestrian span. The New York State Department of Transportation is sponsoring a study concerning the viability and potential use of the Maybrook line corridor. This route, which includes the railroad bridge, runs from Poughkeepsie east to the Town of LaGrange and then veers south to Hopewell Junction in Dutchess County, and on the west side of the river, the line runs from Highland to Plattekill to Maybrook in Orange County.

Perhaps the bridge superstructure could be replaced, and using the original piers, a new bridge could be constructed to provide rail, highway as well as pedestrian traffic.

====== Dion Sunderland is a senior engineer at Anatech Corp. in Poughkeepsie who has made proposals for rebuilding the Maybrook line in Dutchess County for rail service.

Read about the Great Walkway over the Great Bridge that has resulted from a lot of work by a lot of people



The Channel Tunnel



New York Central tunnel at Breakneck Ridge.

Beacon Historical Society collection

The story says that Breakneck Ridge got it’s name because of a farmer’s stray bull that fell down the cliff and broke his neck. You can see a bit of the Hudson River at far left.

Click here or on picture to see more about railroads in Beacon, New York


Long long ago, the B&O electrified their Howard St Tunnel in Baltimore due to problems with steam engine exhaust.

The Baltimore Belt Line was constructed by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) in the 1890s to connect the railroad’s newly constructed line to New York City with the rest of the railroad at Baltimore, Maryland. It included the first mainline railroad electrification in the United States. In 1892 the B&O thus contracted with General Electric (GE) for electric locomotives, powerhouse equipment, and the electricity distribution system.

On July 18, 2001, a 60 car CSXT freight derailed in the Howard Street Tunnel, sparking a fire that burned for six days and blocked traffic for much longer. The Howard Street Tunnel fire called attention to the Belt Line, both as a risk to the surrounding structures and as a link in rail traffic. CSXT has implemented various improvements to increase the integrity of the link, but is limited by the shallow depth of the bore (only three feet below the surface at the south end) and the instability of the surrounding soil.


Montreal’s Mount Royal Tunnel Electrification

A presentation by Mark Walton

Marc Dufour’s Mount Royal Tunnel Page

Ricard’s Railway Page, The Town of Mount Royal


Abandoned Tunnels in New York State

See an interesting forum on Railroad.net about abandoned tunnels in New York State.
Included is our own contribution: the abandoned tunnel in downtown Troy.