Schenectady in Schenectady County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The First Passenger Train
— The First Steam Passenger Train In America —
In 1830, Peter Cooper, the inventor of America's first steam locomotive, demonstrated to executives at the Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road that his locomotive, Tom Thumb was economically competitive with canal transportation because of its lower cost and greater speed.
Within a year, the Mohawk and Hudson Rail Road was ready to begin service between Schenectady and Albany creating America's first passenger rail road.
The route between Schenectady and Albany via the Erie Canal was a day long adventure because of a 220-foot rise in elevation that required 22 time-consuming locks. But on September 24, 1831, the Mohawk and Hudson Rail Road's locomotive, DeWitt Clinton, pulling three coaches full of passengers, made the 16-mile ride in just 47 minutes.
The public was amazed. One observer remarked about his first train ride, “Among the astonishing inventions of man ... the locomotive steam engine has no secondary rank ... we fly with a smooth and even course along once impassible barriers and distance seems annihilated. I took my seat as near as possible to the car containing the engine, in order to examine more minutely
Change continued at a quickening pace. The DeWitt Clinton was scrapped in 1833, replaced by a faster locomotive, and in 1847 the Mohawk & Hudson itself was gone - merged into the new Albany & Schenectady line.
A facsimile of the DeWitt Clinton (far right) was built in 1893 for the World's Fair and purchased in 1935 by the Henry Ford Museum where it is on permanent exhibit.
The photo (lower right) was taken in the 19th century as a re-creation of the actual event that took place in 1831, before photography was invented.
(Right) A modern blueprint of the DeWitt Clinton.
Main Image: David Horst, Henry Ford Museum
Dewitt Clinton historic photograph and re-creation: Schenectady County Historical Society
Erected by Schenectady County, ALCO.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. A significant historical date for this entry is September 24, 1831.
Location. 42° 49.454′ N, 73° 56.231′ W. Marker is in Schenectady, New York, in Schenectady County. Marker can be reached from Erie Blvd. west of Rush Street, on the left when traveling north. Located on the bike trail next to the Mowhawk River behind the Rivers Casino & Resort. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 Rush Street, Schenectady NY 12308, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At The “Works” (a few steps from this marker); "Jupiter" (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); ALCo's Legacy (about 600 feet away); Schenectady (approx. 0.2 miles away); Casey Jones (approx. 0.2 miles away); Streamliners (approx. 0.2 miles away); ALCo Site (approx. 0.3 miles away); "Big Boy" (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Schenectady.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 11, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 11, 2020, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York. This page has been viewed 279 times since then and 26 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on November 11, 2020, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York. • Michael Herrick was the editor who published this page.