Sunday, December 6, 2009

Abraham Lincoln and Albany's Rail History

The following comment was left under my post regarding Union Station and it made me curious. After a bit of research, I posted a comment response to the question but I realized it would make for a good post of its own so here is the question followed by my slightly updated response:

WebRulation said... "Where was the rail station in Albany before Union Station? Where did Lincoln arrive in 1861 and where did his funeral train arrive in 1865? I have been searching to no avail..."

Until passenger rail service moved out of Albany in the late 60s, the station prior to Union Station still existed right beside it and offered further platforms. It was Union Depot and was officially located on Montgomery Street between Maiden Lane and Steuben Street (east of the current location of the Dormitory Authority building. That original Union Depot was built in 1872.

In 1861, Lincoln came from the west in route to Washington. He stopped in Albany at the New York Central's at-grade crossing over Broadway (just north of Livingston Ave. - still the current right-of-way but the viaduct was built in 1882.) William Kennedy reports in "O Albany!" that Lincoln had to wait half an hour to detrain because the twenty-fifth regiment was late. In 1865, Lincoln's coffin would have been going the other way - northbound - on the Hudson River Railroad and stopped in East Albany (Rensselaer) to unload the coffin. The Hudson rail crossing in existence at this time was still the Green Island Bridge to the north. The Hudson River Bridge at Albany (Livingston Ave. Bridge) was built in 1866. So, the coffin was unloaded and ferried across to Albany. The train would have continued north and crossed at Green Island, gone south to North Albany, while Lincoln's coffin would stop in the New York State Capitol building for viewing. It would reboard in Albany and the procession would have continued westward on the New York Central line up West Albany Hill (through Tivoli Hollow - current Amtrak/CSX alignment.)

It appears the Livingston Avenue passenger station was in operation up until about 1909 but I am not sure when it came into operation. I believe this station was located about where the tracks leading up along Montgomery Street north of Union Station met the east-west tracks west of the Livingston Avenue Bridge. At Lincoln's time, it would make sense for the Livingston Avenue passenger station to have been in existence in some form considering the aforementioned account of his getting off in the area of Livingston and Broadway. Livingston Avenue, at that time, was called Lumber Street as it lead to the head of the Erie Canal at the Albany Basin where Albany's lumber district began along the canal.

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