Cudmore: The day the railroad came to Broadalbin

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Brooklyn socialite and Broadalbin summer resident Kitty Husted drove the last spike into the railroad line that took Broadalbin into the age of passenger rail travel on Oct. 31, 1895.

The Husted family first made money in the fur trade then developed street railroads in New York City.

Husted would become well-known for creating the elaborate Italian Gardens in Broadalbin. By 1907, according to author Russell Dunn, the gardens boasted a swinging bridge over Kennyetto Creek, a windmill to bring water to the gardens and “fantastic sculptures, sundials, magnificent flowers and columns.”

According to the Gloversville Daily Leader newspaper in 1895, the last spike was driven in the presence of several railroad officials and hundreds of Broadalbin citizens.

The spike used was not gold, silver or even nickel, but was a “good substantial iron one.”

Husted presented train engineer Delos Haines and conductor Scott Hotaling with a $5 gold piece each, as souvenirs of the occasion. Husted and her friends and family then boarded a special car and were taken over the new line for the first time.

The Husteds also had paid $1,000 for renovation of a Broadalbin building for use as the train station. They hired a New York City architect to design the structure. A photo shows a stately little building with handsome columns along the railroad track.

That evening the first train arrived from Johnstown and Gloversville, a trip that was expected to take 20 to 25 minutes. The first train proceeded more slowly. It left Johnstown shortly after 6 p.m. and arrived in Broadalbin at 6:52.

The Broadalbin rail line branched off from the Fonda, Johnston & Gloversville Railroad (F.J. & G.) a little north of Gloversville.

The new rail line gave the Husteds and other summer residents the ability to travel by train between their summer homes in Broadalbin and their residences in Brooklyn and the other boroughs of New York City.

The Leader reported the track was in excellent condition for the inaugural trip from Gloversville to Vail Mills. The rest of the way was a little rough as that section of track was not yet thoroughly ballasted.

The new rail line passed through a very pleasing section of the country, wrote the Leader, and the grades were easy except for steeper grades in a section about three-quarters of a mile long.

The crowd cheered when the three-car train arrived in Broadalbin and the Broadalbin Fife and Drum Corps played. Then, the Leader reported, came a scramble to see who would be the first to board the train for the return trip.

Charles Van Vranken bought the first ticket. The return trip took 42 minutes.

Among the passengers were these Broadalbin area residents: William Satterlee, George Tomlinson, Ben Smith, George Hillman, Herbert Swart, D.D. Crouse, James Rose and Aaron Vail.

According to an article in an edition of The Lamplighter, the publication of the Broadalbin-Kennyetto Historical Society edited by Sally Mann, a local engineer with railroad experience, J.W. Cleveland, and Dr. H.C. Finch did a feasibility study of a railroad line to Broadalbin in 1894.

Broadalbin people, including the Husteds, provided $10,000 for the project and gave the right of way to the F.J. & G. Cleveland and Finch headed the Broadalbin part of the operation.

The initial freight shipment, according to newspaper coverage, was a carload of potatoes attached to the first train from Broadalbin that night in 1895, taken to John J. Fairbanks in Johnstown.

Village and town historian Steve Oare said passenger service to Broadalbin ended in 1956. The freight station closed in 1958. Freight service stopped in the 1960s.

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