62 Days of Summer
For schoolchildren in the state of New York and railroad buffs everywhere, the DeWitt Clinton is a pretty impressive piece of machinery.
No, it’s not as famous as the Orient Express, as fast as the 20th Century Limited or as lyrical as the Chattanooga Choo Choo. But as passenger trains go, it’s every bit as fascinating.
The first locomotive to run in New York and third in the country to haul passengers, the DeWitt Clinton made its initial run in the summer of 1831 from Albany to Schenectady. A model of it has made another Albany-to-Schenectady run — from the New York State Museum to the Schenectady County Historical Society — and will be on display through October at the society headquarters at 32 Washington Ave.
Most Capital Region students are introduced to the story of the DeWitt Clinton in fourth grade, where state and local history are part of the school curriculum. Named after a former New York governor and 1812 presidential candidate, the DeWitt Clinton was a steam locomotive that pulled three carriages loaded with dignitaries in September 1831, following an earlier test run in August.
The model of the DeWitt Clinton, made in 1948 by Fred Cron, is in Schenectady as part of an exhibit called “Canals and Railroads: Collaboration and Competition,” the creation primarily of the Alco Historical and Technical Society.
However, along with the state museum’s contribution, there are a number of artifacts in the exhibit that come from the collections of the SCHS (such as the 1860 circa Samuel Sexton portrait of Schenectady Locomotive Works founder John Ellis) and miSci (a model of the 1908 Alco Atlantic Locomotive).
Cron was a former New York Central Railroad engineer who was retired and living in Green Island when he was commissioned by the state museum to make a model of the DeWitt Clinton.
The model is about 6 feet long and includes the steam locomotive, its tender, and three yellow carriages.
Cron also made 11 other models for the museum, each depicting a significant piece of transportation in New York history, including Henry Hudson’s ship, the Halfmoon.
The DeWitt Clinton’s steam locomotive was made at the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring.
In 1893 the New York Central Railroad built an operational replica of the DeWitt Clinton for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
In 1934 it was purchased by Henry Ford and put on display at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich.
The Schenectady County Historical Society’s museum is open for self-guided tours Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission is $5, and free for students and members.
For more information, contact the society at 374-0263 or www.schenectadyhistorical.org.
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