Historic Structures

Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad Green Island Shops, Green Island New York

Date added: February 1, 2010 Categories: New York Train Station

Green Island is located at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers due west of the city of Troy. It was connected both to Troy and to more islands at the north of Waterford by bridges constructed in 1835 by the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad Company. LeGrand B- Cannon, who owned much of Green Island, was active in the management of the R&S. In December 1868, the railroad purchased more than 21 acres of the north central portion of the island from Cannon as a site for extensive locomotive repair and car-building and repair shops.

Begun in 1871, according to the builder's stone on the south face of the main building, the Rensselaer & Saratoga's Green Island Shops were completed the following year. By that time the company had been leased in perpetuity to the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company. (All R&S properties have subsequently been operated by the D&H, although the charter of the Rensselaer & Saratoga extends to January 1, 2500.)

The Delaware & Hudson soon launched an ambitious expansion program, only slightly curtailed by the Panic of 1873. Heavy repairs and rebuilding of steam locomotives were carried on there, with this type of work for the railroad's tri-state system being equally divided among shops at Green Island, Oneonta, N.Y. and Carbondale, Pa.

For forty years tlie Green Island Shops were a hive of activity, engaged in heavy industrial work. The majority of D&H locomotives were in work there at one time or another; the jobs ranging from simple repairs or paint to major overhaul and redesign.

Locomotive work was discontinued in 1912, when all D&H locomotive buildings and repair was concentrated at new shops at nearby Colonie, N. Y. The Green Island plant continued in operation, however, into the late 1930s, devoted to the building of the D&H's wooden freight cars, as well as repair and light work on other freight equipment.

Portions of the property were sold for industrial and private use in 1940. Since that period, the remaining buildings have stood idle or have been used for storage purposes.

The shops, as they were indicated on the Sanborn Insurance Map of 1875, consisted of three separate brick buildings extending northward along the Rensselaer & Saratoga's Troy to Waterford line.

First was the main Machine Shop, with office at the center on the east side. The large (32 feet to the eaves) southern section housed the five-bay locomotive shop on the first floor. The second story was used for wood work and pattern storage. The central section (18 feet to the eaves) was devoted to machinery, with the blacksmith shop at the north end.

Immediately west of this building were a 50 foot brick-enclosed water tank of 51,819-gallon capacity, a stone cistern, a boiler room with two boilers totalling 175 horsepower and a 110 horsepower engine, capped by a 120 foot chimney, and various sheds.

Southwest of the main building was a turntable, serving an eight-stall roundhouse, built in the form of a segment of concentric circles, with a single sloped roof.

To the northwest stood the Paint Shop, which was twenty feet to the eaves and contained as well the boiler shop and storage for hardware. Other nearby buildings included a two-story sand shed; a combined oil, varnish and waste room; and a large frame, circular privy.

The next principal building was the car shops, located next to an old roundhouse north along the track side. A one-story section used for sawing and planing came first, and then a two-story erecting shop, with sawing and turning on the second floor and storage in the loft under the roof. This section apparently was similar in character to the existing locomotive shop.

A third one-story building 230 feet long stood approximately 450 feet further north. This was the car storehouse. Adjacent to this on the east were various lumber sheds, storage for castings, and a coal pile.

The shops were heated by stoves mounted on brick and iron bases and burning wood shavings and coal. Light was furnished by kerosene lamps . A work force of 75 to 125 men worked six days a week, with three night watchmen and one Sunday watchman.

According to the data on the Sanborn map, the three-story, five-bay locomotive shop and machine-forge shop, which is still standing, was originally separate. It is now connected with the one-story section of the former car shop. The connection was made between 1885 and 1903. Adjacent are the wooden roundhouse, brick water-tower base, boiler room, etc. The paint shop of 1872 burned on 23 January 1904 and its site is occupied today by a more recent structure used for storage.