A History of the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail This trail is a 9-mile pathway which follows the old Albany and Susquehanna Railroad between Albany and Voorheesville. This pathway connects visitors with landscapes and communities, including the dramatic Normanskill Gorge in the City of Albany, the old hamlets of Delmar and Elsmere, the historic Village of Voorheesville, and the pastoral fields and woodlands of New
Scotland at the base of the Helderberg Escarpment.
The Beginnings of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad
In the mid-19th century, private investors became interested in a railroad connecting Albany and the upper Susquehanna Valley to transport coal and to connect the valley's fertile farms with markets in Albany. The privately-owned Albany and Susquehanna Railroad (A&S Railroad) was formed and the first
section of rail line was opened in September 1863 between Albany and Central Bridge.
A&S Railroad Becomes the D&H Railroad
Shortly after the completion of the rail line, a challenge by "aggressive capitalists" for control of the board of directors involved a lengthy proxy war and an armed confrontation between the opposing parties. As a result, on February 24, 1870, the weary board of the A&S Railroad leased the line in perpetuity to the
Delaware & Hudson Railroad.
Growth and Suburbanization
The railroad's arrival in the small towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland led to a transportation transformation in the movement of freight and people. The railroad dramatically increased access to markets for farmers' cash crops and local commodities. Commuters began to use the D&H for daily travel
between their quiet country homes in Delmar, Slingerlands, and Voorheesville, and their offices in Albany. Suburbanization had begun.
Transformation to a Rail Trail
Passenger service on this section of the D&H line ended in the 1930s and freight service ended in the 1990s. In 2010, Albany County, with funding
from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) and Scenic Hudson, purchased 9.1 miles of rail bed from the Canadian Pacific Railway to create the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail. Albany County, with the assistance of the Towns of Bethlehem and New
Scotland, the Village of Voorheesville, the City of Albany, and the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, improved the trail from Albany to Voorheesville
for recreation and alternative transportation.
This historical summary of the Albany County
Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is based on
"The Rail in the Trail" by Susan Leath, Town of
Bethlehem Historian, May 17, 2012
Photo: The John D. Westover, one of the first locomotives to operate on the Albany & Susquehanna Railroad.
Right Advertisement: Announcement of the opening of the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad on September 17, 1863.