This page conforms to the XHTML standard and uses style sheets. If your browser doesn't support these, you may not see the page as designed, but all the text is still accessible to you.


Bringing the heritage of Schenectady County, New York to the world since 1996

You are here: Home » Resources » Schenectady Electrical Handbook » Schenectady Railway Company
See Also: Railroads

Schenectady Electrical Handbook
Schenectady's City, Suburban and Interurban Electric Railway Facilities

Go back to: American Locomotive Company | ahead to: Hudson River Power Company

[This information is from pp. 73-86 of the Schenectady Electrical Handbook by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. (Schenectady, NY: General Electric Press, 1904). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 621.3 A51s.]

The rapid growth of the electric railway industry has no better example than that afforded by the growth of the Schenectady Railway Company. Ten years ago, in 1891, this system consisted of two miles of single track with an equipment of four closed cars. Today it is operating over 144 miles of track and has in course of construction ten additional miles, while its equipment has increased to over 160 cars, with traffic during the year ending June 30, 1904, of 10,000,000 passengers.

The extraordinary growth of this system may be attributed to the rapid increase in the population of the City of Schenectady, which has doubled twice since 1880, due to the development of its two large industries, the General Electric Company and the American Locomotive Company.


In the City of Schenectady six lines are operated under 10 and 15 minute headways. These lines cover 26 miles within the city limits.

Interurban Lines

Three interurban divisions are now operated: To the north, a double track road to Ballston Spa, a distance of 16 miles, operated on a 30 minute schedule (at Ballston Spa connections are at the present time made with the Hudson Valley Railway to Saratoga); to the east, a double track road to Troy, a distance of 16 miles; to the south-east a double track road to Albany, a distance of 15 miles. Both the Albany and Troy divisions are operated on a 15 minute headway from 8:00 A. M. until 8:00 P. M. and on a 30 minute headway at other hours of the day. On the hour a special service has been established between Schcnectady and Albany, called the "Schenectady-Albany Limited." The trip is made in 45 minutes, without stops outside the city limits, and no extra fare is charged.

In order to accommodate the large number of employees who live in the neighboring towns, special cars are run, directly to and from the works, over all interurban divisions, both morning and night.

[Drawing: Map of Schenectady Railway Co.]

Rolling Stock

The rolling stock of the company is of the most modern type, equipped throughout with electrical apparatus manufactured by the General Electric Company. A brief description follows:

City Cars

Twenty-nine single-truck closed cars equipped with two GE-67 motors.

Eight single-truck closed cars equipped with two GE-57 motors.

Four double-truck closed duplex cars equipped with four GE-52 motors.

Six eight-bench and twenty nine-bench single-truck open cars equipped with two GE-67 motors.

Twelve thirteen-bench double-truck open cars equipped with four GE-67 motors.

Interurban Cars

[Photo: Interurban Car — Ballston Division: original size (6K) | 9x enlarged (40K)]

Twelve 40-foot double-truck closed cars equipped with four GE-57 motors.

Ten 47-foot double-truck closed cars, with smoking compartment, equipped with four GE-57 and GE-73 motors.

Six 51-foot double-truck semi-convertible cars equipped with four GE-73 motors.

Six 51-foot double-truck closed cars equipped with four GE-66 motors.

Miscellaneous Equipment

Twelve flat cars equipped with four GE-57 motors.

Twenty-five dump cars without motors.

Six 4-motor express cars equipped with GE-57 and GE-67 motors.

Three rotary snow plows without propelling motors.

Four small snow plows without motors.

One sprinkling car equipped with two GE-67 motors.

One sand car without motors.

Ballston Cars

[Drawing: Truck of Ballston Car: original size (26K) | 9x enlarged (133K)]

[Drawing: Brake Mechanism, Ballston Car: original size (10K) | 9x enlarged (43K)]

The Ballston cars were constructed after general plans prepared by the Schenectady Railway Company and embody some interesting features.

There are two separate and independent electric equipments which may be operated individually or together. The bottom of the car is covered with boards made of a fireproof material. The car bodies are mounted on double trucks.

The electric equipment is the General Electric Type M control with four GE-66 motors, each having a rated capacity of 125 H.P. and geared for 70 miles per hour. The motors are oil lubricated by means of wool waste which is packed in the oil well cast in the frame heads.

The master controllers have dead man's handles, and a release of the emergency button also applies the air brakes.

Track and Line Construction

All interurban tracks are laid with 75-pound T rails, thoroughly ballasted with either gravel or stone under the ties and filled up even with base of the rail.

[Photo: Concrete Bridge — Ballston Division: original size (10K) | 9x enlarged (68K)]

The overhead work on the present system is all span construction with 35-foot and 40-foot chestnut poles set 100 feet apart. Center pole, double bracket construction has been installed on the Ballston division, 35-foot octagonal yellow pine poles set in concrete being used. The tracks on the latter division are on 13-foot centers and the roadbed is graded 29 feet wide.

[Photo: Track and Line — Ballston Division: original size (12K) | 9x enlarged (83K)]

The trolley wire on interurban lines is 0000 grooved and on city lines is 000 grooved.

Power Supply

The power used for operating the Schenectady Railway is furnished mainly by the Hudson River Power Company from the large water power plant at Spiers Falls, transmitted at a voltage of 30,000 and a frequency of 40 cycles; augmented at times by the steam plant of the General Electric Company (old Power House, Building No. 13). Another source of supply for the railway company is the large steam turbine station of the General Electric Company (new Power House, Building No. 85), which contains at present three Curtis steam turbine sets of 500, 1500 and 2000 Kw. capacity but is designed for a much larger ultimate capacity.

The New Dock Street Sub-Station

[Photo: Dock Street Sub-Station, Schenectady Railway Company: original size (16K) | 4x enlarged (56K)]

This building covers an area 166 feet by 45 feet, and is of brick, concrete and steel construction. The basement is divided off by means of brick partition walls into air-blast, bus-bar and switch compartments. The machine floor is served by a 15-ton crane so arranged that teams driving into the station may be unloaded directly by it. All railway apparatus is arranged in one half of the building, all power and lighting apparatus in the other half.

Power is delivered from the Spiers Falls and Mechanicville plants to the General Electric Company's Power House at 30,000 volts, 40 cycles, and is stepped down to 10,000 volts for the sub-station. Three incoming lines are provided for railway, lighting and reserve; all entering over motor-operated oil switches controlled from three panels having 4000 Kw. capacity each.

Care is taken to avoid shutdowns by enclosing the main busses in brick housings; by the free use of sectionalizing switches; by enclosing the main leads in heavy iron pipes and the small leads in conduits; and by the use of overload relays on the alternating current side and circuit breakers on the direct current side. The station lighting is provided for by two reserve systems independent of the ordinary arc lamp system.

All high tension switches are motor driven and operated from the switchboard, which is equipped with alternating current instruments fed with low tension only.

There are installed two 300 Kw. and three 600 Kw., 600 volt rotary converters, together with airblast transformers, reactive coils, blowers, 10 rotary and 12 railway feeder switchboard panels. The converters are compound wound and are started with reduced voltage from the alternating current side.

The power and lighting part of the station contains three 500 Kw. frequency changers: 10,000 volt, 40 cycle synchronous motors direct coupled to 2300 volt, 60 cycle, three-phase generators. Excitation current is supplied by two induction-motor-driven, 75 Kw., 125 volt, direct current generators. The frequency changers are started with half voltage by means of a compensator, their excitation being regulated by the well-known General Electric Type TA regulator.

Space is provided for one additional 75 Kw. motor-generator and for three 250 Kw. frequency changers. The switchboard contains 28 panels.

[Photo: Interior of Dock Street Sub-Station: original size (23K) | 4x enlarged (73K)]

The commercial lighting load in July, 1904, was equivalent to 125,455 16-C.P. incandescent lamps, and the motor load to 26,818 16-C.P. incandescent lamps. Current for motors and incandescent lamps at 118 volts is distributed through small transformers placed at feeder points all over the city. Eight 75-light constant current transformers, controlled by nine switchboard panels, supply current for 471 arc lights for street lighting.

A feeder panel is provided for the Schenectady City Water Works in Rotterdam, N. Y., which has been recently equipped with two electrically driven pumps each having a capacity of 12,000,000 gallons per day.

Troy Sub-Station

The Troy sub-station of the railway company, located on the Troy-Schenectady turnpike, ten miles from Schenectady, is of brick, with concrete floor and a granolithic top.

The apparatus consists of three 300 Kw. rotary converters operating at 760 R.P.M., each provided with a reactive coil in the alternating current side for the purpose of regulating the voltage. There are two transformers of the three-phase air-blast type, each of 330 Kw. capacity. Part of the cellar is made into an air blast chamber for the transformers, while in the other part the cable work and wiring are carried on insulators fastened to the walls and converter foundations. The switchboard is of black enameled slate and is made up of three direct current feeder panels, two direct current rotary panels, two alternating current rotary panels, and three 10,000 volt panels. The low tension panels are all of the General Electric standard pattern provided with circuit breakers, ammeters, etc.

The 10,000 volt panels are provided with single-pole oil break switches, mounted in separate brick cells about 10 feet back of the panels themselves. The switches are provided with overload relays and on the panels themselves are mounted horizontal edgewise black oxidized finish ammeters, voltmeters, and power factor indicators, and one round pattern induction recording wattmeter. The bus-bars back of the panels are heavily insulated and carried on an insulated iron framework. All of the 10,000 volt feeders enter the station overhead and are connected with a suitable number of General Electric lightning arresters. At this station there is also an air compressor operated by a 20 H.P. induction motor belted to it, for charging car reservoirs.

Albany Sub-Station

The Albany sub-station is a one-story frame structure, with cellar, occupying a space 46 feet square. The apparatus installed in this sub-station is similar to that in the Troy sub-station.

Ballston Sub-Station

This new plant supplies current for the operation of the Ballston division of the railway company. The following General Electric Company apparatus is installed:

Two 300 Kw., 40 cycle, compound wound rotary converters running at 800 R.P.M.; three 220 Kw. airblast transformers provided with double secondary windings; one blower set consisting of a 2 H.P., three-phase induction motor direct coupled to a 35" fan; two 45 kilo-volt-ampere, air-blast reactive coils, one 20 H.P., three-phase induction motor having two pulleys for operating an air compressor, and the necessary switchboard panels for the above apparatus.

Freight and Express

[Photo: Special Express Car, says Electric Express Co. on side: original size (6K) | 9x enlarged (38K)]

The freight and express business of the company, practically all "through business" between Albany and Schenectady, is very extensive. It is divided into three classes and conducted by the Electric Express Company, a distinct organization. Class A, at 30 cents per cwt., includes handling by wagon service at both ends; Class B, at 10 cents per cwt., goods which are not thus handled; Class C, at 20 cents per cwt., goods which require wagon service at only one end. The company maintains three double and three single teams in Schenectady, and two double teams and one single team in Albany. The cars make four round trips daily, and have a running time between the cities of an hour and fifteen minutes. The cars are equipped so that they may be run two or more together in multiple unit. Recent figures on freight business are shown herewith:

May — 1,272,173 pounds incoming to Schenectady, 366,587 outgoing. June — 1,431,444 pounds incoming to Schenectady, 315,901 outgoing.


Promotion is by order of seniority. The men start as extra employees on the city cars and are moved up to regular cars, then "extra" on local interurban cars and finally to "regular" on a limited interurban car.

Benefit Association

In the Fuller Street car house an unusually complete club room is provided for the employees. The dues of the association are 50 cents per month, which is deducted from the pay of the men each month. Disability by reason of accident or sickness insures the member an income of $1.00 per day for a period not to exceed ninety days. The death of a member provides an insurance of $150.00.


It may be said that the character of service required of the Schenectady Railway Company makes it an unusually interesting study and that the results of its operation have been a revelation to experienced transportation men. This is especially true of the express and freight department, in which the facilities of the company have been overtaxed from the beginning. One important feature of this service is the handling of fruit and "garden truck." The quickness of transit and the relative freedom from the jolting incident to hauling by teams brings small fruit to the market in good condition.

The company maintains a complete system of records and accounts. The General Manager has constantly before him tabulated statements of all equipment, and these statements are brought up to date at frequent intervals. All operating expenses and receipts are figured on a basis of eighteen hour cars per day.

Go to top of page | back to: American Locomotive Company | ahead to: Hudson River Power Company

You are here: Home » Resources » Schenectady Electrical Handbook » Schenectady Railway Company
See Also: Railroads updated March 30, 2015

Copyright 2015 Schenectady Digital History Archive — a service of the Schenectady County Public Library