Reader's View - John Scherer

Railroad station and freight depot, Elnora, c. 1900.

Even residents of Vischer Ferry, on a clear summer night, can hear the train whistle as it approaches the Wait Road crossing. 

Train tracks bisect Clifton Park from west to east as trains from Schenectady head toward Mechanicville and visa versa. A train station at Elnora once allowed freight and passengers to be transported to and from that location.  Although the station has not been used since the late 1940s or early 1950s, a portion of it can still be seen as you cross the overpass on Route 146A or round the curve into Elnora from the south.

Unfortunately, the Elnora Train Station will soon be a memory. The current owner has recently applied for a demolition permit.

In 1877, a new organization, the Boston, Hoosac Tunnel & Western Railway Co. proposed to open a new route between Boston and the west via Schenectady and Binghamton. This was to be accomplished by building track from the state line west to Mechanicville and on Nov. 1, 1877 an agreement was made between the BHT&W and the Delaware and Hudson providing for joint operation and maintenance of the necessary facilities at Mechanicville and Eagle Bridge. 

The BHT&W would build the line east of Mechanicville while the D&H would handle construction from there to Schenectady. Early in 1879 the BHT&W finished its part of the line, making it possible for east-west traffic through the Hoosac Tunnel to move in almost a direct route, avoiding the delays, confusion and extra mileage involved in using junctions either north or south of Mechanicville. The D&H completed its part of the line over to Schenectady late in 1881 and this direct route is still one of the major rail gateways to New England.

The railroad crossed what is now Route 146A at a hamlet known as Hubbs Corners, named for a family that owned large amounts of land there. However, in 1882, shortly after the rail line was completed, Mr. C. D. Hammond, then supervisor of the D&H, renamed the community Elnora after his wife.  A neighboring village along the rail line just east of the Clifton Park town line was named Hammonds after Mr. Hammond himself. The name was later changed to Ushers, a name in the Hammonds’ family, to bring pronunciation ease to telegraphers along the line. 

Elnora became a busy railroad crossing. The overpass that eliminated this crossing was not constructed until the 1920s.  A train station was built in 1888.  This was both a passenger and freight station. The railroad traffic promoted the growth of Elnora, much as the Erie Canal had caused the southern part of the town to burgeon a generation earlier. 

In 1892 a coal yard and grain business was established at the Elnora crossing by Dibble and Hurlburt. Sam Smith purchased this business in 1895.  Molasses to make cattle feed arrived by train as did coal for heating fuel.  This building still stands today as Crabapple Farm. A General store was built at about this same time, and it soon housed the new Elnora Post Office, in use until 1976.

This building also survives today.

Molding sand was mined throughout Clifton Park, and loaded on railroad cars at Elnora where it was transported to foundries in Troy and other industrial centers to make the molds for cast iron. Passengers could board the train at the Elnora Station to travel to Schenectady, Mechanicville or points even further away such as Binghamton and Boston. High School students from neighboring Jonesville would walk to the train station where they would board the train for school in Mechanicville.

According to a D&H timetable from 1916, the D&H and B&M jointly operated the Elnora station. There were 17 trains on the D&H and six trains on the B&M stopping at this station.

Besides stopping at Elnora, the train would also make stops at Waite Road, Ushers and Coons Crossing. A railroad water tower for steam engines was a landmark east of the Waite Road crossing until the 1950s. One community that the train passed through was known as Skunk Hollow. Evidently there was a large skunk population at this location, and the train was constantly hitting these animals causing quite an odor to pervade.

Today this area near Kinns Road is known as Country Knolls South.

In the early morning hours of Easter Sunday, March 26, 1989, a D&H train with 90 cars coming from Schenectady stopped adjacent to the old Elnora station.  Another D&H train that was following a few signal blocks behind, plowed into the stopped train at 6:00 AM. Fortunately, the engineer and conductor escaped serious injury.

The wreckage spilled across both tracks and into the Elnora station destroying the former waiting room. The lead engine was totaled and reduced to a pile of rubble, overturned on its side with its nose torn off. Wreck trains worked through the day and night to get the westbound main reopened to traffic Monday afternoon.

At the time of the wreck the station which the D&H stopped using about 1950 was being used by a building contractor to store supplies. The wreck destroyed what had been the ticket office and former passenger waiting room. This portion of the building was removed, leaving just the freight house portion standing.

The remaining structure was placed on Clifton Park’s Register of Historic Places in 1996, a reminder of a time when trains once stopped in Clifton Park.

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