Schenectady, NY (SDY)
The current depot, opened in 1979, follows a standardized design introduced by Amtrak during its first decade of service. It includes textured walls, large windows and a cantilevered roof.
332 Erie Boulevard
Schenectady, NY 12305
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 56,257
- Facility Ownership: Amtrak
- Parking Lot Ownership: Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority
- Platform Ownership: CSXT
- Track Ownership: CSXT
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The intermodal station in Schenectady was built in 1979 by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and Amtrak, following the restoration of passenger rail service to the community in 1978 after a nine year absence. Amtrak funded two-thirds of the depot’s cost, with the state contributing one-third; the city donated the land. The state also funded the necessary rehabilitation of the tracks through downtown at an approximate cost of $3.9 million.
Typical of its time, the one story building is composed of beige concrete masonry units with a prominent cantilevered roof of black metal; the deep eaves provide protection from the snow-filled northern New York winters. The waiting room is lighted by sun which streams through large floor-to-ceiling windows. A small band of clerestory windows wraps around the upper portion of the waiting room wall where it meets the roof; this has the visual effect of making the roof float above the structure, lightening the whole composition. The current depot is actually the fourth to stand on this site along Erie Street.
In July 2009, the High Speed Rail New York Coalition published an impact statement that supported additional funding for this station, a project that seeks to purchase the Amtrak station and construct a new intermodal facility on the site. An improved facility would be important in the revitalization of the city’s downtown as well as providing a link between intercity rail and bus service, local bus service, commuter rail, automobile, bicycle and pedestrian traffic at a single location. The center would also support the introduction of high-speed rail service between New York City and Buffalo.
The proposed plans for the new station presently include a four-story, 80,000 square foot building, transportation-related museum, restaurant/retail shop and public plaza. The stairs and elevators to the second-story platform would be replaced, and a weather-protected connecting corridor to State Street and the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) services would be added. The architecture, to nurture a sense of civic pride, would be sensitive to the historic character and dignity of this downtown area, as was the previous Union Station located on that site.
This station revitalization plan has been in the works in various forms since at least 1999, when it was described in the Downtown Schenectady Master Plan. As of late 2013, the CTDA had secured, for design and construction of the new rail station, a $4.2-million state grant in 2010; a $5.9-million federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) grant via NYSDOT in 2011; and a $4.5-million Federal Transit Administration grant, also via NYSDOT. Construction is expected to begin in 2016.
The 1908 Schenectady Union Station, built by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, a stone and brick-faced Beaux-Arts structure with a fine arcade, replaced a temporary structure built in 1885. By 1900, the tracks throughout the city were being raised to eliminate grade crossings. This project, combined with the new depot and its elevated platform, was much anticipated and enjoyed a week-long celebration in February 1908. However, the region’s passenger rail began to decline in the 1950s, and by 1960 the station had deteriorated significantly, to the point where the movement to tear down instead of refurbish historical structures in cities succeeded. On December 11, 1970, Penn Central sold the station to the city for $20,000, and it was demolished in January 1971, to make way for a parking lot.
In August of 1979, a plaque from the 1908 station was lent to the newest station, where it is still displayed. The plaque depicts the state’s first train, which was charted by the Mohawk and Hudson in 1826 and began service between Albany and Schenectady in 1831, and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Mohawk and Hudson.
The area of what would become Schenectady, pine flats in a bend of the Mohawk River, was considered the formal “door” to the territory of the Mohawk peoples that first lived there. The location was important to them as the river was navigable by canoe from there to Rome, with an easy portage around obstacles. When the Dutch moved to the Albany area in 1614, building Fort Orange, the river-bend area was referred to as S’guan-hac-tac-tic, “without the door,” which may have in turn been altered to become pronounceable for the Europeans. Fur trade between the Dutch and the natives flourished, and Schenectady grew into a stockaded village—which was burned at the beginning of the French and Indian conflicts in 1690. However, it was soon rebuilt, and some of Schenectady’s oldest houses date from 1700 and still stand in the Stockade District.
Schenectady was first incorporated into a borough in 1765, and chartered as a city in 1798. Opening in 1825, the Erie Canal—now Erie Boulevard, on which the station stands—ran through Schenectady, and was the longest artificial waterway in the world. At 360 miles, the canal creating a navigable water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Twenty-two locks were needed to pass the falls of the Mohawk River and drop 208 feet from Schenectady to Albany on the Hudson. This day-long process encouraged the growth of the railroad here, as it presented a more efficient means of making that traverse. The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, the first in the state of New York, made its first run between Albany and Schenectady in 1931, having been chartered in 1826. It was succeeded by the Delaware and Hudson Railway by 1871 (now Canadian Pacific Railway).
In 1841, a repair facility was built to service the new trains. The facility was adjacent to the canal to allow easy access to iron, wood, and other materials shipped by barge. The Schenectady Locomotive Works were organized by Platt Potter and John Ellis at the end of 1847 and beginning of 1848. In 1901, the Schenectady Locomotive works was merged, with several others, into the American Locomotive Company (Alco), which became the second-largest steam locomotive builder in the United States after the Baldwin Locomotive Works. In coordination with General Electric, they began producing diesel-electric locomotives. They even experimented with automobiles for a time, giving a start in the business to Walter P. Chrysler. Alco was the builder of some of the biggest locomotives ever to operate on America’s rails, including Union Pacific’s “Big Boy.” By 1955 the company renamed itself Alco Products, as locomotives were no longer its only product. The Schenectady works, the “hauls” part of “the city that lights and hauls the world,” however, closed forever in 1969.
In 1886, the Edison Machine Works moved to some former railroad shops in Schenectady’s South end: it would become Edison General Electric in 1889, shortened to General Electric in 1892. This storied industrial giant, one of the 12 original companies listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has innovated in the areas of lighting, television, radio, computing, space systems, computers, electronics and electrical devices, financial services, and more. GE continued building locomotives after splitting with Alco, including units powering Amtrak trains today through Schenectady and past GE’s plant further west in Erie, Penn. GE’s headquarters is located in Fairfield, Conn., while the administrative core remains in Schenectady.
On February 20, 1922 at 7:47pm, WGY, the oldest radio station in New York State’s capital region, signed on the air for the first time. The early broadcasts originated from building 36 at the General Electric Plant in Schenectady, the G in WGY. The station still broadcasts as a talk radio station in Schenectady.
Schenectady is also home to Union College, founded in 1795, the first college to be chartered by the Board of Regents in New York. This independent liberal arts college has produced notable alumni, such as U.S. President Chester Alan Arthur; and Gordon Gould, the inventor of the laser.
Schenectady continues to celebrate its history of innovation and its connection to the railroad every year, and welcomes the Canadian Pacific Railway Holiday Train each Christmas season. Citizens turn out to greet the train and the holiday season, and the arrival of the train often coincides with day long activities.
Amtrak provides ticketing and help with baggage at the Schenectady station, which is served by 12 daily trains.
Empire Service trains are supported by funds made available by the New York State Department of Transportation. The Ethan Allen Express is financed primarily through funds made available by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the New York State Department of Transportation.
- 20 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 30 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Baggage Storage
- Bike Boxes
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Elevator Accessible
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift