Korean War memorial
Brookside Museum float
Old fire-fighting apparatus
Town of Milton's float
(Tim helped build it)
Town of Milton's float (Tim
provided some skirting pictures)
McDonald's log cabin
Old fire truck
Uncle Sam float
Llamas from nearby farm
Copyright Timothy Starr, 2007. Text below cannot be used for commercial purposes or be reproduced in any way.
Immediate Release Soft Cover of "Lost Railroads of the Kaydeross Valley"
2007 (Ballston Spa, NY) Brookside, home of the Saratoga County
Historical Society, located at 6 Charlton Street in the historic Village
of Ballston Spa, is pleased to announce that soft cover copies of the
book Lost Railroads of the Kaydeross Valley: The Electric Trolley
Line of Ballston Spa, New York are now available. The book was
written by Rock City Falls resident Timothy Starr.
Mr. Starr released the book as part of Ballston Spa’s bicentennial celebration. It relates the history of the 12 mile long electric trolley railroad that served this village, West Milton, Rock City Falls, and Middle Grove in the early 1900s. Both the hard and soft cover versions of the book feature 21 full color photographs, 48 black and white photographs, reproductions of original documents, a complete history, financial data, and a timeline.
Due to strong community interest, all soft covers quickly sold out. They have now been reprinted for those who are interested in obtaining a copy. Limited hard cover versions of the book are also available.
author has also written a companion book titled Lost Industries of
the Kaydeross Valley which relates the history of the huge paper
mills and other enterprises that dominated the area in the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries. It is due to be released in early June.
Brookside Museum, a non-profit organization located at 6 Charlton Street in the historic village of Ballston Spa, is the home of the Saratoga County Historical Society. Our mission is to inspire community memory by telling the story of Saratoga through engaging exhibits and interactive programs. For more information on Brookside, please visit our website at www.brooksidemuseum.org or call 885-4000.
The Ballston Journal - March 17, 2007
As part of Ballston Spa’s bicentennial celebration, Rock City Falls resident Timothy Starr has published a book about the trolley line that served Ballston Spa and other local villages in the early 1900s. Lost Railroads of the Kaydeross Valley, The Electric Trolley Line of Ballston Spa, New York relates the history of the railroad under its three corporate names, and also includes chapters concerning the history of the area as it relates to the railroad.
Ballston Spa and the rest of the Town of Milton was at one time a thriving industrial basin, with over two dozen large paper mills and other businesses situated to take advantage of the water power of the Kayaderosseras Creek. The output of these mills was so great that a 12-mile long railroad was built in 1896 to transport finished goods and raw materials to and from the Delaware & Hudson Railroad interchange in Ballston Spa.
In addition to being one of the shortest terminal railroads in the country, the line had other distinctions. To save money, investors decided to power it with electricity, making it one of the few electric railroads in the country designed primarily as a freight railroad. Instead of using steam engines to haul freight cars up and down the line, clean-running and quiet trolley cars were used, which had the added advantage of being able to carry passengers and mail without incurring the costs of purchasing separate passenger cars.
Despite its short length and relatively short history, the railroad played a crucial role in prolonging the competitiveness, and therefore the lives, of the industries it served. Thousands of residents were employed by these industries, which included one of the world’s largest paper bag operations, the country’s largest tannery, and the famous Isaiah Blood axe and scythe works. In addition to providing inexpensive transportation for these businesses, the trolley conveyed employees to work, carried mail, distributed supplies, and transported students from the country to the high school in Ballston Spa. These students affectionately called it the PP&J, short for “Push, Pull & Jerk.”
Lost Railroads of the Kaydeross Valley contains detailed information on the railroad and the mills it served, including extensive financial data, original documents, officer and director listings, maps, 48 black & white photographs, 21 color photographs, a timeline, and extensive bibliography. There is even a chapter that details various locations where the remains of the railroad and several industries can be seen today.
Mr. Starr is currently working on the companion book to this one, titled Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley. For over one hundred years, the huge industries that operated along the creek dominated daily life throughout the Town of Milton. The new book will relate their histories and reveal details that have never before been published. Due to the high costs of self-publishing a local history book such as this one, the author says that this will very likely be a limited-run printing. It is available for sale at the Brookside Museum, Saratoga County Historical Society at 6 Charlton Street, Ballston Spa.
The Ballston Journal - June 25, 2007
As part of Ballston Spa’s bicentennial celebration, local author Timothy Starr has released the second of two books about the industrial history of the village. The first book was about the trolley line that served the industries in the early 1900s. The latest book, titled “Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley,” relates the history of the many manufacturing enterprises that operated here in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Although industry existed both before and after, the one hundred year period between 1850 and 1950 was perhaps the most exciting time in this chapter of Ballston Spa’s history. Huge manufacturing enterprises crowded the banks of the Kayaderosseras Creek and the village of Ballston Spa, generating millions of dollars per year and employing thousands of people. These included Isaiah Blood’s famous hard-edge tool factories, Samuel Haight’s mammoth tannery, George West’s paper bag empire, the Glen Paper Collar Company, and a host of textile manufacturers.
The author has uncovered a wealth of interesting facts about these industries that are detailed in the book. For example, one of the paper mill owners helped the US government fight against currency counterfeiters by inventing a new type of paper. Another business owner invented a ground-breaking double-turbine water wheel that was adopted around the country. For a brief time, the Glen Paper Collar Company manufactured a portable folding pontoon boat. One of the village’s carriage factories was so famous that its products were shipped as far away as California. And one of the village’s celebrated mineral springs was supposedly founded by the spirit of Ben Franklin, which in later years became part of a successful bottling operation.
The book also covers some of the downsides of life in an industrial town. There were a multitude of both minor and fatal accidents, including one particularly gruesome accident at the old Kilmer Stone Mill (now Cottrell Paper). There was an affliction suffered at the axe and scythe works that gave men a life expectancy of only 35 years. One of the first lawsuits relating to pollution in this country was prompted by a landowner downstream from one of George West’s mills. The Glen Paper Collar Company was involved with a scandal that had repercussions all across Saratoga County.
The appendices of the book are perhaps as interesting as the chapters. One appendix contains reproductions of the original patents filed by some of the area’s many inventors, including the aforementioned currency paper of Lindley Crane, Benjamin Barber’s water wheel, and Hegeman’s folding pontoon boat. Other appendices contain floor plans for the paper mills, a selected reproduction of an American Axe & Tool Company catalog featuring Isaiah Blood’s tools, and a complete auction list for the Pioneer paper mill of West Milton. The floor plans, catalog, and auction list were collected over the course of decades by local historian Chris Morley. Other information was gleaned from rare, out-of-print books published in the 1800s and early 1900s.
This is a comprehensive 220 page, full-size book that has sections on over 40 manufacturers, as well as chapters concerning floods, accidents, worker strikes, biographies, railroads, and the national corporations that moved into the area in the last decade of the 1800s. The histories of George West’s paper mills, Isaiah Blood’s factories, and Bull’s Head Tannery receive extended and detailed treatment under their own chapter headings. The book contains almost 75 pictures and graphics, including 17 in color. As was the case with the first book released by the author earlier this year, it is a limited-run printing. Due to the high costs of publishing a specialty book of this type, only about fifty copies each of hardcover and softcover editions will likely be released to the public.
“Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley” is available for sale at the Brookside Museum on Charlton Street in this village, home to the Saratoga County Historical Society. Brookside also has a few copies left of the author’s first book, “Lost Railroads of the Kaydeross Valley,” about the electric trolley line that once served the industries along the banks of the Kayaderosseras Creek from Ballston Spa to Middle Grove. For more information about these or other local interest books, you can stop in at Brookside Tuesday through Saturday or call 885-4000.
BALLSTON'S TROLLEY ALSO CARRIED FREIGHT
By TIMOTHY STARR
Ballston Spa residents may be hard-pressed to convince visitors that the quiet village once had a thriving industrial economy that required its very own railroad. While evidence of the village’s industrial past is plentiful in the buildings around town and ruins along the Kayaderosseras Creek, evidence for the electric railroad is harder to come by.
A determined history detective may find remnants of the old railroad bed deep in the woods, or may even perceive the significance of a brick building still standing in Factory Village that once served as the powerhouse. A few may even stumble upon the old railroad bridge that still stands near the end of Heisler Road in Rock City Falls. But the vast majority of visitors and even many local residents would not guess that they are at times driving over the same route that the electric railroad trolley did some hundred years ago.
The nineteenth century was a period of dramatic industrial growth for Ballston Spa and other villages “up the creek” in the Town of Milton. By 1890 this growth had reached its peak. The waters of the Kayaderosseras Creek were powering the mills of Isaiah Blood’s Scythe & Axe Works, Samuel Haight’s mammoth tannery, and George West’s celebrated paper bag operations, among others. These enterprises were driven by an educated workforce, favorable climate, and steam railroad access to worldwide markets. The only ingredient the mills were lacking was a safe and cost-effective method for delivering raw materials and finished goods to and from the Delaware & Hudson Railroad interchange in Ballston Spa.
The idea for an electric-powered railroad was proposed in the 1880s, but various franchises expired due to lack of funding. However, in 1896 a Philadelphia-based investment house represented by Arthur B. Paine not only filed the proper paperwork, but secured the necessary funding as well. Construction commenced soon after, and two years later the Ballston Terminal Railroad was ready for its inaugural run.
The trade magazine Electrical World called the little railroad a “novelty,” and with good reason. It was one of the shortest terminal railroads in the country, spanning just 12 miles once the line was extended to Middle Grove in 1902. It was also one of the few electric railroads whose primary purpose was to haul freight rather than passengers.
Most trolley lines were built in large cities and transported thousands of people every day. Conversely, the Ballston Terminal Railroad would earn most of its income by serving almost two dozen mills that were situated along the Kayaderosseras Creek. George West alone owned ten paper mills which produced millions of his unique line of paper bags. These mills, plus Blood’s hard-edge tool factories, the tannery, lumber from Middle Grove, and almost a dozen other enterprises, required the shipment of 35,000 tons of raw materials and finished goods per month. Additional revenues would come from transporting students from the country to the high school in Ballston Spa, workers to their jobs at the mills, tourists to Middle Grove, milk and supplies to the stores, and mail to the Rock City Falls post office.
When the Ballston Journal announced the railroad’s inaugural run in August, 1898, optimism for its future was high. “A new era dawned for Ballston Spa,” ran the article. “As a rule, new railroads have to build up their business after the road is constructed; in this case, the business is anxiously waiting for the completion of the road.”
Unfortunately, the railroad suffered from bad luck and poor timing. Just two years after it commenced operations, both the Scythe Factory and the Axe Works burned down in separate fires. George West retired, and the national company that purchased his paper mills sold off those of Middle Grove, Rock City Falls, and West Milton. The mills of Middle Grove closed down soon after, while the others saw only sporadic operation under various owners.
The railroad also suffered from high overhead. Although trolley cars require much less maintenance and lower track standards than steam engines, the powerhouse which generated its electricity required three tons of coal per day. Even more of a burden was meeting the interest payments on the bonds issued to construct the line, which often added up to half its income. Litigation from bondholders forced the Ballston Terminal Railroad to declare bankruptcy in 1904.
The railroad received a new lease on life when it was purchased at auction and renamed the Eastern New York Railroad. Operations continued much as they did before, using the same track as the previous railroad. Some of the debt was forgiven, and there was some cause for optimism once again that the railroad could generate a profit. “We congratulate the Eastern New York Railroad company for the splendid start it gets,” said the Journal, “and our village for being the starting point.” There was even talk of expanding the line to Amsterdam and Johnstown.
It was soon apparent, however, that the little railroad could not overcome the tide of progress that threatened to pass it by, along with the mills it served. Automobiles began to make their appearance, as well as trucks that would very soon provide cheaper transportation than the railroad could offer. Mills and factories were springing up in urban centers using steam or electricity, making those of the Kayaderosseras Valley inefficient and obsolete by comparison.
By 1920, most of the paper mills had shut down. Although other industry moved in to provide new jobs, such as Bischoff’s Chocolates and the textile mills, these were all located inside of Ballston Spa and did not require the railroad’s services. Losses continued unabated, and the Eastern New York Railroad declared bankruptcy in 1918. The future of the line was much in doubt.
However, the few mills that remained in operation still depended upon the railroad to keep their costs down, and banded together to purchase the railroad and operate it under the name Kaydeross Railroad Corporation. At one point it came under the direct ownership of Ballston Spa National Bank when several businesses went bankrupt owning the railroad’s stock, which was then “inherited” by the bank.
The new corporation had no debt and access to cheap electricity from the power station in Ballston Spa. But by that time only three paper mills remained in operation, and income declined accordingly. The railroad continued to run for another ten years, but finally closed down for good in 1929, along with two of the remaining three mills (Cottrell Paper continued to run, and does so to this day).
Although the little railroad never made a profit, it served a valuable purpose by keeping the mills in operation until the age of the automobile allowed residents to commute to work in nearby cities. For years it also helped many local residents travel around the area easily and inexpensively. Students in the “country” may not have attended high school without it. These young people affectionately dubbed it the “PP&J,” short for the “Push, Pull & Jerk.”
If you are ever walking in the woods near the creek and stumble upon a raised bed of earth stretching into the distance, you’ve probably found the old electric railroad line. If you squint your eyes, you may be able to see a small, dark-green trolley gliding by with several freight cars in tow, the smiling conductor at the controls, and young faces peering out of the windows.
For those who would like to learn more about the Ballston Terminal Railroad and its successors, my book titled “Lost Railroads of the Kaydeross Valley,” released in honor of the village’s bicentennial, can be viewed at the Brookside Museum or the Ballston Spa Public Library. The days of the trolley are long over, but publications, pictures, and the first-hand experiences of a few hardy residents still keep its memory alive.
Copyright Timothy Starr 2007. Text contained in this website cannot be used for commercial purposes, or be reproduced in any way.
This site was last updated 11/02/08