DeWitt Clinton Turns 180

9 08 2011
DeWitt Clinton

An early icon - the DeWitt Clinton.

Just two years and a day after the Stourbridge Lion opened the era of American steam railroading, another little pioneer was setting out across New York. The DeWitt Clinton opened service on the Mohawk and Hudson Railway between Albany and Schenectady. Named in honor of the New York governor who had chartered construction of the Erie Canal, the DeWitt Clinton ultimately planted the seeds of the Canal’s demise.

At unparalleled speeds of up to 30 mph, the stagecoach-like passenger train was the ultimate thrill for passengers. With nothing but slack chains to bind the cars, starts and stops would knock passengers out of their seats. One report even suggests that passengers dismantled a farmer’s fence on the first run to place boards between the cars and eliminate the chain slack. Sparks from the locomotive could also be a problem – setting fire to passengers’ clothing.

The history of the original locomotive is sketchy at best. For as much fanfare as she drew on that first run, it is clear that the locomotive was quickly eclipsed by more modern and promising designs. Some reports show it in service as long as 14 years. Others say the engine was scrapped in 1833. A wheel said to be from the original engine is housed in the Smithsonian.

A replica was built by the M&H’s successor – the New York Central – in 1893. In 1934, Henry Ford approached the NYC about building a second replica for his new museum but was instead offered the original. The only condition of the sale was occasional use by the NYC for public display which it was for the World’s Fair in 1939 and the Chicago Railroad Fair in 1948. Today it remains housed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.

The DeWitt Clinton has been produced several times in many scales. You can now give your passengers the ride of their lives in O scale with Lionel’s Heritage Series Model (6-11164). The model is faithfully based on the replica as she can be seen today. Happy 180th!



2 responses

11 05 2012
Glenn Grandfield

Hello, I have the John Bull, Stourbridge Lion and DeWiit Clinton in this series. They are wonderful models for the price and have filled some of the most obvious gaps for those whose primary interest is modelling the early days of steam locomotives and trains.
But what happened to this marvelous series? I have seen no further announcements about future models, Has it been totally discontinued? That would be a shame because hardly anyone offers high quality brass models of these trains. I thought this line was selling well but maybe that is not true. If Lionel is not sure if they should continue the series, consider this a strong YES vote
Incidentally, has Lionel ever considered producing models of the earliest English trains in this series? After all, the English built almost all of the very early locomotives including the Stourbridge Lion and John Bull although they are considered American. I would think that modelers all over the world would welcome brass models of this quality of, for example, Rocket and several other early Stephenson locomotives. There are also very interesting later, but still early, English locomotives such as Jenny Lind, Firefly, Iron Duke, Stirling singles, Cramptons and on and on.
Please continue on with this fine series and even expand it if possible.
Yours sincerely,Glenn Grandfield
Riverside, CA

14 05 2012

Our most recent offering of this type of model was the Lincoln Funeral Train which came out last year (some are still available through the LRRC). While later than the other models, it was designed to the same level of quality, construction and detail. I can’t make any official comments on future production right now, but I will certainly pass along your comments and I think it is likely you will see more quality offerings in the future.

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