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!