Ballston Terminal Railroad

You are now standing on the original Ballston Terminal Railroad grade. A terminal railroad is a short railroad operating in or around a city. It connects with one or more larger railroads (CSX, 2016). The Ballston Terminal Railroad ran from Ballston Spa to Middle Grove. Its development progressed in stages with construction beginning in 1896 in Ballston Spa. The success of the 18 mills and factories along the Kayaderosseras Creek was directly attributed to the railroad. Previously, they had to rely on horse-drawn wagons to deliver supplies and ship out final products along dirt roads. The six-mile trip by railroad from Ballston Spa to the Pioneer Mill in West Milton would take only about a half hour (Staulters, 2020). This convenience would also benefit workers and passengers using the trolley for transportation to the factories, mills, and Ballston Spa. Students even took the trolley to get to Ballston Spa High School (Staulters, 2020).

(Starr, 2009, p. 134)

In 1899, it was estimated that the railroad would transport approximately 35,000 tons of materials per month at a cost of $0.20 per ton (Starr, 2010, p. 132). At one point, there were twenty-five factories and mills that the trolley line reached (Staulters, 2020). Electricity was generated at the original brick powerhouse on the corner of Maple Ave and Northline Road. This building is now a private apartment. The railroad shut down in 1929 (Starr, 2010, p. 136). The Cotrell Paper Company in Rock City Falls is the only surviving industry along the Kayaderosseras Creek.

Ballston Terminal Railroad map ca. 1902. Courtesy of Brookside Museum

Why did they choose an electric trolley instead of steam engines? The track standards were lower and less costly to build. It could climb steeper grades. Curves could be designed tighter. It did not require a separate engine, passenger car, or water tank. It was quieter and less likely to catch on fire (Starr, 2010, p. 131).

Repurposed Ballston Terminal Railroad Bridge off Heisler Road.  Author’s photo
Repurposed Ballston Terminal Railroad Bridge off Heisler Road. Author’s photo

Page researched and created by Parker Duthaler for his Eagle Scout Project (November 12, 2023)