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UDSON RIVER, in many points of view, may be considered one of the most important streams in the world. It cannot vie with the Mississippi, or the Ohio, and other rivers, either in size or
extent; but, in all other respects, it is altogether their superior. For steamboat and sloop navigation, stretching as it does for one hundred and sixty miles inland, through a rugged chain of Highlands, and carrying tide water the entire distance, it is certainly unsurpassed.
The Hudson rises in a marshy tract in Essex county, east of Long Lake. Its head waters are nearly four thousand feet above the level of the sea. After receiving the waters of the Scroon on the north, and the Sacondaga, which flows from Hamilton county, on the west, it turns eastward until it reaches the meridian of Lake Champlain, where it suddenly sweeps round to 'the southward, and continues in a direct course to New York. One mile above Troy it receives the Mohawk River on the west, the latter being the largest stream of the two at their junction.
The entire length of the Hudson is three hundred and twenty-five miles. The picturesque beauty of its banks, -forming gentle grassy slopes, or covered with forests to the water's edge, or crowned by neat and thriving towns, now overshadowing the water with tall cliffs, and now rising in mural precipices, — and the legendary and historical interests associated with numerous spots, combine to render the Hudson the classic stream of the United States. Ships can ascend the river as far as Hudson, one hundred and fifteen miles, and steamboats and sloops to Albany and Troy. During the summer months, the water is covered with vessels of all sorts and sizes, ascending or de
scending the stream, from the canal boat, - of which great numbers, from the line of the Erie canal, and entering the river at Albany, are daily towed to and from New York, to the
magnificent steamers, for which this river for years has been famous.
The width of the river, for twenty-five miles above New York, is
about one mile. Its west bank, for nearly this whole distance, is bounded by abrupt precipices of trap rock, termed the PALISADES. Beyond these there is an expansion of the river to the width of three miles, termed Tappan and Haverstraw bays, with mountains upon the western shore seven hundred feet in height. Passing these at Verplanck's Point, forty miles above New York, the Highlands commence. Here the river is contracted into narrow limits, and the water becomes of greater depth. This mountainous region, about sixteen miles in length, may be considered the most remarkable feature in the Hudson River scenery. The course of the stream is exceedingly tortuous, and the hills upon both sides rocky and abrupt. Above these Highlands the country subsides into but a fertile hilly region, which continues for one hundred miles.
Hudson River is named after Henry Hudson, by whom it was discovered in 1609. He entered the southern waters of New York on the 3d of September. Tradition says that he landed upon Long Island and traded with the natives. He spent a week south of the Narrows before he entered the bay. - On the 14th, he proceeded up the river. As he went along, he all the
way found the natives on the west shore more affable and friendly than those on the east, and discovered that those on one side were at war with those on the other. In his journal he gives the following account of his reception upon landing at Hudson, the place which now bears his name:
“I went on shore in one of the canoes with an old Indian, who was a chief of forty men and seventeen women, and whom I found in a house made of the bark of trees, which was exceedingly smooth and well finished within and all round about. I found there a great quantity of Indian corn and beans; indeed, there lay to dry, near the house, of these articles, as much as would load three ships, besides what was growing in the field. When we came to the house, two mats were spread to sit on; and immediately eatables were brought to us on red wooden bowls, well made; and two men were sent off with their bows and arrows to kill wild fowl, who soon returned with two pigeons. They also killed immediately a fat dog, and in a very little time skinned it with shells, which they got out of the water. They expected I would have remained with them through the night; but this I did not care to do, and therefore went on board the ship again. It is the finest land for tilling my feet ever trod
upon, and bears all sorts of trees fit for building vessels. The natives here were extremely kind and good-tempered; for when they saw that I was making ready to return to the ship, and would not stay with them, judging it proceeded from my fear of their bows and arrows, they took and broke them to pieces, and then threw them into the fire. I found grapes growing here also, and plums, pumpkins, and other fruit."
It must not be forgotten that the Hudson River was the theatre of the first successful attempt to apply steam power to the propelling of vessels, by Fulton, in 1808, less than half a century ago! Let the sceptic stand upon
the banks of the river now, and see the superb and swift palaces of motion shoot past, one after the other, like gay and chasing meteors; and then read poor Fulton's account of his first experiment, and never throw discouragement on the kindling fire of genius.
“When I was building my first steamboat," said he to Judge Story, "the project was viewed by the public at New York either with indifference or contempt, as a visionary scheme. My friends, indeed, were civil, but they were shy. They listened with patience to my explanations, but with a settled cast of incredulity on their countenances. As I had occasion to pass daily to and from the building yard while the boat was in progress, I often loitered, unknown, near the idle groups of strangers gathered in little circles, and heard various inquiries as to the object of this new vehicle. The language was uniformly that of scorn, sneer, or ridicule. The loud laugh rose at my expense; the dry jest, the wise calculation of losses and expenditure ; the dull but endless repetition of · The Fulton Folly.' Never did a single encouraging remark, a bright hope, or a warm wish, cross my path.
“ At length the boat was finished, and the day arrived when the trial was to be made. To me it was a most trying and interesting occasion. I invited many friends to go on board and witness the first successful trip. Many of them did me the honor to attend, as a matter of personal respect; but it was manifest they did it with reluctance, feigning to be partners of my mortification, and not of my triumph. I was well aware that, in my case, there were many reasons to doubt my success. The machinery was new, and ill made; and many parts of it were constructed by mechanics unacquainted with such work; and unexpected difficulties might reasonably be presumed to present themselves from other causes. The moment arrived in which the word was to be given for the vessel to move. My friends stood in groups on the deck. I read in their looks nothing but disaster, and almost repented of my efforts. The signal was given, and the boat moved on a short distance, and then stopped and became immovable. To the silence of the preceding moment, now succeeded murmurs of discontent and agitation, and whispers, and shrugs. I elevated myself on a platform, and stated that I knew not what was the matter ; but if they would be quiet, and indulge me for half an hour, I would either go on, or abandon the voyage. I went below, and at once discovered that a slight mal-adjustment was the cause of the stopping. It was obviated, and the boat went on; we left New York; we passed through the Highlands; we reached Albany. Yet, even then, imagination superseded the force of fact. It was doubted if it could be done again, or if it could be made, in any case, of any great value.”
What an affecting picture of the struggles of a great mind, and what a vivid lesson of encouragement to genius, are contained in this simple narrative! If Fulton and his then doubting friends could witness now the triumphs of steam on the Hudson and the Mississippi, the Ganges, the Indus, the Thames, the Tigris, the Nile, and across the broad bosoms of the three great oceans, how different would be the sensations of both from those by which they were animated on the first experimental voyage !
HUDSON RIVER RAILROAD.
The project of building a railroad along the banks of Hudson River, from New York to Albany, was, for a long time, deemed visionary, and unworthy of consideration. It was argued and believed that, even if a road could be built through the Highlands, at anything like a reasonable expense, it could never compete with the river steamboats, noted as they were for elegance, safety, and speed. But the fallacy of this belief has been plainly shown.
Two important considerations, above all others, have tended to convince the public that a railroad along the Hudson was necessary, and ought to be built. One, and by far the greatest, is found in the fact that during the winter months, averaging from 90 to 100 days of each year, the river is closed by the ice; and it proved a serious inconvenience, to say the least, for a channel, through which from one and a half to two millions of passengers were conveyed in the summer months, to be closed for the remainder of the year. The other was the simple saving of time upon
The parative merits of the two modes of conveyance it does not become us to dis
Both will have their supporters and favorites, and both will unquestionably be forever open to the public during two thirds of each year. In the winter, when the river is closed, the railroad must do all the business, both in passengers and freights, and no person can doubt, that, although it is now immense, the superior facilities of transit opened by the railroad will tend to increase it beyond all precedent.
THE ENTIRE LENGTH of the Hudson River Railroad, from Chamber street to
Albany, is one hundred and forty-three miles and a quarter. As a general feature, the road is constructed directly along the banks of the river, five feet above high tides. A proper degree of directness is maintained, and the sinuosities of the stream avoided, by cutting through the projecting points of land, and, when necessary, throwing the line a short distance into shallow water; protecting the embankment from the action of the waves by a secure wall. Nearly one half of the whole length of the road is thus protected. At Verplanck's Point, forty miles from New York, the track is nearly two miles from the river, but in no other place does it vary as much as one mile from the water's edge.
THE GRADES of the road, considering the obstacles surmounted, are astonishingly regular. Of the whole distance, one hundred and fourteen miles are upon a dead level, five miles from one to five feet per mile, thirteen miles of ten feet per mile, and five miles of thirteen feet per mile inclination, which is the heaviest grade upon the road. The total rise and fall is two hundred and thirteen feet only. The shortest curve is at Peekskill station. This is of one thousand feet radius. Besides this, there are no curves less than two thousand feet radius, while more than one half of the whole number are from four to ten thousand feet radius. The whole number of curves is two hundred and seventy-nine, there being fifty-eight and a half miles of curved line.
The ROCK EXCAVATION upon the road, as the fact of its following the banks of the river so closely would lead any one to suppose, has been immense. The total amount of rock-cuttings will not vary much from two millions of cubic yards. On the “ Highland” division alone, (Peekskill to Fishkill, a distance of sixteen miles,) over four hundred and twenty-five thousand cubic yards of rock were excavated.
There are EIGHT TUNNELS upon the line, between New York and Poughkeepsie, as follows:
All the above tunnels are through solid rock, and are twenty-four feet wide, and eighteen feet high. The rock is so hard that it forms the arch of the tunnels in all cases except for a part of the one at Breakneck Hill. Here the appearance of the rock rendered it probable, in the mind of the