Today, Rensselaer is probably best known for being the home of the Albany Amtrak station. Since 1968, passengers have been unable to disembark on the capital city's side of the river, but Rensselaer's rail history goes way, way back, and once upon a time the rail yards were a massive employer here. Unfortunately I had to miss a recent talk by Ernie Mann, local rail historian, at the East Greenbush Community Library, which went along with his exhibit of artifacts. His Arcadia book "Railroads of Rensselaer" is highly recommended for fans of Rensselaer or rail.
Image by carljohnson via Flickr
The Rensselaer City Historian undertook a great railroad project last summer, transcribing and posting the diary of Walter Miller, a Rensselaer resident who worked the yards in the mid-1800s. Follow this link and scroll down to the Walter Miller diary link. His diary is a series of short entries describing the conditions that affected his job, which for a time at least was tending the upper bridge crossing (the Livingston Avenue Bridge). It also tells the tale of wrecks, fires, deaths and the time when "cold and high winds and blew the roof of the house of Doct. Wilson's." Highly worth reading.