Prior to the development of the rail road system in America, water routes served as a convenient and efficient method of transportation. The Hudson River, Lake George, and Lake Champlain provided a travel route to Montreal from New York City. However, a more direct route was considered necessary to connect the two cities and this need lead to the development of the rail road, as well as the Champlain Canal.
The Saratoga – Fort Edward Rail Road was charted in 1832 with the help from Saratoga Springs resident, Gideon M. Davison. In 1834 the original charter was dropped, and a new charter was granted to the Saratoga & Washington Rail-Road Company to build a line from Saratoga Springs to Whitehall. The original route to Whitehall was supposed to travel through Sandy Hill, now known as Hudson Falls. However, in 1837 the path was rerouted to Fort Edward because the terrain was better suited to support a rail line. The line opened in 1848 with the original intent to carry passengers only. In 1851 freight transportation was made permissible on the agreement that funds lost from canal tolls were paid back to the state of New York. This condition was eventually dropped by New York State legislature later that year.
During this time, ownership of the line changed to first the Saratoga-Whitehall Rail Road Company in 1855, and then again in 1865 to the Rensselaer-Saratoga Rail Road. It was also during this time that the original rail station in Fort Edward was used to serve the railway’s passengers. Hotels such as the Eldridge House and the St. James Hotel were developed to accommodate these travelers. Several other hotels were constructed in the village of Fort Edward, making it a desirable location to serve as a place of rest for travelers.
In 1869, the Glens Falls Railroad line opened, and eventually in 1882, the line was extended to
Lake George. When the Lake George line was under development, the Rensselaer-Saratoga Rail Road decided that a new station, freight house, and rail yard in Fort Edward was needed to accommodate increasing prosperity of the rail road. The junction at East Street was chosen to house the new site. The depot at the original Broadway site was abandoned by 1880. In this same year a new station was constructed at East Street, which was eventually replaced in 1900. This structure was created in the Victorian-style and has been nominated to be included in both the state and national lists of historic places.
A period of change came again in the early 1870s when the Delaware & Hudson took over
operations of the lines, and began development of a main line through northern New York to Canada. In 1875 the line from New York City to Montreal was complete. With its several hotels and desirable location, Fort Edward became a good half-way-point for travelers to stop for an over-night stay.
Passenger trains ran on the Glens Falls and Lake George lines till the late 1950’s, and freight ran until the 1960s/1970s. After operations on those lines ceased, the Fort Edward station’s only purpose was to serve the main line. The station was remodeled to create smaller offices. In the 1980s the small baggage house was removed and the old engine house was torn down. Only the freight house and the depot itself remain today. Passenger rides continued to decrease and weren’t revived until 1974 when Amtrak began to run on the line, which is still in operation today.
In 1991 Canadian Pacific Railway acquired The Delaware & Hudson. Shortly after, Canadian Pacific wanted to tear down the Fort Edward station which was abandoned by the Delaware & Hudson in the 1980s. Local community members rallied and formed the Fort Edward Local Development Corporation with the intent to purchase and renovate the station. Their goals were reached when funds were received in 1994 from the Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant as well as Senator Stafford’s office. Renovations commenced and in time more funds were awarded from the Amtrak and the Great American Station Foundation to keep the process moving. The depot still serves Amtrak passengers today, and the line from New York City to Montreal is known as one of the most scenic railways in the country.