The Hudson River Railroad Company was incorporated May 12, 1846 to build and operate a railroad from New York City to East Albany which is now Rensselaer. The road was opened for traffic in sections as completed, the entire length being put into operation by October 1, 1851. The railroad was built along the west side of Manhattan Island beginning at 32nd Street north to Spuyten Duyvil and then following closely along the Hudson River through Yonkers, Tarrytown, Peekskill, Cold spring, Fishkill (now Beacon), Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck (now Rhinecliff), Hudson, Castleton and finally to east Albany.
The railroad was initially opened for business to Peekskill on Sept. 30th and to Poughkeepsie Dec. 31st. 1849. The track had been laid during the summer and autumn of the year 1849 with rail weighting 70 lbs. to the yard. The road continued to be built in sections with the section between East Albany and Hudson opened on June 16th of 1851 and finally on October 1st of 1851, the entire road was opened between New York and East Albany. By 1850 a station had been located at Chambers Street in New York City and horses were used to draw the cars to 32nd Street.
The Hudson River Railroad became the Hudson River Division after the consolidation of the Hudson River Railroad and the New York Central Railroad in 1869, forming the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad. By the late 1880’s the Hudson River Division was shortened to the Hudson Division. When the Spuyten Duyvil & Port Morris Railroad was opened between Spuyten Duyvil and Mott Haven on April 1, 1872 that railroad was incorporated into the Hudson River Division as it had been previously leased to the Hudson River Railroad on November 1, 1871.
Once the electrification was begun in the early 1900’s from Grand Central Terminal to Croton-on-Hudson and North White Plains, the Hudson Division territory between Mott Haven and Croton-on-Hudson was gradually absorbed into the Electric Division and that was completed by early 1910. The 30th Street Branch which operated down the west side of Manhattan Island continued as a part of the Hudson Division until control was transferred to the Electric Division in late 1929 or early 1930. This branch had been the original main line of the Hudson River Railroad until the Spuyten Duyvil & Port Morris Railroad was completed allowing access to Grand Central Station.
Four-tracking of the entire Hudson Division between Croton-on-Hudson and Rensselaer was never completed and significant gaps remained between Peekskill and Garrison, Barrytown and Tivoli and Germantown and Castleton. The short section of four tracks between Tivoli and Germantown and Castleton and Rensselaer were reduced to two tracks early in the 1930’s as a result of the depression. Additional reductions of trackage occurred during the 1950’s and by the end of 1962 there were no four-track sections remaining.
In the early 1930’s, as a result of the depression, the management of the Hudson Division was transferred from New York City to Albany. Control continued in Albany under a Superintendent responsible for both the Mohawk and Hudson Divisions until the late 1950’s when operational control was returned to New York City as a result of organizational and related changes. The bulk of the former Hudson Division is now operated by CSX Transportation as far as Poughkeepsie, and by MTA Metro-North Railroad south to Grand Central.