Canals & Transportation
New York created the early transportation and infrastructure advances that changed the nation!
Early America’s greatest technological advancement, the Erie Canal, opened up the American West to trade, and has been in continuous operation since 1825. New York’s connection to waterways doesn’t end at its canals, it also includes historic lighthouses and maritime museums.
New York’s history of transportation by rail is on display and railroad buildings, artifacts, and antique subway cars are ready to be explored. There is even an 1888 train trestle over the Hudson river that has been turned into the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world to traverse.
Below are ideas to help you get started on your Canals & Transportation Path Through History!
Montauk Point Lighthouse in Montauk, the oldest lighthouse in New York State, was authorized by the Second Congress in 1792 under President George Washington and completed in 1796. This historic landmark’s 100-foot tall tower still serves as an active aid to navigation. Tours of the lighthouse visit the keepers’ dwelling, containing the apartments of the head keeper and his two assistant keepers; the Fire Control Station, the tower built during World War II and used as part of the extensive East Coast Defense Shield; and the lighthouse tower.
The Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum
located in a whale ship owner’s Classic Greek Revival style mansion built in 1845, contains a unique collection of whaling and historic artifacts, telling the story of Sag Harbor’s history. Discover the town's storied past as a prosperous whaling port as you explore the largest collection of whaling equipment in the state of New York.
Climb aboard a landmark historic vessel for a sail onto the Great South Bay from the 14-acre Long Island Maritime Museum
in West Sayville. Guests can experience life on the great estates of Long Island’s south shore, learn about the shellfishing industry from the 1880's through the 1970's and view historic boats in National Historic Landmark buildings. Better yet, a ride on the Priscilla, an 1888 Oyster dredge and one of only thirteen National Historic Landmarks on Long Island, allows for an interactive educational experience out on the water.
With more than 200 horse-drawn carriages, the Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages
in Stony Brook is home to the nation's largest carriage collection. About 100 carriages are regularly on display, along with other rare artifacts from the carriage era. Admired for their beauty and craftsmanship, the carriages reflect an important part of America’s industrial and transportation history.
Long Island Maritime Museum
Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages
Montauk Point Lighthouse in Montauk
Sag Harbor Whaling Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Long Island region
New York City:
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States and the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world. Opened with much fanfare in 1883, its main span of more than 1,595 feet connected Manhattan to Brooklyn and made it the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1903. The bridge contains a pedestrian walkway popular with locals and tourists alike that offers spectacular views of New York harbor.
Explore the development of the greater New York metropolitan region at the New York Transit Museum
, the largest U.S. museum devoted to urban public transportation history and one of the premier institutions of its kind in the world. At the museum, housed in a historic 1936 IND subway station in Brooklyn Heights, take in popular exhibits such as Steel, Stone, and Backbone, recounting the tale of building New York City's 100 year-old subway system, as well as highly interactive exhibitions such as On the Streets, an in-depth look at New York City's trolleys and buses.
With service dating back to 1817, the Staten Island Ferry provides 20 million people a year with ferry service between Staten Island and lower Manhattan. While the main purpose of the ferry is transporting Staten Islanders to and from Manhattan, the five mile, 25-minute ride also provides majestic views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the skyscrapers and bridges of lower Manhattan -- for free! Just a short, 5-minute walk from the St. George Ferry Terminal, the Staten Island Museum, founded in 1881, interprets the ferry through a permanent exhibit opened in 2005 to commemorate the ferry’s centennial.
Sixteen historic and contemporary installations interweaving the city, the sea and the historic South Street Seaport neighborhood come together at the South Street Seaport Museum in lower Manhattan. Highlights include historic ships like the lightship Ambrose and the schooner Pioneer, a 19th-century letterpress print shop and a multimedia experience presenting a history of New York from when it was a settlement of a few hundred Europeans, Africans and Native Americans, to the present.
With its Beaux-Arts façade on 42nd Street and its expansive main concourse, Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal is one of New York City's iconic landmarks, a wonder of architectural achievement. It was also an engineering innovation by taking advantage of the change in power from steam to electricity to open 30-city blocks to revenue-producing buildings over the rail yards, helping offset the project's enormous cost. The largest railroad terminal in the world, Grand Central celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013. Audio and docent-led tours are available.
Grand Central Terminal
New York Transit Museum
South Street Seaport Museum
Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the New York City region.
The Hudson Valley’s Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park
crosses the river atop the former Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. When it originally opened in 1888, the 212-foot tall, 6,768-foot span was considered the world’s longest bridge and an engineering marvel. Today it is the longest, elevated pedestrian bridge in the world. At the park, enjoy walking, bike riding, bird watching, dog walking, jogging, roller- and in-line skating, picnicking, the magnificent scenic views and boat and train watching. Bring your mobile device and take the Talkway Over the Walkway cell phone tour.
Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park
Find other exciting attractions in the Hudson Valley region.
The 108-mile-long Delaware & Hudson Canal, from the coalfields of Pennsylvania to the Hudson River, was the first $1 million private investment project in US history built in the 1820s without the aid of machinery. Mule-powered canal boats made the trek through 108 locks and over 20 aqueducts in seven to ten days. The D&H Canal Museum
in High Falls commemorates the canal and contains many original artifacts from the canal days, as well as a replica of a canal boat cabin and a working model of a lock. The Five Locks trail follows the canal towpath past the remains of locks whose still-intact stonework was so precisely cut that it required no mortar, and another trail leads to stone abutments of the aqueduct that once carried the canal across Rondout Creek.
Kingston’s role as the most important port between New York and Albany in the 19th century for coal delivery, tugboats and passenger steamboats make it the perfect place for Hudson River Maritime Museum. Highlights today include the Rondout Lighthouse, the 1898 steam tugboat Mathilda and exhibits on Hudson steamboats, ferries, iceboats and more.
The Hudson-Athens Lighthouse in Athens is a Second Empire architectural style lighthouse located in the Hudson River between the towns of Hudson and Athens. Summer tours are available one day each month, July through October. On the tour, visitors learn about the important role that the Hudson River played in the development of the upper Hudson River towns, and the lighthouse’s role in the safe navigation of the river transportation.
D&H Canal Museum
Hudson River Maritime Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Catskill region.
In Waterford, a set of 5 locks at the Waterford Flight of Locks built in 1918 raise and lower boats a total of about 170 feet, the highest lift in the shortest distance in the world, greater than the lift of the entire Panama Canal. Visitors are welcome to explore this National Civil Engineering Landmark and watch boats go through from May to November. The nearby RiverSpark
Visitors’ Center has exhibits illustrating Waterford’s connection to the Erie Canal and some of the tugs and barges that have passed through this riverfront community.
Find other exciting attractions in the Capital-Saratoga region.
The Champlain Valley Transportation Museum
in Plattsburgh began as an automobile museum and has grown to celebrate many forms of transportation. Explore the region's rich transportation history through the museum’s collections and exhibitions of vintage automobiles, boats and trains. Children love climbing aboard the Vulcan Locomotive and taking in the Diecast Room, which contains over 750 models, including cars, trucks, boats, airplanes, tractors and fire trucks.
In its exploration of Adirondack life, the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake contains exhibits in its Roads & Rails Building focusing on Adirondack transportation from muddy trails, corduroy roads and log sleds to Gilded Age train and steamboat travel. It also boasts the third largest small boat collection in the country.
Museum in Blue Mountain Lake
Champlain Valley Transportation Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Adirondacks region.
Located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Clayton, the Antique Boat Museum is home to the largest collection of antique and classic boats on display in North America – over 300 unique and beautifully-preserved vessels. At the museum, visitors can learn about boating history on the St. Lawrence River, row a St. Lawrence skiff in French Bay, tour George Boldt's 1904 two-story houseboat and even take a speedboat ride through the islands in a triple cockpit runabout.
Built in 1827, the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse
in Cape Vincent marks the point where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River in northern New York State. The oldest lighthouse in Jefferson County, it is open for tours, and features the only original working Fresnel lens on Lake Ontario. Visitors enjoy surveying the lake and river using the provided telescope, and some take advantage of the lighthouse’s hostel if staying over in town. Visitors can also take a boat to explore the tower and keeper’s residence of the 100-plus year old Rock Island Lighthouse
in Fishers Landing.
Explore 400 years of Oswego County's maritime heritage at the H. Lee White Marine Museum
in Oswego. The museum’s extensive collection includes Native American artifacts such as dugout canoes, the original Fresnel lens from the Oswego Lighthouse, shipbuilding tools, maritime artwork, boat models and more, including a 1925 New York State Canal Boat and the National Historic Landmark WWII tugboat LT-5.
Antique Boat Museum
H. Lee White Marine Museum
Rock Island Lighthouse
Tibbetts Point Lighthouse
Find other exciting attractions in the Thousand Islands-Seaway region.
Central New York:
The only remaining site with visible remnants of all three eras of Erie Canal development, Schoharie Crossing in Fort Hunter includes a two-mile long segment of the original Old "Clinton's Ditch" Erie Canal, an Old Erie Canal guard lock, the original Old Erie Canal 'Empire' Lock No. 20, the Enlarged Erie Canal 'Empire' Lock No. 29, the Enlarged Erie Canal 'Yankee Hill' Lock 28 and the remains of the Schoharie Creek Aqueduct, which carried the water of the Enlarged Erie Canal over the Schoharie Creek. Nearby is the 'Tribes Hill' Lock No. 12 of the Erie (Barge) Canal that is still in use today. At the eastern end of the site, Putman's Lock Stand houses an exhibit on Erie Canal stores.
In Fort Plain, learn about life along the Erie Canal circa 1820-1850 at the Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park
. In addition to spotlighting the canal, the museum focuses on the history of the central Mohawk Valley, primarily pre-Colonial, Revolutionary War and local community history.
The 77-mile long Black River Canal was an engineering marvel of the 19th century. Only 35 miles long, the canal had 109 locks. Abandoned entirely in the 1920s, the former canal path is replete with stone locks and other evidence of the man-made waterway, especially north of Utica along NYS Route 12. In Boonville, the Black River Canal Museum
contains a full-scale replica of a canal boat on its grounds.
On the site in Rome, NY where the first shovel full of earth was turned for the Erie Canal, visitors can experience the Erie Canal Village
, a reconstructed 19th century settlement with museums, a freight wagon ride, a blacksmith shop, an ice house, a canal store and even lunch available in 1850's tavern.
As the only recovered and restored historic dry dock in New York State along the Erie Canal, the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum in Chittenango is the place to learn about boat-building and repair of Erie Canal boats, and the social history of the canal era. Explore the industrial building with its reconstructed sawmill, boat and blacksmith shops, then step aboard a canal boat on the same site where boats were built in 1855. The museum is located in Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, a 36-mile-long park located along the historic Erie Canal.
Once a 19th C. bakery and residence, and located beside a remnant of the original Canal, the Canastota Canal Town Museum in Canastota offers a history of the "Old Erie Canal," including a focus on canalside businesses and the waterway's impact on the region, that brings life to local folklore and history.
Black River Canal Museum
Canal Boat Museum
Canastota Canal Town Museum
Erie Canal Village
Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park
Find other exciting attractions in the Central New York region.
The Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse is the only structure of its kind in the world. Housed in the 1850 Syracuse Weighlock Building, the museum includes a full-size canal boat, hands-on-interactive exhibits, vignettes about life along the canal, a special exhibits gallery and the outdoor Locktender's Garden.
Canandaigua’s Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum
is a mid-19th century Federal-style mansion that was once home to Gideon Granger, former Postmaster General. Travel back in time as a docent leads you through the homestead and shares stories about the four generations of Grangers who lived in this magnificent home from 1816-1930. The carriage museum features more than 100 horse-drawn carriages, an original 19th century law office and carriage rides through historic downtown Canandaigua.
The original Sodus Bay Lighthouse
was built in 1824 and served until 1870 when it was replaced with a new tower and keeper cottage completed in 1871. This second stone lighthouse building, with its attached tower and Fresnel lens, became the residence of Sodus Lighthouse keepers for the next 80 years. This lighthouse, preserved in excellent condition, is now a Maritime Museum. Visitors who climb the circular stairs leading to the lens room at the top of the lighthouse tower, about 70 feet above the waters of Lake Ontario, are treated to a spectacular view of the Sodus Point Piers and the bluffs of the shore on the lake, to the northeast.
Once known as the "Queen of Erie Canal towns," Palmyra in Wayne County boasts an astonishing array of architecture, ranging from the early 1800s to Victorian era grandeur. The Historic Palmyra Museum Complex features five museums including an authentic canal era general store which has been recognized for excellence by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
Erie Canal Museum
Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum
Historic Palmyra Museum Complex
Sodus Bay Lighthouse
Find other exciting attractions in the Finger Lakes region.
The Historic LeRoy House and Jell-O Museum in LeRoy highlights the evolution of transportation in the 20th century with permanent displays such as "On the Road," which features more than 100 years of transportation vehicles, from an ox cart to a 1908 Cadillac.
The Medina Railroad Museum
, located in the old New York Central freight depot in Medina, is the largest freight depot museum in the country and features a large collection of artifacts and memorabilia, along with one of the largest HO-gauge model train layouts in the nation. Visitors can also enjoy a leisurely 34-mile, two-hour round trip ride through the scenic Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor aboard a comfortable vintage 1947 Budd passenger coach.
A new, state-of-the-art interpretive center for the Erie Canal, highlighting the role that Lockport played in its history, the Erie Canal Discovery Center & Flight of Five is a multi-media interactive museum that will transport you back to the 1820s and the canal’s early days. Begin your experience by viewing a mural depicting the grand celebration that accompanied Gov. Dewitt Clinton’s passage through the locks at Lockport. In the viewing room, computer kiosks allow you to meet and dialog with people from the canal’s past, as depicted in the mural. Feel as if you really witnessed the mural’s depicted events in the center’s automated theater. Next, board a recreation of an actual Erie Canal packet boat, before completing your visit with a short trek to the actual “Flight of Five” locks.
On the shore of Lake Erie in Buffalo, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval Park offers tours of several decommissioned US Naval vessels, including the Cleveland-class cruiser USS Little Rock, the Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans and the submarine USS Croaker.
Your journey aboard the Arcade & Attica Railroad in Arcade begins even before you board the train. As you enter the historic station, you are surrounded by the history of railroading in America. Touring the station, you will see everything from antique railroad lanterns to switch locks, and even an old switch stand, plus nostalgic original photographs depicting an era of days gone by. Get tickets for the day’s train trip at the station’s authentic ticket office.
Arcade & Attica Railroad
Buffalo and Erie County Naval Park
Erie Canal Discovery Center & Flight of Five
Historic LeRoy House and Jell-O Museum
Medina Railroad Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Greater Niagara region.
With its 27-mile range, Dunkirk Lighthouse is one of the most prominent beacons on Lake Erie. Also known as known as Point Gratiot Light, this active lighthouse was established in 1826; the current tower was first lit in 1875. The lighthouse, automated in 1960, still uses the original lens, a third order Fresnel lens installed in 1857, one of only 70 such lenses still operational in the U.S. At the Dunkirk Lighthouse & Veterans Park Museum, visitors are welcome to explore the historic lighthouse, experience a superb guided tour of its museums, admire the magnificent view of Lake Erie from the observation deck and take a stroll through the park grounds. New for the lighthouse in 2013: Ghost Tours!
A fully restored passenger depot in Salamanca constructed in 1912 by the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway, and the hub for three railroads serving the region, the Salamanca Rail Museum
presents you with an authentic recreation of an early 20th century depot. From the brick-walled baggage room to the multi-windowed "Ladies Retiring Room," everything in the building is either a restored original or an exact duplicate based on the original architectural plans.
Dunkirk Lighthouse & Veterans Park Museum
Salamanca Rail Museum
Find other exciting attractions in the Chautauqua-Alleghany region.
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