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The railroads promoted the continued industrialization of the river, while bringing a new class of settler to the land. East-west lines were finished first. In 1831 the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad was completed, connecting Albany with Schenectady, where the Erie Canal merged with the Mohawk River, and shortening the day-long water based trip to a few hours. By 1841, the Erie Railroad connected Lake Erie and the Hudson River at Piermont. The railroads along the shores of the river followed: on the eastern shore, the Hudson River Railroad was finished in 1851, linking New York City and Greenbush, across the river from Albany. The line on the western shore was built 40 years later.
The railroads brought the demise of steamboat travel and encouraged population growth and suburbanization. The river's natural curves were changed and wet lands were filled in to accommodate the track's straight lines. The landscape was tamed for the railroads, the people were cut off from the river.
The railroads also helped to usher in a new set of neighbors on the river. While the older families of landed gentry had had estates along the Hudson from colonial times (the Norrie-Mills Mansion, Montgomery Place, Clermont
Once the Hudson River Railroad was built to Garrison in 1848, it allowed the new prominent business class to have country estates within commuting distance of Wall Street. "Millionaire's Row" gradually came into being. On the east side of the river, in Garrison: Jay Gould in Tarrytown and Hamilton Fish (Governor of New York and U.S. Senator), William Osborn (president of the Illinois Central), Samuel Sloan (president of the Hudson River Railroad); and on the west side: JP Morgan, Edward H. Harriman (president of the Union Pacific), James Stillman (president of National City Bank), all near West Point or Bear Mountain. The Vanderbilts established themselves further up the river, at Hyde Park. Many of this group moved to the river in the post Civil War years and were related by marriage and business ties. These were the robber barons of the last half of the 1800's "...whose object of desire and source of wealth was the railroad. In those days, to be railroad president was to be king, having more power in state politics than governors and more wealth than anyone could have imagined." (The Hudson River Highlands, Dunwell, 1991, p. 111) Some of the homes built by the robber barons are still in private hands. Some, like Lyndhurst (the Gould estate), Glenclyffe (the Fish mansion), or the Vanderbilt Mansion, are maintained by preservation groups or the National Park Service.