IT was a happy thought to build the Hudson river railroad right along the shore. The grade is already made by nature; you are sure of ventilation one sideand you are in nobodys way. I see, hear, the locomotives and cars, rumbling, roaring, flaming, smoking, constantly, away off there, night and dayless than a mile distant, and in full view by day. I like both sight and sound. Express trains thunder and lighten along; of freight trains, most of them very long, there cannot be less than a hundred a day. At night far down you see the headlight approaching, coming steadily on like a meteor. The river at night has its special character-beauties. The shad fishermen go forth in their boats and pay out their netsone sitting forward, rowing, and one standing up aft dropping it properlymarking the line with little floats bearing candles, conveying, as they glide over the water, an indescribable sentiment and doubled brightness. I like to watch the tows at night, too, with their twinkling lamps, and hear the husky panting of the steamers; or catch the sloops and schooners shadowy forms, like phantoms, white, silent, indefinite, out there. Then the Hudson of a clear moonlight night.
But there is one sight the very grandest. Sometimes in the fiercest driving storm of wind, rain, hail or snow, a great eagle will appear over the river, now soaring with steady and now overhended wingsalways confronting the gale, or perhaps cleaving into, or at times literally sitting upon it. It is like reading some first-class natural tragedy or epic, or hearing martial trumpets. The splendid bird enjoys the hubbubis adjusted and equal to itfinishes it so artistically. His pinions just oscillatingthe position of his head and neckhis resistless, occasionally varied flightnow a swirl, now an upward movementthe black clouds drivingthe angry wash belowthe hiss of rain, the winds piping (perhaps the ice colliding, grunting)he tacking or jibingnow, as it were, for a change, abandoning himself to the gale, moving with it with such velocityand now, resuming control, he comes up against it, lord of the situation and the stormlord, amid it, of power and savage joy.
Sometimes (as at present writing,) middle of sunny afternoon, the old Vanderbilt steamer stalking aheadI plainly hear her rhythmic, slushing paddlesdrawing by long hawsers an immense and varied following string, (an old sow and pigs, the river folks call it.) First comes a big barge, with a house built on it, and spars towering over the roof; then canal boats, a lengthend, clustering train, fastend and linkd togetherthe one in the middle, with high staff, flaunting a broad and gaudy flagothers with the almost invariable lines of new-washd clothes, drying; two sloops and a schooner aside the towlittle wind, and that adversewith three long, dark, empty barges bringing up the rear. People are on the boats: men lounging, women in sun-bonnets, children, stovepipes with streaming smoke.