In our hearts and prayers - the victims of September 11th....
The first predecessor company I've found is the NY&Bulls Ferry RR Co., formed in 1861. It built no road. Over the next 12 years, there were several other tries, but the first to succeed was the Jersey City & Albany, which constructed 13 miles from Ridgefield Jct. to Tappan. This was later joined to the Rockland County RR, the Saratoga & Athens, and ,of course, the NYO&W. (There are approx. 10 other minor companies that came and went prior to the O&W/NYWS&B alliance. Upstate, the Syracuse & Chenango Valley (1868-taken over by the NYC and assigned to the WS in 1891) became a WS branch from Syracuse to Earlville. A company, the WS & International Bridge Co. was formed in 1882 to take the WS beyond Buffalo to International Bridge. That went nowhere, as the NYC had its own route. There were also alliances with the Boston, Hoosac Tunnel & Western, to try and handle Boston traffic westward; the Ulster & Delaware, and the Walkill Valley RR (both out of Kingston). Shortly after the NYC takeover, the National Jct. Ry. was added, giving the WS a connection to the PRR in Jersey City.
The actual NYWS&B was chartered in February 1880. The road opened its first segment (Jersey City/PRR terminal to Newburgh on June 4,1883, and opened officially to Buffalo on Jan.1,1884. The very same month, it went into receivership, and bought at bankruptcy by the NYC&HRR in September 1885. It remained controlled as a separate corporation until 1952, where it merged in to the New York Central System.
From that point on, commuter and Catskill Mountains summer travel rose and fell over the decades, through trains to Chicago and St. Louis originated in Weehawken, NJ until the 1920's; and the line became a freight overflow line for the NYC west of Albany.
The 1950's saw the steady demise of Weehawken passenger service to Albany. Albany service ended in the summer of 1958, ferry service at the end of March 1959, and the last commuter trains ran on December 10, 1959.
Over the succeeding decades many attempts to restore commuter serve have come and gone; the line is almost totally single track, and is now a main Conrail/CSX freight artery. Even to this day, rumors persist about the resumption of passenger service.
Named Trains on the West Shore:
The New York and West Shore : 1861-1952
Courtesy Kevin Cunningham