The "statue" is railroad giant Cornelius Vanderbilt, who in 1869 tried unsuccessfully to assume control of James Fisk's Erie Railroad by buying out its stock. Here he stands, like the Colossus of Rhodes, at the crossroads of the New York Central and the Hudson River Railroads both of which he owned. He sprays the tracks with a hose marked "270" which is attached to a hydrant. He also holds a whip and the reins of a horse. A steamship in the background symbolizes his commercial shipping interests.
At left a diminutive Fisk waters his own line, the Erie, using a bucket and hand-powered pump while eyeing his competitor enviously.