Not so Long Ago: Some tidbits from railroading magazines of the 1940's which seem so strange and out-of-place now.

train magazine picture
What's In this Section?
Have a question on railroad history? Included in this section are numerous links to outstanding railroad WebSites. Also a good source to find railroad names.

Have some old railroad stocks/bonds or an old railroad lantern? Our collectors section gives you links to the best places to buy and sell.

Want to buy an old railroad timetable? We have dealers here.

Interested in railroad accidents? See our wrecks section

Have an interest in railway signals? See our signal section.

Find railroad names

Locating old railroad workers

Railroad Postcards

Other Interesting Sites

Let's Suppose: A fictional plan (by Ken Kinlock at for mass transit in the Albany, New York area

This WebPage is maintained for historical articles only.
For an up-to-date listing of North American Commuter Rail and Transit Systems, please visit our TRANSIT WebPage

UP Big Boy at Chicago Rail Fair
Chicago Rail Fair of 1948-1949. We have searched out tons of information available on this memorable event. Most of the railroads in the United States were represented, or exhibited. Union Pacific's Big Boy locomotive was one of the most popular exhibits. At this time, Chicago was the Rail Capital of the U.S.
See KC Jones BLOG about Railroad History
KC Jones


Postcards are a great way to view history. We have lots on our WebSite, but check out a great source of more postcards.

Link to railroad photography: View of the Blue and links to several railroad sites.
Postcard Preview
Corsica Ferry

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GE Rail Services GE Rail Services maintains an excellent glossary of railroad terminology.
Interested in Association of American Railroads reporting marks? The first reporting mark for the General Electric Company was "GEX", assigned in 1938.
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In number of years, the late 1940's were not so long ago; but in respect to the changes in railroading, they are quite distant.

In the summer of 1948, a railfan could pick and choose from a multitude of events, few of which are possible today. For $6.75, a special milk train trip ran from New York to Scranton, Pennsylvania on the New York, Ontario & Western. It left Weehawken at 8:00 am and arrived in Scranton at 8:00 pm. The trip from Cadosia to Scranton was on a combine "rider" (an old wooden jalopy). In 1987, milk trains are gone, the NYO&W is gone, combines are gone and $6.75 would barely get you an hour from Weehawken (if passengers still left from there).

The next day, a chartered bus (cost $1.75) let you visit the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western shops at Scranton, the Delaware & Hudson roundhouse at Carbondale and the Erie shops at Avoca (car shop and engine terminal). All you had to do was be at the Hotel Casey in Scranton at 8:00 am with your $1.75. How much would YOU pay to see this today??? As well as five steam railroads, Scranton boasted the electric Lackawanna & Wyoming Valley Railroad. Known as the "Laurel Line", it offered an interesting side trip to Wilkes-Barre.

If you were in Boston that weekend and had to miss the Scranton trip, all was not lost. There was an unusual train ride on the New York, New Haven & Hartford. Leaving South Street Station at 9:30 am, you would travel via Needham Junction, Medfield Junction, Walpole, Cedar, Valley Falls, Providence and Worcester. You would see both the southbound and northbound "East Wind". You could visit the South Worcester enginehouse. Return was via Blackstone, Franklin, Readville and Dorchester freight branch by 5:30 pm. The cost of $3.85 looks like a decimal point was misplaced.

A few weeks later, Erie fans could fork over $4.75 at Jersey City and ride 236 miles in one day. They would cover the Graham Line, Moodina Viaduct (over and under), Port Jervis enginehouse and the Newburgh Branch to the Hudson River.

A Fall foliage trip to the Berkshires and Hoosac Tunnel left Boston's North Station and turned at Mechanicville. Tours of both the D&H and B&M roundhouses were available. 380 miles of scenic travel cost only $5.00.

How about a five hour tour of Grand Central on a special gondola car trip limited to 50 persons? There was an opportunity to see a New Haven streamliner inside, outside and underneath. Four towers (A, B, F and MO) were included. You could see GCT equipment, including an all-electric wrecker.

Long Island buffs could go on a circle trip from Penn Station in modern air-conditioned double-decked cars. Some of the points covered were the "seagoing" Jamaica Bay line and the Morris Park Locomotive shop.

Interested in the New Haven? How about a 250-mile trip from New Haven over the freight-only Maybrook route? Trip included Poughkeepsie Bridge crossing and a tour of the classification yards at Maybrook.

There were special events for juice fans. A New York City "Triboro Trolley Tour" departed Park Row and Brooklyn Bridge on a "modern, streamlined PCC car". After visits to the Fresh Pond and Box Street depots, you ended up in Long Island City.

A New York Central-New Haven tour used New Haven open-end M-U cars over the Port Morris Branch and New York Connecting (freight line). Stops were scheduled at Van Nest Shop (home of NH electric power and a few tea kettles), Oak Point and Harlem River freight terminals. Your $2.25 cost even included a photo stop atop the Hell Gate Bridge.

If you didn't want to take part in an organized railfan activity, there were many other "regular" trains that can no longer be found. How about a trip to the Adirondacks? Trains ran daily to Lake Placid from New York City. The consist included a diner and sleepers and was hauled by oil burners (4-6-2 Pacifics). How about something really unique? Stay on the train at Lake Clear Junction (where the branch to Lake Placid on ex-D&H trackage began) and end up in Malone. The line even continued to Montreal. From Syracuse, there were trains to Massena. Trains from Utica went to the Thousand Islands. The branch from Rome to the Syracuse-Watertown line still ran.

Want to go to New York City from Albany? No, I don't mean the Hudson Division which still exists under Amtrak. You could try something easy like the West Shore Division or get a little more involved. How about the D&H to Binghamton and try for a connection with the DL&W, Erie or Lehigh Valley? Graceful and fast Delaware & Hudson ten-wheelers covered 142 miles in just under five hours. Another alternative was to take the Boston & Albany. You could change for New York City at Chatham, West Stockbridge or Springfield.

Boston & Maine did not have the traffic from Boston that the Boston & Albany had because nobody wanted to change trains at Troy, but they did offer four daily-except-Sunday trains, two Sunday-only schedules, and the daily 4-1/2 hour "Minute Man".

Even mainline railroading offered experiences no longer possible. Coach fare, including reserved seat, use of lounge cars and diner, on the "Pacemaker" was only $34.60 round trip to Chicago from New York. At the end of 1947, 2855 railroad passenger cars were on order. Of these, 366 were for New York Central, 290 for Pennsylvania and 200 for New Haven. New York Central's Niagara 4-8-4 locomotives were exceeding 25,000 miles/month as a result of being used on long, fast through runs.

Since some of this material came from Trains magazines from the 1940's, I would like to be able to take advantage of one final advertisement - a lifetime subscription for $50!

By Ken Kinlock at
1937 Fan Trip Brochure

See our poster and brochure about a fan trip on the New Haven RR in 1937. It ran from NY City to Bridgeport, Danbury, Poughkeepsie, Maybrook, and Campbell Hall to Warwick NY. The brochure contains a description of the route including the big bridge in Pok plus a map. The fare was $3.50 round trip.

How much would you pay to ride that trip today ?


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Since 1950 Over fifty years ago, Merle Armitage published a book called "The Railroads of America".
In it, he listed the major railroads of the time.
I took his list and tried to see where they all went.
I also compared to a 1980 source of Class 1 railroads.
Note:"Conrail" is listed as the final disposition because of the added complexity of integrating the final disposition of Conrail.
Click on picture below to see.
The Charleston & Western Carolina Railroad

Typical of railroads around in 1950 but gone in half a century was the C&WC.

The Charleston & Western Carolina Railroad was merged into the Atlantic Coast Line System after 1959. This GP-7 was painted in the ACL's scheme of Purple/silver but was lettered for the C&WC instead of ACL. When the ACL began repainting their units in the black/yellow stripe scheme the CN&L units were also repainted and renumbered.
For more details refer to the Book "ACL-the Diesel Years" by W. Calloway.
For more on Southeastern US railrtoads, visit

Several years ago I wrote a story on the major railroads of 1950 and what happened to them.

Now I am following up with a closer examination of the New York Central Railroad. This railroad only lasted until 1968 when it merged into Penn Central.

But, what was the NY Central Railroad like in 1950?

You will also be interested in "What if the Penn Central Merger Did Not Happen"

OK, how do we start to understand railroad history?

train shows and exhibitions in your area. Now, some good reading for you. Try "The way it was in 1935". You will enjoy ; Railroad Timeline; Timetable of Railroad Streamliners; and Milestones in U.S. Public Transportation History.

Federal agency websites and information resources on transportation and National Archives on-line Exhibits .

Many universities, railroads and other organizations have created sole great WebSites. A few are/ A Trip through Railroad History and into the future; Development of Railroads; "Magic Windows" Mailer (1953); Brief History of the U.S. Passenger Rail Industry and its advertising; Railroad Heralds.

Finally The Railroad Film Festival; Railroad pictures from Life Magazine; and Niagara Railroad Museum

Railroad reporting marks (codes).

View more than 57,000 historic videos and 7 million photos for FREE in one of the world's largest collections of royalty-free archival stock footage. Contains LOTS of railroad material.

Everett L. DeGolyer, Jr. (1923-1977) was drawn to all forms of transportation, but railroads were his passion. As a result, he built one of the most comprehensive railroad photograph and manuscript collections in the United States, now held by SMU's DeGolyer Library. Mr. DeGolyer’s personal collection, the Everett L. DeGolyer, Jr. Collection of United States Photographs, contains some 15,000 photographs and thousands of negatives of railroads arranged by railroad line.

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affiliate_link For a great historical timeline on the history of railroads, see the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Revolution to Reconstruction
The Iron Horse: the impact of the railroads on 19th century American society.
By Marieke van Ophem

The National Academy of Railroad Sciences (NARS) is a recognized leader in the preparation, certification and continuing education of railroad professionals across the United States:

National Transportation Statistics 2005
Railroad Marking Mysteries Railroad Names Database

Railroad Nicknames Sorted by Nickname

The Erie Limited
Railroad Timetables and other Publications
For the best source of railroad timetables.
Carl Loucks
P.O. Box 484
North Haven, CT 06473
(No WebSite available)
U.S. Railroad Track Mileage by Year
U.S. Railroad Track Mileage by Year
If you collect railroad timetables, please check out this website:
We focus on employee TT's but have some passenger TT's also. Thanks!! Your one stop web site for railroad employee timetables High quality original-issue railroad employee timetables for sale from many different railroads and time periods. Vintage to more recent.

Other Interesting Sites

My-Train Travels.Org

Searching for photographs on the Library of Congress

See more about Chicago train stations

Railroads that served Washington DC in 1950

Tahawus: Railroad to a Mine, Does it have a Future?
Brief history of a railroad to a mine in the middle of New York State's Adirondack Park. Part of the railroad (Saratoga Springs to North Creek) is a tourist line with dinner trains and ski trains.
Will the last section to the mine come back to life?

TrainWeb Weekly Updates

Railroad history

Our favorite Short Lines

Interesting Railway Stations

Railroad Accidents

Current collection of recent railroad accidents from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Some older railroad accidents from the US Department of Transportation Library.
The Wiki has some good information on railroad accidents.
The University of Connecticut has an extensive Railroad Collection with a great deal of information on railroad accidents in New England.
On November 22, 1950, 79 died when one Long Island Railroad commuter train crashed into rear of another.
Accidents on the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad
Accidents in Train Wrecks & Accidents, Trolley, Subway & Interurban Wrecks
Accidents on Circus Trains
Accident on New York Central in Little Falls (Gulf Curve).
Find a Railroad Accident Lawyer.
There is even a list of Politicians Killed in Railroad and Streetcar Accidents.
July 12 1911 The Federal Express of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, carrying the St. Louis Cardinals to Boston, plunges down an 18-foot embankment outside Bridgeport, CT, killing 14 passengers. The team's Pullmans were originally just behind the baggage coaches near the front. When noise prevented the players from sleeping, manager Bresnahan requested the car be changed. The day coach that replaced the players' car was crushed and splintered. The players help remove bodies and rescue the injured, then board a special train to Boston, where the day's game is postponed. The railroad pays each player $25 for his rescue work and for lost belongings.

Locating Old Railroad Workers

The best source of information about former railroad workers is the US Government's Railroad Retirement Board. They track all rail workers after 1935.

There isn't really any other definitive source and most active railroads and railroad historical societies will direct you here.

BUT, You might get lucky and find something on a genealogy site like, but we can't really recommend anything definitive.

Might also try asking on a specific railroad forum: for New York Central employees; for New Haven employees;
Cyndi's List Genealogy affiliate_link

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Railroad Attractions (map)
USGS map layer information on railroads
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Key, Lock & Lantern Scripophily old stocks and bonds
Cox Rail

Sources of railroad and railroad-related company names

Railroad Commissary old stocks and bonds Certificate Collector Lantern & Globe Surveys: A&W "The Adams" Lanterns
Known markings of "The Adams" railroad lanterns manufactured by the Adams & Westlake Company .
Steam Whistles
We make new Steam Whistles from steel, cast iron, bronze and stainless steel.
All whistles are proudly made in the USA on an order to order basis. Call for pricing, shipping costs, and delivery estimates.
Railway Signals
Railway Signals The railroad signal site

Railroad signals of the US

Some facts and stories about early railway signals

Railways: history, signalling & engineering

Different signal systems used around the world the ultimate source.
Champion Stamp old stocks and bonds

Albany Picture

Let's Suppose: A fictional plan (by Ken Kinlock) for mass transit in the Albany, New York area

Albany Picture
Although I primarily write non-fiction (even though some readers may have discovered some factual inaccuracies in my work), I sometimes feel the urge to delve into the world of the unreal.

Let's suppose I was appointed director of the Capital District Transportation Authority and had an unlimited (within reason) budget. I suppose that being a railfan and not a bus fan would severely prejudice my thinking. But let's continue to let the busses do the job they are now doing and build a rail commuter network in addition!

Even though my funds are "unlimited", I would plan to build on the existing rail network wherever possible. I'll make Rensselaer the center of my system and start by instituting frequent rail service to Hudson and Amsterdam. By close coordination and cooperation with AMTRAK (another literary license like having an unlimited budget), running on the same route as AMTRAK would actually increase their traffic to New York and Buffalo in the process. By adding station stops at Castleton, Colonie (near the former AMTRAK station), Rotterdam (at the West Shore connector), and Scotia (at the former New York Central Sunnyside Road yard); I would serve as a feeder to AMTRAK. Obviously, some double-tracking of existing lines would be required to handle an increased volume of traffic.

I would add service to Chatham (over Post Road Connection) with at least two intermediate stops for "park and rides".

I would add service to Clifton Park and Saratoga. This service would proceed North to Troy, cross the river and go through Green Island and Cohoes over abandoned or little-used D&H right-of-way. A new bridge south of the Congress Street bridge in Troy would be required as well as elimination of many grade crossings (using overpasses or underpasses). In the future, a light-rail line might be constructed through Troy connecting to this line and following the abandoned B&M roadbed to North Troy. From Waterford, I would use the D&H tracks to Mechanicville and rebuild on the abandoned right-of-way to Saratoga. Between Northway exits 11 and 12 would be an ideal location for a large park and ride station. This station would be accessible from either exit 11 or 12 and have ample parking.

Now that all kinds of service is available to Rensselaer, what will I do with my riders who want to go into downtown (or uptown) Albany? How about a subway? It sounds dream world and technically difficult but what better a way to provide quick, efficient service to a growing and crowded metropolis? The technical drawback is that starting in Rensselaer, my subway must already be at sufficient depth to cross under the river. Once crossing the river, it must climb rapidly as the elevation of the terrain rises. I would design it to loop through downtown Albany and stop at:
1. new Norstar Bank headquarters;
2. new civic center; and
3. the Empire State Plaza.

Once I have solved all these extremely difficult technical problems (including an obviously very deep station under the Empire State Plaza) it would be silly to stop here. Why not continue down Madison and Western Avenue? Construction at this point could be simply "cut and fill". I would continue past the State Office Campus to Crossgates Mall with intermediate stops at the State University and Stuyvesant Plaza. At Crossgates Mall, the subway could continue above ground into the populated areas of Guilderland. Since I need a connection with the existing rail system, I would plan to climb above-ground at some point on the Post Road Connection. This would present an interesting option of electrifying trackage as far as Chatham and being able to run through without a train change.

Other area I would consider for expansion would be a line to Cobleskill (using D&H trackage) and to Catskill (double tracking the CONRAIL River Line). These lines could terminate in downtown Albany and passengers could transfer to the subway at the Norstar Bank headquarters.

Utilizing both electric and diesel push-pull equipment, I would need a maintenance facility adjacent to the electrified trackage south of Rensselaer. Many options exist for both diesel and electric equipment. I would recommend state-of-the-art equipment already running in other cities. (We already are doing enough pioneering without debugging new equipment!)

A spur could be built from the Albany-Schenectady trackage to the Albany County Airport. This line would serve Wolf Road and could operate either as a shuttle or with through trains to Albany and Schenectady. Because of the built-up area, this line would have to operate either elevated or in a deep cut.

I would use AMTRAK stations where possible and improve the Albany/Rensselaer station with crossover pedestrian bridges and high level platforms (wouldn't it be nice to unload a crowded AMTRAK train from New York by all doors instead of only two?)

The proposed 220-mile system would consist of:

· Share existing rail lines:
· Albany to Cobleskill (45 miles)
· Rensselaer to Troy (6 miles)
· Green Island/Cohoes to Mechanicville (12 miles)
· Ballston Spa to Saratoga (7 miles)
· Rensselaer to West Albany (3 miles)
· Rensselaer to Hudson (28 miles)

· Double track existing rail lines:
· Albany to Catskill (32 miles)
· West Albany to Amsterdam (30 miles)

· Electrify existing rail:
· Rensselaer to Chatham (22 miles)

· Subway to be constructed (tunnel):
· Rensselaer to midtown Albany (3 miles)

· Subway to be constructed (cut and fill):
· Midtown Albany to Crossgates Mall (3 miles)

· New above-ground electrified:
· Crossgates Mall to Guilderland (3 miles)

Troy to Lansingburg (light rail) (5 miles)

New non-electric construction:
Albany/Schenectady to airport (3 miles)
Troy to Cohoes (5 miles)
Mechanicville to Ballston Spa (13 miles)

The population density of the Capital District is increasing and I have targeted the growth areas for service, but at what point could this expenditure be justified? Much more research must be done before this, or any other, suggestion could begin to be considered. As well as cost, such subjects as running times between stations, rail times versus auto times, load factors, train densities, parking, construction times, etc must be fully investigated.

Is it realistic to believe we could justify these costs?

By Ken Kinlock at

Another Fantasy

Let's suppose I was appointed director of the Capital District Transportation Authority and had an unlimited (within reason) budget. I suppose that being a railfan and not a bus fan would severely prejudice my thinking. But let's continue to let the busses do the job they are now doing and build a rail commuter network in addition!

More Fantasy

The building pictured here used to be the power station for an interurban that ran between Albany and Schenectady. Imagine if we still had it today! Route 5 was just a double lane and the interurban had a private right-of-way. Could have added two more lanes on the other side of the tracks and have the interurban run down the median. But then: the Albany and Schenectady local systems went away!

Have been lots of tenants in the building after the interurban closed. Radio Station even made an postcard to advertise themselves.
Speaking of Radio Stations, we have a great WebSite about General Electric Company Radio Station WGY in nearby Schenectady. We expect to add some early television soon.
Albany Union Station

Albany Union Station

State Education Building, Albany

State Education Building, Albany

Schenectady NY Central Station

Schenectady NY Central Station

"Not So Long Ago" was published in November 1987
in the CALLBOARD of the Mohawk and Hudson Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.
"Let's Suppose" was published November 1986 in the CALLBOARD. has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.

Here's some interesting questions and answers:

How many miles of railroad are there in the United States?

There were 233,670 miles of railroad in the United States at the beginning of 1941.

Railroads On The Rebound

Over the last 50+ years, railroads have changed a lot. Now they are about to change again.

It is all about a combination of economic factors and climate factors.

Since 1950 , railroads have consolidated. Freight moved from a "box car mentality" to a "unit train,mentality". Passenger went from a robust business to a "caretaker" arrangement called AMTRAK. This happened as everybody could drive for free on the Interstate Highway System or fly on an airline system where the government subsidized both airlines and airports. In the meantime, railroad express and railroad post offices went "down the tubes". The old Post Office Department and the Railway Express Agency could not adjust to the new way. UPS and Fex Ex could.
Carbon Calculator
What's the most environmentally-friendly way to transport goods? The answer is freight rail. The EPA estimates that every ton-mile of freight that moves by rail instead of by highway reduces greenhouse emissions by two-thirds. But what does that really mean? Our easy-to-use carbon calculator will estimate the amount of carbon dioxide that can be prevented from entering our environment just by using freight rail instead of trucks. We'll even tell you how many seedlings you'd need to plant to have the same effect.
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All the great train stations of the New York Central System.

All the great train stations of the New York Central System.

Grand Central Terminal, Buffalo Central Terminal, Utica Union Station, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Harmon, Beacon, Oneonta, Saranac Lake, Malone, and others. Even some not owned by NY Central but a destination for Central trains: like Montreal
Penn Central New Haven Railroad New York Central Railroad

Interested in Penn Central? New York Central? Pennsylvania Railroad? New Haven Railroad? or in the smaller Eastern US railroads? Then you will be interested in "What if the Penn Central Merger Did Not Happen". You will also enjoy "Could George Alpert have saved the New Haven?" as well as "What if the New Haven never merged with Penn Central?"

milk train

Once upon a time, milk trains were important

New York Central Milk Business
Creamery in South Columbia, New York
There were two basic types of milk trains – the very slow all-stops local that picked up milk cans from rural platforms and delivered them to a local creamery, and those that moved consolidated carloads from these creameries to big city bottling plants. Individual cars sometimes moved on lesser trains. These were dedicated trains of purpose-built cars carrying milk. Early on, all milk was shipped in cans, which lead to specialized "can cars" with larger side doors to facilitate loading and unloading (some roads just used baggage cars). In later years, bulk carriers with glass-lined tanks were used. Speed was the key to preventing spoilage, so milk cars were set up for high speed service, featuring the same types of trucks, brakes, communication & steam lines as found on passenger cars.


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