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New York Central Lines Magazine

A most interesting period in the history of the New York Central was the period from US Railway Administration (USRA) control during the First World War until the mid Nineteen Twenties. This period is well chronicled in the "New York Central Lines" magazine.

During this period, many of the employees who had shared in and contributed to the early growth of the system were still present. For instance, Albert Stone, the railroad's oldest employee, was still busy at his desk in passenger accounting. He had been hired by Commodore Vanderbilt as a result of loosing a leg in a horse car accident and worked faithfully into his eighties, putting in over 70 years service.

William L. Davis retired after being chief ticket taker at Grand Central for 28 years and John O'Sullivan retired after being station agent at Potsdam, NY for 50 years. Martin Ryan, the first engineman on the "20th Century" in 1902, died after 45 years of service. Other deaths in this period were William K. Vanderbilt (his sons William and Harold would continue to play a part in the New York Central); Grant Johnson, the head of the telegraph school in Utica; A.T. Hardin; the Vice President of Operations; and Director William Rockefeller.

Throughout this period, the Chairman of the Board of Directors was Chauncey Depew. He had 56 years of service on his eighty-eighth birthday in 1922 and still came into his office in the Grand Central Office Building. His advice to employees was to "have a hobby not a fad".

The magazine contained articles by veterans such as W.I. Boyle who described the building of the famous locomotive "999" at West Albany. Dr. Plimmon H. Dudley, the railroad's expert on rail metallurgy, would also accurately predict the weather. He was considered the "scientist of rails". He died in 1924 at age 81. He had joined the New York Central in 1880 and had lived in the Hotel Commodore since it was built.

Historical topics were well covered in the magazine. For instance, horse cars on the Harlem & Hudson; the 1893 "Exposition Flyer"; and Albany terminals. Any movement of either locomotive "999" or the "Dewitt Clinton" was a newsworthy event. For instance, in 1920, the "Dewitt Clinton" was displayed in Grand Central. Normally, it was stored at Karner, near West Albany. It was taken on a flat car down the West Side Freight Line to 30th Street and then trucked over to Grand Central. I assume it was brought into Grand Central Terminal via the taxi driveway under the Biltmore Hotel (like four elephants in 1921 who had to be brought from New York to Boston). One article by a veteran of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburgh told of the building of the 1861 branch between Dekalb and Ogdensburg; the rivalry with the Utica and Black River; and the 1892 purchase by the New York Central. Another told of railroading 50 years ago on the "Peanut" Branch. The Canandaigua & Niagara Falls was a broad-gauge line.

There were many fascinating articles on the jobs which various employees carried out. For instance, the "trouble trio" of Grand Central were three ticket takers who worked outside their cages and helped solve problems on the floor. The employees who manned the information booth at Grand Central as well as the six phone operators and their chief were described. A 1924 conference in Cleveland of Company surgeons included Dr. E. McDonald Stanton of Schenectady and Dr. E.A. VanderVeer of Albany. There was a story on the three signal directors at MO Tower (Mott Haven) and one on the stenographer on the "20th Century Limited". Several articles described the Red Caps at Grand Central. Many were college graduates. By the 1920's, there were 467 Red Caps-all African-Americans. The force had been all-White in 1900. The Company was proud of the World War 1 record of several. A 1921 article described P.J. Shay, the heroic Grand Central police officer who had foiled a robbery of a New Haven cashier. Even specialized jobs such as a workaday ride on a marine department tugboat were included.

Technological improvements of the day were always well described. The Grand Central signal stations were such an interesting subject that a film was made about them and shown in theaters. "Q" telegraph office in New York was the wire communications center for 13,000 miles of railroad. An experimental freight accounting system was initiated at Utica and was extended system-wide. Locomotive "boosters" to increase traction power were a New York Central invention. The electric baggage trucks in use at Grand Central were a big deal in their day. There were 51 in use by 1921. They weighed 3000 lbs. and could carry 4000 lbs. One of them had 17,000 miles on it. They could go 4-6 mph and get about 15 miles on a battery charge. Even the advent of loud speaking phones to replace telegraphs were covered. The Shay-geared engines on New York's West Side were important because their quiet sound did not spook the horse that "guided" the train down city streets. The big news in 1924 was that "20th Century" passengers were able to listen to the election results via such historic radio stations as WEAF, WGY and KDKA.

Articles taken from other railroads were also included. For instance, there was a D&H Bulletin story on employee passes. It cautioned employees to give seats to paying customers.

Advertisements in the magazine were numerous and interesting. Every issue contained ads for the Bowman Hotels on Pershing Square (Belmont; Biltmore; Commodore and proposed Murray Hill). The Commodore (the Grand Hyatt is there now) offered 2000 rooms and 2000 baths with circulating ice water in the rooms. Many businesses still in existence advertised: Cushing Stone Co. (Schenectady and South Amsterdam); and the New York State National Bank of Albany (later State Bank of Albany now Norstar Bank). Others are not: First National Bank of Utica; Union News Company; and Albany Hardware and Iron Co. (39-43 State Street). The Johns-Manville Co. of New York advertised that "asbestos saves in the home". The Utica Uniform Company sold its "UTUNCO" uniforms "within sight of the station". GRS Products of Albany (a subsidiary of General Railway Signal Co.) advertised the "best clothes washer built". Another faithful advertiser was the Crow Hollow Coal Co. Spring featured ads on where to spend the summer. Perhaps the Adirondack Inn at Sacandaga or the Hotel Westminister at Alexandria Bay?

Of interest to me was how the railroad was paid. By 1920, there were 20,000 employees paid by check. In that year, William Ingraham replaced John L. Burdett as railroad paymaster. Ingraham retired in 1931 with 41 years service. At one time, Burdett supervised seven pay cars.

Plant additions received excellent coverage in the magazine, from a 1919 Cleveland freight house to a new engine terminal at Solvay (Syracuse). In this era, a new Cleveland Union Terminal, complete with electrification, was announced. The Michigan Central bridge at Niagara Gorge was built. This was actually owned by the Canadian Southern Railway Company (The New York Central's Canadian affiliate). Although not a rail bridge, the Bear Mountain Bridge was built over the Hudson and River Divisions by the Terry & Tench Co., a Grand Central Office Building tenant. One of the biggest projects of this era was the Castleton Cutoff which would replace the grades and drawbridge at Albany with a high-level river crossing several miles south of Albany.

The Castleton Cutoff was not only a bridge (later named the A.H. Smith Memorial Bridge) but included the new yard at Selkirk which eventually replaced West Albany in importance. In 1924, A.H. Smith, the president of the New York Central, predicted a greater Albany. He expected Albany to grow to the Castleton Bridge. The bridge cost $25,000,000 and is 135 feet above the river. It consists of a 600 foot span and a 400 foot span. The bridge contains 23,000 tons of steel and 52,000 yards of concrete. The bridge, and 28 miles of track owned by affiliate Hudson River Connecting Railroad, connected the Boston & Albany, Hudson Division and West Shore (River Division) with the Mohawk Division. The new yard at Selkirk had 250 miles of track connected by 430 switches and served by 2 roundhouses. The opening ceremonies were attended by a large crowd including the Van Sweringen brothers who owned the Nickel Plate, W.H. Truesdale of the Lackawanna. William K. and Harold Vanderbilt, Mayor Hackett of Albany and New York Lt. Governor Lunn.

By Ken Kinlock at

In 1950, NY Central's stockholders held their annual meeting in Albany at the Hotel Ten Eyck. To encourage more holders to attend, a special train was run from New York to Albany, N. Y. (site of the meeting as fixed by the company's charter). Stockholders, wives, husbands, and children (families were invited). Some of the directors and chairman Harold Vanderbilt are shown in photo. (Photo clipped from the Utica Observer-Dispatch)
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Bannerman Island and Castle; Hudson River; on the New York Central Railroad

Bannerman Island and Castle; Hudson River; on the New York Central Railroad

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Tower A in Grand Central

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Freight car on barge in New York Harbor

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New York Central Lines Magazine

The period in the history of the New York Central from the middle of the Nineteen Twenties until the Great Depression was one of great change. This period can be seen in depth in the "New York Central Lines" magazine (of which the Mohawk & Hudson Chapter of the NRHS had an almost-complete collection).

During this period the "Southwestern Limited" began all-Pullman service to St. Louis. This service was advertised as "just like the 20th Century". Leaving New York at 4:45 p.m., it arrived in St. Louis at 5 p.m. the next day. Also initiated in this period was the "Northern New Yorker" to Massena. Its importance to the North Country was described by Professor R.C. Ellsworth of St. Lawrence University. In 1931, the time from New York City to Lake Placid was cut by 50 minutes.

The recently-opened Selkirk rail yard was the center of much attention. A railroad "Y" (YMCA) was built which had 113 rooms. The yard was lit by giant floodlights manufactured by General Electric. The 'centerfold' of one issue of the magazine was an air photo by Major Hamilton Maxwell.

Maxwell's air photos appeared on a regular basis and included: Grand Central; progress on the Castleton cutoff; Oswego; Lake Placid; the west side rail yards in New York; and the West Albany shops.

Many other interesting and now-historic photos appeared in the magazine, often accompanied by an article. The Schenectady, Troy and Albany stations, both old and new, were covered. The tugboat "Albany" is shown being placed in service. A late 1800's picture showed where the New York Central and New Haven crossed at Boston Corner, NY. There is a picture of the power plant which served West Albany from 1861 to 1906. Like any other employee-oriented magazine, group photos were popular. For instance, all the painters and steel fabricators at West Albany paused for a photograph in 1931. Also included were important people such as Company officers or Charles H. Hogan, famous for setting a speed record on the "Empire State Express" who by the 1920's had become manager of shop labor at Buffalo. Another favorite topic was "where steam meets electric" at Harmon.

This was the era of the gas cars designed to replace steam trains on branch lines. The New York Central purchased 7 Brill 175 h.p. cars which were used: Niagara Falls-Lockport; Lake Mahopac-Golden's Bridge on the Putnam; Batavia-Canandaigua; Lyons-Corning; Cape Vincent-Watertown on the St. Lawrence; Ogdensburg-Dekalb also on the St. Lawrence; and Keating-Irvona in the coal district. Later they were also used between Utica and Ravenna.

The new Cleveland Union Terminal opened. It had 22 electric locomotives so that steam did not have to enter the underground terminal which also served the Nickel Plate, Erie, B&O and Wheeling & Lake Erie. Many smaller stations such as Brewster opened during this period. $20 million was spent for the new Buffalo terminal. The Big Four Riverside Yards at Cincinnati were rebuilt.

The magazine contained some entertainment as well. There was a story almost every month written by George H. Wooding who was a towerman in Ghent, NY. It was labeled "a series of merry minglings of fact and fable, chiefly along the Harlem Division but just as interesting to the folks all along the main line".

One man who's name appeared constantly throughout the period was Gerard Van Tassell. He had been long-time Superintendent of the Harlem and Putnam Divisions and was appointed Assistant General Superintendent of the railroad in 1926. When the Putnam-Harlem baseball team defeated Albany, he was given a cup by his employees in appreciation of his leadership. He was highly regarded as a superintendent and many a man who might have otherwise been fired became a highly valued employee. He died in 1931.

Another name appearing frequently in the magazine was Lt. Col. Hiram W. Taylor ("Hi" Taylor). He was appointed Supervisor of Athletics in 1922. He had been a division paymaster and was known personally to most New York Central employees. He had served with honor in the First World War and remained a National Guard officer. His sports programs included a baseball "world series" pitting the Line East champions against the Line West champions with the winners being given a New York City harbor tour on a railroad tugboat or other similar trips. The Albany baseball league of 1930 contained six teams: car shop; locomotive shop; Mohawk Division; Albany Division; Rensselaer; and Selkirk. Taylor formed very competitive bowling leagues and golf matches. In 1925, Albany, the New York Central champions, played baseball against the Pennsylvania RR champions at the D&H field in Colonie before 10,000 spectators. A big activity of the day were sports smokers held by the various New York Central athletic associations. A typical smoker held in the West Albany YMCA featured four boxing bouts.

One article described a "typical" day at Grand Central Terminal: (1) A special train from Vassar College arrives just before a holiday. All the girls were greeted at the station or else found their destinations except for one who was helped by Traveler's Aid. (2) A political candidate is escorted through the terminal by the Stationmaster. (3) Several immigrants wait for their train, sitting quietly together eating dark bread. (4) A high school team is going off to play a championship game in Chicago and is sent away by a large crowd of students. (5) A group of convicts changing prisons is escorted uneventfully through the station in handcuffs. (6) Boy Scouts bound for a "jamboree" are met at the station by other scouts. (7) All the Red Caps in the station run to meet the "20th Century".

Equipment orders always received good coverage in the magazine. In 1925, the railroad placed an order with General Electric for seven "Q" class electric switchers and two "R" class electric freight locomotives. Alco built a new rotary snowplow for $50,000 for use on the St. Lawrence Division. In 1927, 25 new 2-8-4 locomotives were built by Lima for the Boston & Albany and 20 more were ordered. In 1928, gas/electric/battery locomotives were ordered for use on the West Side Freight Line as well as new cars for the "20th Century Limited". Freight electrics were used above 60th Street and the 3-power units below 60th Street. In 1929, six new dining cars for the "Century" were received. Their interiors were done in pastel colors, had new style chairs and lights, double windows and weighed 86 tons. A new oil-electric was also received and saw service on the Harlem.

Being an employee magazine, it contained articles of local interest to employees along the railroad as well as articles of interest to their families. There was a "woman's page" with sewing and cooking hints, a cartoon for the kids, and an idea for building a house. For instance, one article described an attractive cement house for a small family and offered copies of blueprints for a nominal amount. Camp Undercliff in Lake Placid was available to employees for $17-$25 per week. It was owned by the New York Central Veteran's Association. Projects for the welfare of employees such as a new seven room emergency hospital in West Albany were well covered. Also popular were such articles as how to build a radio amplifier.

The New York Central police force was always a topic of articles. Its first chief (Humphrey) retired in 1919 and had served with Teddy Roosevelt. The police were referred to as the men who see you without being seen.

As part of the West Side Improvement Project, St. John's Park Station was abandoned and the statue of Commodore Vanderbilt was moved to Grand Central. It is 17 feet high and shows the old gentleman in an overcoat without a hat.

During this period Daniel Brady died. He was the brother of "Diamond Jim" and worked for the New York Central between 1871 and 1880. He was the founder of Brady Brass. George A. Harwood died in 1926 at age 52. He was a Tufts graduate who began railroad service in 1900. In 1906 he was placed in charge of electric improvement and is credited with completing the construction of Grand Central that William Wilgus had started. Chauncey Depew died in 1928. He was a Yale graduate of 1856. He was buried in Peekskill. In his honor, the huge concourse of Grand Central Terminal was draped in mourning.

Railroad accomplishments and growth were, of course, given prominent coverage. The railroad's centennial in 1926 featured a parade of locomotives. Mayor Thatcher of Albany presented a plaque and there were celebrations in Schenectady. In the same year, the 75th anniversary of New York to Albany trains saw Dan Sullivan carrying messages between Mayor Thatcher and Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York. Each day the New York Central had $1,725,000 in receipts, $810,000 in wages and $111,000 in taxes. It carried 35,000 tons of coal and 231,000 passengers. New trainboards at Grand Central Terminal were installed in this period. In 1929, the New York Central and Chesapeake & Ohio jointly acquired the 29-mile Nicholas, Fayette & Greenbrier RR which served the Kanawha coal district of West Virginia. In that year, the "20th Century" ran in seven sections and carried 822 passengers Chicago to New York City as well as 64 to Boston. The Falls Road was double tracked between Rochester and Suspension Bridge with 105-lb. rail. Breakneck Tunnel near Garrison was enlarged. The Yonkers Branch was electrified in 1926 (only to be abandoned a few short years later). The "Empire State Express" was the fastest scheduled passenger run in the world. Reverse block signaling was introduced between Mott Haven and Grand Central. This advance allowed two trains to run where one did. In 1929, the railroad requested Federal Radio Commission permission to use 2-way radios on freights.

Unusual happenings along the railroad were the source of many articles. A waiter saved a man hanging on the outside of a train in Schenectady. He was late for the train and grabbed a door rail as it headed west from Schenectady station. The waiter pulled him inside just before he would have hit the Erie Boulevard bridge. In 1924 several gondola loads of snow were sent from Thendara on the Adirondack Division to Briarcliff for a ski show. In a switch from today, an engineer's widow received $50,000 from a trucker who ran into a train. One article covered the art gallery which was once in Grand Central as "the only art gallery in the world containing a railroad station". Another article described the magic tricks performed by Arthur French. In real life, he was a brakeman on the "Southwestern Limited". One large snowstorm required 200 locomotives to clean it up.
Railroad Station at Troy, New York

Railroad Station at Troy, New York

The station in Troy was owned by the Troy Union Rail Road. The TURR lasted from the mid 19th Century till the mid 20th Century. It was owned by the New York Central, Delaware & Hudson and Boston & Maine. Access from the South was from Rensselaer; from the West, via the Green Island Bridge; from the North was street running almost the entire length of Troy. See Penney's blog for more information (and a great movie from the 1950's).

The station consisted of 6 thru tracks and towers at each end.

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Welcome to our New York Central Lines WebSite

Here's a preview of some of the exciting projects we have put together for you:

Our feature articles are New York Central 1919-1925 and New York Central 1925-1931 .

We have a 1921 article from Transportation World and a story of "Health and Pleasure" from the 1890's.

You can follow the New York Central on Google Earth .

New York Central Pacemaker Service .

Read about Grand Central ownership and what made up the New York Central Railroad? .

Read about the Commodore Hotel , Chauncey Depew , New York Central Districts , and Ken Knapp, New York Central Paymaster .

Be sure to see "A Chronicle of R.W.& O. Days Since 1851" Contributed by Richard Palmer .

Find out what Dudley Rail is and see a great New York Central Advertisement .

We have a story on Michigan Central's Joliet Cutoff , See our reference section too.

See our 1964 Annual Meeting in Chicago; first Annual Meeting ever not held in Albany
General Electric advertisement in New York Central Railroad 4 Track News

General Electric advertisement in the New York Central Railroad "Four Track News". This issue was in 1904. Before the "New York Central Lines" magazine was the "Four Track News". See more about General Electric in Schenectady

Crossing a bridge

Crossing a bridge

Fast passenger

Fast passenger

Freight meets passenger

Freight meets passenger The Forum for Supply Chain Integration

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Today’s supply chain is more than simple transport of EDI documents. The complexity of maintaining compliance with trading partners, managing the ever increasing amount of data, and analyzing that data to drive constant improvement in processes and service take supply chain professionals far beyond the basics of mapping EDI documents.

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S Motor and P Motor at Glenmont

S Motor and T Motor at Glenmont

S Motor at Harmon

S-Motor at Harmon

r Motor

R-Motor at Harmon

New Haven Railroad arrivals board at Grand Central

New Haven Railroad arrivals board at Grand Central

T-Motor at Harmon

T-Motor at Harmon

Marine fleet in action

Marine fleet in action

 New York Central Locomotive 8255

New York Central Locomotive 8255

Tower A track chart at Grand Central

Tower A track chart at Grand Central

Notable New York Central golfer Eucalyptus

Notable New York Central Railroad golfer Primo "Euky" Eucalyptus. Euky "never quit his day job": he was a road brakeman. In the 1950's he made more $ than the average golf professional

. I had the honor of caddying for him (and Bob Timpany) several times.
New Haven train arrives at Track 42 in Grand Central

New Haven train arrives at Track 42 in Grand Central

New Haven train arrives at Grand Central

New Haven train arrives at Grand Central

Rail Yard in the days of steam

Rail Yard in the days of steam

New Haven's Jersey connection across the harbor

New Haven's Jersey connection across the harbor

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Tunnels and Bridges on the New York Central

Just south and well below the Bear Moutain Bridge there was a shanty that served as the winter watch shanty for the MofW or B&B employees that were responsible for checking the three tunnels between the Bear Mountian Bridge and Annsville. They were called Ft. Montgomery Tunnel, Middle Tunnel and Little Tunnel.

The Railroad stationed people there to deal with the ice hanging from the ceiling and building up on the floor of the tunnels. The NYC also used old hopper cars with an upright I beam from side to side on the car which would knock the ice off the ceiling and into the car.

There are two moveable bridges on the New York Central mainline near Chicago. CR (CR = Calumet River) is the vertical lift bridge located below the Chicago Skyway. The NYC and PRR bridges are both double track thru trusses. Built with identical plans. HC (or in Conrail speak HICK) is a bascule span (pivots vertically at one end) inside of the Indland Steel plant at Indiana Harbor (HC = Harbor Canal). The The EJ&E and B&O passenger lines also cross the canal on similar span.

The bridge over Trail Creek in Michigan City is a double track thru truss swing span. The bridge is currently remote operated by the Amtrak Dispatcher.

There was also a moveable bridge over the Illinois River at DePue Jct on the Kankakee Branch of the Western Division.

On the Toledo Division, there were moveable bridges over the Maumee and Portage Rivers, Sandusky Bay and an inlet on the Sandusky Pier. The Maumee River bridge is located in Toledo. The bridge is an ancient double track through truss swing span. The bridge over the Portage river is located near Port Clinton, Ohio (telegraph symbol CO). The bridge is a unique four track trunion bascule span. The interior two tracks are supported by a thru truss. The outside two tracks (no longer in service) were supported by thru girders. I would guess that the bridge at Port Clinton was built in the 1920s. The bridge over Sandusky Bay is Scherzer Rolling Lift Bascule span. The telegraph symbol for Sandusky was DB. The timetable indicates that there was a moveable span on the Sandusky Pier that was operated by the train crews.

On the Lake Division, the timetable shows four moveable bridges over the Cuyahoga in Cleveland. Bridge number 1 is a double track lift span located on the lake front. The span is a thru truss span. The telegraph symbol for this bridge was also DB (not a problem since it was on a different division). Bridge number 2 was on the Clark Avenue branch. I don't have any other information on this bridge. I also do not know anything about bridge number 4 or 6 which show that they were in the Flats. My timetable also shows CUT as a separate entity. I am unsure of how CUT crossed the Cuyahoga.

Also on the Lake Division is the bridge over the Ashtabula River at Ashtabula. This bridge was on the Youngstown Branch. It is a Strauss Trunnion Bascule span. The span itself is a double track thru truss.

See more about tunnels and bridges
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A 1921 article in "Transportation World" by Charles Frederick Carter provides the basis for this historical sketch of the New York Central.

In March and April of 1921, Charles Frederick Carter published an article on the New York Central in "Transportation World". Carter was noted for writing popular interpretations in books and magazines of the big statistical, technical and scientific facts of the transportation industry. His lifelong studies had given him a remarkable familiarity with all phases of transportation. Two of his books were "When Railroads Were New" and "Big Railroading". His 1921 article on the New York Central accomplished a literary feat in condensing into a few pages his exhaustive studies which would require many volumes to fully describe.

Mr. Carter in his survey and analysis is impressed mostly by the advantages of strategic position of the New York Central Lines in the territory of largest population and greatest industrial activity. He felt this position assured continuously increasing traffic and consequent prosperity of the system.

The 12,550 miles of the New York System were the cradle of inventions and the initial proving ground of many notable improvements in the progress of transportation. For instance, the first important change from steam to electric operation was installed. As with any other New York Central publicity of that era, prominent mention was made of Dr. Plimmon H. Dudley, inventor of "flawless rail". He had made a career of the study of steel and had invented a number of unique instruments for measuring rail stress and detecting inequalities.

The New York Central Lines of 1921 represented what were originally 315 separate companies. The New York Central Lines did not become known as the New York Central System until 1935. The principal component was the New York Central Railroad which represented 186 predecessor companies. Its main line between New York and Chicago was officially completed in 1914 when the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern was consolidated. The 6,075 main line and branch miles of the New York Central Railroad swelled to 12,550 by the leased, controlled and subsidiary lines.

Some of these lines were:

· Pittsburgh & Lake Erie

· Boston & Albany

· West Shore

· Michigan Central

· The Big Four (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway)

· Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo

Detroit was the headquarters of the Michigan Central Railroad until the line became part of the New York Central in 1930. The Michigan Central also included the Canadian Southern. The Michigan Central's Detroit River Tunnel was opened in 1910. It connected with Windsor, Ontario and was 8,390 feet long. The twin tubes were electrified until 1953.

The History of the Boston & Albany went back to the early 1830's. It was leased by the New York Central in 1900 and was finally absorbed into the New York Central System in 1961. Although it connected with the "Water Level Route", the B&A had some mountains to cross. The westbound ruling gradient is 1.63% while eastbound is 1.52%.

Some roads were fully consolidated into the New York Central Railroad but still seemed to hold a "corporate identity". One of these was the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh which was originally leased in 1891 and fully consolidated in 1913. Another was the West Shore. Some of what finally was known as the New York Central System had not yet been acquired in 1921. One example was the Ulster & Delaware.

The twelve states in which the system operated had 50.3% of the nation's population and turned out 64% of the manufactured goods. New York City handled 43 per cent of all the foreign commerce of the United States. The New York Central handled one-fourth of this over its own piers or on its fleet of 306 harbor craft. Boston and Montreal were two other leading seaports which were important to the New York Central.

The New York Central had a notable advantage by being the only railroad having freight tracks and terminals on Manhattan Island. The freight station at St. Johns Park was in the heart of the wholesale dry goods and grocery district. Other freight stations were at Thirty-third Street, Sixtieth Street and at One Hundred and Thirtieth Street. This line was, of course, available when weather conditions impeded navigation of New York Harbor. Plans for reconstruction of this line, not actually completed until 1934, were already made in 1921. In addition, the West Shore had terminals and wharves in New Jersey at Weehawken, Hoboken and Jersey City.

The New York Central carried one-third of all freight from New York to the west. 40 percent of New York City milk was delivered by the Central.

World's speed record setter, engine "999", was still doing active service after 33 years. The "Dewitt Clinton" was on exhibition in the East Gallery of Grand Central Terminal. It was really a replica built at West Albany in 1892 and is currently owned by the Ford Museum in Michigan.

The New York Central Lines hauled 11.73 per cent of the tonnage hauled by Class I railroads (at an average charge of less than nine-tenths of a cent per ton per mile). Two-thirds of all automobile manufacturing in the United States in 1921 was in cities served by the New York Central Lines. While not considered a "coal road", the system hauled 100,000,000 tons plus another 18,000,000 tons of anthracite. Much of this was over the P&LE which was famed as "the biggest little railroad on earth" because of its phenomenal records in handling traffic.

Of the 687 cities in the country with a population over 10,000, 24 per cent were served by the New York Central. The New York to Chicago main line held cities and towns comprising 11 percent of the population of the entire country.

57,000,000 annual passengers were carried on 800 daily trains. Through travel between New York and Chicago was so heavy that 12 trains a day each way were required to handle it. This was fifty per cent of the traffic, with the remainder split among six other railroads.

Before modern signaling, multiple trackage was very important. Of the total of 6,075 miles of main line operated by the New York Central, 698 miles were four-tracked, 783 miles were three-tracked and 2, 175 miles were double-tracked. The entire length of the West Shore was double-tracked. Of the 1862 miles operated by the Michigan Central, 663 miles were double-tracked (including Buffalo to Chicago). The Big Four operated 2,408 miles, of which 663 miles were double-tracked.

No other railroad could boast a water level route for so great a distance. Only the three mile westbound grade at Albany required pushers. The Castleton Cutoff would open in 1924 and forever change railroad operations around Albany.

The system owned 21,376 buildings. Of the 64,131 locomotives owned by Class I roads, 6,374 belonged to the New York Central (including 74 electric locomotives). Suburban passenger trains were operated by 205 motor cars. Nationwide, 52,048 passenger cars included 4895 passenger cars of the New York Central. 2,380,096 freight cars included 269,353 operated by the Central.

The financial health of the Central was excellent. Its security analyst rating was so good that West Shore 4% bonds due 2361 were the longest-term securities ever issued.

By Ken Kinlock at
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.

Find out about Contests and Fair Promise

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?"

George H. Daniels

George H. Daniels, the long-time General Passenger Agent for the New York Central was responsible for:
The 20th Century Limited
The Empire State Express
Popularizing the "Thousand Islands"

Read more about George H. Daniels

Health and Pleasure: Some of the sights on the Central in the 1890's.

In 1890 the New York Central & Hudson River R.R. published a book entitled "Health and Pleasure on America's Greatest Railroad." It was a listing of summer resorts and excursion routes that were available. The book not only listed the routes and prices, but contained maps and vivid descriptions of the resorts. This undertaking was engineered by the Central's advertising guru - George H. Daniels. Daniels was the road's General Passenger Agent and ranks as one of the greats of American advertising. This ex-patent medicine salesman has been credited with turning the Thousand Islands into a resort area.

The book opens with an overall description of the railroad and where it goes. What better an opener than a description of the railroad's role in the Hudson River? The Hudson is referred to as the American Rhine. It is interesting to note that all the ferry connections of 1890 have since been replaced by bridges located at roughly the same spots.

Railroad connections along the Hudson were numerous. Between Cold Spring and Fishkill at Dutchess and Columbia Junction was the connecting point with the Newburgh, Dutchess & Connecticut Railway. This connection survives today with Conrail's secondary track to Danbury and Derby, but it no longer serves such places as Millbrook and Pine Plains. At Poughkeepsie was the now-derelict bridge which was described in 1890 as unsurpassed by no other completed bridge in the world. Connections were made at Poughkeepsie with the New York & Massachusetts Railroad and at Rhinebeck with the Central New England. Neither of these connections survive today. A ferry at Rhinebeck connected with Kingston with its Ulster & Delaware and Walkill Valley railroads. The Boston & Albany had a branch from Chatham into Hudson. The stub of this old branch serves as industrial trackage today.

Grand Central Station is discussed at length. Don't forget - this is still the OLD one that is being discussed. It was an immense building - almost a city in itself with everything but sleeping accommodations. As well as accommodating tens of thousands of travelers daily, it contained the general offices of the railroad. It also contained the offices of New Haven, the Harlem, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, the Michigan Central and the Canadian Southern. There was also a police precinct in the basement. Across the street were the general offices of the West Shore Railroad and the Wagner Palace Car Company. In addition to the three railroads in the building, the station was served by the Third Avenue Elevated Railway and several surface lines.

The equipment in use was modern for its day. Drawing room and sleeping car service was operated by the Wagner Palace Car Co. Cars were heated by steam and lighted with Pintsch gas. The American Express Company was in charge of the express facilities on the New York Central.

Albany was a big commercial center because its position on the river and the railroad connections going north to Canada (Delaware & Hudson), east (Boston & Albany and Fitchburg), south and west (New York Central) and southwest (Albany & Susquehanna Division of the D&H).

Schenectady had 22,000 inhabitants in 1890. The Locomotive Works was the major employer. General Electric was not mentioned. Amsterdam was about the same size and was described as "being located in the midst of romantic scenery". Herkimer, noted for its cheese, made a connection with the Herkimer, Newport & Poland Railroad. Utica had 40,000 residents and six large hotels. Railroad connections were with the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh, the New York, Ontario & Western and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western.

At Canasota, connections were made for Oneida Lake over the Elmira, Cortland & Northern (later part of the Lehigh Valley). At Syracuse, travelers for Auburn, Geneva, Seneca Lake, Watkins Glen and Canandaigua changed from the mainline to the Auburn Branch. Connections were made at Lyons for points in northern Pennsylvania via the Fall Brook Coal Company's Railroad (later to become the Pennsylvania Division of the New York Central). At Rochester, travelers could choose between: the mainline to Buffalo, Cleveland and Chicago; the Niagara Falls Division to the Country's "greatest wonder"; a branch to Charlotte with its popular beach; or the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh for Le Roy and Salamanca.

Those travelers opting for the Auburn Road found popular resorts at Skaneateles, Owasco Lake near Auburn (on the Lehigh Valley), Cayuga, Seneca Falls and Geneva. At Geneva, connections were made for Penn Yan, Corning and Watkins Glen.

The Adirondack Mountains were presented as a sportsman's paradise. Through sleeping car service ran from New York City over the New York Central, Delaware & Hudson and the Adirondack Railway from Saratoga to North Creek. Some of the popular resort areas off this line were Blue Mountain Lake, Lake Luzerne and Schroon Lake. Another line which penetrated the Adirondacks was the Chauteaugay Railroad which connected with (and later became a part of) the D&H at Plattsburgh. Lake Placid could be reached from the D&H by changing at Port Kent to the Keesville, Au Sable Chasm & Lake Champlain Railroad. The rate from New York was only $14.50. Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Paul Smith's could be reached from the New York Central by traveling over the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh (still an independent road in 1890) and the Central Vermont (later Rutland) to Moira Junction. At Moira Junction, travelers changed to the Northern Adirondack Railroad (later the New York & Ottawa). Note that at this point what later became the New York Central's Adirondack Division had not yet been completed.

Niagara Falls was the object of many a rail excursion. Suspension Bridge was the junction of the New York Central and the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada. The suspension bridge was more than eight hundred feet long and two hundred fifty feet above the water. Three hundred feet away, in the full view of the falls of Niagara, was a cantilever bridge built by the Michigan Central in 1883. It was a new and radical engineering development in 1890. This bridge was actually two separate huge beams supported near their centers by towers. The gap between the two bridges was filled by an ordinary truss bridge. The total length of the structure was 910 feet.

The Thousand Islands were served by the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh Railroad. Numerous excursion trains ran from New York to Clayton or Alexandria Bay for a rate of $15.75.

The Catskills were a popular destination. A round trip from New York to the Hotel Kaaterskill only cost $8.30 if traveling via Rhinebeck, Ulster and Delaware, Stony Clove & Kaaterskill Railroads. It only cost $5.75 via Catskill Station (Hudson) and Catskill Mountain R.R.

Accommodations featured not only resorts and hotels, but also boarding houses, guest houses and farms offering lodging. One of the hotels still on the scene is the Adelphi in Saratoga Springs where rooms cost $21/week in 1890.

There were short trips for example to Poughkeepsie by rail and return by steamer for $2.00. North Adams, Massachusetts was $7.00 going either via Troy and the Fitchburg Railroad or via Hudson and the Boston & Albany. There were numerous excursions to Saratoga. Some even returned through Boston via the Fitchburg Railroad then to New York over the Old Colony Railroad and the Fall River Line steamers.

Numerous steam boat schedules were in the book. For instance, a connection existed between Cooperstown NY and Richfield Springs NY. Cooperstown was on the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley RR. It was an $11.05 trip from New York City going the New York Central to Albany and the D&H to Cooperstown Junction. The steamer "Natty Bumppo" plied between Cooperstown and Island Cottage, where connection was made with "tally-ho" for Richfield Springs, 7 miles away. The steamer stopped at Three Mile Point and Five Mile Point where there were hotels. It made stage stops at Springfield Centre and Warren. Fare, including boat and tally-ho was $1.25 and took an hour.

The book contained many advertisements which are fascinating to read. Several were for the railroad's own trains. Friendly railroads such as the D&H and the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburgh advertised too. The Catskill Mountain House, Keeler's Hotel in Albany and the Sagamore Hotel on Lake George had full page ads. The Sagamore charged $4 per day and involved two railroads (Central and D&H) plus a steamer of the Lake George Steamboat Company to connect with New York. Wagner Palace Cars even advertised private cars for hire for a summer vacation.

By Ken Kinlock at

Head End

Railway Express and Railway Post Office
LCL on the New York Central On passenger trains, railroads operated lots of equipment other than sleepers, coaches, dining cars, etc. This equipment was generally called 'head-end' equipment, these 'freight' cars were at one time plentiful and highly profitable for the railroads. In the heyday of passenger service, these industries were a big part of the railroad's operations, and got serious attention.
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Ken Knapp on the Hudson Picture at left is Ken Knapp enjoying the Hudson River near Tarrytown, New York. He was a former Paymaster of the New York Central.

He started with the railroad when the employees were paid in cash and a pay car visited all the Central's locations. He worked with William Ingraham, John L. Burdett. and Hy Taylor.

He moved to Albany for one year, but the station did not have adequate room for the payroll department, so he went to Utica for the rest of his career. When the railroad began paying by check instead of cash, he oversaw the first computer bought by the New York Central. It took up almost a whole floor in Utica's Union Station.

A feature article on his career and his retirement appeared in the July/August issue of HEADLIGHT - the New York Central magazine. I remember meeting Norman Stone, the editor of the magazine, when the article was written. He even included a picture of my dog (with my grandfather).

In his 47-year career, he worked many years on a pay car. These cars lasted through the 1920's. At one time, the Central had five pay cars on the road. Each car had two payroll clerks and a railroad police detective. A typical car had an office, berths, a stateroom and facilities for meal preparation. Several times the pay car had several million dollars on board in a safe and in "strong boxes" hidden under the berths (but still only one detective). During World War I when the railroads were nationalized, the pay cars were under control of the Secretary of the Treasury, William McAdoo. In this period, payroll for other railroads were sometimes carried: for instance, Delaware & Hudson payroll was carried from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to Albany (other times this was sent in leather pouches by registered mail... I still have some of the mail tags addressed to New York State Bank).

He was born in 1890 and died in 1974.

By Ken Kinlock at
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