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Commuters, Car Culture and the Jenny Plan.

Commuter Rail

Welcome to our Commuters WebSite

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

Our feature articles are "The Commuter" and "Car Culture" .

Included is a current events section that talks about ridership increases.

See our section on COMMUTER TRAINS.

Now it is getting harder and harder to park at commuter railroad stations!

We have interesting articles on Amtrak's Secret Business and a Communist comparison.

Find out about the Jenny Plan and who was Alfred Jenny?

We have stories on "Public Support of Private Railroads" , Commuter cars on Penn Central (ex-NEW York Central) , commuters reach out , and why did commuter trains loose money?

Our current events include Metro-North New Haven Line on track for new cars , Danbury Line electrification and Metro North Commuter RR tracks through Glenham .

Don't miss our reference section .

Commuter Statistics: Metro North Railroad

Commuter Statistics for 2006

Woodbury Commons is Only Typical (Unfortunately)

Old Penn Central and New York Central Commuter Cars

2007 Commuting Cost Study by the Government

All about new light rail (our list may be outdated...but theirs isnt) light rail in France (We already cover Nice) See a 1965 study of the capacity of the New York Central Railroad's electrified route from Woodlawn to Grand Central Terminal, including the terminal facilities.
by Edward Karl Morlok, Jr.

Take a ride on the North East Corridor.

The woes of the New Haven Railroad.

Read all about Harlem River Passenger Service

Yes, we have lots of material on the Second Avenue Subway! and on New York City's subway tunnels.

Grand Central Terminal and the New York City Subway .

Take a quiz on Which One of These People Hurt New York City the Worst?

See KC Jones BLOG about Railroad History
Comments from our Readers
Saturday, November 19, 2011; Jeff Alterman wrote us:
I would certainly agree that GM was slime by buying out the electric traction companies that ran the trolleys in the United States and replacing them with fossil fuel powered buses. While I'm not against the automobile, GM was instrumental in making the people in the United States dependent on the automobile. One time in most of the United States, people had access to trains, streetcars and other forms of public transportation. I think that it would be wise for the U.S. government to invest in more rail transportation. it is safe, reliable, nearly impervious to bad weather and has less environmental impact. If one wants to see the U.S., go by rail. Sure it takes more time than flying, but it can be more enjoyable.
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A real story for this era is how General Motors, Ford and Chrysler reshaped American ground transportation to serve their corporate wants instead of social needs.

As a result of their monopolistic structure, the Big Three automakers acted in a way detrimental to public interest. GM had control of auto, truck, bus and locomotive production. We are seeing a collapse of a society based on the automobile. We have consumed too much oil, polluted the atmosphere, and turned our cities into highways and parking lots. We see a government bias in favor of highways, failure to produce transport vehicles consistent with energy/environmental restraints, and a consumer dependence on the auto.

GM had the power and economic incentive to suppress rail and bus transportation: one bus can eliminate 35 automobiles; one rail transit vehicle can supplant 50 passenger cars; one train can displace 1000 cars or a fleet of 150 cargo-laden trucks.

GM had a role in the destruction of more than 100 electric surface rail systems in 45 cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Oakland, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. In southern California, GM and other highway interests acquired local transit companies and replaced them with busses. The noisy, foul-smelling busses turned people away from mass transit and therefore sold millions of automobiles.

General Motors received a criminal conviction for its part in monopolizing street transportation. In spite of this, GM continued to acquire and dieselize electric transit properties into 1955. 40,000 streetcars were in service in 1936 when National City Lines was organized by GM. By 1955, only 5,000 remained. While substituting buses for electric street railways helped GM stockholders, it deprived the riding public of a pollution free and energy efficient mode of transportation.

Substitution of buses for streetcar lines contributed indirectly to the abandonment of electric railway freight service. Merchants used to rely on this service to deliver goods and interchange with railroads. For instance, Pacific Electric was once the third largest freight railroad in California. It just proved uneconomical to maintain city track for freight-only. General Motors even benefited from this demise. They also sold trucks! They even used to have an interest in Associated Transport and Consolidated Freightways.

GM used its leverage as the largest freight shipper to coerce railroads to scrap their equipment, including pollution-free electrics, in favor of less durable, less efficient GM diesels. New Haven Railroad showed a profit during 50 years of electrification but started heavy losses after it dieselized its operations.

General Motors diversification into bus transportation: (1) shifted passengers from rail to bus and eventually into automobiles; and (2) shifted freight from rail to truck. An additional factor was GM's integration into locomotive production. In 1930, they acquired Winton Engine and Electro-Motive. Unfortunately, GM could make 25 to 30 times more gross revenue selling cars and trucks than it could diesel locomotives.

In 1956 the government sued General Motors for monopolization of the bus industry and requested divestiture of its bus production facilities. The case was a failure for the government because GM had combined bus and truck production within the same facilities. A few years later the Justice Department started and then abandoned an antitrust case against GM Locomotive.

Many of the anti-competitive forces of the automobile industry could be diffused by a remedy suggested several years ago by Bradford C. Snell of the International Conference on Appropriate Transportation. First, deconcentration of the motor vehicle industry would reduce the automakers ability to pass on the cost of their anti-rail lobbying to consumers. Second, reorganization of GM's bus and rail divisions into independent corporations would enable them to operate free from the conflict of interest they currently have. Finally, the facilitation of entry by a number of new bus and rail enterprises would provide competitive capability to build a modern passenger and freight transport system.

It has been the policy of Congress in the past to maintain competition by prohibiting common control of competing modes of transport. The Air Mail Act of 1934 forced GM to sell its interests in several airlines. GM also had interests in several aircraft manufacturers. At that time, GM chairman Sloan implied to Congress that his company had entered the aviation industry to protect its interests in the promotion of automobiles.

At one time there were more than 150 competing manufacturers of bus and rail vehicles. The technological development of these vehicles stopped in the 1930's.

In Europe and Japan, where there is a limited amount of common auto/rail/bus ownership, there are much more balanced transportation systems.

GM owned Hertz from 1925 to 1953. Because it was perceived to lessen sales of cars, GM limited its growth. Its success after disposition by GM shows what could happen to bus and rail operations.

General Motors got into bus production in 1925 by acquiring Yellow Coach. In 1926 they assisted in the formation of the Greyhound Corporation. 1932 saw GM going into the business of converting interurban electric railways as well as electric streetcar systems to bus operations. Due to the high cost of operation and slow speed on congested streets, buses ultimately contributed to the collapse of hundreds of transit systems.

Several railroads converted substantial portions of their commuter rail service with buses: Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines (Pennsylvania RR); Central Greyhound Lines (New York Central); Pacific Greyhound Lines (Southern Pacific); New England Greyhound Lines (New York, New Haven & Hartford); Northland Greyhound Lines (Great Northern); and Southwestern Greyhound Lines (St. Louis Southwestern Railroad). The railroads were eventually forced out of ownership by the government. By 1950, Greyhound carried half as many intercity passengers as the railroads. Until 1948, General Motors was the largest stockholder in Greyhound.

General Motors used various devices to convert street car lines to bus. At first, United Cities Motor Transit was directly owned by GM and would buy electric street car companies, convert them to GM motorbus operation, and then resell them. After being censured by the American Transit Association, GM went "undercover" with other organizations, primarily National City Lines, Inc. Other participants in National City Lines were Greyhound, Standard Oil of California and Firestone Tire. By reselling properties after conversion, they were assured that capital was continually reinvested in the motorization of additional systems. The biggest GM "triumph" was California's Pacific Electric. Within a 75-mile radius of Los Angeles, it carried 80 million people annually. In 1949, GM, Greyhound, Standard Oil and Firestone were found guilty of criminally conspiring to monopolize the sale of buses. General Motors was fined $5,000! The GM treasurer who masterminded the destruction of Pacific Electric was fined $1!

Additional Reading on this subject:

Read more on the destruction of the Los Angeles trolley and interurban system.

Take a look at Did auto, oil conspiracy put the brakes on trolleys? 2011 Update

A great reference is Revisiting the Great American Streetcar Scandal, by Al Mankoff– Vol. 4, Summer 1999

and The Great American Streetcar Myth

Please read "The Streetcar Conspiracy" by Bradford Snell and "The Conspiracy Revisted Rebutted" by Louis Guilbault. I do not have links and will not tell you about Amazon or Borders and Noble because those people would not even give me the time of day.

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How can we help you? Contact us: Ken Kinlock at
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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
Rich Neighbor


The greatest economic factor in the 19th Century was the railroad. They colonized the West with the 160 acre homesteads. They moved crude oil to market. The biggest factor in steel production was railroads. The meat packing industry was possible because the reefer car was invented.

In spite of early discrimination in favor of canals, there was public support of private railroads in New York State. Mohawk & Hudson stockholders were liable for its debt but the State could purchase it in five years. The New York & Erie got a $6.2 million donation because it could not connect with lines into New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Johnstown contributed $175,600 for the construction of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville. The Town of Queensbury donated $100,000 to the Glens Falls Road (later part of the D&H). When the long-gone road through town was built, Schoharie contributed $20,000 in State bonds which had been given to the town for an excess of volunteers in the Civil War. The common method of financing was for municipalities to purchase common stock. The Town of Theresa bought 600 shares of the Black River & Morristown (later a branch of the NY Central).

Only a few municipalities held railroad bonds. Promoters preferred they buy stock because bonds were easier to market as they could be discounted. The Troy Union Railroad issued $30,000 of common. The city issued $680,000 of 6% bonds. The Rensselaer & Saratoga, Troy & Boston, Schenectady & Troy, and Hudson River line agreed to subscribe for equal amounts of the capital stock and to guarantee payment of the principal and interest on the community's securities. The city's investment was secured by a first mortgage on the carrier's property.

The Town of Delhi paid no principal on bonds it had issued on behalf of the NY & Oswego Midland. Property values in Delhi had risen 100% on rumor of a railroad. In 1893, the Town of Andes had to borrow $120,000 to pay its debt.

The NY & Oswego Midland (later the NY Ontario & Western) zig-zagged 250 miles across the State in search of municipal bonds. It bypassed Syracuse because it didn't subscribe to bonds. It halted at the Utica line until they subscribed $200,000.

The Albany & Susquehanna had an excellent lobby organization in Albany. Some stocks and bonds were held until the 1940's. Greene held DL&W and sold its stock in 1946. Colesville held A&S which was traded for D&H. In 1949, Syracuse was still paying on 75 year old bonds. In 1942 the Auburn comptroller discovered 5000 shares of NY & Oswego Midland in his vault.

The D&H in trying to recover from the Depression and its dwindling anthracite trade needed to reduce its debt. It sold its NY Central stock and merged its leased lines. It found that the A&S was owned by many towns as minority shareowners.

The Town of Kirkland sold NYO&W stock in 1944 for $52/share. This stock had originated from the Rome & Clinton which was leased to the O&W.

The Schenectady & Troy was a municipally owned railroad. There was a rivalry between Albany and Troy. When Albany capitalists financed a railroad between Schenectady and Saratoga, Trojans countered by building the Rensselaer & Saratoga. But it needed a western connection so the Schenectady & Troy was proposed. When private interests didn't come up with the cash, the city of Troy did. It was authorized in 1836 but not started until 1840 by the Whig mayor of Troy, Jonas C. Heartt. There were strikes, late delivery of rails and trouble getting the right of way. It was one of the best roads of the day-utilizing T shape iron rails and having easy grades. It was much better than the Mohawk & Hudson with its inclined planes. Finally, the M&H borrowed from the Utica & Schenectady and from the City of Albany and used the money to remove the inclined planes.

The biggest problem for the S&T was negotiating fair treatment from the Utica & Schenectady (which was closely allied with the Mohawk & Hudson). Erastus Corning was on both U&S and M&H boards. The M&H tied up all the immigrant business. Utica trains started before Troy trains reached Schenectady. Lack of favorable eastern connections was a problem. They built a line to the Western Railway at Greenbush (6 miles).

The Troy railroad tried to circumvent the U&S by building a road along southern bank of the Mohawk to Utica (Mohawk Valley). The tax burden in Troy was high because of its railroad.

In 1851 the Hudson River Railroad leased the Troy & Greenbush. If the Mohawk Valley were to be built, then there would be a true rival to the Mohawk & Hudson and the Utica & Schenectady. When the Hudson River RR failed to press its advantage, Troy tried to get the Harlem to extend to Troy from Chatham. Russell Sage chaired a committee that concluded city should sell its railroad. Also involved was Edwin Morgan, the president of the Hudson River RR. The net result was a sell-out to the New York Central.

The people of Troy had hoped to share in the prosperity of a state-wide rail route and gave liberally to make it a fine system, yet it never paid a dividend and hovered on the brink of bankruptcy. It was finally sold to the interests that were responsible for its failure. The victory of the M&H was because of a far-sighted management, bribery, ruthless competition and an effective alliance between business and politics.

Many municipalities (Hancock on the Erie for example) repudiated their bonds and there were many court cases. In 1875, 20% of municipal indebtedness was for railroad construction. There were many problems because of the Panic of 1873.

Transportation development of the last quarter of the 19th Century was characterized by the combination of many short, disconnected lines to form the great railroad systems of the State.

The 1851 Legislature chartered the Albany & Susquehanna to build 142 miles between Albany & Binghamton. It was designed to be broad gauge to interface with the NY & Erie. The A&S was hard to capitalize because of the barren area it passed through. Communities along the route subscribed $2 million plus there was $750,000 in state aid. The Erie was controlled by Jim Fisk and Jay Gould. They wanted to control the A&S. Stock price of the A&S went from $10/share to $90. Opposition to Fisk and Gould was led by Joseph H. Ramsey. Many municipalities sold their stock to one side or the other. Much of the money behind Ramsey was from the D&H. Lots of legal and illegal tricks were employed on both sides. Violence near Bainbridge led to State seizure. Of the 22 towns, 17 sold at par or better. Cobleskill and Colesville retained their stock.

Utica invested $500,000 in the Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley (100 miles to Greene-completed in 1870) which was leased to the DL&W. In 1871 they also subscribed $200,000 to the Utica, Clinton & Binghamton. It was leased to the NY & Oswego Midland (later O&W). Utica also lost $250,000 on the Black River & Utica.

Albany was a successful lender. They lent $1 million to the Albany & West Stockbridge and to the Albany & Susquehanna. There was a $225,000 loan to the M&H. However, they lost $300,000 to the Albany Northern.

When the NY & Oswego Midland went broke, its obligations were assumed by the D&H and the DL&W.

State or municipal aid to railroads was banned in an 1874 amendment to the New York Constitution. Most railroads in the state were built between 1865 and 1875. Shown below is a list of the railroads in the state in 1852:
· Mohawk & Hudson
· Utica & Schenectady
· Schenectady & Troy
· Schenectady & Saratoga
· Rensselaer & Saratoga
· Troy & Boston (to Eagle Bridge)
· Troy & Greenbush
· Hudson River RR (to Greenbush)
· Albany & West Stockbridge
· NY & Harlem

· Hudson & Berkshire
(to Chatham)
· (projected) Catskill & Canajoharie
· (projected) Mohawk Valley (Utica to Schenectady)

By Ken Kinlock at

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A recent business trip required me to go to Philadelphia from New York City. What better way to go than Amtrak. Not normally going to Philadelphia, nor ever having been a Pennsylvania Railroad fan, my experience on the Northeast Corridor through New Jersey was limited.

Arriving at Penn Station, I can't help but feel a little sorry for those railfans who are supporters of the formerly self-proclaimed Standard Railroad of the World. That efficient, dirty launching pad for Amtrak is a far cry from the four square block monster that was once on that spot. Nobody could dispute that the deposed Penn Station was an impressive rail terminal. It lasted from 1910 to 1965 when Manhattan real estate values priced it into oblivion. Its ceiling was as high as a fifteen-story building and it had 490,000 cubic feet of Massachusetts granite held together by 26,000 tons of steel. The 21 platform tracks served the Pennsylvania, New Haven and Long Island Railroads. The "new" Penn Station exists in the basement of Madison Square Garden and is notable only by the fact that it is Amtrak's busiest.

I headed downstairs to the platform between tracks 9 and 10. An 18-car "clocker" headed by two AEM7 electrics was waiting to depart. By waiting a few minutes, I could get to Philly faster on an express (the Minuteman). Lots of NJ Transit commutes were waiting to depart on adjoining tracks.

Soon we head under the Hudson through the magnificently-engineered tunnels the Pennsy burrowed over 80 years ago. Jersey City was the Pennsylvania's original terminal. Early electrification only went from the Bronx to Penn Station then 8.8 miles to Manhattan Transfer near Newark-now the site of Amtrak's Hudson Tower.

The dreary meadowlands of New Jersey appear just after emerging from the tunnel. It is amazing how many other rail lines either cross or converge on the old Pennsylvania between New York and Philadelphia.

We slow through Newark. PATH trains are on the track next to us. In the Newark train shed are several New Jersey Transit trains.

The heavily traveled four-track main sees many freights as well as NJ Transit locals. The history of the line goes back to 1832 when the New Jersey Rail Road & Transportation Co. was chartered to build from Jersey City to the Camden & Amboy at New Brunswick. The Camden & Amboy was New Jersey's first railroad and survives as a CONRAIL freight branch. The Pennsylvania Railroad did not appear until 1846 but moved quickly to consolidate what others had built.

As the suburbs turn into farms, the flat lands of New Jersey lend to high-speed running. The 120 mph speed limit seems effortless. Even in Pennsylvania RR times, GG1s topped 100 mph here.

Some old New York Central baggage cars are spotted on a siding for use as storage sheds.

At Princeton Junction a 2.7 mile branch runs to Princeton. Princeton was cut off of the main by an 1862 realignment.

The Northeast Corridor crosses the Delaware at Trenton on a huge stone bridge. Next is Zoo Tower where Chicago and Harrisburg trains leave the Corridor for the Alleghenys.

30th Street Station in Philadelphia looks like a Roman or Greek temple. It is built on the Schuylkill River a mile west of center city. While Broad Street Station was more conveniently located, trains had to make a reverse move to use it. Reading's terminal had the same problem. 30th Street was completed in 1933 out of Alabama limestone. It is a two-level station with the six-track upper level serving SEPTA trains and Harrisburg locals. SEPTA (South East Pennsylvania Transit Authority) runs a large commuter system that includes both ex-Pennsylvania and ex-Reading lines. Many locals run alongside Amtrak on the Corridor, but most run out into the Philadelphia suburbs. Much of the system is electrified. Formerly disconnected, the Pennsylvania and Reading systems were recently joined by a tunnel project that saw Reading Terminal emptied of trains. Tourists note: this had no effect on the Reading Terminal Market. The ten-track lower level is used by New York-Washington trains.

The term "Northeast Corridor" first emerged in the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965. This was a piece of President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" that threw money at the Pennsylvania and New Haven in an attempt to improve transportation between Boston and Washington. The project survived through Penn Central into Amtrak ownership.

Amtrak continues to operate a series of New York-Philadelphia expresses. During the 1930's, the unofficial and long-standing popular name "Clocker" evolved because these trains pulled out of each terminal all day long every hour on the hour. This service traces its roots back to 1910 when Penn Station in New York replaced Exchange Place ferry terminal in Jersey City. Equipment for many years was P70 coaches which had seating capacity for 88 passengers. Diners and parlor cars were also provided. Trains from Manhattan Transfer to Broad Street were hauled by E-series Atlantics or K-series Pacifics. In early 1933, box cab electrics began running the distance in 110 minutes. By 1936, more powerful GG1's reduced this time to 95 minutes. During the 1940's, Clockers ran 18 to 20 cars in length but were much shorter by the 1960's. Some P70 coaches were still around as late as 1976 when Amfleet cars were completed. Some stainless steel cars appeared in the 1950's. In the 1960's, converted sleepers were used in the service. By the 1970's, motive power evolved from GG1's to E60's to AEM7's. Into the 1980's, traffic volume increased and many schedules were covered by leased Jersey Arrow commuter cars.

A few weeks ago I again rode the Northeast Corridor. This time I went from New York to Washington and returned Washington to New Haven. My departure from Penn Station was about half an hour off schedule. While the train from Boston was late, boarding could have been expedited if the track was posted earlier and if someone other than the Red Caps controlled the escalators. Philadelphia to Washington offers even more sights. There are the Amtrak shops at Wilmington, the bridge at Harve de Grace, the Baltimore tunnels, the side-by-side view of Washington METRO, the Ivy City engine terminal, and finally Washington's Union Station.

Washington's Union Station is in architectural harmony with the community it serves as an entrance to. It fronts on an enormous plaza facing the Capitol. Most traffic is on the stub tracks at street level but several tracks descend to a lower level and pass through a tunnel to the east side of the station which goes under Capitol Hill. Originally there were 20 tracks on the upper level and 13 on the lower level. After falling into disrepair, then serving for a while as a "visitor's center", it is in the process of being restored. The 97,500 sq. foot concourse was built to be better able to take care of the great inaugural crowds every four years. As well as Amtrak, the station serves the State of Maryland commuter trains. Washington's subway, the METRO, is easily accessible.

My return trip was on Metroliner Service. What a difference in comfort between the two classes of coaches! As an added bonus, my return trip crossed the Hell Gate bridge, affording me a slight variation in the New York to New Haven trip I have taken many times.

By Ken Kinlock at
Money Losing Trains
Even as early as 1953, the New York Central was concerned about money-losing trains
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
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Railroads haul more freight tonnage TODAY than they ever did in their history, including WWII, so obsolete they are not. UP and BNSF are spending billions double and triple tracking their main east-west lines. Today railroads still haul 40 percent of all freight tonnage nationwide, which is still growing, mainly because of coal and chemicals. Railroads are not the only form of transportation overly regulated by the US government - ask a truck driver about that when he fills out the logbook.

Trucks and cars use heavily subsidized roads to run on and are basically getting a cheap ride. Fuel taxes have not risen with inflation for decades and today only cover about 30 to 35 percent of the costs of interstates and other federal and state highways - the rest comes from general revenue, some from car tags, sales taxes. If fuel taxes were to be brought up to snuff and were high enough, they'd have to raise that tax by an average of $3.80 a gallon. (A Brookings Institute study last year). Meanwhile, railroads continue to pay property taxes to help subsidize highways, as they always have.

I say, let's really level the playing field with all forms of transportation paying their own way and see what shakes out. Bet they'd be re-laying a lot of the abandoned tracks the railroads have taken up over the years.
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Long Island to Grand Central

I have been wondering how the Long Island RailRoad will go to/from Grand Central Terminal. Will the connection between the (extended) 63rd St tunnel and the existing Park Ave tunnel to GCT be a "flat" junction (such as crossing one or more of the current 4-track Park Ave line at grade), a PRR-style "flying" junction (so the appropriate inbound and outbound tracks are connected without fouling intermediate tracks), or just have a "conventional" junction between the 63rd St line and the eastern-most track of the Park Ave line (a simple turnout), with appropriate reverse running and signalling? With the anticipated traffic, this junction could become quite a bottleneck.

Now I understand that the rails will rise to the level of the lower level from about 150ft below the street to 40ft below the street at GCT. No buildings will be taken but easements for the tunnel must be obtained. The tunnel will go from its present end at the southwest side of 63rd St and Second Ave slightly southwest to about 60th St and Park Ave and then turn approximately south along Park Ave to about 57th St where it would meet with the lower level of GCT.

Commuters Reach Out

In Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a computer analyst, boards Metro-North's increasingly crowded 7:10 express bound for Grand Central Terminal. In all, his commute takes close to two hours, including the 20-minute drive to the station and a 10-minute walk from Grand Central before he clocks in for the day.

Priced out of an increasingly expensive real estate market in close-in areas like Westchester, Bergen and Nassau Counties, some workers are pushing their commutes up to the two-hour mark, and even beyond.

It is the price they are willing to pay to own the home of their dreams, said Alan E. Pisarski, the author of a series of books titled "Commuting in America" (the third is being published by the National Academy of Sciences' Transportation Research Board).

"In essence, what this group of commuters is doing," Mr. Pisarski explained, "is contributing to their house payment with travel time."

Why did commuter trains loose money?

Take the story of the Jersey Central...
One reason why this commuter railroad failed was the US Post Office taking the transportation of mail off the trains and putting it on trucks in the 1950's and 1960's. The revenue from transporting the mail made many of the shorter haul trains profitable to run, even though ridership was low. In many areas this "improvement" resulted in the time it took to deliver the mail doubling or tripling. For example, if you had a PO Box in Madison and mailed a letter in the morning from Stirling on the Gladstone Branch RPO trains, it would be in your PO Box generally within 3 - 4 hours! Now it takes 2 - 4 days.

Another reason was the high cost to provide commuter service and its capital equipment: locomotives, passenger cars, passenger stations, maintenance facilities, etc. They were only used a few hours in the morning and again in the evening, the rest of the day and night (and on weekends) they sat idle. Not a good way to get a return on your investment.

Finally, the state government required the CNJ and other railroads to operate money loosing passenger trains, but only after 1965 did they offer any financial assistance to pay for a portion of the deficit (not the whole deficit). It was the old "state mandate but state no pay" game!

Full reimbursement for commuter losses required to be operated by the state was non existant. In the CNJ's case the state refused to even give them the same more favorable subsidy arrangement they gave the PRR and E-L. What the CNJ needed to eliminate their losses and remain in business, which the state refused, the state promptly gave to Conrail from day one when Conrail took over in 1976.

If the state would have given the CNJ that same treatment the CNJ would have been able to come out of bankruptcy and operate as a profitable terminal railroad. After all, it had a pretty good hold on the business in the growing Port Newark - Port Elizabeth complex, the Constables Hook industries in Bayonne, the Chemical Coast, and some other big money makers in the freight side of the business. If the CNJ would have received the same financial treatment as NJ Transit now gets from the state government, it would have been rolling in the money and the commuters would have been treated like royality in quality equipment ... without all the bureacacy!

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"

Woes of the New Haven Railroad

Understanding today's high speed corridors means understanding what happened to the railroads that made up today's high speed corridors. Best example to look at is the New Haven Railroad.

They fought both airlines and interstate highways with their passenger service.

Eastern Airlines established a shuttle in 1961 between New York and Boston. No reservations were required and standby aircraft were available at peak travel times to ensure that everybody who wanted a seat got one. The airfare was equivalent to what it cost to take the train at that time.

The flight from Boston to New York City took only one hour. The NHRR's fastest trains took four hours and fifteen minutes.

If you take a look at the numbers of through passengers carried over the New Haven Railroad between Boston and New York City in the years 1952 - 1968 you will note a very gradual downward trend through 1958, which is when the Connecticut Turnpike was completed, and then a huge drop. The numbers of passengers carried is fairly stable during 1959 and 1960 and then there is another huge drop in 1961 that continues steadily downward through the Penn Central takeover. The downward trend post 1961 is the impact of the air shuttle service.

One of the first things that the New Haven tried was the special 2-day round trip fares. This was the special promotion where you paid the regular one-way fare going and then paid only 55 cents for the return ticket. Another thing the NHRR did was to produce advertisements that highlighted the reliability of the railroad, which unlike the air services of that time was not impacted under normal circumstances by bad weather ("The Sure Way Between Boston and New York", etc.). Nothing the railroad did worked.

The New Haven RR did forsee this problem back in 1954. It was predictable that the airlines would eventually begin to seriously compete for passenger business in the short-haul Boston/New York City corridor. This was the reason for the three experimental high speed lightweight passenger trains "Dan'l Webster", "John Quincy Adams", and "Roger Williams". The intent was to cut down the schedule between Boston and New York City to something that would be, travel time to and from the airports taken into consideration as well, time competitive with airline service.

On 10/23/2007 Alstom landed 'very high speed' contract to develop Tangier-Casablanca rail link

At a contract-signing ceremony, a "frame agreement" between the Kingdom of Morocco and France revealed that Alstom had won a pact to design, manufacture, operate and maintain what Alstom terms a "very high speed" Tangier-Casablanca rail link.

Development of the 124-mile Tangier-Kenitra section will form the project's first phase; the link, which will be used by trains running at speeds up to 198.4 mph, is scheduled to be in operation by 2013, Alstom said in a prepared statement. Alstom also will deliver 18 Duplex double-deck train sets.

The Moroccan railway master plan calls for building 930 miles of rail lines by 2035. The lines will have the capacity to carry 120 million passengers on two routes: the Tangier-Marrakech-Agadir "Atlantic link" and the Rabat-Fez-Oujda "Maghreb link." Once the lines are complete, Morocco will be the first African country to feature rail transport infrastructure using the same high-speed standards as in France, Alstom said.

Meanwhile, Alstom also inked a contract with Moroccan National Railways to provide 20 new-generation, high-traction-power Prima electric locomotives, which will be used from 2010 throughout the Moroccan network at speeds up to 74.4 mph for freight operations and 99.2 mph for passenger service. Alstom also will maintain the locomotives for two years.

Commuter Parking

Nobody can park or drive in New York City so we invented commuter railroads. Now it is getting harder and harder to park at commuter railroad stations!

Before we can get cars off the roads by persuading drivers to become passengers on the trains, we first have to give them a place to park their cars at the train stations. As all commuters know, station parking is a nightmare.

Many stations have a four- or five-year wait for annual permits, which can cost up to $600, and day-parking is expensive, if you can find it. In Connecticut, parking at most rail stations is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation but administered by the local towns. That’s why we’ve ended up with different rules and pricing.

Take Rowayton for example. Every year annual permits are handed out on a first-come, first served basis one hectic Saturday morning in May. Nobody is "grandfathered-in". Everyone literally waits in line, often all night, every year.

This may seem fair, especially to newcomers, but it's hardly an efficient way to manage a scarce resource.

Another idea — an auction. Spaces would start selling online on a certain date and time with the first permit going to the highest bidder in a 24-hour period. The second permit would go to the next highest bidder, etc. There'd be no preference to those who already have permits nor by town of residency. The scarce supply of spaces would moderate the demand by price.

As it is, most towns oversell their available spaces. In Westport they sell twice as many permits as there are spaces. Why? Because the permits are too cheap and there's never a time when everybody who has one tries to park on the same day.

People hoard their annual permits, renewing them even if they don’t use them regularly. Many have waited years to get it, and are not likely to give it up, even though they use it only one or two days a week.

Is that fair to the daily commuter who needs that space but hasn't risen to the top of the waiting list because others won't let go? Probably not. But unless each town raises parking permit prices and squeezes greed out of the equation, they will keep hanging onto their permit. An auction would change that.

We should let the marketplace define the price of affordability, and that’s what an auction would do most efficiently.

Of course, the other solution is to add more parking spaces. When CDOT tried adding a few spaces in Rowayton a few years back, they were pilloried. When they came to Darien and proposed more parking at Noroton Heights, they were booed out of town.


A study of the capacity of the New York Central Railroad's electrified route from Woodlawn to Grand Central Terminal, including the terminal facilities.

by Edward Karl Morlok, Jr.

An Essay Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Yale University in Candidacy for the Certificate in Transportation


The purpose of this study is twofold: to develop a methodology for the determination of the capacity of a railroad line, and to examine the capacity of the New York Central Railroad’s line from Woodlawn to Grand Central Terminal, including the terminal facilities. To this end the effects of the train length, signal system, signal spacing, speed restrictions, station stops, acceleration and deceleration characteristics of the trains, and the operation of trains on intersecting routes were examined.

The capacity of the station and storage tracks in the terminal is 1105 cars of 85 feet length, making necessary the use of storage facilities at Mott Haven and other facilities on the Hudson and Harlem Sub-Divisions and the New Haven Railroad if the capacity of the route is to be maximized. Using existing facilities with only minor changes in the situation in the terminal and with approximately the same proportion of standard and multiple unit trains as at present, the line can accommodate 719 cars per hour during the morning rush hours and 553 cars per hour during the evening rush hours. These figures are 46% and 26%, respectively, more than are handled during the peak hour now. The terminal can accommodate 156% more cars during the peak two-hour morning rush period than are presently operated into the terminal, and 62% more cars during the peak two-hour evening period than are presently handled. The limitations imposed by the operation at Mott Haven, which cause the disparity between the morning and evening capacities, are such that from one-quarter to one-half of the trains can operate to or from the Hudson sub-division in the direction of commuter movement.

Limitations imposed by the stopping of trains at 125th Street are eliminated by the alternating of stopping and non-stopping trains. Each train operated as a local between 125th Street and Woodlawn reduces the number of trains which can be operated on the Harlem line by seven in the morning and three in the evening. Assuming two such trains continue to be operated during the peak morning and the peak evening rush hours, the capacity of the morning service is reduced to 614 cars per hour and the evening to 508 cars per hour, 15% and 8% reductions, respectively. However, additional Hudson trains can be run, equal in number to the reduction in Harlem trains. The fleeting of trains was not found to be particularly advantageous, yielding only a 5% increase in capacity in the morning and a 3% increase in the evening, with two-train fleets.

To utilize the terminal facilities and the four track main line fully, a fly-over junction must be constructed at Mott Haven, the number of tracks from 68th Street to 57th Street doubled from four to eight, and no stops may be made except at the terminal. Under these conditions the capacity of the terminal is 1161 cars per hour, with one-quarter of the trains of standard consists and three-quarters composed of multiple unit cars. This represents a 139% increase in peak hourly capacity over the present morning operation and a 164% increase over the present evening operation.

The capacity of the route can also be increased by changes in the type of equipment used. With present facilities, if all trains were of the multiple unit type, capacity in cars per hour would be increased by 10% over that with one-quarter of the trains composed of standard cars. Moreover, the seating capacity of multiple unit cars could be increased 45% by employing a gallery type body which meets the clearance limitations of the Park Ave. tunnel. Increasing acceleration rates of the multiple unit trains will not significantly increase the capacity.

Incomplete data and the inability to conduct extensive field work made necessary the use of many assumptions about the operating characteristics of trains and the effect of route and signal conditions on train operation. However, on the basis of this study, it appears that existing facilities could accommodate a substantial increase in traffic. Additions to present facilities which would permit full utilization of the terminal and the four-track main line would increase capacity to the point where any increase in the demand for commuter travel in the foreseeable future could be met.

Download PDF file

Harlem River Passenger Service

Ever wondir why so much passenger service rolls from Connecticut into Grand Central and not much along the Harlem River towards Penn Station? Well, at one point, the New Haven provided such service. Also, there was once a railroad called the New York, Westchester & Boston that ran through the same area.

Jim Guthrie supplied some interesting figures, from the NY Regional Plan of 1925: (all commutation fares)

-note impact of opening of IRT Pelham Bay line 1919-20 on the neighboring Harlem River branch line.
-by 1924, NYW&B extended to Larchmont, beginning to tap shore line New Haven commuters as well as NY Central's White Plains line.




New Haven Line to Grand Central

4,926,690 10,322,934

New Haven RR Harlem River Branch

Ended 1930
785,000 92,283

NY Westchester & Boston to Harlem River

54,912 425,030

NYC Harlem Division

4,868,938 9,632,868
Subway Times Square Crowd Transit statistics 2007 versus 2008
JWH Rapid Response Temporary Housing

JWH Rapid Response Temporary Housing

Our containers will make a great summer camping.

We can make your summer camp a great looking building. All the comforts of home at a much less cost. has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.

Here's some interesting questions and answers:

Have passenger-train speeds been increased in recent years?

In 1930 there were only a few passenger-train runs in the United States with schedules calling for a mile-a-minute or faster, start to stop. These runs covered 1,100 route-miles. In 1936, there were 644 passenger-train runs of a mile-a-minute or faster, covering 40,205 route-miles, of which 29,301 route-miles were on a daily schedule basis. By 1942, the number of mile-a-minute runs had increased to 1,529, with 85,872 route-miles, of which 77,045 were on a daily schedule basis.

Grand Central was owned by the New York Central Railroad

Do you know who owns Grand Central now?

If you said Metro North Railroad, or its parent company, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, then you are wrong.
Nor is it Donald Trump, Disney or WalMart.
Find the answer and find out a lot of interesting facts.
Transportation Research Board
Transportation Research Board
A Second Avenue subway line would better the lives of about 600,000 riders by giving them another transportation option and relieving crowded conditions on the Lexington Avenue line. Right now, the Lexington Avenue's three lines, the No.'s 4, 5 and 6, carry 40 percent of the 23-line system's riders. The crowded trains are an ordeal for rush-hour riders and a disincentive for businesses to move downtown.

The project would also make good economic sense. According to the Regional Plan Association, the new line would offer time and trip savings of $1.26 billion a year - that's in addition to the 70,000 construction jobs it would generate.

Sadly, the project is in some financial peril. The "minimum operating segment," as the federal government calls the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line, would attract hundreds of thousands of people. (This is the stretch that would go from Harlem to Midtown and then on to Brooklyn through an existing line.) But the $3.6 billion first phase needs about $2.5 billion to be completed in the next seven years, and unfortunately Albany didn't allocate enough money for the first phase in the most recent state budget.

Read more on the Second Avenue Subway
New York City Transit Planning
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?"

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