Category Archives: Grand Central Terminal

The Ride To Choate

Edgar T. Mead recently published a fantastic article in the NRHS BULLETIN on a train trip from New York City to Choate School which is located in Wallingford, CT. I’d like to update his trip into the 1980’s and bring out what we have lost or gained over 50 years.

Unless the student of today wants to find alternate transportation from New Haven to Wallingford, he/she (Choate is now Choate-Rosemary Hall and is coed) cannot leave Grand Central Terminal, but must instead depart Penn Station on AMTRAK’s Springfield Service.

The EP-2 boxcab electric has been replaced by an AEM-7 which is the standard in the Northeast Corridor. The “American Flyer” coaches have been replaced by Amfleet coaches.

Although we don’t go that route, Grand Central to New Rochelle has changed too. The S-1 electric switchers came very close to remaining in the picture as the last one didn’t exit the property until the 1980’s.

NY,Westchester & Boston right-of-way between New Rochelle and Port Chester becomes less visible as time marches on. Also less visible are industries like the Abendroth Foundry. As a matter of fact, most signs of the electrification which one covered all of the sidings are rapidly fading. Even the sidings themselves are fading as the character of the territory becomes less commercial and more residential and service-oriented.

Stamford, with its office towers and new station, would be unrecognizable to someone not having seen it in 50 years. However, long lines of M-2 “Cosmopolitan” cars are lined up waiting for Monday just like the old M-Us did. Today’s wire train can be spotted sometimes at Stamford and is hauled by a GE. It includes the “Washboard Electrics” of 1954.

Bridgeport is still an important stop. The “Blue Goose” which used to run to Waterbury has been replaced with a Budd Rail Diesel Car. Sometimes even that is replaced with a bus. Signs of trolley lines and steam dinkies are obliterated.

The Maybrook line is now only a memory since the Poughkeepsie bridge has burned and the Derby-Shelton bridge has fallen in the river. The truth of the matter is that CONRAIL has other routes available. Freight in general is a ghost of its former self while the passenger business is a growth industry between New Haven and New York.

An engine change at New Haven is still the order of the day for AMTRAK. No more I-4. Instead a single F40 can handle the consist. The dug-away cut through New Haven (old Farmington Canal) still exists. The Connecticut Company is bus not street car. There is no sandwich vendor meeting trains a New Haven, however a respectable donut shop exists inside the station.

Smoking cars still exist on AMTRAK but not so on Metro-North. The solid example which Choate set 50 years ago is now applied to New Haven, Westchester and Long Island commuters.

The changes that have occurred on the mainline are nothing compared to what has happened on the branch lines. The annual football junket to Kent School would be in a lot of trouble because of the sorry state of the Housatonic branch between New Milford and Kent. To begin with, the excursion would have to go south to Norwalk first as the route through Devon Junction is out of service at the Derby bridge Perhaps it would be simpler to go through Pittsfield? Maybe they could just take a bus or watch the game on TV?

Cedar Hill yard still exists (sort of). One old roundhouse still stands as well as a coal tower. The yard is filled with coal hoppers, many still marked for Erie-Lackawanna. Also stored in the yard are the “Roger Williams” RDCs.

Wallingford still looks like it did fifty years ago. The station looks like it should be on a postcard.

Find stories like this one.

Important Dates In New York Central Railroad History From Mark Tomlonson

July 1, 1900 The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad leases the Boston & Albany for 99 years. Map featured at top, heavy freight at Pittsfield, MA below
June 23, 1831 The Boston & Worcester Railroad Corporation incorporates in Massachusetts. It is the oldest element of the New York Central system in New England.

July 1, 1870 The Kalamazoo & South Haven is leased in perpetuity to the Michigan Central.
July 4, 1870 The first train enters Bloomingdale MI on the Kalamazoo & South Haven Railroad (later MC, NYC, PC, CR).
July 1, 1937 Passenger service ends on the former Kalamazoo & South Haven, now a branch in Michigan of the New York Central.
June 30, 1937 Last day of mail service on the former Kalamazoo & South Haven as the Post Office shifts the contract to motor freight.

July 1, 1935 The New York Central Lines (subsidiary companies) are re-named the New York Central System.

July 1, 1958 The New York Central withdraws from The Pullman Company and begins staffing its own passenger trains.

July 1, 1964 The New York Central opens its first “Flexi-Flo” terminal, in Indianapolis. The system uses steel pipes to transfer loads directly from covered hoppers to trucks.

July 2, 1831 First test of the “Dewitt Clinton” on the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad. Read more about the original NY Central

July 3, 1948 The New York Central issues a report that only 20 per cent of its long-distance passenger trains are diesel powered, but the number is expected to rise to 50% by year’s end.

July 4, 1871 The Detroit, Hillsdale & Indiana (later LS&MS) begins service to Saline MI.

July 4, 1878 The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad opens between Youngstown and Beaver Falls (some sources say July 3).

June 30, 1889 The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (The Big Four) is formed from the merger of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railway, the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago Railway and the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railway.

June 30, 1908 Last day steam trains could legally operate south of the Harlem River in New York City. Read about the Harmon Shops where electric locomotives were maintained.

June 30, 1940 Last day “archbar” freight trucks could legally operate in U.S. interchange service, and then only on empty cars returning to their home roads.

June 28, 1832 The Detroit & St. Joseph Railroad (MI) is chartered. Although little is actually constructed, the proposed route will form the basis of the Central Railroad of Michigan [later MC/NYC/PC/CR/NS] charter. The proposed route closely follows the present State of Michigan/Amtrak line from Detroit to Kalamazoo. From Kalamazoo it was planned to go west through Paw Paw to St. Joseph, a route that was never constructed.

June 27, 1859 An express train bound from Chicago wrecks between South Bend and Mishawaka on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern. The train was passing over a fill that, because a culvert had plugged, was serving as an unintended dam. The saturated earth was not able to support a train. At least five of the crew were killed. Many passengers were swept downstream and drowned, as well as being killed in the wreck. There was an estimated 150 persons on the train, but a death toll has never been determined.

June 27, 1937 First train over Michigan Central’s Michigan Avenue viaduct in Kalamazoo. Auto traffic will not run under the bridge until October.

June 27, 1960 Demolition of the Grand Central Terminal office building begins to allow construction of the Pan Am Building.


June 24, 1878 William H. Vanderbilt gains control of the Michigan Central.

June 24, 1928 The New York Central inaugurates Day Coach De Luxe No. 1 & 2 between New York and Buffalo on a 10 hour 20 minute schedule with 18 stops. It is the first luxury coach train.

June 25, 1844 The Central Railroad of Michigan reaches Albion from the east.

June 25, 1866 The Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw Railroad [later MC, NYC, PC, CR, NS, JAIL] completes its line from Jackson to Lansing via Mason.

June 25, 1902 Michigan Central and Pere Marquette Railroads open Union Station in Lansing.

June 26, 1918 The USRA contracts with the American Railway Express, making it the sole U.S. express operator on U.S. railroads.

June 23, 1954 Robert Heller & Associates present the result of their passenger train study to representatives of the Pennsylvania, New York Central and Baltimore & Ohio railroads. The study finds that passengers are leaving trains for automobiles and airplanes and the railroads are unable to price their services by cost because so many of the rates are frozen by regulations. The railroads decline to follow any of the study’s recommendations to consolidate long-distance trains. Most of the study’s recommendations will be made under Amtrak.

Thanks again Mark Tomlonson

Train Service Into NYC’s Grand Central Limited After Blaze

In this photo provided by Ben Parkin, firefighter battle a fire runder the Metro-North railroad tracks in New York

Commuters into and out of New York’s famed Grand Central Terminal faced crippling delays Wednesday, a day after a raging fire broke out beneath elevated train tracks in the city, officials said.

The blaze Tuesday night at a garden center underneath Metro-North tracks, north of the station in Manhattan’s East Harlem section, halted train service and left thousands of commuters stranded on their way home.

Metro-North said two of the four tracks in the area of the fire were operational for Wednesday’s morning rush. Trains were slowed from their normal 60 mph to 30 mph as repairs continue.

The fire caused damage to a center column beneath the elevated tracks.

“You can see the damaged column in the center. We have to take the load off that structure … and transfer it to other places so that the center beam can be supported so the two inside tracks can go back into service,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast told WNYW’s “Good Day New York” on Wednesday morning.

Commuters were warned to expect long delays and crowded conditions, and officials encouraged customers to work from home or find alternate travel plans.

The commuter line is running on a Saturday schedule and is at 60 percent capacity, MTA spokeswoman Meredith Daniels said. Officials said between 140,000 and 150,000 riders were affected by the delays.

Most seemed to take the inconvenience in stride.

“I had to stand the whole time. I was only delayed like 30 minutes,” said Mike Joshi, who got on at Southport, Connecticut, headed to New York for his teaching job in Brooklyn.

A train that left White Plains at 6:30 a.m. was so crowded that by the time it traveled seven stops, to Mount Vernon, no one could get on. The conductor announced that another train behind would make all local stops. The passengers included many teens on their way to school.

Before reopening the tracks for Wednesday’s commute, the MTA said in a statement that crews “inspected all elements, including the supports, track, power and signal, and ran test trains to ensure safety.”

More than 150 firefighters responded to Tuesday’s blaze, which officials said also involved construction debris and several trailers and vehicles and may have blown off bolts from the tracks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the scene and detailed the damage, WCBS-TV reported.

“The fire was so hot that they could hear the rivets, the bolts popping,” Cuomo said.

One firefighter suffered a minor injury when he slipped, but no civilians were hurt.

  • By The Associated Press

Lot of Trivia on New York Central Railroad History

One of the items we follow is a list of NY Central news items from Mark Tomlonson. Sometimes we comment on them.

April 17, 1826 The Mohawk & Hudson Railroad is chartered in New York State. Most historians consider this the first event leading to the New York Central System.

May 8, 1858 The New York Central provides a sleeping car on overnight trains between Albany and Buffalo NY. COMMENT: The New York Central was instrumental in early railroading in United States. Check out The Original New York Central Railroad

May 3, 1875 The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad opens the first portion of its Fourth Avenue Improvement in New York City for full revenue service. The section from 56th to 94th Street has been placed in a combination cut-and-cover and tunnel with smoke vents in center of Park Avenue. COMMENT: See Grand Central Terminal

May 7, 1921 The New York Central makes the first test of run of mail containers, from New York and Chicago. COMMENT: The Central was very important in the development of the US Post Office. Read more on Head End Equipment.

April 19, 1940 The Lake Shore Limited wrecks at Little Falls NY. Thirty-nine people are killed. The Road Foreman of Engines, who was riding in the cab and survived the wreck, reported that the engineer, approaching a curve too fast, seemed disoriented. The engineer cut the throttle instead of applying brakes, causing a severe run-in and derailment. COMMENT: See more at NY Central Wreck

May 1, 1950 The New York Central places the first Budd RDC cars (“”Beeliners” on the NYC) in revenue service between Boston and Springfield MA. COMMENT: BEELINERS

May 2, 1957 The last steam locomotive operates on the New York Central as 2-8-2 Class H-7a 1977 drops its fires at Riverside Yard in Cincinnati.

May 8, 1962 Stockholders in both the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads approve the Penn Central merger. COMMENT: Bad Day!!!   See What If No Penn Central

April 28, 2009 Workers replace what is believed to be the last incandescent light in Grand Central Terminal. Managers admit they may have missed an incandescent among the roughly 4,000 bulbs in the facility.

Sometimes we find interesting pictures.

Utica Trolley In ClintonAt one point, Utica trolley system was owned by New York Central. It used to serve Clinton, NY

Other times we get great pictures. Especially from Wayne Koch.

September 1955
It would be the last time he would see steam on NYC trains in Chicago. Thanks for viewing!
 1955: The Last Gasp–NYC steam in Chicagoland…



INFOWORKS Great Railroad WebSite: 1980 Olympics, Troy Union RR and MORE

It all started out when we got a note from Richard O. Aichele from Information Works Inc. in Saratoga Springs, NY. He commented on one of our WebSites about “Who Owns Grand Central” and then: “Back in 1980 I lived under GCT for several days between runs of the Irving Trust Winter Olympics Spacial.  I was the guy who had the fun of getting the five private cars together, dealing with the railroads and making the trips run as smoothly as possible.  I have some the details of it on my website
Still remember how different – quiet like a cathedral –  GCT was about 3 or 4 AM.

Took a look at his Website. Before I even got to the 1980 Olympics, I ran into a section on the Troy Union Railroad. (One of our favorites).

Then I got to his section on the 1980 Olympics and the Irving Trust Company special train. Great details, great pictures.

He also has a section on the Railroad Steam Era.

Railroad Cool News

Cover Photo is a Syracuse to Utica trolley waiting for a NY Central mainline passenger train in downtown Syracuse, New York.

Links to videos: 1 hr. 25 minute ride Southeast to Grand Central Terminal (old NY Central Harlem Line). Links to other videos covering the rest of Metro-North.

April 10, 1922 The plans for Cleveland Union Terminal are approved. The 52-storey Terminal Tower will be the tallest building west of New York.


 April 10, 1936 The Palomar observatory mirror arrives in Pasadena CA after a 16-day cross-country trip by rail.

April 6, 1958 The New York Central Railroad ends commuter service on the Putnam Division.

 April 6, 1962 The State of New York amends its constitution to allow the state to guarantee bonds for the purchase of new commuter equipment on the New York Central, Long Island and New Haven railroads.

April 4, 1910 An amendment to the Safety Appliance Act requires freight cars to be equipped with ladders, handholds and running boards.

March 30, 1952 The last freight delivered by an Indiana Public Service Company freight motor is made to the company’s Ft. Wayne power plant by motor 817. Future deliveries will be made by the New York Central.

 March 30, 1959 The New York Central agrees to pay the Illinois Central $5 million (2016: $41 million) for breaching its contract to have Michigan Central trains terminate at Central Station in Chicago. NYC has moved them to LaSalle Street station.

March 10, 1945 New York Central accepts its first 4-8-4 “Niagara”, #6000, at the Alco factory in Schenectady NY.



Metro-North’s New Haven Line broke all-time ridership record in 2015

Last year, ridership on MTA Metro-North Railroad‘s New Haven Line surpassed 40.3 million trips, marking a new all-time record.

The figure is 2 percent higher than 2014’s total ridership of 39.6 million, according to a press release issued by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office.

The inner portion of the New Haven Line between New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and Stamford, Conn., had ridership growth of 3.6 percent. Ridership in the outer portion between Stamford and New Haven, Conn., nudged up 1.3 percent.

A New Haven Line train
Photo: State of Connecticut

The number of passengers on the Danbury and Waterbury branches rose 9.4 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively, while the New Canaan Branch experienced a 1.7 percent decrease in ridership.

The growth demonstrates that Connecticut must continue to invest in the line, Malloy said in the release.

Over the past several years, Connecticut has made a number of investments to improve the line, including putting 405 new M-8 rail cars into service, along with building new maintenance facilities, bridges and overhead power lines.

Ridership on the entire Metro-North Railroad system last year reached a record 86 million, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced earlier this week.

Connecticut owns the New Haven Line, which is operated by Metro-North under a contract with the state’s transportation department.

Cuomo offers no plan to pay for grand projects

When it came to transportation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s annual State of the State speech made for some great sound bites but provided little substance.

Cuomo failed to give any specifics of how he will come up with $8.3 billion promised to meet the shortfall his proposed 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan.

Cuomo is kicking the can down the road.

The original proposed previous 2010-2014 MTA $29 billion Five Year Capital Plan was cut to $24.2 billion before being approved.

This doesn’t include $8.3 billion more pledged by Cuomo and $2.5 billion by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to help cover shortfalls in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed $28 billion 2015-2019 Five Year Capital Plan (cut from the original $32 billion).

When will these billions become a reality?

The original proposed 2015-2019 MTA $32 billion Five Year Capital Plan in September 2014 was rejected by the New York State MTA Capital Program Review Board.

In October 2015, a revised $28 billion 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan was approved by the MTA Board. It still needs approval by the New York State MTA Capital Program Review Board.

How can the MTA justify cutting $9 billion in badly needed capital improvements over a 10-year period and still provide the day to day services millions of New Yorkers count on?

How many critical capital improvement projects will be postponed  into the next 2020-2024 Capital Program?

The next 2020-2024 MTA Five Year Capital Program will first have to deal with $9 billion in unfunded carryover capital projects and programs going back 10 years.

By waiting all these years, the costs will have gone up by another billion or two.

This includes $1 billion or more to construct Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway.

Next, is $1 billion or more to finish LIRR Eastside Access to Grand Central Terminal.

What about finding $500 million to build the new No. 7 subway station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street?

This was dropped from the original scope of work for the  No. 7 subway Hudson Yards extension as a means to keep the project within a baseline $2.1 billon budget. In the end, the cost was $2.4 billion without this station.

Also needed is $1.5 billion for the LIRR Main Line Third Track project.

Don’t forget $5 billion for New York’s share of the $20 billion Amtrak Gateway Tunnel project from New Jersey to Penn Station. (Amtrak just announced this week that the project cost estimate has already grown to $23 billion).

The LaGuardia Airport Train to the Plane base line budget of $450 million in the years to come will require up to an additional $550 million.

The final cost may be closer to $1 billion.

The $3 billion new Penn Station will end up needing far more than $300 million in combined assistance from the MTA, Amtrak along with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Does anyone really believe that potential developers will spend $2.7 billion of their own funding to pay for this?

Staten Island residents will continue looking for up to $600 million for the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit.

Queens residents will be looking for $100 million toward the $200 million Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service.

These dollars may be necessary if New York City DOT is unable to secure $100 million in U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding.

Suffolk County residents will be looking for $100 million for the Route 110 Bus Rapid Transit.

Westchester County residents desire $50 million for the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit.

Others will continue to lobby for restoration of LIRR service on old Rockaway LIRR branch at $1 billion, Triboro X Subway Express (new subway line connecting the Bronx, Queens & Brooklyn for $1 billiion to $2  billion) and most recently the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Street Car Connector at a cost of $1.7 billion.

Combined, all of the above would make Cuomo’s tab for unfunded transportation improvements exceed $26 billion!

This doesn’t include how he will pay back a $3 billion federal loan for construction of the Tappen Zee Bridge.

Cuomo reminds me of the character Wimpy who famously said “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

When the bills become due, taxpayers will be stuck with Cuomo’s tab.

Why would the next Governor want to pay for any of Cuomo’s bills?

Larry Penner

Great Neck

Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked in the transportation field for 31 years)

My take on this. NY State has always managed to “step up to the bar” in the past. Sold bonds for the New York Thruway. Worked a deal with Albany County for the South Mall, etc, etc.


MTA board OKs $663 million contract for East Side Access project

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board yesterday awarded Tutor Perini Corp. a $663 million contract to build and finish four platforms and eight tracks for the future MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) terminal underneath Grand Central Station.

The pact marks the final major contract for MTA’s $10 billion East Side Access project, which is aimed at providing a faster commute from Long Island and Queens into the east side of Manhattan, agency officials said in a press release.

The contract calls for transforming two 1,143-foot-long caverns into a terminal station, with more than 12 miles of track work from Queens to Manhattan. Tutor Perini also will build elevators, escalators and staircases to and from the underground station and perform all architectural finishes through the caverns, MTA officials said.

Last month, Tutor Perini was awarded a contract worth up to $79 million to build a tunnel approach and rebuild a bridge in Sunnyside, Queens.

“With the award of these contracts, the eventual completion of East Side Access is starting to come into view, said Michael Horodniceanu, president of MTA Capital Construction Co., which is building the project. “This is the next chapter in the long history of Grand Central Terminal and the growth and development of New York City.”

The work to be performed in Sunnyside includes excavation and construction of an approach structure that will allow the LIRR’s existing tracks to connect to one of the four rail tunnels build below the Sunnyside Yard.

Scheduled for completion in December 2022, the East Side Access project also is expected to reduce crowding at Penn Station and nearby subway stations.

Map depicting MTA’s East Side Access project
Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Service On Lexington Avenue line deteriorating, MTA

Service on the No. 5 and 6 trains is deteriorating, an MTA official warned on Monday during a board committee meeting.

The two trains only meet the MTA’s wait standards 66% percent of the time on weekdays, data shows. Transit officials say an excessive wait is more than 25% beyond what was scheduled.

On weekdays, the No. 5 was only on-time 40.4% of the time, and the No. 6 was at 46.5%, according to MTA data. The performance drops were 4 percentage points and almost 10 percentage points respectively.

Challenged about the late trains by board member Charles Moerdler, MTA officials said the Lexington Avenue subway corridor saw a great deal of ridership growth. They said they focus on wait standards, not on-time performance.

“The 4, 5, and 6, is a very intense line,” said Peter Cafiero, chief of operations planning, about the No. 6 train, which has also been challenged by higher ridership and construction work.

MTA officials also said they are changing No. 6 train schedules to make them more accurate, which frustrated Moerdler.

“Just changing the schedule doesn’t get the train to the station any earlier, it just masks the problem,” he said.