Category Archives: History

1867: Railroads North

From the Utica OD
1867, 150 years ago

Pictured is the Remsen Depot

A new chapter in the history of Central New York is ushered in when the Utica and Black River Railroad is extended to Lyons Falls, thus connecting Utica with the North Country and its lumber and wood products.

The line was organized on Jan. 29, 1853 and on Dec. 13, 1854, it was opened from Utica to Boonville. Errors in management and underestimating construction and operating costs doomed the unprofitable railroad and it was forced to close. In 1860, a group of Central New Yorkers – headed by John Thorn – purchased the line. Thorn, a wealthy Utican in the soap and candle-making business, was elected president. He and his partners began to improve the railroad and its service and it soon began to make money and, for the first time, began to pay stockholders a dividend

Thorn was born in 1811 in Ruishton, near Taunton, Somersetshire, England. He settled in Utica in 1832. Today he is a director in several Utica banks and knitting mills and is a parishioner at Tabernacle Baptist Church. (He donated the land on Hopper Street for a new church. His wife, Mary Maynard Thorn, donated a lot of King Street for a chapel.)

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What Railroads Connected With Maybrook Yard?

The Maybrook Line was a line of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad which connected with its Waterbury Branch in Derby, Connecticut, and its Maybrook Yard in Maybrook, New York, where it interchanged with other carriers. It was the main east-west freight route of the New Haven until its merger with the Penn Central in 1969.

After the New York and New England Railroad succeeded merging with the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad at Hopewell Junction en route to the Fishkill Ferry station, they sought to expand traffic onto the newly built Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge in order to move goods to the other side of the Hudson River, and the Central New England Railway was perfectly willing to provide a connection. The CNE line was originally chartered as the Dutchess County Railroad in 1889 and ran southeast from the bridge to Hopewell Junction, and was operational on May 8, 1892. The line was absorbed by the CNE in 1907, and eventually merged into the New Haven Railroad in 1927. Passenger service was phased out beginning in the 1930s, the same decade the New Haven Railroad faced crippling bankruptcy. Later financial troubles in the 1950s and 1960s led to its eventual acquisition by Penn Central Railroad in 1969.

Upon taking ownership, the Penn Central began discouraging connecting traffic on the line that paralleled Penn Central routes for the rest of its journey to prevent it from being short-hauled. After 1971 only one train in each direction (for the Erie Lackawanna) traversed the full line.

Through service over the line ended abruptly in 1974 when the Poughkeepsie Bridge burned and was not repaired.

Maybrook Yard was where freight cars were interchanged between railroads from the west and the New Haven, whose Maybrook Line headed east over the Poughkeepsie Bridge to the railroad’s main freight yard, Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven, Connecticut.

To handle the traffic the yard was dramatically expanded in 1912 to three miles in length with six separate yards including two hump yards. A new 10-stall roundhouse with a 95-foot turntable replaced the original and was later expanded to 27 stalls. Also added was a large icing plant for refrigerator cars. At its height, the yard had 177 tracks totaling over 71 track-miles.

For much of its existence six class I railroads interchanged traffic at the yard with the New Haven Railroad. In 1956 the yard saw 19 arrivals and 18 departures of which 14 were operated by the New Haven, eight by the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway, seven by the Erie Railroad, four by the New York, Ontario and Western Railway, two by the Lehigh and New England Railroad and two by the New York Central Railroad. Rail service is still provided to customers in Maybrook by the Middletown and New Jersey Railroad on tracks owned by Norfolk Southern.

In 1993, Conrail pulled out of the Danbury area, selling all the track to Maybrook Properties. Freight traffic was rerouted on the Albany-Boston Line, turning south at Springfield, Mass., to New Haven, ending significant freight traffic on the Beacon-to-Danbury Line.

All evidence of Maybrook yard is now gone but for a single track coming from Campbell Hall.

The Erie Railroad brought in 500 cars each day, the O&W brought in 180 cars a day, the Lehigh and Hudson 400 cars a day, the Lehigh and New England 140 cars a day. New Jersey Central would send trains here, as well.

The trains would uncouple their cars in the receiving yard, be classified by destination and recoupled into trains heading into New England.

MaybrookYard02

Guest Post by Ken Kinlock

Mark Tomlonson’s Dates In New York Central History

Been a while, but a lot of great dates!

November 2, 1931 The New York Central pays its last dividend until after the Depression.

November 1, 1857 Because of a financial panic, the Michigan Central and Michigan Southern railroads agree to divide their passenger business between Lake Erie and Chicago 50/50 and their freight business 58/42 in favor of the Michigan Central. Both roads agree to give up their steamboats on Lake Erie used for a connection to Buffalo.

November 1, 1869 The New York Central Railroad (1853) and the Hudson River Railroad are consolidated to form the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company (NYC&HR) under the control of Cornelius Vanderbilt. The merger plan was kept secret from regular stockholders until the vote was taken.
An important agreement! Hudson River Railroad began in 1846

November 1, 1872 The New York Central & Hudson River, New York & Harlem and New Haven railroads sign an agreement for the joint use of the first Grand Central Station.

November 1, 1873 The Canada Southern Railway opens for through traffic.

November 1, 1875 Wagner sleeping cars replace Pullmans on the Michigan Central Railroad. Wagner inaugurates through cars between Boston and Chicago via both the MC and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern routes. Because of this, the Erie drops its routing over the MC as does the Toledo, Wabash & Western.

November 1, 1956 The first transcontinental Trailer-On-Flat-Car rates go into effect.

November 1, 1957 U.S. Class I Railroads report they roster 27,108 diesel and 2,697 steam locomotives. An additional 721 steam locomotives are in storage.

November 1, 1957 New York Central President Alfred E. Perlman and Pennsylvania Railroad President J.M. Symes announce they are discussing a merger of their two railroads.

October 31, 1903 The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad votes to electrify between Croton-on-Hudson on the Hudson Division and North White Plains on the Harlem Division. The system used will be a 660-volt DC on an under-running third rail. Later this fall they will sign a contract with General Electric for the locomotives.

October 27, 1904 Informal tests are held at Schenectady of the new General Electric Locomotives bound for Grand Central Terminal.
See https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/electric-railroads/

October 27, 1956 The New York Central removes its Aerotrain from service.

October 27, 1957 The New York Central places its “Train X” set in commuter service between Chicago and Elkhart.

October 28, 1953 Train Telephone service begins on the “20th Century Limited” between Buffalo and Chicago.

October 28, 1956 After a 2-year study, the New York Central introduces its “Travel Tailored Schedule Plan”, an attempt to rationalize local and medium distance passenger service. The plan features short, fast trains with no head-end cars and few sleepers. Intermediate stops at smaller stations are curtailed.

October 29, 2004 Last scheduled run of 1962-vintage former New York Central ACMU cars on Metro-North.
Did not last as long as NY Subway’s R-42’s (built 1966, some still alive

October 20, 1920 The Association of American Railroads issues standards for stenciling reporting marks on the sides of freight cars.

October 21, 1950 The Monongahela Railroad ends passenger service.

October 21, 2010 The Arian & Blissfield [MI] finalizes the purchase of an ex-Michigan Central Branch between Lansing and Jackson. It will be operated by an A&B subsidiary “Jackson & Lansing Railroad Company”, reporting marks: JAIL.

October 12, 1934 Five Railroad Industry groups merge to form the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
The American Railway Association
The Association of Railway Executives
The Bureau of Railroad Economics
The Railway Accounting Officers Association
The Railway Treasury Officers Association

October 12, 1950 The New York Central places an order for 200 diesel locomotives from four builders. ALCO, Lima, Baldwin, ???

New England Gateway, The New “Alphabet Route”

Guest article by Ken Kinlock

Over the years we covered the historic “ALPHABET ROUTES”

More recently there has been a lot of activity in creating a “New England Gateway”. Because it involves several railroads, we will call it an “alphabet route”.

Before then, rail freight into and out of New England had been mostly Conrail (now CSX) or Guilford. Another route exists that avoids these carriers.

A test train has run to Johnson City, New York (January 2006). This coal train moved via the New England Gateway Route (P&W-NECR-VRS-D&H-NS)

“P&W” Providence & Worcester Railroad (the Providence and Worcester Railroad has joined the Genesee & Wyoming family of railroads)

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“NECR” New England Central Railroad

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“VRS” Vermont Rail System

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“D&H” Canadian Pacific Railway (was Delaware & Hudson once)

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“NS” Norfolk Southern

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A coal ship arrived at Providence, Rhode Island and was unloaded to a 50-car train.

The train travels to Worcester, Massachusetts, then to New London, Connecticut on the P&W.

It switches to the NECR for travel, back through Norwich, Connecticut then Palmer, Massachusetts, to Bellows Falls, Vermont.

At Bellows Falls, it is picked up by VRS and heads to Whitehall, Vermont.

From Whitehall, D&H takes it thru Saratoga, Schenectady and Oneonta to Binghampton.

NS carries it the last leg to Johnson City.

The route has varied, the owners have varied; but this is the basic “sketch” of the route.

Our Short Line Railroad Collection

So what is a “SHORT LINE”?
As defined by the Surface Transportation Board, a Class III is a railroad with an annual operating revenue of less than $28 million. In Canada, Transport Canada classifies short line railroads as Class II. … Handling shortlines exist only to move cars along their tracks for larger railroads.

We have a major WebSite called Short Line Railroads

Lets discuss some of the more unusual “short line railroads.

The Buckingham Branch has 6 interchanges with Class I Railroads. Three interchanges each with CSX and Norfolk Southern give our customers freight connections to anywhere in North America and to the Port of Virginia. With connection alternatives to both CSX and Norfolk Southern our customers also are assured of the most competitive freight rates and the best freight schedules.

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.

Gary Railway (reporting mark GRW) is owned and operated by Transtar, Inc., a subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation. It currently runs along 63 miles of yard track throughout Gary, Indiana as a class III switching carrier for local steel supply. It used to be part of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway which officially ceased to exist January 31st, 2009, at 11:59 PM. At midnight, February 1st, the line became Canadian National property. Over 120 years of history went out with a whisper. There were no special trains or ceremonies… Just business as usual. There are also extensive archives available.

More shortlines are covered in “A Collection of Short Stories about Railroads – Book One” and “A Collection of Short Stories about Railroads – Book Two

BUFFALO CREEK RAILROAD.

Troy & Greenbush Railroad

THE SYRACUSE JUNCTION RAILROAD COMPANY

Detroit River Tunnel Company

Amsterdam, Chuctanunda and Northern Railroad

The New Haven and the Military

In Weymouth along the Greenbush there was the Naval Ammunition Depot, its annex in Hingham, and the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Hingham. The Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Quincy. In Hull there was Ft. Revere and supposedly some 16″ guns brought into Hull via rail during WW2. In South Weymouth the Plymouth line’s tracks pass right by the rear gate of NAS South Weymouth. Of course Camp Edwards on the Cape interacted with the NH. I’m curious about all aspects of the NH’s interaction with all military sites in its service area, small installations or large: NAS Cherry Point, RI, Westover AFB in Springfield, National Guard units, Groton, Submarine base, CT, Boston Navy Yard?

The New Haven had a switching yard (totalling about ten miles of track) at Camp Myles Standish. The New Haven was responsible for troop train movements and freight/supply for the camp. None of the yard remains as of today, although the ROW from Taunton to Mansfield can still be explored (one cannot get across Rte 495, however). Camp Miles Standish was a major staging area for the Boston Port of Embarkation in Boston Harbor. Camp Miles Standish was just one of many Army bases located in the Boston area. A Port of Embarkation was a place where troops were actually put on board troop ships and sent off to the war zones. On the New Haven side, the actual Port of Embarkation was the Boston Army Base on the South Boston waterfront. This was served by “Government Yard” which was adjacent to Commonwealth Pier and the Boston Fish Pier. Boston Navy Yard (Charlestown) was on the B&M side of the river. The NH did serve the Military RR in the Quonset point Fleet docks,and the Davisville RI. complex where the Groundpounders were.

There is substantially more to see, from a railroad perspective, at the old Hingham Ammunition Depot annex in Hingham, MA. Known as Wampatuck State Park today, the tracks leading into the Hingham Ammunition Depot annex were refurbished sometime during the 1960s in anticipation of processing rail shipment during the Vietnam War, which apparently never happened. The tracks leading into this facility cross Route 3A near the Hingham/Scituate line and if you walk about a mile into the woods along the tracks you’ll find plenty of tracks and plenty of structures from WW2.

Most of this discussion so far has involved WW II.There are two other aspects — first the NH sponsorship of two military railway reserve outfits, the 729th Railway Operating Battalion and the 749th Railway Operating Battalion in WW II. The 729th served in Europe. The 749th served in the Philippines. The 729th was reorganized, again with NH sponsorship postwar, and served in the Korean War. The 729th was the predecessor unit of the present 1205th railway unit of the Army Reserve.

From: The New Haven and the Military

The New York City transit projects that never were

From pneumatic trains to a floating airport

Featured image: Norman Bel Geddes’s Rotary Airport design.

From NY Curbed

As commuters grow ever more impatient with an overcrowded and underfunded MTA, languish in summer traffic, and navigate the city’s far-flung, congested airports, it’s worth remembering: It didn’t have to be this way.

The trains, planes, and highways that shuttle New Yorkers from place to place are the systems we ended up with, but had things gone a little differently, we could be looking at a very different city. One where pneumatic trains send riders across the city on elevated tracks, Manhattan’s grid is crisscrossed by diagonal streets, or an airport floats in the harbor just off the Battery.

All of these are real projects that were planned for the city at one time or another in history, though none of them came to be—though they’re now brought to life in “Never Built New York,” a new exhibit at the Queens Museum. Running through February 18, the show includes original drawings and models, as well as installations and animations, that depict alternate New Yorkscapes.

Curators Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, who also wrote a book of the same name, took us on a whistle-stop tour through some of their favorite unbuilt transit projects featured in the exhibit.
1870: Beach Pneumatic Transit

More than 30 years before the New York City subway debuted in 1904, inventor Alfred Ely Beach was hard at work on a very different plan for subterranean travel in the city: a pneumatic, tube-shaped train propelled by air from enormous fans. Though the New York State Legislature approved the plan, the local Tammany Hall government put the kibosh on the scheme.

But that didn’t stop Beach from building a working section of system, about a quarter-mile of it which he constructed illegally right across from City Hall at the corner of Broadway and Warren Street. Though it only had one station and one car, it was open to the public and ran for three years before being shut down.

1872: Rufus Henry Gilbert’s elevated railway

Elon Musk’s concept for the Hyperloop might sound futuristic, but it’s actually pretty retro. He was beat to the punch a century and a half before by another polymath, Dr. Rufus Henry Gilbert. Famed as a Civil War surgeon who performed amputations under fire, Gilbert later turned his attention to public transit. He put forth an idea for an elevated pneumatic train that would travel above the Manhattan streets through twin tubes supported by elaborately designed steel arches.

His steampunkish plan also included air-powered elevators to bring commuters up to the tracks and a telegraph system to send arrival information along the line—an innovation that even the modern MTA has yet to perfect. Though Gilbert got the go-ahead to build his system, the financial panic of 1873 stopped the project in its tracks.


A sketch of Rufus Henry Gilbert’s elevated railway. Courtesy Library of Congress

1908: Charles R. Lamb’s diagonal streets

As urban congestion began to skyrocket in the early 20th century, architect Charles R. Lamb conceived a design for Manhattan streets that would have radically altered the grid we know today. Drawing inspiration from European cities like Paris, he conceptualized a street plan that would have cut through Manhattan’s right angles with wide boulevards. “It was not only to improve movement through the city, but also to try to change the way in which the grid had made New York so powerfully a mercantile place,” Goldin explains. “So you would have these sort of serendipitous moments that become parks or places for monuments.”

1919: Daniel L. Turner’s expanded subway

To anyone who regularly rides the MTA, it’s painfully obvious what’s missing from the map: more crosstown trains in Manhattan, and more lines connecting the outer boroughs. A prescient 1919 plan by the Transit Construction Commission’s chief engineer, Daniel Turner, smartly addressed both issues. His design would have quadrupled the amount of crosstown lines and added trains that traveled directly between Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, anticipating the congestion and overcrowding that would come to plague public transit in the city.

“He wanted to get ahead of the development rather than trying to respond to the development,” says Lubell. Alas, the plans were put on hold due to bureaucratic and financial constraints. But Turner’s legacy lives in on, to some degree, in the long-awaited Second Avenue Subway, a beefed-up version of which was also included in his scheme.

1932: Norman Bel Geddes’s Rotary Airport

Designer and visionary Norman Bel Geddes had plenty of futuristic dreams for New York City over the years. Among them was a proposal for an airport floating in New York Harbor less than a quarter mile from the Battery.

Resembling a massive aircraft carrier, the airport would rotate on massive ship’s propellers to allow the airstrips to align themselves with the prevailing winds, allowing for optimal takeoff and landing conditions. After they landed, passengers could quickly arrive in Manhattan via a moving sidewalk in an underwater shaft, arriving at the foot of Broadway. Not a bad commute. Though Bel Geddes took out a patent for his ambitious project, it never made it past the concept stages.
1945: William Zeckendorf’s Dream Airport

Few developers were better at getting press attention for their projects than William Zeckendorf, who employed architects like I.M. Pei and Le Corbusier and left an indelible stamp on the city. His wildest proposal was for an airport in the Hudson River built on a titanic, 200-foot-high platform stretching from 24th to 71st Streets. “It looks like the largest sheet of plywood you ever saw in your life,” says Goldin. The airport would have gobbled up much of the West Side, though it allowed for boats to land in piers underneath. After Zeckendorf got his scheme featured in a 1946 issue of Life, his publicity grab made a powerful enemy: all-powerful city planner Robert Moses, who shot down Zeckendorf’s plan with little fanfare.

Last Steam Passenger Train In New York State

Saw the following in Mark Tomlonson’s list of important dates in New York Central history.

“September 11, 1952 The last New York Central steam-powered commuter train leaves White Plains for Dover (NY), marking the end of steam on all NYC Divisions feeding New York City. (Some sources say September 13.)”

Actually, Dover Plains, not Dover.

We already covered the last steam in New York State:
https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/last-steam-on-ny-central-lines-east/. But that was a milk train (empties) from Harmon to Utica.

The Delaware and Hudson in Recent Memory

We have just updated our Delaware & Hudson Railway WebSite

https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/delaware-hudson-railway/

We have added lots of new material called “The Delaware and Hudson in Recent Memory”

See some great advertising, maps, time tables and posters of the D&H

We hope you enjoy it like we do.

Train To Fort Benning, Georgia : A Recruit’s Journey

I received a letter from a follower who is writing a book on her father’s life. She is using letters home which her father wrote and had a gap on how he got from New York to Fort Benning, Georgia. Questions like what did he wear, where did he eat, where did he sleep.

Told her I would write a fictional story based on what facts I knew.

Dad’s Journey started at Albany, the capitol of New York State. Dad got “orders” in the mail to report to the Washington Avenue Armory:

Dad’s orders wanted him to appear at 07:30 hours in the morning. When he got off the Central Avenue bus he recognized several others waiting in the crowd. A sergeant who looked like a veteran of the Great War was handing out papers to be completed.

In the meantime a train had left Utica with four passenger cars. One of them was a Lackawanna car just off their Utica branch. The other three were New York Central cars off of the Adirondack Division.

Dad and the other recruits were “formed up” into a marching group, administered an “oath of office” and walked past the Capitol building to Albany’s Union Station. There was no band playing, but they were cheered on by citizens on the street.

At the Albany Station, the train from Utica had arrived and a switcher had brought three more cars and what would serve as a diner over from the West Albany Car Shop. The “diner” was loaded with box meals from the New York Central contractor, a Madison Avenue bakery.

Once the train was through New York City, the rest of the trip would be on “foreign”railroads. New York Central put good power on the train: a “Mohawk” (called a “Mountain” on other railroads……but not on the Water Level Route).

The train leaves before 11am and makes stops at Castleton, Hudson and Rhinebeck. Now the train is filled.

Next stop is Harmon to change engines to an electric one.

Now the train runs to Mott Haven then switches to a New Haven electric motor for a trip across the Hell Gate Bridge. Now they hook up a Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 locomotive headed for Washington.

In Washington DC, the Pennsyania Railroad bypassed Union Station and went directly to the huge Potomac Yard across the river. The GG1 was replaced by a modern steam engine belonging the Southern Railway (a founder of the current huge Norfolk Southern System).

Reaching Georgia, the train changed over to the Central Of Georgia Railway for it’s trip to Columbus, Georgia and Fort Benning.

Fort Benning at that time was relatively new. It had been created in World War I. So basic training housing was walking distance to the train. There was once a two-foot railroad around Fort Benning…..but the walk was easier.

Now Dad will have a better place to sleep than an old day coach

See the full WebSite on Dad’s trip to Fort Benning