Category Archives: History

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.

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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

Comments o Mark Tomlonson’s History of NY Central

July 21, 1958 The New York Central begins carrying mail between Chicago and Detroit in special “Flexi-Van” containers. The vans designated for mail are equipped with side doors. “Flexi-Van” service is expended to Boston and St. Louis.
Comment: Too little and too late.

July 22, 1920 William K. Vanderbilt dies. His son, Harold S. Vanderbilt inherits half of his father’s fortune and takes the family seat on the New York Central Board.
Comment: See the story on Robert Young taking over the NY Central from the Vanderbilts: https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/robert-r-young/

July 22, 1942 The United States begins compulsory civilian gasoline rationing due to World War II. The rationing will cause rail ridership, which has been in a steady decline since 1916, to markedly increase. This increase will cause many railroads to invest heavily in new passenger equipment after the war.
Comment: AGAIN, Too little and too late.

July 23, 1966 In a combination publicity stunt and test of how track functions under high speeds, a New York Central jet powered Rail Diesel Car hits 183.85 mph near Stryker, OH. Some of the data obtained from the test will be used in the design of the Metroliners.

July 20, 1906 The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad tests the first electric locomotives in New York City.
Comment: They were first tested just West of Schenectady in Scotia, NY

July 20, 1948 The Chicago Railroad Fair opens to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Chicago railroads.
Comment: See full story on rail fair:
https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/chicago-rail-fair/

July 17, 1938 The Wheeling & Lake Erie ends passenger service.

July 17, 1957 The New Haven and the New York Central test EMD’s FL-9 locomotive, capable of running from its own diesel prime movers or from a third rail.
Comment: New Haven liked them and bought; then they ended up on NY Central

July 17, 1957 The New York Central ends its “Travel Tailored Schedules”, returning to head-end equipment leading long, slow trains. Alfred J. Perlman has designed the new policy to drive away passengers and make train discontinuance easier.
Comment: Nobody likes “long, slow trains” especially express and mail shippers

July 15, 1979 The Kent-Barry-Eaton Connecting Railway starts operations between Grand Rapids and Vermontville on former Grand Valley/MC/NYC/PC/CR trackage. It is the first railroad in the U.S. operated by African-Americans.

July 12, 1903 The New York Central and the Rock Island open LaSalle Street Station in Chicago. The new station gives the New York Central an edge over rival Pennsylvania, still operating in an antiquated Union Station lacking in passenger amenities.
Comment: find out more on Chicago stations

July 7, 1853 The ten railroads linking Albany and Buffalo file papers with the Secretary of State of New York forming the New York Central. It becomes the largest railroad in the U.S. in terms of mileage, capitalization and net worth. (Some sources say May 17)
Comment: Read about Erastus Corning

A really tough QUIZ………How Did You Do???

We published a really tough RAILING QUIZ from 1950

https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/the-new-york-central-railroad-in-1950/

But many readers have trouble reading the answers, AS THEY ARE PRINTED UPSIDE-DOWN.

So will reprint them for you here.

QUESTION #1: What NYC Is Concerned With Grouting?
The Answer is B (MoW)

QUESTION #2: Where Are Flagers Used?
The Answer is A (On Tracks)

QUESTION #3: How Much Does The Central Pay Other Railroads Per Day?
The Answer Is C ($1.75)

QUESTION #4: When Was The First NYCentral Diesel-Electric Put I Service?
The Answer Is C (1924)

QUESTION #5: Under The Railroad Retirement Act, How Much Does The Railroad Pay?
The Answer IS D (6%)

QUESTION #6: What Does The Central Use A REFLECTORSCOPE For?
The ANSWER IS C (FINDING FLAWS IN AXLES)

QUESTION #7: What Ranks Highest IN AAR Opinion Poll?
The Answer Is A (Personal Attention)

QUESTION #8: How Many Credit Unions Are There In The NY Central System?
The Answer Is B (32)

QUESTION #9: How Much Of The World’s Work Is Done By Machines?
The Answer Is D (94%)

QUESTION #10: How Many RAILROAD YMCAs Are Located On The NY Central System?
The Answer Is A (22)

WOW! Croton-Harmon……What A Fascinating Railroad Center!

We just updated our WebSite “NY Central Shops At Harmon

1913 saw the completion of electrification of Grand Central Terminal and the lower stretches of the Hudson and Harlem Divisions. Harmon, which is 33 miles from Grand Central Terminal, became the transfer point where electric locomotives were exchanged for steam and later diesel on through New York Central passenger trains. It also became the starting point for electric commuter service into the city.

Harmon was a New York Central-created community and came into existence because it was a logical point to be the outer limit of the electric zone. There was plenty of room as this was a requirement for an interchange point. Not only was there room for sidings and yards, but also for repair facilities. The steam engines that pulled the Great Steel Fleet to Chicago rested here. As the small, but powerful, electrics pulled in from Grand Central Terminal, the steamers quickly hooked on and took off up the Hudson.

The shops handled all servicing, inspection and repairs for all electric locomotives and MU equipment. They also handled servicing, inspection and minor repairs on steam (later diesel) in the area.

There were no third rails inside the shops. Instead, there were long 600-volt cables on reels hung from the ceiling. These were called “bugs” and were clipped to a third rail shoe when power was needed.

Harmon was basically a commuter passenger station and never developed into a transfer point. Stays were short as it only took a minute or two to change power.

Yes! A fascinating place.