Category Archives: New York State

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.)


Freight train derails in New Jersey, causing commuter delays

WTNH Channel 8

A freight train en route to upstate New York derailed in northern New Jersey on Friday afternoon, leaving rail cars strewn across the tracks and snarling the evening commute for thousands of people leaving New York.

Fire officials in Union Township, southwest of Newark, said the roughly 140-car train operated by CSX Transportation derailed about 1:30 p.m. on its way to Selkirk, New York, a suburb of Albany.

Fire Chief Michael Scanio said the tracks suffered “severe damage” but that the train cars were empty according to the engineer’s manifest, and there were no injuries.

Overhead images showed at least a dozen rail cars off the tracks or lying on their sides.

People were evacuated from nearby homes and businesses, Scanio said, but were being allowed to return to their homes by late afternoon after hazmat teams cleared the accident scene.

The tracks affected by the derailment are owned by Conrail and are also used by commuter railroad New Jersey Transit, which suspended service on its Raritan Valley Line in both directions in the area of the derailment.

There was no immediate indication about what caused the derailment or how long it would take to restore rail service in the area.

Learn About Proposed Beacon Line Rail Trail

By Sam Barron

Metro-North and the Hudson River Valley Greenway are looking for the public’s input on the Beacon Line Rail Trail.

Two public information meetings are being held, one on Monday, Nov. 13 in Pawling and one on Tuesday, Nov. 14 in Carmel to discuss the creation of the trail, which will be part of the Empire State Trail, a 750-mile bike and walking pathway from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo that hopes to be completed in 2020.

The Pawling meeting takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pawling High School Auditorium, 30 Wagner Drive, while the Carmel meeting takes place at the Putnam County TOPS Building Auditorium at 112 Route 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The trail will use a rail line that runs east-west across Dutchess and Putnam Counties. The line, known as the Beacon Line or the Maybrook Branch, connects with Metro-North’s Hudson Line at Beacon, and runs parallel with the Harlem Line north of Southeast.

Although owned by Metro-North Railroad, the line is not currently used for passenger train service.

The Beacon Line Rail Trail will be a shared-use bicycling and pedestrian path running along a 23-mile portion of the Metro-North Railroad Beacon Line Corridor from Brewster to Hopewell Junction connecting with the Dutchess Rail Trail.

One existing track along this portion of the rail line will remain intact for possible future use, and the line segment from Hopewell Junction to Beacon is not included in the proposed trail.

The proposed trail will typically be 12 feet wide and surfaced with asphalt. Appropriate treatments will be installed at all road crossings to provide safe trail use. Metro-North Railroad will oversee design and construction of the project, which is slated to start in the spring of 2019.

Construction of the Beacon Line Rail Trail will be funded by New York State, through funds administered by the Hudson River Valley Greenway as part of the larger Empire State Trail initiative.

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.


Guest Post by Ken Kinlock

New York State; it’s Railroads, Tourism, History

There are two important WebSites for New York State. New York State is somewhat of a tourist site. It opens with a picture of the Saratoga Race Track. Then sections on New York City, followed by Cooperstown, and the Adirondacks. Followed by the Catskill Mountains and the Erie (Barge) Canal. Then Albany, Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse. Finally an article on the Hudson Valley.

The second WebSite is all about New York Railroads and the NY Central Railroad.

This WebSite starts out with short stories on the many historic railroads of New York State. It concludes with many of the New York Central properties.

We hope you enjoy both WebSites.

Vintage private railcars are mustered at Albany-Rensselaer Train Station


Dome cars, lounges, observation and sleeper cars, many painted in the livery of their former railroads, gathered at the Rensselaer rail station Wednesday, preparing for a multi-day journey that will wind through the Adirondacks, the Southern Tier, the Berkshires and Green Mountains.

They’ll end up in Burlington, Vt., for the 40th annual convention of the American Association of Private Rail Car Owners.

Before then, the owners of these cars, the oldest of which dates from 1911, will see a considerable amount of the Northeast. Hauled by two Amtrak locomotives, they’ll travel to Utica and then to Thendara, back to Utica and onto Geneva, then head east to Springfield, Mass., and Rutland before arriving at Burlington.

The owners, rail enthusiasts all, can talk about the history of their individual cars. They’ve often spent years restoring them. Former association executive director Borden Black has just acquired a car from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, which has ceased operation.

Dick Johnston of Phoenix travels in a dome car built in 1955 by The Budd Company, once a major U.S. railcar manufacturer, and used on the Empire Builder, which runs between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.

Amtrak took over the route, and the equipment, in May 1971, and used it until it was replaced by newly manufactured bilevel Superliners in the late 1970s.

Coordinating a trip like this can be a challenge. Taylor Johnson, the association’s vice president of transportation, had planned a stop in Saratoga Springs and a trip via Whitehall to Rutland. But when the Canadian Pacific balked at hosting the train, Vermont rail officials and the Finger Lakes Railway stepped up with an alternate routing.

The private rail car owners support the continued operation of Amtrak, and Johnson said their train “is a reflection of American history.” The owners often make their cars available to passengers looking for a unique travel experience.

Some of the cars have private bedrooms, dining rooms and kitchens, as well as showers and flat-screen TVs.

The organization hopes to draw attention to plans by New York state to remove the tracks from Thendara north to Lake Placid, a move it opposes.

Robert Donnelly, the association president, said the private rail cars often are owned by groups of shareholders.

Among the cars participating in this year’s convention is the Georgia 300, a platform observation car that once operated on the Crescent Limited between New York and New Orleans.

The car has been used by Jimmy Carter, George H.W. and George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and by Kerry/Edwards campaign, said another association member, LeAnne Feagin. The Obamas boarded it in Philadelphia, picking up Joe Biden and his wife in Delaware, to travel to the 2009 inauguration.

Albany Times Union

Sputtering subways threaten Cuomo’s infrastructure image

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was less immediately invested in the city’s subway system, despite warnings that the aging system was falling into disrepair.

Dressed in pale dress trousers and work boots, Gov. Andrew Cuomo grasped an industrial vacuum known as a Vac-Tron and sucked up a pile of litter from the subway tracks in Union Square last week.

The event was ostensibly about cleaning up garbage and reducing track fires, but it was also about tidying up the governor’s carefully crafted image as the kind of executive who can make the trains run on time.

In New York City, where the subways have suffered a meltdown over the past six months, Cuomo’s name has instead become synonymous with the system’s neglect. In polls, riders have blamed him for the deteriorating service, and a Twitter hashtag #CuomosMTA has catalogued the system’s problems throughout the summer. “Tired of New York’s subways? Blame Andrew Cuomo” read one New York Times op-ed.

The bad press comes just as Cuomo is trying to build a case for reelection next year, and, perhaps more importantly, introduce himself to a national audience as a master-builder of infrastructure and a viable challenger to President Donald Trump in 2020.

Two weeks before the subway cleanup, Cuomo stood atop the new Tappan Zee Bridge with a reporter from “CBS This Morning.” “What made America is what we built —the railroads, the tunnels, the bridges, the skyscrapers,” he said on the national morning show. “We can’t lose that. If we lose that, we lose who we are.”

Before this summer, Cuomo’s fondness for flashy mega-projects — be it a new Tappan Zee Bridge, or a new LaGuardia Airport, a new highway bridge outfitted with dancing LED lights, or a new train hall for Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road — was a relatively uncontroversial way to present himself as a get-things-done governor.

Now, that reputation comes with a catch.

“The subway thing is so profound because it undermines his very raison d’etre,” said one Democratic strategist, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid earning the governor’s ire. “His whole core message about himself is that he takes on these tough challenges.”

At the opening for the new Tappan Zee last month, Cuomo recounted all the obstacles he had overcome in building a bridge over the Hudson River.

“Twenty years they talked about it. And nothing was done. And it became a symbol of procrastination, incompetence, government that just talks and government that can’t act,” the governor said, after arriving in a lemonade-colored Corvette.

The 62-year-old span was known to be in need of replacement by the time Cuomo took office in 2011, but the previous three governors had simply pushed for short-term maintenance.

As Cuomo tells it, when he asked his Cabinet for big ideas that summer, one suggested he could “say he was going to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge.” What about actually doing it, the governor asked? Using a one-time design-build authorization, a $1.6 billion federal loan and cash wrung from foreign banks, he actually put the project in motion.

Cuomo was less immediately invested in the city’s subway system, despite warnings that the aging system was falling into disrepair.

In 2011, the same year he committed to rebuilding the Tappan Zee, Cuomo swept $100 million from the MTA, according to an analysis by the state comptroller.

In 2014, after Cuomo hosted then-President Barack Obama at the new Tappan Zee worksite, he resisted the MTA’s proposed $32 billion capital plan, most of which was to go toward keeping the sprawling system in good repair, calling the proposal “bloated.”

The following year, shortly after Cuomo sent $1.3 billion to the New York State Thruway Authority, which is building the Tappan Zee, he announced he had cut the “fat” from the MTA’s long-term repair plan, to the tune of $2.2 billion.

A spokesman, Jon Weinstein, said Cuomo has been focused on infrastructure since he took office in 2011, and he cited the new Tappan Zee Bridge, as well as Cuomo’s effort to rebuild LaGuardia Airport and expand the Long Island Rail Road, along with his recent commitments to the MTA’s capital plan.

The governor “believes New Yorkers deserve subways that run better and more reliably which is why he has secured record investment in the MTA – $8.3 billion in state funds for this Capital Plan and $5 billion a year in operating support – and brought in a Chairman who is a proven manager,” Weinstein said in a statement.

On New Year’s Eve, Cuomo held a public event to celebrate the opening of the first three stops of the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side and bragged about his ability to deliver the project by a self-imposed deadline (even if it was, on a per-mile basis, the most expensive subway ever built).

“They said, ‘Well why did you need to get this done on deadline?’” he asked. “We needed to get this done on the deadline because we’re New York and when we set a deadline, we’re going to get it done. We needed to show people that government works and we can still do big things and great things.”

But when the subways began to melt down in the spring, Cuomo initially disavowed his control of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and sought to place blame on his rival, Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying the governor merely had “representation on the board” — along with New York City and several surrounding counties.

The hands-off approach did not play well with city voters.

In a July poll, Siena College found that Cuomo’s approval rating had dropped 17 points in two months. The falloff was concentrated in the MTA service area, the poll showed: Job approval declined 27 points in the MTA region but ticked down by only a single point in upstate areas.

The governor’s critics were quick to seize on the perceived vulnerability.

“The governor should step up, say once again he’s responsible — because he seems to change that message every week or two, whether he’s responsible or not,” de Blasio said during a news conference held on the subway in July. “He’s responsible. It’s clear. Just take ownership and fix the problem.”

America Rising, a Republican opposition research group, has gleefully touted the decline in Cuomo’s poll numbers as evidence he’s unfit to run for president in 2020, saying his “growing unpopularity means he’s not the national contender he once was.”

In recent months, Cuomo has labored to show his attention to the problem.

In late June, he declared an MTA state of emergency, said he would reorganize the authority, argued it needed more money, not less, and as a down payment, promised to put an additional $1 billion into the system. He has also promised to find new revenue sources, even embracing what he had long regarded as a political third rail: congestion pricing.

His subway chairman has since launched an $836 million subway stabilization plan and hinted at a longer-term, possibly $8 billion, system fix, one that would begin, at earliest, in 2020.

And, in typical Cuomo fashion, the governor has taken to the tracks himself, promising the MTA would “remove all the trash and all the debris” — something he claimed hasn’t been done in “over a hundred years.”

The hope in Cuomoland is that the governor has “taken the sting out” of this so-called summer of hell and that it will be remembered as just that — a summer, according to someone familiar with the administration’s thinking.

Asked for comment, Weinstein said the administration is committed to repairing the city’s subway system and “will keep focus on it until it is a system worthy of” New Yorkers.

In the meantime, a Siena poll released last week showed voters remain frustrated with the governor’s handling of mass transit. Only 27 percent of city voters gave him positive marks on mass transit, and 71 percent gave a rating of either “fair” or “poor.”

“The subways are serving extraordinary numbers of people every day and are the heart and soul of the city economy, which [is] the heart and soul of the state economy,” said Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist at SUNY New Paltz. “And they’re in trouble. That’s a fundamental challenge.”

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: But that was a milk train (empties) from Harmon to Utica.

Downtown Brooklyn’s Champion Aims to Take It Up a Notch

When Regina Myer took over last October as president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the neighborhood was already reaching for the sky. Residential skyscrapers had arrived; now comes a wave of office towers. As head of the not-for-profit, membership organization, Myer’s role is to ensure all that development meshes well, from the skyline down to the street level. An urban planner by training, she earlier directed redevelopment of the North Brooklyn waterfront, helped plan Manhattan’s huge Hudson Yards project, shaped the rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn and helmed the creation of Brooklyn Bridge Park. In her new role, Myer, a longtime Park Slope resident, intends to make downtown the most dynamic neighborhood in the city. The Bridge talked with her about her mission:
1. Downtown Brooklyn has really arrived. How did it happen?

You know, Downtown Brooklyn was always the center of the borough. It’s where our county courts are, and our borough president has his seat. But until MetroTech [was built] it didn’t have a real center for offices. What it did have is arguably the best mass transit in the city. The 2004 rezoning [allowing the construction of residential towers] based its vision for the future on a few things. One was that there was room for expansion, especially places like Willoughby Street and Flatbush Avenue. But it also realized that there was so much strength in Brooklyn already to build upon, and that a mixed-use neighborhood with residential [apartments] in a high-rise format would make sense for this area, given the transit system and phenomenal access to culture, parks and shopping.

What we’re seeing now, with all the construction fences coming down, is that we have a true mixed-use neighborhood that’s able to take advantage of all of those aspects. We have new offices coming to locate here. There are finally places to go have lunch and to have a business dinner and a drink after work.

Another thing is the retail. Fulton Street has long been one of New York’s great retail corridors. And it’s seeing a phenomenal resurgence now that we have a Macy’s that’s renovated and with the opening of City Point and its strong package of shopping and dining options that cater to downtown’s diverse population, as well as visitors from across the borough and around the city. There’s a really new, great energy to Fulton Street.
2. Where do you want to take it from here?

I want Downtown Brooklyn to be viewed as New York City’s great, great downtown. And we have so much potential to get there. I think as new buildings open, as new tenants come to Downtown Brooklyn, we also have the ability to focus on the landscape and the streetscape and make sure that the pedestrian environment really ties everything together.

I think we all know that we can be better connected. We can be better connected to the waterfront, for instance. Proposals like the Strand [pedestrian gateway] are very much on our mind because that proposal put forth this idea that the downtown should be connected to the waterfront and to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Our connections to the Navy Yard can be strong and meaningful as it evolves to a place where there’s more and more job growth. It’s a place where we can provide access to people at Farragut Houses and people at Whitman and Ingersoll houses to the resources of Downtown Brooklyn and the jobs in the Navy Yard. From New Lab [in the Navy Yard] to Metro Tech is not a far walk, but it’s not a pleasant walk right now.


NY City Suburban Area Realtors: THIS IS FOR YOU

Buyers LOVE the suburbs, but only when the commute is good to great!

Enter the “MAYBROOK LINE”. Years ago it was THE major freight railroad into New England. It went from Maybrook, New York; across the Great Bridge at Poughkeepsie; from Beacon across New York Syaye to Danbury and on to Cedar Hill in New Haven. We have a great historical document:

Over the years, railroad freight habits changed, mostly through mergers. The bridge at Poughkeepsie burned and the railroad line became dormant and is owned by New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

For a great look at today’s Beacon Line, we will refer you to Emily Moser’s great WebSite “I Ride The Harlem Line”

This is her map of the area we are covering.

Occasional excursions, equipment moves and storage, and maintenance with hi rail vehicles, have all taken place, albeit infrequently. Though the rails itself may not be in use, running along parts of the line is fiber optic cabling that is integral to Metro-North operations.

MTA issued a “Request for Expressions of Interest” regarding “all or part” of the line in 2016. But nothing came of it.

No, it is not practical as a rail line. What it could be practical for is a HYPERLOOP

This is the plan for a HYPERLOOP between Louisville and Chicago. Several options would work with the HYPERLOOP: The simplest would be Beacon on the Hudson Line, to Southeast on the Harlem Line.

Of course, the HYPERLOOP depends on clients! LOT of empty land along the route.