Category Archives: ny central railroad

Signal Towers on the New YorkCentral Electric Division

NK Tower. I can imagine that traffic was running heavy in one direction for the morning inbound commuters and just the opposite for the evening outbound running. It would be great to hear from former Train Dispatchers as to how often those sets of crossovers were used for flexibility during those commuter rushes in both directions.

I know we lost FH tower to a fire in 1960 or 61 and DV Tower took over the board after. Speaking of FH Tower. It seems funny that all of the other towers had been rebuilt in the 1920-30 time frame from wooden towers to the brick standard for the Electric Division except FH which remained a wooden tower.

It think NK tower was a singular case. I’ve made several thousand trips through that interlocking and can’t recall ever changing tracks.except when they were doing constructionat 125th Street. Prior to the 125th St rebuild, the tower seemed to exist solely for handling two kinds of exceptional cases.

For completely normal operations there was no need for the tower. The distance between the home signals at U (59th ST.) and MO (140th St) was close to exactly three miles. NK, about 100th St., was exactly in the middle. It was needed only for exception conditions, which included

– limiting out of service distance for track maintenace

– bypassing breakdowns

– reducing delay from construction projectsd.

Could that be said of any other tower in the U.S. ?

I have no knowledge of what has been done to the power transmission
system since even PC days. I left before the PC merger.

The duct runs may well be the same, but cables may have been replaced.
Proper maintenance includes repeat Meggering of the cable insulation and
keeping a record of the values obtained, which aids in predicting future
problems (failures) with the cable.

Given the redundancy available, there should not have been any
scheduling problems in getting a circuit shut down for testing, and it
would have been non-invasive, working from the breakers as access points.

Ultimately insulation degrades, and, FWIW, rats like the taste of lead
sheathing, so can do their own damage.

And, underground lines and manholes may be assumed to be wet, if not
flooded.

It would not surprise me if cables were not replaced occasionally.

I was not aware of the loss of the wayside transmission towers.

When you describe the power transmission lines on the steel towers,
please include the underground duct lines that carried more power circuits.

I was only indirectly involved with these, but as I recall, at least on
the Hudson Division, there were two pole circuits and two duct circuits.

Each substation tapped in one tower circuit and one duct circuit, which
ran in and went through circuit breakers to the sub. There were also
circuit breakers outside the station that could be closed to bypass a
substation and were not affected by events inside the sub.

This redundancy provided a high degree of reliability.

If the overhead lines went down (as down on the ground) the duct lines
carried the power. Same for the duct lines, backing up the tower lines.

Two duct circuits were never together in the same manhole, so a failure,
such as fire or explosion in a man hole, would not affect the other circuit.

Advertisements

NY Central’s Grade Separation and New Station at Herkimer, NY

Featured image: New station completed in 1943

(This article is based on a similar article published in 2015 in the “CENTRAL HEADLIGHT” of the New York Central System Historical Society. It was written by the Late Douglas McIntyre Preston.)

It took over forty years of contemplation, frustration, and at last construction before the village of Herkimer, New York finally obtained a new passenger station. The New York Central’s project was to relocate its four-track main line in Herkimer, and thus eliminate seven dangerous crossings in the middle of this village and provide a modern passenger station. Planning and discussions among the railroad, the village, and regulators had dragged on for decades.

Replaced this station

Herkimer had always been on the New York Central. The Herkimer, Newport & Poland Narrow Gauge Railroad headed north of the village beginning in 1882. In 1891, Dr. William Stewart Webb acquired it, standard-gauged it, and it became the Mohawk & Malone (M&M) through the Adirondack Mountains.

Across the Mohawk River from Herkimer, the New York, West Shore & Buffalo established its main shops in Frankfort. Later when NY Central took over, the shops became home to Union Fork & Hoe. The massive brick shops were demolished a couple of years ago after a huge fire gutted the abandoned complex.

And yes there was a trolley connection too.

The NY Central-controlled Utica & Mohawk Valley interurban linked Herkimer to Little Falls on the East, and Utica and Rome on the West. Concrete arches still span West Canada Creek. One could also go from Herkimer South to Cooperstown and Oneonta on the Southern New York Railway. By 1907 one could go to Syracuse on the Oneida Railway “Third Rail” over the West Shore from Utica.

By the early Twentieth Century, the Central’s four-trackmain divided Herkimer into two distinct “sides”. Manufacturing plants, smaller homes, Italian and Polish immigrant neighborhoods, and Roman Catholic churches predominated on the “South Side” between the railroad and the Mohawk River. Interurban tracks ran through the same side, and the trolley station lay immediately south of the Centrals passenger station, itself south of the Water Level Route.

Other factories stood on the “North Side” along with the sizeable brick New York Central freight house and the small M&M roundhouse and yard. But north of the tracks one also found the village and county government buildings along with most of Herkimer’s retail stores, fire department, high school, hospital, Masonic temple, historical society, park,protestant churches, and synagogue. Herkimer’s newer and larger homes were also located north of the tracks.

As a much smaller community only about fifteen miles east of Utica, with its large Union Station, Herkimer saw multiple sections of the “Great Steel Fleet” thunder through town at seventy miles per hour. Few trains stopped in Herkimer, so there were 100-car freights around the clock also. Safety was an issue also. From 1904 until 1939, the local newspaper tracked “over 30 killed”. This did not count any from 1836 (arrival of the Utica & Schenectady Railroad arrival) until 1904. The same newspaper published a story in 1939 “LOCAL FIREMEN GLAD CROSSING HAZARD TO GO”. Herkimer firemen have come to look upon the grade crossings as barriers which at any time may be clamped down in front of their screeching trucks when seconds in time saved would mean the savings in life and property. The fire insurance rating board threatened to raise rates in Herkimer unless they put another fire station south of the tracks.

The project plans for the grade crossing elimination project and new station were approved February 4, 1941; but it was not until April 5, 1943 that the relocated passenger tracks and new station were opened. Freight tracks 3 and 4 opened about a week later. Passenger service lasted only until 1962. The station still stands but used by a local business. Tracks 1 and 2 now carry four Amtrak trains each way, none of which stop in Herkimer; plus up to sixty CSX freights. Brush grows where tracks 3 and 4 once ran.

50 Years Ago: Big Change in NY Central Train Service

Fifty years ago this weekend, the famous “name” trains of the New York Central — the 20th Century Limited, the Wolverine, the Empire State Express and others — made their last runs.

In their place were a couple of long-distance overnight trains covering the Central’ s routes between Chicago and New York, bearing numbers instead of names. They were supplemented by a series of short-haul trains upstate that together would be known as the “Empire Service.”

On Monday, railroad and local officials gathered at the Rensselaer rail station to mark the 50th anniversary of the Empire Service, which has grown to be one of the busiest corridors on the nationwide Amtrak system.

The idea of fast, frequent service on corridors of a couple hundred miles grew out of an experiment in 1966 in Ohio where the Central set a speed record of 183 mph with a diesel passenger car set, said Mike R. Weinman, then an operating management trainee with the New York Central.

Robert D. Timpany, then the railroad’s assistant vice president, operating administration, touted this as the future of rail passenger service, Weinman said, and convinced the state Public Service Commission to approve the plan.

“He practically had to pledge his firstborn to convince them,” Weinman recalled Friday.

Early on, “cars were beat up. The dining car was a snack bar, when it was open,” recalled Dick Barrett, a railroad historian who serves on the board of the New York Central System Historical Society.

But the service began to thrive as the railroad refurbished its aging passenger cars.

“It was a marketing campaign,” said Bruce Becker, who grew up in New York state riding the refreshed trains and is now vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers. “They refurbished coaches specifically for Empire Service. They were able to speed up the schedule.”

The effort succeeded, for awhile.
Weinman says it even made an operating profit. But the service became “collateral damage” as the merger of the Central with the Pennsylvania Railroad tanked, and the combined entity soon filed for bankruptcy.

Albany’s Union Station also was facing closure as plans for the new Interstate 787 required removal of the tracks. The merged Penn Central replaced it with a small station in Rensselaer, which opened at 11 p.m. Dec. 29, 1968, said Ernie Mann, a Rensselaer resident and author of Railroads of Rensselaer.

Amtrak’s assumption of service on May 1, 1971, relieving the freight railroads of what had become a money-losing burden, also led to another round of long-distance train eliminations nationwide.
“Not many people gave Amtrak much of a shot,” said Mann. “For suffering under the budgets from Washington, I think Amtrak has done very well.”

Ridership, helped along by various oil embargoes in the 1970s, climbed, and by 1982 Amtrak had replaced the initial Rensselaer station with a larger one.

That station, too, fell to the wrecking ball as a new, much grander station opened in 2002.

And while many of the name trains were revived, many routes were altered.

You could no longer take the Wolverine to Annandale (actually, Rhinecliff), no matter what the Steely Dan song might say.
The train, which ran between New York and Chicago via Albany and Detroit, today, operates only as far east as Detroit.
But the 18 daily trains on that initial Empire Service schedule back on Dec. 3, 1967, have expanded to 26 weekday trains on the current schedule.

Nearly 1.16 million people rode Empire Service trains in fiscal year 2017, up 0.6 percent from the year before. And the 855,176 people who started or ended their trip at the Albany-Rensselaer station in fiscal 2016 made it the ninth busiest in Amtrak’s nationwide system.

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, ???

Judge rules tracks must stay

MALONE — A judge ruled Wednesday that the state’s plan to build a 34-mile rail trail was “arbitrary and capricious” and failed to follow numerous state laws.

“The 2016 UMP [unit management plan] is annulled and vacated, in its entirety, and in each and every part,” acting state Supreme Court Justice Judge Robert Main Jr. informed the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation and the state Adirondack Park Agency.

The Adirondack Rail Preservation Society, which operates tourist trains under the Adirondack Scenic Railroad name, sued the state in April 2016. The lawsuit stemmed from a plan by the DEC and DOT, and approved by the APA, that would have removed 34 miles of train tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake and replaced them with a multi-use trail. The plan also called for another multi-million-dollar state investment to rehabilitate 45 miles of railroad tracks from Tupper Lake to Big Moose, allowing passenger trains to operate between Tupper Lake and Utica.

The railroad in question runs 141 miles between Utica and Lake Placid, and the state owns the 119-mile majority between Remsen and Lake Placid. ASR, under lease from the state, has run tourist trains between Utica and the Old Forge area since the early 1990s, and from 2000 through 2016 also ran them also between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The NY Central Putnam Division Freight House At Lake Mahopac

Thank you to New York Central fan John Ruth for a great bit of Putnam Division history.

The Lake Mahopac Freight House, which was served by the Putnam Division and the Lake Mahopac Branch, has been repurposed as a Café. They’ve named it “The Freight House Café

The building has been relocated about 100 feet and possibly rotated. A kitchen structure was added to one side. The original roll-aside door is still in place between the main floor and the kitchen addition. (Modelers could enjoy studying this door and its hardware, which resembles barn door hardware.)

The interior is more-or-less intact. There are a few RR-related décor items and, very appropriately, an ice saw hanging on the wall. This commemorates that there was once a nearby RR-served Ice House to store and distribute the ice harvested on Lake Mahopac. (Knickerbocker Ice, IIRC.)

NYCRR fans should stop in for a look-see and a coffee. The proprietor recognizes the NYCS history of the building.

Old Station from Google

On the same trip, I observed that the Baldwin Place Freight House is still extant. These two structures appear to have been built from the same plan.

When was L.C.L. freight discontinued on the Putnam Division? That would have marked the last RR use of these freight houses, no?

May 29, 1958 – Last passenger service on the Putnam Division.

September 17, 1962 – Last freight run to Yorktown Heights.

1963 – Twenty-three miles of track between Eastview and Lake Mahopac is abandoned and removed.

1969 – Three miles of track between Lake Mahopac and Carmel is abandoned and removed.

March 14, 1970 – Last freight run to Carmel.

From “Putnam Division of the New York Central

and “Putnam Division Abandonments

Question of the day:

Who lived near the end of the long-gone Mahopac Falls Branch for many years.

Mark Tomlonson’s New York Central Dates In History

September 16, 1956 The New York Central replaces the male secretaries on the “20th Century Limited” with “Girls of the Century” – stewardesses patterned after those on airliners.

Girl Of The Century
The Century Girl, or, if you prefer…The Girl of the CenturyJoan Jennings Scalfani

Getting ready to reprise her role as a “Century Girl” for the 20th Century Limited express passenger train brought back these memories and more for Joan Jennings Scalfani.

“It was a fabulous job because I love to talk and I love to listen,” said Scalfani, 80, recalling her days in the early 1960s as a hostess aboard the historic line. “Those were happy days.”

One Century Girl was assigned to each trip.

See a YouTube presentation featuring Joan Jennings Scalfani in Grand Central Terminal

“The train was beautiful,” she said. “In the center lounge car there were love seats. … It was a very classy-looking interior. It wasn’t trainlike; it was like a living room,” Scalfani said.

It was the sort of car where Harry and Bess Truman might have stayed when she asked them during their breakfast whether they had rested well.

“The president said, ‘Won’t you join us?’ And I certainly couldn’t say no,” she said. “They were very pleasant and very down-to-earth.”

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.

Joan Jennings Scalfani: The Century Girl, or, if you prefer…The Girl of the Century

Frank Sinatra called her “doll” and mesmerized her with his blue eyes. President Harry Truman cheerfully asked her to join him and his wife, Bess, for breakfast. But Ernest Hemingway was uninterested in her greeting, and Lena Horne, though beautiful, seemed icy.

Getting ready to reprise her role as a “Century Girl” for the 20th Century Limited express passenger train brought back these memories and more for Joan Jennings Scalfani.

“It was a fabulous job because I love to talk and I love to listen,” said Scalfani, 80, recalling her days in the early 1960s as a hostess aboard the historic line. “Those were happy days.”

The Williamsville resident returned to New York City’s Grand Central Station recently as a featured guest for one of the events of the iconic hub’s centennial celebration. A collection of railway cars, including an observation car from the 20th Century Limited, was on display.

Scalfani beamed just thinking about her trip back in time. “This is the highlight of my life,” she said.

On a recent afternoon, the Scalfani sparkle that once charmed Sinatra, Truman and others was working on a young designer who flew in to fit her with a muslin form that would be used to re-create her old Christian Dior uniform in, as she remembers, a “rivermist” blue.

As Scalfani held still so the designer could pin together the pattern and remake her uniform in time for the celebration, the story of her serendipitous career spilled out.

Alex Hartman, working fast to finish the measurements so she could catch a plane back in a few hours, admired her subject’s age and grace.

“You’re my goal,” she said smiling. “You have such a great hourglass. So we’re going to try to keep it.”

Scalfani’s smile fit the glamorous black and white publicity photo from her time as a Century Girl in 1960 and ’61. Scalfani, then 27 and 28, was one of five young women with the public relations job of making sure passengers, famous or otherwise, were comfortable and attended to with services such as sending telegrams and baby-sitting.

The posh train, featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest,” was known for its passenger-welcoming gifts of small bottles of Chanel No. 5 perfume.

The line ran between New York and Chicago, and made special stops to let on celebrities out of view from the crowds, as it did when Sinatra made his way east to President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.

“They would kind of slink in,” Scalfani said.

She put her hands together and looked up, as if in prayer, when she recalled meeting Sinatra. She found herself staring at the singer and actor.

“When that door opened and I looked into those blue eyes, I just about fainted,” she said. “He was standing there with a smile on his face because he knew what was going on.”

She asked if he needed a postcard stamp. He smiled.

“Doll, if I want a postcard mailed, I’ll be sure and call you,” he told her.

Then she ran into him a second time when he took the train back to Chicago. “I thought, ‘Oh, no, not again!’ ” she said. “I got out of there so fast.”

“You shouldn’t have left,” a porter told her later. “He had nice things to say about you.”

The train would leave Grand Central Station at 6 p.m. and arrive in Chicago by 9 the next morning. It had about 26 cars with staterooms, smaller compartments, and dining and lounge cars.

One Century Girl was assigned to each trip.

“The train was beautiful,” she said. “In the center lounge car there were love seats. … It was a very classy-looking interior. It wasn’t trainlike; it was like a living room,” Scalfani said.

During the recent weekend, the collection of train cars at Grand Central Station included the “Hickory Creek.” It was the last car on the 20th Century Limited, with an observation lounge and wraparound windows.

It was the sort of car where Harry and Bess Truman might have stayed when she asked them during their breakfast whether they had rested well.

“The president said, ‘Won’t you join us?’ And I certainly couldn’t say no,” she said. “They were very pleasant and very down-to-earth.”

Silent-movie comedian Harold Lloyd asked her to join him for lunch. “You’ve been so kind to me,” he told her. “I’d love you to join me for lunch.”

“He really appreciated the fact that I spent so much time there at his doorway,” Scalfani said.

Decades later, she still regrets not accepting his offer.

As she remembers it, Hemingway was less talkative. The author “was more interested in having dinner,” she said. “I didn’t stay too long.”

Horne, traveling with her jazz pianist husband, Lennie Hayton, was lovely but even less interested. The singer and actress “looked like she wanted me to get out of there,” Scalfani said. “In person, she was even more gorgeous.”

In 1961, after 15 months on the job, the Century Girls were among the thousands laid off after a railroad strike. Scalfani, who grew up in Baltimore, eventually moved to Buffalo in a marriage that ended in divorce. She raised two daughters here. Her career in nonprofit management included almost a decade as director of Episcopal Charities.

During the weekend, for the first time since the 1990s, she traveled back to Grand Central Station and her Manhattan neighborhood.

She talked with people, autographed photos and read a story – “Two Little Trains” – to children. A videographer interviewed her, and she participated in a panel of railroad people to explain what train travel used be like.

Scalfani said she found train passengers to be in-depth people with a leisurely attitude. They had time to sit, look out the windows and think about the towns and countryside rolling by. And they talked.

“It’s like, ‘We’ll never see each other again, so I can bare my soul,’ ” Scalfani said. “They took the time, and it was just special.”

She looks forward to putting on the Century Girl suit that always made her feel stylish.

“It’s like being able to turn the clock back,” she said.

See a YouTube presentation featuring Joan Jennings Scalfani in Grand Central Terminal