Category Archives: Railroad 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.)

Advertisements

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

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)

***********

“NECR” New England Central Railroad

***********

“VRS” Vermont Rail System

************

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

*************

“NS” Norfolk Southern

************

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.

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

Rensselaer

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

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.

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