It is amazing the hype that is starting to surround Grand Central Terminal in New York City. But most of it is very factual (with a little bit of fun and fiction added on). All of the stories are contained in our Kingly Heirs WebSite and our Ominous Weather WebSite but there are a lot more
Mysterious Track 61 Grand Central Terminal Track 61, which FDR used to sneak in and out of Grand Central and hide his disability (he had severe polio) from the public. Was Track 61 used other times by Presidents? Matt Lauer of NBC put on his best play clothes May 8 2008 to examine “The Mystery of Track 61? on the Today show. Lauer went 30 feet below the Waldorf to investigate the secret train track that has intrigued urban explorers for decades. Lauer ended up with a nice 7-minute segment, with some commentary from colorful Metro-North spokesman Dan Brucker and Brooklynite historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. He spoke about not only the phantom track, but the mysterious bulletproof freight car still located under the Waldorf that played some sneaky role in presidential security. “His armor-plated Pierce Arrow car would drive off the train, onto this platform and into the elevator, and it would bring him and his car into the hotel garage,” Metro-North Railroad spokesman Dan Brucker said while offering a rare tour of the long-unused station. “He could take the presidential train back to Hyde Park without ever leaving the building.” This story gets taller and taller anytime someone tells it. The Grand Central Palace, the railroad’s heating and power facilities and Adam’s Express Co. occupied the area between 47th and 50th Streets and between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue . They were torn down in 1929. In 1931, the Waldorf-Astoria completed its 40-story hotel on the site. Except for a small basement, the Waldorf-Astoria is directly over the tracks and the two platforms for the powerhouse and Adams Express. The track 61 platform was of course never used or intended to be used in regular passenger service, and it was not even built for the hotel; it just happens to be there. A stairway and a freight elevator run from the platform to a street entrance on 49 St. The freight elevator is not original and was probably built after the power house was torn down. There is also another stairway exit, without an elevator, on the 50 St side of the hotel building. So it amounted to a private railway siding underneath the building. Guests with private rail cars could have them routed directly to the hotel and take a special elevator directly to their suites or to the lobby. The baggage car ( “bulletproof freight car”) was left by Penn Central for worktrain service and the MNCX reporting mark was painted on the car in 1984 in North White Plains shops (not by the Secret Service). Also on the level: In 1965, the platform was used for one of Andy Warhol’s underground parties. (I found this out from a museum in Mouans Sartoux, France) In 1946 the American Locomotive Company’s 6000-horsepower Diesel-electric locomotive that was headed to Santa Fe RR system to be used between Chicago and Los Angeles, was exhibited on the Waldorf’s private siding beneath the hotel.
The Ceiling is Backwards!
The painting of the constellations on ceiling of the massive, cathedral-like Main Concourse is backwards. No one knows for sure how the mix-up occurred, but the Vanderbilt family claimed that it was no accident; the zodiac was intended to be viewed from a divine perspective, rather than a human one, inside his temple to transportation.
Biggest Basement in New York City
The basement covers 49 acres, from 42nd to 97th street. The entire City Hall building could fit into its depth with a comfortable margin of room to spare. Today, the MTA is in the midst of an ambitious project to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into the terminal via the East Side Access Project, making Grand Central even larger and deeper. These will be the deepest train tunnels on earth, at 90 feet below the Metro North track and over 150 feet below the street. It will take 10 minutes to reach these tunnels by escalator, at their deepest point.
Top Secret Room M42
A hidden room known as M42 does not appear on a single map or blueprint of Grand Central Terminal. In fact, its very existence was only acknowledged in the late 1980s and its exact location is still classified information. M42 houses a converter that is responsible for providing all of the electricity that runs through Grand Central. Here, alternating current becomes direct current and provides power for the transportation of more than one million people each week up and down America’s East Coast.
if you were to sink a 10-story building through the main concourse of Grand Central, you would still not reach the very bottom of the terminal. The largest basement in New York lies at the bottom of the terminal, housing electrical transformers and breakers, which feed immense power to the trains above. During World War II, troops were stationed in the basement. If a person was to wander in there by accident the orders were that he or she would be interned there for the rest of the war. If that person happened to be holding something like a bucket of sand, the orders were to shoot that person on sight. If someone was to pour a bucket of sand into one of the rotary converters operating in the basement, the entire basement would explode, paralyzing railroad transportation across the East Coast. Adolf Hitler sent spies in two submarines to sabotage the basement during World War II, but they were caught before reaching it. Two were executed and two were imprisoned.
A little known space called the Annex houses a tennis court that is accessible to the public (as long as you can get a reservation). Originally installed by a Hungarian immigrant Geza A. Gazdag in the 1960s, it was taken over by Donald Trump, who brought the likes of John McEnroe and the Williams sisters onto its clay courts.
Bars, Restaurants and Apartments
The Campbell Apartment, in Grand Central, serves as a testament to the grandiosity of another era. If appropriately attired, you can enter the room and sip on cocktails from the fin de siècle in this virtual museum to the opulence of New York’s high society of the past. The apartment once belonged to John C. Campbell, a business tycoon; rumor has it that he used to sit behind his desk in his boxers, so that his trousers wouldn’t get wrinkled. The Campbell Apartment is also one of our favorite hidden bars in New York City.
What is all this hype about a Whispering Gallery?
Nestled between the Main Concourse and Vanderbilt Hall is an acoustical architectural anomaly: a whispering gallery. Here, sound is thrown clear across the 2,000 sq-foot chamber, “telegraphing” across the surface of the vault and landing in faraway corners. The real secret of the Whispering Gallery is that no one knows whether it was constructed with the intention of producing the acoustic effect that has made it so famous.
Jacob Bachtold , Grand Central Terminal Clockmaker, and Grand Central Information Booths
Long time Central employee and watchmaker Jacob Bachtold adjusts one of the more famous clocks in a 1946 photo
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
With all of the clocks in Grand Central Terminal running with atomic precision, it’s quite odd that all the times displayed on the departure boards are wrong—one solid minute wrong. Each train conductor will wait exactly 1 minute past the designated departure time. Instead of yelling for customers to hurry up, the conductors instead tell everyone to slow down. The result? The least slips, trips, and falls of any railroad in the nation, quite a feat for the largest one of them all. One minute might seem minor, but it is major when added up. If the train has a single late boarding in the itinerary its chances of being on time are slim. Nevertheless Grand Central Terminal has a 98 percent on time record.
The main information booth is in the center of the concourse. This is a perennial meeting place, and the four-faced clock on top of the information booth is perhaps the most recognizable icon of Grand Central. Each of the four clock faces are made from opal, and both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have estimated the value to be between US$10 million and US$20 million. Within the marble and brass pagoda lies a “secret” door that conceals a spiral staircase leading to the lower level information booth.
You can check all the corners and nooks throughout the terminal and not find this staircase. It’s made of polished brass and it’s right in the middle of the main concourse. The brass cylinder in the information booth houses a spiral staircase that leads to the lower level information booth in the dining concourse. The staircase is well-obscured and little known, but is used all the time. It allows for ease of transfer of customer service representatives.
The clock atop the information booth has been valued at $10 million to $20 million. The four faces are made entirely of solid precious opal. This 1913 clock is mechanical and still runs on Swiss motors, but is also set constantly with the atomic clock in the naval observatory in Bethesda, Md. So next time you walk through Grand Central, set your watch, the clocks in the terminal are accurate within 1 second every 1.4 million years.
When the building was renovated, a lot of effort was made to keep Grand Central Terminal exactly the way it was when it was built. Except for a second staircase, which was planned opposite the original one on the east side of the main concourse. But the Landmarks Commission said the staircase could only be approved if the original blueprints contained the staircase. The original blueprints were discovered, and they did contain such a staircase. The west staircase was built to match its cousin exactly: quarries in Italy were dug up to get the same type of marble and stonemasons were brought from Italy to ensure a perfect match. But it’s not quite identical: the new staircase is exactly one inch smaller than the old.
All of the ornamental work in Grand Central Terminal falls within the same theme: oak leaves and acorns. The Vanderbilt family built and owned the terminal. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the patriarch of the family, quit school at 11, started his own ferry service at 16, and became one of the richest men in American history. The small acorns thus represent small beginnings. The Vanderbilt family, having come from nothing, needed to adapt a symbol and motto. The acorns and oak leaves became the symbol and the motto: Great Oaks from Tiny Acorns Grow.
A Couple of Idiosyncrasies
Just above the fish on the Grand Central’s ceiling mural is a small circle. It would probably be anyone’s last guess, but this was used to hoist a rocket ship up to the ceiling. NASA was promoting its space program in the 1950s and decided to display a “RedStone” rocket ship in the terminal.
A second irregularity on the ceiling is on the side of the mural, where one of the meridians terminates next to the constellation Cancer. (near the Michael Jordan Restaurant). A small black rectangle can be seen. This single patch was left to show how dirty the terminal was prior to the renovation. After analyzing the sludge that covered the entire ceiling, restoration workers found that it was all cigarette tar. It took a year to wash the whole ceiling with soap and water.
Controlling All Those Trains
Switching all the tracks in the terminal started out in 1913 with several electro-mechanical “towers”. In the last few years, it has been transformed into a modern command center. The transformation happened quicker than expected because of a fire in Tower B.
Tower A and Tower B and new control room
An Underground City
Burying electric trains underground brought an additional advantage to the railroads: the ability to sell above-ground air rights over the tracks and platforms for real-estate development. With time, all the area around Grand Central saw prestigious apartment and office buildings being erected, which turned the area into the most desirable commercial office district of Manhattan. The terminal introduced a “circumferential elevated driveway” that allowed Park Avenue traffic to traverse around the building and over 42nd Street without encumbering nearby streets. The building was also designed to be able to eventually reconnect both segments of 43rd Street by going through the concourse if the City of New York demanded it.
In 1928, the New York Central built its headquarters in a 34-story building (now called the Helmsley Building) straddling Park Avenue on the north side of the Terminal.
From 1939 to 1964 CBS television occupied a large portion of the terminal building, particularly above the main waiting room. The space was used for four studios (41-44), network master control, film projection and recording, and facilities for local station WCBS-TV. In 1958, the first major videotape operations facility in the world opened in a former rehearsal room on the seventh floor of the main terminal building. The facility used fourteen Ampex VR-1000 videotape recorders. The CBS Evening News began its broadcasts there with Douglas Edwards. Many of the historic events during this period, such as John Glenn’s Mercury Atlas 6 space mission, were broadcast from this location. Edward R. Murrow’s “See It Now” originated from Grand Central, including his famous broadcasts on Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Murrow broadcasts were recreated in George Clooney’s movie “Good Night, and Good Luck”. The movie took a number of liberties, in that it was implied that the offices of CBS News and CBS corporate offices were located in the same building as the studios. (The news offices were located first in the GCT office building, north of the main terminal, and later in the nearby Graybar Building. Corporate offices at the time were at 485 Madison Avenue.) The long-running panel show “What’s My Line” was first broadcast from the GCT studios. The former studio space is now in use as tennis courts, which are operated by Donald Trump. In 1954 William Zeckendorf proposed replacing Grand Central with an 80-story, 4.8-million square foot tower, 500 feet taller than the Empire State Building. I. M. Pei created a pinched-cylinder design that took the form of a glass cylinder with a wasp waist. The plan was abandoned. In 1955 Erwin S. Wolfson made his first proposal for a tower north of the Terminal replacing the Terminal’s six-story office building. A revised Wolfson plan was approved in 1958 and the Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) was completed in 1963.
In 1968 Penn Central unveiled plans for a tower designed by Marcel Breuer even bigger than the Pan Am Building to be built over Grand Central. The plans drew huge opposition including most prominently Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Great Stories From The New York Central Lines Magazine
In 1920, the “Dewitt Clinton” was displayed in Grand Central. Normally, it was stored at Karner, near West Albany. It was taken on a flat car down the West Side Freight Line to 30th Street and then trucked over to Grand Central. I assume it was brought into Grand Central Terminal via the taxi driveway under the Biltmore Hotel (like four elephants in 1921 who had to be brought from New York to Boston).
There were many fascinating articles on the jobs which various employees carried out. For instance, the “trouble trio” of Grand Central were three ticket takers who worked outside their cages and helped solve problems on the floor. The employees who manned the information booth at Grand Central as well as the six phone operators and their chief were described.
Technological improvements of the day were always well described. The Grand Central signal stations were such an interesting subject that a film was made about them and shown in theaters. “Q” telegraph office in New York was the wire communications center for 13,000 miles of railroad.
The electric baggage trucks in use at Grand Central were a big deal in their day. There were 51 in use by 1921. They weighed 3000 lbs. and could carry 4000 lbs. One of them had 17,000 miles on it.
One article described a “typical” day at Grand Central Terminal: (1) A special train from Vassar College arrives just before a holiday. All the girls were greeted at the station or else found their destinations except for one who was helped by Traveler’s Aid. (2) A political candidate is escorted through the terminal by the Stationmaster. (3) Several immigrants wait for their train, sitting quietly together eating dark bread. (4) A high school team is going off to play a championship game in Chicago and is sent away by a large crowd of students. (5) A group of convicts changing prisons is escorted uneventfully through the station in handcuffs. (6) Boy Scouts bound for a “jamboree” are met at the station by other scouts. (7) All the Red Caps in the station run to meet the “20th Century”.
George A. Harwood died in 1926 at age 52. He was a Tufts graduate who began railroad service in 1900. In 1906 he was placed in charge of electric improvement and is credited with completing the construction of Grand Central that William Wilgus had started.
Dr. Plimmon H. Dudley, the railroad’s expert on rail metallurgy, would also accurately predict the weather. He was considered the “scientist of rails”. He died in 1924 at age 81. He had joined the New York Central in 1880 and had lived in the Hotel Commodore (next to Grand Central) since it was built.
Throughout this period, the Chairman of the Board of Directors was Chauncey Depew. He had 56 years of service on his eighty-eighth birthday in 1922 and still came into his office in the Grand Central Office Building. His advice to employees was to “have a hobby not a fad”.
Chauncey Depew died in 1928. He was a Yale graduate of 1856. He was buried in Peekskill. In his honor, the huge concourse of Grand Central Terminal was draped in mourning. The only other time we have heard of that the Terminal was draped in mourning was for President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Know of other times, please let us know.
The NY Times has produced a great video: The Secrets of Grand Central. In his new book “Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America,” Sam Roberts of The Times goes behind the scenes at Grand Central Terminal.
Fox New York and Untapped Cities both have great stories and good pictures of Grand Central Secrets
FROM LANDMARKS OF RENSSELAER COUNTY
BY: GEORGE BAKER ANDERSON
PUBLISHED BY D. MASON & CO. PUBLISHERS, SYRACUSE, NY 1897
Organization of the Troy Union Railroad company. As we have seen, the first tracks of the Rensselaer & Saratoga railroad, which were also used by the Schenectady & Troy Railroad company, were laid from the Green Island bridge down River Street to First and thence to the front of the Athenaeum building. Soon after the opening of these roads the business men of Troy and others began to complain of the inconvenience caused by running cars on these streets, particularly on River Street, the principal business thoroughfare. This feeling finally culminated in a general desire that the tracks be taken up and removed to some other street where the running of the cars would not so seriously interfere with local street traffic and general business. Consequently, on petition of the citizens of Troy, the Legislature, June 20, 1851, authorized the city and the different railroad companies to form a stock company for the construction of a railroad through a part or the whole of the city. In accordance with this permission the Troy Union Railroad company was organized July 21 of the same year. The work of construction was delayed some time for the purpose of determining-the streets which might best be set apart for the new railroad, and it was not until December 3, 1852, that the city authorities granted the company a franchise to use each side of Sixth street, between Fulton and Albany streets, for a passenger depot, and to change the course of Sixth Street at that point if necessary. Soon after this the work of construction was begun. March 14, 1853, the company purchased of Orsamus Eaton his property, located on the site chosen for a depot, and the erection of that structure was begun. New tracks connecting with the Troy & Greenbush railroad were laid on Sixth street, and another line was laid to the Rensselaer & Saratoga railroad bridge.
The Utica Comets will host their home-opener Wednesday, Oct. 22, and the game will be the start of a weekend of hockey at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Comets, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, also play at home on Friday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 25.
“We’ll make it a big deal, for sure,” Comets Director of Communications Mark Caswell Jr. said. “Definitely keep an eye out. It’s a big night for us and the community.”
The Comets first game of the season will be announced when the AHL releases its schedule next month. The AHL opens its season Oct. 10.
Tickets for the opening weekend and regular-season games go on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6. Season Tickets range from $425 to $796.
This isn’t profound news for most who follow RPO’s, but the article highlights this in more detail. Thought you might enjoy it.
It strikes me how all of this is OBE (military terminology for something “overtaken by events”)…automation in mail sorting and handling and zip coding…closed pouch service…air mail and truck transportation…an now e-mail and Facebook and tweeting and texting for personal communication (when is the last time you wrote someone a personal letter in cursive and sent it to them snail mail?).
The fact that I am e-mailing you, not writing a letter in cursive and putting a stamp on an envelope and taking it down to the train station for an RPO to “rob the box” and sort and transport that letter to you, tells how far we have come in over 40 years.
If it wasn’t for junk mail and parcel post (which competes with FEDEX and UPS) …and a few people who still pay bills by mail (and not by automatic withdrawal/bank by mail) the USPO would go away like the RPO. It’s now a lot about the development of new communication technology that makes a lot of workers in many industries…not just the USPO…obsolete.
It may not even be bad to give up the old ways (God knows I don’t want to go back to the days before indoor plumbing when people in my neck of the woods went to an outhouse in 40 below zero weather to relive themselves). Time marches on and waits for no man!
Yet, many memories of these bygone days of the RPO are still worth remembering and enjoying for many of us who grew up near the tracks to see a RPO car go by…or who had dads or brothers who worked on the RPO. It is a real trip down memory lane!
I agree with the late Dr. John Borchert, Emeritus Geography Professor at the University of MN, who wrote on RPO’s in Minnesota for the Minnesota Transportation Museum Minnegazette magazine in 1997, that for us “RPO brats” (like military brats) seeing our dad’s go away and return from far way interesting places on triggered in in us an inquisitive mindset to want to see over the horizon and to travel to far away places.
Though the RPO’s are long gone, that hankering to see over the horizon and travel to new places has stuck with most of us RPO brats …a unintended consequence of our dad’s working on the RPO (I’ve traveled to all the continents except Antarctica…and early this fall will make a second trip to Brazil and Argentina after a trip to Europe the year before). Early on we learned not to be provincial and recognized there was a big world out there to explore. Many of us as kids even took up stamp collecting as a way to learning about a bigger and wider world than where we presently lived. That all is a rather interesting legacy passed on to RPO brats that few talk about in the RPO group. It’s the people stuff, more than the RPO equipment stuff that interests me about RPO’s…the stories of colorful characters and interesting things that happened for those who worked RPO’s…and the impact of that work on RPO brats who awaited dad coming home on the
morning mail train.
Enjoy the read.
We know that the passenger network of trains was becoming less complete, especially after WWII, while the airlines and road systems were being built up. But in the Transportation Act of 1940, the railroads and Federal Government terminated the old land grants which relieved the railroads of transporting mail at a discount price. Did the Post Office Department began looking for alternatives to rail transport of mail, even though it was a very efficient operation? This act may have provided one of the specific reasons for the mails to be diverted, little by little to highway trucks and to the airlines.
Arguably, the Transportation Act of 1958 had as significant an impact upon RPO network pruning. It liberalized the procedures for discontinuing passenger services. With the loss of branch line RPOs –mostly 15-feet and 30-feet space authorization- – the feeder services to trunkline RPOs were severed. Also, local separations once performed on the branch-line RPO routes had to be replaced with additional separations on the main-line 60-feet RPOs. Distribution space on the trunk routes was already constrained by increasing mail volume at the same time that train frequency was declining. This condition was partially mitigated by substantial expansion of the Highway Post Office network. However, long-distance highway contract routes (Star Routes) were established or reconfigured more often. Since they were closed pouch runs, making those dispatches fell as a burden upon main-line RPO routes as well as newly-established or expanded stationary office
Do you think the decline of the USA RPO network was a major factor leading to the decline of the U.S. Postal System in general, which is what we are faced with today? Could it also be the increase in the number of pieces of mail due to increasing population? Could it have been done by the Federal Government to put the passenger train business out of operation so that truckers would carry mail and the auto and oil companies would profit by building and fueling cars?
Perhaps the reason that railroads were treated as a “growth” industry during the 1940s is partly because there was a wartime traffic surge. There is also a latency effect in society that was slow to realize the shift from rail to other modes. People were ingrained to use scheduled transportation –notably rail, bus, and public transit– but when given the opportunity to utilize on-demand personal private transportation, made the shift that is easy to view in retrospect.
The Post Office Department was slow to adapt from a scheduled transportation network upon which it relied for a century. It also benefitted from a cost structure in which it paid an allocation of a service instead of the entire cost of that service.
A economic distortion exists that railroads appear to be very expensive because they own the right-of-way franchise and pay taxes upon it, while competing highway and air modes do not pay for their rights-of-way and no taxes are paid for the highway real estate that is diverted from alternate uses. So, highway transportation appear less expensive even when the Post Office Department paid the entire cost of trucking. Air transportation was always more expensive per pound, but Congress and the Executive Branch utilized air mail rates as subsidies to cultivate national air passenger services.
The flaw in Post Office Department transportation planning is that it presumes that all services will always exist; that the status quo is the norm. In eras of slow technological change –such as the pre-1950s– it’s easy to see how this view was based. However, continuation of rail passenger services was not a sure thing. On occasion, the Post Office Department did protest passenger train discontinuances, but these concerns were mitigated if the railroad company agreed to provide substitute highway service. The Gulf Transport Company set up by the GM&O is an example. Although it operated the equivalent of a Highway Post Office service, these mobile units continued to the called “Railway Post Offices.”
Because the Post Office Department lived on year-to-year congressional appropriations, it was not fully capable of providing multi-year strategic planning. When the Jersey Central approached the Post Office Department around 1964 asking for a long-term mail contract as a basis for purchasing new RPO cars, the Post Office Department declined. Result: Jersey Central suspended all RPO services. I believe the Boston and Maine encountered the same reluctance for a long-term commitment and therefore acted in a similar manner.
One must recognize that the Post Office Department in the 1960s was confronted with an untenable situation: mail volume was increasing dramatically at the same time that the capacity to handle this increase in mobile units had reached its maximum capability in a declining network. Capacity was measured in two ways: the amount of distribution space, and the number of skilled distributors (a.k.a. Postal Transportation Clerks). The number of RPO car-miles was dropping precipitously while the ability to recruit, train, and utilize clerks was not keeping up with needs. Of course, high labor cost was a consideration; the fully-allocated unit cost of handling a letter was asserted to be increasing in a variety of consulting studies.
The solution for labor cost was two-fold: first, to simplify the job so that labor with lower skills and less training could perform distribution. The ZIP Code facilitated this; a clerk could manually sort zoned mail without any scheme knowledge. Second, mechanization and later automation of mail processing steps allowed substitution of capital for labor.
Although well past the RPO era, consider the present-day bar code sorter used by the Postal Service. A single machine processes about 10,000 letter-mail pieces an hour. The entire production of a ten-person RPO crew during a run lasting from 8 to 14 hours was about 10,000 pieces. Further, closed-pouch transportation in sealed trailers, railcars, or air cargo is less expensive than customized rail or highway vehicles. In the extreme case, attempts to outfit planes with mail distribution fixtures was cost ineffective.
Although the Railway Mail Service was very successful –after all, how many activities performed today are likely to last 113 years– it was on a collision course with changing postal technology, the declining reliance upon hard-copy communications, and rise of alternate transportation modes. There has been much discussion of whether the Post Office Department or the railroads “killed” passenger services. The answer is neither; both reacted to the changing business, economic, and societial environments. Considering that 90 percent of USA intercity transportation is via private automobile, it holds the smoking gun.
A similar scenario is true for Seaposts. There are no scheduled ocean liners plying the Atlantic and Pacific routes; just chartered cruise ships. Airline travel and not the private automobile replaced those services, but the point is that mail was withdrawn from those routes as well.
The Post Office Department and the Postal Service generally sought to utilize the fastest means of transportation available in an era. While many can point out that mail service within 500 miles is slower now than when mobile units operated, the fact is –even allowing for congestion– that point–to-point over-the-road trucking is faster for distances under 600 miles, while air transportation is quickest for distances above that amount. Rail is largely relegated to facilitating one-way transportation, such as highly directional traffic flows or repositioning empty trailers and containers. Using highway and air services instead of intercity rail is therefore not illogical. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision, Mr. Gunn while president of Amtrak concluded the revenue gain of furnishing mail transportation on trains were insufficent to offset infrastructure costs and operational impacts. If this was true in 2003, the underlying principles
guiding that decision have laid in the passenger rail network prior to 1971.
Other articles you might like:
Last Railway Post Office .
|On July 1, 1977, at 4:05 am, the last Railway Post Office ground to a halt at Union Station in Washington, DC,|
Old Railway Express Agency Booklet from Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition in 1933-1934
|Loved your story on Railway Express Agency. I knew two or three of the local agents growing up in my home town which had Express Agency in the Rock Island Depot. My father was Rock Island Station Agent. Thing I remember that I didn’t read in your story was about the Armed Express Messengers which handled money shipments also like the ones my father sent in to Chicago about once a week. One messenger I recall seeing a lot had quite a “hogleg” on his hip. I would imagine it was a .45 cal long Colt or something similar.
Carl Wilmoth, Memphis, TN
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A Milford Commuter’s Idea
A Milford, Connecticut attorney, Joseph H. Cooper, who commutes daily to work in New York City proposed a hostile takeover of Metro-North Commuter Railroad. Along with 95,000 other commuters who normally travel between New York City and Fairfield or New Haven counties in Connecticut or Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties in New York, he was angered by two recent wildcat strikes.
He feels neither the unions nor management have any vested interest in keeping the commuter-customer content, satisfied – let alone happy and well-served. Commuters seem to be only funders who constitute the system’s major source of revenue (other than state subsidies).
Cooper feels that if commuters had rights as shareholders, they would have at least some say, if only through proxies. Managers and union members ($40,000/year before overtime conductors) profit even if the commuters are not well served. There are no financial penalties for poor performance.
Cooper’s idea is to get a group of train-riding investment bankers to form a syndicate that will take over Metro-North and spin off the New Haven, Hudson and Harlem lines to their respective commuter-investor groups. It would be viewed as a hostile takeover (would the Long Island Railroad act as a White Knight?) but at least the investor would get something for his or her leveraged buyout.
Monthly commutation charges would be pegged to debt-service requirements. Single fares could accumulate in a sinking fund. It might come to pass that improved reliable service would result in debt retirement. Bar-car revenues alone might pay for a big hunk of operating costs. Special transit bonds would be issued to fund the deal.
“People will pay a fair price to see history,” says owner Al Harper who, along with his wife and three sons, is hands-on in running this National Historic Landmark every day. His passengers come from around the world to the tiny town of Durango, just to take this ride.
The D&SNGR runs 3-4 steam power trains up the mountain to the tiny town of Silverton (with only one paved street) using restored passenger cars kept painstakingly in working order by dedicated craftsmen.
Unlike depressing historic rail lines in the east, which run a few cars two miles down a track then return, this is a fully working railroad with a paid, year round staff of 75 that, in the summers, swells to 200, many of them volunteers. Damn, I would pay them to volunteer on this railroad! And some folks do.
For $1,000 (one-way), you can ride in the cab of their old steam locomotives wearing authentic overalls and cap. You can even help them shovel coal into the boiler. For $134 (one-way), you can ride in an open gondola car, or for $175, enjoy the 3 1/2 hour ride sipping wine in a restored 1880 first class car.
While many who ride this line are railfans (“foamers”, as they are pejoratively called by most railroad folks, because they foam at the mouth when they see a train), history buffs or western fanatics, the D&SNGR’s owners know they have to grow their audience, so they offer discounts for kids and many other specialty excursions: Brews and Blues, a Cowboy Poet excursion and many seasonal trips. But no, they have no plans for “Reefer and Rails,” despite the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. (Durango has yet to authorize retail sales of pot.)
They are clever marketers, packaging the train ride with horseback riding, ATV’s, camping and other activities. And, importantly, they have the support of their community which recognizes how much this little railroad means to the economy. Eight years ago it was calculated that the railroad brought $100 million a year to Durango in business … hotels, meals, shopping … not to mention those employed by the railroad.
Imagine that: A railroad that people will travel thousands of miles to ride, are willing to pay high fares because they get an amazing experience, owned by people making a good return, but reinvesting for future generations of customers, while keeping the local economy thriving.
Yes, you can run a great railroad that people love and turn a profit!
Check out the WebSite for the Durango & Silverton
Durango was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1879. The railroad arrived in Durango on August 5, 1881 and construction on the line to Silverton began in the fall of the same year. By July of 1882, the tracks to Silverton were completed, and the train began hauling both freight and passengers.
The line was constructed to haul silver & gold ore from the San Juan Mountains, but passengers soon realized it was the view that was truly precious.
This historic train has been in continuous operation between Durango and Silverton since 1882, carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock indigenous to the line. Relive the sights and sounds of yesteryear for a spectacular journey on board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Visit our online version of All Aboard Magazine, the official magazine of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
Now where are they? Check out where to stay and what else is out there.
After your first night of lodging, get up the next morning to depart on the one-of-a-kind ride with the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This trip through time winds through the spectacular and breathtaking canyons in the remote wilderness of the two-million acre San Juan National Forest. You will relive history with the sights and sounds of yesteryear on this 1882 adventure as you ride round-trip from Durango to Silverton, Colorado. The coal-fired, steam-operated locomotives are maintained in their original 1923-1925 vintage condition as one of the last authentic operating steam train’s in the world. In Durango, take time to enjoy the Railroad Museum, located in the rail yard roundhouse featuring full-size locomotives, maps, photos, artwork, memorabilia, and authentic collectibles. While in Silverton, visit the Freight Yard Museum at the depot to learn about the history of the Rio Grande Railway as a freight line.
You will return to Durango late afternoon to enjoy some leisure time and a fabulous dinner in town. Consider staying extra days to take on more of Durango’s unique adventures like tours of the world-famous Mesa Verde National Park, whitewater rafting, jeep and hummer tours of Colorado’s wild high-country, Hot Air Balloon rides and much more!
OK,We talked about private railroads that make money, we talked about public railroads that don’t do very well. Let”s talk about public support of private railroads.
The greatest economic factor in the 19th Century was the railroad. They colonized the West with the 160 acre homesteads. They moved crude oil to market. The biggest factor in steel production was railroads. The meat packing industry was possible because the reefer car was invented.
In spite of early discrimination in favor of canals, there was public support of private railroads in New York State. Mohawk & Hudson stockholders were liable for its debt but the State could purchase it in five years. The New York & Erie got a $6.2 million donation because it could not connect with lines into New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Johnstown contributed $175,600 for the construction of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville. The Town of Queensbury donated $100,000 to the Glens Falls Road (later part of the D&H). When the long-gone road through town was built, Schoharie contributed $20,000 in State bonds which had been given to the town for an excess of volunteers in the Civil War. The common method of financing was for municipalities to purchase common stock. The Town of Theresa bought 600 shares of the Black River & Morristown (later a branch of the NY Central).
Only a few municipalities held railroad bonds. Promoters preferred they buy stock because bonds were easier to market as they could be discounted. The Troy Union Railroad issued $30,000 of common. The city issued $680,000 of 6% bonds. The Rensselaer & Saratoga, Troy & Boston, Schenectady & Troy, and Hudson River line agreed to subscribe for equal amounts of the capital stock and to guarantee payment of the principal and interest on the community’s securities. The city’s investment was secured by a first mortgage on the carrier’s property.
The Town of Delhi paid no principal on bonds it had issued on behalf of the NY & Oswego Midland. Property values in Delhi had risen 100% on rumor of a railroad. In 1893, the Town of Andes had to borrow $120,000 to pay its debt.
The NY & Oswego Midland (later the NY Ontario & Western) zig-zagged 250 miles across the State in search of municipal bonds. It bypassed Syracuse because it didn’t subscribe to bonds. It halted at the Utica line until they subscribed $200,000.
The Albany & Susquehanna had an excellent lobby organization in Albany. Some stocks and bonds were held until the 1940’s. Greene held DL&W and sold its stock in 1946. Colesville held A&S which was traded for D&H. In 1949, Syracuse was still paying on 75 year old bonds. In 1942 the Auburn comptroller discovered 5000 shares of NY & Oswego Midland in his vault.
The D&H in trying to recover from the Depression and its dwindling anthracite trade needed to reduce its debt. It sold its NY Central stock and merged its leased lines. It found that the A&S was owned by many towns as minority shareowners.
The Town of Kirkland sold NYO&W stock in 1944 for $52/share. This stock had originated from the Rome & Clinton which was leased to the O&W.
The Schenectady & Troy was a municipally owned railroad. There was a rivalry between Albany and Troy. When Albany capitalists financed a railroad between Schenectady and Saratoga, Trojans countered by building the Rensselaer & Saratoga. But it needed a western connection so the Schenectady & Troy was proposed. When private interests didn’t come up with the cash, the city of Troy did. It was authorized in 1836 but not started until 1840 by the Whig mayor of Troy, Jonas C. Heartt. There were strikes, late delivery of rails and trouble getting the right of way. It was one of the best roads of the day-utilizing T shape iron rails and having easy grades. It was much better than the Mohawk & Hudson with its inclined planes. Finally, the M&H borrowed from the Utica & Schenectady and from the City of Albany and used the money to remove the inclined planes.
The biggest problem for the S&T was negotiating fair treatment from the Utica & Schenectady (which was closely allied with the Mohawk & Hudson). Erastus Corning was on both U&S and M&H boards. The M&H tied up all the immigrant business. Utica trains started before Troy trains reached Schenectady. Lack of favorable eastern connections was a problem. They built a line to the Western Railway at Greenbush (6 miles).
The Troy railroad tried to circumvent the U&S by building a road along southern bank of the Mohawk to Utica (Mohawk Valley). The tax burden in Troy was high because of its railroad.
In 1851 the Hudson River Railroad leased the Troy & Greenbush. If the Mohawk Valley were to be built, then there would be a true rival to the Mohawk & Hudson and the Utica & Schenectady. When the Hudson River RR failed to press its advantage, Troy tried to get the Harlem to extend to Troy from Chatham. Russell Sage chaired a committee that concluded city should sell its railroad. Also involved was Edwin Morgan, the president of the Hudson River RR. The net result was a sell-out to the New York Central.
The people of Troy had hoped to share in the prosperity of a state-wide rail route and gave liberally to make it a fine system, yet it never paid a dividend and hovered on the brink of bankruptcy. It was finally sold to the interests that were responsible for its failure. The victory of the M&H was because of a far-sighted management, bribery, ruthless competition and an effective alliance between business and politics.
Many municipalities (Hancock on the Erie for example) repudiated their bonds and there were many court cases. In 1875, 20% of municipal indebtedness was for railroad construction. There were many problems because of the Panic of 1873.
Transportation development of the last quarter of the 19th Century was characterized by the combination of many short, disconnected lines to form the great railroad systems of the State.
The 1851 Legislature chartered the Albany & Susquehanna to build 142 miles between Albany & Binghamton. It was designed to be broad gauge to interface with the NY & Erie. The A&S was hard to capitalize because of the barren area it passed through. Communities along the route subscribed $2 million plus there was $750,000 in state aid. The Erie was controlled by Jim Fisk and Jay Gould. They wanted to control the A&S. Stock price of the A&S went from $10/share to $90. Opposition to Fisk and Gould was led by Joseph H. Ramsey. Many municipalities sold their stock to one side or the other. Much of the money behind Ramsey was from the D&H. Lots of legal and illegal tricks were employed on both sides. Violence near Bainbridge led to State seizure. Of the 22 towns, 17 sold at par or better. Cobleskill and Colesville retained their stock.
Utica invested $500,000 in the Utica, Chenango & Susquehanna Valley (100 miles to Greene-completed in 1870) which was leased to the DL&W. In 1871 they also subscribed $200,000 to the Utica, Clinton & Binghamton. It was leased to the NY & Oswego Midland (later O&W). Utica also lost $250,000 on the Black River & Utica.
Albany was a successful lender. They lent $1 million to the Albany & West Stockbridge and to the Albany & Susquehanna. There was a $225,000 loan to the M&H. However, they lost $300,000 to the Albany Northern.
When the NY & Oswego Midland went broke, its obligations were assumed by the D&H and the DL&W.
State or municipal aid to railroads was banned in an 1874 amendment to the New York Constitution. Most railroads in the state were built between 1865 and 1875. Shown below is a list of the railroads in the state in 1852:
· Mohawk & Hudson
· Utica & Schenectady
· Schenectady & Troy
· Schenectady & Saratoga
· Rensselaer & Saratoga
· Troy & Boston (to Eagle Bridge)
· Troy & Greenbush
· Hudson River RR (to Greenbush)
· Albany & West Stockbridge
· NY & Harlem
· Hudson & Berkshire (to Chatham)
· (projected) Catskill & Canajoharie
· (projected) Mohawk Valley (Utica to Schenectady)
Find out about Contracts and Fairpromise
Passengers can enjoy traveling in vintage cars along the historic route to discover the small town charm of North Creek.
From the depot take a shuttle to main street in North Creek to the many antique shops, country stores, restaurants and Bed & Breakfasts. Or try a shuttle to Gore Mountain for a summer Gondola ride.
Running from July 4th weekend to Labor Day.
What to do on a “Dark Tuesday” at the racetrack
Tuesday evenings July 22-Aug 26
Check dates, make reservations on the Saratoga & North Creek Railroad WebSite
HERITAGE – Gone for nearly 30 years, a former Line 4 bus is back to Nice where restoration will be completed. It complements the already rich collection of the Association of Tramophiles Côte d’Azur.
This is an old acquaintance for regulars on line 4 and is back in Nice, a true relic for enthusiasts. This “Saviem SC type 10 L” operated on the route connecting the Pasteur Hospital and Saint-Sylvestre for over a decade, from 1975 to 1987. “It spent its entire career on the line, one of the most important in the networks of Nice” stated Frédéric Giana, President of the Association of Tramophiles Côte d’Azur.
These enthusiasts have saved this bus from demolition to restore it. The body and pneumatic system for suspension and brakes have been redone in Lyon, where the machine arrived at nine Tuesday morning in cream and green livery of it’s origin. It is at the garage of the ST2N in Nice suburb Drap. This is where the volunteers of the association will spend long hours doing the interior restoration.
The majority of the collection is open for the public from May to September at the Ecomusée in Breil sur Roya. In addition, restored vehicles are operated a couple of times a year in regular service on the Nice system. We will update this blog when dates are available.