Tag Archives: New York Central

Buffalo Central Terminal developer would like to see Amtrak return

Buffalo’s old Central Terminal could finally be brought back to life if the community goes along with plans for reusing the iconic structure.

More than 35 years after the Central Terminal closed as a passenger train station, Stinson Developments sees opportunity. The Hamilton, Ontario, based company was named the Designated Developer of the East Side landmark in May.

The Director of Stinson’s U.S. Projects, Steven Fitzmaurice says, plans include holding special events in the concourse, restaurant and waiting room.

“The events there would, much like Hotel Lafayette, provide the basis for a hotel. Our thought is right now that the adjacent baggage terminal building, which is approximately 100,000 square feet, would be a 220 room hotel,” Fitzmaurice said.

Commercial space could be located on several different levels above the concourse.
“There’s three floors in particular, that have 20,000 square foot floor plates, which we think would be very appealing to commercial tenants, because you have views not only of the outside but looking in to the terminal as well,” Fitzmaurice said.

The tower building could be converted into residential units. And Fitzmaurice points out, that the Central Terminal is on the Belt-Line that wraps around the city and a railroad right-of-way extends to the airport. He says, the company is encouraged that Senator Charles Schumer is pushing to replace Buffalo’s dilapidated Amtrak Station on Exchange Street downtown.

“The Central Terminal, we think, is a much grander entrance to Western New York than either Depew or the downtown station and why not use it?” Fitzmaurice said.

But at the same time, he says, Stinson’s plan does not depend on Amtrak’s return. Fitzmaurice says the company has until the end of November to come up with a plan the community supports and to find financing for the multi-million-dollar project.

Find out more on Buffalo Central Terminal.


The World Of Videos

I usually do not watch videos because I “read speed” and can cover more stuff with words. But someone sent me a link for a video

“A great RR film from the early 1950s w/ a good amount on the Hudson Division.”
I watched it then looked at “upcoming” on the right hand side.  They had others that a NY Central fan could not ignore like the Century, the Empire, etc.
Then I spot the New Haven Railroad. Then I spotted one I would never miss: The Troy Union Railroad!
Great way to spend an evening!

New York Central Railroad Harmon Shops


ImageImageShown above are several views of the NY Central shops at Harmon NY, now Croton-Harmon and run by Metro North Railroad.

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

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

Exchange from steam to electric started in 1908 at High Bridge, progressed to Hastings-on-Hudson, then Tarrytown, and finally to Croton and Harmon in 1913. Electrification actually runs about a mile north of the Croton-Harmon station to Croton-North (Croton-on-Hudson). There is a freight yard here and electric commuter storage tracks across the main line.

The shops handled all servicing, inspection and repairs for all electric locomotives and MU equipment. They also handled servicing, inspection and minor repairs on steam (later diesel) in the area. The shops were built in sections starting in 1907 with the final stage erected in 1928. For as long as I could remember, there was a large sign “Harmon Diesel & Electric Shops”.

Older MU car seats were upholstered in cane but shifted to synthetic fabric as authentic material too hard to get.

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

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

There were two roundhouses west of the station area. One was a 25-stall building erected in 1913 with an 85-foot turntable. A portion of this survived into the 1960’s as a storage barn. A larger roundhouse was built in 1928. It had a 100-foot turntable for the increasingly larger locomotives and 31 stalls. A 900 ton trestle-type coaling facility south of the roundhouses served the area adequately.

Yards on each side of the main tracks were connected by a semicircular track crossing the main by means of a girder bridge.

There was once an inspection shed for electric equipment ready for assignment. When this burned in the early 1960’s, servicing was performed out-of-doors.

The freight yard at Croton-North is still active. Croton-Harmon is a big center for electric commuters, but AMTRAK no longer needs to swap power here.

By 1970, there were 76 trains on weekdays being handled by 16 “P” and “T” motors and 8 “S” motors. The roster included 227 MU cars, 40 road diesels, 45 diesel switchers (road and yard) and 17 RDC cars. It took 400 employees working 3 shifts 7 days/week to run the complex. $300,000 was spent annually on new windows. By then, the power station out of service as purchased power was used.

No story about Harmon would be complete without a description of some of the equipment which was unique to the Electric Division.

The pioneers of electric service were the S-motors. This entire class of 35 electrics survived fifty years and some served over sixty years. They were designed by William J. Wilgus, the Chief Engineer of the New York Central & Hudson River RR, who also designed the electrical current distribution and utilization system for the entire electrification project. He had little else to copy as the field of locomotives drawing trains by amperage instead of steam was so new. He made his design simple, durable and efficient. The “S” had four small but powerful gearless bipolar motors. The prototype Alco-GE appeared in 1904 with the remainder of the first order built in 1906. They weighed 95 tons and were rated at 1,695 horsepower. They drew power from an underrunning third-rail shoe but had a pair of small, pantograph-type trolleys for gaps in the third rail.

Two engines were needed when doubleheading as no provision for multiple unit controls was made. The only major modification was the replacement of two-wheel pony trucks with four-wheel bogie trucks. Another dozen Class S-3’s were built in 1908-9. They were bigger and had a train-heating boiler. The last of the S-motors were scrapped in the early 1980’s.

T-motors were a logical outgrowth of the “S”. These box-cabs had 8 motors powering all 16 wheels. The gearless bi-polar motors were built with the armatures on the axles. Blowers were required to ventilate the motors. The weights of the three sub-classes of T-motors varied from 126 to 146 tons. A pneumatic rail sander was required to start heavy trains. The first ten (Class T-1) were built in 1913. Six more (Class T-2) were added in 1914 as well as another ten in 1917. Ten Class T-3’s were built in 1926. Because of changing requirements, most of the T-motors were scrapped in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

P-motors were huge box cabs that came from Cleveland Union Terminal in 1953 when electric operations ended there. They were rewired for third-rail operation and became the workhorses of the Hudson Division until the early 1970’s.

Q-motors were rated at 1330 hp. These were built in 1926 by Alco-GE for light to medium duty in the third rail zone. All were retired by 1955.

R-motors were for heavier freight service. Class RA was built in 1926 and consisted of a married pair of box cabs. In 1931, 42 Class R-2 motors of 3000 hp were delivered. Later, some of these went to Detroit and ten went to the Chicago & South Shore in 1955. The rest were retired soon after and the West Side Freight Line was de-electrified in favor of diesels.

Everything wasn’t pure electric. In 1930, Alco, GE and Ingersoll-Rand jointly built a series of diesel-battery-electric locomotives for the Central. They were serviced at Harmon and mostly used on the West Side Freight Line.

In addition, the first successful diesel electric locomotive for road freight service in the nation was #510 which was based at Harmon. It also was produced jointly by Alco, GE and Ingersoll-Rand. It was built in 1928 as #1550, renumbered to #1510 and finally to #510. This locomotive was based in Harmon. The generator was a six cylinder diesel from IR and the four electric motors were from GE.

Since the inclusion of the New Haven in Penn-Central, another unusual locomotive appeared – the diesel-electric-electric FL-9. Built in the late 1950’s, several have been rebuilt and today serve both Metro-North and AMTRAK.

The original MU’s used in suburban service were built between 1906 and 1929. The Central bought upgraded cars in 1950, 1961 and 1963. The first truly “modern” cars were the M-1 Metropolitans acquired between 1972 and 1975 for the Hudson and Harlem Divisions. 178 of these were built by General Electric. The Port Authority funded these cars. They are efficient, but rigid with fixed seats, some of which always face backwards. They hold 122 passengers in moderate comfort. An improved M-3 built by Budd (142 of them) appeared in 1983.

Read about Harmon in the 60’s , how Harmon got its name , and all about freight in the Croton-Harmon area.

See stories on modernization plans and progress for the Harmon Shops.

A lot of the freight that rolled into Harmon was destined for the West Side Freight Line and the St Johns Freight House. A lot of these cars were head end equipment such as Railway Express and mail.

You will enjoy our map of Croton-Harmon and photograph from Google Earth.

My Favorite Song: City of New Orleans; New Twist: Johnny Cash

Twilight of American Rail Travel” means different things to different people. To me, it meant the period in the 1960’s until Amtrak when passenger service went downhill. More specifically, it was the “Empire Corridor” running along the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers to New York City. Before the “twilight”, well maintained, well patronized New York Central trains ran this route. When Amtrak began in 1971, service was sloppy, not as well patronized, and equipment was very “worn”.

My favorite song is “City of New Orleans” written by Steve Goodman and sung by Arlo Guthrie. It talks about the same period, but on the Illinois Central Railroad. Lots of similarities!

Found a Johnny Cash video of the song we thought you might enjoy.

“Riding on the City of New Orleans, Illinois Central Monday morning rail Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,”

Yes, rode on train like that too. Although lot of those cars were “head end equipment”.

“Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.”

Loss of that mail was what really did in rail passenger service. Always heard stories of how President Lyndon Johnson pulled the mail off trains to pay off his airline buddies for political favors. Imagine! Entrusting our mail to people who seem incapable of moving our luggage between two cities and not losing it!

“All along the southbound odyssey. The train pulls out at Kankakee. Rolls along past houses, farms and fields. Passin’ trains that have no names, Freight yards full of old black men And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.”

Yes, the Hudson Valley was in the process of change. Industry was gone and the “yuppies” had not yet built their country homes. Lot of abandoned factories, rusted rail sidings.

“Good morning America how are you? Don’t you know me I’m your native son, I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans, I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.”

Yes, the New York Central, was New York State’s Native Son. It was one of the biggest factors in making New York great.


“Dealin’ card games with the old men in the club car. Penny a point ain’t no one keepin’ score. Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle. Feel the wheels rumblin’ ‘neath the floor. And the sons of pullman porters And the sons of engineers Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel. Mothers with their babes asleep, Are rockin’ to the gentle beat And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.”

Never any offense to the train crews. Railroad problems came instead from “greed run rampant” at railroad headquarters in Philadelphia. Passengers were only the ones who hadn’t or couldn’t get enamoured with America’s “Car Culture”.

“Nighttime on The City of New Orleans, Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee. Half way home, we’ll be there by morning.”

How about changing engines at Harmon?

“Through the Mississippi darkness Rolling down to the sea. And all the towns and people seem To fade into a bad dream And the steel rails still ain’t heard the news. The conductor sings his song again, The passengers will please refrain This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues.”

Even the huge Chevrolet plant in North Tarrytown would be gone by the end of the 20th Century and turned into condos!

“Good night, America, how are you? Don’t you know me I’m your native son, I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans, I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.”

Good night New York Central!


One final note, if you are a fan of Arlo, you will appreciate a WebPage about Alice”s Restaurant

Find out about Achievement and Fair Promise

Harmon Shops of the New York Central Railroad

This is a great addition to other blogs we have published already


Harmon Shops looking southeast, 1914. Harmon Shops looking southeast, 1914.

Here are some photos of the “Harmon Shops” in 1907, when they were brand new, and in 1914, when they became the terminus of the innovative “electric system” from New York City—one of the main selling points for Clifford Harmon’s real estate development.

Harmon Shops looking south, 1907. Harmon Shops looking south, 1907.

The photos come from articles in two industry publications—the Street Railway Journal and the Electric Railway Journal—which describe the facility in great detail and include maps, schematic drawings, and additional photos. Click the links below to read them. You can also click the photos to enlarge them.

Interior view of the machine shop, 1914. Interior view of the machine shop, 1914.

  • “The Electrical Maintenance Plants of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad Company,” Street Railway Journal, vol. XXIX, June 8, 1907.
  • “Harmon Shops of the New York Central Railroad,” Electric Railway Journal, vol. XLIII, June 6, 1914.

Harmon Shops looking north, with the inspection shed in the foreground, 1907. Harmon Shops…

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Here you go railfans. Although the Harlem Division to Hudson line was severed, Part Is Still In Operation


Junction of old Harlem Division branch and Hudson Division in Hudson, NY


Destination of the “Grain Train” just a few miles from Hudson

Here you go. Note that although the Harlem Division to Hudson line was severed in 1959, and operated from Hudson, it was still a B&A or Harlem Div. crew that drove to Hudson to work the line due to union agreements.

Hudson and Boston Railroad was a railroad that spanned across Southern and Central Columbia County, New York. It was chartered in 1855, acquired by the Boston and Albany Railroad in 1870, only to face its gradual demise beginning in 1959. Despite its name, it never actually reached Boston, but it did serve as an important connecting line for the Boston and Albany Railroad, which converted it into the B&A Hudson Branch upon acquisition. The line formed a cutoff between the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad towards New York City and the Boston and Albany Railroad, toward PittsfieldSpringfieldWorcester, and Boston.  In the 1869 Official Guide, it is listed under the B&A as the Hudson and Boston Railway. One can tell that it was operated by the B&A as the name of its General Supt. is the same as the GS of the B&A. At that time there were five passenger trains in each direction.

In the 1913 B&A timetable, it is shown as the Hudson and Chatham Branch, with four daily round trips from Hudson to Chatham and return. In the 1957 ETT the branch is shown as just a line between Hudson and Ghent. The B&A track between Ghent and Chatham was removed in 1937 and Hudson trains used the Harlem (Hudson division) on that line segment.

At some time between 4/57 and 4/59 the line was transferred to the Hudson division. That ETT shows it as the Hudson Branch. By the 10/60 ETT, the line had been abandoned east of Claverack, a cement company location. Lot of interest on the Internet, there is even a YAHOO Group: The Hudson Grain Train Group Now serves a grain plant just the other side of Hudson.It has street running in the city of Hudson.

The Hudson and Boston was originally chartered in 1828 as the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad by James Mellen in order to build a railroad line from Hudson, New York to the Massachusetts state line. Construction began in 1835 and was completed in 1838. The company was leased to the Berkshire Railroad, along with the connecting West Stockbridge Railroad, in 1844, but was sold at foreclosure to the Western Railroad of Massachusetts on November 21, 1854. The name was changed to the Hudson and Boston Railroad on February 23, 1855, and the part east of Chatham was abandoned around 1860, since it was redundant with the newer Albany and West Stockbridge Railroad (part of the Boston and Albany Railroad main line).

The line was acquired by the B&A on November 2, 1870, and thus became their Hudson Branch, also called the “Hudson and Chatham Branch.” It was important both for passengers and for freight services especially those used by the various mills in the county. In its waning years, the Hudson Branch would serve freight exclusively. In the summer of 1892 an accident took place in Claverack, New York. In 1900 the line along with the B&A itself were acquired by the New York Central Railroad, thereby making Hudson, Harlem, and B&A Main Line work as one with the former H&B. However, the B&A would run under its own name until 1961. 1936 was the year Mellenville station, the station named for the founder of the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad, was closed and converted into a local grange. The same year, the “BA” Tower in Ghent which controlled movements between the NYC Harlem Division, and the B&A Hudson Branch was closed, and the segment between Ghent and Chatham became exclusively part of the Upper Harlem Division. Maps from the 1950s still show the line as existing, however by 1959 it only ran as far east as Claverack. As NYC merged with Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form Penn Central Railroad, they renamed it the “Claverack Secondary Track” and kept cutting the line back further west, and abandoned all passenger service on their Upper Harlem Division north of Dover Plains. When Conrail took over in 1976, they continued the cutbacks with the line moving further west from Claverack, while the UHD segment was abandoned between Millerton and Ghent, transforming it into little more than a freight spur between Ghent and Chatham. That segment would be gone as well by 1983. Today the only remnants of the line are that of the former Lone Star Cement factory east of Hudson, at a spur off the line once known as “Greenport Center.”

Tracks along the Hudson IN SUMMARY

The old B&A line to Ghent and on to Chatham was the old Hudson & Boston (about 1840), then the Western and then the Boston & Albany. The local freight went from Chatham on west to Hudson via Ghent. The line was intact all the way through until just a few years ago and then was cut back to Claverack/Hudson after that. Passenger service was discontinued on 12/21/32; as of the June 26, 1932 timetable there were still two daily excluding Sunday trains. Freight service was abandoned from Claverack to Ghent in late 1959/early 1960, leaving a 4 mile spur from Hudson to (about) Claverack. In 1986, this was reduced to about 2 miles, i.e., about from Hudson to Upper Hudson.

Hudson, NY, off the NYC Hudson Line had several industries and an industrial spur that eventually led over to the NYC Harlem Line’s terminus in Chatham, with connections there to the Rutland. Right near the Hudson Line south of the Hudson Station was a spur to a cement plant (Universal Atlas), a glue factory (yup, from horses), and the Hudson Secondary led to the Lone Star cement plant (now an ADM plant, still served by CSX with a bit of street running in Hudson and a God-awful grade to pull to get there). There was (and still is) a lot of track in place, and some other facilities were served by rail, including lumber, textile manufacturing and a coal gas plant. The Secondary also served a feed mill in Claverack and led out through Mellenville and on to Chatham. There was also local trolley service in the City of Hudson itself, and a car barn near the NYC Hudson line for the Albany-Hudson Fast Line that ran all the way to Albany, threading its way through Columbia and Rensselaer Counties (you can still find the right of way if you are perceptive and have a little help knowing where to look; the car barn in Greenport off Fairview Ave is now a Niagara Mohawk/National Grid building). Some good modeling options, including the street running (right outside the front door of the “Iron Horse Bar and Grill”) in the City of Hudson.

The right of way in question is the Hudson & Berkshire Railroad that dates back to 1836. This pre-dates any other RR in the area and ran from Hudson,NY to West Stockbridge, Ma. It was laid with wooden rails with iron straps. In 1840 when the Albany & West Stockbridge Railroad (which was governed by the Western Railroad) was building east from Greenbush (Rensselear) to connect with the Western Railroad at State Line they attempted to buy the H&B to no avail. They wanted to avoid building a tunnel, but were forced to build a separate right of way which paralleled the H&B to State Line. The H&B was relaid with T rails in 1848 to improve service but folded in 1854. The Western which now owned the A&W bought the H&B and used it as a second main track between State Line and Chatham until a second tunnel was bored and double track was laid on the Western(later it became the B&A). The H&B rails were removed in 1865 between State Line and Chatham but the portion between Chatham and Hudson survived as a Branch Line for the Western and successor Boston & Albany. A portion of the H&B is still used between Hudson and Hudson Upper by CSX to reach the ADM grain facility.

This B&A (Boston & Albany RR) line extended NE to Ghent where it joined the Harlem Div. right-of-way and went to Chatham where it junctioned with the B&A mainline.

The Hudson Branch connected with a car ferry operation which crossed the Hudson River to a connection with the West Shore RR. The B&A originally crossed the Hudson Div. just south of the NYC station and there were connections in the NE, SE, and SW quadrants of the crossing. After the Branch was severed, a B&A prior rights crew was deadheaded from Selkirk to pick up the power and cars for the Branch which had been dropped at Hudson. The B&A Local designation was LC-25 / 26 (IIRC).

Looking at the Google map aerial view I see where that Hudson branch splits before the ADM mill. Two tracks , one goes to the mill the other to a factory. It looks like a trailing point switch by a factory and then the line goes into the woods and stops by an abandoned bridge.

As far as I know there were three spurs off the ex-NYC Hudson Line. The north spur is the Hudson Upper (ex-B&A) which runs up to ADM in Greenport. The middle spur, unused but still in place, served a factory which sits between the Hudson Line and Rte 9G. The southern spur was called Hudson Lower. Fragments remain between the Hudson Line and the east side of Rte 9G. It once went up an incline called either Jones Mountain or Becraft Hills (depending on the date of the map you reference) where a large quarry complex exists to the current day. At some point over its lifetime the Hudson Lower was pruned back from its original terminus at quarries east of Rte 9 (not 9G) and west of Newman Road to a large processing complex on the west side of Rte 9. Service on this spur ended in, I think, the 1980s, but that’s just a rough guess from previous posts on this and other boards. Most of the ROW is off-limits and clearly posted as such by St. Lawrence Cement.

When that service to ADM started in the 1980’s, the job was called out of Selkirk as a WVSE-99 travelling switcher. The loaded grain trains inbound were symbolled as a GRU-series (GRain Upper Hudson). The trains were figured for one per week, and it usually took 4 crews for the round-trip between Selkirk and ADM. During test runs, 15,000hp could take 21 or 22 loads up that hill through the city to ADM. All units were 4-axles as 6-packs were barred at that time due to the track conditions

It is a 3.22% grade. Under Conrail, I believe it was their steepest grade. Under CSX now, I’m not sure it is their steepest. The ADM job is usually called out of Selkirk and the crew takes 10 cars up at a time, with empties “usually” brought down after 3 runs up. It is also very rare that a Selkirk-Oak Point / Oak Point-Selkirk train will drop cars off at Hudson. Up until last year, the local could be seen 4-5 days a week climbing the hill. It may be less now with the economy slowing down. And 6-axle power can be used on this trackage.

The branch ran from Hudson to Chatham. The Harlem Division connected at Ghent and ran over the B&A to access Chatham.

The stations on the Hudson Branch were as follows: – HUDSON – Hudson Upper – A&H Junction – Claverack – Country Club (near the present day Columbia Golf and Country Club) – Pulvers – Mellenville – Ghent – Harlem Division connects and thence to: – Payn’s – Chatham

The grade is not the only problem as there is a sharp curve coming around the wye at the bottom of the hill to start the run upgrade as well as a second sharp curve where the line curves to begin the 2 blocks of street running. When service started, the traffic signals had not been re-connected to warn of the approach of the train, so crew had to flag the crossing at the start of the street running as well as the 4 intersections (2 in the street running and 2 on the far side of the city park). The line was the B&A’s connection to the West Shore RR by means of a car ferry across the river to Ravena. The original layout of trackage had 2 B&A tracks crossing the 2 NYC&HR tracks at grade with connections in all quadrants except the NW. Some people may remember the 2 old B&A boxcars which were on the SW for many years until they were scrapped in place in preparation for a [President L. Stanley] Crane inspection trip.

How do they get from Selkirk to Hudson?  They used the Castleton bridge to Hudson Line. 

An interesting aside: The New York Central Lines magazine from the 1920’s contained some entertainment as well. There was a story almost every month written by George H. Wooding who was a towerman in Ghent, NY. It was labeled “a series of merry minglings of fact and fable, chiefly along the Harlem Division but just as interesting to the folks all along the main line”.

Penn Central Transportation Company – Lehman Brothers Collection – List of Deals


Penn Central Rider Car: I found a bunch of photographs from a long time ago. Some of them were from Charlie Gunn which I purchased from him at train shows in Connecticut. I have always been interested in “head end” trains, so this “rider car” really interests me. Incidentally, many of the “Connecticut Stations” photos I have were bought from Charlie.

1971 $100,000,000 trustees’ certificates

Penn Central Transportation Company filed a petition for its reorganization that was approved, and following legal steps, the court authorized the issuance of the certificates by Trustees. The certificates were to be treated as an expense of administration and received the highest lien on the Penn Central’s property and priority in payment under the Bankruptcy Act.

Penn Central was formed in a 1968 merger between the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad. The ambitious conglomerate collapsed into bankruptcy two years later. The Penn Central’s collapse has been called the biggest business failure in American history. In their book The Wreck of the Penn Central, Joseph Daughen and Peter Binzen claim that 100,000 creditors and 118,000 stockholders were affected by the 1970 bankruptcy.

Both the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR, “the Pennsy”) and the New York Central Railroad Company (NYC) had long histories starting in the early days of railroads. Pennsylvania Railroad was founded in 1846, eventually controlling 11,000 miles of track throughout the Northeast and the nation. The New York Central Railroad was founded in 1853 and stretched from Pennsylvania to as far as Ottawa. The companies were financed and run by robber barons like Erastus Corning, Chauncy Depew, J.P. Morgan, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, who manipulated prices and transportation to freeze out competitors and consolidate their control. Both the PRR and the NYC were highly complex companies controlling land and real estate, transportation routes of many kinds, and commodities like coal and steel. The Penn Central also incorporated the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, a fiscally unsound railroad that the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) required the new company to acquire and support.

The Penn Central merger germinated from a 1957 idea of the PRR’s president, James Miller Symes, to consolidate the railroad industry. PRR and NYC’s boards approved the merger in 1962. Judicial wrangling delayed the merger until 1968.

The railroad’s collapse stemmed from many business problems. Executive infighting plagued the new company. The Penn Central CFO, David Bevan, was later tried and acquitted for $4 million in embezzlement. Penn Central executives sold almost 40,000 shares of stock just before the bankruptcy. Interstate trucking and air flights were cutting into railroads’ freight and postal market. The ICC also required the Penn Central to continue running unprofitable commuter and passenger trains. Service on both passenger and freight lines was poor. Inflation crippled the company just as the 1969 winter delayed the system. Despite its $4.6 billion in assets, the new company went bankrupt on June 21, 1970.

Federal regulators reorganized Penn Central and a few smaller railroads as the Consolidated Railroad Corporation (Conrail) in 1976.

Note: There are a number of books describing the collapse of Penn Central: Joseph Daughen and Peter Binzen’s The Wreck of the Penn Central (Beard Books, 1971); Michael Gartner’s (ed.) Riding the Pennsy to Ruin (New York: Dow Jones, 1970-1971); Stephen Salsbury’s No Way to Run a Railroad (New York: McGraw Hill, 1983); and Robert Sobel’s The Fallen Colossus (New York: Weybright and Talley, 1977). A variety of Securities and Exchange Commission and Senate reports also deal with the Penn Central’s collapse.



Royal Tour 1939


n 1939, Canadians saw a 29-day, 8,600 mile tour by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England. The parents of the present Queen Elizabeth II also saw 1,099 miles of the United States. The United States route included New York Central, Pennsylvania, New Haven and Delaware & Hudson trackage.

Leaving Washington, the trains used the newly-electrified Pennsylvania line. The King rode in the GG1 as far as Philadelphia. Motive power was changed to K4s at Jamesburg, NJ for the ride up the New York & Long Branch. At Red Bank, the royal party boarded a Navy destroyer for a trip to the World’s Fair. They did not rejoin the trains until two days later in Hyde Park. In the meantime the trains were routed over three railroads.

See more about the 1939 Royal Tour.

Most of our material concerned NY Central, New Haven and D&H, but thanks to Mark Martin, we are adding some extensive material on the part played by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

CLICK Here to see a larger picture of Pennsylvania Railroad operating procedures for 1939 Royal Tour.


More About New York Central Railroad’s Harmon Station


One of our most popular blogs is about the NY Central’s shops at Harmon, New York.

We are now bringing you more stories about Harmon as well as more pictures (courtesy of Wayne Koch).


An interesting story is New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey and the NY Central Niagara steam locomotives .

Just North (timetable West) of Harmon are several tunnels on the New York Central. 

Harmon in Hurricane Irene

In 1946, Niagara Locomotive 6001 is being pulled by 4 models to show how great Timken roller bearings worked.


Harmon Passenger Station

The old station was torn down, in Penn Central days.

The station was torn down and relocated to the south of the original location about 1974-1975, and it might have been before that. The first time I used the new location, it was in the autumn of 1975. At that time, what is now the dry cleaners was the ticket office for both Penn Central commuter trains as well as Amtrak.

A catalytical factor in the change was the need to raise all the platforms for the new M-1 trains introduced about 1971. Also, the station was moved because the parking lot at the top of the hill became too small, and management wanted to make “modifications” to the yard which boosted the need to relocate the station “out of the way”. Now with more than ample parking, one must worry in severe noreasters, tropical storms and hurricanes about flooding in the parking lot.

The old New York Central station at Harmon was pretty neat, despite the killer climb up the stairs from the platform that seemed to go on forever. It was a self contained structure above the tracks, paralleling the bridge, which I’m sure served as the inspiration for the present structure.

I heard that the present station will soon be either “Modified” or demolished for something completely different, I suppose it’s part of the project to tear down the old New York Central engine house and build a newone. This will be the THIRD dramatic alteration of Harmon station at it’s present location, in just over thirty two years.

For any newbies, the bridge there now is NOT the bridge from Central days, you can still see the footings for it. The entrance to the old station was an enclosed walkway with a few small windows, immediately to the left of the bridge. Years ago , everybody called that station just “Harmon”.

If one were to model the Harmon station in HO or N gauge, the best start would be with the old Atlas coal mine, just because of the shape.


Dexter & Northern Railroad


Map above from the 1957 ETT shows the line in place from Dexter Junction to Dexter.


Map above shows Dexter today.


Map above is a close-up of Dexter today. Note what looks like the trace of the New York Central on the right above the river. Note a small bridge in bottom left. This COULD have carried the Dexter & Northern from the plant to the New York Central connection.

Recently saw an “anniversary” announcement: “In 1956, the Dexter & Northern Railroad line was purchased by the New York Central Railroad and reopened for service.” Now I did know a little about this short line’s early history, but nothing about it’s later life.

I had access to New York Central Employee Timetables (ETT) from 1941, 1957 and 1959. The Dexter & Northern Railroad connected with the Cape Vincent Branch of the New York Central at Dexter Junction. The mileposts on the branch were as follows:

Cape Vincent – now marina 0
Rosiere 4.38
Three Mile Bay 7.72
Chaumont 11.16
Limerick 16.04
Dexter Junction 17.9
Brownville 19.86
Main St., Watertown 23.31 C. V.
C. V. Wye 22.89
Coffeen St. 24.06
Watertown Station 24.68

The branch was abandoned as follows:

Limerick to Cape Vincent Abandoned 1952
Watertown to Limerick Abandoned 1976
Passenger service discontinued March 14, 1936