Harvard Professor John R. Stilgoe states that: ‘Train travel will supplant highway and air travel in the next few decades. Furthermore, electric railroads will increasingly be used to distribute freight items as well as mail and express packages.’
According to Stilgoe the three prime factors driving railroad development are population growth, rising gas prices, and advanced technology.
“In the 1930s it was possible to order a fridge in the morning and have it delivered by train later the same day,” says Stilgoe. “Americans forgot about this, but we’re starting to put it back together”.
Stilgoe slso wrote an excellent yet overlooked book on railroads and the built environment shaped by them called Metropolitan Corridor:Railroads and the American Scene that I highly recommend.
Gulf Curve, Little Falls Accident
April 19, 1940 – Little Falls, New York, United States: The westbound New York Central Lake Shore Limited, running fifteen minutes late in rainy conditions, fails to reduce speed to 45 miles per hour at Gulf Curve near Little Falls, sharpest on the NYC System, and at 59 mph the locomotive derails, crosses two tracks and strikes a rock wall whereupon it explodes and nine cars pile up behind it. At least 30 known dead, including the engineer, and 100 injured in the this accident.
Some of these are very current, like the Gary Railway (pictured above). Others go back to old New York Central RR history like the Amsterdam, Chuctanunda and Northern Railroad. Some were “paper railroads” like the Owasco River Railway.
Wagner Sleeping Cars and Palatine Bridge
The Schenectady Gazette has reported that the Webster Wagner Home in Palatine Bridge is slated for demolition. Wagner was the Inventor of the Sleeping Car in 1858 and the Palace Car in 1867. Wagner built his mansion with discerning taste and a railroad fortune in 1876. At the time it was quite a spectacle — and it still is, but not in a good way. Too much time and years of neglect have taken their toll.
Read about Boston, Revere Beach & Lynn , a three-foot narrow gauge railroad;
Boston subways ; The Red Line and other stories; Railroads North of Boston
; and Boston commuting . See our New England Railroad Reference Section and a section on Tourist Trains in New England
Gulf Curve in Little Falls gets straighter.
The yawning chasm, top photo, of the new channel for the Mohawk River at Little Falls is shown shortly before a section of the east coffer—dam was removed and water allowed to enter. The west dyke, in foreground, was then blasted away to permit the river to flow through the new channel. Lower photo, an overall view of the project is shown. A total of 135 men are working to complete the project by this coming Fall.
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
The Penn Central was born amid great expectations and promises on February 1,1968 by the merger of the New York Central System into the Pennsylvania Railroad on that date.
Neither railroad had been forced through the trauma of bankruptcy and reorganization.
With incompatible computer systems ,signal systems, operating styles, and personalities at the top, the new railroad remained essentially two in operation though it was one in name.
The merger between the New York Central RR and the Pennsylvania RR was like a shotgun wedding. Both bride and groom hated each other. Yet, there was no other option but to join hands in unholy matrimony, and if this wasn’t bad enough, the bride and groom had to accept the New Haven RR as an unwelcome boarder in their honeymoon suite.
It officially started March 19, 1962 when a merger petition went to the Interstate Commerce Commission and took until February 1, 1968 to become real. It was the merger of the Pennsylvania and New York Central into the “Pennsylvania New York Central Transportation Company” (hereafter called “PC” or “Penn Central”). It started with 19,286 route miles; assets of $4 billion; revenues of over a billion dollars; 4,202 locomotives; 194,656 freight cars; and 4,937 passenger cars.
The two railroads did things differently and always had. New York Central was the Water Level Route while Pennsylvania Railroad crossed the Alleghenys. NYC liked 4-6-4’s while PRR championed 4-6-2’s. NYC was gray while PRR was tuscan red. NYC opted containers while PRR went piggyback.
If one reasoned mergers, PRR should have taken over Norfolk & Western while NYC took Chesapeake & Ohio/Baltimore & Ohio. These didn’t work so NYC & PRR decided to join – like jilted lovers on the rebound. Alfred Perlman had become president of the Central in 1954 when Robert R. Young took over the road. He was an efficient manager but also a realist. He knew that without government help he needed a merger. He surely couldn’t count on government help – government had built the New York Thruway and St. Lawrence Seaway, both of which drained the Central’s freight revenue. Arch rival Pennsylvania was also looking for a merger without success. The option for both roads, such fierce rivals, boiled down to each other. Young and James Symes, chairman of the Pennsylvania, began talks in 1958. After Young’s death in 1958, Perlman continued talks with Symes.
Stuart T. Saunders made PC a fact. He placated both labor and government. Al Perlman contributed the ideas which might have made the merger work – electronic yards; Flexi-Van; computerization; passenger-speed freights.
One hooker in the deal was the ICC’s insistence that the bankrupt New Haven be included. Neither PRR or NYC wanted it. The New Haven had been hurt by stock raiders and by the Connecticut Turnpike. Its commuter service was huge but unprofitable.
Perlman was unhappy from the start – he didn’t hit it off with Saunders, who had replaced Symes in 1963. Penn Central started out life in financial distress. The New York vs. Pennsylvania hatred made it difficult for ex-PRR and ex-NYC people to work together. Ex-Central executives ran transportation while ex-Pennsylvania execs began to dabble in real estate and amusement parks.
The road ran in utter confusion. Freight trains were actually lost and ended up in the wrong city. Shippers left in droves. Saunders wouldn’t give Perlman money for maintenance so the condition of the line suffered.
The Penn Central Railroad went under in June, 1970. Its creditors began to hound it – some of them wanted to shut it down to get back their money. 1970 saw a stock market plunge. Based on fear of a 1929-type crash, PC got some government-guaranteed loans to keep afloat. The end was near when banks began to sell their PC stock. Washington refused more loan guarantees – leaving bankruptcy the only out. The railroad had to continue operations at a time when it could barely keep running without pouring in huge sums of money to rebuild its facilities. These sums, however, would not be available until the railroad showed it could be reorganized.
The bankrupt railroad continued to operate under a board of trustees. 1971 saw some relief as AMTRAK took over passenger routes. In the New York City area, Metropolitan Transportation Authority assumed ownership of commuter routes. The low point was 1973. The trustees set an ultimatum when operations would stop without government aid. The Rail Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (ultimately growing into CONRAIL) was passed.
Scores of other problems arose from a lack of money. Agonizingly for everyone on the Penn Central, there were sources of capital that could not be touched. For example, just about every abandoned mine branch in the Allegheny Mountains was chock full of PC cars destined for scrap. With the scrap prices in the early 1970’s, this was a potential gold mine. But the creditors would not allow this asset to be turned into cash that would be reinvested in the estate, since that estate was eroding day by day.
The creditor’s interest also got in the way of sensible maintenance. Between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, the former New York Central and Pennsylvania had double track, high speed main lines rarely more than three miles apart. After the merger, most traffic was routed over the old New York Central and the Pennsy line’s second track was picked up. There were still 11 miles of double track left in 1974 and the 132-lb rail was in excellent shape. It was desperately needed on the old Central line where double traffic and deferred maintenance had left much of that stretch with 10 mph speed limits. The obvious thing to do was use the good rail on the needy line, unfortunately, the rail belonged to a Pennsy subsidiary, itself in reorganization. The creditors would not permit the asset to be moved, except for “cash on the barrel”, which, of course, was unavailable.
Bankruptcy saw several sales to try and raise money. A 1973 auction sold 1,527 tarnished pieces of silverware for about $10,000. This was about equal to what the railroad lost in 25 minutes of operation. Sold at the Philadelphia auction were items such as sugar bowls, steak platters and bud vases. Most of the buyers were train lovers and collectors, some old but many too young to remember the glory days of the great trains. Penn Central’s bankruptcy was attributed by some people to mismanagement; however, the National Labor Relations Board dictated wage settlements and the ICC controlled prices. The U.S. Government told PC’s creditors they couldn’t foreclose and that PC must operate even though it was at a loss.
By 1975, Penn Central’s situation was very serious. Without Congressional aid it was unable to meet its payroll. Making things worse was the fact that the ICC kept postponing freight rate hikes. Many felt that PC got a brush off because of disbelief a two billion dollar company could simply up and quit.
What was wrong with Penn Central was politically difficult to cure. Between a quarter and a half of the 19,621 mile (1972) road was redundant; yet mention the word “abandonment” and everybody from governors to ecologists were ready for battle. Even running as few trains as possible over ill-maintained tracks, 78,752 persons were on the 1975 payroll (down from 95,772 at bankruptcy). This was 4 people per route mile as opposed to Santa Fe’s 3. Attempts at crew size reductions brought strike threats. PC also had a commuter burden in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. (you don’t really believe government subsidies covered the whole thing do you?) These distractions prevented PC from countering truck competition with high-frequency, high-speed, on-time service.
Beginning in 1973, the United States Railway Association (USRA) (formed by Congress), cut 12,000 miles of track from PC operation. By 1976, CONRAIL was born.
Fort Plain versus South Fort Plain
The post card says Fort Plain, but it looks like a 4-track main line, not the 2-track West Shore that went through Fort Plain. Fort Plain, NY is directly across the Mohawk River / Barge Canal from Nelliston which is on the NY Central Main Line. Checked Form 1001 for April 30, 1950. Local service on the mainline referred to the station in Nelliston as “Fort Plain”, while just down the road, Canajoharie (on the West Shore, like Fort Plain) was served by Palatine Bridge on the main line. The West Shore timetable (no passenger by 1950, but freight through Fort Plain) neatly sidestepped the issue by calling it “South Fort Plain”. Little Falls to South Fort Plain was abandoned in 1971.
Grand Central Terminal and the New York City Subway
This page is our gateway to New York City. Find out about the New York Central Railroad‘s Grand Central Terminal. Explore the fabulous New York City Subway System. Learn who Robert Moses. was and his impact on New York City. Understand New York City transit planning, West Side Freight Line (the “High Line”) and St Johns terminal. The New Haven Railroad and the Long Island Railroad reached into New York City. Did you know the Lehigh Valley Railroad even went into New York City (by ferry). Learn about the Jenney Plan to bring commuters into New York City and finally explore mysterious track 61 at Grand Central Terminal with its relationship to Presidents of the United States.
Could the O&W have Survived?
A forum discussion of ideas and thoughts.
One interesting idea was what if the O&W had bought the Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg “Hojack Line”.
After all, they met at Oswego and RW&O had no New York City connection while O&W had no outlet for traffic other than Oswego.
I don’t think anybody could have saved the O&W from liquidation.
When the resort and coal traffic went away (its revenue mainly responsible for its prosperity), the limitations of its ROW severely limited what new business it could attract. It was far too gone by 1957 – deferred maintenance on ROW and rolling stock, too many bridges/trestles (drives up cost of maintenance), tunnels with extremely limited clearance (no clearance for truck-trailer traffic), too many curves/grades combined with very little originating or terminating traffic (bridge traffic is far less lucrative than originating/terminating traffic). It was, at heart, a rural railroad that bypassed major cities, thus as the rural businesses disappeared with the rise of metropolitan areas the O&W was on an irreversible slide towards history.
Oris P. and Mantis J. Van Sweringen
Nickel Plate and Other Ohio Railroads
View of Haworth, New Jersey Station
As well as this picture, Dwyer Wedvick has provided us with a wealth of rare information: All about Baldwin RS12s and commuting on the NY Central West Shore; Some recollections about the Boston & Maine and a great picture of his model; a great picture of his Canadian Pacific Railway model.
Welcome to our “Philadelphia Railroads” WebSite
Commuter Rail in Philadelphia
Philadelphia railroad reference section
Railroad attractions in Philadelphia area
Philadelphia Belt Line Railroad
Penn Eastern Railroad
Philadelphia Transit Map
Prince Charles in Philadelphia
The MUMMERS PARADE in Philadelphia is an event you don’t want to miss. SEPTA will bring you to Suburban Station….right in the heart of the action.
North Philadelphia Station
Philadelphia 30th Street Station
(our old postcard…..see old cars)
Penn Central MP-54 Cars
Orange, Blue and White 2565 car passes Yellow, White, and Maroon 2168 car at Chester Avenue in West Philadelphia, in March, 1973.
Turntable at Pennsylvania Railroad Museum
In January, 2007, a ROYAL TRAIN ran from Philadelphia to New York.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were guests of the Levin family. Amtrak’s role was limited to that of a support services contractor, providing locomotives, crew and track to Junita Terminal Company for their chartered special train. Amtrak made an incremental profit on operating the chartered special train for Juniata Terminal Company, as they do on all special train and private car moves.
Both the Prince and the Duchess enjoyed the trip, and the railroad experience. He was knowledgable and interested in the cars, and the rail operations from PHL to NYP.
Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Car 75
Center entrance cars are on the Media Line at Drexelbrook in 1970. The cars were built by Brill in 1926. Philadelphia Suburban Transportation became part of SEPTA
In 1857, the Potsdam & Watertown was built to join what later became the Rutland’s line to Ogdensburg. As well as serving as a connector, it served the agricultural towns of Potsdam, Canton and Gouverneur. In 1861, this line merged into the W&R, the name of the new railroad was changed to RW&O and a 19-mile line built from DeKalb Junction to Ogdensburg.
Waterville Railroad Station in upstate New York on the Lackawanna
officially owned Dearborn Station, The C&WI itself was owned jointly by the C&EI, Erie, Grand Trunk, Monon and Wabash, Although Santa Fe operated the greatest number of trains at the station, it was only a tenant.
Railroad Station in Stamford, Connecticut in 1960
Electrification of railroads was never uniform. The disparate voltages, cycles, etc were the result of free enterprise capitalist competition. The competition between PRR, NYNH&HRR, DL&W, NYC, etc was to provide the best service at lowest cost. And, competition between RR Suppliers (notably GE & Westinghouse) for the business, each offering what each thought was the best/cheapest solution. Read more and see a listing of all American electric railroads.
Hyde Park, New York Railroad Station in the Hudson Valley.
Hyde Park was the home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Find out more about trains run for Presidents of the United States.
A post card from our collection.
Don’t miss a visit to our WebSite on commuters and car culture.
A proposal by L. Alfred Jenny which consisted of a modern electrified railroad connecting the various New Jersey railroads and bringing these lines into a new passenger terminal in mid-Manhattan.
Our feature article: Sometimes it appears New York City never had a bit of transit planning. See historic photographs of Grand Central Terminal, New Haven Railroad electrification, New York’s subway system, marine rail operations in New York Harbor and the New Haven Railroad.
Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut on the Housatonic Railroad
We have some important passenger links for Florida . Next we have a great article on Tri Rail in South Florida (at the beginning) .
See our sections on Florida railroad history , Florida railroad maps , a great Florida railroad reference section , and information on Florida freight railroads See what Florida cities are served by Amtrak and enjoy a Florida Railroad Grand Plan .
Our feature articles are the “Essex Steam Train” and “New Steam Comes to Essex” . Planning a visit to Essex? Here’s some information on your visit to Essex, a link to the official WebSite , and a travel agent to help with accomodations and other attractions. We know you would like to find out about the history of the Valley Railroad . We also have a section on the Middletown Swing Bridge and the freight business that once in the area. Find out more about the Northern Valley Line
The Warwick Valley Rail Road Company became the Lehigh & Hudson River. Shown above is Lehigh & Hudson River No 29 at Warwick.
How the Warwick Valley became the Lehigh & Hudson River RR . Switch Station XA: Where was it??? Why did the L&HR end? Lehigh & Hudson River RR Map. Lehigh & Hudson River “Firsts” , and learn about Campbell Hall. the New York, Susquehanna & Western , sometimes called New Jersey’s Answer To Tehachapi .
Railroas and Rail Yards of Chicago; North Shore WebSite; Attractions at the Rail Fair; Chicago Tunnel Railroad; Historical Shortlie Railroads of Chicagoland.
Railroad Magazine cover showing Chicago Rail Fair
An attempt to match or better a bus trip from Delaware to Old Saybrook which appeared in the NY TIMES. Update on commuter rail between Delaware & Old Saybrook. Yet another attempt to travel the Northeast Corridor BUT not on Amtrak. Take a ride on the North East Corridor. Read about Electrification and high speed rail. Story of the Turbo Trains.
Delaware to Old Saybrook
In 1993, Jon Melnick, a transportation planner with the New York City Transit Authority, published an article in the NEW YORK TIMES about travel from Delaware to Connecticut. He took two days and 22 buses to travel from Newark, Delaware to Old Saybrook, Connecticut. My memories of bus trips were not that great (unshaven men holding paper bags shaped like bottles and rest stops serving hockey pucks for hamburgers). Just for the fun of it, I decided to give Mr. Melnick, and anybody else, an alternative to flying, Amtrak or driving. The alternative: regional rail systems!
Unfortunately, the trip has to start on either a bus or Amtrak because Newark, Delaware is not served by a regional rail system. While it is on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, it is too far north for the Maryland regional rail system (MARC) and too far south for the Pennsylvania system (SEPTA). My first thought was let’s at least keep this trip all-rail and take a short hop on Amtrak from Newark to Wilmington. Unfortunately, the first and only northbound train isn’t until 4:34 pm with arrival in Wilmington at 4:47 pm.
The lateness of Amtrak’s stop at Newark will force us to either take a bus from Newark to Wilmington or else make this a two-day trip (Melnick took two days and stayed over in New Rochelle, New York). If we opt for the bus, we could be in Wilmington in time for the 6:14 am which gets into Philadelphia at 7:03, Trenton at 8:03 and New York at 9:22 am. Going a little later on the first off-peak train, we would leave Wilmington at 9:01 am, arrive in Philadelphia at 9:47 am, Trenton at 10:53 am and New York at 12:11 pm. Amtrak from Newark just misses the 4:41 pm and puts us on the 5:20 pm from Wilmington which gets into Philadelphia at 6:07 pm, Trenton at 7:18 pm and New York at 8:40 pm. While trains run as far as New Haven, the lateness of the hour would cause us to miss the last train to Old Saybrook.
At Wilmington, we can pick up the SEPTA (SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) “R2” service. Fare to Philadelphia is $4.00 during peak (rush) hours and $3.00 off-peak. Equipment is electric MU coaches.
At 30th Street in downtown Philadelphia we would switch to the R7 line to Trenton, New Jersey. The $11.50 joint fare makes SEPTA-NJTransit the least expensive route between Philadelphia and New York City. Making a convenient change at Trenton, we take New Jersey Transit and go directly into New York’s Penn Station.
As an alternative (and to add more systems to somewhat approach Melnick’s 22 buses), we could get off NJTransit in Newark, New Jersey and take PATH to either midtown or World Trade Center.
Since all Metro-North service to New Haven originates from Grand Central Terminal, we will need to take a subway. From Penn Station, we can take an IRT 1, 2 or 3 to Times Square and then the Shuttle to Grand Central.
Metro-North’s New Haven line has two types of service: local which run as far as Stamford, Connecticut and express which stops only at 125th Street but then becomes local between Stamford and New Haven. Off peak travel from New York to New Haven costs $8.75 and departs at seven minutes past the hour from early morning until after midnight. Rush hour costs $11.75 and can be as often as five minutes apart.
The last leg of the trip will be over the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) “Shore Line East” service which goes as far as Old Saybrook. This line runs over an Amtrak-owned route and is operated by Amtrak, but with equipment owned by Connecticut. This equipment is painted in old New Haven Railroad colors. Trains make five stops between New Haven and Old Saybrook and take about 50 minutes for the trip. The cost is $4.00. There are convenient connections with Metro-North trains at New Haven, but service is mostly rush hour.
Regional rail systems have seen growth and modernization in the last few years because of increased demand for their services. At the start of our trip, nearby Maryland has built a new system in just a few years. Riding Amtrak between Baltimore and Washington and riding Washington’s METRO “Red” line, I have seen it grow steadily. SEPTA and New Jersey Transit have both modernized and expanded their services. For example, SEPTA service to Wilmington only began in 1989. Metro-North has added new equipment to the New Haven line to such an extent that many trains cannot platform all cars in the stations. The Shore Line East is a brand new service.
The Richfield Springs branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railway extended through Bridgewater, where it connected with the Unadilla Valley Railroad, a shortline that served Edmeston and New Berlin to Richfield Springs on Canadarago Lake, once a rather fashionable resort. Here, from 1905 until 1940, the DL&W had a passenger and freight connection with the Southern New York Railway, an interurban to Oneonta. Milk and light freight were the chief sources of revenue on this branch. Delaware Otsego subsidiary Central New York Railroad acquired this branch from Richfield Jct. to Richfield Springs, 22 miles, in 1973. Enginehouse was at Richfield Springs. Became part of NYS&W northern division after NYS&W bought the DL&W Syracuse & Utica branches from Conrail in 1982. Traffic on line gradually dropped off. Line east from Bridgewater embargoed in 1990. Abandoned and track removed in 1995, westerly 2-3 miles left in place for stone trains. In 2009: This old railroad is now owned by the Utica, Chenango and Susquehanna Valley LLC in Richfield Springs. They also own the 1930 Newark Milk and Cream Company creamery in South Columbia.