NY Central Lines Ken Knapp


Picture at top is Ken Knapp enjoying the Hudson River near Tarrytown, New York. He was a former Paymaster of the New York Central.

He started with the railroad when the employees were paid in cash and a pay car visited all the Central’s locations. He worked with William Ingraham, John L. Burdett. and Hy Taylor.

He moved to Albany for one year, but the station did not have adequate room for the payroll department, so he went to Utica for the rest of his career. When the railroad began paying by check instead of cash, he oversaw the first computer bought by the New York Central. It took up almost a whole floor in Utica’s Union Station.

A feature article on his career and his retirement appeared in the July/August issue of HEADLIGHT – the New York Central magazine. I remember meeting Norman Stone, the editor of the magazine, when the article was written. He even included a picture of my dog (with my grandfather).

In his 47-year career, he worked many years on a pay car. These cars lasted through the 1920’s. At one time, the Central had five pay cars on the road. Each car had two payroll clerks and a railroad police detective. A typical car had an office, berths, a stateroom and facilities for meal preparation. Several times the pay car had several million dollars on board in a safe and in “strong boxes” hidden under the berths (but still only one detective). During World War I when the railroads were nationalized, the pay cars were under control of the Secretary of the Treasury, William McAdoo. In this period, payroll for other railroads were sometimes carried: for instance, Delaware & Hudson payroll was carried from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to Albany (other times this was sent in leather pouches by registered mail… I still have some of the mail tags addressed to New York State Bank).

He was born in 1890 and died in 1974.



This tag was on canvas money bags which were shipped from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the Equitable Building to the New York State National Bank in Albany, New York. This money was destined for the account of the New York Central Rail Road.

This package cost two 20-cent stamps to ship! It was sent “insured mail”, which “by direction of the post office department these articles are handled and accorded the same treatment as registered mail.”

During the First World War, all railroads in the United States were seized by the Government, which created the United States Railroad Administration. This shipment occured in March, 1918.

At Albany, the money was transferred to a New York Central “Pay Car”  which roamed the system paying the employees in cash. Pay cars (at this time, the Central operated five) were manned by two paymasters and a railroad detective.

The “Fed” is no longer in the Equitable Building, the New York State National Bank no longer exists, the New York Central Railroad merged into Penn Central, which folded into Conrail, then was carved up by CSX and NS. Railroad workers now get paid by Direct Deposit.