New York Central Railroad Home Page
New York Central Railroad Links Over many years I have written numerous articles about the New York Central Railroad. What I realized was that I had no one central (no pun intended) place where someone could go and find everything I have plus what others have too.
Like great passenger trains, we added a second section.
Disclaimer: As the New York Central system-wide timetable, Form 1001, used to read:
“Subject to change without notice, not responsible for errors and ommissions.”
Railroad Station at Troy, New York
The station in Troy was owned by the Troy Union Rail Road. The TURR lasted from the mid 19th Century till the mid 20th Century. It was owned by the New York Central, Delaware & Hudson and Boston & Maine. Access from the South was from Rensselaer; from the West, via the Green Island Bridge; from the North was street running almost the entire length of Troy.
The station consisted of 6 thru tracks and towers at each end. The Central had at least one switcher assigned here.
Girl Of The Century
Joan Jennings Scalfani
Getting ready to reprise her role as a “Century Girl” for the 20th Century Limited express passenger train brought back these memories and more for Joan Jennings Scalfani.
“It was a fabulous job because I love to talk and I love to listen,” said Scalfani, 80, recalling her days in the early 1960s as a hostess aboard the historic line. “Those were happy days.”
The Williamsville, NY resident returned to New York City’s Grand Central Station recently as a featured guest for one of the events of the iconic hub’s centennial celebration. A collection of railway cars, including an observation car from the 20th Century Limited, was on display.
The train would leave Grand Central Station at 6 p.m. and arrive in Chicago by 9 the next morning. It had about 26 cars with staterooms, smaller compartments, and dining and lounge cars.
One Century Girl was assigned to each trip.
“The train was beautiful,” she said. “In the center lounge car there were love seats. … It was a very classy-looking interior. It wasn’t trainlike; it was like a living room,” Scalfani said.
It was the sort of car where Harry and Bess Truman might have stayed when she asked them during their breakfast whether they had rested well.
“The president said, ‘Won’t you join us?’ And I certainly couldn’t say no,” she said. “They were very pleasant and very down-to-earth.”
Silent-movie comedian Harold Lloyd asked her to join him for lunch. “You’ve been so kind to me,” he told her. “I’d love you to join me for lunch.”
“He really appreciated the fact that I spent so much time there at his doorway,” Scalfani said.
Decades later, she still regrets not accepting his offer.
As she remembers it, Hemingway was less talkative. The author “was more interested in having dinner,” she said. “I didn’t stay too long.”
Horne, traveling with her jazz pianist husband, Lennie Hayton, was lovely but even less interested. The singer and actress “looked like she wanted me to get out of there,” Scalfani said. “In person, she was even more gorgeous.”
In 1961, after 15 months on the job, the Century Girls were among the thousands laid off after a railroad strike. Scalfani, who grew up in Baltimore, eventually moved to Buffalo in a marriage that ended in divorce. She raised two daughters here. Her career in nonprofit management included almost a decade as director of Episcopal Charities.
Scalfani said she found train passengers to be in-depth people with a leisurely attitude. They had time to sit, look out the windows and think about the towns and countryside rolling by. And they talked.
“It’s like, ‘We’ll never see each other again, so I can bare my soul,’ ” Scalfani said. “They took the time, and it was just special.”
She looks forward to putting on the Century Girl suit that always made her feel stylish.
“It’s like being able to turn the clock back,” she said.
Interested in Penn Central? New York Central? Pennsylvania Railroad? New Haven Railroad? or in the smaller Eastern US railroads? Then you will be interested in “What if the Penn Central Merger Did Not Happen”.Stories on New York Central milk trains, the “Hojack Line”, and the Lincoln funeral train.
The “Dewitt Clinton” was the first run of the first component of the New York Central System
Check out our Biographies for more NY Central heros
Old postcard of the West Albany shops of the New York Central Railroad.
Historic locomotive “999” and many others were built here.
The railroad was created in 1853 by the merger of ten other railroads, spearheaded by Albany industrialist and Mohawk Valley Railroad owner Erastus Corning:
Albany & Schenectady Railroad
Mohawk Valley Railroad
Schenectady & Troy Railroad
Syracuse & Utica Direct Railroad
Rochester & Syracuse Railroad
Buffalo & Rochester Railroad
Rochester, Lockport & Niagara Falls Railroad
Rochester & Lake Ontario Railroad
Buffalo & Niagara Falls Railroad
Buffalo & Lockport Railroad
Between 1853 and 1869, the following railroads were merged into the New York Central:
Buffalo & Niagara Falls Railroad Co.
Lewiston Railroad Co.
Rochester & Lake Ontario Railroad Co.
Saratoga & Hudson River Railroad Co.
In 1869 the New York Central and the Hudson River Railroad were merged.
Before 1914, the following Railroads were merged into the New York Central & Hudson River:
Buffalo Erie Basin Railroad Co.
Carthage & Adirondack Railway Co.
Geneva and Lyons Railroad Co.
Gouverneur & Oswegatchie Railroad Co.
Mohawk and Malone Railway Co.
New York & Ottawa Railway Co.
New York & Putnam Railroad Co.
New York Central Niagara River Railroad Co.(The)
Spuyten Duyvil & Port Morris Railroad Co. (The)
Tivoli Hollow Railroad Co. (chartered in 1893. It was completed 1.23 mi. in City of Albany, prior to 1903 (exact date not known).
Orgin of Spuyten Duyvil
There are multiple ‘hypotheses’ for the origin of the term “Spuyten Duyvil.” The one that’s generally accepted as the most “authoritative” can be found in Washington Irving’s A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. Irving tells the story of a messenger sent by New Amsterdam colony governor Peter Minuit (he of the famous $24.00 purchase) to go north and warn the folks there of a potential English invasion. When the messenger reached the creek at the north end of Manhattan Island it was, to use a line famous in writing classes “a dark and stormy night,” and the local boat operator refused to take him across to “The Bronck’s.” (I use the old Dutch spelling). Having been fortified by rum for his journey, the messenger said he would swim the creek im spijt den duyvil ** (“in spite of the devil”), jumped into the water and was never seen again.
Railroads To The Adirondacks
Webb’s Wilderness Railroad
Webb’s Wilderness Railroad opened up the Adirondack wilderness. Although educated as a physician, William Seward Webb built two hundred miles of railroad and opened up the Adirondack wilderness where others had failed. New York Central tracks reached into the Adirondacks. One line even went across the Canadian border to Ottawa.
Read the entire article.
Long time Central employee and watchmaker Jacob Bachtold adjusts one of the more famous clocks in a 1946 photo (from New York Central HEADLIGHT)
New York Central Lines Magazine 1919-1925 and 1925-1931 and some of our other history sources: 1921 article from Transportation World and a story of “Health & Pleasure” from the 1890’s. Commodore Hotel , Chauncey Depew; “A Chronicle of R.W.& O. Days Since 1851” Contributed by Richard Palmer . New York Central Pacemaker Service .
The magazine contained articles by veterans such as W.I. Boyle who described the building of the famous locomotive “999” at West Albany. 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 since it was built.
Appearing frequently in the magazine was Lt. Col. Hiram W. Taylor (“Hi” Taylor). He was appointed Supervisor of Athletics in 1922. He had been a division paymaster and was known personally to most New York Central employees. He had served with honor in the First World War and remained a National Guard officer. His sports programs included a baseball “world series” pitting the Line East champions against the Line West champions with the winners being given a New York City harbor tour on a railroad tugboat or other similar trips. The Albany baseball league of 1930 contained six teams: car shop; locomotive shop; Mohawk Division; Albany Division; Rensselaer; and Selkirk. Taylor formed very competitive bowling leagues and golf matches. In 1925, Albany, the New York Central champions, played baseball against the Pennsylvania RR champions at the D&H field in Colonie before 10,000 spectators.
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”. The New York Central Police Force was always a topic of articles. Its first chief (Humphrey) retired in 1919 and had served with Teddy Roosevelt. The police were referred to as the men who see you without being seen.
During this period Daniel Brady died. He was the brother of “Diamond Jim” and worked for the New York Central between 1871 and 1880. He was the founder of Brady Brass. 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. 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.
LCL Terminal at Utica, New York. (Photo clipped from the Utica Observer-Dispatch)
Not until 1964 did the NY Central Annual Meeting move away from Albany. In Albany, the meetings were usually held in the Ten Eyck Hotel, or sometimes the Palace Theater. One exception was the proxy battle where Robert Young captured control of the railroad. This meeting was in the massive Washington Avenue Armory.
In 1950, NY Central’s stockholders held their annual meeting in Albany at the Hotel Ten Eyck. To encourage more holders to attend, a special train was run from New York to Albany, N. Y. (site of the meeting as fixed by the company’s charter). Stockholders, wives, husbands, and children (families were invited). Some of the directors and chairman Harold Vanderbilt are shown in photo. (Photo clipped from the Utica Observer-Dispatch)
The May 15, 1914 issue of what was then called “Railway Age Gazette,” described NYC&HR’s new electric crane delivered as GCT No. 1. The 100-ton capacity crane was designed with low clearance booms to work within the confines of Grand Central or the Park Avenue Tunnel. Builder was Industrial Works of Bay City Michigan. The unit was equipped with third rail shoes and double-ended with a boom and operating compartment at each end. I found fascinating that the self-propelled crane had 800 hp available for traction and was rated at 25 mph, yet reached 34 mph (with an 80-ton trailing load) during tests. The machine also had a 230-cell battery for service off the third rail or when power was interrupted. Now at the Danbury Rail Museum
See more about General Electric in Schenectady
West Shore Railroad
NY City Skyline from Weehawken
Sharing the “Water Level Route” with the New York Central was the West Shore; first as a competitor; later a subsidiary
West Shore had a station in South Utica at the intersection with Genesee Street. It was in the area where a Grand Union supermarket was constructed. There were a couple of sidings and freight loading ramps too. I remember a station there, but it was only like a freight house or maintenance house in my times.
South Street was actually East Utica, so couldn’t have been construed as “South Utica”. Remember, the West Shore cut diagonally across Utica from Genesee Street in a South-East direction. It crossed numerous streets with only a pair of cross-bucks for protection. They actually had to flag across Genesee Street! And it was double track too!
Even the DL&W had gates (and even a gateman within my memory until they automated). DL&W still had passenger service after West Shore and O&W were well out of it. When DL&W discontinued their train to Binghamton, I remember the Short Line bus that replaced it struggling up Paris Hill in New Hartford with black/brown gas fumes spewing out the back, and hoped somebody would shoot it and put it out of its misery so the train would return It was a really cool train ride from Utica to New Hartford.
Robert Young. The New York Central Railroad. Some of the most fascinating railroad literature of the 1940’s are transcripts of this unusual man’s testimony before the Interstate Commerce Commission. At year-end 1943, New York Central closed at 18 ¾, which meant Delaware and Hudson Railroad had an investment of $5,711,250.
Read the entire article.
The 643-mile Rome Watertown and Ogdensburgh became a part of the New York Central in 1891. As late as the mid-1950’s, most of the RW&O was still in service. Everything east of Oswego was part of the St. Lawrence Division. The old Lake Ontario Shore Railroad was part of the Syracuse Division.
Read the entire article.
Watertown, NY Station
New York Central Branch from DeKalk Junction to Ogdensburg, In 1861, the Potsdam & Watertown line merged into the Watertown&Rome, the name of the new railroad was changed to Rome, Watertown&Ogdensburg, and a 19-mile line built from DeKalb Junction to Ogdensburg. It lasted until the 1980’s.
Yard at Watertown, NY
The New York & Northern was part of a Bronx to Boston route with the New York & New England Railroad via Danbury and Hartford. Financial failure forced the line to be leased to the New York Central in 1895. It became the Putnam Division.
Notable New York Central Railroad golfer Primo “Euky” Eucalyptus. Euky “never quit his day job”: he was a road brakeman. In the 1950’s he made more $ than the average golf professional.
George H. Daniels, the long-time General Passenger Agent for the New York Central was responsible for:
The 20th Century Limited ; The Empire State Express ;
Popularizing the “Thousand Islands”
Read more about George H. Daniels
A New York Central ALCO PA and PB are charging past Beacon on the way north and west. The National Biscuit Company building at left was the carton printing plant for Nabisco products. That building today is a museum of modern art in Beacon. The tracks at right were the CNE and New Haven which crossed over the NYC main on a bridge to Fishkill and the Maybrook line connection at Hopewell Junction. These tracks are still in use by MTA Metro North and AMTRAK.
What Made Up the New York Central System?
The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad ; Boston & Albany Railroad ; Canadian Southern Railway; Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (Big Four) ; Chicago River & Indiana Railroad ; Indiana Harbor Belt ; Lake Erie and Western Railroad ; Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway ; Michigan Central Railroad ; Peoria and Eastern Railway (P&E) Company ; Pittsburg & Lake Erie Railroad ; Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway (73% NYC owned) Joint with Canadian Pacific Railway ; West Shore Railroad including the New Jersey Junction Railroad ; Amsterdam, Chuctanunda and Northern Railroad ; Niagara River Bridge Company ; Dayton Union Railway ; Niagara Junction Railway ; Central Indiana Railway ; New York Central’s Fall Brook Subdivision ; Indianapolis Union Railway
October 11, 1922 The Ft. Wayne Union Railway is incorporated to serve the International Harvester plant on the east side of Ft. Wayne. It is jointly owned by the Pennsylvania, Nickel Plate, New York Central and Wabash railroads, each with a 25% share in the new company.
The two railroad bridges crossing the Hudson River between Rensselaer and Albany were owned nominally by a separate organization called The Hudson River Bridge Company at Albany.
Street running went out when the station (no longer a station) was built in 1936.
Tied into the terminal is a history of Buffalo. There is more on the Buffalo Central Terminal too; plus some great links to Buffalo Central Terminal. Something very interesting to me was that the entire terminal used 25-cycle electric power. This type of power was not unusual when industrial locations where nearby. The General Electric plant in Schenectady had it’s own power plant which made 25-cycle DC as well as 110V AC. In my time there, plant switchers were diesel, but they used DC electrics at one time, especially inside manufacturing buildings. (New York Central RR content: The General Electric Company Main Plant/Schenectady Works was definitely the largest on-line customer between North Tarrytown and Rochester/Buffalo)
Buffalo Central Terminal Opened in 1929.
But Buffalo changed, railroads changed and the World changed after 1929.
In Montreal, New York Central trains came in to Windsor Station.
This massive station was the headquarters of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. It is no longer an active station, but is well-preserved as offices. The former waiting room is used for exhibitions. As well as long distance trains, the Central ran commuter trains into Windsor too. The modern Lucien l’Allier station now handles thousands of daily commuters.
Surprise! There is no longer an Albany Station. Lake Shore Limited at Rensselaer (photo by the author). Find out more about Albany, New York As well as pictures of Albany and Rensselaer stations, the Maiden Lane Bridge across the Hudson was important as a connection, plus the steam roundhouse for Albany was in Rensselaer
Albany-Rensselaer Train Station
More than eight years after the newest of three train stations opened here, the two former stations are finally gone, clearing the way for a fourth track to alleviate delays. The oldest station, built in 1968 by Penn Central Railroad, has been completely removed and just a concrete slab marks its former location. Demolition crews were loading bricks and other debris from the 1980 station building that Amtrak had constructed to handle larger crowds as rail travel grew more popular. That station also was too small, and in 2002 the current station, which cost $53 million, opened. Story of Rensselaer train station
The “Hojack” and the station at Wolcott, N.Y. stand silent, waiting for the trains that will never return.
From the Collection of Richard Palmer
In the early 1870’s, the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad had been built from Oswego all the way along the shore of Lake Ontario to the Niagara River (Suspension Bridge). It bypassed Rochester, had no manufacturing industries and was too close to the New York Central.
The Lake Ontario Shore wasn’t able to make the grade and was sold to the RW&O in 1875 at a court sale for a bargain basement price. By building a short connection at Oswego, the RW&O now had a through route from Suspension Bridge to Norwood where connections were available to the Atlantic Ocean.
Our feature articles are the Budd RDC and Budd RDC’s in Connecticut.
See our Budd RDC Reference Material and read about the continuing saga of the Budd RDC. We have a picture of a Budd RDC in the snow and an RDC in Quebec’s Eastern Townships Section. Read about the RDC in Cape May and did you know some RDC’s went too Cuba? We talk about other types of rail cars as well as some comments on the Colorado DMU.
Lots of Boston & Maine RDC’s went to Troy
M-497 Jet Powered RDC New York Central at Bryan Ohio in 1966 courtesy of Wayne Koch
M-497 still holds the record as the fastest passenger car to travel on a US railway system.
New York Central’s West Side Freight Line into Manhattan.
History of New York City’s West Side Freight Line. Begun in 1846, the New York Central’s West Side Freight Line was the only freight railroad directly into Manhattan.
Read about the Cowboys who guided trains on the West Side Freight Line.
Find out what the New York Terminal Stores Building was.
A most interesting section is the locomotives that ran on the West Side Rail Line.
The break-up of Conrail to CSX and Norfolk Southern is just really a continuation of a drama that has gone on for about the last 80 years.
Read the entire article.
The Global Highway:
Interchange to Everywhere
A portal to the World. The Global Highway leads everywhere! Follow it to wherever you might want to go. We have something for everyone!
White Plains, New York: one of the major stations on the New York Central Harlem Division.
White Plains is the busiest Metro-North station (other than Grand Central)
and the busiest non-terminal or transfer station on the New York Commuter Network.
An old postcard purchased from Charlie Gunn
Ghent, New York: The site of the junction between the New York Central Harlem Division and Boston & Albany Railroads, Hudson-Chatham Branch.
The Harlem in 1957
| At that time the NYC still had two round trips on the Harlem to Chatham with more on weekends. At that time, the Rutland job still came down on a daily basis and the yard at Chatham still had two yard jobs one of which was maned by a B & A crew and the other by a Harlem crew. There were still two towers at Chatham at the time 66 and 65.
The entire Harlem was intact and in use for passengers until March 1972 and freight until March 1976.
The 1949 timetable shows three round trips of passenger service between New York and Chatham. There were 24/7 block stations at Brewster (B) and Chatham (SS-65) and 14 block stations open various hours between the two end points at this time. There was a wide variance in the running times of the above passenger trains on this line, the fastest one on the line was a Sunday evening train that made the run from Chatham to Grand Central Terminal in three hours and six minutes while some of the others took up to four hours or even more. All of the trains had to change engines at North White Plains and probably they were mostly steam between North White Plains and Chatham.
To clarify the ISSUES regarding the “NYC” Passenger Service.
In plain simple English, Bob Timpany, AVP Administration and in charge of the infamous New york Central Operating Management Trainee Program – which, is said to have generated some seven ( 7) railroad presidents – told everyone “we are losing our tails and we have reached the point of NO RETURN regarding passenger train deficits.” Costing cutting measures did not work. The operating unions would not agree to any changes in work rules. For example, engine service employees,, changed at Erie, PA, but the train crews when through between Buffalo, NY and Cleveland, OH! All of the states that were served by The “NYC” refused to contribute any form of financing to off-set the loses to provide a service the public DID NOT WANT. The company ran The Jet Train experiment in Northwestern Ohio as a way to induce governmental and public assistance. But alass, NO form of aid. The hearts and pocketbooks were with the love affair the American public had with the automobile and the concrete highways. “NYC” received a Million Dollars of FREE advertising and publicity to show that its existing right of way could handle an improved method of passenger train travel. Sadly, no one took the bait! Knowing full will that the railroad could not pull the plug on its total passenger service it elected to establish “The Empire Service” in the state of New York while consolidating the remaining trains west of Buffalo, NY. Remember, NY Central was two ( 2) different entities; Lines East of Buffalo and Lines West of Buffalo. Folks today could never realize the amount of planning and implementation which went into setting up “The Empire Service”. Each diesel locomotive had to be equipped with dual steam generators; three ( 3) car all coaches or one ( 1) cafe car and two ( 2) coaches with EVERYTHING WORKING; two ( 2) vestibules placed next to one another to enable fast loading and unloading of passengers; etc. The plan worked. The deficit was cut and it estabolished a new train of thought. The future for railroad passenger service was in the short haul markets. Further, the NYC finally convenienced the state of New York to start to generate funding for any remaining and expanded passenger services. Finally, the other eastern and midwestern states found out that The “NYC” was serious about finding a Godfather to pay for the service which the American public did not want. To think that Mr. Perlman and his staff wanted to trash all passenger service was a false statement. A the top of the morning report was the performance of both 20th Century Limiteds. This also included passenger counts, names of VIP’s on the trains, OS times at key terminals and the status of the next day’s Nos. 25 and 26. Below that came The Rielly (Cincinnati, OH and Chicago, IL). Below that came the “Van Trains” and the performance of NYC Motor Transport which sole purpose in live was to support “Flexi-Van Service”. Below that came the numbers for the electronic yards, viz., Avon (Big Four); Elkhart (Robert F. Young); Cincinnati (Sharonville), Toledo (Stanley); West Detroit (Livernois); Buffalo (Frontier); DeWitt; and Selkirk. The Morning Report and then The Head Count, which was generated by 1:00 PM every Friday, had better be right, including the coveted 20th Century Limited Trains. The “NYC” was in the business of generating a lot of cash to pay its bills and a profit. In fact, the saying around 466 Lexington Avenue was “MAXI-PROD” (Maximumize Profits). You could never perform that mission with a big passenger train drain.
New York Central might have been slow to start dieselization (still buying steam in late 1940’s), but once they started, they FLEW
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
As the New York Central system-wide timetable, Form 1001, used to read:
“Subject to change without notice, not responsible for errors and ommissions.”
Interesting and Important Dates on the New York Central Railroad
1851 Twelve men are convicted of conspiring to burn down the Michigan Central Depot in Detroit in protest over high rates and autocratic business dealings by the railroad. This event will become known as “The Great Railroad Conspiracy”.
1852 The Michigan Southern Railroad (later MS&NI, LS&MS, NYC, PC, CR, NS) reaches Chicago. The rush to beat the Michigan Central into Chicago has left a break in Michigan Southern’s line between Laporte and Michigan City. Michigan Southern travelers are forced to take a stagecoach between those two cities.
January 24, 1853 The Toledo, Norwalk & Cleveland Railroad Company (later LS&MS, NYC, PC, CR, NS) opens, forming the last link in the chain of roads from Chicago to New York and Boston.
June 4, 1883 First trains on New York Central’s West Shore line, on the west side of the Hudson River.
June 30, 1889 The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (The Big Four) is formed from the merger of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railway, the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago Railway and the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railway.
1891 The “Empire State Express” goes from New York City to East Buffalo, 436 miles, in a record 7 hours 6 minutes (61.408-mph).
Also in 1891, the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad leased the Rome Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad, whom had a lease on the Utica & Black River Railroad.
1893, the Mohawk & Malone Railway was leased by the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.
1899 The New York Central leases the Boston & Albany.
The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis is formed to handle switching and transfer chores in St. Louis. The sponsoring railroads are the Missouri Pacific, Iron Mountain & Southern, Wabash, Ohio & Mississippi, Louisville & Nashville and the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis.
August 16, 1904 Construction begins on New York City’s new “Grand Central Station”. When completed in 9 years, the building will become known as “Grand Central Terminal”.
July 27, 1910 First passenger train passes through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.
December 16, 1913 The landmark Michigan Central depot in Detroit opens. It will serve the city until 1988.
In 1913, the Rome Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad merged into the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, as was the Utica & Black River Railroad. The portion of track from Utica to Remsen became the Lyons Branch.
December 16, 1915 The United States Attorney General rules that New York Central’s ownership of the Nickel Plate violates U.S. anti-trust laws and orders divesture.
December 28, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson uses the Federal Possession and Control Act to take possession of “each and every system of transportation…within the boundaries of the United States.” This creates the U.S. Railroad Administration.
March 20, 1920 The United States Railroad Administration is abolished, returning control of all railroads to their owners.
January 11, 1922 The Van Sweringen brothers buy the Lake Erie & Western from the New York Central and align it with the Nickel Plate, which they also own.
February 16, 1925 A new bridge is opened over Niagara Falls, replacing the previous span built in 1855. The bridge is part of the NYC/CS/MC route from New York to Michigan via Ontario.
June 16, 1926 A special train of seven red Pullman cars leaves Grand Central in New York City for Chicago. Dubbed “The Cardinals’ Special”, the train carries Roman Catholic dignitaries to the XXVIII Eucharistic Congress in Chicago, the first Congress in the U.S. The cars will be repainted Pullman green and returned to regular service next month.
July 8, 1926 First use of a radiotelephone on a train, on the New York Central.
February 14, 1927 The first New York Central “J-1” Hudson locomotive is completed. The “J” series were to set the pace for locomotive performance and design until the end of steam.
July 25, 1927 First installation of CTC controlled track goes into service between Stanley Yard and Berwick OH on the New York Central.
December 22, 1928 A record 854 long distance trains enter and leave Grand Central Terminal in 24 hours.
September 29, 1929 The New York Central inaugurates the “Commodore Vanderbilt”, an all-first class, extra-fare train. This gives the NYC nine trains running between New York and Chicago on a 20-hour schedule. The NYC has adopted the Pennsylvania Railroad strategy of a fleet of fast trains, rather than just one name train.
February 1, 1930 New York Central leases the Michigan Central for 999 years.
December 14, 1934 New York Central unveils the “Commodore Vanderbilt”, the first streamline steam locomotive and the inspiration for one of Lionel’s most popular toy locomotives.
July 1, 1935 The New York Central Lines (subsidiary companies) are re-named the New York Central System.
March 25, 1936 The 200-inch mirror blank for the Palomar observatory begins its cross- country trip aboard a well-hole flat car [NYC 499010]. At the time it was shipped it was the single most valuable item ever shipped by rail. Railroad Vice-Presidents accompanied the special train to make sure there were no problems. As it traveled in the well-hole flatcar, the mirror was only inches above the rails.
December 7, 1941 The New York Central, with much fanfare, launches the new streamlined “Empire State Express”. The bombing of Pearl Harbor puts an immediate damper on the planned festivities.
December 13, 1945 New York Central places what is `til then the largest single order for passenger equipment: 420 cars.
1946 New York Central purchases the Delaware & Hudson line from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid.
May, 1951 Due to dieselization, the New York Central lays off 1,230 workers at its West Albany Shops.
1952 The last steam locomotive is repaired at New York Central’s West Albany Shops: J-1 Hudson 5270.
June 16, 1953 The last steam powered through passenger train runs on the Canada Southern.
August 7, 1953 New York Central Niagara 6020 leaves Harmon with Train 185, the last NYC steam locomotive to operate in New York State.
1953 Electric operations end at Cleveland Union Terminal
April 16, 1958 The New York Central introduces “Flexi-Van” service. The first route is New York to Chicago.
June 29, 1958 The last New York Central passenger train runs on New York City’s West Shore route along the Hudson River north of the city beyond West Haverstaraw (i.e., to Albany). Commuter service to and from Weehawken and West Haverstraw continued until December 10,1959.
July 1, 1958 The New York Central withdraws from The Pullman Company and begins staffing its own passenger trains.
March 20, 1959 Last sailing of the Weehawken ferry, connecting New York Central’s West Shore line with Manhattan.
January 1, 1960 The New York Central drops its membership in the Railway Express Agency, citing large losses from the express business.
April 3, 1961 The Boston & Albany, Ware River, Pittsfield & North Adams and Beech Creek Extension railroad companies all disappear into parent New York Central.
November 25, 1963 All rail and transit services in the United States are halted for one minute to commemorate the National Day of Mourning for the assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
July 23, 1966 In a combination publicity stunt and test of how track functions under high speeds, a New York Central jet powered Rail Diesel Car hits 183.85 mph near Stryker, OH.
December 2, 1967 Last run of New York Central’s “Empire State Express” as the railroad cancels all but two long distance trains.
February 1, 1968 The New York Central and Pennsylvania railroads merge to form Penn Central Transportation. To “protect competition” , the Norfolk & Western is given control of the Erie Lackawanna and Delaware & Hudson. Instead of merging with the two companies, they will be put under the umbrella of “Dereco”, a subsidiary created by N&W to manage the lines.
June 21, 1970 Penn Central declares bankruptcy, at the time the largest bankruptcy in U.S. corporate history.
YES, we know this list is incomplete. We keep adding to it.
New York Central Presidents in the 20th Century
Chauncey Depew (former president then chairman until 1928)
Samuel R. Colloway (took over from Depew before turn of century then became first president of the American Locomotive Company in 1901)
William H. Newman (1901-1909)
W. C. Brown (1909-1914)
Alfred H. Smith (1914-1924 except WW1)
William K. Vanderbilt (while Smith was with US Railway Administration in WW1)
Alfred H. Smith (died in a horse-riding accident in Central Park in 1924)
Patrick Crowley (1924-1931)
Fred .E. Williamson (1931-1944)
Gustave Metzman (1944-1952)
William White (1952-1954 then was president of the D&H)
World’s Fair Special #40 at Renssaelaer. June 12, 1964. Collection of Robert B. Dunnet
Also, don’t forget that while 2-footers gained fame in Maine, Peekskill was reputedly the location of the first 2-foot gauge railroad, the Peekskill Valley Railroad. It ran from iron mines north east of Peekskill hollow to the iron works at the confluence of Annsville Creek and the Hudson River. The iron works were in turn served by the NYC&HRR.
DID YOU KNOW?
Interesting facts about the New York Central Railroad
The New York Central Railroad Company was a corporation of the State of New York, having its principal office at 575 Broadway, in the City of Albany, State of New York. It also maintained executive offices at 466 Lexington Avenue, New York City.
Buildings in the vicinity of Grand Central Terminal were owned by the
New York State Realty and Terminal Company headquartered at 466 Lexington Avenue.
Commodore Vanderbilt’s statue at Grand Central Terminal was originally placed downtown at St, John’s Park in 1869. When the original downtown freight house was moved, the statue went to Grand Central in 1929.
The agreement (“in perpetuity”) allowing the New Haven Railroad to enter New York City on New York Central right-of-way and share the terminal dates back to 1848.
In 1853, The Toledo, Norwalk & Cleveland Railroad Company opened (later Lake Shore & Michigan Southern), NY Central, Penn Central, Conrail, Norfolk Southern) thus forming the last link in the chain of roads from Chicago to New York and Boston.
In 1882 William H. Vanderbilt utters his famous “The public be damned!” quote. The rest of the quote is “I am working for my stockholders. If the public wants the train, why don’t they pay for it?” (The train in question was a premium fare, deluxe weekly).