Buy your train tickets at the Union Ticket Office, 1861

Today as a graphic designer, I have various different methods for catching your attention in an advertisement. Attractive imagery, and most importantly, color, are major ways a designer can catch your eye. But what if we’re talking about design well over a hundred years ago, when color printing and photography wasn’t around? Although using various typefaces is certainly an option, my personal favorite tactic of yesteryear is the pointing finger. You know things are serious when that finger comes out!

The Hudson River Railroad schedule above, printed in 1852, makes use of the pointer finger in a very small way – it is visible at the very bottom. But what if you really wanted to get people’s attention? You can’t make it red, so clearly it needs to be BIGGER!


Bigger. Like this. You will never forget the number 9!

 

That is a HUGE pointer finger! Guess you better remember to buy your train tickets at the Union Ticket Office, at the 9 Astor House! Note that this 1861 ad makes additional use of the finger in a smaller way – highlighting the fact that they sell tickets to all railroads, not just the Hudson River Railroad or the New York Central.

Next advertisement I design, I think I am going to stick a big pointer finger in it. We’ll see how well that goes over…


This is probably why Metro-North doesn’t want to hire me…

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Postcards of the Penn Central

I’m not exactly sure who the Penn Central had do their design work back in the late 60’s, but whoever it was, they were probably pretty free-spirited. None of the New York Central’s Harlem Division timetables were really out of the ordinary… but after the merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form the Penn Central, things took an interesting turn. In the first year of the merger – 1968 – several funky timetables were churned out… but by the new year, they were pretty much forgotten. Just a small blip in railroad history.


1968 was apparently a very good year… You can, of course, see more old Harlem timetables in SmartCat.

While the really old 1800’s timetables, complete with gorgeous etchings, will always be my favorite, these 1968 Penn Central timetables are my favorite from the modern-day. Thanks to eBay, I did discover that this funky art was not reserved solely for timetables. The Penn Central released a few postcards advertising the Metroliner, which I can only say are in a similar style. Who thought that purple tint would be a good idea? Is this what people did before Instagram?




The Fast One, baby!

Captions on the cards read as follows:

The Metroliners speed you midtown New York to midtown Washington in less than 3 hours. The Express gets you there even faster. And all the speed, comfort and luxury are yours in any kind of weather.

You enjoy a swift trip – in comfort and luxury. You leave and arrive midtown; even more time saved. Use the direct-dial telephones aboard to keep in touch with your home or office.

Delicious food and drinks are yours to enjoy on the Metroliners. In the coaches eat at the Snack Bar or take your selection to your seat. In the Metroclub Cars, an attendant unobtrusively serves you at your seat.

Okay, okay, I give in. The last postcard is pretty awesome. Despite the top two being pretty horrible, I figured the set was certainly share-worthy!

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Taking the train to the Bronx Zoo, Botanical Garden, 1904

Though Metro-North is primarily a commuter railroad, they do frequently offer deals and excursions to attract those that don’t normally commute. However, Metro-North is certainly not the first to advertise various attractions to get people to ride the rails. The New York Central promoted taking the train to the game (before that phrase was trademarked by the MTA!), and even taking the train to visit your institutionalized loved ones. The Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens are two other attractions that you can visit by train, and over the years have been advertised by both Metro-North and the New York Central.

One of my most recent eBay acquisitions is a brochure printed by the New York Central in 1904, advertising the Bronx Park – or what we’d know today as the Bronx Zoo, and the New York Botanical Garden. Visiting both was, and still is, easy via the Harlem Line. Although I loved the cover of the brochure, it was also interesting to read about these parks and what they were like over a hundred years ago. Anyways, this was too good to not share… enjoy!




Random little factoids I found interesting:

  • Round trip tickets from Grand Central to Fordham was 25 cents for adults, and 15 cents for children.
  • Entrance to the Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo was free, except for Mondays and Thursdays, where the zoo charged 25 cents admission.
  • You could rent a wheelchair – and someone to push you around in it – for 50 cents.
  • Cameras were not permitted at the zoo.
  • The lion house at the zoo was at that time the most expensive building, at a cost of $150,000.
  • If this brochure had been printed two years later, in 1906, it is possible that you might have seen a photo of Ota Benga – the Congolese pygmy that was on display in the monkey house for a short period of time. (this one boggles my mind)

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The rat that ate my timetable…

Kids that ride the subway to school, take notice: I have a new excuse for you. Forget the dogs, say the rats ate your homework! These loathed (and sometimes giant!) rodents can be found all around the subways (and you can rate them, too!). Most people want them out of sight, but me, I’m looking for a specific rat. He’s probably long dead, but in his stomach you will find a little bit of history – namely portions of one of my most recent acquisitions. Despite it being munched on, I could not resist the purchase of an 1884 Harlem Division timetable. In all honesty, I have no idea if the damage done was actually caused by a rat. But it does make a nice story!

Even if the whole thing isn’t there – some train times are missing, and part of the fare list has been eaten away – I still love this timetable. It does list several old stations that no longer exist, like 86th Street (which is now an emergency exit in the Park Avenue Tunnel), Morrisania, and Kensico. What is left of the fare list is interesting, especially to see the prices and the types of tickets offered. In addition to single rides and round trips (good for 3 days), there were quarterly tickets (good for 3 months), and ticket books for the whole year. A one-way from Katonah cost $1.00, a round-trip $1.75, and a yearly ticket cost $100 – a savings of $7 from the quarterly tickets (quarterly tickets were cheaper at the end of the year, and most expensive at the beginning).

Because I love this timetable so much, I wanted to share it with you all. I scanned the entire thing, though some of the portions are truncated as to not show where the tears were. The timetable portions have been left as-is, without hiding any of the missing pieces, as I felt the information was too valuable, even if you can’t see everything.

 
   
  
   
  
 
 


1884 timetable side by side with current local timetables. They are very similar in size.

Part of the reason I find this timetable so interesting is because of the old ads found within. I always wonder if any of the establishments still exist, or what happened to them. Drake’s Travellers’ Magazine, which is advertised on the front of the timetable was a monthly 40-page magazine established in 1882 by John Drake. It contained information of the timings of various trains in the northeast, as well as some humor pieces.

There were several ads for baths in the timetable, though none of them seem to be in existence today. There are still Turkish and Russian baths in the city today, one of which was founded in 1892 – several years after the publication of this timetable.

It seems that the Barnums, owners of a large clothing store in Chatham Square advertised in the timetable had a personal interest in the Harlem Division. Both Stephen and Joshua Barnum were born in Brewster (or as it was referred to at that time, Brewster’s) and were certainly riders of the Harlem.

Otto Maurer, whose ad here is probably my favorite, started up his business in 1872 in the basement of a five-story tenement building. Not only did he sell magical equipment, he also repaired broken equipment, and taught magic lessons (in four languages!). Maurer died in 1900 (his obituary in the NY Times called him the “King of Magic”), and the shop was finally closed in 1903.

The Union White Lead Manufacturing Company, which also advertised here (though it does seem like a strange thing to advertise in a timetable), was organized in 1828. Their complex in Brooklyn covered over twenty-three city lots, and could produce around 3,000 tons of lead per year. Although the lead smelting operation there ceased in 1904 (and the buildings demolished), the surrounding soil is contaminated with lead even today.


Examples of other local timetables with advertisements, dated 1949, 1961, and 1965. City attractions and shows, as well as local taxi services seem to be the norm in later timetable advertising.


Some advertisements currently on Harlem Line timetables

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You may fly someday… a 1902 ad for the 20th Century Limited

Stop me if you’ve heard me say this before… I found a really cool railroad ad that I absolutely love. Okay, okay, I’ve said that far too many times. One of my most recent acquisitions is this 1902 advertisement for the famous 20th Century Limited. This famous train has little to do with the Harlem Line – it ran along the New York Central’s “Water Level Route” – part of which is today’s Hudson Line. But on the rare occasion where there was a problem on the tracks, the train could be diverted to Chatham and instead run down the Harlem Division, into Grand Central.

Part of the reason why I love this ad is the history behind it. The advertisement was printed in the inaugural year of the 20th Century Limited. In 1902, trains really were the best way of transportation in the United States. Although cars did exist, they didn’t really become available to the masses until 1908. At the time the ad was printed, the Wright Brothers had not yet made their historic flight. The world did not see its first passenger “airline” running scheduled flights until 1919. And the first automobile road across the United States, the Lincoln Highway, was not completed until 1913 – though much of it was unpaved and of poor quality. The true modernization of our intercity roads did not come until 1956 with the Interstate Highway System, truly sparking America’s love affair with the car. The glamor of rail travel began to fade, and the automobile replaced the train as the preferred method of transportation in this country. But in this ad the train was still king – and the 20th Century Limited was the most grand of all.


Obviously the pricetag of an early car was nothing for the Vanderbilts’ fortune. William Kissam Vanderbilt can be seen here in his racing car in 1904. [image credit]

The one thing I do find slightly amusing about this ad (I always find something slightly amusing – I’m easily amused) is how it somewhat shows the stagnation of our train technology. While other countries developed effective high speed rail systems, we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of fast trains. As visible in the ad, the original travel time for the 20th Century Limited was 20 hours. Over the years that time was whittled down to fifteen and a half hours. Today, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited follows a very similar route to the 20th Century Limited, and makes the journey in 19 hours. Although the Lake Shore Limited makes more stops than the 20th Century, one would think that in over a hundred years we’d be running a whole lot faster than that.

The United States has had many “firsts” in railroad history – like the first four-track railroad in the world – but other countries have far surpassed us in railroad technology and innovation. The highest speed record for a train is 361 mph (a test train, the record for an actual passenger train is around 245 mph), but unless we build dedicated rail lines for faster trains, we’ll never see an American train going more than 150mph. Perhaps we may fly someday – on a fast train speeding across rails of glinting steel.

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An interesting Harlem Division promotion…

Over the many years the New York Central was in existence they published countless advertisements and promotions to attract business and passengers. Some of them were fairly interesting – like the private
women’s room in Grand Central, which catered to the high-end ladies of the day. After all, you wouldn’t want your dress to get dirty on a long steam train journey, would you?

The New York Central even promoted venues that weren’t at all possible to visit by train – like China! A 1904 advertisement suggested all Americans should become familiar with the Chinese Empire:

Comparatively few people are familiar with the Chinese Empire as it exists to-day. In view of the constantly growing Oriental commerce of the United States, every one should become familiar with the Chinese Empire. The New York Central’s “Four-Track Series” No. 28 gives valuable statistics and information regarding the Flowery Kingdom…

Another advertisement that I recently acquired is a little bit closer to home. Published in 1937, this New York Central ad offered discounted tickets from New York to Wingdale or Wassaic. Now think about this for a second, if you are familiar with the area, what was particularly noteworthy about those two towns in that era? If you said that they both had facilities for the insane and mentally handicapped, you win a prize. The Harlem Valley State Hospital is obvious to anyone who has taken the Harlem Line up to Wingdale. Several of the State Hospital’s buildings loom over the current train platform. The location of today’s train station is not the same as it was in 1937 – it was further south and actually called “State Hospital.” Wassaic’s facility was called the Wassaic State Hospital, and it was located closer to today’s Tenmile River station.


The original State Hospital station, before this station and Wingdale were converted into today’s Harlem Valley-Wingdale.

The New York Central is remembered for things more noteworthy, like the “Water Level Route” – the first four-tracked route in the world, and the train that rolled out the red carpet for you – the 20th Century Limited. But in addition to doing those things, you could also take the New York Central to visit your institutionalized relatives… and for the low price of two dollars a round trip.

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Where oh where is my Kyle?

Friday Grab-bag of silly train things.

When you carry thousands of people together in a tin can, you are inevitably going to have some that don’t exactly know what to do with themselves. Some people read, some people mess around on their iPads, or even listen to music. But then there are also some idiots that can’t help writing things on the advertisements. Metro-North is usually really good about defaced advertisements, somebody usually takes them down after a short time. But every time I see one, I usually snap a photo. Here is a little collection of randomness, of stupid things people have done to posters on the train, and other stuff. I do claim responsibility for the dog in the Conductor’s cab, but all the rest are things I just happened to see while riding the train…


Bob the builder needs a beer after riding all day on the crazy train.


This dog was found hiding inside a conductor’s cab


This reporter says, “I like turtles.”


Maurice Adolf DuBois


Dont trip over skulls, fall in the gap.


This train is the Tinkerbell Express, making stops in Never Never Land.


You should always trust Emily.


I love Emergency Parking Brake Release


Mike is quite the enterprising fellow. Free massages for all the ladies!


Dog on the side of a newspaper stand


When people ask me to donate a dollar, I write the site on there instead of my name.


Where oh where is my Kyle?


Brooke Burke, before makeup

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Crestwood


Norman Rockwell’s version of Crestwood

Not many train stations can claim the honor of having been featured on the front of the Saturday Evening Post… or for that matter, having been painted by iconic American painter Norman Rockwell (Rockwell had a long association with doing covers for the Post, stretching from the 1920’s to 1970. He also lived in the area for a time). One such station that can claim that, however, is Crestwood. Crestwood can also claim that it has been featured in video, from television commercials (Tuscan milk, Optimum Online), and even a movie or two (Remember Me, 13). Yes, Twilight lovers, that means that even Robert Pattinson has been to Crestwood.


Optimum commercial filmed at Crestwood

The train station we know now as Crestwood started out under the name of Yonkers Park in the mid 1800’s. Unlike many of the other areas along the Harlem Line, the area surrounding Crestwood was not immediately built as residential. Although the Tuckahoe area, and the discovery of Tuckahoe marble, led the community to grow rapidly, the area around Crestwood was mostly occupied by quarries. It did not develop into a residential area for commuters until the first half of the 1900’s. The growth in population did get the railroad to make Crestwood a regular stop on the Harlem, and an updated station built.

The current station at Crestwood was built at some point between 1901 and 1911, the actual date unknown, as the original plans have been lost. There are, however, records of changes made to the station later on, like when the tunnels under the tracks were built in 1911. In 1928 more significant changes were made, resurfacing the outside, removing the original chimney and installing a new one, and replacing the slate roof with shingles. The original baggage room was also removed in order to enlarge the ticket office.

Crestwood is the last station that I will feature that was part of the Mid-Harlem Station Improvement project. The project consisted of updating eight train stations on the Harlem Line in the late 1980’s. Before the changes were made, each station was documented with a history and photographs, all of which are available online thanks to the Library of Congress. One of the major changes that occurred at Crestwood was the creation of a ticket window above the tracks, and the phasing out of the original station building as a ticket office. As of 1993, nothing had been done with the station, and upon my visit the station building still looked pretty dead. The newer ticket window was also quiet – it was permanently shuttered last year.

 
  
  
 
  
  
 
  
 
 

Here are a few of the historical shots of Crestwood, taken in 1988, which include a view of the inside of the old station building. All of these are from the Mid-Harlem Station Improvement project page at the Library of Congress.

   
  
   
  

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Vintage Holiday & Winter New York Central Ads

Hopefully all of my readers that celebrate Christmas are enjoying your Christmas Eve… Did I ever mention that I love looking at vintage ads?`Even better are vintage railroad ads. Here is a little collection of holiday and winter ads from the New York Central. Have a great holiday, everybody!

 
  
 

If you liked these ads, check out another set of New York Central vintage ads from World War II that I posted back in June.

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A trip to the city to promote Winnebago Man

I effing love the Winnebago Man. I have loved that video on YouTube forever. And I clearly remember laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. At my work we happen to get a lot of freelancers coming in and out, and we have a bonding ritual here in our little studio (nicknamed “The Cave”), out of view of the other suit-and-tie employees… we must watch Winnebago Man (and the Alabama Leprechaun video). The origins of the video clip are a little bit interesting for a web-designer working for a marketing team. Viral videos, and viral marketing, more specifically, are the buzzwords of the day. But it is certainly not a term I’ve heard used before the internet was widespread. But yet, Winnebago Man’s origins are from the days of VHS tape (originally filmed in 1988), passed around amongst friends, and beyond, which could arguably classify it as a pre-YouTube viral video.

So when I heard that there would be a documentary based on the Winnebago Man, I was ecstatic. I followed the updates on Twitter… and when I heard they were looking for people to help promote on the street team, I signed up along with my friend. Last night we took the train to the city after passing out some cards in the White Plains area to promote the film. Although we were focused on leaving them at restaurants and the like, people seemed to be really curious what we were doing. Which is totally opposite to what I would have imagined. Those people standing on the street corners attempting to hand you papers, they are damn obnoxious. And most people won’t take them… the ones that do often throw them away not far down the street. So when people off the street walk up to you and want to see what you’ve got, that surprised me. Any extra flyers we had were posted on poles or other places around for people to see.

And best of all, we met some interesting people on this little adventure. A restaurant host that wanted extra flyers to hand out to friends. Some great artists in the Union Square area (whom I gave my little IRideTheHarlemLine card, I hope they email me, I’d love to post some of their subway related art/photography on here). And even people that saw the flyer and recognized Jack Rebney, having seen the video.

It was a great little adventure last night… except for the nasty lady who took off her shoes and socks on the train, but I’m trying to forget that part. If you happen to be in the city though, you should definitely check out Winnebago Man. It comes out tomorrow.

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