Today’s collection of historical Harlem Division photos features the Upper Harlem… including several crashes that occurred on the line. A huge thanks goes to Ron Vincent, who shared these photos from his family’s collection. Ron’s grandfather worked as an RPO clerk on the Harlem for 36 years. Many of the photos feature the long gone station of Hillsdale, where Ron grew up.
The photos capture an intriguing “slice of life” on the Harlem Division – we see Hillsdale’s station agent, Elliott Hunter, and his wife Marion. We see the occasional crash and derailment that brought gawkers from all around. And we see the softer side of the Harlem, as it hosted the “Plug the Dike Train,” collecting donations for victims of the 1953 North Sea flood. In all, this is a great little set of photos… thanks again for sharing these with us, Ron!
As we complete our journey along the abandoned Upper Harlem Division, it is worth taking a moment to look at the timetables printed for the line. The Upper Harlem’s timetables were New York Central’s Form 112 – and its size changed drastically over the years, reflecting the railroad’s slow death.
The ever changing timetable design for the Upper Harlem ((All timetables from the author’s collection))
A 1909 timetable, which was actually a foldout booklet that contained descriptions of the stations and schedules for connecting railroads, was actually 32 pages. The tall size seen in a later 1939 timetable was standard for many years, and it featured the additional trains offered beyond Chatham to Pittsfield and North Adams. Many changes came in the 1950’s – timetables got smaller when the North Adams service was cancelled, and by 1953 the four panel foldout was reduced to three panels. By the time the Upper Harlem Division’s passenger service was cancelled in 1972, the line timetable was just a double sided card, reflecting the only two trains that operated on the line every week day.
Moving on, we continue our tour north of Hillsdale, heading towards Craryville. For much of its route, the Harlem Division follows New York State Route 22 northward, but after arriving at Hillsdale the route turns in a westward direction to follow Route 23.
When the Harlem Railroad was established through Columbia County, the station here went by the name of Bains, for hotel owner Peter Bain. When the land was purchased by Peter Crary, the station became known by a new name – Craryville. Gail Borden, who constructed his first successful milk factory along the Harlem in Wassaic, also had a processing plant here in Craryville. This was one of many plants located along the line, and used it for freight. ((Postcards from Craryville from the author’s collection))
Craryville is a relatively quiet area, with little reminder of the railroad beyond a barely paved Railroad Lane. The old station house still exists, but is privately owned.
Harlem Division engineer Vic Westman was quite the talented artist, creating many drawings and even paintings of the rails he worked, sometimes just from memory. For many years he even had a small studio on the sixth floor of Grand Central Terminal in which to work during his long swing time. ((Sketch of Martindale by Vic Westman for Lou Grogan’s book.))
The name Martindale derives from John Martin, on whose land the original Martindale station was built upon. It was never an extremely prominent station, and by 1946 it was just a mere flag stop on the line. Martindale met its end years before the rest of the line, and was eliminated in 1949. The station building itself was dismantled by a railroad employee in that year.
South of where Martindale station was lies an overpass where the railroad traversed over Route 23. Little else in the area reflects the area’s railroading past. In fact, little even bears the name Martindale besides the Martindale Chief diner, located next to the Taconic.
About 119 miles from Grand Central is the station of Philmont. Philmont was historically one of the larger communities that that the Harlem ran through, and was rich with industry. Several mills were located in the town, and they of course used the railroad for freight. ((Postcard of Philmont at left from the collection of Steve Swirsky. Postcard at right from the author’s collection))
Besides Railroad Avenue, and the former railroad hotel located upon it, it is hard to tell that a railroad once crossed Main Street here in Philmont. The Empire House, the aforementioned railroad hotel, lacks the porches it had in historical images and may be a bit beat up, but it is one reference to the railroad that ran through town.
The Arch Bridge
Leaving Philmont, about three miles north of the station, but in the town of Ghent, lies a street named Arch Bridge Road. The eponymous arch is a single lane underpass, with the railroad’s former ROW running above. Running along the side of the arch is a small stream where, at some point over the years, some of the railroad’s roadbed washed out. It is a nice vestige of the railroad in Ghent, and most certainly an old one.
Just under 125 miles from Grand Central lies the second to last station on the Harlem – Ghent. The station itself was shared with a short branch of the Boston and Albany. The railroad crossed over New York State Route 66 just south of the station.
Splitting off from Route 66 at the center of Ghent is Railroad Avenue, which still exists today, although with no railroad to be seen. Appearing in many historical photos of the station is the Bartlett House, which was a railroad hotel, and still stands today.
The end of the Harlem Division, just a bit more than 127 miles from Grand Central Terminal, is in Chatham, New York. The Harlem met with the Boston and Albany and the Rutland Railroad here, and the former two shared a quite beautiful Union Station. Stylistically, the station’s Richardsonian Romanesque aesthetic matches more to the Boston and Albany than it does to the Harlem, but it is attractive nonetheless. Built in 1887, Chatham station was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, the successors to famed American architect Henry Hobson Richardson.
The New York and Harlem Railroad always seemed to be a modest affair. Some railroads chose grandiose names for themselves, dreaming of the locations that they would one day reach (and often fell short of – the New York, Boston and Montreal Railway comes to mind), but when it was chartered in 1831, the Harlem only planned to be a link from the core of New York City to Harlem just a bit further north. The original plan was to connect with the New York and Albany Railroad at Harlem – except that railroad was never completed. In their absence, the Harlem was granted the right by the state legislature to build into Westchester in 1840, and all the way to Albany in 1846. Despite that right, the Harlem gradually extended north, and instead chose Chatham to be its terminus. From there, riders could easily continue to Albany on the B&A, and some of the earliest timetables show the trains on this additional route.
For over a hundred years the railroad has been an important part of Chatham’s identity. Though both the Rutland and the Harlem are gone, the Boston and Albany’s former line still runs through Chatham, owned by CSX. The trains may run through, but they don’t really stop here – though the town seems to firmly hold onto their railroad identity. A fence has been put up to separate the former Union Station from the remaining tracks, which somewhat mars the attractive vista of yesteryear. The building had significantly fallen into disrepair by the ’60s, but it has been restored to glory and is the home to a branch of the Kinderhook Bank.
The very end of the Harlem’s tracks still exists, and extends around a half mile south, where they abruptly end in front of a gas station. The mile marker for mile 127 – the end of the Harlem – has been saved and transplanted to a garden in front of the Chatham firehouse.
Then and Now
As we’ve seen on our tour of the former stations of the Upper Harlem Division, many of the locales have changed drastically over the 41 years that passenger service has been absent. But two towns along the route provide an interesting look back and allow us to compare today and yesterday. Both Philmont and Ghent had railroad hotels that were established close to the tracks. Because of that proximity to the rails, the buildings appear in many old photos – which makes a comparison especially moving. The two hotels may have come to town because of the trains, but they managed to outlive the demise of the Harlem itself.
Philmont’s Empire House was built sometime in the 1880’s, and also included an Opera House. After the hotel was long gone, the building was converted to serve as a textile manufacturing facility. At some point in the ’60s Philmont’s American Legion purchased the building. They added a 30 foot by 70 foot section to the building, which included a kitchen. Due to the post’s declining membership, the members voted to put the building on the market in 2009.
Though the main structure of the building is similar to the above historical view, the original porches are gone from the building. The addition made by the American Legion is also apparent to the left of the building. The building itself gives us a point in which to gather our bearings, and highlights the absence of the railroad, and the old rail depot.
Ghent’s Bartlett House was likewise a railroad hotel, built in the 1870’s, and recently nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel hosted teachers, traveling salesmen, and plenty of other rail passengers – it was even captured by the lens of famed photographer Walker Evans. Besides the hotel, the building contained a dining room and a ballroom, occasionally the site for brawling politicians. Though part of the building is blocked by the train in our historical photo, the Bartlett House looks very much as it did when first built – in 2011 the front porch was redone based upon historical photos.
That pretty much wraps up our tour of the Upper Harlem Division’s stations. Many of the physical stations may be gone, but there is surprisingly quite a bit that can be found that reminds us that there was a real railroad that once ran through here. In fact, much of the former route can be seen visually from satellite maps – there is an obvious swath of barren land that marked where the rails once were. That, of course, may one day fade. But if the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association has their way, the entire route of the former Upper Harlem Division will at least be preserved as a trail, which I suppose is better than being forgotten entirely.
I’m not much of a psychic, but I have a really good feeling that there will be a part 5. But until then, enjoy more old postcards from various locations along the Harlem Line. This time we have Brewster, more of Chatham, the abandoned Upper Harlem station of Craryville, a view of Croton Falls, Dover Plains, and Goldens Bridge, the station at Hartsdale, a winter scene at Hawthorne, a train pulling into Pleasantville, a view of the depot in Tuckahoe, the Borden Condensed Milk factory – located next to the tracks in Wassaic, and the old station in White Plains.
If there is one thing that Westchester people have taught me, it is how to spend money (there are many times in which I feel that I am a strange observer here, really). Though instead of purchasing those two-hundred-dollar-a-pair pants from the Westchester Mall, I’ve decided to “invest” the precious little income I make in collection of postcards (uhh, and other things. I am an eBay addict).
Westchester people are funny to me, really they are. If you get a whole bunch of them into a single elevator and each person pushes a different floor button, somebody inevitably makes a comment about the elevator being a “local”, or not an “express”. The railroad is so deeply ingrained in their psyches, they don’t even realize it! We are approaching 180 years of the New York and Harlem Railroad, and 171 of those years the railroad has had a presence in Westchester… long enough for most people to not give it a second thought.
I do, however, think my collection of postcards is far more interesting than any pair of pants, as together we can look back at little glimpses of what the area was like, back when the railroad was only beginning to mold the landscape in where we now live, and driving the migration of people to these very suburbs. So here is part three of our series Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line. If you missed the previous posts, you can view them here: Part 1, Part 2.
And really now, did you have any doubt there would be a part four? You can most certainly bet on it.
While cleaning the other day I found some old photos of my first long distance railroad trip and I wanted to share. The photos have to be at least thirteen years old, I remember leaving from Penn Station and going down to Jacksonville, Florida, and then later leaving from DeLand station back to Penn. I don’t think I really cared all that much about trains back then, but I sure was mesmerized with that Solari departure board that used to be in Penn Station.
Most typical of me, there is a photo of a cat in there. I don’t recall much about the cat, but based on the fur coloring visible in the photo, the cat is a she (or a rare genetic aberration). I remember that cat hung out at the station, and of course I hung out with her while waiting for my train. Amusingly, the DeLand station’s wikipedia entry mentions the cat, and how she often will greet passengers disembarking from the train on the platform. Whether the cat is the same or not, or possibly a descendant of the cat in my photo, I have no idea. My grandmother is going to be heading down by train to DeLand sometime in March, so I told her to keep her eyes open for the cat. I could always call the station and ask about her, but then they would find out what you guys already know – that I’m just a tad crazy.
Those old photos were of course taken with a real film camera. Honestly, I never really liked film all that much. I’ve done the whole film thing, from shooting to self developing, which I especially loathed (imagine me, with my poor coordination, standing in the blackness of the darkroom attempting to roll my film onto the spool for processing and failing miserably). I never had much money growing up, and film and developing was always costly. Digital gives me the ability to shoot a million different frames of the same thing from various angles, and then decide which I like best – without worrying in my mind about wasting film exposures and money in development.
All this thought about my old photography is making me think about what my goals are for this year. What places I’d like to go see and photograph, and then post on this blog. The whole lack of a car thing makes some of this difficult, and it is likely I won’t be able to visit all of these places this year. But these are just some ideas…
Railroad Museum of Long Island – Riverhead, New York Vanderbilt Mansions in Rhode Island – The Breakers and Marble House Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site – Hyde Park, New York Vanderbilt Museum – Centerport, New York Sharon Station – Old Harlem station in Amenia Craryville Station – The other remaining Harlem station that I’ve not been to
At the end of April I will be heading to Africa for a little bit of adventure. I’ll be going on safari in South Africa and Botswana, as well as visiting Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Victoria Falls. I’ll get the chance to photograph the Cape Town Railway Station, as well as Africa’s largest railway station: Johannesburg Park Station. I’m also hoping to take a Metro Train to Simonstown as well as a journey through the Karoo desert to Johannesburg on the Premier Classe Train.
Unrelated to trains, but keeping up with my desire to visit really strange locales, my friend has a strong desire to go and see Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. The mayor of Rabbit Hash is a dog. Along the way, however, we would stop at Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, which looks like quite the gorgeous building.
Most notably, I will continue with my station tours whenever spring finally comes and this snow has melted. It was up in the air between either the Hudson or the New Haven lines, but I finally decided upon doing a Tour of the New Haven Line. Just as I did with the tour of the Harlem Line, I will post a new station each Tuesday.
For now that is about all I can think of. I’m very open to suggestions for interesting places to visit, so if you have an idea, be sure to comment and let me know!
Quite a while ago I started up a minor project, what I called the Historical Archives. My goal was to collect as much old paper history of the Harlem Line and assemble a museum of sorts – timetables, maps, tickets, photos, and news articles – digitize it, and put it online for everyone to view, completely for free. (There are folks in the city that have better collections than I, such as the Transit Museum and the NYPL, but these are kept under lock and key, and you can’t have them unless you shell out the dollars.) Anyways, the more I added to the archives, the clunkier the directory page that listed all the entries got. I wanted to arrange it in a better way – especially the timetables. I’ve been working on just that for the past week or so, putting all the timetables in a special catalog that you can view with a short description and thumbnails. If you see something you like, you can click on it and go to the main entry for that item with a larger image. I think this is much easier.
In honor of the new catalog I thought it would be fun to show some of the earliest timetables that I have in the collection. The first is from 1871, when Cornelius Vanderbilt was still president of what was known as the New York and Harlem Railroad, with his son William Henry as vice president.
Note the first station is 26th Street, the first Grand Central Depot was only opened later in the year. At the time of publication Hartsdale was still known as Hart’s Corners, Hawthorne as Unionville, and Craryville as Bain’s. Bedford did not have the “Hills” added yet, and Purdey’s was the spelling used, as opposed to today’s Purdy’s.
The timetables below are from 1890, 1909 and 1914. The center timetable, from 1909, is important historically because at this time Grand Central Terminal was being constructed, as the older Depot was being demolished. Despite that, train service still needed to go on interrupted, and a temporary platform at Lexington Avenue was used. The timetable makes note of this on the front, directing riders to the temporary terminal.
Name evolution: After the New York and Harlem Railroad was leased to the New York Central, it was listed as the Harlem Division of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. Later the name was shortened to just the New York Central.
The timetables above are from 1922, 1931 and 1940 and list service to Lake Mahopac, a branch of the Harlem that diverged at Golden’s Bridge. Below are timetables from 1958 and 1964. Service on the Mahopac branch was discontinued in 1959, and so the timetable from 1958 is one of the last to list that service.
Not long after that 1964 timetable the New York Central merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form the Penn Central. Although the service was not the best, in my opinion the Penn Central had some of the nicer timetables in the collection. But that is a post for another Friday. Enjoy the day, and the weekend everyone!
As an additional note, I thank the Danbury Railway Museum’s library for giving me access to their collection of timetables to digitize. If anyone out there has some timetables that I don’t have listed, I would love it if you could contact me and send me a scan so I can add it into the catalog.
Some of the very first things that were added when I created the Historical Archives were maps I found thanks to the Library of Congress. It was interesting to see the network of railroads in the country grow in size exponentially through the 1800’s, and then later in the mid 1900’s crash and quite a few disappeared. There was one map, however, that caught my attention.
That map lists a station along the Harlem Line: Golding’s Bridge. Was it a typo? In the back of my mind I had always wondered about the apostrophe thing. Is Goldens Bridge written properly with an apostrophe, or without? And now, a new question. What is Golding’s Bridge? For whom was the town named, and does the bridge still exist? Why are other stations on this map, or other maps also listed with apostrophes? Brewster’s, Pawling’s? The map also lists quite a few stations that have different names today, such as Hart’s Corners, Whitlockville, and Bains.
In my endeavor to find the answer to at least the apostrophe question, I consulted with the town historian of Lewisboro, of which Goldens Bridge is a part of. She unfortunately told me that she could only “add to the confusion.”
I’m not exactly sure where the original bridge that gave your hamlet its name first stood, but it spanned the Croton River, which is now under the reservoir. The bridge may have belonged to a gentleman called Golding, Goulding, or Colden. I have heard all of these names. That bridge had to have been an important crossing to get to what is now Somers, and points west. It most certainly dates to the Revolution or before.
In 2003, Metro North dropped the apostrophe from the name of the station. Almost all official timetables and signage refer to the station as Goldens Bridge. However, old signage with the apostrophe does still exist. The station listing on M-7 trains still has the apostrophe. Most official town signage also does not have the apostrophe. However the Fire Department for the town still uses it. Google maps still uses it. It is a name still in transition.
Many towns and names along the Harlem Line went through similar transitions. Spellings were changed, apostrophes were dropped. Brewster’s and Pawling’s are both evidence of that. Some names changed completely. So let’s take a little tour through the area and see how some of these names came to be, shall we?
Bronx – Named for Jonas Bronck, who purchased the land in 1639. Originally known as The Bronck’s, in reference to the family, at some point over time the spelling evolved into the current form. Mott Haven – Named for Jordan Mott, who had an ironworks that opened in 1828. He purchased the land from the Morris family. Morrisania – Named for the Morris family. Lewis Morris was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Gouverneur Morris was also a prominent member of that family. Woodlawn – Originally two words, but was condensed into one by 1870. Mount Vernon – Named for George Washington’s home. Original name was Hunt’s Bridge. Fleetwood – Named for the ancestral home of John Stevens. Scarsdale – Named for the ancestral home of Caleb Heathcote. Hartsdale – Named after Eleazar Hart, who donated the land. Was previously known as Hart’s Corners. Bedford Hills – Originally named only Bedford, the Hills was added to the name in 1910. Katonah – Had several previous names, first was Mechanicsville. Later changed to Whitlockville in 1830, for the Whitlock family. Later renamed Katonah from the native word Ketatonah, which translates to Great Mountain. Purdys – Named for Daniel Pardieus, his grandson Isaac donated the land to the railroad in 1844. Brewster – Named for brothers James and Walter Brewster, and at the time was known as Brewster’s. Dykemans – Named for Joseph Dykeman. Patterson – Named for Matthew Paterson, older maps list the name with only one ‘t’ Pawling – Named for the Paulding (possibly Pauling) family. Wingdale – Named for the Wing family. Jackson Wing operated an Inn which opened in 1806. Previous names include Wing’s Station, and South Dover. Harlem Valley – Wingdale – Harlem Valley comes from the name of the railroad (New York & Harlem). Used to be two stops, State Hospital (actual name of the hospital was Harlem Valley State Hospital) and Wingdale (mentioned above). Wingdale station was eliminated, and later Metro-North combined the two and the name. Millerton – named for Sydney G. Miller, who was an engineer and contractor for the construction between Dover Plains and Chatham. Craryville – Named for Peter Crary. Station was previously known as Bains, or Bains Corners for hotel owner Peter Bain. Martindale – Named for John Martin. Philmont – Previous name was Phillips Mountain, but was later condensed into Philmont. Named for George Phillips, who built a dam and a mill in the area. Chatham – Named for Lord Pitts, Earl of Chatham, England.
That list does not mention every station on the current Harlem Line, or the rail line in the past. I am specifically mentioning stations that were named after people, or had a name change of some sort. Apostrophes in names often originated because the land was named after, or originally belonged, to a specific family or person.
My name is Emily, though I am known by many who ride the train simply as Cat Girl, for the hats I customarily wear during the winter time. I am a graphic designer, a former Metro North commuter and lifelong Harlem Line rider. This site is a collection of my usually train-related thoughts, observations, photographs, and travels, as well as my never-ending hunt for intriguing historical artifacts.