These days if you want to get to a county fair on Metro-North you head up to Dutchess County, are conveniently met by a bus at Poughkeepsie station, and are whisked away to the long-running Dutchess County Fair. Westchester County used to have a fair too, although it wasn’t quite as constant – stopping and starting numerous times over the years, and is now defunct (folks from the ’80s may recall this catchy tune when the fair was revived and held at Yonkers Raceway).
Today’s artifact is from 1889 – a special Harlem Division brochure advertising railroad specials for the fair, including fare and admission. Held in White Plains at that time, eventually the land on which the fair was held was sold and led to several years of dormancy.
While the horse racing is, of course, to be expected, don’t forget the big event – the BABY SHOW! All the handsome babies of Westchester county are competing, after all!
The fair also featured a dog show and sale…
The main event – horse racing at the fair.
Midway at the Westchester County Fair, circa 1900. Photos from the Library of Congress.
After several years of dormancy, the fair was revived in the ’40s before going defunct again, only to be revived in the ’80s, and again later cancelled.
To me, some of the most interesting stuff about railroad history is not about the trains or the railroads themselves, but how they affected the places in which they operated. The oft-cited cliche is that the railroads built this country, and although they certainly had an effect on the movement of people westward, some of the strongest effects can be witnessed around cities. Today’s Harlem, Hudson, and New Haven Lines played an immense part in the growth of New York City’s suburbs, and other railroads played a similar part in other major cities. Trains provided easy access to the city’s jobs, but allowed people to live increasingly further and further outside the city’s limits. Businesses were also established or relocated to spots along the rails in order to have access to the city – a primary example being the very first successful condensed milk factory in Wassaic, a spot selected by inventor Gail Borden because of the plentiful farmland, and the Harlem Railroad.
Strangely enough, the railroad also played a part in the establishment of various cemeteries. As the city itself grew larger, not only did some former rural cemeteries get displaced, people with money wished to be interred in an attractive rural setting. Woodlawn Cemetery was established in 1863, and took in the remains of cemeteries displaced in the city proper, and grew to become a venerable place of final rest for thousands. Such growth was undoubtedly assisted by the nearby railroad, easily allowing loved ones to visit the graves of their friends and family. Further north along the Harlem Division, the Kensico Cemetery was also established as a beautiful, rural final resting place. Truly appealing to the wealthy of the city, Kensico offered a private railcar for rent for funerals which would transport people directly from Grand Central to the cemetery’s very own train station.
Though Woodlawn and Kensico may be the two most commonly known cemeteries that owe their growth to the Harlem Railroad, there is another slightly more unique cemetery that also falls into that category – the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery. Just like its brethren, the Hartsdale cemetery has seen gun salutes, bagpipers, and is the final resting place for thousands of friends – however the majority of them just happen to not be human. Buried within its grounds you’ll find the graves of war dogs, police dogs (including at least one MTAPD K9), a search and rescue dog that lost its life on September 11th, thousands of other cats and dogs, humans that opted for their cremains to be interred together with their beloved pets, and even a lion. It is also home to the War Dog Memorial, celebrating the animals that fought alongside their human handlers in the Great War.
Us train riders are generally accustomed to seeing various working dogs at the train station in White Plains. The K-9 officers are often there, accompanied by their assortment of German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. But today, we had two special visitors. I had the pleasure to meet two young women, Danniela and Michelle, along with two young service dogs – Carly and Dina. Representing Heeling Autism, a part of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, they were at the station to get fundraising support. They weren’t looking for money, though – they just need your vote!
You may have seen commercials or advertisements for Pepsi Refresh. It isn’t a new soft drink – but a project to “Refresh America” by “giving away millions in grants to refresh individuals and communities.” Ideas are presented on Pepsi’s website, where people can vote. The top two organizations voted for will get a monetary grant from Pepsi. Heeling Autism is one of many groups in the running for this grant money. They are a Westchester-based organization that places service dogs with children with autism. If you’re curious about them, here is a great video from News-12.
So what can you do to help? Heeling Autism needs your votes, which you can do online here. You can also text 101731 to 73774. You are allowed to vote once per method every day, and voting ends August 31st. You aren’t charged anything by voting, just for the cost of the text message if you don’t have a texting plan.
Look at that adorable puppy face… doesn’t that make you just want to go and vote?
Be sure to vote and help this Westchester organization the funding that it needs!
Every once and a while in White Plains station I see officers from MTA PD’s K-9 unit… and each time I see them, I always have the desire to chat. But I never do. That is, until today.
Meet Berta, who is quite the cutie. I had a short chat with Berta’s handler while waiting for my train this evening (me being the moron I am, forgot to ask him his name!). Ever since reading an article in the New York Times about the MTA’s dogs, I had a question. What is up with the price gap? The NYT stated that male dogs were more expensive than females. I had to ask Berta’s handler. Are the females… less effective?
He laughed at the question. “Definitely not,” he said. The two dogs he works with, Berta, and a German Shepherd, are both female. He was also skeptical that there exists any price difference between the male and female dogs. Although Berta’s job is to sniff out explosives, her handler jokes that she really excels at sniffing out chocolate chip cookies. Shame on you, Berta, dogs aren’t supposed to eat chocolate!
And there you have it. Dog themed posts two days in a row. I do think I need to clean myself up now… I seem to have dog fur all over my shirt…
Search engines are amazing, magical things. You type stuff in that box, and wow, it just miraculously finds what you need! Provided you type in something relatively normal, that is. Like cats. You can find a crapload of stuff on the internet about cats. Normal people might search for something like that. Even people that are more or less outliers in the whole scheme of “normality” might search for cats. But if you are typing into google, her panties get wet on the train ride, you are a sick bastard.
Apparently I do have readers that are in fact sick bastards. Every few weeks I fire up my statistics log of the site, and I can view what people type into search engines in order to find this blog. And many people find it by typing in Harlem Line. But apparently the number one thing people want to know about is about drinking beer on the trains. Yes, you can drink beer on Metro-North. But it would also be great if instead of leaving your empty bottles/cans on the train, you dispose of them when you get off. I mean, that is a perfectly relevant query. If you are the type of person that wants to get drunk on your way to the city to get drunk. Or to drown your sorrows after work. If you ask google about drinking beer, I don’t think anything bad of you. But if you search google for free videos of asses groped on buses or trains, you are a sick bastard.
The other big thing that people search for and end up finding my site, are about dogs riding Metro-North. They want to know if dogs can ride, and if they are charged a fee in order to ride. Yes, small dogs can ride Metro-North. We do ask that you keep the dog on a leash, or in a crate, as to not disturb other passengers. Service animals are of course, always accepted. There is no fee for a dog to ride, but it is always up to the conductor as to whether your animal is bothering other passengers. I suppose animals riding the train is a valid query. Maybe you were heading down to the ASPCA in the city and were going to adopt a new family member? Certainly you would want said family member to be able to ride the train back home. But if you wanted to know can fat people ride the train?, well, you aren’t a sick bastard, but you are an asshole.
Honest to god, do you think I am kidding? My stats are even arranged into spectacular graphs.
Are you ready to lose a few IQ points? Because I can lead you down into the bowels of civilization, beyond the darkness, beyond the subway rats. These are the layers of hell. And what do people in hell search for on the internet?
i shit trains – You may want to have a doctor look at that why man places hand down pants while sleeping – I don’t know, but you may want to have a doctor look at that too. guy shows his butt on the hudson line – Was this man mooning your train as it sped by? Were you hoping there would be pictures? the fattest guy to show his butt crack on a metro north train seat – were you hoping there would be pictures of that too? pictures of pee puddles – Please, seriously, please tell me why you would want to see that? smelly water on mta trains – Yes, I believe that is found in a place that most people call the bathroom. If you have any sense, you don’t even sit anywhere near that car i saw a pigeon get run over by a bus and i like it – What do you mean by “like”? If you fapped to it, not only are you a sick bastard, but you also are going to straight hell. Would you prefer the aisle or window seat? get rid of metro north conductor – Were you looking for a how-to book? How to get rid of your conductor in three easy steps, so you can ride the fucking train and not have to pay, currently available for preorder on Amazon.com. lady pilot fucking lady passengers – Well we do know that some guys have fantasies of doing it with female train conductors on trains. It would be quite logical for people to feel the same way about pilots, right? Though currently I do think there is a general moratorium on joining the mile-high club, because if you are in the plane bathroom for anything more than five minutes, there may be an emergency landing, and you’re going to get cavity searched to determine whether you have any dynamite stuck up your ass. So please folks, stick to trains. But not my train, thanks.
So tell me now… do you feel more stupid than you were five minutes ago? I certainly do. Tell all your friends to google I ride the harlem line, and preferably not other complete bits of sick nonsense. Otherwise I may be forced to inform them that they are a fricken sick bastard.
Metro North says that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest train day of the year. And I certainly believe it. Though any day right before a long weekend tends to be rather busy, yesterday I definitely saw the most people I ever have on my train. When I got on at White Plains there were massive amounts of people, barely enough room to get on the train. All the seats were taken, and people were standing.
Or lounging around in the aisles, while wearing ugly boots, taken after Valhalla when most of the standing folks had exited
Though of course human passengers were not the only ones on board. There were a few canines as well, like this delightful ten-month old pup named Jasmine:
The waiting room was surprisingly empty at White Plains though, and the morning trains were fairly empty. You lucky people that didn’t actually have to work yesterday. But of course there was this one creepy guy, carrying four boxes that on the outside said they contained blood drawing needles, and kept studying a photocopy of a paper that had pictures of guns all over it.
Anyways, enjoy the holiday folks, Happy Thanksgiving!
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.