Admit it, readers – somewhere in the back of your head you were wondering when I’d get around to showing you more railroad-themed postcards. My postcard collecting addiction has been well documented, and roughly every other month I do a new post full of my newly acquired cards. Today’s lineup includes Amenia, one of the abandoned Upper Harlem stations, and Towners, another abandoned station. There are also a few cards of station buildings still around today, like Katonah, Bedford Hills, and Scarsdale.
Again, I must sincerely thank Steve Swirsky for his wonderful contributions to our extensive collection of postcards. The Dover Plains, Towners, and White Plains cards are all from his collection.
A few weeks ago our friends over at TrainJotting were looking for nominations for the crappiest train station in the tri-state area. Though his home station of Hawthorne won the vote (likely because many of his readers are also from there), several of the nominations were for Waterbury Branch stations. I nominated Waterbury, due to the frequent stories of theft. Someone else nominated Ansonia, which is probably one of the most ghetto looking stations in all of Metro-North. In fact, quite a bit of the Waterbury Branch is pretty ghetto. It is the only part of Metro-North where there is no extra fee to purchase tickets on the train – solely because there are no ticket machines in which to purchase them. The reason for this has been debated on the internet – some people claim that it is in fact due to the rampant thefts. The official statement is that there is not enough ridership to warrant the installation of ticket machines.
Although Derby/Shelton is not quite as bad as say, Ansonia, it isn’t the most spectacular Metro-North station. One of the only things going for it is the original brick station, though it isn’t being used by the railroad. In fact, it is used as a Department of Motor Vehicles photo licensing center… which in some ways is almost amusing. Not only have cars overtaken trains as the preferred method of transportation in the United States, they are infiltrating the former train stations! I suppose it is a better outcome than the station being demolished, though.
What is it that makes Derby/Shelton a little bit ghetto? Maybe the it is the bus-style shelter, or the wooden low-level platform. No, you know what it is? It is the fact that the train departure schedule is taped to a trash bin. Every other station has some sort of message board or wall on which to place information. But at Derby/Shelton you can save time by figuring out what train you’ll be leaving on, all while throwing out your used coffee cup!
Despite being close to the highway, Derby/Shelton feels a little bit remote – at least in terms of stations. Stratford, the next station to the south is a little over 10 miles away. Grand Central is almost 70 miles away – the Waterbury Branch has the honor of having some of the most distant stations from the terminal. There is just a single track, and a long wooden box serves as a low-level platform.
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.
I’ve spent many months posting various panoramas of the Harlem Line stations. I’m now excited to be able to post the entire Harlem Line, viewed in panoramas. You can watch as the farmland and rural greenery morphs into the suburbs, before changing into the concrete jungle of New York City. If you want to see more photos from each of the stations, just click on the picture. Anybody have a favorite panorama? I think my two favorites are Tenmile River and Harlem-125th Street – the two of them are polar opposites in terms of the scenery visible while taking a ride down New York City’s oldest railroad.
For those who like maps, I place all of my panoramas on a Google map, which you can see below. I also add photos to Panoramio, which provides the photos for Google Earth.
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Back in November I posted a whole bunch of postcards that I had collected of stations along the Harlem. I had promised a part two, and here it is now… but why stop at just part two? I’ve sort of realized I have quite the boatload of postcards, and I keep acquiring them. One of my rather lofty goals was to be able to collect a postcard for each Harlem railroad station. But I also couldn’t help purchasing alternate designs of the same stations. So although some places I have no postcards for, there are others that I have a bunch. I have far too many of Grand Central, and three or more of stations like Pleasantville, Chappaqua, and Chatham. Needless to say, there will be a part three, and possibly a part four at some time in the future. I do have a request to any of you out there, though. If you happen to have a postcard that I don’t have in my collection here, I would love you so much if you could scan it for me. As much as I’d love to actually have it in my possession, I would love it even more to have it available in my digital gallery!
The last four postcards are a little different. They are not Harlem stations per se, but once upon a time you could board a Harlem Division train that went into Massachusetts, across the Boston & Albany’s tracks. Leaving from Grand Central, the train would make stops at 125th Street, White Plains, Brewster, Pawling and Chatham. After a short pause in Chatham, the train would continue to East Chatham and Canaan, before crossing into Massachusetts and making stops at State Line, Richmond, Pittsfield, Cheshire, Adams and North Adams. Most of those stations are long gone, just like the Upper Harlem stations. Amtrak trains still make stops in Pittsfield, though the two stations in the postcards were torn down, which is unfortunate. They were gorgeous in comparison to today’s Pittsfield station. I think the waiting room there looks more like a school cafeteria than part of a train station!
Timetable for Harlem Division service to Massachusetts
Every morning I start out my day taking Metro-North down to White Plains. Now one would probably assume that White Plains is the closest train station to my work, but the fact is that it is not. Mount Pleasant is actually the closest, but as it isn’t a regular stop, the closest train station would be Hawthorne. The place I work for has a shuttle bus that goes to and from White Plains though, so it is easier for me. But there are the occasional times where I end up going to Hawthorne or Valhalla, like when I leave work early and such. So although I am not a regular rider from the station, I am a bit more familiar with it than many of the other stations I’ve visited on the tour. I’ve seen it on the sunny days, and even on the snowy days. I am always curious about the changes going on at the station, such as the coffee shop that is supposed to be arriving at some point in the station building. And I was rather excited when the flowers arrived, along with the new clock in front of the station (which in my photos below had yet to be revealed).
Original Hawthorne station, circa 1900. Note the sign on the front which lists the distance in miles to each end of the railroad, in Chatham on one end and in New York City at the other. A similar sign still exists at Mount Kisco.
When the New York & Harlem Railroad first began making stops here in the 1840’s, the station was named Unionville. If the current name of Hawthorne evokes the memory of an American author, you are certainly on the right track (no pun intended). In 1901 Unionville became Hawthorne, honoring Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, daughter of author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Rose became a nun and was known as Mother Mary Alphonsa, founder of a home for those suffering from incurable cancers.
Below are some of the photos I took in Hawthorne at my last visit (which was sometime around July). The clock had recently arrived, the sky was an amazing shade of blue, and the flowers were blooming. In fact I think one of my favorite photos that day was the one of the flower. Although many of the stations I’ve visited I may never go to again, I’ll be checking up on Hawthorne in the future, as I’m eagerly awaiting the new coffee shop… and I’ll probably have to do a before and after of the little station building.
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.
Valhalla was slammed by snow this morning, enough for my work to close at 1pm. I headed over to Valhalla station to take the 1:27 train back to Goldens Bridge, and while I waited for the train took a bunch of pictures. And did something I haven’t done in a very long time. I made a snow angel. On the platform.
I figured this would be an opportune time to post a bunch of the pictures I’ve taken during the snow. Some of the pictures I know I’ve posted before, but I added them all to a nice new gallery called Winter on the Harlem Line. I have a lot more photos which I’ll be scrounging up and adding to the gallery when I can.
Just in case you aren’t paying attention to my posts over on Twitter, the Harlem Line has some big delays today. Around two hours ago, there were 15–20 minute delays between North White Plains and Wassaic due to trees fouling the tracks near Hawthorne. The issues with downed trees got bad enough that about an hour ago service was suspended in both directions from North White Plains to Brewster. The newest update from Metro North is that there will be continued delays in both directions, and passengers will be bused between Pleasantville and Mount Kisco. If you are going to be riding the trains this afternoon, Metro North’s Train Time may be helpful. If you aren’t already, signing up for MTA alerts is also a good idea. I of course will be reposting those alerts on twitter whenever they become available. (Even though Metro North has a twitter account now, they don’t seem to be posting that information there).
Due to the snow this morning a lot of people ended up leaving work early. I ended up getting a ride to Hawthorne from a coworker. I don’t normally visit that station, just in the few exceptions that snow has caused shuttle bus issues. Unlike what I am used to in Goldens Bridge, a good portion of the platform in Hawthorne is uncovered. So by the time I got there, there was at least an inch of snow covering over everything. Of course I took the opportunity to take some photos as I was waiting for my train.
And when the train passes by, who do I see with his head poking out the window? Peter, the conductor who used to be on my evening train who I haven’t seen in a few months. We caught up on our amusing train stories, and observed an odd woman wearing pajamas sitting a few seats away from me.
There is this crazy guy at White Plains that I nicknamed Mr. Chicago, because he talks to himself and will out of the blue just shout out, “The train to New York is late! … Because it had to stop in CHICAGO, HAHAHA!” Anyways, this woman could totally be his sister. They even look alike! Apparently she liked my hat, but the pompoms bothered her. She kept asking me, “but what are the pompoms for?” She waddled off the train in Katonah, at which point Peter asked me if I knew her. I had never seen her before in my life. Just one more of those interesting and odd people that I encounter on the train…
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.