With Grand Central Terminal celebrating its centennial this year, most people have been so utterly focused on that event that they’ve forgotten another birthday (myself included). Metro-North Railroad is now 30, and has come quite a long way since its inception in 1983. Grand Central was restored to greatness, as opposed to being a dirty homeless shelter. For the most part, especially with the new M8’s, the railroad operates with decent equipment – not whatever the desperate railroad could scrounge up to have enough cars to operate.
Several other commuter rail services that were also run by ConRail in the past, like SEPTA and NJ Transit, are likewise celebrating their 30th anniversaries this year. NJ Transit has been celebrating their 30th by posting some of their first tickets and timetables, and I thought it would be fun to do the same for Metro-North. So here are some timetables, tickets, and other assorted goodness from the early days of Metro-North.
Some of the first Metro-North timetables. You can see the inside of the odd maroon Upper Harlem Line timetable in this previous post.
Metro-North published several guide books for riders in the early and mid ’80s.
Cashfares for the Harlem and Hudson Lines, and some ’80s seatchecks.
In the early days, tickets were small little strips like these, similar to the ones previously used by the New York Central and the Penn Central.
Backs of tickets showing their validation stamps. The ticket windows at each of those stations have since been closed.
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some more interesting things from Metro-North’s 30 year history… Happy Birthday, Metro-North!
There is nothing that I love more than the art on old timetables. And when I say old – I mean old – like 1800’s old. SmartCat has a few of these old timetables on display, including the oldest timetable I personally own – printed in 1865. There is just something beautiful about these bits of rail history, they are not just functional, but attractive – something timetables seem to have lost in the many years since.
As a graphic designer, I love the unique typography, as well as the illustrations found within. When I got bored on the train yesterday, I had the idea to turn some of the old art from these timetables into posters. I made four separate 11″ x 17″ posters, and had them printed up today – now I just have to find a place to hang them… hmmm…
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
I’ve certainly mentioned it on this blog before… I’m terrible at finishing things. Oh, I am so brilliant at starting them. I always have the most wonderful ideas for things, for projects. But the majority of the time, they never make it out of my head and into reality. And the few that I do happen to act upon, well, many of them are never completed. I am very bad like this.
At least a year ago, maybe even longer, when I first became interested in railroad timetables, I made a little poster showing some of the New York Central’s system timetables over the years. I had just begun to appreciate the functional art that is a timetable, and the little portion of me that endured many art history classes began connecting the stylistic choices with the events of the time. And probably just like every paper I wrote for an art history class, it was comprised of complete and utter bullshit. It seemed to make sense at the time, at least I think it did. Maybe it makes some sense. Hell, maybe it makes complete sense, and logically explains why there were so many stylistic changes on the timetables over the years. I had every intention of posting it, after it was completed. After I, I don’t know, verified some of the grandiose claims that I made? But I never did that. And this sat. And sat. And sat some more, in the dark little recesses of my hard drive, covered in spiderwebs, with crickets chirping merely to hear their own voices, out of complete and utter loneliness.
Today, however, I am crazy enough to post this, mostly because the former project, which I had high hopes for, was calling out to me for some reason. It wants the chance to see the light of day. I doubt I’ll ever do anything with this beyond this post, but if there are any other art-slash-rail-history folks out there that would like to discuss this, I might enjoy that.
Looking to take the train for the holiday? Metro-North has you covered with pre-Christmas early getaway trains, Christmas eve, and Christmas day service, as well as New Years trains. Check out the Holiday Service page on the Metro-North website, or the Early Getaway Trains schedule on their Facebook page.
And if you’re in a particularly holiday-cheerful mood, check out some railroad holiday/winter brochures and timetables from my collection…
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.
After neglecting to post the usual bit of history the past two weeks, I am back with something new! Or should I say, something old. At some point within the past year I started collecting cool Harlem Line timetables… and one of my favorites is this Independence Day Metro-North timetable from 1986. It is a bit newer than some of the previous things I’ve posted. At least I was alive in 1986… though I still hadn’t reached my second birthday yet.
Really I don’t think they make them this nice anymore. But then again, Metro-North is probably worrying more about the budget than having pretty timetables (at least one would hope… but really, Metro-North, I could design some nice things for you). The timetable is a joint schedule for Harlem Line and Hudson Line trains for the holiday weekend. Instead of the normal blue and green for those respective lines, the timetable uses magenta and cyan. The Statue of Liberty graces the front, and a poem by Emma Lazarus on the back.
Even if you don’t recognize the name Emma Lazarus, or the title The New Colossus, you should at least recognize some of the words…
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…
The poem was written in 1883, and was put on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty in 1903… and probably a million other things since then. It refers to the immigrants coming to the United States, many of which saw the Statue as they arrived at Ellis Island. Immigration is a bit of a taboo subject to discuss nowadays, but it is true that historically immigrants had a significant impact on the growth of the United States. And even on the railroad… Chinese immigrants provided much of the labor for the first transcontinental railroad in this country. So in a little way, this railroad timetable is perfect in its symbolism. But that is just me overanalyzing things… have a happy holiday weekend everyone. If you’ll be taking the train, be sure to check out the holiday schedule here.
Back in February I spent a good majority of a Saturday hanging out at the Research Library at the Danbury Railway Museum. I was interested in seeing what they had in their collection regarding the Harlem Line, especially timetables. I wasn’t intentionally looking for the entire system-wide timetables published by the New York Central, but when I saw them, I really fell in love. These system timetables were really where Central showed off, with some really gorgeous art. It wasn’t later on after researching that I found out that many of these timetables were based off of art previously commissioned for a poster marketing campaign.
New York Central’s poster campaign began in 1925, after experimenting first with calendars. The marketing campaign was planned along with Central’s centennial celebration. The general theme of the campaign was to display the routes of the rail line: the natural landscapes, as well as the cities. A range of commercial artists were commissioned to design posters, one of which was Leslie Ragan. Ragan’s first New York Central poster, a Chicago cityscape, was published in 1930.
Ragan was born in 1897 and grew up in Iowa. From an early age he knew he wanted to be an artist, and often made drawings of buildings and bridges. Ragan was mostly self-taught, although he did attend the Cumming School of Art in Des Moines. He served in the Air Force in World War One, and upon returning studied for a single semester at the Art Institute of Chicago. In the early 1920’s, he went on to teach at the Academy of Fine Arts, also in Chicago. By 1930 he had relocated to New York and had begun painting for the New York Central.
I’ve gathered quite a collection of examples of Ragan’s art for the New York Central. I must admit that I love the way he painted clouds – whether they were clouds in the sky, or steam from a locomotive. His depictions of trains were very streamlined and smooth, accentuating the shape of the upper portion in which a person rides, and hiding the moving parts below. His art certainly has influenced some people today… if you’ve seen the movie poster for The Polar Express, you will note it bears quite a resemblance to the winter poster at the very bottom.
If you are an astute observer, you may have noticed several weeks ago that a new link appeared over on the right of the site, entitled the Harlem Line Historical Archives. Basically, I thought it would be kind of cool to scan a bunch of my old collected timetables, and to put up my digital collection of timetables (most of them I do not have hard copies of). Now that the collection online has over 40 pieces, mostly timetables, as well as a few maps, I thought I would sort of “announce” it. And now you will notice, there is now an image on the right side of the site referencing the archives.
Anyways, note that this is a work in progress. Currently you can view the archives only by chronological order. In the future I’d like to implement additional features, so you can search the archives by viewing thumbnail images, or by keywords. Keyword searching is only partially implemented, I can keyword entries from the back-end, but as of currently, you can’t really search through the keywords (although some may show up in the tag cloud on the lower right of the site). I suppose it is an interesting challenge for myself, because I’ve already had to write some minor things in PHP to get the collection working as it is (such as the handy previous and next links you get while viewing pages).
Outside of learning a bit of PHP for myself, the other thing I love is looking at all this printed material in chronological order. And the way the timetables have evolved visually over the years, from the New York & Harlem days, to New York Central, Penn Central and beyond. My personal favorites are the two Penn Central timetables above, both from the late 1960’s, with the groovy typography. It would be awesome in the future to acquire a timetable for every year, and to do a timetable evolution video or something. Which just reminded me, if you have any timetables, maps, items of interest that you digital versions of and would like to donate/share/let me use, please let me know… especially if they are from a year that I don’t currently have.
PS- I swear, I am working on something really awesome for the site. Another little mini-project. Here is a hint: it is a flash based mini-game. If you do not see it by the end of the week, I urge you to harass me about it, and when the heck I am going to be finishing it.
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.