Remembering Lou Grogan, “The Coming of the New York & Harlem Railroad” Author

It is with great sadness that I must report that Louis V. Grogan has passed on. Laid to rest yesterday morning (along with a copy of his beloved book) in his long-time home of Pawling, New York, Grogan was 88 years old. Lou’s interest in railroads began at an early age, as many of his family members found employ in that industry. His love affair with the Harlem comes partially due to his longtime residence along its tracks, but also due to fond childhood memories of using the smooth wood floors of the long-gone Philmont station as an impromptu skating rink. Although he himself served a brief stint as a railroad worker, he also served in the Army during World War II on the eastern front, and was a longtime employee of IBM in Poughkeepsie.

Before selfies were cool
Before selfies were cool – Lou Grogan snaps a reflection at the then-new White Plains station.
Title photo of Pawling also by Lou Grogan.

Lou is, however, most Known by railfans as the author of The Coming of the New York & Harlem Railroad, an immense and unprecedented compilation of Harlem Railroad history, published in 1989. The book was a labor of love in more ways than one. A ten year endeavor of research and writing, the book may never have come to fruition without the support of Lou’s wife Elizabeth, who lovingly laid out many of the book’s pages, and remained supportive through many long hours of work. To this day, the book remains the best compilation of history regarding the Harlem Railroad, detailing every station that is and was along the line, and the ultimate demise of the Upper Harlem. This website, and the research found within, owes much to the groundwork compiled by Lou.

I, however, will remember Lou as a kind man who invited me into his home with his wife, and shared his vast collection of Harlem Line material with me. I will fondly remember eating turkey and cheese sandwiches and drinking ginger ale with him while talking about the Harlem Line. Many historical photos on this website come from Lou’s collection, which he and his wife graciously shared with me.

1936 Signal Dept Gang- Sid Phillips, Tom Wright, Lou Frost, and "Mac" McLeod
Signal Department Gang at Pawling station, 1936. L-R: Sid Phillips, Tom Wright, Lou Frost, and “Mac” McLeod. From the collection of Lou Grogan.

Steaming through Pawling, 1947.
Steaming through Pawling, 1947. From the collection of Lou Grogan.

As I have mentioned a few times, very shortly we will be revisiting all of the current Harlem Line stations – a redo of our Tuesday Tour series. I have already re-photographed all of the stations along the line, with the exception of five. Our new tour of the Harlem Line will be dedicated to Lou, who worked so hard to ensure that the long history of the Harlem – New York City’s oldest railroad – was always remembered. Thanks for everything, and as another friend of yours has already said online, “may you enjoy the great train ride in Heaven.”

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Even More Monday Morning Old Photos, Part 1

Do you love old train photos as much as I do? It has been a while since I last posted some Monday Morning old photos… but I do plan on posting a few for the next couple of weeks. In my endless endeavor to acquire old photos of the Harlem Line, I’ve borrowed and digitized more old photos from Lou Grogan. These are slightly newer than previous photos I’ve posted: at least I was alive when they were captured, albeit a young child. But they are old enough to capture the old platform at Pawling, and construction at White Plains. Though the dates probably vary, my guess is that they are either very late 80’s, or early 90’s – a time when Metro-North Commuter Railroad was a fledgling organization.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I love this one: self portrait of the photographer, at White Plains.

If you missed any of our series of Monday Morning old photos, you can find them here:

Monday Morning Old photos, Part 2
Monday Morning Old photos, Part 2
Monday Morning Old photos, Part 3
More Monday Morning Harlem Division Photos
You can also find more of Lou Grogan’s gorgeous photography here: Trains & The Beautiful Harlem Valley – Never-before-seen Photos from the 80’s.

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Book available for download: The History of the New York & Harlem Railroad

When it comes to the history of the Harlem Line, you can’t beat The Coming of the New York & Harlem Railroad, by Lou Grogan. It is, by far, the most complete history of the line, and full of wonderful pictures. There was, however, another book written on the New York & Harlem, covering the line’s early history many years prior. I had been trying to get my hands on it for a while… I know of only three copies that exist: the one I didn’t win on eBay, one that belonged to Gouverneur Morris, Jr., and is now in the collection of the New York Historical Society, and one that belongs to the Katonah Village Library. The book was written by Clarence Hyatt in 1898, so it is hardly something that bookstores or even internet booksellers have. The only thing I knew about it was that it was quite small, about 36 pages. Beyond that, I knew nothing of what was inside.


Photo of Chatham from the book, taken at some point in the late 1800’s

I finally got off my butt and made the trip to the library in Katonah on one of the days we had warm weather. I’d never been to the library before, so I didn’t know what to expect, or whether the book would even be in a “public” area. The person at the front desk was rather snippy with me when I asked her to help me find the book, despite me saying I had never been there before and had no idea where to look. I told her that I figured the book would probably be in a special section, given the fact that it is over a hundred years old… and she told me to go talk to the reference librarian. Thankfully, the reference librarian was kind and helpful. The book was in a locked cabinet, and I took it to a couch, where I read it in short order.

And then, of course, I digitized it. I would have much rathered to scan it, to get a better quality, but I ended up just photographing each page. The majority of the book is text, though there are a few photographs: two of Chatham, one of Mount Kisco, and another of Chappaqua. It does have some pretty cool little anecdotes about general rail history, and the history of the Harlem.

Did you know that Peter Cooper, other than having absolutely amazing facial hair, was the designer and creator of the first steam locomotive in the US, a locomotive which could only attain a speed of eighteen miles-per-hour? I didn’t.

Amusingly, the book details people opposing railroads, and not for things that at least make sense – like the noise of the locomotives. No, people protested because they thought that railroads would effect animals: preventing cows from grazing, causing hens to stop laying eggs, and railroads would lead to the destruction of birds. But then there were also people on the opposite side of the spectrum: the citizens of “primitive” and rural areas, such as Dover Plains, that gazed at locomotives for the first time with intense curiosity.

In the continued celebration of Harlem Railroad Month, I am happy to share this wonderful book. It is a relatively short read, but an interesting one.

[pdf-ppt-viewer href=”http://www.iridetheharlemline.com/ny_harlem.pdf” width=”600″ height=”500″]

If you’d prefer to download the book (or the above preview doesn’t work), please right click on this link, and choose to save the target as.

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Pawling

Nestled in the rolling hills of Dutchess County lies the small village of Pawling, connected to the thriving city of New York by the railroad. When the New York & Harlem Railroad reached Pawling, the village had a population numbering in the 500’s. Today that population is a bit over 2000. It is the first station along the line in Dutchess County, and is roughly 64 miles north of Grand Central. When the line continued all the way up to Chatham, Pawling was approximately the midpoint. Historically, the station thrived due to the dairy industry. A factory visible from the platform today was once a milk plant – after processing the milk it was sent out via the Harlem. Located slightly north of the station was a yard, a small engine house, and a blacksmith and carpenter shop. There was once a turntable too, but that was later replaced with a wye.


Facilities at Pawling, circa 1920. Diagram by Lou Grogan

  
The original station, built in 1860, burned down in 1984. Photos by Lou Grogan

Today the station is, like most of the current Upper Harlem stations, rather quiet – except for the sound of a passing diesel engine. The station is past the zone of electrification, and unless you manage to board one of the few express trains, you’ll have to change at Southeast. The station is one of two in the town of Pawling – the other is the Appalachian Trail, which is a very limited service station.

That is about all I have for Pawling… next week I’ll be bringing you the final station on our Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line, Botanical Garden.

 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
 

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Trains & The Beautiful Harlem Valley – Never-before-seen Photos from the 80’s.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting Lou Grogan, who is the author of the definitive guide to the Harlem Line and all its predecessors: The Coming of the New York and Harlem Railroad. Over the years he has acquired quite the collection of just about everything railroad related – from books, photos, timetables and newspaper clippings, to the train-shaped weather vane atop his house. Wooden trains, plastic trains, metal trains all adorn the inside of the house on shelves and tables and desks, along with many rocks, which he also collects. His wife told me he didn’t really start collecting all of the stuff until he decided he wanted to write the book (which took about ten years to complete), but once it was written he never stopped. All he’s collected fills rooms, and would probably take weeks, if not months to go through.

We did happen to find a binder of photos though, full of photos of the trains around Pawling, Brewster and Towners from the early 80’s, which he graciously allowed me to borrow. The majority of photos were not labeled, except for an occasional date mark from when the photo was developed and printed. At the end of the binder were two photos though, one of the only ones that happened to have labels. The first was a picture of a blue sleeper car in Canada, with the name Elizabeth stenciled on the outside, with a handwritten caption – “My favorite sleeping car.” Alongside that photo was a photo of his wife, with the caption of “My favorite Elizabeth” (how cute!). The majority of the other photos though, do not have captions or dates, so I am not 100% sure of the location, but they all seem to be either on the Harlem Line or in the vicinity. I’ve scanned some of my favorites, and present them here. A few of them may have been in his book (which was black and white), but this is the first time they’ve been presented in color. So take a walk down memory lane and enjoy these photos (or in my case, a glimpse of Metro-North right before I was born).










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