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.
When it comes to great American architects, one must certainly mention the name Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson’s name may not be as widely mentioned as some others – likely because he unfortunately passed in his prime at the age of 47 – but his influence in American architecture is obvious. The architectural style he popularized bears his name – Richardsonian Romanesque – and is certainly one of my favorite architectural styles. The style features attractive arches and rusticated stonework – and is familiar to fans of the Boston and Albany Railroad, the style in which many of that railroad’s main line stations were designed.
Most of the Richardsonian Romanesque stations we’ve featured on the site – Chatham, Dobbs Ferry, Hartford, Irvington, and Tarrytown – were designed by the firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, Richardson’s three assistants who continued the business after his death. The station we’re visiting today, however, was Richardson’s final station design. New London’s Union Station was conceived in 1885 – one year before Richardson’s death. Construction was not completed until one year after his death in 1887.
1885 elevation sketch showing the detailing for New London’s Union Station. Image courtesy Shepley Bulfinch.
Although New London Union Station strays a bit from the typical Richardsonian Romanesque style as it is constructed primarily of brick, the characteristic arches, detailing, and occasional swaths of rusticated stone can be found. Bricks radiate outwards from the arches, creating a sunburst effect, and alternating exposed bricks create detailed borders around the top. Completing the detailing of the station is a wide band above the entrance, labeling the building “Union Railroad Station.” The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad was the station’s primary occupant (having leased the Shore Line Railway in 1870), though the station was built in conjunction with the Central Vermont Railroad (which had leased the New London Northern Railroad) making it a Union Station.
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.
Print of the Milwaukee Road depot by Mark Herman, from his wonderful Minnesota Landmarks series.
Continuing with my series of photos from my trip to Minnesota, today we visit the old Milwaukee Road depot. It is a lovely building, wonderfully restored, dating from 1899. There haven’t been trains running past here since the 70’s, but the place has been given a new life as a hotel complex. A former train shed on the property has also been remade into an ice skating rink (awesome!). The depot was designed by architect Charles Sumner Frost, who also designed stations in Green Bay, Chicago, and Rock Island, among many others. If you’ve ever visited Chicago, it is highly likely that you are familiar with some of Frost’s non-railroad work, as he also designed Chicago’s Navy Pier.
1922 photograph of what the depot looked like when first built. Note the top of the tower that is now absent.
If you compare the above photo to current photos, you quickly notice that there is one big difference – the top of the tower is missing. The original top to the 140-foot tower was modeled after the Giralda in Seville, Spain. This feature was unfortunately damaged by a storm in 1941, and was never replaced. Since then, the top of the tower has been flat. However, other beautiful details still remain on the outside – including terra cotta wreaths surrounding circular windows, and intricate borders stretching around the building.
1948 photo of the depot – the ornate top is gone, and the familiar “Milwaukee Road” lettering is on the front.
This beautiful depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, under the official name of “Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Depot.” At that time, however, the building was not quite as attractive as it is now. Restoration began on the building in the late 90’s, and was completed in 2001… and it was certainly a job well done. Some of the work that had to be done on the seven-block complex was not really restorative – much of the area was contaminated and the pollution had to be cleaned up. Today the building houses several meeting rooms, and the entire complex offers 356 hotel rooms.
The Milwaukee Road depot looking fairly beat up. This photo was taken in 1992, before the restoration of the building.
I’m extremely jealous of this wonderful photo captured by Nick Benson… it perfectly captures the historic Milwaukee Road Depot, and the modern Hiawatha Line light rail system.
Bird’s eye view of Port Jervis, circa 1900. The railroad tracks and roundhouses are visible in the lower right. From the New York State Archives.
As promised, before moving onto the Pascack Valley Line I said we would take one more look at Port Jervis. While the Metro-North station at Port Jervis is pretty boring, there are a few more interesting railroad-related things going on in this town. When arriving by car, you’ll likely notice signs not only directing you to the train station, but also to the historical turntable. This turntable is the only existing remnant of one of the roundhouses that was here in Port Jervis. Although the building got progressively more decrepit over the years, it ultimately met its end at the hand of an arsonist in 1987.
Roundhouse at Port Jervis in 1971, photos from the Historic American Engineering Record at the Library of Congress.
The turntable, which was at the center of that burnt roundhouse, is in pretty good condition today, as it was renovated in 1997. In the early 90’s, though, it didn’t look too great. Though it hasn’t been put to use recently, the turntable isn’t just for show, and does actually work.
This is the turntable today. I must admit that I have a thing for the iconic simplicity of the Erie’s logo.
The gem of Port Jervis, however, is not the turntable, but the Erie depot. If you’ve taken Metro-North to Port Jervis, you’ve passed it – it is located about a quarter-mile before the current station. The depot was built by Grattan & Jennings in the Queen Anne style in 1892. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
The contracting firm of Grattan & Jennings was formed in 1888 by William S. Grattan and Alva M. Jennings. Grattan had been a longtime railroad employee, starting as a clerk in the Scranton coal office of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western at the age of 18. Though the Erie Depot may be the most well-known building the firm had built, Grattan & Jennings did lots of contracting work for the railroad, including a trestle over the Blackwell canal.
Aerial views of Port Jervis station, photos from the Historic American Engineering Record at the Library of Congress.
Photos of the Erie station at Port Jervis in 1970, photos from the Historic American Engineering Record at the Library of Congress.
Like so many other stations and facilities, the earlier station at Port Jervis (which was the second to be built here), opened in 1889, was completely destroyed by fire in 1890. The historical Erie depot was built as a replacement for that station, and was opened on February 2nd, 1892. The lower level of the station provided waiting areas for passengers, a ticket office, locker rooms for railroad employees, and a restaurant. The depot’s upper level was used as office space for the railroad.
It is interesting to note that the Erie depot manages to reflect not only the surge in popularity of the railroad, but also its slow demise. With increasing volume of mail and baggage, the depot was expanded in 1912. An enlarged baggage room was added to the east end of the station, and a room for the Railway Express Agency was added to the west end. Gradually fewer and fewer people used the station over the years, and the depot was permanently closed in 1974. The windows were boarded up, and the building was left to crumble. Thankfully, by the mid-80’s several groups stepped up to prevent the depot from being torn down and worked to restore it to the wonderful condition you see today.
Postcard views of Tuxedo, from the collection of Steve Swirsky.
While taking a ride on the Port Jervis Line, you will travel through Metro-North’s most rural territory. Although the trees and greenery along the route can be quite scenic, the stations along the line are rather rudimentary, bare-bones facilities. The only exception to that is Tuxedo – today’s stop on our tour of the Port Jervis Line. Tuxedo is the only station on the line that has its historical station building still standing, and at the same site of the current station (Metro-North’s Port Jervis station was relocated, about two-tenths of a mile past the original station). For this reason, you could probably say that Tuxedo is the nicest station on the Port Jervis Line. Though the building is owned by the town and is no longer used for any railroad-related purpose, it is a gorgeous old station that certainly gives the place a little character – something that is really absent at other Port Jervis stations.
(left) Early 1900’s view of Tuxedo, (right) Tuxedo in 1968
Tuxedo Park – the village where the station is located – is a nice little area with a bit of history behind it. Originally founded as a resort community for the rich, Tuxedo Park was conceived by Pierre Lorillard IV and designed by architect Bruce Price. Work commenced on this planned village in 1885 and took eight months, with the labor of 1800 men. As we’ve seen in many of the places we’ve visited, the placement of Tuxedo was deliberate and influenced by the railroad. Founder Lorillard hoped to create an exclusive community, attracting the well-to-do businessmen and socialites of New York City. The fact that Tuxedo was linked by the Erie Railroad to the city, in about an hour’s time, was certainly an important factor.
Though certainly known today for its charm as a beautiful community, Tuxedo does have a few claims-to-fame. One could consider it the “birthplace” for American etiquette, as author, socialite, and Tuxedo resident Emily Post (daughter of architect Bruce Price) wrote several bestselling books on proper etiquette. And although the origins of the term are not entirely agreed upon, the word tuxedo (as in men’s formal attire) perhaps originated here, a name that derived from the clothing men would wear to the Tuxedo Club.
Although the architect for the station in Tuxedo is not definitively known, it is assumed to be designed by Tuxedo’s architect Bruce Price. The Tuxedo Club, as well as twenty-six residences in the village were all designed by Price. In order to lend an air of exclusivity, the community was gated, and included a large stone entrance-way, also designed by Price. Although Tuxedo is certainly one of Price’s notable works, his most well-known achievement was the American Surety Building, one of Manhattan’s earliest skyscrapers. Price also did work for various railroads, including the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Boston and Albany Railroad, and the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Photographs of a train crash at Tuxedo in 1951. According to one Tuxedo Park resident, one of the freight cars was filled with oranges that spilled all over – many young children at the time collected these oranges and brought them home. Photo from the collection of the Tuxedo Park Library.
When I visited Tuxedo, I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures of the inside, as a fairly raucous party was going on (and getting rid of the tipsy party goers on the outside was a chore as well). Although it made photo-taking difficult, in a way I have to think it is pretty wonderful. In 2009, at the cost of about a million dollars, the town restored the 1885 Tuxedo station. The building truly belongs to the community, as it is available for use by scout groups, or even to rent out for parties (and who wouldn’t want to get tipsy at Tuxedo?). Over the years the station sported various color schemes – for a time it was even white with brown trim – but during the restoration the goal was to make the station look as it did when it was first built. Some of the details, like the stained glass, are historians’ best guesses – either way, they look great. Not only is the station on the National Register of Historic Places, the village of Tuxedo Park is as well.
Timetable and ticket for Tuxedo. From the collection of Otto Vondrak.
The Metro-North portion of Tuxedo station is not much compared to the grandeur of the historical building, but it includes a low-level platform, a small shelter, and a canopy covering a portion of the platform. Some of the benches on the platform have likely been there for quite a while, as they are still labeled “Erie.”
Tuxedo is 37 miles from Hoboken, which takes about an hour or more by train. A commute to Penn Station (with a transfer at Secaucus) takes about an hour to an hour and a half.
After Tuxedo we head further north, towards Harriman. It is just ahead where the rail line diverged – branching off from the Erie main line was the Graham Line. As mentioned before, that original route was abandoned in favor of the Graham Line. Harriman had a station on the main line, but after that abandonment Metro-North built a new station on the other – it is there we will visit next week.
Welcome to Fairfield, the next stop on our tour of the New Haven Line. Although it isn’t as hip as the new Fairfield Metro station, it does have a bit of history – including an 1882 station listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located just over 50 miles from Grand Central, a train trip to the city from Fairfield takes about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Many of today’s historical images of Fairfield station have come from a site called Tyler City Station, which is filled with information about Connecticut stations, and is quite wonderful. It is definitely worth checking out.
One of the nice things about New Haven main line stations are the configuration of the tracks. Instead of having an island platform, like a lot of Harlem Line stations, there are two platforms – one on each side of the four tracks. Because of this arrangement, there were usually two station buildings, one on the New Haven (or eastbound) side, and one on the New York (or westbound) side. While many stops along the line have only retained one of their stations, Fairfield has managed to preserve both.
Diagram of the tracks and station buildings at Fairfield
Fairfield’s eastbound station is the oldest of the two, a brick building constructed in 1882. The building measures 26 feet by 82 feet, and is one and a half stories in height. The inside has high ceilings and hardwood flooring. The old waiting room is used by a taxi company, and the building also contains a restaurant and cleaners.
The westbound station is constructed of wood and measures 30 feet by 90 feet. It also has hardwood flooring, and is partially occupied by a coffee shop. There is a small waiting area that once served as a ticket office, but Metro-North closed that window in 2010. The design is similar to several other stations we’ve featured, as reusing the architectural plan for multiple stations was a method of cost savings for the railroad.
Because we’re all fascinated (or at least I am) with train crash images, here is one in Fairfield.
Photos of Fairfield in 1988, from the application for listing the station on the National Register of Historic Places.
That is about all I have on Fairfield, and for our tour today. At the time of my visit there was some construction going on, and some tracks were out of service. You will note in several of the photos that trains were boarding from temporary wooden platforms, instead of the normal concrete side platforms, because of this construction.
Welcome to New Rochelle, our next stop on our tour of the New Haven Line. Located about 17 miles from Grand Central, a train ride to the city takes about 35 minutes – leaving plenty of time to get to Broadway in 45. The station services both Metro-North passengers, as well as Amtrak passengers on the Northeast Regional. The station is part of New Rochelle’s “transportation center” with connections available to taxis and Bee-Line buses, and a large parking garage available for commuters.
Postcard views of New Rochelle
The very first scheduled train from New Rochelle to the city ran on December 28th, 1848. At that time there was only a single track here. A second track was later added in 1853. By 1869 there were 6 trains daily that ran to and from New Rochelle and the city.
One of the most historically significant trains to ever depart New Rochelle, however, was on the day of January 8th, 1902. The usual New Rochelle commuters boarded their 7:48 train to the city. The train was a local that originated in South Norwalk, but the rear car was called the New Rochelle car – it was kept locked and was only opened for passengers upon arrival at that station. Everything played out as normal that day, until the train reached the Park Avenue Tunnel and paused on track 2 at about 55th Street to allow a Croton local train to pass. A White Plains local, also arriving in the tunnel and on track 2, ran through a red signal at about 59th Street and plowed directly into the back of the South Norwalk local – the New Rochelle car. Fifteen residents of that city were killed on scene and many other passengers on the train were injured. Newspaper headlines ranged from the relatively gruesome: “Trapped Under Engine and Roasted by Steam” to the more sympathetic: “New Rochelle Grief-Stricken.”
Rescue operations after the Park Avenue Tunnel crash in 1902. All of those killed boarded at New Rochelle.
At the time of the crash, steam trains were allowed in the tunnel, which made visibility very poor. The incident significantly swayed public opinion against steam in the city, and ultimately led to their banning in Manhattan. The railroads were left to find an alternate method of powering their trains into the city. Frank Sprague and William Wilgus invented the “third rail” method of powering new electric trains – technology that is still in use today on the Harlem and Hudson Lines. The most important change the crash brought about was the new Grand Central Terminal – a station built to accommodate these new electric trains.
Photos of various trains at New Rochelle in the 1970’s
New Rochelle has come a long way since the railroad first came to town in 1848. Back then the city had only about 2,000 inhabitants. By the 1900’s, however, that number had grown to 15,000, as New Rochelle became a desirable suburb for commuters (today the population is around 77,000). While the original roundhouse for steam engines and a yard for freight are no longer in existence, the historic station building remains and has been restored. Like many old stations, the 1887 building had fallen into disrepair, it was also burned by fire in 1988. Commuters had described the station as dank, dirty, and derelict.
Thankfully, instead of tearing down the station, it went through a process of restoration starting in 1990. The city of New Rochelle, which had purchased the station property in 1982, agreed to share the cost of the restoration with Amtrak. The fully restored station was reopened on March 1st, 1990. The one-and-a-half story building is again beautiful – the brick exterior was cleaned, and the inner plaster walls and wood ceiling were repaired. The terrazzo tile flooring was in poor condition and had to be completely replaced. Additional changes made during the renovations included new lighting, bathrooms, and windows. The station was nominated, and is now a part of the National Register of Historic Places.
In-between the stations of Cos Cob and Old Greenwich on the New Haven main line, lies the station of Riverside. A journey to Grand Central, approximately 30 miles, takes around an hour. Four tracks run through Riverside, and two platforms run alongside the two outer tracks. On those platforms you can find a few ticket vending machines, a soda machine, a couple newspaper boxes, and a bench or two. One side has a small shelter from the elements, though it looks pretty beat-up and is tagged with graffiti and strewn with trash.
Riverside station itself is not particularly noteworthy – though the bridge that carries traffic over the tracks is one of Connecticut’s historic bridges – and a little bit more interesting.
Aerial photographs of Riverside and the bridge in 1977
Various sketches of truss bridges, from the patents of bridge engineer Francis Lowthrop
The historic Riverside Avenue bridge is clearly visible to anyone taking the train from or past Riverside station. Not only does it carry traffic over the four railroad tracks, it has two stairwells and an area for pedestrians to cross over to the other side of the platform. Although this bridge was originally constructed in 1871, it did not find its current home until around 1894. Designed by Francis Lowthrop and fabricated by the Keystone Bridge Company, the current span was a portion of a larger railroad bridge over the Housatonic River in Stratford. That bridge was replaced in 1884.
Photos of Riverside and the bridge in 1984
The portion of the Riverside Avenue Bridge that was reconstructed here is smaller than original – the bridge is now 164 feet long and 22 feet wide, and about 20 feet above the tracks. Bridges similar to this one are very rare today, and the Riverside Avenue bridge is the last cast-iron bridge still in use in Connecticut. With the increasing weight of heavy locomotives, many cast-iron bridges were simply replaced due to safety issues, or modified to carry lighter cars instead of trains, which explains their rarity today. By 1986 the safety of this bridge was also being questioned, and parts were deemed unsafe. However, instead of replacing the bridge or restricting it to only pedestrians, a new bridge was built inside the historical bridge. This solution allowed the preservation of the historic bridge without compromising the safety of the drivers that cross it every day.
The Riverside Avenue bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and is one of roughly 55 bridges on the Register from Connecticut. It is also the oldest railroad bridge listed in Connecticut (though it only carried trains for a short period of its lifetime).
Back when I had planned my Fall Roadtrip I had intended to include a visit to the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum. Unfortunately with the crappy weather some things had to be cancelled… and I had decided seeing some of the old Harlem stations, like Copake Falls and Millerton, were more important to me. I did finally end up making the visit to the museum though, instead for their Halloween train ride. The train cars were decorated for Halloween, there was candy, cider and cookies available, and each passenger also got a pumpkin. Here are some photos from the journey… including the stations in Lenox and Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
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.