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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Looking back, and looking forward – a photographic to-do list

While cleaning the other day I found some old photos of my first long distance railroad trip and I wanted to share. The photos have to be at least thirteen years old, I remember leaving from Penn Station and going down to Jacksonville, Florida, and then later leaving from DeLand station back to Penn. I don’t think I really cared all that much about trains back then, but I sure was mesmerized with that Solari departure board that used to be in Penn Station.

 
   

Most typical of me, there is a photo of a cat in there. I don’t recall much about the cat, but based on the fur coloring visible in the photo, the cat is a she (or a rare genetic aberration). I remember that cat hung out at the station, and of course I hung out with her while waiting for my train. Amusingly, the DeLand station’s wikipedia entry mentions the cat, and how she often will greet passengers disembarking from the train on the platform. Whether the cat is the same or not, or possibly a descendant of the cat in my photo, I have no idea. My grandmother is going to be heading down by train to DeLand sometime in March, so I told her to keep her eyes open for the cat. I could always call the station and ask about her, but then they would find out what you guys already know – that I’m just a tad crazy.

Those old photos were of course taken with a real film camera. Honestly, I never really liked film all that much. I’ve done the whole film thing, from shooting to self developing, which I especially loathed (imagine me, with my poor coordination, standing in the blackness of the darkroom attempting to roll my film onto the spool for processing and failing miserably). I never had much money growing up, and film and developing was always costly. Digital gives me the ability to shoot a million different frames of the same thing from various angles, and then decide which I like best – without worrying in my mind about wasting film exposures and money in development.

All this thought about my old photography is making me think about what my goals are for this year. What places I’d like to go see and photograph, and then post on this blog. The whole lack of a car thing makes some of this difficult, and it is likely I won’t be able to visit all of these places this year. But these are just some ideas…

Railroad Museum of Long Island – Riverhead, New York
Vanderbilt Mansions in Rhode Island – The Breakers and Marble House
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site – Hyde Park, New York
Vanderbilt Museum – Centerport, New York
Sharon Station – Old Harlem station in Amenia
Craryville Station – The other remaining Harlem station that I’ve not been to

At the end of April I will be heading to Africa for a little bit of adventure. I’ll be going on safari in South Africa and Botswana, as well as visiting Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Victoria Falls. I’ll get the chance to photograph the Cape Town Railway Station, as well as Africa’s largest railway station: Johannesburg Park Station. I’m also hoping to take a Metro Train to Simonstown as well as a journey through the Karoo desert to Johannesburg on the Premier Classe Train.

Unrelated to trains, but keeping up with my desire to visit really strange locales, my friend has a strong desire to go and see Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. The mayor of Rabbit Hash is a dog. Along the way, however, we would stop at Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, which looks like quite the gorgeous building.

Most notably, I will continue with my station tours whenever spring finally comes and this snow has melted. It was up in the air between either the Hudson or the New Haven lines, but I finally decided upon doing a Tour of the New Haven Line. Just as I did with the tour of the Harlem Line, I will post a new station each Tuesday.

For now that is about all I can think of. I’m very open to suggestions for interesting places to visit, so if you have an idea, be sure to comment and let me know!

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Grand Central

Last week I finished up the Tour of the Harlem Line with the final station, Botanical Garden. But there was one more station that I wanted to feature – a station that we all know, and a wonderful landmark of the city of New York. That station is of course, Grand Central Terminal. It is a bit of coincidence that I’ve chosen this day to present Grand Central – for it was on this day, February 1, 1913, that the final preparations for the opening of the station were made… with the official opening to the public at midnight.

Grand Central has been mentioned this blog quite a few times before, from the 1902 train wreck that led to electric service and paved the way for the station, to the 1910’s advertisements highlighting its opening. I’ve also discussed the gorgeous sculpture on the front façade, the role Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis played in saving Grand Central, and a little bit about the Vanderbilts, and how the station may be like an architectural embodiment of that family. Despite all of that, there is always so much more I could write about Grand Central, but that is something for another day. Today I want to take you on a photographic tour of the wonders of this place…

If there is one constant about Grand Central, it is certainly my awe every time I enter the main concourse. I have certainly been there a million times, but I am still always amazed. There is a little part of me that is envious of all the Metro-North employees that are employed in this beautiful building, and see it every day. I’ve taken photos here a million times as well, and I don’t think I am ever pleased with any of them, for they never seem to do the place any justice. Beauty can be found throughout – not just in the concourse or on the front façade. The little details always captivate me, from the stylized GCT monogram, to the little sculptural acorns that can be found all over – a symbol of the Vanderbilt family.

I hope you all enjoy this final stop on my tour of the Harlem Line. I had a great time not just photographing, but exploring. I tried to do that at Grand Central as well – not just photographing the main concourse, but to explore and see the areas that aren’t as often captured, like the lower level’s dining concourse. The tables that you will find down there are a wonderful little addition, covered in old rail ephemera. There are plenty of other little details like this throughout, which I love. Most of the photos were taken in public areas, except for a few of the main concourse which were taken on the second and sixth floors.

For now we shall bid the Tuesday Tour posts adieu, but don’t be too sad, when the spring arrives I will be heading out to more stations on another line. By this time next year I might not be known solely as the Cat Girl, but as the crazy nutjob that has been to, and photographed, every Metro-North station!

 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Bedford Hills


Old postcard view of Bedford Station, as it was known at the time

Back in the 1800’s when the New York and Harlem Railroad was steadily marching northward through Westchester County, today’s Bedford Hills station was known merely as Bedford. Later the hamlet where the depot resided was referred to as Bedford Station (but still a part of the town of Bedford). It was only in the early 1900’s that the place was renamed Bedford Hills. Located about 39 miles north of Grand Central, the small station retains much of its old charm. The old depot still stands, and it even has the old style name sign. Unlike many other Harlem Line stations that have been converted into businesses, the station building at Bedford Hills is not used by a coffee shop or eatery. Instead it is occupied by Mark’s Time, which seems like a perfect fit, considering the joint histories of railroading and timekeeping.

If I am not mistaken, Bedford Hills is the last station in Westchester to be featured as part of the tour of the Harlem Line. There are just a few more stations to be featured before the tour is complete. Anybody out there have any suggestions as to where I should go and photograph after the tour has been completed? I think I have a few votes from people who want me to do the same thing I’ve done for the Harlem Line for the New Haven Line. Let me know your thoughts with a comment!

 
  
   
 
  
 
  
  
 

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Chatham: Revisited

I’m not exactly sure why, but I have a strange affinity for the village of Chatham. Although it is an adorable place, rather quaint, I wonder what exactly it was like when the railroads ran through here. You might see a freight train, or a passing Lake Shore Limited, but none of them stop. Chatham once serviced the New York & Harlem Railroad, the Boston & Albany, and the Rutland – all of which are long gone. And thus the place is a little bit of a curiosity to me. The many suburbs along the Harlem – Bronxville, Hartsdale, Scarsdale, and even the ones further north, Katonah, Brewster – they were all influenced by the rail. They grew and morphed into the places we know now, and though the rail does not entirely define those places now, the rail still is there, playing a part in the futures of those areas. But Chatham, it is a special case. The single most defining factor of the village has disappeared. It is no longer the terminus of any railroads. The once busy Union Station no longer serves train riders, it is a bank. Chatham has reverted to a quieter version of itself, representing a little portion of historical Columbia County.

Many places across the country have seen transformations, with the things they were built upon playing a part in their downfall. Detroit was built on the auto industry, but as the industry migrated and moved overseas, parts of the city have become abandoned – a true example of urban decay. The small town of Centralia, Pennsylvania was built upon anthracite coal, literally and figuratively. Ironically, it was the coal brought the death sentence of the little town, as it caught fire in the 1960’s and has been burning ever since. There is something about these changed places that intrigues me (high on my list of places to visit is also Pripyat, an abandoned town brought down by the failings of humans). All of these, of course, are radical examples. Chatham lives, it does not decay. Perhaps the once-fundamental core of its being is gone, but it still thrives. But just as one can compare the photos of Detroit’s urban decay with the historical photos of yesteryear, one can bear witness to the radical changes made in just a few scant years (or slightly longer than the years I’ve been on this Earth). There are no more signal towers, water towers, or turntables. The children of Chatham will never board a passenger train in their village to head the one hundred and twenty seven miles to Grand Central. And of course, the Harlem division will never again run this far north.

The time for Chatham as a railroad town has passed. As the time has ticked by it has reinvented itself, and is still reinventing itself. It is not the decline as a railroad hub that has intrigued me about Chatham, but that reinvention. It is a charming and beautiful little village, with a gazebo, clock tower, shops, and restaurants – plus a whole lot of history. The photos below were taken back in October upon my second visit to Chatham, a visit where I actually had time to shop and eat, and enjoy the surrounding history. Perhaps if you too find Chatham to be interesting you will take the time to visit some day…

 
  
 
 
 
  
 
   
 
 

The photos below were sent in by reader John. They were taken in the late 1960’s at Chatham.

 
 
 

For an even further back look, the Library of Congress has an illustrated map view of the village of Chatham from 1886. At this time the “Union Station” had not been built, and the Boston & Albany, and the New York & Harlem each had their own rail stations. For easier viewing I’ve given the B&A station a slight red tint, and the Harlem a blue tint.

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Photos from the Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden

Several weeks ago I got a chance to take my first visit to the New York Botanical Garden to see the Holiday Train Show. For all the folks out there that have any experience with model railroading, you are familiar with the fact that it is a rather expensive hobby. I can only imagine how much the setup at the Botanical Garden took, not only in dollars, but in time as well. The amazing array of recognizable current and historical landmarks is astounding, and created of plant matter. I was quite fascinated with the beautiful textures: the layered leaves and twigs that comprised the roofs, covered bridges made of tree barks, building details made of seeds and acorns, and the thin imitation of glass illuminated from the inside. Current landmarks, such as Grand Central Terminal, stand side by side with recreations of the city’s long-gone masterpieces: from the house of William Kissam Vanderbilt that once stood on Fifth Avenue, to the stunning Pennsylvania Station.

I would definitely consider the Holiday Train Show to be a must-see holiday event. You still have a bit of time to get over to the Botanical Garden and see it, if you haven’t done so already. The show runs until January 9th. If you have the ability to visit on a weekday, I would highly suggest it. The weekend afternoon time I visited was quite busy, and I would have loved to not have to get kicked, or have my camera tugged on, by various small children. You can even purchase your tickets to the show online. And of course, getting to the Botanical Garden is easy on the Harlem Line via Metro North.

  
  
 
   
   
 
  
 
   
 
   
 
 
 
 
   
 

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Holidays on the Harlem Line

Did I ever mention that sometimes I wonder if I picked the wrong profession? I enjoy graphic design but advertisements? For things like Christmas? Bah humbug, I hate Christmas. Well, no, actually I hate being told that I am required to purchase extravagant gifts for a particular person. Honestly, I’d much rather give someone a for no reason other than this reminded me of you present. But yet, here I am, working on last minute ads for Black Friday…

Just this once though, just for my lovely readers, I will pretend that I enjoy the holidays, and fill you in on all the train and holiday related good stuff on the Harlem Line and in the city.

Discounts to see the Christmas Spectacular or Wintuk

In case you missed last week’s Mileposts, those interested in seeing the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, or Cirque du Soleil’s Wintuk can get a discounted ticket thanks to Metro-North. In addition to the discount, you also receive a free roundtrip train ticket to go see the show! When purchasing tickets for these events, use the promo code METRO in order to apply this promotion. For more information, details, restrictions and the like, check out these pages:
Tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Tickets for Wintuk

Discounts on the Nutcracker in White Plains

Another holiday event with discounts is at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. The Nutcracker, performed by the Westchester Ballet Company, will have shows on the 17th, 18th and 19th of December. Coupons are available on Westchester County’s website (after completing a short survey).
For information on purchasing tickets, click here.

Grand Central Holiday Fair

Every Christmas season Vanderbilt Hall is filled with various vendors selling their wares, and this year is no exception. The fair will run until December 24th, and is closed on Thanksgiving. For more information about hours, and a vendor map, check out this event page.

Holiday Train Show in Grand Central

The Transit Museum will again be hosting their Holiday Train show in their annex in Grand Central Terminal. Hours are as follows:
Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 8 :00 PM
Saturday & Sunday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
The show will run until January 17th.


Video from last year’s Holiday Train Show

Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden will be having its annual Holiday Train Show, which starts this Saturday. The garden is easily accessible via the Harlem Line, very close to, you guessed it, Botanical Garden station. The show will run until January 9th. Train and holiday related events will be happening throughout that run – from gingerbread houses to Thomas the Tank Engine visits – so be sure to check the schedule.

Lionel Pop-Up Train Stores

For anybody interested in purchasing some Lionel trains for themselves or friends, Lionel has a few pop up stores in the area. Supposedly these stores will have limited edition products not sold anywhere else. You can find the stores in Manhattan and White Plains:

Lionel New York
1095 Avenue of the Americas (41st St), New York, NY [map]

Lionel at the Westchester Mall
125 Westchester Ave., White Plains, NY [map]

Holiday Events at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center

The presepio is the most popular traditional Christmas decoration in Italy, and the Westchester Italian Cultural Center, not far from Tuckahoe station, will have theirs on display for the season. Events start on November 30th with Christmas Through the Ages, and the opening of the presepio exhibit. The exhibit will continue until January 1st. For more information click here.

Mount Kisco: Tree Lighting

Not far from Mount Kisco’s train station the town will host its tree lighting ceremony, on Friday December 3rd at 6PM. Cookies and cocoa will be served, and for the young ones there will be visits with Santa Claus afterward.
104 Main Street, Mount Kisco: [map]

Brewster: Tree Lighting & Putnam Chorale Holiday Concert

Christmas events in Brewster will commence at 4:30 on December 4th at the Southeast Museum, down the street from the train station. A holiday ornament-making workshop will be held for children, followed by caroling and the village’s tree lighting.
For more information about that click here.

Afterward, the Putnam Chorale and Brass Quintet will be performing a holiday concert, which is a free event. The show will be held at the United Methodist Church, which again is not far from Brewster station. The concert starts at 7:30 PM.
For more information, go here.

Great Westchester Toy & Train Show

In time for Christmas gift-giving is the largest toy/train show in the northeast – and within easy walking distance from White Plains station. The show will be held on December 12th at the Westchester County Center, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
For more information and a coupon for a dollar off admission, click here.

Annual IRideTheHarlemLine.com Holiday Card

Did I mention I hate cards too? They’re so impersonal sometimes, just grabbing something at Hallmark and running off. I’d much rather somebody draw me a picture, even if it is shitty. And every holiday that is exactly what I do, though I do hope you don’t think my drawing is shitty. Be sure to find me on the train and I’ll be happy to give you one of this year’s card (which is much better than last years). If I don’t see you or you don’t live in the area, you are welcome to email me your mailing address and I will send you one through the mail. (It will even have a Conductor Dog stamp on it!)

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Photos of Bannerman Castle: the crumbling castle in the Hudson River

Despite my professed love for the Harlem Line, I do in fact visit quite a few other locations and post photos… and today’s collection is no exception. Unfortunately for my dear Harlem, this time I cheated on him with his little brother, the Hudson. If you’ve ever been on the upper portion of Metro North’s Hudson Line you may have noticed a castle on an island in the Hudson. In fact you may have seen the collapse of the castle on your train ride past the island… Metro-North workers were the first to report the collapse of the castle last December to the trust that is attempting to restore the castle.

Although most people today know the island simply as Bannerman’s Island, the true name is Pollepel Island. Scottish immigrant and New York businessman Francis Bannerman purchased the island in 1900. By 1901 a castle for his business and residence had been built on the island for his family.

Francis Bannerman VI, better known as Frank, began collecting scrap at the harbor to sell as a young boy. As he got older, and after the Civil War, he began purchasing military surplus from government auctions and amassed quite the collection of ammunition – which he formed into a business called “Bannerman’s” in 1865. As having so much ammunition in the heart of Brooklyn began to be a safety issue, the island was a perfect location for his business.

Today, the island is a part of the Hudson Highlands State Park. Unfortunately, it is not quite the jewel it once was. Besides the two collapses in the past year, the castle was ravaged by fire in 1969. Many portions of the castle became covered in vines over time, which amusingly might be helping to hold the structure together. The Bannerman Castle Trust is attempting to preserve and restore the castle, but are desperately in need of funding. As we wait the castle will continue to crumble, and perhaps be lost forever: with little money to spend they’ve chosen to attempt to restore the residence first, since it is in better condition than the castle itself.

If you’re interested in learning more about the castle, taking a tour, or donating to the Bannerman Castle Trust, be sure to check out their website here: bannermancastle.org.

  
 
 
   
 
   
  
 
  
 
 
  
  

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A visit to the former ND&C station in LaGrange, NY

Hi everybody… I hope you’re doing well, because I am pretty loopy on cold medicine right about now. I figured I’d post a few pictures from my busy Saturday before I took yet another nap. On Saturday I visited and took photos at two former railroad stations, took a tour to see Bannerman Castle, and also went to the Walkway Over the Hudson. I also got sick in Fishkill, but I don’t think anyone wanted to see photos of that.

Anyways, here are some photos, and historical photos, of the station in LaGrange, NY. It was once part of the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad, but the tracks were removed a long time ago. It is amusing to me that there are many towns in New York (and other states) that have roads named for the railroad, even though in many of those places the railroad is gone. In this former station’s case, it sits on Depot Lane… and from the outside that may be the only clue as to what this building was once used for.

The building has been beautifully restored, and the inside still has the old ticket window. There is also an artificial fireplace, and when the doorbell is rung it makes train sounds. If you have more money than this poor blogger, it is also for sale. It is actually owned by Lou Grogan’s brother-in-law… who I think is probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. He did a pretty great job of having this place restored… an extant former train station in this condition is always a great find, and an even better place to take photos. :D

I’m going to go back to sleep now. Maybe that will make the room stop spinning.

 
  
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Harlem River Bridge Fire, Metro-North Suspends Service into GCT

The twitterverse is abuzz with news and photos of the fire that has suspended all Metro-North trains into and out of Grand Central Terminal. The fire is a trending topic in the New York area, and folks in the city, including the NY Fire Department, are posting pictures.

Metro-North’s statement below was sent to everyone that is subscribed to their alerts service.

Service is temporarily suspended in and out of GCT due to a fire in the vicinity of 138th Street Bridge.

As of 1:20 PM Metro North has issued the following statement regarding alternate methods of transportation:

Service remains temporarily suspended into and out of Grand Central due to a fire in the vicinity of the E. 138th Street Bridge.

Outbound customers departing Grand Central are advised to take New York City Transit’s 4 or D train to E. 161 Street where they can transfer to a Harlem, Hudson or New Haven Line train at Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station.

Inbound customers traveling to Grand Central are advised to do the following:

Hudson Line–Take a Hudson Line train to Yankees-E. 153rd Street Station and transfer to the 4 or D subway line.

Harlem and New Haven Lines–Take a train to Woodlawn Station for the 2 or 5 subway line.

During this incident, New York City Transit is honoring cross fares.

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