A look at the Grand Central centennial postmark

Sending a message to the postmaster
Sending a message to the postmaster

Remember how I mentioned the little debacle that was the stamp event at the Grand Central Centennial? Apparently someone was smarter than I was… Joe just wrote a message to the postmaster asking for the Grand Central postmark on a postcard from the Transit Museum. It might not be a Grand Central stamp (which at $19.95 is a steep price for just a stamp) but it is pretty darn cool. The only thing I want to know is why didn’t I think of this!

Stamped postcard

Be sure to check out Joe’s blog for more funky postmarks and a bunch of railroad photos!

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Cold Spring


Postcards and tickets from Cold Spring


Views of the tracks and the Hudson Highlands near Cold Spring.

While beautiful views can be found along the entire Hudson Line, there’s something about the upper, un-electrified portion of the line that I find especially attractive. Nestled amongst the Hudson Highlands, many of the stations we’ve featured, like Breakneck Ridge and Manitou, offer hikes with wonderful views of both the mountains and the river. Today’s Tuesday Tour takes us to Cold Spring, just less than 53 miles from Grand Central. Unlike the aforementioned stations, Cold Spring is unique in that it offers both a charming downtown area with shops and restaurants, as well as hikes with beautiful views. The trail to hike up Mount Taurus (visible in one of the postcards above) is less than a mile walk from the train station. And if you’re not into the whole hiking thing, you could probably spend the day at the various Main Street shops, or the local Putnam History Museum. In other words, if you’re looking for a cool place accessible by Metro-North, Cold Spring would certainly be a nice pick.


Civil war era station at Cold Spring, and the brick station it was replaced with in 1884.

As one would expect from such a charming downtown area, the original Cold Spring station still stands, though it is not in use for any railroad purposes. Instead the station is home to the aptly named Cold Spring Depot restaurant. Built in 1884, the historic brick station replaced an earlier wooden one built at that site. The station used by Metro-North is south of the historic station and village area, though the two are connected via pathways.


Some interesting shots near Cold Spring… When we featured Garrison, I failed to mention that both that station and the tracks around Cold Spring were used in the filming of the movie Hello Dolly.

   

A little non-Metro-North action near Cold Spring. First three photos by Mike Foley, fourth by Chris Southwell.

If you happen to make the journey all the way up to Cold Spring, the Metro-North station probably is the least interesting thing you’ll see along the way. Typical of many Hudson Line stations, Cold Spring is composed of two side platforms, connected by an overpass. As previously mentioned, each platform is connected via a pathway to the old station and village area. Besides the usual ticket vending machines, blue trash bins, and wire benches found at most Metro-North stations, there isn’t much else noteworthy here at Cold Spring. It is, however, the gateway to a pretty interesting place, certainly worth visiting, and under an hour and a half from Manhattan.

 
   
  
 
   
 
  
 
   
  

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Grand Central Theatre, and the other sky ceiling


The famous sky ceiling…

Grand Central Terminal’s sky ceiling is world-famous. Even if you’ve never been to the Terminal, you may have at least seen pictures of the gorgeous main concourse. Far fewer people, however, are familiar with the other (albeit much smaller) cerulean and gold sky ceiling also found in Grand Central. Once part of the lobby of the Grand Central Theatre, this other sky painting can be found above the registers in the Grande Harvest Wines shop, next to track 17.

 

The lesser-known sky ceiling

The theatre itself is also not often mentioned, though it was a part of the Terminal from 1937, and lasted about three decades. The 242-seat theatre had an early version of what would now be called stadium-style seating, produced by the Irwin Seating Company (which is still making stadium seating to this day!), and standing room in the back.

Different from the movie theatres we are accustomed to today, the Grand Central Theatre was a newsreel theatre – it played various short bits of news, documentaries, and even cartoons. A theatre of this type was perfect for the Terminal in its day – people waiting for their long distance trains could spend the extra moments until their train in the theatre. All the shorts were played continuously, so you could duck in and out whenever your train schedule required. Above the screen an illuminated clock displayed the time for those people on a schedule.

Advertised as the “most intimate theatre in America” the theatre regularly played every day til midnight. Also included with the theatre was a lounge designed by Tony Sarg. Whether you know his name or not, most New Yorkers – or for that matter Americans – know Sarg for his creations. He designed the first balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, including Felix the Cat, which was introduced in 1927.

 

Grand Central Theatre postcards, from the collection of Steve Swirsky.

For me, the Grand Central Theatre epitomizes the changes that Grand Central has gone through over its 100 years. While the Terminal’s outside has remained for the most part the same, the inside has always morphed to keep pace with society, and what was needed at the time. When prim and proper ladies and gentlemen used Grand Central, there were private waiting rooms staffed by maids where one could change into their best before stepping out to high-society parties. As World Wars I and II were being fought, and soldiers were moving through the station every day, the Terminal hosted a Red Cross kiosk, and one of the balconies was converted into a Service Men’s lounge. And when fancy long-distance trains like the 20th Century Limited were all the rage, you could wait the time until your train departed by watching the newsreels in Grand Central Theatre.

Today, with its mass of commuters, Grand Central boasts the conveniences associated with that demographic. You can buy a book to read, some flowers for someone special, a cheesecake to go, or even a beer for the train ride home. I don’t think that Grand Central Theatre would really work today – and I don’t think that Grand Central Market would have worked in the past. While some of our monuments have fallen into disuse and are merely tourist attractions, Grand Central is not just a historical monument – it has remained a relevant part of our lives, partially because of these minor changes. But Grand Central Terminal’s fundamental purpose has not changed – it is still a wonderful example of a train terminal – and definitive proof that a historical building can still be functional and pertinent one hundred years later.

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Hastings-on-Hudson


Various artifacts from Hastings-on-Hudson station, including New York Central and Penn Central tickets. The Monthly Commutation ticket is from the collection of the Hastings Historical Society, and belonged to a young woman named Josephine Selvaggio.

Nestled in between the stations of Greystone and Dobbs Ferry, and just over 19 miles from Grand Central, lies the station of Hastings-on-Hudson. The railroad has been a main feature of Hastings since the 1840’s, and along with it came various factories and industry. In 1840 a sugar refinery was established just south of where the train station is. A fire destroyed the building in 1875, and many of the other riverfront factories also burned. While the refinery was not rebuilt, other factories moved in to occupy the desirable space, adjacent to both the railroad and the riverfront.

Over the years a chemical company, a cable and wire company, a pavement company, and even a brass manufacturer have all called Hastings home. Unfortunately some of this industry has left parts of the area contaminated. Though there are certainly spots close to the train station where one can admire the view of the Hudson River and the Palisades, it is impossible to not notice the marks of Hastings’ industrial history.


Industry in Hastings – A postcard from the Hudson River Steam Sugar Refinery, and a brochure from the Anaconda Wire and Cable Company. The railroad, which ran right alongside these factories, is visible in both. These two artifacts come from the Historical Treasures of Westchester County website.


A 1926 photo of the riverfront area in Hastings-on-Hudson. Located beside the railroad tracks and the Hudson River, the area was quite industrialized. Visible in the photo are the Zinsser Chemical Company (far left), the American Brass Company (far right) and the Hastings Pavement Company (center). The roof of the train station is visible in the bottom right. Photograph by Arthur Langmuir, from the collection of the Hastings Historical Society.


The first train station in Hastings, circa 1900. This station was demolished in 1910 to make room for a new station. Photo from the collection of the Hastings Historical Society.

The current Hastings-on-Hudson station, operated by Metro-North, consists of two side platforms straddling four tracks. The platforms are connected by an overpass, which includes a few ticket machines inside. The old railroad depot, constructed circa 1910, still stands and overlooks the platforms. The building’s manned ticket window is long gone, but the space is now occupied by the Hastings Station Cafe. Beyond that, there isn’t much that is particularly noteworthy here. Just another Hudson Line station, complete with a nice view, and a little bit of history.

 
 
  
 
   
  
 
   
  
 
  
   
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Ossining


Artifacts from Ossining: Postcard, a 1984 ticket stamped at Ossining, and an 1851 Hudson River Railroad timetable that lists the station as “Sing Sing.”

Welcome to Ossining – probably one of the most widely known locales on the Hudson Line. Unfortunately, it is one of the most well known for a particular landmark located here:


Everybody knows Sing Sing – Late 1800’s stereoview of the railroad tracks running through the prison.

Yes, Ossining is the home of Sing Sing prison, or as it is known now, the Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Dating back to the early 1800’s, the prison has been a longtime feature on the Hudson River, as well as along the railroad. The Hudson River Railroad tracks bisected the prison, and the tracks still pass through there today.


Photo of the railroad tracks going through Sing Sing Prison, circa 1920.

Even those that are not entirely familiar with Sing Sing have probably heard the phrase “sent up the river,” meaning sending someone to prison. Sing Sing is the origin of that phrase – as it is located right up the river from New York City. Interestingly enough, some prisoners weren’t quite sent up the river – they were sent up the railroad tracks. Since the prison was conveniently located right on the railroad, some prisoners were actually transported from the city via train.


Their nice attire belies their destination – the four seated men on the right are being “sent up the river” by train, circa 1932. Those four were set to die in Sing Sing’s electric chair for killing a police officer. In 1933 the men were granted a new trial, and I can’t find any record of them actually being executed. Assumedly prisoners were not carried on the same train/in the same car as normal passengers.

Ossining’s railroad station is located just north of the prison complex, and is about 30 miles from Grand Central. The station currently on site was built in 1914 in the Renaissance Revival style, replacing the original that was built in 1851. While the original station was at grade, the new station was built above the tracks. Main Street was also modified so it too would cross above the tracks, eliminating the grade crossing.

Just east of the station is the Hudson River, from which a ferry to Haverstraw operates.


The original station at Ossining, circa 1912. Photo from the Ossining Historical Society.

   

Various views of Ossining. Photos from the Ossining Historical Society.

Like many stations along the Hudson Line, Ossining has recently been fixed up by Metro-North. Some of the work at the station included seven brand new staircases, and four new elevators. Unfortunately during my visit (Ossining was actually the first station I photographed on the Hudson Line!) the station building was closed. The ticket windows are no longer manned, and Metro-North is looking for a tenant to occupy the space in the old station.


More postcards from Sing Sing, and Ossining station.

Before I wrap this up, one last detail to note about Ossining is that it also has some art. In 2010 a faceted-glass piece by abstract expressionist artist Robert Goodnough was installed through the Arts for Transit program. The piece, titled K—M—G, was originally created as a paper collage, and then translated into the finished glass. The work is comprised of 16 windows, all located in the station’s north overpass. All in all, it makes an attractive addition to a nice Hudson Line station.

  
  
   
  
 
  
 
  
   
  
 
 
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Tarrytown


Tarrytown postcard, monthly ticket from 1896, and a Hudson Division timetable from 1967

As we continue our travels along the Hudson Line, our next stop is Tarrytown station, about 25 miles north of Grand Central Terminal. Today’s tour is chock full of photos and information – certainly befitting one of the line’s busiest stations. Tarrytown is second only to Croton-Harmon in terms of ridership on the Hudson Line. It boasts an 1890 station building, which has been recently restored, and one of Arts for Transit’s newest works. Undoubtedly, Tarrytown is one of the more interesting spots on the Hudson Line, and certainly worth checking out if you’re ever in the area.


Postcard views of Tarrytown station

On our Hudson Line travels, you may have noticed that there are three stations on the line that match with very well with each other, but don’t quite match with the rest. Although beautiful, the stone stations at Tarrytown, Dobbs Ferry, and Irvington look a lot more like Boston & Albany stations than they do New York Central stations. This would be an apt observation, as each of those stations were designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge – the same architects that designed over 20 Boston & Albany stations (including one of my favorites, Chatham). Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge designed a total of five stations for the Hudson Division in 1898 and 1890 – Riverdale, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, New Hamburg, and Tarrytown. New Hamburg’s station was never actually built. Of the four that were built, Tarrytown’s station was the most expensive, at a cost of $34,492 (which, adjusted for inflation, would be around $826,126 today).


Early 1900’s view of Tarrytown station.

Many stations along the Hudson Line have gotten recent repairs, but the efforts that Metro-North went through to fix up Tarrytown went above and beyond. The $45 million dollar effort not only restored the historic station depot, but built new platforms, overpasses, stairways and shelters. Although all of those things are nice, I think it is the station building that people will notice first – especially since it contains one of the few remaining manned ticket windows. The building’s restoration included a new slate roof and gutters – but it is Metro-North’s attention to history that makes me give them major bonus points on this project. At some point over the years, the three dormer windows in the roof of the building had been lost. In a nod to history, the roof was restored to what it looked like when first built – and those restored windows definitely look nice!


Tarrytown station in 1970.

Admittedly, one of my favorite parts of the station isn’t the historical – it is one of the new additions to Tarrytown. Holly Sears created some lovely art for the station through the Arts for Transit program. The piece, titled Hudson River Explorers, consists of 11 windows made of laminated glass. Each window features various animals above and below the water, some native to our area, and others that are a bit more exotic. Although all the animals look quite realistic, the scenarios and scale in which they’ve been placed are closer to fantasy. Polar bears swim with elephants and a house cat in one panel, and in another a bobcat stands next to an equally-sized butterfly. Many of the combinations, like a seahorse and a full-sized galloping horse, seem quite playful, and are a cheerful addition to the often humdrum travels of a regular commuter.


Two of the original paintings by Sears. Bright background colors were later added for the finished piece, which is made of laminated glass and was installed in the two station overpasses.

I’m always appreciative when an Arts for Transit artist includes more information about the work on their website, and Sears has done a good job with that. Seeing the process of the art – in this case from a painting into beautiful laminated glass – is always enjoyable. Sears’ site is worth checking out, as she features each of her original 11 paintings for this piece. These paintings are also on exhibit at the Hudson River Museum until October 13th.

  
 
  
   
  
 
  

That is about it in terms of information on Tarrytown station. Below you’ll find the photographs I took while wandering around – including a few as the construction was wrapping up. There is going to be a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new station on September 27 at 2:45, which should be interesting. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it to the event to get any further photos!

  
 
  
 
 
  
 
   
 
  
 
  
 
  

*Special thanks to Terri Evans at Shepley Bulfinch for pulling some documents from the Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge archives for this post!

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Dobbs Ferry


A postcard of Dobbs Ferry station, and a portion of a Hudson River Railroad timetable from 1851, listing Dobbs Ferry station

Welcome to Dobbs Ferry, one of the lovely Hudson Line stations with a great view of the mighty Hudson River. On the fourth of July, I spent the day exploring the Hudson Line, but ended up spending most of my time here. The waterfront view is quite lovely, and adjacent to the station is the aptly named Waterfront Park – reason enough for you to come and visit this place. Though the station used by Metro-North particularly noteworthy (besides the nice Arts for Transit piece), the old station building still stands and is a lovely piece of railroad architecture. Though I didn’t get to see the inside, the station has two floors, the first of which has a waiting room, ticket window, bathrooms and a boiler room. It was designed by architects Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge in 1889. Last year the town was looking for proposals for businesses interested in leasing the station, but apparently all of those proposals were later rejected.


A 1914 map of Dobbs Ferry, depicting both the railroad and the river. Note the railroad sidings that are no longer present today.


Early 1900’s view of Dobbs Ferry station

Dobbs Ferry itself was named, as one would expect, after a ferry crossing over the Hudson River. Members of the Dobbs family arrived around the 1700’s, and operated their ferry until 1759. Other area ferries operated until the early 1900’s. It was this ferry that made the area an attractive place for an encampment of General Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War.


Dobbs Ferry station in 1974

The current station at Dobbs Ferry, operated by Metro-North, is about 20 miles from Grand Central Terminal. The average train time to Grand Central Terminal is around 45 minutes. As previously mentioned, the station isn’t particularly noteworthy, but it did have a bit of a makeover in the mid-2000’s. The work at the station, part of the Hudson Line Stations Improvement Project, was completed in 2008. It included updates to the platform, overpass, and a new platform canopy. An elevator was also installed in the updated overpass, making the station ADA compliant. While this was all going on, some attractive art was also added to the station platform, as part of the Arts for Transit program.

 
  
 
 
   
 

Floating Auriculas, the lovely mosaic found at Dobbs Ferry, is probably the nicest thing you’ll find on the platform. Behind this piece is artist Nancy Blum, who has created public art for venues across the country. My love for the transit system in Minneapolis has been well documented on this site, and I was surprised to note that not only is Blum working on the art for three stations on the new Central Corridor line, she also did the art on my favorite, East Bank station. Blum has done public art in various media, but for the most part the underlying theme is nature and the natural world, and the piece at Dobbs Ferry certainly fits that theme. Blum’s lovely auricula flowers, about eight feet in diameter, adorn the side of the northbound platform, rendered in mosaic form using Italian glass and marble tile.

Thanks to Blum’s website, we get a lovely view of the progression of an Arts for Transit piece – from an original painting, all the way to the finished mosaic on the station platform. The first four photos above are from the artist’s site, the remainder (above and below) are mine.


Yes, Metro-North has plenty of awesome conductors!

  
 
  
   
 
  
   
  
   
 
  
 
 

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Postcards of the Penn Central

I’m not exactly sure who the Penn Central had do their design work back in the late 60’s, but whoever it was, they were probably pretty free-spirited. None of the New York Central’s Harlem Division timetables were really out of the ordinary… but after the merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form the Penn Central, things took an interesting turn. In the first year of the merger – 1968 – several funky timetables were churned out… but by the new year, they were pretty much forgotten. Just a small blip in railroad history.


1968 was apparently a very good year… You can, of course, see more old Harlem timetables in SmartCat.

While the really old 1800’s timetables, complete with gorgeous etchings, will always be my favorite, these 1968 Penn Central timetables are my favorite from the modern-day. Thanks to eBay, I did discover that this funky art was not reserved solely for timetables. The Penn Central released a few postcards advertising the Metroliner, which I can only say are in a similar style. Who thought that purple tint would be a good idea? Is this what people did before Instagram?




The Fast One, baby!

Captions on the cards read as follows:

The Metroliners speed you midtown New York to midtown Washington in less than 3 hours. The Express gets you there even faster. And all the speed, comfort and luxury are yours in any kind of weather.

You enjoy a swift trip – in comfort and luxury. You leave and arrive midtown; even more time saved. Use the direct-dial telephones aboard to keep in touch with your home or office.

Delicious food and drinks are yours to enjoy on the Metroliners. In the coaches eat at the Snack Bar or take your selection to your seat. In the Metroclub Cars, an attendant unobtrusively serves you at your seat.

Okay, okay, I give in. The last postcard is pretty awesome. Despite the top two being pretty horrible, I figured the set was certainly share-worthy!

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Irvington


The namesake of Irvington – author Washington Irving. Also named Irvington – the first coal burner on the Hudson River Railroad.

Over the past three years, I’ve visited almost every Metro-North station in order to bring you these Tuesday Tours. While seeing stations is nice, sometimes the interesting part is exploring the towns in which these stations lie. Whenever possible, I try to take the train for my explorations, which often times leaves me extra time to explore while waiting for the next train. I try to scout out stations on Google Maps before heading out, just to see what is around and looks interesting. Places like Scarborough, Dobbs Ferry, and Irvington, with their waterfront parks, all looked like promising places to visit. Of all of the Hudson Line stops I’ve been to, I probably spent the most time in Irvington – wandering around the shops, lunching at one of the many restaurants, chatting with some of the residents, and even going to get my hair cut. Though the station itself isn’t too particularly interesting, the town is quite charming, and certainly worth the visit.


Postcards of Irvington station, from the collection of Steve Swirsky.

Irvington station is located approximately 22 miles from Grand Central, with Tarrytown station to the north and Ardsley-on-Hudson to the south. There are two side platforms, with four tracks running in between. The two platforms are not directly across from one another, but there is a tunnel under the tracks that does connect them both. The old station depot, built in 1889 and designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge is still present, but not in use by the railroad. Despite all the time I spent in Irvington, I never managed to get a decent photograph of the station, as the front of it is apparently an appealing location for cars to park.

I don’t really have too much more to say Irvington station, but while we’re on the subject, has anyone out there tried any of the restaurants surrounding the station? It seems that food alone might be a good version to head to Irvington. I grabbed some takeout from Haru Hana, which was pretty good. Chutney Masala, which is right across from the station in the waterfront side, smelled delicious. I heard that Red Hat also has tasty lobster – though you better be careful what you do with that lobster. It wouldn’t be good if you dropped it on the tracks. What a waste of a good lobster!

 
  
 
   
  
   
 
  
 
   
 
  
   
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: New Hamburg


Postcard view of the original station at New Hamburg. [image credit]

Today our Tuesday Tour takes us to the northern portion of Metro-North’s Hudson Line, as we visit New Hamburg. The station is about 65 miles from Grand Central in the un-electrified territory north of Croton-Harmon, and sandwiched in between Beacon station and Metro-North’s terminus at Poughkeepsie. The railroad bisects the hamlet of New Hamburg, notable mostly for its marina on the Hudson.

Along the railroad, however, New Hamburg was likely notable for its tunnel. As I mentioned in my introduction to the Hudson Line, eight tunnels needed to be constructed to accommodate the tracks in the 1840’s, one of which was in New Hamburg. Although the tunnel is no longer used by the railroad, it still exists, though for the most part it is covered by brush. Railroad service both north and south had already been established before the tunnel was completed, so for a short time passengers heading through New Hamburg had to detour the unfinished tunnel by boat.

 
New Hamburg has seen its share of train crashes – one New York Times reporter, apparently fond of alliteration, described an 1871 crash as a “Human Holocaust on the Hudson”. The above image shows a crash in 1899.

Despite being around since the Hudson River Railroad days, the station at New Hamburg was closed sometime after 1962 (yes, the station had again made the newspaper that year for another crash – this time four children walking on the tracks were hit and killed by a New York Central Beeliner). Though most stations that are closed end up shuttered permanently, this one has a little bit happier of an ending. New Hamburg station reopened in 1981, and was serviced by new Seldom Self-Propelled Vehicles operated by Conrail. Thankfully, those cars are just a memory, and today Metro-North offers some more reliable service from New Hamburg.

  
 
  
  
 
  
 
   

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