Admit it, readers – somewhere in the back of your head you were wondering when I’d get around to showing you more railroad-themed postcards. My postcard collecting addiction has been well documented, and roughly every other month I do a new post full of my newly acquired cards. Today’s lineup includes Amenia, one of the abandoned Upper Harlem stations, and Towners, another abandoned station. There are also a few cards of station buildings still around today, like Katonah, Bedford Hills, and Scarsdale.
Again, I must sincerely thank Steve Swirsky for his wonderful contributions to our extensive collection of postcards. The Dover Plains, Towners, and White Plains cards are all from his collection.
I’ve spent many months posting various panoramas of the Harlem Line stations. I’m now excited to be able to post the entire Harlem Line, viewed in panoramas. You can watch as the farmland and rural greenery morphs into the suburbs, before changing into the concrete jungle of New York City. If you want to see more photos from each of the stations, just click on the picture. Anybody have a favorite panorama? I think my two favorites are Tenmile River and Harlem-125th Street – the two of them are polar opposites in terms of the scenery visible while taking a ride down New York City’s oldest railroad.
For those who like maps, I place all of my panoramas on a Google map, which you can see below. I also add photos to Panoramio, which provides the photos for Google Earth.
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Several months ago I wrote about some of the names of the towns located along the Harlem Line, and how they have evolved over the years. Many of the names were taken from the families that owned the land, or perhaps donated it for the railroad to use, and the name had a possessive. For example, Brewster was known as Brewster’s after former land owners James and Walter Brewster. “Golden’s Bridge” was always a particular enigma, as the majority of use has evolved beyond the apostrophe (town signage does not use it, and the railroad stopped using it in 2003 on public timetables), yet the area’s fire department still uses the apostrophe, as does Google maps. There, however, is one remaining station that still bears the apostrophe of yesteryear, and that station is Purdy’s.
According to Louis Grogan’s book, The Coming of the New York & Harlem Railroad, the name Purdy’s comes from landowner Daniel Pardieus. How exactly the name evolved into Purdy’s is not certain – yet the same scenario exists for Goldens Bridge (the namesake in question may have been named Golding, Goulding, or even Colden). I wasn’t able to determine whether the area was called that prior to the railroad – and it might be yet another example where a hamlet/village takes its name from the station (Brewster is a good example of this. Brewster is part of the town of Southeast – though more people are familiar with the former than the latter. This played a part in the renaming of Brewster North, a railroad invented name, to Southeast, the actual town’s name). The land for the station was donated to the railroad by Isaac, grandson of Daniel, in 1844. It certainly isn’t the most noteworthy of stations, but on a rather cloudy day I took a visit and snapped a few photos.
As none of those photos were incredibly brilliant, I felt I would be cheating if I didn’t at least give you all a bonus to look at. And so, here is one of the former Harlem Line stations: Copake Falls. This former station is located in the town of Copake, in Columbia County, and approximately 22 miles north of the current end of track in Wassaic. To one side of the former station is the Taconic State Park, and to the other side is a portion of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. For the past twenty-eight years it has housed the Depot Deli. Interestingly, the owner told me that when he purchased the land the deed included a clause specifying that if passenger service was ever restored on the line he would provide a space for waiting travelers. Considering that the last passenger train ran through in 1972, and the tracks were removed in the 80’s, it is doubtful that would ever happen.
Some of the very first things that were added when I created the Historical Archives were maps I found thanks to the Library of Congress. It was interesting to see the network of railroads in the country grow in size exponentially through the 1800’s, and then later in the mid 1900’s crash and quite a few disappeared. There was one map, however, that caught my attention.
That map lists a station along the Harlem Line: Golding’s Bridge. Was it a typo? In the back of my mind I had always wondered about the apostrophe thing. Is Goldens Bridge written properly with an apostrophe, or without? And now, a new question. What is Golding’s Bridge? For whom was the town named, and does the bridge still exist? Why are other stations on this map, or other maps also listed with apostrophes? Brewster’s, Pawling’s? The map also lists quite a few stations that have different names today, such as Hart’s Corners, Whitlockville, and Bains.
In my endeavor to find the answer to at least the apostrophe question, I consulted with the town historian of Lewisboro, of which Goldens Bridge is a part of. She unfortunately told me that she could only “add to the confusion.”
I’m not exactly sure where the original bridge that gave your hamlet its name first stood, but it spanned the Croton River, which is now under the reservoir. The bridge may have belonged to a gentleman called Golding, Goulding, or Colden. I have heard all of these names. That bridge had to have been an important crossing to get to what is now Somers, and points west. It most certainly dates to the Revolution or before.
In 2003, Metro North dropped the apostrophe from the name of the station. Almost all official timetables and signage refer to the station as Goldens Bridge. However, old signage with the apostrophe does still exist. The station listing on M-7 trains still has the apostrophe. Most official town signage also does not have the apostrophe. However the Fire Department for the town still uses it. Google maps still uses it. It is a name still in transition.
Many towns and names along the Harlem Line went through similar transitions. Spellings were changed, apostrophes were dropped. Brewster’s and Pawling’s are both evidence of that. Some names changed completely. So let’s take a little tour through the area and see how some of these names came to be, shall we?
Bronx – Named for Jonas Bronck, who purchased the land in 1639. Originally known as The Bronck’s, in reference to the family, at some point over time the spelling evolved into the current form. Mott Haven – Named for Jordan Mott, who had an ironworks that opened in 1828. He purchased the land from the Morris family. Morrisania – Named for the Morris family. Lewis Morris was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Gouverneur Morris was also a prominent member of that family. Woodlawn – Originally two words, but was condensed into one by 1870. Mount Vernon – Named for George Washington’s home. Original name was Hunt’s Bridge. Fleetwood – Named for the ancestral home of John Stevens. Scarsdale – Named for the ancestral home of Caleb Heathcote. Hartsdale – Named after Eleazar Hart, who donated the land. Was previously known as Hart’s Corners. Bedford Hills – Originally named only Bedford, the Hills was added to the name in 1910. Katonah – Had several previous names, first was Mechanicsville. Later changed to Whitlockville in 1830, for the Whitlock family. Later renamed Katonah from the native word Ketatonah, which translates to Great Mountain. Purdys – Named for Daniel Pardieus, his grandson Isaac donated the land to the railroad in 1844. Brewster – Named for brothers James and Walter Brewster, and at the time was known as Brewster’s. Dykemans – Named for Joseph Dykeman. Patterson – Named for Matthew Paterson, older maps list the name with only one ‘t’ Pawling – Named for the Paulding (possibly Pauling) family. Wingdale – Named for the Wing family. Jackson Wing operated an Inn which opened in 1806. Previous names include Wing’s Station, and South Dover. Harlem Valley – Wingdale – Harlem Valley comes from the name of the railroad (New York & Harlem). Used to be two stops, State Hospital (actual name of the hospital was Harlem Valley State Hospital) and Wingdale (mentioned above). Wingdale station was eliminated, and later Metro-North combined the two and the name. Millerton – named for Sydney G. Miller, who was an engineer and contractor for the construction between Dover Plains and Chatham. Craryville – Named for Peter Crary. Station was previously known as Bains, or Bains Corners for hotel owner Peter Bain. Martindale – Named for John Martin. Philmont – Previous name was Phillips Mountain, but was later condensed into Philmont. Named for George Phillips, who built a dam and a mill in the area. Chatham – Named for Lord Pitts, Earl of Chatham, England.
That list does not mention every station on the current Harlem Line, or the rail line in the past. I am specifically mentioning stations that were named after people, or had a name change of some sort. Apostrophes in names often originated because the land was named after, or originally belonged, to a specific family or person.
Obviously if you’ve ever been on the Harlem Line you know that the tracks run alongside various bodies of water. An astute observer can see the Kensico Dam in Valhalla… And around the stations of Purdy’s through Katonah if you look out you will notice the Muscoot Reservoir. Over the summer I purchased a small row boat in order to go out on the reservoir. The DEP is actually rather strict what varieties of boat can go out, and where the boats must be kept.
My boat was assigned a spot up in Purdy’s, and it is named the Brazilian Nut. Train conductor Guy actually came up with the name, because the best I could come up with was Horizon, and I didn’t really like that much. Anyways, one afternoon I decided to row down to where I live in Goldens Bridge, which is about two and a half miles. The water runs parallel to the train tracks, so I watched all the trains go by. I also saw a rather large machine go by on the tracks, I think to clean the tracks. While I was rowing, closer to Goldens Bridge I saw some man near a tunnel, and the next time I looked, he had disappeared. A few weeks ago I decided to take my boat and investigate.
I found a random little tunnel, accessible only by boat, where you can sort of hide out, right under the railroad tracks. Honest to god though, I’d be really freaked out if I was under there when the diesel train going up to Wassaic went by. Hell, I was freaked out when there weren’t any trains going by, there were lots of spiders hanging out under there too. Here are a few pictures I took while investigating the tunnel.
Sadly, the days are too short for me to take the boat out after work, and most weekends I am busy, so I have retired it for the season. Next summer if you pass by Goldens Bridge and you see a little green rowboat out on the water, it may be me, sitting out and watching the trains go by.
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.