George Henry Daniels, The Advertising “Prophet” of the New York Central

These days, it seems like social media “experts” are a dime a dozen. Tasked with promoting a service or a brand in the “social” world where sites like Facebook and Twitter reign, the social media guru uses a varied bag of tricks to get people to look their way. Though the medium has certainly changed, and the communication is now instantaneous, creative promoters are hardly a new invention. And although the term “going viral” was only recently coined, one could argue that promoters of yesterday experienced a similar phenomenon. Today’s post is about a talented man who was employed by the New York Central at the turn of the 20th century. Described by fellow advertisers as the railroad’s “prophet,” George H. Daniels was endlessly creative in attracting attention to one of the world’s greatest railroads. He was a writer, editor, travel agent, promoter, negotiator, and showman all wrapped into one package, but he went by the title of General Passenger Agent.

Much of Daniels’ promoting came down to a persistent tagline – “Send a stamp to George H. Daniels.” Any soul that would send off a letter to the man in Grand Central, and enclosing a two-cent stamp – of any country, in fact – would be returned travel-related literature pertaining to their specific interests. Perhaps a businessman would get a map of global trade lines, undoubtedly featuring the fine rails of the New York Central and its connections stretching across the United States. A science-minded fellow would find descriptions and diagrams of mighty steam locomotives in use by the railroad, or the newest technology found in use on the road. And a sportsman might find a guide to fishing in upstate New York, complete with photos of the varied fish found within each body of water. Daniels and his team created a litany of brochures for just about any interest, railroad or not. For the more philosophical, there was the reprint of Elbert Hubbard’s “A Message to Garcia” – of no relation to the railroad, yet complete with a map of the line as a reference point. Certainly one of his most prolific publications, it can only be argued that after being printed by the railroad the story went “viral” – and Daniels promised to print as many copies of it as were desired, even if it took a century to do so. The story was subsequently made into two different motion pictures, sold over 40 million copies, and was translated into 37 languages, largely due to Daniels’ influence.

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Winter at the Strasburg Railroad

I swear to you all, I really hate winter. And the cold. Sure, we may have checked out the Harlem Line and the Hudson Line in the snow, but I’d so much rather be somewhere warm… Instead of being at some tropical location this past weekend, you would have found me at the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania. Despite being assured that it “never snows” for these winter photo specials, Saturday’s weather brought more snow in addition to the already deep snow blanketing the ground. The majority of the day was grey, with the sun only appearing for approximately three seconds at the very end of the journey.

Although the day was very monochromatic, the black and white views of the railroad – with the occasional splash of color – turned out alright. Amtrak made a very quick appearance, as did a fluffy farm dog, quite puzzled by the crowd of photographers wading in knee-deep snow just outside her backyard. Anyway, here is what the Strasburg Railroad looks like in the snow…

 
  
   
  
 
  
 
   
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
   
 
  

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: New Rochelle

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.

 
  
 
   
 
   
 
  
 
  
   
 
  
   

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Goldens Bridge

Of all the places I’ve been on this little tour of the Harlem Line, it is funny that I have not yet featured the one station I spend the majority of my time at. As of the first of this month, I have been living in and commuting from Goldens Bridge for two years (I’ve been commuting regularly on the Harlem Line slightly longer, though from Brewster station). Besides some of my crazy neighbors, it is a fairly nice area, albeit a little quiet.


Goldens Bridge station in the 1920’s

Over the years that the railroad has been servicing the area, much has changed in Goldens Bridge, and it was probably not as quiet as it now feels. In the early 1900’s the Muscoot Reservoir was created, flooding areas in the town that people had formerly lived. Some of these people had their entire houses moved to other locations. The construction of Interstate 684 in the late 1960’s also changed the landscape of the hamlet significantly, and the two dangerous grade crossings that were in the town have been removed. The station building that was in Goldens Bridge was on the east side of the track, roughly located where the southbound entrance to the Interstate now is.


A train at Goldens Bridge

The busy station of yesteryear is a stark contrast to what the station is now. It was from Goldens Bridge that the Mahopac branch diverged from the main line, a once-popular service which was discontinued in 1959. The station had a turntable as well as a water tower -northbound steam trains would take on water here and be set until they reached Millerton. By 1902 the New York Central had two tracks all the way up to Goldens Bridge until 1909 when the line was two-tracked up to Brewster.

For all the changes the area has gone through over the years, it does slightly amuse me that the current station is sandwiched between the concrete and asphalt of the highway on the east side, and a little bit of wilderness surrounding the reservoir to the west (if you’re interested about visiting that little bit of wilderness, I’ve posted about it before). But it is that Interstate that brings many people to the station, the parking lot is always filled with commuters from New York and Connecticut… and plenty of folks for me to people-watch…

 
  
   
 
  
 
   
 
 
 
 

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Photos from Steamtown’s Railfest

I don’t happen to be in a very chatty mood, so you’ll have to forgive me if I post a few pictures and then run. Saturday I went down to Scranton, Pennsylvania for Steamtown’s Railfest. I hadn’t been to Steamtown before, and I enjoyed it – though the smoke from those engines gives me a headache. The coolest thing about working for a camera company is the access to new and cool cameras, so I figured I’d try one of our newer models while there (as I am thinking of getting a new camera before I go to Africa). I also brought our 3d camera, as one of my goals was to get a great shot of a steam train in 3d, which I managed to do.

Here is a question for everyone though, if I printed extra copies of these 3d prints, would anybody be interested in buying them? They are a bit expensive to print though, around $8 to $10 dollars, as they aren’t done here in the US and have to be imported from Japan. They are all 5×7’s and done with lenticular printing. They do have a neat effect and are rather unique, so if anyone is interested let me know.

Anyways, here are some photos. Enjoy the rest of the week, and have a great weekend!















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Lots of photos from Danbury Railway Day

Saturday’s Danbury Railway Day was a great event, and had perfect weather… hopefully you were all able to make it! I know I saw a few people I knew there :D I spent the day taking far too many pictures (and possibly getting in the way of Eric’s photos), and hanging out at the members picnic that was held afterward (for which I made railroad cupcakes).

I’m a member of both the Danbury museum, and the Transit Museum in the city… and spending a day at the museum in Danbury you get to see how different these two places are. Unlike the Transit Museum, where employees are on the MTA’s payroll, everyone at the museum in Danbury is a volunteer. They don’t have nearly the funds of what the Transit Museum has, but they make up for it with their tenacity and sheer devotion. Some of those volunteers spend their every weekend, if not more, working there – restoring the old trains in the railyard, or even giving talks on Wednesday evenings.

I know I am so bad at processing photos (which is why I still have Japan and Canada photos I haven’t posted yet), and I am so anal about it. It takes me just about forever. But I worked hard Sunday to get all of these ready. Out of the hundreds of photos I took on Saturday, I narrowed it down to around 40 of the best… I did take some video as well, but that will have to be for another day! If you didn’t get the chance to make it to Danbury Railway Day, the museum is still open during normal hours, and is a great place to visit.


















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Conversations With My Neighbor: Fireman for the New York Central

It has been my opinion for quite a while that my house ought to be a reality TV show. Not far from Goldens Bridge train station, we roommates met via Craigslist. We currently have three people in the house, but in the past have had four. And one dog. Her name is Kaylee, and she weighs almost as much as me. Correction, she weighs nearly what I weighed before I got a job that provided me enough money for my junk food and Coca-cola addiction. The fourth roommate, and there have been two, has always been the smelly one – whether it be from not washing, or from smoking a million packs a day. The first two formed a band that frequently makes noise in our basement, which if you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably heard about. They are also dating off and on. If I had a dollar for every time they broke up and she moved out, only for her to move back in not soon after, I’d be rich. They are currently together, but by the time the next train arrives in Goldens Bridge, who knows…

In a strange coincidence during one of those breakups, the two got into a fight outside. He threw a CD at her, but was off the mark and it flew into the neighbor’s yard. And they forgot about it. Several days later the neighbor shows up, CD in hand, returning what they must have “lost”. In the chatter that followed during this encounter, my roommate discovered that the neighbor once worked for the railroad, back when they still used steam on the Harlem Line. When my roommate told me about it, I knew I had to speak to this man. And so, one afternoon while walking the dog, I spotted him outside on the porch and said hello.


The man on the left is my neighbor, John

My neighbor certainly has an intresting viewpoint in regards to the history of the Harlem line. He witnessed the final years of steam on the line, and the trains that replaced them. He was a Fireman, while that position still existed, anyway. He told me he’d put water in the boiler in the engine in Goldens Bridge that would run to Mahopac, and then on break, would walk to his house, have a sandwich and tend to the plants in his garden. It was one of the many jobs he had over the years, including working in Chatham, Dover Plains, Brewster and Goldens Bridge. Occasional winters were spent working on the Maybrook Line in Danbury and Hopewell Junction. Besides seeing the end of steam, he witnessed the transition from the New York Central to Penn Central, Conrail, and Metro North, until finally retiring in 1991.


The above photos of his are of the Empire State Express no. 999, taken in Chatham in 1952

We always thought we’d lose the passengers. We never thought we’d lose the freight…

John motions to his wife, telling me how she hates how he always says this. It is hard for him to understand the state of matters today, shipping everything by truck. Trains were so much more efficient, he says. Watching the news every morning, the traffic reports show cameras of the traffic on every bridge going into the city, with traffic backed up for miles… and plenty of box trucks in wait. He muses about how everything has changed. Everything today is technology based…

“It was boring…” he said of being an engineer today. He turns to look at me with his weathered face, but his light blue eyes are still bright. He tells me that having good eyes was essential for working on the railroad. When starting out he had to undergo various vision tests, to have the vision to see a signal light from a mile away. To see in fog, and to see through your peripheral vision. It baffled him to see people working for Metro North, people that wore glasses. Because now, you didn’t need to see signals outside, everything was in the cab. Having perfect vision isn’t a necessity as it once was. Although hiring a more diverse workforce, in both gender and color, was a new thing, seeing the people wearing glasses seemed like it was harder to get used to for him.

He refers to himself as an “old timer” and says that most of the people he worked with weren’t really interested in his stories. I think he finds it amusing that someone is so interested in them, especially a young female. But that is hardly the first time I’ve heard that before. Some of the things he told me were not stories in their entirety, but quick smatterings of thoughts and memories. Comparing distractions of cell phones today, to people he recalled watching baseball games on portable televisions long ago. People that would throw rocks and bottles at the train, and how he once got a “face full of glass” – an event he didn’t care much to elaborate on. Stories he heard from the “old timers” of his day, of bootleggers during prohibition, and people that smuggled out Canadian ale on the trains. And when I asked about uniforms, he told me of others on cleaner trains that wore suits to work, suits with inner pockets where flasks could be hidden.


More photos from my neighbor’s collection

For 43 years my neighbor worked for the railroad, though he mentioned another family member that had a record, close to 50 years of service to the rail. His daughter and son both work for Metro North, in North White Plains, and over on the Hudson Line. Despite living next door, I don’t see the man much. He spends part of his time at a house upstate, and when he happens to be in Goldens Bridge, he often sits outside, on the porch hidden by bushes. But every time I walk by, mostly on the way to or from the train station, I look over to see if he is hidden behind those plants. Because even though our conversations have been few, they’ve always been most interesting.

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Wakefield

This week Wakefield has the honor of being the first Harlem Line station south of White Plains I’ve featured. Before starting the Harlem Line Panorama Project, I had never ventured to any of these stations. After this weekend though, I’ve been to most of them. On the current schedule of a station a week, the tour will finally be over at the end of January. And once that is over I think I’ll do a full tour guide for whoever might be interested in seeing the Harlem Line as well… I’m planning to include info about good food, history, art (including Arts For Transit works) and nature along the way, and which stations aren’t to be missed. Anyways, back to the tour…

Traveling south, Wakefield is the first Metro-North station in the Bronx, and is the northernmost neighborhood of the city. It borders Westchester county, specifically the city of Mount Vernon. The two are both linked to the first president of the United States: George Washington. Wakefield was the name of the place where he was born, and Mount Vernon the name of the place he died. The two stations of Wakefield and Mount Vernon West are in fact very close – so close that you can see the station from the platform of the other.

At Wakefield you can make a connection to the subway, Wakefield – 241st Street is located six blocks from the station. The platform is rather small, and can only accommodate four cars. Just south of the station the New Haven Line diverges, and from the station you can see the M2s going by on the other side of the tree line. Historically Wakefield had been a place where passengers changed trains. Electric trains served south into the city, and riders going north transferred to steam trains.







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