The New York & Harlem Railroad in the 1860’s – Tryon Row

Early photograph of a New York and Harlem Railroad horsecar. New York & Harlem transfer tokens from the American Numismatic Society.

I’m not sure how many of you frequent twitter, but I think it seems to be a running joke that every day there is some sort of “national holiday” that is trending. I’m not exactly sure how things like “National Fried Chicken Day” (July 6th) or “Walk on Stilts Day” (July 27) get declared, but people on twitter totally love this crap. Manhattan, not wanting to miss out on the action of remarkably stupid “holidays,” even declared a “Justin Bieber Appreciation Day” (June 19). In all seriousness, why don’t we declare national holidays (or at least New York holidays) for stuff that is actually interesting, or even historical? I’d do just fine declaring April 25th “Harlem Railroad Day,” for the day that the New York and Harlem Railroad was chartered in 1831. You know… New York City’s first railroad? It’s kind of a big deal…

New York & Harlem’s railroad station at Tryon Row

View of the neighborhood surrounding Tryon Row. 41 Park Row, which still exists today, is visible in the background – along with several horsecars. On a little bit of a tangent, the ASPCA was formed in 1866, with a primary focus on protecting the rights of horses – many of which pulled the earliest “railcars.”

One of the New York & Harlem’s earliest stations in Manhattan was at Tryon Row, a street that no longer exists. At the time the “trains” were being pulled by horses, and there were short cars – pulled by two horses, and longer cars – pulled by four or more horses. Downtown service used the shorter cars, and Tryon Row served as a point of change for people heading north in the longer cars. The station also housed a place called Pullen’s Express, from where you could send packages or money to be carried over the Harlem. I happened to find a rather interesting artifact recently – an example of the form a customer would fill out to use the service in the 1860’s.

While the front of the form lists the office at Tryon Row, which is pretty cool on its own considering it is a very early Manhattan station, I happen to be a big fan of the back. The back lists all the various places in New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire that one could send money or goods. Many of the named places are Harlem stations, but others happen to be random places that they could connect to – either by a different railroad, or by other means.

I always love looking at old station lists for the Harlem though, as over the years the places and names have changed. Hart’s Corners became Hartsdale, Unionville became Hawthorne, Newcastle became Mount Kisco, Whitlockville became Katonah, South Dover became Wingdale, and Bains became Craryville. Chappaqua is listed as “Chapequa,” a spelling I had never seen before, but appears in various railroad printed material in the 1860’s and 70’s (and by modern-day idiots that can’t spell and have not yet discovered google). Bedford hadn’t yet added Hills, and Brewster and Pawling went by Brewsters and Pawlings.

Anyways, this is the stuff that makes me enjoy my job. Oh wait, did I say job? I may not be good enough to write for Metro-North, but writing about the railroad seems to be some honorary job I’ve picked up along the way. And I suppose it is better than me publicly admitting that I’m married to an inanimate object (like a website)… hmm…

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Hawthorne

Every morning I start out my day taking Metro-North down to White Plains. Now one would probably assume that White Plains is the closest train station to my work, but the fact is that it is not. Mount Pleasant is actually the closest, but as it isn’t a regular stop, the closest train station would be Hawthorne. The place I work for has a shuttle bus that goes to and from White Plains though, so it is easier for me. But there are the occasional times where I end up going to Hawthorne or Valhalla, like when I leave work early and such. So although I am not a regular rider from the station, I am a bit more familiar with it than many of the other stations I’ve visited on the tour. I’ve seen it on the sunny days, and even on the snowy days. I am always curious about the changes going on at the station, such as the coffee shop that is supposed to be arriving at some point in the station building. And I was rather excited when the flowers arrived, along with the new clock in front of the station (which in my photos below had yet to be revealed).

Original Hawthorne station, circa 1900. Note the sign on the front which lists the distance in miles to each end of the railroad, in Chatham on one end and in New York City at the other. A similar sign still exists at Mount Kisco.

When the New York & Harlem Railroad first began making stops here in the 1840’s, the station was named Unionville. If the current name of Hawthorne evokes the memory of an American author, you are certainly on the right track (no pun intended). In 1901 Unionville became Hawthorne, honoring Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, daughter of author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Rose became a nun and was known as Mother Mary Alphonsa, founder of a home for those suffering from incurable cancers.

Below are some of the photos I took in Hawthorne at my last visit (which was sometime around July). The clock had recently arrived, the sky was an amazing shade of blue, and the flowers were blooming. In fact I think one of my favorite photos that day was the one of the flower. Although many of the stations I’ve visited I may never go to again, I’ll be checking up on Hawthorne in the future, as I’m eagerly awaiting the new coffee shop… and I’ll probably have to do a before and after of the little station building.


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Early Harlem Line Timetables, and new timetable catalog

Quite a while ago I started up a minor project, what I called the Historical Archives. My goal was to collect as much old paper history of the Harlem Line and assemble a museum of sorts – timetables, maps, tickets, photos, and news articles – digitize it, and put it online for everyone to view, completely for free. (There are folks in the city that have better collections than I, such as the Transit Museum and the NYPL, but these are kept under lock and key, and you can’t have them unless you shell out the dollars.) Anyways, the more I added to the archives, the clunkier the directory page that listed all the entries got. I wanted to arrange it in a better way – especially the timetables. I’ve been working on just that for the past week or so, putting all the timetables in a special catalog that you can view with a short description and thumbnails. If you see something you like, you can click on it and go to the main entry for that item with a larger image. I think this is much easier.

In honor of the new catalog I thought it would be fun to show some of the earliest timetables that I have in the collection. The first is from 1871, when Cornelius Vanderbilt was still president of what was known as the New York and Harlem Railroad, with his son William Henry as vice president.

Note the first station is 26th Street, the first Grand Central Depot was only opened later in the year. At the time of publication Hartsdale was still known as Hart’s Corners, Hawthorne as Unionville, and Craryville as Bain’s. Bedford did not have the “Hills” added yet, and Purdey’s was the spelling used, as opposed to today’s Purdy’s.

The timetables below are from 1890, 1909 and 1914. The center timetable, from 1909, is important historically because at this time Grand Central Terminal was being constructed, as the older Depot was being demolished. Despite that, train service still needed to go on interrupted, and a temporary platform at Lexington Avenue was used. The timetable makes note of this on the front, directing riders to the temporary terminal.

Name evolution: After the New York and Harlem Railroad was leased to the New York Central, it was listed as the Harlem Division of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. Later the name was shortened to just the New York Central.

The timetables above are from 1922, 1931 and 1940 and list service to Lake Mahopac, a branch of the Harlem that diverged at Golden’s Bridge. Below are timetables from 1958 and 1964. Service on the Mahopac branch was discontinued in 1959, and so the timetable from 1958 is one of the last to list that service.

Not long after that 1964 timetable the New York Central merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form the Penn Central. Although the service was not the best, in my opinion the Penn Central had some of the nicer timetables in the collection. But that is a post for another Friday. Enjoy the day, and the weekend everyone!

As an additional note, I thank the Danbury Railway Museum’s library for giving me access to their collection of timetables to digitize. If anyone out there has some timetables that I don’t have listed, I would love it if you could contact me and send me a scan so I can add it into the catalog.

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