I’m not much of a psychic, but I have a really good feeling that there will be a part 5. But until then, enjoy more old postcards from various locations along the Harlem Line. This time we have Brewster, more of Chatham, the abandoned Upper Harlem station of Craryville, a view of Croton Falls, Dover Plains, and Goldens Bridge, the station at Hartsdale, a winter scene at Hawthorne, a train pulling into Pleasantville, a view of the depot in Tuckahoe, the Borden Condensed Milk factory – located next to the tracks in Wassaic, and the old station in White Plains.
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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Back in November I posted a whole bunch of postcards that I had collected of stations along the Harlem. I had promised a part two, and here it is now… but why stop at just part two? I’ve sort of realized I have quite the boatload of postcards, and I keep acquiring them. One of my rather lofty goals was to be able to collect a postcard for each Harlem railroad station. But I also couldn’t help purchasing alternate designs of the same stations. So although some places I have no postcards for, there are others that I have a bunch. I have far too many of Grand Central, and three or more of stations like Pleasantville, Chappaqua, and Chatham. Needless to say, there will be a part three, and possibly a part four at some time in the future. I do have a request to any of you out there, though. If you happen to have a postcard that I don’t have in my collection here, I would love you so much if you could scan it for me. As much as I’d love to actually have it in my possession, I would love it even more to have it available in my digital gallery!
The last four postcards are a little different. They are not Harlem stations per se, but once upon a time you could board a Harlem Division train that went into Massachusetts, across the Boston & Albany’s tracks. Leaving from Grand Central, the train would make stops at 125th Street, White Plains, Brewster, Pawling and Chatham. After a short pause in Chatham, the train would continue to East Chatham and Canaan, before crossing into Massachusetts and making stops at State Line, Richmond, Pittsfield, Cheshire, Adams and North Adams. Most of those stations are long gone, just like the Upper Harlem stations. Amtrak trains still make stops in Pittsfield, though the two stations in the postcards were torn down, which is unfortunate. They were gorgeous in comparison to today’s Pittsfield station. I think the waiting room there looks more like a school cafeteria than part of a train station!
Timetable for Harlem Division service to Massachusetts
This week’s photo tour of the Harlem Line begins with current station Croton Falls. Located 47.7 miles north of Grand Central, it is the northernmost station in Westchester County. Prior to the arrival of the railroad, the town went by the name of Owensville, only becoming Croton Falls in 1846. The New York & Harlem Railroad had reached Croton Falls by the year 1847, and it served as the terminus of the line for a little more than a year – service to Dover Plains began by the end of 1848. By 1907 there were two tracks up to Croton Falls, as well as a siding with a capacity for 83 cars.
Today Croton Falls is a bit on the small side, with a platform long enough to accommodate only four train cars. The station area is located in the center of the hamlet, surrounded by various shops, restaurants, a post office, and the fire department.
Since I didn’t have all that many great photos from Croton Falls, here is an additional set of photos from Millerton. Millerton was once a stop on the Harlem Division, and is one of the few that still has the old station building. South of Millerton, all the way to Wassaic where it meets with Metro-North, runs the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. The trail covers the 10.7 miles where the rail once was. There is also a smaller portion of trail up by Copake, which I posted photos of a few weeks ago. If you’re interested in learning more about the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, you can view their website here.
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.
By now my little photography adventures have taken me to almost all of the Harlem Line stations (the only outstanding stations are Woodlawn, Williams Bridge, Botanical Garden, Melrose and Tremont. I’ve been warned for my safety at the last two). I’ve done a lot of fun things, and gotten to explore quite a bit. I’ve eaten an italian ice in Hartsdale with @kc2hmv, splashed in the river near Crestwood, and munched on good food in Mount Kisco, Valhalla and Tuckahoe. I’ve seen all the Arts for Transit pieces, and other randomly cute things, like the Commuter Rooster in Scarsdale. But despite all this, when I chatted with @bitchcakesny last night and she asked me my favorite station of all, I couldn’t quite answer.
There are so many good things about some of these stations, how could I pick just one? Wassaic and Pleasantville have my favorite Arts for Transit pieces, and I loved Harlem-125th’s art too, not to mention it was a great spot for photography. Bronxville has a unique station, and the shops surrounding Mount Kisco, Hartsdale and Scarsdale are cute and worth exploring. Chappaqua’s restored station building is a beautiful sight, and I’ve always been fond of Brewster’s old station building. What I was able to do though, is narrow it down by asking myself a question: If I had to be stuck at a single station for the entire day (maybe there was a big fire or something, shutting down Metro-North??), which would it be? And that answer is Katonah.
What makes Katonah special? The area around the station is very cute – full of shops and restaurants for eating good food. I will admit though, the Katonah Museum played a part in the decision. If you don’t mind walking the half mile from the station to this art museum, you really could spend the entire day here viewing art, shopping and eating. And if there was still time left you could hang out in the gazebo not far from the station, or go and visit the library which is two blocks away. Katonah is just another one of the nice places located along the Harlem Line, but one that certainly sticks out in my mind.
I thought it might be fun to do something different this Friday… Tuesdays I visit train stations, but I don’t talk much about what else is around the station. The Harlem Line has plenty of intriguing spots along the route, and many for the nature lover. I do get emails every once and a while asking me questions about doing things – people wondering what is within walking distance of the stations, and what they can get away and do. And for those who, like me, do not drive, or don’t feel like driving, you can definitely take Metro-North to get to interesting spots.
As I mentioned, there are many nature-related locales on the Harlem Line. Some of the obvious ones are the Botanical Garden and the Appalachian Trail, but there are many lesser-known spots. Pawling has the Pawling Nature Reserve, which is not far from the Appalachian Trail. At the end of the line in Wassaic is the trailhead for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail which follows the old route the Harlem Line once took further north. Lower Westchester has the Bronx River Parkway Reservation which is more than 13 miles long and stretches from Valhalla to Bronxville – and passes by North White Plains, White Plains, Hartsdale, Scarsdale, Crestwood and Tuckahoe stations.
One of the lesser-known spots is near and dear to my heart, situated in Goldens Bridge and not far from my house. In the evenings it is here that I make laughable attempts at running off the past nine years I spent sitting on my ass in front of a computer. In all seriousness though, it is beautiful and quiet little spot that few people other than fisherman and neighborhood residents (and some deer, swans and bullfrogs) know about. The trails are not extensive, but they surround the beautiful reservoir and provide access to various fishing spots. I went one step beyond that and purchased a boat for use on the reservoir as well (boat use is heavily regulated, this is NYC’s drinking water, after all). However, the most noteworthy part of this “Public Access” DEP area is the old railroad bridge.
I created this map based on my own explorations of the area. Maps are actually fun to make. :P
I’ve mentioned Bridge L-158a few times before. It is one of the few remaining vestiges of the branch of the Harlem Line that ran from Goldens Bridge to Lake Mahopac, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally built in 1883 over Rondout Creek near Kingston, NY, but was moved in 1904 by the New York Central Railroad to Goldens Bridge. Although the original bridge carried two tracks, the Mahopac branch was a single track line and when the bridge was reconstructed the width was shortened for a single track.
If you’re interested in visiting this part of the Harlem Line, it is within walking distance of Goldens Bridge station. Although it is rarely enforced, you do need an access permit to use the land for recreational use. But access permits are easy to get – you can register for one online and print it out immediately. If you’re interested in fishing or boating, you’ll need additional permits, so I advise checking the DEP’s site. People fish in the reservoir all year long, as the Muscoot is one of the reservoirs in which ice fishing is permitted. Although it is a lot smaller than some of the other nature spots around it is at least worth visiting to see the historic bridge. There are some times where it gets so quiet, except for the crunching leaves under the foot of a squirrel or deer, that you forget that you’re not that far from the city… only until you hear a train go by, yanking you back to reality.
76 miles north of Grand Central lies a station on the Harlem Line called Dover Plains. From March of 1972, until Metro-North resurrected the stations of Tenmile River and Wassaic in July 2000, Dover Plains served as the last station on the Harlem Line. A few months ago I visited the station on a quiet Friday afternoon and spent a few minutes taking pictures. Like most of the Upper Harlem stations, Dover Plains is nestled in the quiet but picturesque Harlem Valley. The area is surrounded by grassy, rolling hills and farms, with New York’s Route 22 running along a similar route to the rails.
One of the first station panoramas I posted was from Mount Pleasant… though I wasn’t too happy with it, so I went back to the station, and got a few new panoramas. Enjoy!
Nestled in a lush carpet of green grass is a station on the Upper Harlem called Tenmile River. As to be expected, the name derives from a river of the same name. The station was completed and opened by Metro-North in 2000, along with Wassaic. In the New York Central and Penn Central days there was another station at this location, called State School. That station was closed in 1972, when service north of Dover Plains was discontinued. Tenmile River is the second to last station on the Harlem Line, and 78 miles from Grand Central. Similar to most Upper Harlem Line stations, Tenmile River is in a very rural area. Despite this, many of the stations find themselves close to or on the main road of Route 22 – Tenmile River seems to be the most isolated. But with the gorgeous grass and the recently built station platform, Tenmile River may be one of the more attractive stations on the Harlem Line.
As a bonus, here is a panorama of the former station Kensico. I have mentioned Kensico before, but hadn’t posted a panorama yet. I would have liked to get one at a different angle, but there were a lot of people there for a funeral.
Several of my train station companions who live in the Bronx refer to anything north of White Plains as “the bush.” Wassaic just happens to be the deepest part of “the bush” you can get to on the Harlem Line. It is the current terminus of the line. But of course, that wasn’t always so. By 1851 the Harlem Line stretched past Wassaic to Millerton, and by 1852 the line had reached Chatham, which served as the terminus until 1972. Penn Central abandoned passenger service on the line above Dover Plains in that year, an area that constituted about 36% of the Harlem Line. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that Wassaic was reopened for commuter use by Metro North. The new station was built approximately half a mile north of the previous station.
I’m very used to riding the train from stations located in the middle of the Harlem Line, which characteristically are quite similar. It is interesting to note how the track configuration plays a part in the design and aesthetic of each station. Whereas most stations I am used to have two tracks with an island platform, stations on the upper Harlem Line have only one track. Therefore the practically identical stairwell over the track is not required… and there is no vestibule that reeks of urine and cheap cleaning solution. The lack of the less-than-beautiful stairwell and vestibule leave the stations more open and aesthetically pleasing. Ramps rather than elevators meet the need for ADA compliancy. Maybe it is the openness of the stations that make them beautiful, but the rolling hills and carpets of green grass surrounding the area probably have a lot to do with it as well.
Wassaic is unique in the respect that it has a very nice Arts for Transit piece called Arrival, by sculptor Anne Huibregtse. Huibregtse’s pieces contain a similar subject matter: the bovine. And considering the history of Wassaic, the cows fit in perfectly. Gail Borden, the inventor of condensed milk, had a factory in Wassaic, and a good amount of freight that ran on the Harlem Line was milk. The bronze cows stand over the abundant green grass that is all too absent in stations more south on the line. Just the fact that they were made of bronze surprised me, in real life they looked quite natural, as if they were carved from large slabs of rock. It wasn’t until I searched for more information about the piece online that I found they were made of bronze.
I was surprised to note how many cars were in the parking lot with Massachusetts plates. Perhaps this is why the commuters of Wassaic are a special breed. As if the two or so hour train trip wasn’t enough, some also have a lengthy car ride to get to the station in the first place.
If you are looking for a diversion, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail begins in Wassaic, and you can walk or bike along what used to be the real Upper Harlem Line. That is pretty much it for this first Tuesday tour… each week I’ll be posting more photos of yet another station on the line… until I’ve visited them all.
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.