If any of my readers are insomniacs, I highly recommend the book called “The Road of the Century: The Story of the New York Central.” I noticed that one of the libraries in the state owned it, and so I requested my local library to acquire it for me. The copy of the book looks remarkably ancient, though it was only published in 1947. Old enough, I suppose. Upon checking the book out, the librarian said to me, “So… You must like railroads?” I wonder if she were to work at a supermarket, and a customer was to purchase toilet paper, would she ask, “So… You must like toilet paper?” or “So… You must enjoy going to the bathroom?” …Sorry, I went off on a little tangent there. Back to the book, this dreadful, awful book. I don’t think I’ve ever held in my hand a more boring book… hence my comment about insomniacs. Get a copy, it will put you right to sleep. The New York Central has quite a rich history, but no one could have told it in a more dry fashion. In my mind I hear Ben Stein reciting the words in complete monotone…
So why exactly would I bore my readers with stories of a horrible book? Because it had one redeeming quality. Pictures. Wow, don’t I feel like a child, saying the only good part of a book was the pictures. But the pictures, they were good, and I figured I’d share with you all. Let’s “read” this book, together. And when I say read, I mean look at the pictures, and ignore all the snooze-inducing text.
Apparently the book was a donation to the library from the New York Central itself
1864, Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana conductors (or perhaps Abraham Lincoln impersonators).
1877, Train with snow plow during a snow storm.
1896, First advertisement of Red Cap service.
The Vanderbilts: Cornelius, William Henry, William Kissam, and Cornelius II. William Henry wins bonus points for having the most spectacular facial hair in the family.
1855, Niagara Suspension Bridge.
1860’s, Illustration of a sleeping car
1865, President Lincoln’s funeral train.
1866, First bridge across the Hudson at Albany.
1870, A New York & Harlem snow plow.
1870’s, From a dining car menu.
1870’s, Park Avenue, with the railroad running underneath.
1875, Railroad bridge over the Harlem River.
1876, The locomotive Columbia, lost in the Ashtabula Disaster.
1889, Freight train in a flood.
Michigan Central train passes by Niagara Falls.
Empire State Express Number 999.
Train crossing the main street in Syracuse.
Freight train on Eleventh Avenue in New York, preceded by a red-flagged herald on horseback.
1913, West Columbus during the flood of 1913.
…and that just about wraps up our read of “The Road of the Century” … or at least the graphically condensed version. If you ask me, that picture of the conductors made everything worth it.
Awesome photos! I love it.
Great work here. One question about the photos. The Michigan Central train passing by Niagara Falls. It looks like it is on the Canadian side of the Falls. Was it really there…or is this just an artist’s rendition?
I do believe that is a photo and not an artist’s rendition. You are an astute observer to note that it looks to be on the Canadian side. (I still haven’t been to Niagara yet, going next month though!) The Canada Southern in southern Ontario (and Niagara) was leased to the Michigan Central, and later the New York Central, so the facts seem to support your observation. :D
Correction: it does appear to be an illustration. Your comment made me think that when I am up by Niagara I should check if there are any rail museums. I found the Niagara Falls Railway Museum, and to my surprise on the front page was that same image in question (from a postcard), except in color. They say of the image, “This particular example portrays the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, a Maid of the Mist boat and a steam powered Michigan Central freight train stopped at Fallsview.” The postcard in their collection has a mail date of July 23, 1941.
The illustration shows a Michigan Central passenger train stopped at Falls View Station just west of Horseshoe Falls. I believe the artist was commissioned by the railroad to produce this image, which was accurate for its time. I have seen an ad in an old MC – NYC timetable that offered framed reproductions for sale.
From 1872 until 1925, it was the railroad’s policy that all daylight passenger trains on this route would make a 5 – 10-minute stop at Falls View (also known as Inspiration Point) so that passengers could get out and see the Falls from a spectacular elevation. Falls View was not a ticketed destination, nor was it a departure point for passengers to board a train, so that the Station grounds may have been rather exclusive. The Michigan Central Railroad advertised itself as “The Niagara Falls Route”.
Falls View Station was torn down in 1926. Subsequent re-grading of the area’s topography transformed a once-accurate image into a purely historical document. The MC right-of-way through Niagara Falls (and Southern Ontario) is now mostly gone, with the exception of two significant “bookends”:
The Michigan Central Steel-Arch Bridge still extends across the Niagara River Gorge north of the Falls. Completed in 1925, it is now abandoned and rusting away.
Michigan Central sent its first train through the Detroit River Tunnel between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan in July, 1910. The tunnel, now owned by Canadian Pacific Railroad, is 100 years old and still in service. The western approach to the tunnel curves past Detroit’s abandoned but still-incredible Michigan Central Terminal (1913).