Metro North is 30 – A Collection of Tickets, Timetables & more

With Grand Central Terminal celebrating its centennial this year, most people have been so utterly focused on that event that they’ve forgotten another birthday (myself included). Metro-North Railroad is now 30, and has come quite a long way since its inception in 1983. Grand Central was restored to greatness, as opposed to being a dirty homeless shelter. For the most part, especially with the new M8’s, the railroad operates with decent equipment – not whatever the desperate railroad could scrounge up to have enough cars to operate.

Several other commuter rail services that were also run by ConRail in the past, like SEPTA and NJ Transit, are likewise celebrating their 30th anniversaries this year. NJ Transit has been celebrating their 30th by posting some of their first tickets and timetables, and I thought it would be fun to do the same for Metro-North. So here are some timetables, tickets, and other assorted goodness from the early days of Metro-North.

Early Metro-North TimetablesSome of the first Metro-North timetables. You can see the inside of the odd maroon Upper Harlem Line timetable in this previous post.

Metro North Guides
Metro-North published several guide books for riders in the early and mid ’80s.

Cashfares and Seatchecks
Cashfares for the Harlem and Hudson Lines, and some ’80s seatchecks.

Ticket fronts
In the early days, tickets were small little strips like these, similar to the ones previously used by the New York Central and the Penn Central.

Ticket backs
Backs of tickets showing their validation stamps. The ticket windows at each of those stations have since been closed.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some more interesting things from Metro-North’s 30 year history… Happy Birthday, Metro-North!

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Daily Boredom: Old timetable art turned into posters

There is nothing that I love more than the art on old timetables. And when I say old – I mean old – like 1800’s old. SmartCat has a few of these old timetables on display, including the oldest timetable I personally own – printed in 1865. There is just something beautiful about these bits of rail history, they are not just functional, but attractive – something timetables seem to have lost in the many years since.

As a graphic designer, I love the unique typography, as well as the illustrations found within. When I got bored on the train yesterday, I had the idea to turn some of the old art from these timetables into posters. I made four separate 11″ x 17″ posters, and had them printed up today – now I just have to find a place to hang them… hmmm…

  
  

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The rat that ate my timetable…

Kids that ride the subway to school, take notice: I have a new excuse for you. Forget the dogs, say the rats ate your homework! These loathed (and sometimes giant!) rodents can be found all around the subways (and you can rate them, too!). Most people want them out of sight, but me, I’m looking for a specific rat. He’s probably long dead, but in his stomach you will find a little bit of history – namely portions of one of my most recent acquisitions. Despite it being munched on, I could not resist the purchase of an 1884 Harlem Division timetable. In all honesty, I have no idea if the damage done was actually caused by a rat. But it does make a nice story!

Even if the whole thing isn’t there – some train times are missing, and part of the fare list has been eaten away – I still love this timetable. It does list several old stations that no longer exist, like 86th Street (which is now an emergency exit in the Park Avenue Tunnel), Morrisania, and Kensico. What is left of the fare list is interesting, especially to see the prices and the types of tickets offered. In addition to single rides and round trips (good for 3 days), there were quarterly tickets (good for 3 months), and ticket books for the whole year. A one-way from Katonah cost $1.00, a round-trip $1.75, and a yearly ticket cost $100 – a savings of $7 from the quarterly tickets (quarterly tickets were cheaper at the end of the year, and most expensive at the beginning).

Because I love this timetable so much, I wanted to share it with you all. I scanned the entire thing, though some of the portions are truncated as to not show where the tears were. The timetable portions have been left as-is, without hiding any of the missing pieces, as I felt the information was too valuable, even if you can’t see everything.

 
   
  
   
  
 
 


1884 timetable side by side with current local timetables. They are very similar in size.

Part of the reason I find this timetable so interesting is because of the old ads found within. I always wonder if any of the establishments still exist, or what happened to them. Drake’s Travellers’ Magazine, which is advertised on the front of the timetable was a monthly 40-page magazine established in 1882 by John Drake. It contained information of the timings of various trains in the northeast, as well as some humor pieces.

There were several ads for baths in the timetable, though none of them seem to be in existence today. There are still Turkish and Russian baths in the city today, one of which was founded in 1892 – several years after the publication of this timetable.

It seems that the Barnums, owners of a large clothing store in Chatham Square advertised in the timetable had a personal interest in the Harlem Division. Both Stephen and Joshua Barnum were born in Brewster (or as it was referred to at that time, Brewster’s) and were certainly riders of the Harlem.

Otto Maurer, whose ad here is probably my favorite, started up his business in 1872 in the basement of a five-story tenement building. Not only did he sell magical equipment, he also repaired broken equipment, and taught magic lessons (in four languages!). Maurer died in 1900 (his obituary in the NY Times called him the “King of Magic”), and the shop was finally closed in 1903.

The Union White Lead Manufacturing Company, which also advertised here (though it does seem like a strange thing to advertise in a timetable), was organized in 1828. Their complex in Brooklyn covered over twenty-three city lots, and could produce around 3,000 tons of lead per year. Although the lead smelting operation there ceased in 1904 (and the buildings demolished), the surrounding soil is contaminated with lead even today.


Examples of other local timetables with advertisements, dated 1949, 1961, and 1965. City attractions and shows, as well as local taxi services seem to be the norm in later timetable advertising.


Some advertisements currently on Harlem Line timetables

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