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Wednesday Wandering: Denver Union Station Photos

An amalgamation of several different aesthetic eras, Denver Union Station stands as an intriguing monument to railroading history. When gazing upon the building, it almost feels as if you could close your eyes and let yourself be transported to an array of different points in time. Focus on the rusticated red rhyolite exterior of the wings and you’ll fly to the 1880s when the majestic Romanesque revival depot was initially constructed. The granite beaux-arts stonework will whisk you to the 1910s when countless stations nationwide were being constructed in similar style, including this section of the station rebuilt. The neon...

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Grand Central Stargazing: Secret Signatures on the Ceiling Observations History Photos

In its century-plus of existence, over a billion travelers have traversed the hallowed halls of Grand Central Terminal. But how many of that intrepid number, as they gazed up at the magnificence of the constellations overhead, knew that the ceiling held a secret? I’m not talking about how the constellations are “backward”—doesn’t everybody know that? Nor am I referring to the fact that the ceiling today is not the original fresco from when the Terminal opened its doors. No, I’m talking about the secret signatures that span the mural, encircling stars and hiding inside the appendages of the towering beasts...

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The Railroad’s Raucous Arrival. White Plains: Part 1 Trains History

Amid loud booms of celebratory artillery fire and the rousing tunes of a brass band, hundreds of onlookers jockeyed for a spot alongside gleaming rails, cheering and popping champagne corks. The crowd’s cries rose to a crescendo as the mighty iron horse cantered round the last curve and roared into full view, steam billowing behind her. The day was Saturday, October 26th, 1844, and at long last—thirteen years for the rails, nearly three hours for the train—the New York and Harlem Railroad had reached White Plains. The new station to which the train had arrived was a simple wooden affair,...

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The New York & Harlem Railroad Turns 190—Images From the Early Years History Photos

Today we are wishing the New York and Harlem Railroad—New York City’s first railroad—a very happy 190th birthday. On this day in 1831, the railroad was chartered to build from 23rd Street to the Harlem River. Ground was broken later on that year on October 11, in a rocky section of Murray Hill, around 32nd and Fourth Avenue. After a ceremonial rock boring, railroad president John Mason blasted a whistle thirteen times and delivered a rousing speech, celebrated with cheering from the crowd, and drinks of sparkling champagne. Although so long ago, in some respects we today are in a...

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SmartCat Sundays: Milk on the Harlem Division History

Milk has long been a staple of the American diet, and since the New York and Harlem Railroad was founded up until the 1950s, it was also a staple commodity carried by rail. Early in New York City’s history, dairy cows were kept and milked in the city proper near distilleries. Often sick cows were kept in cramped conditions, and fed the byproducts of whiskey making – resulting in a blue tinted “milk” that was lacking in cream content and dangerous to drink. Unscrupulous businessmen used additives – including water, sugar, molasses, egg, and even plaster of paris – to...

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SmartCat Sundays: Restoring a Grand Central to Chatham Roll Banner History Photos

Not everything you’ll find in my collection is printed on paper… Admittedly, I have a little thing for roll banners (I own three for the Harlem Division). Long before computers and other technology, these roll banners used to be displayed in Grand Central Terminal at each gate, letting passengers know what stops the train made. Each train had it’s own roll sign, which were stored in cabinets by the gate. The roll banner featured in this post was my third banner acquisition – but it was one I couldn’t resist, as it was originally an Upper Harlem Division banner. Sold...

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