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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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Planes of the New York Central – The Railroad’s WW2 Combat Bombers History Photos

While the New York Central’s famous trains are legendary, it seems that few know of their planes. Believe it or not, the New York Central and its employees raised the funds to purchase two planes, claiming to be the only railroad to have done so, and donated them to the war effort. Each plane was painted with the name “New York Central” and was flown by Army Air Force crews in World War II. At this time, the New York Central’s company magazine, The Headlight, was filled with photos of railroad employees off at war, and updates on their sponsored...

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1867’s Double Track Railroad History

I’ve been a little bit under the weather recently and rather busy, so I haven’t had the time to put a proper post together for this week, however I did want to share a somewhat recent acquisition of mine. This 1867 New York Central timetable is the second oldest in my collection (my oldest is from 1864), and is a little bit of a curiosity as it includes descriptions of some of the cities found along the rail line. For example, it describes Rochester as, “having risen from a wilderness in less than half a century,” and explains that, “the...

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