Happy 184th Birthday to the New York & Harlem Railroad!

Happy Birthday to the Harlem Railroad

A very happy 184th birthday to the New York & Harlem Railroad, New York City’s very first railroad, chartered on this day in 1831. Started as a humble street railroad using horses for motive power, it eventually grew to reach Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, and Columbia counties, and is the origin of today’s Harlem Line.

We’ve posted many things about the history of the Harlem Railroad over the years, so if you’re interested in taking a walk down memory lane, be sure to check some of these old favorites out:

The Streetcars of the New York & Harlem Railroad
180 Years of History – the Harlem Railroad
Remembering the Upper Harlem Line, Part 1
Remembering the Upper Harlem Line, Part 2
Remembering the Upper Harlem Line, Part 3
Postcards on the Harlem Line
Timetables of the Harlem Line

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Yonkers

Although Grand Central Terminal may be the obvious gem of the Metro-North system, interspersed along all three of the main lines are many other beautiful stations. On the New Haven Line, I can’t help but think of New Haven Union Station, and of course Mamaroneck. On the Harlem, I’ve always loved both Brewster and Chappaqua. By now I’ve explored much of the Hudson Line, and it seems that the standout stations there are definitely Poughkeepsie and Yonkers. Both are well-restored examples of brick stations built by the New York Central in the early 1900’s. Though smaller than Poughkeepsie, Yonkers makes up for that with beautiful detailing on the outside, and a gorgeous entranceway and waiting room on the inside. On today’s tour we may have discovered the most beautiful station on the Hudson Line.


Postcard and ticket from Yonkers. The card lists various facts about Yonkers – like Yonkers having nineteen railroad stations.

The city of Yonkers is the fourth most populous in New York state, and the most populous city in Westchester county. Reflecting that population, Yonkers was historically well-connected to the city and beyond via multiple methods of transportation. Right near the station were steamboats and ferries, various streetcars, and the Getty Square branch of Putnam Division was not far away. At one time, Yonkers had nineteen railroad stations. Today there are far fewer than nineteen stations, the streetcars are long gone, and the Putnam Division is just a memory. However, Yonkers still has quite a few connections to the city via Metro-North – Ludlow, Glenwood, and Greystone are all in Yonkers. And the primary Yonkers station, which we are visiting today, is serviced by both Metro-North and Amtrak.


Some of the now defunct methods of transportation in Yonkers – including trolleys and a few Putnam Division stations. Postcards from the collection of the awesome postcard master, Steve Swirsky.

Other than being beautiful stations, Grand Central Terminal, Poughkeepsie, and Yonkers do have one thing in common – all were worked on by architects Warren and Wetmore. Built in their signature Beaux Arts style, the station was completed in 1911. The Gustavino tiling on the ceiling of Yonkers significantly resembles the portion of Grand Central adjacent to the Oyster Bar. One of my favorite portions of the station is the sculpted detail work containing NYC – for the New York Central. The station still has the original ticket windows, which are quite attractive, but they are no longer in use. All ticketing at Yonkers is through Ticket Vending Machines.


Postcards of Yonkers station, from the collection of Steve Swirsky

Expectedly, Yonkers station fell into disrepair over many years. It was ultimately restored by Metro-North in 2001. $45 million was alloted for the work at Yonkers, $4.5 million of which was for restoring the building itself. The sculpted terra cotta on the façade of the building was restored, or in some instances, replaced by a company from California. The rest of the money was used for track work, reconstruction of steel bridges, and refurbishment of the viaduct. Platforms were also redone, the lighting improved, and accommodations made for the disabled. In 2006 an Arts for Transit piece was added at Yonkers, but I happened to miss it on my visit.

Occurring simultaneously were other initiatives to renew the waterfront area surrounding the train station in Yonkers. One such effort was the Hudson Park luxury apartments, which you can spot in the background of several of my photographs of the station. Its proximity to the train station no doubt makes it an attractive place to live, and you’ll notice many developments similar to this up and down the line.

Compared to the beautiful station, the platform area of Yonkers station is relatively underwhelming. But it is, of course, from the platform that one accesses the frequent trains heading south to the city, or north to Poughkeepsie and beyond. Yonkers is just over 14 miles from Grand Central, a ride that takes on average 30 minutes. 26 daily Amtrak trains make stops at Yonkers, and there are Metro-North trains every half hour, if not more frequently.

That is about all I have for Yonkers today. Next week we will visit another Hudson Line station, but I can’t promise it will be quite as beautiful as this one. ;)

 
  
 
   
 
  
 
  
    
  
 
  
  
  

Read More

Riding the TTC: Toronto’s Streetcars

Across the country there were once many streetcar systems, even in New York. Many of those have over the years been removed, in a few cases because the streetcars added to the difficult traffic conditions in the cities. Though Manhattan’s trains were moved underground, the streetcar systems in San Francisco and New Orleans have still survived. New Orleans’ system has been forever written into the public consciousness by Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desire, and is one of the two North American streetcar systems that has operated with little changes in route. The other is Toronto Transit Commission’s streetcar system, which is the largest in North America.

I’ve gotten the chance to ride on all three of the mentioned streetcar systems, though most recently Toronto’s system. The TTC operates 11 streetcar lines, and has an averages 285,600 riders daily. Although mostly operating above ground, there are several underground connections, like the one I photographed below, at Union Station.




I didn’t really travel very far on the streetcar. I pretty much wanted to be able to say I rode it, and get some photos :D

Read More