A Collection of Railroad-themed Etchings by the American Bank Note Company

A few days ago I posted some lovely illustrations showing the fancy cars that operated on the New York Central and Boston and Albany railroads, all done by the American Bank Note Company. Admittedly, I had never really heard about that company until I saw their signature on the bottom of several of those illustrations. It was an intriguing discovery – not only does the company have roots dating back to the founding of this country, they’re still around today! Over the years they have done the engraving and printing for currency, postage stamps, stock certificates, and even railroad timetables. This style of illustration is what makes me absolutely adore old timetables from the 1800’s.

Because of my love of these illustrations, I’m amassed quite a little collection of them which I would like to share with you all. Though there were other engravers that did similar work, this collection is comprised of railroad-related engravings exclusively done by the American Bank Note Company. Many railroads used their services – you’ll note illustrations for the New York Central, the Pennsylvania Railroad, Grand Trunk Railway, and many others. In some cases I’ve isolated the illustrations from whatever they were a part of, often in the case of stock certificates. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do… Have a favorite? Tell us in the comments!


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Melrose Station, in the late 1800’s

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to talk to some really interesting railroad people recently, one of whom is Joe Schiavone, better known in the area as the “Old Put Guy.” He’s just completed his third book on the New York Central’s Putnam Division, but has been a railfan ever since he was very young. When I met him for the first time several weeks ago, he told me that as a young boy taking photographs, getting an invite into the engine happened somewhat frequently. I told him that Metro-North does the same thing for me – except the invite is from the police, and the ride is in a cop car and not a locomotive engine. For me, posting about Melrose is almost like returning to the “scene of the crime.” That is, if photography were a crime. Which it isn’t. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. I will admit that I have bit of a phobia of police, so every time I go out and photograph, this event is on my mind. That, and the fact that some of my conductor friends will never let me live it down.

Plan of the Melrose station, built in the late 1880’s, or early 1890

Today, Melrose isn’t the most spectacular-looking station on the Harlem Line. But at one time, it did have a nice station, built in the late 1880’s, or early 1890. It had all the amenities a station of that era needed: a baggage room, ticket office, telegraph office, a waiting room, and of course access to the low-level platforms and trains. The area was four-tracked even at this early date, though the two middle tracks were separated from the outer tracks by a fence, visible in the station sketch below. The Chief Engineer of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad at the time was Walter Katte, and he oversaw the work on the Harlem Division, north of the Harlem River Bridge. The line was four-tracked, and the tracks were lowered into the “Harlem Depression,” extending from Melrose to William’s Bridge. He also oversaw the construction of the Park Avenue viaduct, and a drawbridge over the Harlem River.

Sketch of the Melrose station

The only available land owned by the railroad was occupied by the tracks, and thus the logical solution for building the Melrose station was over the tracks. The plans for Melrose were duplicated for several other stations located in the depression, including Morrisania, Tremont, and Fordham. Chief Engineer Katte oversaw the construction of these stations. Built 17 feet above the tracks, the Melrose station was 73 feet wide, and 26 feet long. The waiting room was 18 x 32 feet, and the baggage room was 11 x 12 feet. The station framework was made of iron, and the interior of oak. The exterior was covered with iron panels, and was topped by an ornamental shingled roof. The cost of the station was $22,000, and the platforms cost $1,500.

Photograph of Tremont after construction, circa 1890. The fence dividing the center two express tracks has yet to be built.

The former Morrisania station was one of the other similarly designed stations, photo taken circa 1960.

Chief Engineer Walter Katte is actually an interesting figure in New York railroad history, though not often remembered. Not only did he work on the Harlem Division, but he also oversaw work on the New York Elevated Railroad Company. Between 1877 to 1880 they built the first parts of the Third and Ninth Avenue Els. Katte was born November 4, 1830 in London. He studied at the Kings College School, before serving as a civil engineering apprentice for three years. In 1849 he migrated to the United States and began work as an engineer for various railroads, including the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. When the Civil War broke out, Katte served as a Colonel of Engineers in the Union Army, and oversaw the construction of several bridges. After the war, he worked for the New York, Ontario, and Western Railroad, and the West Shore Railroad, before becoming the Chief Engineer for the New York Central in 1886. He served in that position until his resignation and retirement in 1898 (William Wilgus ascended to the Chief Engineer’s position in 1899). Katte died in his New York City home on March 4, 1917.

Walter Katte

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The Milton on Hudson Train Station

Old postcard views of the Milton on Hudson station

I don’t find myself on the west side of the Hudson all that often, but back in October I went to Newburgh for my tour of Bannerman Castle, and to Highland for the Walkway Over the Hudson. However, there was one place that I also visited that day which I’ve failed to post pictures of – until now. I’m not very familiar with the West Shore Railroad, but it is my understanding that the Milton on Hudson station, built in 1883, is one of the two extant passenger stations. My discovery of the place was purely by accident… driving down the street my friend saw a sign for a “Historical Train Station” and we decided to go check it out. It was also a coincidence that people were there working on the station the day we happened to stumble upon it. Volunteer and Friend of the Milton on Hudson Train Station Pat Quick saw me taking photos on the outside and asked me if I wanted to see the inside. He graciously took the time to show my friend and I the inside of both the passenger and freight portions of the station. You’ll note that in my photos of the inside of the passenger area, the floor is very shiny – the floors were completed earlier in the day and had not yet dried.


The Milton on Hudson station is split into two portions, one that dealt with freight, and the other side for passengers. Passenger service at the station continued up until the early 1950’s. Although the building had a long life as a rail station, it began a new life in the late 1960’s as a winery. The Kedem Winery operated out of the old station, selling wine and even holding wine tastings. By the late 1990’s the site no longer suited Kedem, and the owner donated the station to the town.

A lot of dedicated people have been working on restoring the 125+ year old Milton-on-Hudson station, and as I procrastinated on posting these photos, a few of them are now a bit out of date. New signs and light fixtures were installed after my visit, visible from the before and after shot below, which comes from the Friends of the Milton on Hudson Train Station Facebook page. The restoration of the station continues – if you happen to have any extra money lying around, as much as I’d love for you to give it to me, donating towards the restoration is a far more worthy cause. The restored station will serve as a community building, and the grounds will be a riverfront park – and I have a feeling that it will be gorgeous, thanks to the efforts of many hard-working volunteers.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Milton station, I suggest you check out this article, which has several old pictures and more postcard views.

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