Railroads from Albany to Connecticut; including the New York Central Harlem Division

Brewster North, now called Southeast, is an important station on Metro North Commuter Railroad

Welcome to our Albany to Connecticut / Harlem Division WebSite


Here's a preview of some of the exciting projects we have put together for you:



Our feature article are railroads from Albany to Connecticut and Chatham, New York: Rail Town .

We have stories about railroad stations in Chatham , Ghent to Chatham , and the Rutland connection .

See our Harlem Division Map (from Employee Timetable) and railroad tracks along the Hudson .

See the NY Central Harlem Division on Google Earth .

We have included all about Connecticut freight railroads , connections to the Central New England Railway , a little about Brewster, New York , and all about New York Central, Penn Central Stock .

You will find a brief history of the Harlem Division , our Reference Section , all about Bike Trails Along Railroads , as well as Connecticut Riders on the Harlem .
Check out The B&A Hudson Branch

Grand Central Terminal and the New York City Subway

Head End Equipment on the New York Central .

See some great New York Central Railroad Pictures too.

Metro-North Commuter Railroad

Happy 180th Birthday to the Harlem Line

See KC Jones BLOG about Railroad History
1955 Floods
Floods in New York and New England were especially bad in 1955
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)

Albany to Connecticut


Yet AGAIN a trip to Fairfield, Connecticut (by far the most popular spot I visit in the course of earning my daily bread). Yes, Fairfield (located in Southwestern Connecticut) CAN be reached by rail from Albany. The trip involves a "detour" through New York City.

By taking Amtrak 70 out of Albany, it is not a problem catching Metro-North's 9:05 AM departure from Grand Central which runs as an express to Stamford and arrives in Fairfield at 10:12 AM (usually too late for me since I work 15 minutes from the station). The obvious alternative is to leave Albany the night before and go all the way to Fairfield (the Fairfield Motor Inn is within walking distance of the station) or else stay overnight in New York and leave Grand Central early in the morning on a "reverse commuter". (The 5:40 AM departure gets in Fairfield at 7:12 or the 7:05 departure gets in at 8:15.)

In any event, one must still have a bit of luck to catch the obviously necessary taxi at the Fairfield station.

The return trip is fine if I can arrange to leave at a decent hour. The 4:24 PM departure should get me into Grand Central at 5:38 (just in time to catch Amtrak 75), however by being only a couple of minutes late, the connection is lost. The 5:28 departure from Fairfield gets in at 6:38 and easily connects me with Amtrak 49.

While riding the Lake Shore Limited can be an interesting experience, I prefer the speed of a Turboliner after a hard day's work. Additionally, my frustration level cannot handle the seemingly usual 5 minute delay just South of Rensselaer while train 49 waits for train 449 from Boston to "do it's thing".

After all this involved explanation, I have decided to drive, but never fear, my trip will still be full of railroad lore.

My usual route is to take Interstate 90 and the NY Thruway to the Taconic Parkway. Shortly after turning on to the Taconic, I cross over the Boston & Albany just East of Chatham. This spot is about midway between Chatham and a bridge that crosses the Berkshire Spur of the Thruway. This line is double-tracked except for the Thruway bridge. It seems that when the Thruway was built in the '50s, the New York Central didn't want to spring for a double track bridge, consequently, trains have since been held up waiting to cross the bridge on the only single track section between Selkirk and Boston. Chatham was once a rail center. In addition to the Boston & Albany it was the Northern terminus of the Harlem Division of the New York Central and the Southern terminus of the Rutland.

There is now a gap of almost an hour's drive without another railroad save the abandoned roadbed of the New York Central's Harlem Division. Near Hopewell Junction, the road passes over the former New Haven line from Danbury to Poughkeepsie and Beacon. This line formerly continued across the bridge to Maybrook and connections with the Lehigh & Hudson River and the Erie. Since the bridge at Poughkeepsie burned, traffic has not been heavy to say the least. My 1949 map shows a branch extending North from Hopewell Junction but it had disappeared by 1957.

At the junction of the Taconic and Interstate 84, I head East towards Brewster. I turn off I-84 at Exit 19 and pass a road which leads to the new Brewster North rail station. I head South past another road which leads to a bridge over the Brewster rail yard. I turn East on Route 6 and immediately the road passes under a bridge of the former New York Central Putnam Division headed towards Carmel and Lake Mahopac. Route 6 continues into Brewster past the Brewster station which is packed with parked cars on a weekday morning. I take a coffee break at Bob's Diner directly across the street from the station.

In 1965, the Harlem and Hudson Divisions carried 34,000 daily commuters and 300 of these were from Brewster. It was a 1 hour 53 minute trip. From Pawling (just North of Brewster) it was a 2 hour 10 minute trip and cost $55.13/month. In 1965, trains from Brewster were hauled by RS-3s and changed to electric power at North White Plains.

In 1986, a monthly ticket from Pawling costs $178/month. Brewster is 52 miles from Grand Central and now takes 1 hour 27 minutes.

The commuter line ends at Dover Plains (76 miles from GCT). It was possible to go all the way to Chatham. In 1957, this trip took 3 1/2 hours to cover 127 miles. There was a 5 AM Monday train that carried week-end commuters to the city.

It is a picturesque commuter line which is double track electric to Brewster and single track beyond. It had adequate passing sidings North of Brewster, but apparently not enough traffic to warrant a second track. Extension of electric service from North White Plains to Brewster was not accomplished until the 1980's. Now MU cars run all the way to Brewster.

Leaving Brewster, Route 6 rejoins I-84 after passing under the old New Haven line. This line goes through Brewster but does not join with the old Harlem until Towners. In years gone by, this line connected with the Central at Putnam Junction (just North of Brewster where the Putnam Division joined the Harlem Division). All my maps show this connection, but it has been cut ever since I have been traveling this route (even though the two lines run within several hundred feet of each other). At Danbury I can choose to continue East or go South on Route 7 alongside the Danbury-Norwalk commuter line. This line is fairly busy with a combination of SPV-2000s and FL-9 hauled coaches. It was electrified at one time and still has poles in place.

I stay overnight at the Fairfield Motor Inn which faces the Boston-New York Northeast Corridor. This line is extremely busy with both Amtrak and Metro-North but freight traffic is somewhat sparse.

On my return trip, it is raining heavily and I cannot make very good time anyway so I decide to take Route 22 North from I-84 at Brewster. This road parallels the former Harlem Division from Pawling to Dover Plains (and beyond). The single track line is next to the roadway for 13 miles. Occasionally I am lucky enough to see an SPV-2000. Passenger service stops at Dover Plains but freight goes beyond to a point just past Amenia (84 miles from Grand Central).

Until a couple of years ago freight service extended through Millerton to a Suburban Gas facility (approximately 94 miles North of Grand Central).

The abandoned roadbed is clearly visible until you rejoin the Taconic. From Millerton through Boston Corners to the still-remaining underpass at Copake Falls, the right-of-way passes hardly anything which could generate revenue. It is easy to understand why this line never made it based on local industry. Built as the New York & Harlem, it was rejected in favor of the "Water Level Route" because it was not as direct or as level.

At Hillsdale, the Harlem bears left towards Chatham and I turn onto Route 23 and head towards home.

If you are not satisfied with an abundance of railroading on this route, it IS a beautiful ride and there are two quite famous dining spots on the route: the Old Drover Inn in Dover Plains and the L'Hostellerie Bressane at the junction of Routes 22 and 23 in Hillsdale.

By Ken Kinlock at kenkinlock@gmail.com
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Putnam Division Map
This is the map from an Employee Timetable. Click on it for a bigger version.
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Chatham, New York was an important station on New York Central Railroad

Chatham, New York



On the Boston & Albany, Harlem Division and the Rutland
The major railroad through the Columbia County, NY town of Chatham has always been the Boston & Albany. The B&A traces its roots to the 1831 charter for the Boston & Worcester and the 1833 charter for the Western Railroad Co. The Boston & Albany itself was chartered in 1867. In 1834, the Castleton & West Stockbridge began construction. It was a continuation of the Western Railroad and later was known as the Albany & West Stockbridge.

The Hudson & Berkshire from Hudson to Chatham was picked up by the Albany & Stockbridge. The H&B tracks east of Chatham 4 Corners included a 600-foot tunnel. The H&B remained a branch line through the 1950s. The Hudson & Berkshire road was built by a group of enterprising promoters who hoped to establish a trunk line to the west by linking the Catskill & Canajoharie (the only railroad which received state aid for its construction that did not operate into the 1950s) with the Western Railway of Massachusetts. To aid this undertaking, the state lent the company $150,000. In the fall of 1846, eight years after construction began, the road became financially embarrassed and the legislature agreed to exchange its first-mortgage bonds for a lesser lien. But the business of the company continued to languish and, unable to meet the interest on its obligations, the road was auctioned off by the state comptroller for $155,000. The first-mortgage bondholders realized about 88 cents on the dollar, but the state's equity was completely lost. This line remained a branch of the B&A until abandonment. A small segment survives near Hudson as an industrial spur.

The entire Boston & Albany was leased to the New York Central in 1900. It was not merged into the Central until 1961 and kept much of its own identity until the 1950s. While steam power was similar in appearance to the rest of the New York Central, heavier power was required to cross the mountains between Massachusetts and New York. The words "Water Level Route" didn't apply here.

Although its population is only a little larger than 2000 people, Chatham is the largest town in Columbia County with over 31,000 square acres. Excellent drainage and good soil have made the community important agriculturally. In recent years, many New York City residents have fled here to find peaceful surroundings. Some of these refugees have become gentleman farmers (i.e. farming with no intent for profit unless asked by the tax collector). Others, particularly in advertising, have carried their businesses with them. Chatham boasts a summer theater and a phone company with nickel phone calls. September brings the Columbia County Fair to the fairgrounds located alongside the old Harlem Division. The census of 1810 showed Chatham as having 12 grain mills and 8 saw mills.

The 57-mile long Lebanon Springs Railroad was once important to Chatham. The New York & Bennington got a charter to build from Chatham to the Vermont state line. The New York & Vermont would build 6 miles from Bennington to connect with it. The Lebanon Springs purchased the NY & Bennington and built north to Lebanon Springs but ran out of money and just ran tourists from Chatham. The Bennington & Rutland completed the line to get a connection to New York City because the Troy & Boston wouldn't give it trackage rights. In 1870 the Lebanon Springs and the Bennington & Rutland consolidated into the Harlem Extension Railroad. It was bought by the Rutland in 1901. It was known as the "Corkscrew Division". In its 75-mile length, it lifted itself out of the Bennington Valley by means of steep grades and sweeping curves and then dropped into the Hoosick River Valley. It crossed the B&M at Petersburg Junction and then meandered through the Taconic and Lebanon valleys to Chatham. It was an entirely rural setting. It ran a lot of milk trains but quit passenger service in 1931 and was torn up in 1953-54. After that, everything Rutland (not much) went through Troy and over the New York Central to Chatham.

Cornelius Vanderbilt predicted the Rutland wouldn't last 100 years. In the early part of this century, the New York Central bought a controlling interest in the Rutland but later sold a good deal of that stock to the New Haven. Passenger service was poor because there were no towns over 500 on the line. In 1852, the New York & Harlem reached Chatham from New York City and connected with the Western Railroad to create an Albany-NY link. The NY & Harlem never developed into a major link to New York City because the Hudson River was so much better a route. Rutland passenger service went to Troy over the B&M from White Creek instead of to Chatham. The last 27 years of the Rutland's existence saw only the milk train. It started in Ogdensburg and made no pick ups in-route on the Lebanon Springs. It was eventually rerouted through Troy. The Rutland tried busses from 1925 to 1931. The Chatham line was never an asset. A reorganization in 1950s resulted in the scrapping of the Bennington to Chatham line. The proceeds of this action was enough to buy 450 box cars.

The New York & Harlem was incorporated in 1831 to build a line within New York City, but its charter was amended to allow it to build towards Albany. Part of the reason the New York & Harlem never fully developed was because Cornelius Vanderbilt also controlled the Hudson River Railroad which was a superior route. As the Harlem Division, it ran into the 1970s using Chatham as its northern terminus. It is 127 miles from Grand Central Terminal. In the 1950s, the 7am eastbound (this branch observed the same "east-west" direction as the Hudson Division) train took three hours and 30 minutes to reach Grand Central. The 4:25pm train took a few more stops and exceeded four hours. There was a 7:16am from Grand Central into Chatham at 11:30 and a 3:33pm in at 7:05. In addition there were extra trains on Friday night and Monday morning to accommodate weekend residents. Signal Station 65 was the end of the Harlem Division at its intersection with the Boston & Albany.

Around 1850, the Schenectady & Troy tried to develop an alternative rail route to compete against the strong combination of the Mohawk & Hudson and the Utica & Schenectady. The S&T connected with New York City by means of the Troy & Greenbush and the Hudson River RR. However, they felt a friendlier connection would be possible if the New York & Harlem were to extend from Chatham to Troy. This idea did not develop and by 1853 the S&T was part of the New York Central.

Chatham's train station is currently unused and is owned by CONRAIL. It is 100 years old in 1987 and was designed by the same people who did Albany Union Station. It served both the B&A and Harlem. The Rutland had its own station nearby.

Boston is 177 miles from Chatham and Rensselaer (site of Tower 99) is 22 miles away. West of Chatham at Post Road, freights branch out over the Hudson River to Selkirk while today's lone AMTRAK run to/from Boston follows the newly-reconstructed Post Road Connection to Rensselaer. No longer is Chatham a passenger stop, but in 1961, at least six trains stopped there. There was what amounted to a commuter train to and from Albany daily. There did not appear to be a close coordination between Harlem Division and B&A passenger runs. Therefore, anyone planning to make a connection between the two roads had a good chance to spend some waiting time in Chatham.

By Ken Kinlock at kenkinlock@gmail.com
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Skiing in the Alpes-Maritimes
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Tracks along the Hudson

The old B&A line to Ghent and on to Chatham was the old Hudson & Boston (about 1840), then the Western and then the Boston & Albany. The local freight went from Chatham on west to Hudson via Ghent. The line was intact all the way through until just a few years ago and then was cut back to Claverack/Hudson after that. Passenger service was discontinued on 12/21/32; as of the June 26, 1932 timetable there were still two daily excluding Sunday trains. Freight service was abandoned from Claverack to Ghent in late 1959/early 1960, leaving a 4 mile spur from Hudson to (about) Claverack. In 1986, this was reduced to about 2 miles, i.e., about from Hudson to Upper Hudson.

The GM plant in Tarrytown

received a lot of rail shipments inbound. Many times when there were "shutdown" carloads of parts for the plant that were hustled off down the Hudson Line from Selkirk with a single unit, caboose, and a full crew. They were using just-in-time inventory for many years, working right out of the boxcar, with next to nothing on hand as a buffer. For many years, there were no outbound racks of finished autos, though. The clearances on that line were never high enough until very recently. In the late 80s GM wanted the clearances improved on the Hudson line in order to ship out autoracks north of the Tarrytown plant. The State of NY and the railroad paid for this and when it was done GM did ship outbound autoracks for the plant's remaining years, but the plant closed in the early-mid 90s.
Just south of the plant there is or just was a company that shipped outbound boxcars of scrap paper, and behind them there is or was a small 4 track stub end yard that, at the time of my many trips by there in the 80's was mainly used by MOW. The yard for the GM plant was north of Tarrytown by a few miles.

Fort Orange Paper Co.

located in the village of Castleton-on-Hudson, NY (about 9 miles south of Rensselaer) was serviced by the NYC and was one of the last customers served by Conrail/CSX along this stretch of the Hudson River line. They had (and may still have) a company owned switcher to shuffle cars between the plant and the siding off the main line tracks. The plant is located just north of the village limits on the eastern side of the former NYC mainline, nestled in the valley of the Moodnerkill stream. Originally built as the New York Central, Hudson River and Fort Orange Railroad.

At one time there several industries between Croton and Spuyten Duyvil.

The biggest, already mentioned, was Chevrolet and Fisher Body at North Tarrytown. The railroad kept about 500 cars on hand at Croton West Yard (its sole reason for life) and sent them to GM when ordered in. Eastbound trains like DM-2 set off at Croton, and there were several traveling switchers picking out cars and taking them to GM.
Burnham Boiler and Lord & Burnham (greenhouses) were at Irvington, but not a lot of business there.
Anaconda Copper at Hastings kept one switcher from Yonkers (KD-12) busy all day, and at one time was the major reason for HS tower. Anaconda received copper, insulation material and all sorts of stuff, and shipped mostly copper cable.
Same thing with Habershaw Cable and Wire Co. (Phelps-Dodge) at the north end of Yonkers Yard. Yonkers also had Refined Syrups and Sugars (formerly Sprekles Sugar) that received covered hoppers and tank cars of sugar and corn syrup. There were several lumberyards too. Polychrome Corp at Yonkers received boxcars of paper and ink or dye material. Chateau Martin received wine in insulated tank cars just like milk cars - they looked like wooden express cars, with passenger trucks, and had glass-lined tanks inside. They also got cheaper wine in standard tank cars. The county sewage treatment plant at Ludlow received chlorine in ton tanks - placed crossways on a car like a flat car, but they were classed as tank cars. Besides KD-12, the railroad had KD-11 and KD-16 working Yonkers directly, and making at least one round trip to 72nd Street each evening. BF-1 and later SLX-1 picked up the westbound traffic each night at Yonkers, off of track 6 at GD tower.
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The Harlem in 1957

At that time the NYC still had two round trips on the Harlem to Chatham with more on weekends. At that time, the Rutland job still came down on a daily basis and the yard at Chatham still had two yard jobs one of which was maned by a B & A crew and the other by a Harlem crew. There were still two towers at Chatham at the time 66 and 65.

The entire Harlem was intact and in use for passengers until March 1972 and freight until March 1976.

The 1949 timetable shows three round trips of passenger service between New York and Chatham. There were 24/7 block stations at Brewster (B) and Chatham (SS-65) and 14 block stations open various hours between the two end points at this time. There was a wide variance in the running times of the above passenger trains on this line, the fastest one on the line was a Sunday evening train that made the run from Chatham to Grand Central Terminal in three hours and six minutes while some of the others took up to four hours or even more. All of the trains had to change engines at North White Plains and probably they were mostly steam between North White Plains and Chatham.

The B&A Hudson Branch

The B&A Hudson Branch can be seen in this ETT map:

The branch ran from Hudson to Chatham. The Harlem Division connected at Ghent and ran over the B&A to access Chatham.

The stations on the Hudson Branch were as follows:
- HUDSON
- Hudson Upper
- A&H Junction
- Claverack
- Country Club (near the present day Columbia Golf and Country Club)
- Pulvers
- Mellenville
- Ghent - Harlem Division connects and thence to:
- Payn's
- Chatham

It was origionally a branch of the Boston & Albany and came down from Chatham alongside the Harlem Division, then split turning southwest at Ghent,towards Mellenville, and Claverack. The station in Claverack survives and is restored in great shape after some years of neglect. the tracks went up to there until the mid 80's, as there was a feed mill that still got service. Between there and the Harlem Division was torn out in the mid 60's. just a little further from the ADM plant currently in operation was a cement plant, several buildings still standing under different use. There has been heated local debate about a newer cement plant opening, not sure if it's a dead issue now, but there were signs up everywhere proclaiming"stop the plant". it would add some more interesting rail activity, as well as 250 local jobs in an economicaly depressed area.

It is a 3.22% grade. Under Conrail, I believe it was their steepest grade. Under CSX now, I'm not sure it is their steepest. The ADM job is usually called out of Selkirk and the crew takes 10 cars up at a time, with empties "usually" brought down after 3 runs up. It is also very rare that a Selkirk-Oak Point / Oak Point-Selkirk train will drop cars off at Hudson. Up until last year, the local could be seen 4-5 days a week climbing the hill. It may be less now with the economy slowing down. And 6-axle power can be used on this trackage.

The purpose of the Yahoo group on the Hudson ADM plant is to keep track of all comings and goings of CSXT grain movements to the ADM mill in Greenport Center and street running through Hudson NY and share weekly reports on CSXT power and activity on CSXT Local B957(the Hudson grain train out of Selkirk Yard) including Amtrak on the Hudson Line. We welcome ANY visiting reports, updates or sightings and comments on this unique operation in the Hudson River Valley! Photos may be uploaded in the 'files' or 'photo' sections.
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Quay construction May 2006 Saint-Jerome, Quebec
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Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association

Bike Trails Along Railroads



Throughout the United States and Canada, there are numerous bicycle trails that either run alongside existing railroads or run on the abandoned right-of-way of a railroad.

In Québec, the longest one, the "P'tit Train du Nord" runs for 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Saint-Jérôme to Mount-Laurier on an abandoned Canadian Pacific route.

South of Saint-Jérôme, this route continues to Blainville alongside what will become a busy rail commuter line. Photo above shows its route past the new intermodal terminal at Saint-Jérôme.

In Central New York State, a great trail runs on the former Troy & Schenectady branch of the New York Central Railroad.

Further downstate, abandoned portions of the New York Central's Putnam Division and Harlem Division are now bike trails.

Part of the Wallkill Valley branch of the West Shore is a bike trail.

Cape Cod has a scenic trail on what was once the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.

Along Lake Ontario shore, a portion of the old Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad is a trail now.

This is only a small sample. There are LOTS MORE!

Photo Copyright © 2006 Ken Kinlock
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The Southeast Museum in Brewster celebrates the history of the New York Central Railroad

Brewster, New York was an important station on the New York Central Railroad

Take a ride from Brewster to Grand Central.
Click on the picture above to visit the Southeast Museum and find more about Brewster's railroad heritage.
Brewster, New York

Main Street in Brewster, NY looking towards the station.


An old postcard purchased from Charlie Gunn

See the Bordon creamery in Brewster.

Brewster is also the birthplace of noted author and bloggist Penney Vanderbilt

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Fallen Flags Photos Copake Station Rain Copake Station on a rainy day in March 1932.

Heyward Cohen Collection

These gasoline powered rail buses were used in place of steam trains for the last few years of passenger service. They ran to Poughkeepsie in the morning and returned in the afternoon. Rail Bus #9020 was a Brill car built in 1925 that had a 120 hp gasoline engine and a manual transmission similar to trucks. Service was discontinued by the NH RR in September 1933.

Click Here to see more about the Rhinebeck & Connecticut Railroad
The Central New England came into Boston Corners from the west and crossed the Harlem on an approximately southeasterly heading. The Poughkeepsie & Eastern terminated at Boston Corners. The CNE paralled the Harlem to Mt. Riga, about 2.5 mi. north of Millerton, where it turned to the southeast. From State Line, about a mile east of Millerton, it had a short branch into Millerton. In Millerton, it connected with the Newburgh, Dutchess & Connecticut.

A Boston sleeper was Interchanged North of the Millerton station, the car was left on a siding North of the station.

In the 1904-10 time period, timetables show through cars, generally parlors exchanged at Boston Corners as well as Millerton. These cars originated in Grand Central. NYC&HR Harlem Division pages show under "A brief mention of a few of the more popular resorts..." the following entry for "LITCHFIELD HILLS OF CONNECTICUT" - "...special trains and through car service To Lakeville,..., Norfolk, etc., via the Harlem..... Through car for Norfolk...leaves Grand Central Station daily, except Sunday.

REFERENCE

List of New York Railroads
New York Central Railroad
List of New York Central Railroad precursors
More about Chatham, NY and railroads
The New York & Harlem Railroad Company, founded in 1831, is responsible for $7.8 million in (redeemable in gold) 3 ½ bonds due in the year 2043. These bonds are legally secured by the 127-mile right-of-way from New York City to Chatham AND by GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL! Currently, these borrowings are rated "Baa1" by Moody's (not too bad since Penn Central seems to have sold off some of this property).
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RailwayStation.com has provided a 1942 Quiz Book on Railroads and Railroading.
Here's some interesting questions and answers:

What is known of the early history of the caboose?

The caboose was variously known in the early days as "cabin car," "conductor's car," "brakeman's cab" and "train car." The first mention of the term "caboose" found in railway journals related to a suit brought by a man named Edgerton against the New York & Harlem Railroad (now New York Central) for injuries sustained February 29, 1859. The cupola, which is an outstanding feature of the modern caboose, is said to have originated in the mind of T. B. Watson, a freight conductor on the Chicago & North Western Railroad, while on a run from Cedar Rapids to Clinton, Iowa, in the summer of 1863. Watson's caboose had a hole in the roof about two feet square. He rigged up a seat so that he could sit with his head and shoulders above the roof. On reaching Clinton he sought the master mechanic, who was then building two cabooses, and suggested an elevated glassed-in enclosure. Watson's suggestion was adopted, and the cupola soon became a standard feature.
Harlem Crossing
The Central New England Railway joins the northbound NYC Harlem line at Millerton

Roger Liller collection
Rotary plow
Railroads and Snow

See some historic photographs of the railroads in snow. Rotary plows in snow! Great stories of railroad action in Winter!

See our new page featuring excerpts from the
New York Central Lines Magazine

Brief History of the Harlem

The present day Harlem line of the Metro North Railroad owes its existence to a charter from the State of New York, which gave permission for its thirteen incorporators to build tracks from southern Manhattan to Harlem in 1831. At that time Harlem was considered a suburb of Manhattan where affluent farms and summer homes were located. The most reliable form of transportation from Harlem to Manhattan was by steamboat; this happened to be seasonal, as the steamboats remained docked when the rivers were frozen. Stagecoaches provided the only other travel method and proved to be long and arduous over New York's crude roads. Hoping to quicken and ease travel, these thirteen New York City businessmen traveled to the New York State Legislature to ask for a charter granting them permission to construct a railroad from 23rd street to Harlem. The charter was given on April 25, 1831 over opposition from steamboat interests fearing competition. The New York and Harlem Railroad Company's stock was listed at $500 available in fifty-dollar shares. The thirteen entrepreneurs became the Board of Trustees and construction on the Railroad began.

By 1852 the Harlem Railroad had grown 131 miles north reaching Chatham, New York. The steam trains required maintenance after 50 miles of run and a roundhouse was constructed North of Brewster Village to service the steam engines. Many railroad workers lived in the Village, in houses on Railroad Avenue and some workers lived in apartments on Main Street.

The Harlem Railroad had several side branches including the Lake Mahopac Branch. The Mahopac Branch was 7.22 miles and carried freight and passengers from Golden's Bridge to Lake Mahopac. The Mahopac Branch offered a shuttle service for vacationers to and from Lake Mahopac.

Railroad Stations in Chatham


Originally there were separate stations for the Harlem and the B&A which were opposite each other. After both became part of the NYC, there was a platform on the Harlem side. The Rutland always had its own station too.

Some Harlem trains terminated at Chatham and others ran to North Adams using trackage rights over the B&A between Chatham and North Adams Jct. Old track diagrams show that Harlem power and consists could be turned on the wye without going onto the B&A main tracks. In diesel days, they just ran around the train to head towards New York.
Railroad Stations in Chatham

The Ghent to Chatham trackage belonged to the Harlem Division with the B&A having trackage rights after 1936. The B&A abandoned their track in late 1936.



When "BA" Tower was still open in Ghent the B&A and Harlem single tracks were operated as a double track railroad between Ghent and Chatham. Unfortunately the depression killed "BA" Tower in the early 1930's After "BA" Tower was closed the Harlem and B&A went back to operating on their own trackage until late 1936 when the B&A track was abandoned. The double track between Chatham and Ghent was sorely missed during WW II.

The "New York Central Lines" magazine contained some entertainment sections. There was a story almost every month written by George H. Wooding who was a towerman in Ghent, NY. It was labeled "a series of merry minglings of fact and fable, chiefly along the Harlem Division but just as interesting to the folks all along the main line".


Meeting the New York & Harlem in Chatham was the Chatham Branch of the Rutland Railroad.

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