Ride between Albany and New York on the New York Central Hudson Division with the author and learn some fascinating facts about this historic rail route
Lake Shore Limited at Rensselaer (photo by the author)
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Our feature article is "Ride Along the Hudson" .
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It's a little after
5:45 AM and I'm driving on Interstate 90 over the remnants of the New York Central West
Albany car shops (now a rather smallish rail yard with much empty track and a row of empty
box cars). To the East I spot the head light of Amtrak 481 which will travel West to
Schenectady and turn (i.e. change directions since it is a Rohr-built "Turbo")
and become Amtrak 76. I follow the rats maize of concrete past the new Norstar bank
headquarters (previously known as Albany Union Station), over the Delaware & Hudson
“main” and the Hudson River to the Amtrak Rensselaer station where at least 200
cars are occupying the huge parking lot. This is the second station, only
recently-completed, on this site since Penn-Central moved here in the late 1960's. Like
most Amtrak stations, it is a modern, sterile building with all of four tracks. On track 2
is Amtrak 483 almost ready for a run to Schenectady. Pulling out of the Amtrak maintenance
facility is my train-no. 70.
Amtrak 70 is not the speed demon that Amtrak 76 leaving in 50 minutes will be (their scheduled Grand Central Terminal arrivals are only 31 minutes apart) but I take 70 for 2 reasons: (1) 70 is an Amfleet instead of a turbo and easier to spread out papers and do some work on; and (2) 70 has a good "slot" going into the Grand Central 4-track "throat" and is rarely late while 76 has to fight Metro-North (the GCT owner) and its red-silver "Yankee trains". (probably 98% of my fellow passengers don't know that a Yankee train is a train from Connecticut. In the days of the New York Central and the New Haven (NYNH&H), employee timetables prefixed all NYNH&H train numbers with a "Y".
I back in to a parking space for easy get-away at night and enter the station for a short wait to purchase my "New York round-same day" ticket (return is half-fare except Friday). Although it is a cold morning I walk out onto the platform to wait for my co-worker and traveling companion. His wife recently had a baby so the trainmen on the platform joke how he must have been up all night and won't make it from Saratoga. At 6:17 he shows and we find a double seat in coach 21117 well before the 6:20 departure.
Twenty minutes later we slow down. It's Hudson already. Daylight is showing and the river is finally viewable. The City of Hudson is an old river town only recently experiencing a rebirth as "Yuppies" from New York City move here to escape high rentals. Many of the Yuppies work in the City and ride Amtrak to work. While we stop for about 75 passengers, I look around and see where this once must have been a larger rail yard but recently has been cleaned up into a fairly compact station with a spur leading eastward to several industries (this was once a connection to the Boston & Albany at Chatham).
Since October 26, Albany-New York train times are the best ever, reflecting a huge investment by the State of New York. This train takes 2 hours and 27 minutes. Others (Turbos) cover the distance in two hours and 12 minutes. The slowest Amtrak run is the New York-Chicago "Lake Shore Limited" which drags several conventional sleepers, diners, etc up the river in two hours and fifty-three minutes. In 1949, the best time was the 20th Century Limited with two hours and 36 minutes. Going back to 1921, the 20th Century took three hours and 1 minute while the Lake Shore took 3 hours and 25 minutes. In both 1949 and 1921, the Empire State Express was 1 minute slower than the 20th Century. While certain sections of track allow 110 miles per hour, the 1921 times from Grand Central to Harmon are about the same.
At 7:03 we stop in Rhinecliff where another large crowd boards for the city. By now they are mostly going to the rear cars, however an occasional traveler tries to squeeze in the already-crowded front cars. Rhinecliff is right at water-level with the town and the station on the top of a cliff. To board the train, one walks down a flight of stairs. Hudson, Rhinecliff and Poughkeepsie are the old New York Central stations while Rensselaer and Croton-Harmon are new and modern. Grand Central Terminal needs no explanation to anyone interested in railroads.
Soon we are slowing down just North of Poughkeepsie. This is the end of Conrail and the location of a small freight yard. We pass a six car Conrail local heading North out of the yard. Passing under the abandoned New Haven rail bridge from New England, we enter Metro-North territory and pull into the station next to two pairs of SPV-2000's. On the other side of the station is a siding that runs through a parking lot to a big old hardware store. I have never seen any cars on this siding and wonder if it is still used-especially since people park on the tracks.
Looking across the river at Conrail's River line (old West Shore Division of the New York Central), I see two North-bound freights heading from New Jersey to Selkirk. Time to stretch my legs and see what is doing on the rest of the train (try doing THAT on a plane or bus!). Amtrak 70 is powered by FL9 no. 488. FL9's are diesel-electric-electric locomotives built by GM for the New Haven in the late 1950's. After the Penn-Central merger, they found their way to the old New York Central Electric Division and are used now by both Amtrak and Metro-North to replace the electric locomotives that ran from Harmon to Grand Central. Behind my coach are two more coaches, an "Amdinette" then two more coaches. The dinette is unusually crowded with a large party (champagne, donuts, etc, etc). One "regular" has a set of blueprints spread out on a table. Sometimes I have been known to do the same thing with computer printouts-but no room today.
At 7:35 we pass under the Newburgh double bridge and through Beacon and its connection with the old New Haven line. We go into our first tunnel. I spot another North-bound train on the River Division-this one all containers with no caboose. We are passing traffic on Route 9 which means we are not exactly standing still. Soon West Point is across the river and we roll through the quaint little town of Garrison. Just before the Bear Mountain Bridge our train applies brakes but whoever is in front doesn't hold us up any more than a minute. Soon we pass Peekskill. The Metro-North train that parks there overnight has long-since departed for the City.
For a railfan, the "scenery" begins to peak at Croton North: old New Haven "washboard" electrics; stripped FL9's; D&H passenger cars burned recently in a large underground fire at Grand Central; numerous oversize box cars on the Conrail tracks; and a South-bound local pulled by a pair of SW1500s. We slow down past the Harmon Diesel & Electric Shops. In the distance the Tappan Zee Bridge can be seen.
We continue to roll along. Soon we are passing the Chevrolet plant in North Tarrytown. Lots of workers cars in the parking lot. We travel through Irvington, Dobbs Ferry and Hastings on smooth welded rail. Some days we hit some rough rail here (at the discretion of the Metro-North dispatcher). One of the 4 rails in this area is owned by Amtrak (in other words-Amtrak pays Metro-North not to rip it up). I suspect the Amtrak dollars pay for one of the welded ones-even if they don't get to use it always. The sun is shining on the Palisades, reminding all viewers that this road is one of Amtrak's most beautiful runs.
As we turn away from the Hudson River at Spuyten Duyvil, I notice much construction equipment parked on the spur leading to the West Side Freight Line. I wonder how the ambitious project to connect with Penn Station is doing? That will be a great improvement for passengers changing to the Boston-Washington Northeast Corridor but not too great for those of us who work in Midtown. At least it will be fun deciding if a subway ride is faster or slower that an across-the-platform train change to Metro-North. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how and when the bridge at Spuyten Duyvil will be made operational.
In the next few minutes we pass the"stub" of the former Putnam Division, the recently-closed "Road-Railer" yard, Yankee Stadium, Mott Haven's "MO" Tower and 125th Street Station. I wonder how many Metro-North commuters avail themselves of the excellent subway connections at 125th Street? At 96th Street, we enter the Park Avenue Tunnel and many of my fellow passengers begin to empty overhead racks, etc.
One never knows how fast the train is going in the tunnel, but the "landmarks" pass in the usual amount of time indicating no delay. Off to the left I spot the former Niagara Junction electric switcher coupled on to some "Poughkeepsie" coaches. We slide to a stop on Track 38 and exit at our usually fast pace. We zip up the ramp past our FL9 and immediately head into the "short-cut" towards the Hotel Roosevelt, pausing only to toss some change to the horn player who plays each morning underneath the hotel. Soon we are on the street dodging traffic in our dash to Rockefeller Center.
Several hours later, the process reverses. After a quick stop at the bakery, we check the train board for our track number and head for a 4:35PM departure on Amtrak 77. Tonight is an earlier than usual time, normally we catch Amtrak 75 at 5:45 PM. Tonight is an extra bonus, both power cars on our Turbo are "club cars" (i.e. wide seats) and only one is reserved seating. While the rest of the train is very crowded, our front-end power coach No. 161 is not because most passengers think it is extra fare reserved.
The return trip is right according to the timetable. Except for one loudspeaker call for "technician on the I C", there was nothing unusual to report. We help support the snack car and attempted to unwind a little from a long day. One of the "regulars", a lawyer from Hudson, borrows some paper from me. Most of the trip is in the dark. In a few months, the return will be in daylight. Right at 6:49 we pull into our starting point and I head for my car.
By Ken Kinlock at email@example.com
Old Picture of Harmon Shops. Note the wrec train ready to roll
Courtesy of Wayne Koch
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Welcome to Hopewell Depot Restoration Corp.
One of our members has created a Facebook Page about the Hopewell Depot Restoration.
The Hopewell Depot Restoration project also has a new web site.
I have been working on local railroad history since I retired from IBM 20 years ago. I have posted several hundred photos and stories about Hudson Valley railroads on a CNE web site. This web site has 23 sections. Just scroll down and select the section you want. If you have any questions or comments just send me a note.
In addition I did about an hour of video for a Marist College oral history project. About 6 minutes of my video session is in the "construction" section. Portions of this interview are now recorded for phone access as narration for the Walkway Over the Hudson web site. A number of photos from my collection are now being used on the interpretive signs on the Walkway.
Since my family background is in railroads in Sweden, I have always been interested in railroads and since I retired I have had time to study more. I am also the former president of a group working to restore our local Hopewell Junction train station into a small museum and educational facility.
I am also one of the organizers for the Central New England Railway Historical Tours. Every spring we tour a section of the old CNE Rwy with two bus loads of railroad fans. I do the navigating and narration for the tour. I have written the guide books for the last eight tours and I am working on the next one for spring 2013. Each book contains around 200 pages of photos and history for that section. Next spring's tour is now in the planning stages and will probably be in the area between Norfolk and Canaan CT.
I found the original record books of the ND&C RR at the Beacon Historical Society. The ND&C RR became part of the CNE Rwy in 1905. There are more than 30,000 pages of original railroad records. I wrote a book based on those records. It is called ND&C RR Twenty Five Years on the ND&C. It still available from the publisher and several local bookstores. I have also written a book of photos and stories about Hopewell Junction and East Fishkill which we are selling as a fund raiser for the Hopewell Depot Restoration.
If you have any questions or comments just send me a note or call me at 914-221-9330. My E-Mail is: BRudberg@optonline.net Bernie Rudberg
Some of these sites are well-known and have been sites Frank has frequented for years, while others are some of the "smaller guys" which he learned about on various mailing lists and message boards. This is not meant to be a lengthy list, but includes quite a few sites worthy of note... Many sites will have their own link collection, so you can take it from there and keep finding new places to visit. There is no "ranking order" here, Frank has just posted them in the order he found them in his bookmarks.
A couple of the coolest links I found on his site are DL&W Stations
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|Local Freight on the Hudson Division||
How did freight get to the Hudson Division?
On the old New York Central, where would a local freight train originate if it was serving industries along the Hudson Division? For example, if there was a box car coming from Chicago and its destination was a factory in Poughkeepsie, would the car be dropped off in Poughkeepsie? Or would it be kept in the train until the train was broken up in one of the West Side yards, and sent up river by way of a local? There was a train from Selkirk to 72nd (or 60th) Street at least in 1949 which would have covered Poughkeepsie. My problem is how did a car get from DeWitt (which was where cars from Chicago were switched then) to Selkirk, - back in 1949, there were lots of trains running but I don't know exactly which one could have handled this car. There were trains which ran DeWitt - Schenectady - Albany-Rensselaer-Troy, and they could have handled the car for pickup at Rensselaer. From DeWitt, there was a train for Kingsbridge and Port Morris which dropped at Peekskill "for switcher" (maybe could have been a backhaul to Poughkeepsie). In 1964 there was a perishable train which dropped meat at Poughkeepsie.
What switchers were assigned to locals? In the 50's, cars for the Hudson Division from Stuyvesant to Beacon were handled by the Selkirk-Beacon way freight. One exception was that cars for Stockport were handled by the Hudson Traveling Switcher. There was also a Harmon- Beacon traveling switcher that handled everything between Croton and Beacon inclusive. The way freight and the traveling switcher exchanged cars at Beacon. Cars for Castleton (Fort Orange Paper) were handled by the Rensselaer Switcher which operated in the early evening. Hudson had two switchers, The B&A who switched the Lone Star Cement plant at Hudson Upper and the NYC switcher who handled everything else in the yard including the Atlas Cement Plant. There were trains that handled the cement from Hudson to Chatham for connection to the B&A and Harlem Division. Poughkeepsie had a yard job that switched the local industries, freight house and storage mail cars for the nightly mail train.
Peekskill commuter trains I know that at one time, commuter trains laid over at Peekskill, and that there was a small roundhouse and turntable there. An interesting operation that the NYC did was to run RDCs up to Peekskill with MU cars in tow. Once the eastbound trains departed Harmon, the MUs were run down to Grand Central Terminal (GCT) minus the RDC. The old roundhouse and turntable have been removed a long time ago, but used to sit where the park (northside) is now located. For a long time, Peekskill was the northern terminus of the New York City commuter zone. The time frame of the northward extension to Poughkeepsie was probably following WWII. In Suburban TT's (form 105) from 1952 and earlier, Peekskill shows as the northern terminus in the TT's. There were always local trains that served Poughkeepsie from Harmon and GCT, but I'm guessing that the extension of the commuter zone and elimination of Peekskill as a terminus for commuter trains didn't occur until 1953 (end of steam on the division) or later. There is a picture of what appears to be a commuter train laying over at Peekskill on page 53 of Drury's "NYC in the Hudson Valley". In "Rails Along the Hudson" published by the Bergan-Rockland Chapter NRHS, I found the following: "In the early years, Peekskill had a 4-stall enginehouse with a 60 foot turntable located west of the station. The enginehouse was removed (no date specified), but the 60' turntable was replaced by a 90' turntable east of the station. Upon dieselization, this turntable was also removed." In steam days most, if not all, of the coaches used on Peekskill trains were MU's. When the MU train arrived at Harmon, a steam engine would be attached and would pull the train to Peekskill. The Poughkeepsie trains used standard coaches. During cold weather the Peekskill trains had to get MU's that had steam lines for heating. The steam enginemen on these trains always complained that the trains were harder to pull than a long string of loaded hoppers because of the electric motors. I guess that they were generating electricity as they moved. The requirement for steam MU's on these trains meant extra work for the MU yardmaster on the lower level at GCT. Rather than turning, some steam engines were run backwards from Peekskill to Harmon, a distance is only 5 miles. Steam locomotives were not normally operated backward with a train due to the speed restriction of 30 MPH. In addition, there were also speed restrictions related to operating backward in ATC (Automatic Train Stop) territory. The schedules required a speed greater than 30 MPH. It was common practice for a pair of light engines early in the morning to back from Harmon to Peekskill to handle the first couple of locals. That was probably trains #100 at 6:18 and #200 at 6:43 AM.
Peekskill must have been one of the more interesting Towers (37) to work on the Hudson Division. There could be a Peekskill local going by the Tower on track 4, a Poughkeepsie job or freight on track 2 and #8 the Wolverine going by on Track 1. Track 1 had reverse signaling from Tower 43 Garrison to CD Tower in Croton. TT Special Instructions allowed trains to run east on track 1 between CD and HM in Harmon. The 2 to 1 movement was always made at Tower 43 since there was a 50 MPH crossover from 2 to 1 at that point. If you went 2 to 1 at Peekskill you were restricted to 15 MPH due to the short crossover.
By Ken Kinlock at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mott Haven ("MO") was a big operation that included the Pullman Company, the NY Central Commissary, City Ice Products (MDT)
plus all kinds of heavy repairs and housekeeping services. It stretched back to the NY Central Melrose Central Building on 149th Street.
It was a three trick operation and when passenger service declined it was shut down. Remaining trains were serviced in Grand Central Terminal
with car repairs made West. The butchers union bought the air rights and built the apartment complex.
On the Grand Central LOWER LEVEL several tracks were paved over and then maintenance performed on the remaining tracks. After a detailed check of stored equipment of the New Haven RR, those tracks were cleared of equipment and generated the space to perform maintenance versus at MO. Essential was the wasted ENG HRS shuttling equip from/to MO vs the availibility of room in GCT. Too, the commissary in MO was corrupt & many folks were captured by the police for "skimming".
Jerry Pinkepank had a two-part series in TRAINS around 1965 ("Central Takes a Second Look at Commuters") in which he detailed the motorized maintenance the standard suburban trains were getting at GCT. They used motorized carts to service the motors with sand and do minor repairs. They had a wash cart that scrubbed the car sides. They'd alternate tracks to insure both sides got washed.
The first suburban train in, the motor would pull right up to the bumper post. They'd wash and sweep the cars and a spare motor would be brought in by a hostler. They'd cut off the inbound motor and couple up the spare.
The spare motor would take the train out freeing the first motor. That motor would take the next train out and so forth.
Mohawk speeds through Garrison, NY on track 2 just before the "Tell-Tale" marker prorecting the vital third rail
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
Railroads On The Rebound
Over the last 50+ years, railroads have changed a lot. Now they are about to change again.
It is all about a combination of economic factors and climate factors.
Since 1950 , railroads have consolidated. Freight moved from a "box car mentality" to a "unit train,mentality". Passenger went from a robust business to a "caretaker" arrangement called AMTRAK. This happened as everybody could drive for free on the Interstate Highway System or fly on an airline system where the government subsidized both airlines and airports. In the meantime, railroad express and railroad post offices went "down the tubes". The old Post Office Department and the Railway Express Agency could not adjust to the new way. UPS and Fex Ex could.
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Rhinecliff from up on the hill. The former R&C is the line of tree across the center. At left is the NYC and the long dock in the Hudson River with the Kingston bridge in the distance.
Photo by the late Austin McEntee
Photos courtesy of Bernie Rudberg
Click here for more about the Rhinebeck & Connecticut Railroad
NYC Niagara 4-8-4 at speed southbound past Rhinecliff in 1950. You can see the remains of the ice house long dock to the left of the engine.
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|TOWNS ON THE HUDSON|
Fly Along the Hudson River!|
If you have "GOOGLE EARTH" installed on your computer, you can "fly" along the New York Central Hudson Division from Albany to Harmon with the "PLACEMARK" below: (Click to get GOOGLE EARTH)
Take a trip on the|
Hudson Division (Albany to Harmon)
We will be adding more routes|
Because many of the locations on our tour have varying "resolutions" of the pictures, you may need to stop the tour and adjust the height you are viewing.
On several locations, you may also stop the tour and click on the placemark icon for more information.
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There is a
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|Grand Central Terminal and the New York City Subway||
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Grand Central Terminal.
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Railroads through the region East of the Hudson from
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Includes Chatham and the New York Central Harlem Division.
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Photo Ride Along the Hudson
|Some have bigger pictures and stories!|
Our trip starts out in Rensselaer, just across the Hudson River from Albany. Roundhouse and yards
for Albany station were here. Now a major Amtrak station.
Our train flys through Castleton, a small but pretty river town.
It is close to the
Castleton Bridge (both Thruway and railroad)
Our first stop is Hudson, an old river town.
The Boston & Albany once had a branch to Hudson from Chatham. Branch now ends at Greenport at the mill. Terminated during the '80s during Conrail. In 1959, the local was known as the 'Cement Job'. That year the portion of the branch was abandoned from Ghent to Claverick Station with the surviving remnant called the Claverack Secondary Track through the Penn Central days.
|The old B&A branch now only runs up the hill and thru the streets to a big grain mill. That's quite the grade, 3.22%. I love the sound of a set of EMD's growling it out in run 8. Scheduling for the trains can be very erratic-end of the week tends to bear more fruit. Sometimes the crew does short hit n' run missions for a day only - other times a big train is brought in and the process extends over a couple of days as the crew rotates the loads and empties. 10 loads uphill is the norm - although with a pair of six axle SD40-2s they can sometimes go as high as 15 or 20 loads up.|
The Rhinebeck & Connecticut Railroad once came here.
The Poughkeepsie & Eastern Railroad once joined the NY Central here.
|The New Haven Railroad's Great Bridge, now unused, crosses the Hudson at Poughkeepsie|
See more about the New York Central in Beacon
Not a stop for us, but important for Metro North riders.
The railroad hugs the river and runs through some small tunnels.
This is Oscawanna, about 35 miles North of New York City.
|Freight yards at Croton North.|
|Metro North shops and passenger station at Harmon.|
|Here's "Sing Sing" (Ossining Correctional Facility).|
|Tarrytown with Tappan Zee Bridge crossing the River.|
|Spuyten Duyvil: Metro North veers off towards Grand Central Terminal. We go over the bridge and enter Manhattan.|
|Rails pass under the huge George Washington Bridge.|
|Rail yards used to stretch from 60th to 72nd Streets. Freight is gone and Donald Trump keeps threatening to build something here.|
|Penn Station is buried under here somewhere.|
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Beacon station in 1915
The CNE tracks and platform are completed.
Beacon Historical Society collection, courtesy of Bernie Rudberg
The new station complex looks to be completed but there are no people in the picture.
See more about the reconstruction of the Beacon station
Beacon station in the 1980's
Jim Moseman collection
In this photo there is no sign of the stations and platforms built in 1915. In the background is the outline of the Beacon Newburgh bridge which drove the ferry out of business in 1963.
See more about the New York Central in Beacon
Beacon station today.
B Rudberg photo
In 2005 the passenger ferry service has been revived and seems to be doing well with commuters who take the Metro North trains to New York City.
See more about the New York Central in Beacon
|All-time list of railroad names in New York State||Some interesting things about New York State Railroads, mostly New York Central Railroad||The one source to go to for railroad history.||Even more great railroad links.|
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