1913 saw the completion of electrification from Grand Central to Croton-Harmon. Logically, it became important to the Central as a transfer and maintenance facility.


Croton-Harmon 1990 photo by Ken Kinlock
Shops at Harmon (photo by the author)

Welcome to our New York Central Harmon Shops WebSite



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

Our feature article is all about the shops at Harmon

Read about Harmon in the 60's , how Harmon got its name , and all about freight in the Croton-Harmon area.

See stories on modernization plans and progress for the Harmon Shops.

General Motors in Tarrytown.

New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey and the NY Central Niagara steam locomotives

Just North (timetable West) of Harmon are several tunnels on the New York Central.

A lot of the freight that rolled into Harmon was destined for the West Side Freight Line and the St Johns Freight House. A lot of these cars were head end equipment such as Railway Express and mail.

We have some great New York Central Railroad pictures including a crew change at Croton-Harmon and four tracks in place at Beacon.

NY State Speed Limits as of June, 2011 as they relate to high speed rail.

You will enjoy our map of Croton-Harmon and photograph from Google Earth;

See some great pictures of a freight yard in action. Even the railroad policeman who protected the yard.

and our story on Merchants Despatch.

Metro-North Commuter Railroad

Harmon in Hurricane Irene



Mapping Westchester County/a> Historical and modern maps

Remembering the last New York Central Railway Post Office (RPO) Through Syracuse (by Richard Palmer)

Finally, a "must-see" is our reference section which includes several New York Central movies.
Old yard along the Hudson in the days of steam
Old yard along the Hudson in the days of steam
Harmon in Hurricane Irene

Harmon in Hurricane Irene

Harmon Signal Tower

Harmon and Croton had several important signal towers

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An old picture of Harmon

courtesy of Wayne Koch

An old picture of Harmon

courtesy of Wayne Koch
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If you use an EDI VAN for your business, this message is for you. Move past the ancient VAN technology. JWH EDI Services Electronic Commerce Messaging System will bring your EDI operation into the 21st Century. The power of our global EDI network is available on your server, your cloud platform or your application. AND you cannot beat our prices.
You can connect and communicate with all your customers and trading partners through the JWH EDI Services Electronic Commerce Messaging System - Connect with trading partners around the world on a single Network-as-a-Service platform, get real-time transaction visibility and eliminate those manual network processes. It is a pay as you need model. We track all interchanges from the moment they enter the system, along every step across the network, and through the delivery confirmation.

How can we help you? Contact us: Ken Kinlock at kenkinlock@gmail.com
Completion of Niagaras and Governor Dewey speaks

Completion of Niagaras and New York Governor Thomas E.Dewey speaks


(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
Completion of Niagaras and Governor Dewey speaks Completion of Niagaras in 1946 and New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey speaks
(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
Niagara Locomotive testing with actual freight

Niagara Locomotive testing with actual freight near Peekskill NY in 1946


(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
Locomotive 6001 is being pulled by 4 models

In 1946, Niagara Locomotive 6001 is being pulled by 4 models to show how great Timken roller bearings worked


(Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)

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ec-bp.com The Forum for Supply Chain Integration



ec-bp was established in 2005 as the advocate for lowering the barriers to the adoption of EDI, and our email newsletter has been published every month since that time. Our focus has expanded beyond EDI to encompas the full gamut of supply chain practices and technologies. In addition, our readership has grown to become the largest of any similarly focused publication, and has expanded to include more than 90,000 professionals involved in nearly every aspect of the supply chain.

Today’s supply chain is more than simple transport of EDI documents. The complexity of maintaining compliance with trading partners, managing the ever increasing amount of data, and analyzing that data to drive constant improvement in processes and service take supply chain professionals far beyond the basics of mapping EDI documents.

Just Around the Corner by Bertrande H. Snell

Bertrande H. Snell, author of the following article, a native of Parish, Oswego County, N.Y., was a telegrapher all his working life. For many years he was employed by the New York Central Railroad, and for 33 years was a telegrapher for Western Union in Syracuse.

Bertrande Snell commenced his writing career with the Syracuse Syracuse Post-Standard in 1945 and continued it until shortly before his death in 1949. His columns were primarily of a reminiscent or historical nature, which included railroad stories.

If you like his column, we have more.
Syracuse Post-Standard, March 23, 1947

Just Around the Corner -
By Bertrande Snell

On a warm evening of the early summer of 1905, Wilfred Passmore and I arrived in Buffalo from the west. We had been telegraphing in the southwest for the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad and were on our way home, each with about $300 in bills tucked away in one of our shoes, nestling comfortably between skin and sock.

Unfortunately, we got into Buffalo rather late in the evening and decided to stay there overnight. We got a room in a small hotel off Ellicott Square, deposited our suitcases and started out to "look around" a little.

Just 36 hours later we sat in our hotel room and took inventory of our assets. These consisted of two brand-new suits, two Ingersoll watches, a varied assortment of pawn tickets and about $12 in cash. So, we decided to go home. Passey lived in Gillette, Pa., and I lived in Parish, so it immediately occurred to me that I could easily get over to Suspension Bridge, where I was more-or-less known, nd bum a ride on the Hojack to Oswego and thence home, with little, or no outlay.

My partner's case was different, since he was practically unknown as a railroader outside of Pennsylvania. In spite of his strong reluctance i forced all our remaining cash upon him - that is, all except a dollar in change for, "emergencies" - and went our separate ways, promising to take up where we left off, later (as to what had become of our joint $600 fund - that's something not to be divulged in this particular story. So don't be looking for it).

I trolleyed over to Suspension Bridge and hung around the signal tower until 3 a.m., when I boarded the caboose of the east-bound fruit train captained by Conductor Bob Cronin, whom I knew well. Bill and his crew greeted me, not too effusively perhaps, but made me free of the caboose accommodations, which in those days included plenty to eat and a place to sleep.

We arrived in Oswego about 10:30 that night and I promptly hied me to the train dispatcher's office, where my good friend, Roy Nutting held down the "third trick." i stayed with him until morning and easily negotiated a loan of $10. I rode the baggage car of 201 to Pulaski. Here I waited for the Salina-bound local freight, No. 22 which left there about 1 p.m. While waiting I had contacted George Murphy, Parish station agent, by wire and he had informed me that my folks were out of town for a day or two, so I rode the local clear into Salina yards.

In those days this freight train boasted as salt and efficient crew as you'd find in a month's hunt. Sam Hollingsworth was engineman, Barney Fidler the fireman, and Bill Mudge head brakeman. In the caboose were Conductor Loren (Hop) Look, Flagman Jones and Brakeman Denny Haley.

As we rattled over the frogs into Salina yards, late that afternoon, Conductor Look fixed me with speculative eye, stroked his handle-bar mustache and remarked:

"What you doin' tonight, Doug?"

When I assured him that my schedule was blank, he continued:

"You hang around till I sign off an' get washed up. I'm a-goin' over to th' transfer dock for a minit, you come along an' I'll show you something pretty dang classy."

So, a little later, Hop and I crossed the yard and visited the R.W.& O. transfer house, just above the point where the overhead now crosses N. Salina St. Here was a scene of great activity. Merchandise of every description was being carted about the floors and shifted from one car to another through the length of the long warehouse. At the point where we entered, four or five freight handlers were loading a car of cheese.

This cheese was packed in wooden "half-boxes," weighing about 18 pounds each. I dare say many of you will recall these cheese containers - flat, round thin-sided boxes with supposedly tight-fitting covers. Two loaded planks were placed across the interstice between the car door and that of the warehouse, and the boys rolled these little boxes merrily up the incline while one man in the car piled them up in neat tiers as they arrived.

It wasn't uncommon for a box to fall from the planks as it rolled, and in such cases the container was frequently broken. For such emergency, there were always near the transfer door, two or three tall piles of empty boxes used as replacements. It was toward these boxes that Hop made his way.

"Hey, Rick!" he explained to Foreman Althaus. "Me an' Dough wants a coupla these here empty boxes to take along. We're a-goin' to make some whatnots fer th' wimin an' these'll be jest th' thing fer th' tops."

Rick waved a careless hand toward the empties. "Sure thing, Hop," he agreed, "help yereself - they don't belong to me, nohow."

Hop winked violently at the two cheese-loaders and as he engaged them in loud and rapid conversation, they diverted two of the rolling boxes of cheese off the planks and in his direction. As one came to his hands, he deftly placed it on the top of a pile of the empty boxes, and in a short moment repeated the performance with the other.

After a not-too-long exchange of persiflage with everybody in sight, Hop turned to me and remarked:

"Well, come on, Doug, here's yer cheese box - let's go."

With no apparent effort he reached up and plucked the full boxes from off the pile of empties, handed one to me and started for the door. "So long, Rick," he shouted to the foreman, "be seein' you."

And now you may visualize Hop and this narrator walking sturdily up N. Salina, bearing between us 35 pounds of the best North Country cheddar that was ever pilfered. We proceeded, forthwith, to Gaffney's Onondaga Hotel bar room, where the savory stuff was deposited right on the bar and the barkeep's kitchen knife quickly brought into play.

The north side sure had a cheese fiesta that night. Indeed, it is my fondest hope that this narrative may meet the eye of some old-timer who was actually at the feast.

Well sir, as we all stood around, eating cheese and otherwise keeping the bartender busy, the swing doors with a mighty "swoosh" - and there, immaculate and debonaire in his 6 feet 2 of virile manhood, stood my partner, Wilfred Passmore, with whom I had parted in Buffalo only the day before.

After introductions all around, I forced a huge triangle of cheese into the not-unready hand of my friend and demanded to be enlightened.

"Nothing to it," he averred. "I made it to Gillette in fast time and explained everything to dad, especially how you were broke on account of us using all the money for my carfare. So, like I've always told you, he's a good guy and an understanding guy; and he handed me a stake and told me to hunt you up, and here I am...This time, we'll try the far east. I wired the New Haven chief at Willimantic and he's got jobs waiting for both of us - come on, let's go."

"Sure," I grumbled, "you've got a stake, but me - I'm broke and I'm not going to trot around on your money, feller, you can depend on that."

"My fine-feathered friend," bantered Passy, "I just told you my old dad is an understanding man - and he thought about that, too. When he handed me this hundred, he gave me another for you; here she is." And he tucked $20 bills in my pocket.

There was nothing further to be said in the matter - so we went east. And, do you know, down there on the N.Y.N.H.& H., Passy and I got ourselves into the darndest mess you ever heard of. You see, it was life this - but shucks! That's another story, entirely. Let's save it.

Thus we cavorted and cacchinated while still the glamor was on the sunrise.
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Several years ago I wrote a story on the major railroads of 1950 and what happened to them.

Now I am following up with a closer examination of the New York Central Railroad. This railroad only lasted until 1968 when it merged into Penn Central.

But, what was the NY Central Railroad like in 1950?

You will also be interested in "What if the Penn Central Merger Did Not Happen"

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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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Home to everything you ever wanted to know about railroad history West of the Hudson and Around New York State railroad, history in Chicago and the Midwest. Links to many railroad resources. New York Central railroad history. Railroad history of the New Haven Railroad and New England. Of interest to the railroad manager, railfans, advocates of super railroads, railroad historians. The one source to go to for railroad history.

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R Motor pulls freight towards Harmon

R Motor pulls freight towards Harmon

Remembering the last New York Central RPO Through Syracuse



By Richard Palmer

(During my career as a newspaper reporter I wrote many railroad-related stories. The editors knew this and when such a story idea surfaced they assigned them to me, if I was available. I wrote this one on Monday, Nov. 17, 1969. This was five years into my newspaper career. The headline was "Railway Post Office Makes Last Syracuse Deliveries." I rode the eastbound train to Utica, returning on a later westbound train. As a side note, reporters didn't usually write headlines).

Shortly after Penn Central Train 6 pulled out of the East Syracuse station, one railway postal clerk turned to another and said in the dim light, "It's all over now."

This was the last eastbound run of an RPO through Syracuse. Early Saturday morning, Train No. 3, westbound to Buffalo, came through Syracuse carrying the last RPO, marking the end of an era. In its heyday, the post office department's railroad service was an elite operation. Clerks on RPO's were well-versed in mail sorting routines and had to work much faster than regular clerks in post offices.

Sorting mail on intercity trains, or for that matter, even on branchline runs, required great skill and know-how to make sure postal matter was ready to be delivered when the train arrived at a given station.Today most people would think this was a "pressure job," but even so, these positions were much sought-after. It got to the point that during its heyday, the railway mail system became a well-oiled machine that makes today's system using trucks pale in comparison.

Every man knew it was his duty to help deliver the mail promptly. It was always the case of racing against the train's schedule, for instance, each clerk pitching in to get all the Utica mail sorted and ready for delivery before the train reached that point. The Syracuse mail had to be ready before the train reached here, and so on down the line.

The RPO service dates back to the beginning of railroading. It is said it was first introduced on the Baltimore & Ohio in the 1830s. The chain of railroads that ultimately became the New York Central took over the mail contracts that put the stagecoaches out of business as long ago as 1839-40. The typical mail car of today is 60 feet long, crowded inside with sorting boxes and racks for mail sacks. "Sealed" mail that is not sorted in this fashion, is usually carried in secured "Flexi-Van" cars.

One of the most exciting aspects of RPO operation was watching fast intercity trains snatch a first class mail pouch fastened to a hook passing through a small town at 80 miles per hour. Everything had to be timed correctly for this operation to occur successfully. But it became second nature to RPO clerks. One false move or a slip could mean dropping the mail pouch on the ground, possibly breaking open.

Train 6 had little work Friday. As it pulled out of East Syracuse for the last time - late due to one of the myriad derailments that plague this railroad that has seen better days - the RPO crew was small. It only consisted of six men compared to just a few years' previous when the full contingent was 15.

For the early part of the ride to Utica, the lights were dimmer than those in an intimate restaurant. The car generator was malfunctioning and the men couldn't see what they were doing very well. But soon the train picked up speed and the clerks forgot their sadness and nostalgia and went to work - sorting mail, tying it into bundles, and tossing it into sacks. They wore work clothes. Their street clothes, which they wore on layovers, was hung neatly in their lockers in the car.

These fellows felt a little bitter. However, they all had been given other jobs within the postal service, so they lost no seniority. Still, they had their tales to tell. Of the layovers to Buffalo - two of the men on Friday's crew had been riding together on the same trains for 10 years. They recalled making coffee from the steam in the cars, and constantly racing against time to keep up with the train schedules. At the end of their exhausting trip they would "turn in their guns" (at least three of them were armed Friday to protect the registered mail sent by RPO). At the end of their runs today they would also turn in their badges. They packed their grips for the last time and headed for home.

Ben Goodman, superintendent of mobile units for the U.S. Post Office in New York, who himself started his career as a substitute RPO clerk, was on the last eastbound run. He had been brainwashed into the idea that the postal service could now provide better service at less cost with trucks and airplanes.

The railroad, for the time being, will still carry sealed mail out of Syracuse. Some RPO runs are being kept on for a time in other parts of the country, Goodman said, such as between New York and Washington, D.C. But for the most part, with the general decline of rail service and the development of highways and air transportation, the RPO business has been deemed too costly and is being phased out.

Nostalgia remains. In Syracuse, which was once a layover point for RPO runs, an annual reunion clambake draws many active and retired RPO men from all over the east and from as far away as the midwest.

With the termination of RPO service through Syracuse, businessmen will no longer being rushing out to the East Syracuse station to get a letter on a train at the last possible moment. Also, the mailbox at the depot will be removed.

According to Goodman, the new systems do better than the RPO ever did - bringing next-day service from New York City to Chicago, or Los Angeles. But, with this decision for more efficient postal service ends an era of men working night and day in dimly-lit cars, sorting mail, tuning out the constant horn of the locomotive blowing for crossings as it hurtles through the countryside of upstate New York.

Harmon Modernization: 2006 Plans


New York - Metro-North Railroad will spend $280 million over the next 2½ years to replace the shops at its Harmon yards where locomotives and coaches are repaired.

The Metro-North committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday approved the contract with a joint venture of four New York-based construction companies. The MTA is expected to sign off on it later this month.

The contract represents the third, and biggest, phase of a four-phase program to replace the 100-year-old maintenance complex in Westchester County. The Harmon yards sprawl across 100 acres next to the Croton-Harmon station and are far and away the largest of six similar facilities that Metro-North owns.

Until now, the rebuilding of the Harmon yards had focused on installing the infrastructure to support the new shops - new underground utilities, oil and water separators, fuel tanks. Smaller new buildings are already in place, too, to house such specialized operations as signal maintenance and repair.

Marjorie Anders, a Metro-North spokeswoman, said the new shops will provide long-suffering employees with safe and comfortable working conditions, including such basics as modern heating and air-conditioning systems and adequate lighting. About 650 people work at the complex.

The new shops will also eliminate many inefficiencies in current operations.

For example, the tracks that run into the shops aren't long enough to hold today's trains. As a result, employees have to waste valuable time breaking a train apart before repairs can be tackled, then put it back together again.
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Harmon Passenger Station


The old station was torn down, in Penn Central days.

The station was torn down and relocated to the south of the original location about 1974-1975, and it might have been before that. The first time I used the new location, it was in the autumn of 1975. At that time, what is now the dry cleaners was the ticket office for both Penn Central commuter trains as well as Amtrak.

A catalytical factor in the change was the need to raise all the platforms for the new M-1 trains introduced about 1971. Also, the station was moved because the parking lot at the top of the hill became too small, and management wanted to make "modifications" to the yard which boosted the need to relocate the station "out of the way". Now with more than ample parking, one must worry in severe noreasters, tropical storms and hurricanes about flooding in the parking lot.

The old New York Central station at Harmon was pretty neat, despite the killer climb up the stairs from the platform that seemed to go on forever. It was a self contained structure above the tracks, paralleling the bridge, which I'm sure served as the inspiration for the present structure.

I heard that the present station will soon be either "Modified" or demolished for something completely different, I suppose it's part of the project to tear down the old New York Central engine house and build a new one. This will be the THIRD dramatic alteration of Harmon station at it's present location, in just over thirty two years.

For any newbies, the bridge there now is NOT the bridge from Central days, you can still see the footings for it. The entrance to the old station was an enclosed walkway with a few small windows, immediately to the left of the bridge. Years ago , everybody called that station just "Harmon".

If one were to model the Harmon station in HO or N gauge, the best start would be with the old Atlas coal mine, just because of the shape.
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NY State Speed Limits as of June, 2011 as they relate to high speed rail:

The CSX Hudson Subdivision along the Hudson Line, from CP-75 (Poughkeepsie) where CSX and Metro North hand-off trains to each other, up to CP-125, roughly about 50 miles. Most of this line has a speed limit of 90 mph for passenger and 50 mph for freight.

Between Poughkeepsie and Rhinecliff, there are two 95 mph sections, totaling about 6.7 miles. There are six sections that have an 80 mph limit for curves, one curve with a speed limit of 75 mph, and a half-mile section (at Hudson) with a 50mph limit. Just before CP-125 there is a 3 mile section with an 85 mph speed limit, and from north of there it is 110 MPH.

Between CP-125 and CP-142 the speed limit is 110 mph (specifically, from 124.3 to 141.1, about 16.8 miles).

The Albany-Rensselaer station area and the next couple of miles are pretty low speed. Once you get past this, it gets progressively faster - first an 80 mph section of about one-and-a-half miles, a 3-mile long section of 90 mph, then a 6-mile long section with a speed limit of 110mph. The Livingston Avenue Bridge is not really a problem. On the Rensselaer side it is basically yard limits. Forget that this bridge was begun when Lincoln was President., it is better than lots of bridges built in the post-1970's. Always remember my grandfather, Ken Knapp, telling me about riding a pay car extra running from Schenectady to Albany (1920's) that "opened up" and probably exceeded 140 mph.

This Rensselaer to Schenectady section has somehow over the years became a single track. Made sense in the 1950's when all the freight except locals went across the river from CP-169 (Rotterdam Junction) to Selkirk). Always hear it will be the first upgrade. When is it planned? This has been a real sore point. It was easier for George Featherstonhaugh to build the route of the Dewitt Clinton in 1831 than it has been for the Obama administration to add a second track.

As you approach the Schenectady station, it gets progressively slower - 90mph for 1.5 miles, 55 mph for 1.8 miles, then 30 mph (in the station) for .3 miles.

Then, over the next 1.3 miles, the speed limit goes to 50, then to 70, and then 100 mph. After 8.4 miles, you come to CP-169, where the mainline is joined by the Selkirk secondary (the freight route between Rotterdam Junction and Selkirk). Regardless of which of the two tracks the passenger train is routed to, it is straight-through and the speed limit through that junction is 70 mph for passenger, 60 mph for Intermodal, 50 mph for freight.

In summary 110 mph running south of Albany-Rensselaer, and 110 mph between Albany and Schenectady, and some 100 mph running between Schenectady and Amsterdam.

FRA Track and Signal Speed Limits
Operating Speed Limits by Class of Track
Definition of FRA Excepted Track
Track Gauge Limits by Class of Track
Operating Speed Limits by Type of Signalling

By Ken Kinlock at kenkinlock@gmail.com
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Merchants Despatch (Photo clipped from an old New York Central Headlight)
Merchants Despatch

For most of the 20th century, Merchants Despatch Transportation was primarily a refrigerator car line.



Although their shop in East Rochester, NY built and maintained MDT's reefers, it also built many conventional freight cars for the NY Central Railroad itself. As the refrigerator car fleet declined, building new steel cars for the NYC became its primary role. Interestingly enough the owner of the shop, Despatch Shops, Inc., only had about four employees, including an auditor and his staff. The shop superintendant and all the production employees were NYC employees for whose services DSI paid the railroad. These costs along with purchased material, overhead, etc. were included in the price of cars DSI sold the railroad.
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Old yard along the Hudson in the days of steam

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Old yard along the Hudson in the days of steam

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Old yard along the Hudson in the days of steam

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Old yard along the Hudson in the days of steam

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Old yard along the Hudson in the days of steam

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St Johns Freight House

St Johns Freight House Photo at left is of the St Johns Park Freight House. These are from a brochure published by the New York Central in 1934 and re-issued by the West Side Rail Line Development Foundation (author was a former member and supporter of this foundation).

St. John's Park was abandoned when some of the High Line ROW below Bank St. was sold for housing. But had traffic there dried up by then? Was there any debate over it at the time? The line was only about 20 years old at that time. When St. John's was in service, there were about 8 tracks running into it-- how was it switched? And what kind of stuff was shipped to St. John's. Also, the line served Nabisco, Armour--when did they stop using the line? And did the RR serve Bell Labs (now Westbeth) whose building it ran through?

For answers to these questions, click here or on picture above.
See KC Jones BLOG about Railroad History We cover New York Central, New Haven Railroad and other Eastern Railroads. Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones See Penney Vanderbilt BLOG about Golf and Vacations, especially on the French Riviera We have a lot about Nice, France. Not only do we cover golf on the French Riviera, but also Northwest France, Quebec, Golf Hotels and THE US Open

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