Central Headlight Mailed

Editor Rich Stoving reports that the 2nd Quarter edition of the Central Headlight has been mailed. Since the untimely passing of former Editor Charles M. Smith, Rich Stoving has been working dilligently to return the Central Headlight to its normal production schedule.

2009 Convention Update


The 2009 Annual Meeting Committee (Mssrs. Stoving, Fine and Guillaume) want you to know that the 2009 Annual Meeting will be held at the Ramada Lakefront Hotel in Geneva, New York, on 16/17/18/19 April 2009. A block of seventy rooms is being held on behalf of the NYCSHS. We recommend that you make your reservations soon. Call the Ramada at 315-789-0400.

The registration fee for the event will be $95 which will include your ticket for the trip on the Finger Lakes Railway (bus fare and box lunch also included) and your ticket to the Saturday evening buffet dinner. The room rate is $89/night plus tax. There will be only this $95 fee for the bundled event - no separate fees for each event.

The committee has also reserved the board room at the Ramada for our own board meetings on Thu, Fri and Sat plus two breakout rooms and one third of the ballroom on Sunday for the vendors' room, for special programs and workshops and for a model contest. The annual meeting and keynote convention program will be held on Saturday evening after the buffet dinner. The FGLK trip will run on Saturday.

Thank you for your support.


2009 Annual Convention - Geneva, New York

Our original plan for an Upstate New York convention to be situated in Utica met with multiple obstacles regarding pricing, dates, and excursions. Board members Howard Fine and Hugh Guillaume have gratefully and quickly come up with a superb alternate plan to hold our convention in Geneva, NY, on the weekend of April 16 through 19, 2009. See our Convention page for more informaiton.

Charles M. Smith

It is with great sadness that we must report the untimely death, on October 4, 2008, of one of the Founding Fathers of the New York Central System Historical Society, Charles M. Smith. As its long-time president, Charlie was a pillar of the Society, and the loss of his friendship, counsel, and guidance will be felt by all. We express our sincere condolences to his wife and many friends. Contributions in Charlie’s memory may be sent to the Morris Animal Refuge, 1242 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147. A full obituary will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Central Headlight.

The Adirondack Division

The history of the Adirondack Division began before New York Central's presence in the area. The narrow gauge Herkimer, Newport & Poland line had been built in 1882. William Seward Webb acquired this line, standard gauged it in 1891 and extended it to Remsen. He then set out to build a line northward through the Adirondack Mountains from Remsen to Malone. Construction was completed in record time and he began service in the fall of 1892 with through trains from Herkimer to Montreal. He included branch service from Lake Clear Junction to Saranac Lake.

In May, 1893, The New York Central took over Webb's line, then known as the Mohawk & Malone, operated it as their Adirondack Division, and changed the southern terminus from Herkimer to Utica. Mileposts, however, always tied to Herkimer, hence the "H" prefix on milepost references. The NYC soon extended its Saranac Lake branch though town to join the earlier built narrow gauge Delaware & Hudson and these two lines shared a new union station in Saranac Lake. From there, the dual-gauge Saranac and Lake Placid Railway soon opened so that NYC connecting trains from Lake Clear Junction ran through Saranac Lake to Lake Placid. The D&H standard-gauged their line in 1903 and dual gauge tracks were removed.

Several branch lines were added to the Adirondack Division over the years including one from Fulton Chain (now Thendara) to Old Forge, another from Clearwater (now Carter) to Raquette Lake, and several lines operated by forest products companies and loggers. Many of the latter were short lived. And the Adirondack Division interchanged with the New York & Ottawa at Faust (later Tupper Lake Junction). This line later became the NYC’s Ottawa Division.

With the explosive growth of Adirondack tourism, traffic grew rapidly on the Adirondack Division and by the 1920s there were ten passenger trains a day (five up and five down), and on Friday afternoons during the summer months a sleeper left Grand Central with through service to Lake Placid, often running in as many as five sections.

In 1940 a connection was created from a point about five miles north of Loon Lake to the adjacent D&H line. This enable D&H trains to run over NYC tracks to Lake Clear Junction and then on to Lake Placid. The D&H then abandoned their right of way from this new connection into Saranac Lake. When the D&H finally pulled out of the area in 1946 they sold their 10-mile right of way between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid to the New York Central.

Through passenger service from Utica to Montreal had ceased in 1953, however commuter runs from Malone to Montreal ran until 1958. The line from Utica to Adirondack Junction was largely intact until 1960, when the line was cut from Gabriels to Malone. In 1962 tracks were removed from Lake Clear Junction to Gabriels, and in 1983 from Malone to Canadian border. The NYC right of way from Lake Clear Junction north to Malone was closed and sold to Niagara Mohawk who uses it for power lines. Service on the Adirondack Division had begun to decline during the depression and by 1966 when passenger service ceased there was only one daily train each way.

The Adirondack Division passed to Penn Central control in 1968. The last regular freight service was in 1972. After a brief resurrection during the 1980 Olympics, the line lay in disrepair. A group of investors reopened the line in time for the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid and hoped to keep it running indefinitely after that but their efforts were not successful and operations lasted less than two years. In 1992 the Adirondack Scenic Railroad was organized and began operating summer tourist excursions trains between Thendara and Minnehaha. This operation became extremely popular and has expanded to several trains running out of Thendara, some north to Carter and some south as far as Otter Lake. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad hopes to eventually operate trains on the surviving portions of Adirondack Division track, from Remsen to Lake Placid.

The Harlem Division

The Harlem Division can trace its roots all the way back to the original New York & Harlem Rail Road. The line was chartered by the state legislation in 1831, to build a street railway on New York's Manhattan island from 14th Street to the village of Harlem at 129th Street, seven miles to the north. Construction began in 1832, with the blasting of a rock ridge at Murray Hill. By 1832, the NY&H ran from Astor House to 14th Street. By 1837, rails reached the village of Harlem.

An act of the New York State Legislature gave the railroad the power to expand into the Bronx, Westchester, and beyond. In 1842, the line jumped across the Harlem River to reach Williams Bridge, and into Westchester County to reach White Plains by 1844. Next, the railroad reached the top of Westchester County at Croton Falls in 1847, then on to Dover Plains in 1848, and finally the village of Chatham in 1852. At Chatham, connections were made with the Western Railroad (later the Boston & Albany) and the Rutland Railway.
On Septmeber 1, 1966, P-motor #226 and an RS-3 hang out at North White Plains, New York, then the northern limit of third rail electrification on the Harlem Division.

In 1854, Cornelius Vanderbilt took control of the NY&H through a stock purchase. He then purchased stock control of the Hudson River Rail Road in 1863, and merged the two together to make the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad in 1869 (shortened to New York Central in 1914). Of note, the NY&H company still exists today, and remains the owner of considerable Manhattan real estate properties.

More and more people were living in the country and working in the city. As a result, a brisk commuter service developed on the lower portion of the Harlem early on. Third-rail electrification began in 1910 between New York and White Plains, as a result of the Grand Central Terminal Project. A engine terminal and transfer point was created at White Plains North to facilitate the changeover from electric to steam (and later diesel) locomotives. Beyond suburban service to Golden's Bridge and Brewster, through passenger service was available all the way to Chatham. Extended through services were operated over the Boston & Albany to Pittsfield and North Adams, Massachusetts. On occasion, the Harlem was used as a back-up route when the Hudson Division mainline was blocked. Today, only the section from Grand Central to Wassaic survives, operated by MTA Metro-North Railroad.

The Lake Mahopac Branch

The New York & Mahopac, which ran from a connection with the New York & Harlem at Golden's Bridge to Lake Mahopac opened in June 1872. It was leased on the same date, and became part of the New York & Harlem Railroad in 1880. There was only one other station on the line at Lincolndale. The branch crossed the Putnam Division at grade at XC Cabin. The Lake Mahopac terminal was adjacent to the Putnam Division station at the same point. Operation of the Lake Mahopac Branch continued through 1959, when all passenger service was ended. Since there were no freight to justify leaving the branch in place, it was promptly abandoned and removed by the early 1960s.
Penn Central's Upper Harlem Line Sunday afternoon train for New York awaits a rider or two at the ex-New York Central station at Chatham, New York in May 1971.

The Port Morris Branch

The industrial track that ran from the Harlem Division at Melrose over to a connection with the New Haven on the East River at Port Morris was built as the Spuyten Duyvil & Port Morris in 1842. It split from the Harlem near 162nd Street (near Melrose), and ran to a point on the East River known as Port Morris. In 1853, the NY&H purchased the railroad and it was designated as the Port Morris Branch. In later years, the line was electrified with third rail, and was operated as a freight connection to the New Haven's Oak Point Yard.

Map of the Harlem Division

The Putnam Division

The history of the Putnam Division goes back to 1869, when the New York & Boston was chartered to build a new railroad from High Bridge in the Bronx to Brewster in Putnam County. The route would go through several name changes and reorganizations before actual construction began. At first, the New York & Boston was to be part of a plan to connect Boston with the Erie Railroad. Those plans collapsed and in 1873 the line was reorganized as the New York, Boston & Montreal. The New York & Boston was to be just one link in a new trunk line to Canada. The Panic of 1873 wiped out the grandiose plans, and the investors reorganized as the New York, Westchester & Putnam in 1877. The reorganized line was leased to the New York City & Northern, later becoming the New York & Northern in 1878, and construction finally began. The line was completed in 1880, and regular service began in 1881. A connection was made with the New York & Harlem at Brewster for service to the north, and with the New York & New England for Boston. The New York & Northern terminated at 155th Street in Manhattan, where direct connections were made with the Ninth Avenue Elevated. The Mahopac Falls Railroad was built from Baldwin Place north to the Mahopac iron mines in 1884. In 1888, the Yonkers Rapid Transit branch to Getty Square was built over the right of way of the West Side & Yonkers. By the 1890s, the NY&N had lost a lot of traffic and its outside connections once the NY&NE coming under the control of the New Haven. Afraid that a competing company would purchase the line and try to start a rate war with either the New York Central or the New Haven, financier J.P. Morgan purchased the failing NY&N at a bankruptcy auction in 1894 and reorganized it as the New York & Putnam. He then leased the NY&P to the New York Central, operating it as their Putnam Division. In 1913, the NY&P was formally merged into the New York Central.

During New York Central control, many changes took place. In 1902, the branch to Mahopac Mines was cut back to Mahopac Falls. That same year, a mile-long spur was built from Yorktown Hieghts to serve the proposed site of the Mohansic State Hospital. In 1915, New York City objected to the threat of water pollution to the Croton Reservoir from this project. The branch was abandoned in 1917. In 1916, NYC moved the Put's terminal from 155th Street to Sedgwick Avenue (just south of High Bridge). The swing bridge over the Harlem River was sold to the IRT subway, connecting with their new Jerome Avenue line. In 1926, the Putnam Division was electrified with third rail from Sedgwick Avenue up to Van Cortlandt Junction, and the entire Getty Square Branch.

John D. Rockefeller was annoyed by the railroad that ran through his family's estate in Pocantico Hills. Rockefeller approached the railroad with a plan to move the line off his property. On April 15, 1930, a construction crew of 500 men began work on the railroad relocation. Three stations were closed: Tarrytown Heights, Tower Hill, and Pocantico Hills. The new route opened in 1931. It served fewer people and generated no freight traffic. That same year the Mahopac Falls branch was abandoned. At the end of 1943, the New York Central filed for abandonment of the Getty Square branch. After a lengthy court battle, the Federal government ordered the line to be scrapped in December 1944.

In 1956, the New York Central announced its intention to end all commuter service on the Putnam Division, and increase fares on the nearby Harlem and Hudson Divisions. By 1957 the number of trains was cut in half. The reduced service led to even lower ridership and the railroad went back to the commission with another petition to end service later that year. In March 1958, the commission approved the railroad's petition, and the last Putnam Division passenger train ran on May 29. An interdivisional shuttled operated by Harlem Division crews continued until 1959.

Because the line had no tunnels and good clearances, "high and wide" freight loads kept the Putnam Division busy until the West Shore was upgraded to accept oversize freight traffic in the early 1960s. In 1962, trackage abandonment began in earnest. First to go was the 23 miles between East View and Lake Mahopac. More tracks were removed and service declined through the Penn Central and Conrail eras. Today, the entire line has been lifted, and much of the right-of-way has been converted to recreational trail use.

Map of the Putnam Division

The Hudson Division

The Hudson River Railroad Company was incorporated May 12, 1846 to build and operate a railroad from New York City to East Albany which is now Rensselaer. The road was opened for traffic in sections as completed, the entire length being put into operation by October 1, 1851. The railroad was built along the west side of Manhattan Island beginning at 32nd Street north to Spuyten Duyvil and then following closely along the Hudson River through Yonkers, Tarrytown, Peekskill, Cold spring, Fishkill (now Beacon), Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck (now Rhinecliff), Hudson, Castleton and finally to east Albany.

The railroad was initially opened for business to Peekskill on Sept. 30th and to Poughkeepsie Dec. 31st. 1849. The track had been laid during the summer and autumn of the year 1849 with rail weighting 70 lbs. to the yard. The road continued to be built in sections with the section between East Albany and Hudson opened on June 16th of 1851 and finally on October 1st of 1851, the entire road was opened between New York and East Albany. By 1850 a station had been located at Chambers Street in New York City and horses were used to draw the cars to 32nd Street.

The Hudson River Railroad became the Hudson River Division after the consolidation of the Hudson River Railroad and the New York Central Railroad in 1869, forming the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad. By the late 1880’s the Hudson River Division was shortened to the Hudson Division. When the Spuyten Duyvil & Port Morris Railroad was opened between Spuyten Duyvil and Mott Haven on April 1, 1872 that railroad was incorporated into the Hudson River Division as it had been previously leased to the Hudson River Railroad on November 1, 1871.

Once the electrification was begun in the early 1900’s from Grand Central Terminal to Croton-on-Hudson and North White Plains, the Hudson Division territory between Mott Haven and Croton-on-Hudson was gradually absorbed into the Electric Division and that was completed by early 1910. The 30th Street Branch which operated down the west side of Manhattan Island continued as a part of the Hudson Division until control was transferred to the Electric Division in late 1929 or early 1930. This branch had been the original main line of the Hudson River Railroad until the Spuyten Duyvil & Port Morris Railroad was completed allowing access to Grand Central Station.

Four-tracking of the entire Hudson Division between Croton-on-Hudson and Rensselaer was never completed and significant gaps remained between Peekskill and Garrison, Barrytown and Tivoli and Germantown and Castleton. The short section of four tracks between Tivoli and Germantown and Castleton and Rensselaer were reduced to two tracks early in the 1930’s as a result of the depression. Additional reductions of trackage occurred during the 1950’s and by the end of 1962 there were no four-track sections remaining.

In the early 1930’s, as a result of the depression, the management of the Hudson Division was transferred from New York City to Albany. Control continued in Albany under a Superintendent responsible for both the Mohawk and Hudson Divisions until the late 1950’s when operational control was returned to New York City as a result of organizational and related changes. The bulk of the former Hudson Division is now operated by CSX Transportation as far as Poughkeepsie, and by MTA Metro-North Railroad south to Grand Central.

Map of the Hudson Division