Forgotten Railroads Through Westchester County

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New York Central train at Briarcliff Manor station.

Forgotten Railroads Through Westchester, cover artwork ©2007 Mitchell A. Markovitz

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THE BEST OF WESTCHESTER'S RAILROADING HISTORY ALL IN
ONE GREAT VOLUME!

"An extensive, essential Northeast rail title!"
Boston Street Railway Assoc.

"The chapters on the New York Central’s Putnam Division, as well as the New Haven’s New York, Westchester, & Boston, likewise, break new ground... Great book, highly recommended—especially for traction modelers." —O Scale Trains

"The combination of an enjoyable and informative text with clear, well-reproduced photographs, plenty of maps, and reprints of old news clippings and timetables give the reader a real feel for the railroads that once served the area." —Railroad Model Craftsman

READ THE FULL REVIEW

Chapter 1: New York Central Putnam Division

Chapter 2: New York Central Getty Square Branch

Chapter 3: New Haven's Electrification Project

Chapter 4: New York, Westchester & Boston

Chapter 5: False Starts, Forgotten and Finished

 

May 2008 marked the 50th Anniversary
of the last regularly scheduled Putnam Division passenger train!

Chapter One
New York Central’s Putnam Division

BY OTTO M. VONDRAK
Through the 1860s, railroads experienced unprecedented growth and raced to connect existing markets and predict new ones, often at the expense of hapless investors. By the 1870s, railroad service was fairly well established in rural Westchester County. The Hudson River Railroad provided service along its namesake shoreline, and the New York & Harlem provided a parallel inland route extending towards Albany and points beyond. Even the nascent New York, New Haven & Hartford was establishing itself along the Sound Shore towards Boston. It was in this already competitive environment that the seeds for the Putnam Division would be planted...

NYC at Woodlands, 1940s

Photo by Frank Schlegel,
Collection Glenn L. Rowe
NYC at Briarcliff Manor, 1958

Photo by Frank Schlegel,
Collection Glenn L. Rowe
NYC meet at East View, 1940s.

Photo by Frank Schlegel,
Collection Glenn L. Rowe

Second-to-last train from Sedgwick Avenue, 1958.

Photo by J.W. Swanberg

Penn Central local at A&P warehouse, 1970.

Photo by George W. Kowanski


Penn Central local at A&P warehouse, 1970.

Photo by J.W. Swanberg


Putnam Division Relocation 1930
Illustration by Otto M. Vondrak


Chapter Two
New York Central’s Getty Square Branch

BY GEORGE W. KOWANSKI
The three-mile-long Getty Square Branch of the New York Central’s Putnam Division ran from a junction at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx to Getty Square in Yonkers. Running from bucolic VanCortland Park through the developing suburban neighborhods of Yonkers, the branch served a growing population that demanded access to New York City. Shuttling passengers to the west side of Manhattan at 155th Street, travellers had easy access to the elevated rapid transit lines to get them to work and shopping. The history of the Getty Square Branch, early rapid transit lines and the New York & Northern (which would later become NYC’s Putnam Division) are intertwined...

NYC at Getty Square, 1943

Collection George W. Kowanski
NYC at Van Cortlandt Park Junction, 1940s

Collection George W. Kowanski

JS Tower at Van Cortlandt Jct.

Photo by S.W. Burnham
Lowerre Station in Yonkers

Collection George W. Kowanski

Conductor's Fare Receipt


July 2007 marked the 100th Anniversary of the
New Haven's pioneering electrification project!

Chapter Three
The New Haven Electrification Project

BY JOHN E. FRANK
The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad was established in 1872, and continued to expand its reach throughout lower New England. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the New Haven’s mainlines stretched from New York to Boston. Predecessor New York & New Haven reached New York City by obtaining trackage rights from a connection at Woodlawn over the New York & Harlem Railroad in 1848. The lines feeding into New York saw increased traffic when the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad established a connection with the New York & Harlem in 1871. As the result of a horrific wreck in the Park Avenue Tunnels that was attributed to smoke conditions obscuring a red signal, the City of New York passed a law that forbade the use of steam engines within the city limits by 1908. This greatly affected the New York Central’s and the New Haven’s ability to run trains into and out of Manhattan. By 1908, trains would have to be powered by something other than steam. Electricity was the answer....

NH Wire Train

Photo by Harry F. Brown,
Courtesy Bob's Photos

NH Electric

Photo Courtesy Bob's Photos

Catenary Bridge
Typical Catenary Bridge - Illustration by Otto M. Vondrak

Cos Cob Power Plant
Arial photograph of Cos Cob Power Plant, 1977


December 2007 marked the 70th Anniversary of the last
regularly scheduled NYW&B passenger trains!

Chapter Four
The New York, Westchester & Boston Railway

BY ROBERT A. BANG
You don’t have to look very far to see the effects of an increased metropolitan population on Westchester County’s overstressed highway system. Additional mass transit could help, but where would you build a new transit line in an area with the highest concentration of development? Take a walk in some of the settled neighborhoods in White Plains, Scarsdale, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle, and you might see homeowners raking leaves and cleaning up their yards. Many of them may drag those leaves and clippings behind their house to a swampy gully that has filled with the accumulations of the last seventy years. Most homeowners have no idea that this gully was once the manicured high-speed right of way of the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway. With beautiful concrete stations that resembled mansions and modern electric trains offering service on twenty-minute headways, the “Westchester” was an engineering marvel of its time. Unfortunately for the citizens of lower Westchester County, the railroad that was built for success was destined for failure...

NYW&B at East 180th Street Station

Photo Courtesy Petersen-Krambles Archive
NYCTA at Baychester Ave, 1941

Photo Courtesy J.J. Sedelmaier Productions

Larchmont Junction


Chapter Five
False Starts, Forgotten and Finished

BY OTTO M. VONDRAK
Westchester’s railroad network was well established by the end of the Civil War. What of the many railroad schemes that never made it past the daydreaming stage? And what about those alternate routes that actually began construction, yet disappeared without a trace when funds ran dry? Westchester County was home to many ambitious and redundant schemes to connect one city with another. There were no less than three separate plans to connect White Plains with Danbury and The Bronx. More than one railroad sought to reach Ridgefield first, so as to cut off competition reaching for New England. A high-speed electric trolley was planned to connect Danbury with Golden’s Bridge. Even the modern New York, Westchester & Boston had plans for extensions and branches that were on the books at the start of construction, but never made it to fruition. To round out this chapter, we’ll also take a look at some of the allied trolley and bus companies acquired and controlled by the railroads over the years...

INCLUDING: New York, Housatonic & Northern; New York & Portchester, Westchester Northern, Danbury & Harlem Traction Co.; New York & Stamford Railway; Westchester Street Railway; Hudson Suspension Bridge & New England Railroad; Ridgefield & New York; Danbury & Portchester; New York & Croton River; Rye Lake Railroad; New York & Eastern; Peekskill & Carmel Railroad, and many others.

Westchester Northern map

Illustration by Otto M. Vondrak
NY&S trolley

Photo Courtesy Robert A. Bang

New York & Ridgefield
Many maps of proposed and never-finished railroads

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Westchester County's Million-Dollar-A-Mile Railroad

"Westchester County's Million-Dollar-A-Mile Railroad"
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