HARLEM LINE HISTORY
The New York and Harlem Railroad Company was incorporated on April 25th 1832 to operate commuter services linking Lower Manhatten with the burgeoning Harlem district and communities beyond.
One of America's earliest railroads, the horsecar line quickly spread north and by 1837 was conveying passengers to Harlem.
Closely following the waterways of the Harlem River to the north, the alignment in British tradition takes a natural line of least resistance over undulating landscape. Construction costs were low compared to those on the rival Hudson Line to the West; where numerous earthworks and tunnels were required at the expense of financiers and the line's ability to convey oversized loads.
By 1844 the Harlem Line had been extended north to White Plains and reached "Brewster's Station" in 1848; named in honour of James and Walter Brewster who pre-emptively funded passenger and freight stations in Putnam County.
Steam traction made an early appearance on the route; however it's use was increasingly restricted to northern sections due to complaints from city dwellers close to the line. During the 1850's, a ban on steam-working south of 42nd St was imposed by the New York City Common Council.
Brewster assumed importance as the main steam locomotive depot for the Harlem Line. The station was host to extensive roundhouse facilities and many Harlem Line employees took up residence in the township.
Authorised to continue north and create an alternative connection with Albany; the Harlem Line reached Chatham in 1852. Rural producers quickly took advantage of the direct link with New York City; no longer dependant on river transport via Poughkeepsie. The Harlem Line in the 1850's was a commercial success earning annual million dollar revenues through passenger and freight haulage.
Grand Central Terminal and the Line North...
Familiar with generating wealth in the transport industry, entrepreneur Cornelius Vanderbilt noticed the prosperity that railroads were enjoying and began turning his attention to the new possibilities. Vanderbilt purchased the New York and Harlem Railroad in 1860's along with the Hudson River Railroad, and they became the cornerstone of the later New York Central Railroad.
Grand Central Station opened in 1871 as a consolidated terminus for the rail baron's numerous services to and from the north; also providing trackage to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.
The Harlem line's earliest tracks in the area south of 42nd St. became isolated from the greater railroad system. Horsecar and later streetcar services continued on the southern section under lease to various operators until the mid 1930's when all the rail vehicles were replaced by buses.
In 1910 as part of the Grand Central Terminal electrification project, Third Rail electrification was installed on the Harlem Division as far as White Plains.
Reliable diesel-electric traction was introduced to the line in 1952; and the locomotive servicing facilities at Brewster became superfluous.
Penn Central and Conrail...
New York Central amalgamated with it's rival the Pennsylvania Railroad to form the giant Penn Central in 1968; absorbing the New York, New Haven and Hartford in 1969.
The union saw the introduction of the dual powered ex-New Haven FL9's to the Harlem Line, which eliminated the requirement to change locomotives at North White Plains.
Compounding the ill-effects of the corporation's underplanning was the vigorous growth of the automotive industry and national highway networks. Penn Central's general operations quickly proved less than succesful and it's bankrupcy led to drastic service reductions.
In 1976 the United States Congress conceived the Consolidated Rail Corporation "Conrail" to assume and re-organize operation of the several ill-fated railroads in the northeast.
The Federal controllers sought to ease the financial burden by reducing the scale of the overall operations. In 1980, Harlem Line services north of Wassaic were discontinued, and the tracks were removed. Services were soon terminated even further south at Dover Plains.
Conrail began transferring its various commuter services to state agencies; and in 1983 Metro-North Commuter Railroad was formed by the MTA to operate services over the Hudson and Harlem Lines. Metro North is also responsible for operating ex-New Haven services which are contracted to Connecticut-Dot.
Metro North Commuter Railroad Today...
The Metro North to it's credit worked hard and invested heavily in infrastructure and equipment updates. Third-rail electrification was extended to Brewster North by 1984; and new stations provided safer, easier access to the network.
Services to Wassaic were re-opened in July 2000. Shuttle-services over the non-electricified track between Shoutheast and Wassaic consist of Shoreliner Cars of various generations powered by the GE P32 locomotives, or until recently, GM-EMD FL9s.
These shuttle trains operate on the push-pull principle, whereby there is no need to turn the locomotive at each end of the journey. Shoreliner "Cab Cars" are fitted with an engineer's console for controlling the train at the head-end when the locomotive is pushing from the rear.
At Southeast, passengers from the north usually change trains and travel the remaining distance to Grand Central in EMU cars such as the M1, M3 and M7 cars and until recently the Pullman ACMU 1100s. There are however direct express services between Grand Central and wassaic during peak hours.
the "Upper Harlem Line" Today...
Described as the "Upper Harlem Line" by Penn Central; the picturesque sections north of Wassaic were deemed a secondary corridor and no longer exist as a railroad. Thankfully the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association today controls and preserves the roadbed of some Harlem Valley sections for recreational use.
the Trainz Classics Harlem line...
The Trainz Classics route is focused mainly on commuter services over 20 stations along the Harlem Line. Beginning at the historic Bronxville station and stretching to Southeast, the route traverses a variety of landscapes from urban in the south to rural in the north.
The Railcar Depot and Marshalling Yards at North White Plains are home to much of Metro North's permanent way equipment; and a variety of trains can be seen there. A smaller yard and depot exist to serve the interchange point at Southeast where electric services conclude.
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