A Chicago Hub Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
New York Central Railroad


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The New York Central Railroad (NYC), known simply as the New York Central in its publicity, was a railroad operating in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. Headquartered in New York, the railroad served most of the Northeast, including extensive trackage in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Massachusetts, plus additional trackage in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Québec. Its primary connections included Chicago and Boston. The NYC's Grand Central Terminal in New York City is one of its best known extant landmarks (wik).
In the 30's and 40's the NYC was recognized as the premier railroad for passenger travel between New York and Chicago. Its Twentieth Century Limited was a red carpet train out of New York's Grand Central terminal and ran to and from the La Salle Street Station in Chicago with a fast 16 hour schedule. Another fine train the Commodore Vanderbilt ran on a 17 hour schedule as did the NYC's modern coach only train, the Pacemaker. The Central ran a total of 12 daily trains to New York, and if you add the Michigan Central subsidiary line, running through Detroit and Southern Ontario, with connections at Buffalo, New York, a total of 15. It's rival, the Pennsylvania also ran 12 trains to New York from Chicago with every bit as fast schedules, 9 on the Pittsburgh Fort Wayne & Chicago main line, and 3 on the Pittsburgh Cincinnati Chicago & St. Louis (Panhandle) line through Columbus, Ohio to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York. The Central ridership was acknowledged to be greater than the Pennsy (rp). The NYC had a distinctive character; different from its arch rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad's mountainous terrain, the NYC was best known as the Water Level Route; most of its major routes, including New York to Chicago, followed rivers and had no significant grades. This influenced many things, including advertising and most notably locomotive design.
New York Central
New York Central
September 28 1941
New York Central
Steam locomotives of the NYC were optimized for speed on that flat raceway of a main line, rather than slow mountain lugging. Famous locomotives of the system included the well-known 4-6-4 Hudson, and the postwar Niagara, fast 4-8-4 locomotives often considered the epitome of their breed by steam locomotive aficionados.(wik)
Despite having some of the most modern steam locomotives anywhere, the NYC, when finally convinced, dieselized rapidly, conscious of its, by then, difficult financial position and the potential relief that more economical diesel-electric power could bring. Very few NYC steam locomotives still exist due to, then, NYC high executive Alfred E. Perlman's total lack of sympathy for historic preservation of NYC's finest steam. All Hudson;s and Niagara's were sent to the scrapper's torch by 1956. In 2007, the only surviving big steam locomotives are two 4-8-2 Mohawk locomotives: L-2d Mohawk #2933 (at the National Museum of Transport in St. Louis, Missouri) and dual-purpose, modern L-3a Mohawk #3001 (at the National New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart, Indiana). The story of their survival is a fascinating one: L-2d #2933 was somehow overlooked during the 1956-57 scrapping process, and was literally hidden for years after this by sympathetic NYC employees at the NYC's Selkirk Yard, New York roundhouse, behind large boxes. In January 1962, when scrapping her would have been a public-relations disaster, she was donated to the St. Louis museum. Since the last NYC steam locomotive operated in New York State on August 7, 1953, her survival defies credibility. As for the only modern WWII-era NYC steam locomotive to survive, L-3a #3001 (built in 1940), she was sold by the NYC to the City of Dallas, Texas in 1957, to replace a Texas & Pacific locomotive which had been heavily vandalized in a city park. Much later, the National New York Central Railroad Museum traded a Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric locomotive for her. She is reportedly in very good condition, and would make a wonderful candidate for restoration to operating condition if suitable trackage existed for her operation (wik).
History of the New York Central Railroad

1826-1831 - Mohawk and Hudson Railroad chartered and completed Schenectady to Albany, New York, to avoid Erie Canal
1833-1836 - Utica and Schenectady chartered and completed to Utica
1836-1839 - Syracuse and Utica Railroad chartered and completed
1834-1839 - Extension to Auburn through Auburn and Syracuse Railroad
1832-1843 - Tonawanda Railroad chartered and built from Rochester to Attica
1836-1842 - Attica and Buffalo Railroad chartered and built from Attica to Buffalo
1844 - Tonawanda Railroad completed connection at Rochester to east roads and a line from Albany to Buffalo is now available
1834-1850's Several other charters, constructions, and mergers add to the lines in New York near Albany, Troy, Buffalo, Lockport and Niagara Falls
1836-1853 - Several smaller roads chartered and built, and merged into Rochester and Syracuse Railroad to form direct line between Rochester and Syracuse
1845 - Troy and Greenbush Railroad crosses Hudson River near East Albany.
1846-1851 - Hudson River Railroad chartered and built from Troy to New York City. Takes over T&G
1847 - M&H name changed to the Albany and Schenectady Railroad
1847 - Freight allowed on rails paralleling Erie Canal, but canal tolls paid to state
1848 - Albany and Schenectady Railroad buys baggage, mail and emigrant cars from other railroads and begins service Albany to Buffalo
1853 - Erastus Corning spearheads the formation of the New York Central Railroad from 10 of the remaining New York Railroads. Included were:
1. Albany and Schenectady Railroad
2. Utica and Schenectady Railroad
3. Syracuse and Utica Railroad
4. Rochester and Syracuse Railroad
5. Buffalo and Rochester Railroad
6. Schenectady and Troy Railroad, a branch from Schenectady east to Troy
7. Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls Railroad, a major branch from Rochester west to Niagara Falls
8. Buffalo and Lockport Railroad, a branch from the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls at Lockport south to Buffalo via trackage rights on the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Railroad from Tonawanda
9. Mohawk Valley Railroad
10. Syracuse and Utica Direct Railroad

Early Water Level Map
Map of the Water Level Routes of the New York Central Railroad (purple), West Shore Railroad (red) and Erie Canal (blue)
1853-1867 - Corning years. - The NYC merges several other railroads into its system
1855 - Branch from Rochester to Lake Ontario
1855 - Buffalo to Niagara Falls and Lewiston
1864-1867 - Saratoga and Hudson River Railroad chartered and built along west shore of Hudson River. Merged into NYC
1864 - Cornelius Vanderbilt obtains control of Hudson River Railroad and paralleling New York and Hudson River Railroad
1867 - Vanderbilt acquires control of NYC. It becomes the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad
1871 - The original Grand Central Depot completed providing New York City access for the New York Central and Hudson River, the New York and Harlem and the New York and New Haven Railroads.
1885 - West Shore Railroad acquired shortening lines in New York
Vanderbilt's other lines were operated as part of the NYC; these included the New York and Harlem Railroad, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, Canada Southern Railway and Michigan Central Railroad.
1900 - Boston and Albany Railroad leased by NYC&HR
1902 - The 20th Century Limited introduced on a New York-Chicago and Boston-Chicago routing. The NY-CHI time was 20 hours, four hours faster than previous trains.
1903 - Demolition and construction begins on tearing down the original Grand Central Depot and rerplacing it with the current Grand Central Terminal in New York City, needed to compete with rival Pennsylvanias Penn Station plans.
1905-1912 - 20th Century time reduced to 18 hours. Returned to 20 hours in 1912.
1906 - CCC&StL (Big Four) acquired by NYC
1913 - New Grand Central Terminal completed 1914 - Name changed again to NYC Railroad
1920's - NYC introduced some early box cab diesel-electric locomotives primarily for switching and local freight work. They were produced by Alco with Ingersol-Rand engines and GE electrics.
1932 - 20th Century NY-CHI time reduced to 18 hours.
1934 - A Jsa Hudson 4-6-4 steam locomotive was the first streamlined steam. It pulled the "Commodore Vanderbilt.
1935 - 20th Century time now 16:30.
1938 - An all new lightweight "20th Century" was placed into service on a 16 hour timing NY-CHI.
1941 - The "Empire State Express" was an all new Budd built train.
1948 - "20th Century" refurbished and headed by new EMD E8 diesel-electric locomotives.
1948 - 742 new passenger cars ordered.
1951 - NYC orders a record 387 diesel-electric locomotives.
1967 - Last run of the 20th Century Limited in December.
1968 - NYC and Pennsylvania merge to become the Penn Central.
1970 - Burdened with the losing New Haven Railroad the PC files for bankruptcy.
1971 - Amtrak and local government agencies take over passenger and commuter services.
1970's - Amtrak assumes ownership of NE Corridor, Boston-Washington (former New Haven & PA rails).
1976 - Conrail assumes operations of PC and others.
1998 - Most of Conrail split between CSX and Norfolk-Southern.
1998 - New York Central Lines-LLC formed as a subsidiary of CSX.

History of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad
The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, sometimes referred to as the Lake Shore, was a major part of the New York Central Railroad's Water Level Route from Buffalo, New York to Chicago, primarily along the south shore of Lake Erie and across Northern Indiana. Early history: 1835-1869
Toledo to Chicago
1833-1837 - The Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad chartered and built Toledo to Adrian, Michigan. First horses then 1st steam
1835-1838 - Buffalo and Mississippi (then Northern Indiana Railroad) chartered to build from Ohio line to Michigan City, Indiana. Money ran out in 1838
1838-1846 - Southern Railroad (state of Michigan) starts building from Monroe on Lake Erie westward, partially completed line sold to Michigan Southern Railroad.
1842-1852 - Erie and North East Railroad chartered and builds from Erie to New York state line
1844-1852- Franklin Canal Co. building SW from Erie and the Cleveland Painesville & Ashtabula building east from Cleveland complete lines in 1852
1846 - MS changes plans to now terminate in Chicago using NI charter, and also the E&K charter west of La Porte
1846 - Junction Railroad formed to build west from Cleveland toward Toledo
1849 - MS leases E&K, obtaining branch to Toledo and connections to planned railroad east of Toledo
1849-1852 - Buffalo and State Line Railroad chartered and builds from Pennsylvania state line to Buffalo
1850-1852 - Northern Indiana and Chicago Railroad chartered and opened west to South Bend (1851) and to Chicago(1852), running to predecessor of La Salle Street Station with Rock Island, north of Englewood (63rd Street)
1850 - Toledo Norwalk and Cleveland chartered to build east from Toledo
1851 - To gain a more direct route east from Elkhart, Indiana to Toledo the Northern Indiana Railroad was chartered in Ohio.
1853 - The Ohio and Indiana NI&C companies merged
1853-1854 - B&SL and E&NE relay from 6 foot to 4 foot 8-1/2" standard gauge rail providing through service without change Buffalo to Cleveland
1853 - Cleveland Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad connects with the TN&C and Junction RR to form continuous line from Buffalo to Chicago
1853 - Cleveland and Toledo Railroad formed from TN&C and Junction RR's
1854 - The CP&A buys the Franklin Canal Co.
1855 - The NI&C and B&M merged into Northern Indiana Railroad, and NI merged with MS to form Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad. Through service Buffalo to Toledo begins
1856 - Branch from Toledo to Detroit leased
1858 - New alignment (Northern Indiana Air Line) completed Chicago to Toledo with alternate route through Southern Michigan
1866-1872 - Abandonment's and realignments improve line from Toledo east
1867 - B&SL and E&NE merge to form Buffalo and Erie Railroad
1867 - CP&A leased the Cleveland and Toledo
1868 - CP&A changed name to Lake Shore Railway
1869 - Lake Shore absorbs C&T
1869 - LS and MS&NI merge to form Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway
1869 - LS&MS absorb B&E forming complete line from Chicago to Buffalo
1877 - Vanderbilt gains majority of LS&MS stock
1914 - NYC&HR and LS&MS merge to form New York Central Railroad
LS&MS 1902
Lake Shore &
Michigan Southern
cir 1902


New York Central


Chicago to New York - 1940
The Chicago to New York speed race was a tie between the NYC and the Pennsy, but the NYC ran more trains with more passengers. The Baltimore and Ohio, Erie, Nickel Plate/Lackawanna, the Grand Trunk Western/Canadian National/Lehigh Valley, and the Big Four/C&O/Pennsy also ran nice trains to New York if you wanted to have a more leisurely ride and see some different scenery.
Number - Train Hours Miles
New York Central 960
26 - Twentieth Century Limited 16:00
2 - Pacemaker 17:00
8 - Commodore Vanderbilt 17:00
10 - Water Level Limited 17:25
8 - Wolverine - (Michigan Central) 18:30
40 - North Shore Express 18:40
6 - Fifth Avenue Express 19:25
19-130 - Henry Hudson 19:25
80-38 20:10
58 - Niagara - (Michigan Central) 20:25
14 - World's Fairliner 20:40
22 - Lake Shore Limited 21:30
16-56 - De Witt Clinton - (Mich.Cent.) 23:10
52-42 - Boston Express 26:30
Pennsylvania 908
28 - Broadway Limited 16:00
76 - Trail Blazer 17:00
78 - Golden Arrow 17:00
48 - General 17:00
54 - Gotham Limited 18:05
2-72 - Golden Triangle 18:25
22 - Manhattan Limited 19:15
2 - Pennsylvania Limited 19:20
42 - Rainbow 20:15
216-116-66 (via Columbus) 20:45944.8
108-74 (via Columbus) 23:15
108-46-78 (via Columbus) 26:15
Baltimore and Ohio 997.2
6-26 - Capitol Limited 21:18
10 - Shenandoah 21:52
32-16-25 22:36
8 - Fort Pitt 23:05
14 24:54
Erie 998.7
16 - Midlander 22:30
2 - Erie Limited 24:50
8 - Atlantic Express 35:10
Nickel Plate/Lackawanna 931.4
8 - Nickel Plate Lim./New Yorker 21:30
6-10 - 6/10-New York Mail 27:20
Grand Truck Western-Can.Pac.-Lehigh Valley 1002.8
8 - Maple Leaf 21:57
Big Four-Chesapeake and Ohio-Pennsylvania1195.1
4-46 - Sportsman 25:45
44 27:05


The New York Central Racetrack - Englewood to Buffalo - Speeds over 60 mph - 1941

Train # From To Miles Minutes MPH
20th Century Limited 26 Englewood Toledo 226.9 194 70.2
Advance Commdore V. 66 Elkhart Toledo 133.0 117 68.2
#80 80 Elkhart Waterloo 54.3 48 67.9
Lake Shore Limited 19 Toledo Goshen 123.1 110 67.1
Pacemaker 2 Elkhart Toledo 133.0 119 67.1
Commodore Vanderbilt 68 Elkhart Toledo 133.0 120 66.5
Prairie State 609 Toledo Elkhart 133.0 120 66.5
Water Level Limited 10 Elkhart Waterloo 54.3 49 66.5
#57 57 Toledo Goshen 123.1 112 65.9
Commodore Vanderbilt 68 Englewood Elkhart 93.9 86 65.5
Mercury 78 Toledo Linndale 100.4 92 65.5
New England States 28 Elkhart Toledo 133.0 122 65.4
Forest City 90 Elkhart Toledo 133.0 123 64.9
Interstate Express 14 Gary South Bend 59.3 55 64.7
Commodore Vanderbilt 67 Toledo Elkhart 133.0 124 64.4
Iroquois 59 Toledo Elkhart 133.0 124 64.4
Advance Commodore 66 La Porte South Bend 26.7 25 64.1
New England States 28 La Porte South Bend 26.7 25 64.1
Pacemaker 2 Toledo Linndale 100.4 94 64.1
Water Level Limited 10 Toledo Linndale 100.4 94 64.1
Interstate Express 14 Elkhart Toledo 133.0 125 63.8
New England States 27 Toledo Waterloo 78.7 74 63.8
New England States 27 Waterloo Elkhart 54.3 51 63.6
Water Level Limited 10 Gary South Bend 59.3 56 63.5
Advance Commodore 66 Gary La Porte 32.6 31 63.1
New England States 28 Gary La Porte 32.6 31 63.1
Pacemaker 3 South Bend Englewood 78.8 75 63.0
Mercury 75 Linndale Toledo 100.4 96 62.7
Forest City 90 Englewood Elkhart 93.9 91 61.9
Interstate Express 14 Englewood Gary 19.5 19 61.6
20th Century Limited 25 Buffalo Englewood 518.6 506 61.5
Water Level Limited 10 Waterloo Toledo 78.7 77 61.3
20th Century Limited 26 Toledo Buffalo(est) 291.7 286 61.2
Iroquois 59 Buffalo Erie 87.7 87 60.5
Adv.Commodore Vand. 66 Toledo Buffalo 291.7 290 60.4
Mohawk 5 Toledo Goshen 123.1 123 60.0
Average Speed 4228.1 3971.0 63.9

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Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
Diesel Victory-Kalmbach Publishing Co.
The Encyclopedia of Trains and Locomotives-C.J.Riley(cr)
Classic Trains - Kalmbach Publishing Co.-winter 2007
Americas Colerful Railroads - Don Ball Jr. (dbj)
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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright © Richard Parks, April 30. 2009, revised Sept.12, 2011