• Central In Inclement Weather?

  • Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.
Discussion relating to the NYC and subsidiaries, up to 1968. Visit the NYCS Historical Society for more information.

Moderator: Otto Vondrak

  by Dieter
Metro North shutdown cold during Hurricane Irene.

Metro North shutdown cold during a blizzard this past season.

Anyone have any information regarding how the New York Central handled these kinds of weather conditions? Outside of a blizzard socking in the Putnam Division in 1947(?), I've never heard of nor read about the Central stopping operations due to weather.

  by edbear
How far back do you want to go? I was a newsboy in Framingham, on the Boston & Albany, 1955-1960. Two of my brothers and a friend also were. Back then kids delivered papers, afternoon papers at that, and we worked for a news distributor, not the papers. On Saturday mornings we used a local bus to Framingham and settled our accounts with the distributor. We had to pass right by the Framingham station and almost always could catch No. 46, the Interstate Express, No. 28 the New England States and a local or two. #46 made up at Buffalo and besides the consist that originated there it had Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit sleeprs set off by other trains. #28 was a through train from Chicago. Under some schedules the two trains were about scheduled about 45 minutes apart. Even in the worst weather, with the E-units plastered with snow....having passed through Upstate New York and over the Berkshires...and with passenger cars with their undersides caked with snow, they were close to on-time. Beeliners made it through the snow too. Oh, and the local bus, with tire chains ran too. The news distributor was open. And after we did our train watching, we headed over to J J Newberry and ordered our Saturday breakfast of hot fudge sundaes and ice cream sodas..we were boys back then..and then hopped another bus for the Bowlerama.
  by edbear
One time, about 1958 on the Boston & Albany, #33, the Interstate Express, Boston to Buffalo with additional cars to Cleveland and Toronto, got stalled in the Berkshires and tied up the line overnight. Believe it or not, there were several hundred passengers who spent the night in the snowy mountains on that train. I can't remember if the New England States got hung up during that storm too or if it got out.
  by Tommy Meehan
Since the poster mentioned Metro-North (not Amtrak) are we talking about suburban trains on the Harlem and Hudson Divisions? From 1996 up until the past year I think Metro-North if anything, did better than Central used to do. And I am very very sorry to have to say that.

This is based on my experiences over about fifty years of regular riding, too.

We had a 20 inch blizzard back in 2004.That afternoon, as soon as the snow stopped I went to the Tarrytown station to see if the trains were running. I found that not only were they running, the express from Poughkeepsie arrived only ten minutes late. I remember telling the conductor, when he came around to collect my ticket, that I found it amazing they could come down from Poughkeepie just as the blizzard ended and be only ten minutes late. He proudly said, "We try!"

Another factor though, without getting into a thing about climate change, snowfalls over 10 inches or so were relatively rare in the 1950s and 1960s. Yet anyone who rode back then knows, when it happened you were in for trouble.

Did they shut down completely? First time I remember that was in February 1969, but that was already Penn Central.

What I remember is, Central suburban trains would be late, chaotically late but they would run. The 'morning after' was when you might have train service shutdown for a while. I wasn't around for the 1947 blizzard but I think Central did shut everything down for a while. But not 48 hours (as happened last weekend during Tropical Storm Irene), not even close. Of course back then it was TOUGH to get accurate information. Call the local station agent and HOPE he answered and, if you got through, HOPE what he told you was the real deal. Sometimes they'd just snap, "Yeah they're running," and hang up. :(

I have read old news articles about the famous Blizzard of 1888. That one shut the Harlem and Hudson down but for about 24 hours only I do believe.
  by Tommy Meehan
That is a pretty interesting article. Thanks. I remember the storm but not the railroad's problems. I was a barely out of diapers in 1955. :)

The thing that was different about Irene was the shutdown of service at 12 Noon, about 8 hours before the storm was supposed to start hitting the New York Metropolitan Area. I don't remember Central (or PC and Conrail, for that matter) ever doing something like that. Suspending service in advance of a major storm.

But as the LIRR and the NY City Transit Authority also shutdown at the same time, my impression is this decision came down from Albany.