I recently did some research on this topic.
From a New York Times
article published in March 1940 (About New York
, a regular column by Meyer Berger), at that point in time the horses were kept in a stable at W.30th Street and Tenth Avenue. By then there were only three horses left. Their riders had a small shack nearby.
Reportedly, from the few period news articles that have surfaced, originally Central purchased retired fire horses from FDNY to use on the West Side. Where did they get them after FDNY motorized? Good question.
For many years the Cowboys' horses only lasted a couple years before going lame due to the unforgiving cobblestone avenues they trod. Then someone got the idea to cushion the horseshoes with rubber pads and the horses lasted up to eight years.
From a New Yorker
article written in the early 1930s, the Cowboys were under strict orders to never gallop the horses or fool around. Back then the Cowboys (Central called them Flag Boys) earned $70 per month. Most were young, worked a year or two and then became switchmen.
Something else I found fascinating in the Berger article. Meyer Berger interviewed a Cowboy named Peter O'Connor. O'Connor said the horses sometimes "get full of beans. They try and throw you."
A brakeman told Berger he began as a Cowboy. “We had a horse once by the name of Tackhead. Tackhead wouldn’t go past Seventeenth Street, heading south. You couldn’t make St. John’s yard on Tackhead. Tackhead, he backed up three blocks on me once.”