• White Plains station

  • 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 kinlock
A big "paper railroad" that still exists after everything around it went away is the New York & Harlem Railroad.
It was chartered 1831, built a line from New York City to Chatham, then leased to the New York Central in 1873 for 401 years. Funny thing, it still exists and owns a lot of New York City real estate including Grand Central Terminal!

After Conrail, Penn Central began a new life with non-rail assets such as the gas pipeline company, coal leases, and real estate such as New York City's Grand Central Terminal and Park Avenue. It should be noted that one corporation that still remains as an asset of the successor company (American Premier Underwriters) is the New York & Harlem Railroad Co. This company, founded in 1831, is responsible for $7.8 million in (redeemable in gold) 3 ½ bonds due in 2043. These bonds are legally secured by the 127-mile right-of-way from New York City to Chatham AND by GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL! Currently, these borrowings are rated "Baa1" by Moody's (not too bad since Penn Central seems to have sold off some of this property).

American Premier Underwriters, Inc. is now the direct descendant of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company which was founded in 1846 and the New York Central Railroad Company, founded in 1853, but tracing its roots back to 1826. They merged in 1968 to form the Penn Central Transportation Company and developed into a highly diversified conglomerate. In March, 1994, Penn Central dropped its well known rail-related name in favor of a title that more accurately described its business activities - property and casualty insurance. Today it employs 5,400 people, has sales of $1.8 billion and is publicly traded on five stock exchanges.

American Premier Underwriters is part of American Financial Group. American Financial Group, Inc. which, as the successor entity to Penn Central, is the largest holder of common stock in the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Amtrak”). American Financial holds roughly 55% or 5,200,000 shares of outstanding Amtrak Common Stock, out of a total of about 9,000,000 shares.

In 1994, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority gained long-term control of Grand Central Terminal in the form of a 110-year lease from American Premier Underwriters, Inc.,

In 2004, American Premier Underwriters sold 1.3 million previously issued and outstanding American Financial Group common shares. These shares were held for the benefit of creditors of APU's predecessor, The Penn Central Transportation Company. Proceeds from that sale ($41.5 million) were placed in escrow to be used to pay APU environmental claims related to its former railroad operations.

Have heard that something like Midtown TDR Ventures, LLC purchased Grand Central Terminal from American Financial in December, 2006. Midtown TDR Ventures, LLC is, in turn, controlled by Argent Ventures But frankly, all these corporations that followed Penn Central sound more like AIG or Bernard Madoff. We are unable to find out how much any of these corporations received in Federal Bail Out Funds (except AIG). NOTE: Mr. Madoff needs BAIL not bailout.
  by Jeff Smith
Not to get too far OT, but it would seem to me the Harlem was always the main line, as the Hudson line had to connect to it via the Port Morris, whereas the Hudson continued south at SD to St. Johns.

Back OT, I think I was in the old WP station once or twice, but by the time I was working in WP, they had already begun the electrification project and rebuilding of WP. It's difficult to remember after almost 30 years, but I remember it was difficult to access the temporary platforms. When was the station razed?
  by PC1100
The station was demolished in late 1983 while the NWP-Brewster North electrification project was underway. It was only coincidental that the two projects were happening simultaneously.

Thanks for posting the railroad map of White Plains. Very interesting. It was in the late '50s that the Electric, Hudson, and Harlem & Putnam Divisions were combined into the "Hudson Division." Stations and towers were still listed in the employee timetables under the categories of "sub-divisions" (i.e. GCT to NWP was the Harlem-Electric Subdivision, MO to Croton-on-Hudson the Hudson-Electric Subdivision).

Here's a New York Times article from 1914 about the construction of the station:
http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-fr ... 946596D6CF
  by Tommy Meehan
Terrific article. Amazing they could make the drawing so accurate since at the time the station wasn't even built yet.

Late 1983 for the demolition of the station sounds about right. There was a bit of a scandal attached to the demolition, too. A local group was trying to get the station landmarked and had a court hearing scheduled. I think they also had a temporary order protecting the building until the hearing. However, the City of White Plains was determined to develope the site so they knocked it down a day or two before the hearing. People were really shocked the city would do something like that -- the judge wasn't too happy either -- but what could they do? It was gone.

I worked there for most of the 1970s, first driving a cab for Airway Taxi Inc. (which was based at the station) then dispatching the cabs out of the depot cab office. Spent many many hours in that building.

Ironically the local high school kids had fixed up the station as a Bi-Centennial project in 1976. It looked great. They cleaned it from top to bottom -- dead pigeons in the attic or cockloft, dead rats in the basement. The basement especially was a mess. I forget how many bags of debris they said they hauled out.

They also scraped and cleaned the red tile floors in the main waiting room, cleaned and varnished all the woodwork including the exposed wooden beams in the high ceiling, restored the high-backed wooden benches. They did a really fantastic job.

Btw, the White Plains Urban Renewal Agency owned the building after about 1972. They bought the building from Penn Central. When I worked for Airway Taxi they were our landlord.
  by Tommy Meehan
First I apologize for the length of this message. I thought I could describe it in a few paragraphs, but once I started wow! did the memories ever start flooding back.

The sidings in the White Plains area were not very visible from the windows of passing trains, especially the ones south (railroad east). You had to know just where to look and even then you'd get just a fleeting glance.

Central called the local drill that worked the Harlem Division between North White and Mount Vernon and into the Bronx, the White Plains Traveling Switcher. At that time (1958-64) it was based out of North White Plains. I knew one of the conductors that worked that train. They had a large territory which permitted them to go to the small yard at BN (the Putnam connection in Kingsbridge on the Hudson Div.) to pick up 'hot' cars. How far they could go west above North White Plains I do not recall.

The switcher was a daytime job and they would work the sidings at White Plains at various times, I guess depending on what other work they had to do on any given day. Occasionally I would see them in there in early mornings or early afternoon. They used track 101 to come down from North White. As I recall 101 still had third-rail but I when I saw the Traveling Switcher it always had one 8200 series Alco RS3 for power.

Using the val map as a guide, the most active sidings in White Plains were those north (railroad west) of the station. Having grown up in White Plains and prowled the area, the northernmost track (110) was no longer very active. The consignee labeled "Texas Oil Company" was a small local home heating oil dealer operating under another name. Hartsdale Fuel Oil Co. comes to mind. I recall the area along the siding at their small facility (on Water Street) was deeply oil-stained so it must've seen fairly regular traffic at one time. I did see an occasional tank car there at least until 1961-62. By then they no longer sold coal. Maybe they never did, there were no coal pockets I recall, just fuel tanks.

Track 108 served the Railway Express Agency -- the REA freighthouse is the oblong structure shown on the map. That facility probably got switched everyday by the Traveling Switcher up until about 1964.

The sidings that are shown stub ending on Hamilton Avenue had a regular consignee. Carmelo Bambace, a beer and soda distributor, track 105. They usually had a few cars there, plug-door boxcars come to mind. I have a feeling they only got worked once or twice a week in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Next to it is track 111-117, labeled the 35 W. Post Road Holding Corp. I think that was a car dealer, Scholz Buick IIRC. Never saw any traffic there, but I imagine once upon a time they probably received new autos in boxcars.

Track 104 -- noted to have a scale -- had occasional cars on it. Gondolas with what looked like scrap metal or crates is what I remember. I think that was also the track where the White Plains Fire Department received a brand-new Seagrave pumper, Engine 67, around 1959. IIRC there was also a small stationary crane or winch on that track. Track 104 is noted in the track maintenance list as being maintained by the railroad. Maybe there was track material in some of those gons. But in that time period the railroad did very little maintenance on the line so far as putting in new rails, ballast or ties. The occasional small jobs but no major projects.

In the period around 1958-61 those tracks along Hamilton Avenue used to be full of cars. Boxcars and gons from every road you could think of. As a young kid I really enjoyed going by there, seeing what cars were there and wondering if I would recognize all the road names.

By 1964-65 the traffic was all just about gone. In addition to it being exactly the type traffic the Perlman regime felt was unprofitable -- single carloads requiring multiple switching or classification -- and trucks making major inroads, that whole area was slated for urban renewal. Most of those businesses were being evicted by then.

Carmelo Bambace relocated to Hawthorne, REA was on borrowed time.

Everything else there was gone by 1974, the sidings the consignees, even the streets were replotted. Today it is totally different, unrecognizable.

The Metro-North station is north of Hamilton Avenue, two large parking decks (one for commuters, the other for office workers) a large office building and the White Plains Transit Center occupy the area where the sidings once were. Even the grade has been changed. Where once the area was on the same level with the Harlem main tracks, now it is below grade with the two-track Harlem Line carried on what is now an embankment.
  by PC1100
Tommy, thanks for all of those great recollections of the the railroad in White Plains. It's hard to imagine all of that freight activity there looking at the area today. Today only a couple of rusting sidings with trees grown through them remain south of the station.

The story behind the demolition of the station is very interesting and very sad - especially in light of the work done only a few years earlier to clean it up. I can only imagine how great it would look today, not to mention the fact that the "NEW YORK CENTRAL LINES" sign on the front of the building would help to keep the legacy of the NYC alive. It is a shame that the City of White Plains did something as outrageous as that, but then again it is the same city that demolished the beautiful Westchester County Court House (located at the other end of the urban renewal zone) only a few years earlier. Had the city preserved both buildings they could have redeveloped the downtown while keeping the landmarks at either end of it. Instead what you have today is a prosperous but very aesthetically boring downtown. What is most unbelievable is that the city got away with demolishing such a nice station so far into the preservation movement. Had the station been lost 10 or 20 years earlier it wouldn't be as much of a surprise. I can't think of any other old but active stations (the size of the White Plains station) in the metropolitan area that were demolished later than the early '70s.

Do you recall the name of the group that tried to save the station or how long they had been fighting the demolition? How much support had they rallied? I've found newspaper articles going back as far as 1980 discussing plans to demolish the station but never knew there was any effort to save it.
  by Tommy Meehan
I can't remember the name of the group that wanted to preserve the old NYC passenger station in White Plains. I remember reading the local news articles in what was then the Reporter-Dispatch leading up to the sudden demolition. I can't even recall if they had any official standing or they were a volunteer group. Now I want to find out.

PC1100 you're right on the money about it being late in the game to being scrapping a station like White Plains.

It's funny I can recall so clearly hearing from a guy I had worked with at Airway Taxi that the White Plains station had been semi-demolished that day. They did not waste time! We rode down there because quite frankly it was hard to believe. When I saw what was going on I didn't even want to look at it.

Around the same time White Plains had done a similiar 'quickie' demolition on a vacant city firehouse, the old Station Two on Hamilton Avenue. Ironically the firehouse had been located on the SE corner of what I think the Urban Renewal Agency sometimes referred to as the North Lexington Avenue Freight Yards site.

The FD had moved out -- to the firehouse just north of the current Metro-North station -- and a community group wished to use the vacant firehouse as a community center. As soon as the city heard that they quickly knocked it down.
  by shlustig

In the 1970's, that White Plains Switcher was known as Roach's Job for Conductor Jimmy Roach. We utilized that job as our emergency protect power. They would scoot down to Mt. Vernon Freight Yard and sit out the AM rush. Then they would switch on the Harlem down to MO and run to BN for any hot cars. Back to VO Freight Yard for the PM rush, and then back to NWP to tie up. If needed in emergency, they would take a train anywhere, but leave their caboos at VO!
  by Tommy Meehan
Yes and Sheldon he was quite a character as I'm sure you know better than me. A high energy kind of a guy. :)

He lived in Silver Lake (West Harrison) two doors down from a buddy of mine though this was back in the mid-60s. One summer evening he came home saw me and my buddy outside (probably playing catch) and came over to explain why he was getting home later than usual.

He said he and his crew had tied up at North White when the trainmaster approached them. The TM, a gentleman named Timmons, wanted to know would Jimmy and his crew make a run to BN yard in the Bronx to pick up some hot cars for the Del Monte distributor near VO in Mount Vernon. They had been dropped by a road freight and someone at Del Monte was waiting for them. I don't recall what it was but Del Monte received a lot of perishables in refrigerated cars.

Anyway, Jimmy said they were already tied up, that "We didn't have to do it. We coulda said no." But he said Timmons wanted them to make the move because Del Monte was a good customer and Timmons said he wanted to keep them happy.

Jimmy said he agreed both because Del Monte was indeed a good customer and because Timmons asked.

He said Timmons told him he would call the dispatcher -- it was still rush hour -- and "they'll run you right through." The round-trip was about 45 miles. He said the DS did give them the road, too.

In those days -- I could be wrong -- but I don't think NYC used the traveling switcher as protect power. I do remember later on seeing the Alco idling at VO, right near the Del Monte siding, too, during the PM rush.