Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
New York Central Railroad
The New York Central Railroad, known simply as the New York Central in its publicity and with the AAR reporting mark of NYC, was a railroad operating in the North-Eastern United States. Headquartered in New York, the railroad served a large proportion of the area, including extensive trackage in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts and much of New England and in the Canadian province of Ontario. 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.
Founding: Erastus Corning 1853-1867
- Albany & Schenectady Railroad
- Mohawk Valley Railroad
- Schenectady & Troy Railroad
- Syracuse & Utica Direct Railroad
- Rochester & Syracuse Railroad
- Buffalo & Rochester Railroad
- Rochester, Lockport & Niagara Falls Railroad
- Rochester & Lake Ontario Railroad
- Buffalo & Niagara Falls Railroad
- Buffalo & Lockport Railroad
Vanderbilt years: 1867-1954
In 1867 Cornelius Vanderbilt acquired control of the New York Central. In 1869 the New York State Legislature authorized the merger of roads he already owned, including the New York and Hudson Railroad , Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, the Canada Southern Railway and the Michigan Central Railroad into the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad.
The New York Central had a distinctive character; unlike 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.
Steam locomotives of the New York Central 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 Hudsons, and the postwar Niagaras , fast 4-8-4 locomotives often considered the epitome of their breed by steam locomotive aficionados.
Despite having some of the most modern steam locomotives anywhere, the NYC dieselized rapidly, conscious of its by then difficult financial position and the potential relief that more economical diesel-electric power could bring. Very few New York Central steam locomotives still exist. All Hudsons and Niagaras were sent to the scrapper's torch. In 2004, the only surviving big modern steam locomotives are two 4-8-2 Mohawk dual-purpose locomotives.
The financial situation of northeastern railroading soon became so dire that not even the economies of the new diesel-electric locomotives could change things.
Robert R. Young: 1954-1958
The Vanderbilt interests, having steadily reduced their shareholdings, lost a proxy fight in 1954 to Robert Ralph Young and his Alleghany Corporation. Unable to keep his promises, Young was forced to suspend dividend payments in January 1958 and committed suicide that month.
Alfred E. Perlman 1958-1968
After his death, Young's role in NYC management was assumed by Alfred E. Perlman , who had been working with the NYC under Young since 1954. Although much had been accomplished to streamline NYC operations, in those tough economic times, mergers with other railroads were seen as the only possible road to financial stability. The most likely suitor became the NYC's former arch-rival Pennsylvania Railroad.
Penn Central, Conrail, CSX 1968-2004
The New York Central became a fallen flag on February 1, 1968 when it joined with its old enemy, the Pennsylvania Railroad, in the ill-fated merger that produced the Penn Central. Slightly over two years later, on June 21, 1970, the Penn Central Transportation Company filed for bankruptcy.
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