20th Century
Iron Mining
American Circus
Croton Reservoir
Borden's Milk
All Aboard to Brewster

The Southeast Museum presents:

The 20th Century Brings Changes to the Railroad


As the 1900's progressed, competition from trucking, and airline industries, as well as general automobile travel took its toll on railroad service. The New York Central System and the Pennsylvania Railroad companies found themselves in serious financial trouble in the 1960's.  On February 1, 1968 the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railways became Penn Central.  Penn Central lost 100 million dollars in the beginning of 1970.  Unable to secure financial help the company filed for bankruptcy on June 21, 1970.

With the impending end of the Penn Central Railroad in 1970, President Nixon signed the National Railroad Passenger Corporation Bill.  This bill created Amtrak.  Amtrak would serve as an inter-city passenger service for the nation starting on May 1, 1971.  The bill required default railroad companies to give their best passenger cars to Amtrak in exchange for permission to discontinue their long distance passenger routes.  Amtrak would service those routes.  Penn Central claimed that service north of Brewster was inter-city and not commuter service.  If the area north of Brewster was declared inter-city, the 75 mile section of the Harlem Division between Brewster North and Chatham would be abandoned thereby relieving Penn Central of any responsibility for the line.   The citizen action group,  Harlem Valley Transportation Association (HVTA) led the fight against Penn Central.  The HVTA did not want service to the Upper Harlem to be abandoned.  After a year of court battles Penn Central won and service between Brewster North and Chatham was declared inter-city.  The tracks were removed.  The salvaged rails and ties were sold and, after 127 years of service the former track bed laid empty and silent.

Penn Central changed their name in 1994 to American Premier Underwriters, Inc. They now deal primarily in insurance.


The Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 signed into law by President Nixon created the Consolidated Rail Corporation, Conrail a federally owned freight railroad company.  Conrail assumed the responsibility of 17,000 miles of track in sixteen states serviced by six defunct northeastern railroad companies, including Penn Central. Conrail began service in 1976. 

The New York City MTA passenger service, which ran New York City's subways and Long Island Railroad entered into a seven year contract with Conrail.  Conrail assumed passenger service of the Harlem Line from New York City to Dover Plains.  In 1980, New York State announced it would no longer be using Conrail as the freight carrier line between Millerton and Wassaic.   Soon after this announcement freight service between Millerton and Wassaic was terminated.  In 1981, Congress passed the Northeast Rail Act.  This act ended Conrail's passenger service responsibilities.  Metro-North Commuter Railroad, a subsidiary of the MTA took control of the Harlem, Hudson and New Haven lines on January 1, 1983.


New York State created the Metropolitan Commuter Transit Authority (MCTA) in 1965.  The MCTA was a public transportation system for New York City and seven suburban counties.  In 1967 the MCTA changed to the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

The New York State Legislature grouped twelve counties into the MTA's district.  Today the New York City Subway (old IRT and IND), Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Railroad are subsidiaries of the MTA.

Citizen action groups were instrumental in the 1970's and 1980's in affecting Railroad service on the Harlem Line. The Upper Harlem Line Commuter Council, Inc. was incorporated in August 1978. Its representatives came from Valhalla, Hawthorn, Thornwood, Pleasantville, Chappaqua, Mount Kisco, Bedford Hills, Katonah, Golden's Bridge, Purdys, Croton Falls and Brewster. The committee worked with the MTA, local citizens, as well as Local, State and Federal officials to push through electrification of the Harlem Line north of North White Plains.

The present day Harlem Line of the MTA Metro-North Railroad runs from Grand Central Terminal to Dover Plains.  Electric cars are used from Grand Central Terminal to Brewster North, where diesel engines finish the trip to Dover Plains.   A thousand riders commute from the Brewster Village Station each day.

1997-99 Southeast Museum