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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. Its primary connections included Chicago and Boston.

The railroad was founded in 1853 in a merger of ten railroads:

  1. Albany & Schenectady Railroad
  2. Mohawk Valley Railroad
  3. Schenectady & Troy Railroad
  4. Syracuse & Utica Direct Railroad
  5. Rochester & Syracuse Railroad
  6. Buffalo & Rochester Railroad
  7. Rochester, Lockport & Niagara Falls Railroad
  8. Rochester & Lake Ontario Railroad
  9. Buffalo & Niagara Falls Railroad
  10. Buffalo & Lockport Railroad

In 1867 Cornelius Vanderbilt acquired control of the New York Central; in 1869 the New York State Legislature authorised the merger of roads he already owned into the New York Central, including the New York & Hudson Railroad,Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, the Canada Southern Railroad and the Michigan Central Railroad, forming the modern New York Central (though for a time it was known as the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad).

In 1900, the Boston & Albany Railroad was consolidated with the New York Central, although it retained a seperate identity.

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 power could bring. Very few New York Central steam locomotives still exist. All Hudsons and Niagaras were sent to the scrapper's torch; the only surviving big modern steam 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 locomotives could change things.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. The New York Central became a fallen flag in 1968 when it joined with its old enemy the Pennsylvania Railroad in the ill-fated merger that produced the Penn Central Railroad.