A brief history of the New York Central’s Water Level Route through Amherst, OH compiled for the Amherst Train Wreck 100th Anniversary. Dates in RED refer to the history of the 20th Century Limited.
1846 – The Junction Railroad is chartered to build a rail line between Cleveland and Toledo.
1852 – The Toledo, Norwalk & Cleveland Railroad starts building west from Cleveland to Toledo. (The Toledo, Norwalk & Cleveland is now the Firelands Rail Trail)
1853 – TN&C (Southern Division) and Junction Railroad (Northern Division) merge and form the Cleveland & Toledo Railroad.
1867 – The Cleveland & Toledo is leased by the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad.
1868 – Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad changes its name to the Lake Shore Railway to reflect the merger. Later that year the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad merges with the Lake Shore to become the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway.Additionally the new company acquires the Buffalo and Erie Railroad. Making it the first company to have one continuous rail line between Buffalo, NY and Chicago, IL.
1877 – Enter the Vanderbilts. Cornelius Vanderbilt known as the Commodore becomes the largest shareholder of the LS&MS which is the perfect addition to his New York Central & Hudson River Railroad between New York City and Buffalo.The “Water Level Route” is born.
June 17, 1902 – Train inaugurated as joint effort between the New York Central & Hartford Railroad and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad. Idea for train came from George H Daniels General Passenger Agent of the Vanderbilt controlled railroads.Train offered a barbershop and secretarial services among all the other amenities provided in a typical Pullman car of the era. Schedule was 20 hours between New York and Chicago.
1905 – With the introduction of bigger and faster 2-6-2 and 4-6-0 locomotives trip time is reduced to 18 hours
1912 – Trip time reverts to 20 hour schedule.
1912 – The tracks in Amherst are raised and elevated to be level with the geography east and west of town.
1914 – The New York Central & Hudson River Railroad and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern formally merge and the true NewYork Central Railroad is born.
1916 – Amherst Train Wreck
1927 – The J1 class Hudsons take over from Pacific type locomotives as the primary power for the train.
1935 – The Hudsons are so successful at hauling trains at speed that the trip time is reduced to 16 hours, 30 minutes.
1938 – Enter the Streamline Era. Streamlined J3a Super Hudsons take over and all new lightweight streamlined passenger coaches are delivered from Pullman.Trip time is reduced to 16 hours.
1945 – The train is redesigned and new EMD E6, E7 and E8 series diesel locomotives take over from the steam locomotives.
1957 – All steam locomotives are retired and the NYC becomes an all diesel powered railroad.
1959 – Train is featured in the film North by Northwest.
December 3, 1967 – Last run of the 20th Century Limited. Soon after the NewYork Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad merge to form Penn Central.
1968 – Facing hard times the New York Central and its arch rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, decide to merge in order to streamline operations and help each other out financially. Thus the Greatest Catastrophe in American Railroad History is born, Penn Central Transportation Company.
1976 – Penn Central has been bankrupt since 1970. Other major eastern railroad companies are doing the same. Shut-down of all rail service from the North East to St. Louis is imminent.The US Government steps in and the Consolidated Rail Corporation is formed aka Conrail.
1999 – Conrail is a success in stabilizing the nation’s railroads. It is decided to split up the corporation between the other two largest remaining eastern railroads Norfolk Southern 58% 6000 miles, and CSX 42% 3600 miles.
2013 – Norfolk Southern celebrates 30 years of existence by painting 20 brand new diesel locomotives in predecessor railroad paint schemes. EMD SD70ACe #1066 is painted in the New York Central’s Black Lightning Stripe paint scheme as the NYC representative.
If you would like to learn more I invite you to check out these other great railroad websites. Also read railroad books since I got hardly any of the above information from the internet!
HeritageUnits.com – a place to track Heritage Units nationwide