Before heading to work today, I headed over to the Grinton I. Will library on Central Avenue in Yonkers to hear a talk on New York Central Railroad’s Putnam Division by author Joe Schiavone, who has written three books on the subject of the "Old Put".
The "Old Put" began operation in 1881, and various stretches of the line were in operation until 1980. The last passenger train on the Putnam Division ran in 1958, with freight trains regularly running until 1962. The highlight of the lecture was a series of films from the 1940s and 50s of trains running on the Putnam Line. Unfortunately, none of these films have made it to Youtube, but there are a couple of videos of Joe giving talks along the course of the railway.
The Putnam Division is now a beautiful bicycle path that stretches from Hastings-on-Hudson to Putnam County. I used to ride my bike from my home in Yonkers to my job in Tarrytown when the weather permitted- the southern portion of the path comprised about half of the eleven mile one-way trip to work. I could not imagine a lovelier commute.
A couple of times a year (haven't done it in a while), I'd fill up the 100 ounce Camelback, throw a couple of bananas and a bag of peanuts in the backpack ride, south to the Bronx border, then spend a day riding a round-trip along the entire length of Westchester County. One of the highlights of this ride was passing by the old Millwood Railroad Station, which (sadly) is scheduled to be demolished. The absolute highlight of the ride, however, was riding on the railroad bridge over the Croton Reservoir.
All told, the lecture was a good immersion into the past of an area I know extremely well. There are vestiges of the tracks near the paved bicycle path, and historic markers along its length, but seeing films of the railroad in the twilight of its glory was enlightening.