There have been several women active in campaigning for passenger rail in the tristate region. One was Mrs. Gerald Carson. We wonder what her name was!
By Harold Faber; Special to The New York Times – March 26, 1972
CHATHAM, N.Y., March 25 — The last passenger train from Chatham to New York City rolled southward into oblivion this week, leaving in its track hard feelings, bitter words and a controversy about the future of transportation in the Upper Harlem Valley of New York State.
On Monday night, its sister train left Grand Central Terminal and ended its run some 60 miles south of Chatham, at Dover Plains, N.Y., the new terminus of the Harlem Division of the Penn Central.
As a result there is no passenger train service any more at nine previously scheduled stops — State School, Wassaic, Amenia and Millerton, in Dutchess County, and Copake Falls, Hillsdale, Craryville, Philmont and Chatham, in Columbia County.
Signs Posted at Stations
Posted on the door of each station is a pink slip, reading: “Effective March 20, 1972, Train 935 departing Grand Central Terminal, New York, at 4:25 P.M. will terminate at Dover Plains, N.Y. Effective this date service between Dover Plains and Chatham is discontinued.”
The decision does not affect passenger service in the Lower Harlem Valley, one of the chief commuter areas around New York City. Trains will continue to serve stations like White Plains, Brewster, Pawling, Dover Plains and inter mediate points. The line will also continue to carry, freight to Chatham.
The only hope for restoration of passenger service farther north lies in a bill be fore the State Legislature that would authorize the state to operate trains to Chatham, between New York and Mont real and from Albany toward Boston. The bill is now before the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, but its passage is dubious.
However, the backers of rail service are not giving up the fight. They have sent telegrams urging Governor Rockefeller to intervene and are asking local residents to support them.
“I’m going to continue to work for that legislation and restoration of rail service,” said Mrs. Gerald Carson of Millerton, vice president of the Harlem Valley Transportation Association, who has been one of the driving forces behind the campaign to keep the trains.
Mrs. Carson’s organization is also opposed to the extension of bus service in the area and will present its views on Tuesday in Millerton at a public hearing before a state Department of Transportation examiner.
Before the rail service was discontinued, Resort Bus Lines, Inc., applied for permission to operate buses from Chatham to New York on a route roughly paralleling the railroad tracks. The bus company now provides service from Pittsfield, Mass., to New York City through Millerton, and then south on a different route.
“We don’t hate buses—we think they ought to run east and west and serve as feeders for rail service,” Mrs. Carson explained.
She and other rail supporters recall that only 20 years ago the Upper Harlem Division of the New York Central Railroad boasted five trains a day, some of them with club and dining cars. The fast trains made the 127‐mile trip to Chatham in two hours and 45 minutes.
In recent years, however, the line has deteriorated. The number of trains dropped to one a day in each direction and the scheduled running time rose to three hours arid 45 minutes, with frequent de lays.
Bus Load of Passengers
The number of passengers dropped, too, but no precise count was made. A railroad spokesman said that the train never carried “more than a bus load of passengers,” but Mrs. Carson contended that the train carried more and that more people would have traveled if the railroad gave good service.
The decision to curtail passenger service came suddenly last Monday, ending more than a year of controversy, which pitted the railroad, supported by the Interstate Commerce Commission, against vocal local residents, supported by the Attorney General of New York.
The local group, the Harlem Valley Transportation Association, maintains that the Chatham line was really part of a commuter network feeding into New York City, that “many” passengers were affected and that the railroad was deliberately trying to kill the branch.
On the other hand, the rail road contended that only a handful of passengers rode the trains, that it lost money on the run and that the Upper Harlem Valley was far, beyond the commuter area.
The Penn Central had scheduled discontinuance of the line as far back as May, 1970, when Amtrak declined to take over the Chatham trains. They continued to operate, however, when the Attorney General’s office contended that they were within the commuter area and, therefore, not subject to abolition.
A year later, in May, 1971, the Interstate Commerce Commission held hearings on the subject and, on June 28, ruled that the Chatham run was inter‐city and not com muter. On the same day, Governor Rockefeller vetoed a bill that would have extended the power of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to Chatham.
The Attorney General’s office appealed the I.C.C. ruling and it was this appeal that was tried last week, paving the way for the end of the passenger service.
A typical reaction in the area came in an editorial in The Lakeville (Conn.) Journal which is published four miles from the Millerton station.
“The Penn Central could not have demonstrated its contempt more pointedly than by the stealthy way it chose to end passenger service on the Upper Harlem Valley Line. By halting the north bound train at Dover Plains Monday, thereby stranding passengers to other points, it showed the same public‐be damned attitude that has characterized its approach ever since the ill‐starred merger of the Pennsylvania and the New York Central.”