When the words “railroad station,” are mentioned, the first thing that appears in most peoples’ minds is Grand Central Terminal in New York City. It has become known as the crossroads of the world.
In the 1830’s it was becoming apparent that there was the need for an alternative to water travel because of the geographical expansion of the country. This lead to railroads, which could be extended easily, unlike canals that had to be dredged.
From 1850 to the end of the nineteenth century, American railroads grew from 9,000 miles to 193,000 miles of track. In 1853, all of the smaller New York railroads merged into the New York Central Railroad.
Cornelius Vanderbilt acquired a large amount of stock in the New York Central. Daniel Drew, a rival of Vanderbilt’s, tried to block all additional acquisition by Vanderbilt but failed.
In New York City, the destination for freight trains was St. John’s Park Depot, a three-story stone building constructed for the Hudson River Railroad in 1868. On the top of it was a bronze statue of Vanderbilt himself. The statue now stands on the south side of Grand Central, looking out on Park Avenue S.
Passenger trains merged at Fourth Avenue and continued down to 42nd street. The Harlem Railroad Depot was located here. Vanderbilt acquired the Depot in the Harlem Railroad takeover. It gave him ownership to what was to become the busiest piece of land in the world. His railroad was now the only one with a direct route into Manhattan.
In 1856 New York City banned trains from south of 42nd street because of the high numbers of accidents. Passengers continued downtown on a forty-five minute horse-drawn carriage ride.
The two terminals for the Hudson River and Harlem lines proved to be inadequate for the volume of freight and passengers at hand. The large fleet was in need of a large central depot to bring both lines together. It would need to be big enough to accommodate and represent the New York Central, the...