With apologies to Ernest Hemingway, the following happened on a spring day in 1949. My father and I stood on a train platform on the lower level of Grand Central terminal looking at a seemingly ordinary locomotive. The engineer leaned out the locomotive cab window and said, “How about a ride?”
We boarded the cab of Engine #100. The friendly engineer explained that this seemingly ordinary locomotive was built in 1904 and was the first electric locomotive owned by the New York Central System. Originally used in mainline passenger service, Engine #100 was later relegated to switching and other moves in the Grand Central Terminal area, one of which we were about to make.
Our rail tour of Park Ave, where the other half, the homeless, live began. Engine #100 glided effortlessly over an intricate maze of trackwork making crunching noises pass- ing over switches as if devouring strands of steel spaghetti. In near total pitch blackness, a brightly lit Limited darted by like an oversized lightning bug. Shortly after departing Grand Central our engine came to a halt. I looked around and could see nothing. “59th St!” the engineer called out. “This is where we turn around head back to Grand Central and position ourselves behind the observation car of the crack Chicago Limited.” He then took the controls at the reverse end of the center-cabbed Engine #100.
Completing our tour of Park Ave, we returned to the low- er level of Grand Central Terminal, but instead of stop- ping, Engine #100 continued beyond via a tunnel. “This is a loop track under the Vanderbilt Hotel which will position us perfectly behind the Limited,” the engineer explained. Moments later, we returned to the lower level of Grand Central Terminal, placed behind the observation car of the Chicago Limited. We thanked the friendly engineer for a nice ride and were about to head for home when the engineer said, “Wait! One more thing. My job is to ring the bell which signals the Limited’s departure, but I want you to do it,” he said, handing me a chain which was attached to a bell on the engine’s hood. He then said, “Pull down hard.” I pulled down on the chain as hard as I could, CLANG! I pulled down hard again, CLANG! Seven more clangs and the taillights of the Chicago Limited were out of sight. I did not run the train but for one glorious moment I was Casey Jones.
2023 sees LIRR commuters scurry about the lower level, now Grand Central Madison, the Limited making way for Dashing Dan. My old friend, Engine #100, after three-score plus years of useful service, rests in peace as part of the Danbury Railway Museum, unaware of its important role in electric railroading history.