New York Central System
With major routes in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Massachusetts,, as well as additional ones in Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec),the New York Central System was one of the largest railroads operating in the Northeast. Its earliest roots were in 1826, as the Mohawk and Hudson RR. In 1853, Erastus Corning merged the M&H with nine other railroads from across NY state to create the original New York Central Railroad, which operated between Albany and Buffalo.
In 1867, Cornelius Vanderbilt was in the picture and merged his Hudson River Railroad with the NYC. Two years later, Vanderbilt added the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern RR. The LS&MS ran from Buffalo along the Southern shore of Lake Erie to Cleveland and then further West through Ohio and Indiana before reaching Chicago. These two railroads- the NYC&HR and the LS&MS operated independently until 1914 when they joined to form the New York Central Railroad Company (NYC)
The New York Central & Some of the RRs within the NYCRR Company also included the Michigan Central, Boston & Albany, CCC&StL (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis), Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, Toledo & Ohio Central, TH&B (Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo), Monongahela and briefly both the Rutland RR, and the Nickel Plate Road.
It's interesting to note some of the other owners that were also part of two of these railroads: Canadian Pacific (with the TH&B) and both the Pennsylvania and Baltimore & Ohio (with the Monongahela). Even though they were all part of the New York Central System, many of the smaller railroad names stayed in use in their local areas.
The pride of the NYC was the luxurious first-class Twentieth Century Limited, which ran on an espress, 16-hour schedule between Grand Central Terminal in New York City and Chicago's LaSalle Street Station. The Twentitieth Century Limited operated from its inaugural run in 1902 to its last in 1967.
In rapid succession:
1968 - the NYC merged with the Pennsylvania to form the Penn Central
1969 - the Penn Central brought in the New York, New Haven & Hartford RR
1970 - the Penn Central declared bankruptcy
The U.S. government financially bailed out the Penn Central in 1976 (from which Conrail was created until eventually Amtrak took over passenger routes). Today, the Norfolk Southern RR and CSX Transportation operate over most of what once was a premier railroad - the New York Central.
For more information, further details on the brief synopsis above, souvenirs and more, go to the New York Central Historical Society's webwite at: New York Central Historical Society