As in other early railroads, the dominant propulsion in the Harlem railroad’s early years was horse power – as in horses pulling things power.
In 1837, steam engines were introduced, but their use was limited to areas outside of the heavily settled parts of lower Manhattan and certainly not in farm country uptown in Harlem – then, that changed.
On July 2, 1870, horsecars (horses pulling railroad cars) started to run not only to the 34th Street Ferry but to 73rd Street via Madison Avenue and soon extended to 86th Street and then to Harlem at 100th & 116th Streets At 4th Avenue (renamed Park Avenue). On April 1, 1873 the New York and Harlem Railroad was leased by Commodore Vanderbilt, who added the railroad to his complex empire of railroads, and the Railroad Trestle evolved into the Metro-North Railroad at the turn of the century.
On another note, there is the odd advertisement facing the photographer to the left that can be seen on the bottom wooden rail painted in large white letters reading:
Tarrant’s Seltzer Aperient Calorific
Tarrant’s Seltzer Aperient was a product of “foaming, sparkling Seltzer” to which “Headaches, Constipation, Indigestion and Dyspepsia yield at once.”
Find more Harlem history here on the Harlem World Magazine network.