Train buff marks Old Put's anniversary
by Brian Howard
YORKTOWN - Joe Schiavone recalls the last day of passenger service on "The Old Put" as sharply as the sentiments that accompanied it.
"Having experienced it 50 years ago - and don't forget I was only a teenager - but still the feeling was there in the faces of the passengers, in their voices, and there was an undertone of anger," Schiavone said.
Commuters last rode the Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad on May 29, 1958. Schiavone, a retired teacher from Mahopac who has authored a book on the subject, skipped school and rode the train that day.
He'll mark the 50th anniversary by touring the right of way it once occupied. Starting at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx at 9 a.m. Thursday, he'll make hourly appearances up the line, recounting bits of local history along the way.
That includes when the last trains really rolled on The Old Put and how many trains were on the line that day.
He will repeat the tour again Saturday. Attendees will be given a copy of a ticket stub from that day, a photo of a steam engine at Yorktown and articles from the time.
Schiavone has been drumming up interest with local historical societies and museums along the route.
"The train had a wonderful life and a wonderful history," said former Ardsley historian Walter Schwartz. "Did it outlive its usefulness? I guess that could be said." But Schwartz expects Schiavone's tour to spark the imaginations of those even too young to remember it.
At Yorktown, the 4 p.m. stop, attendees can step inside the 130-year-old station house there.
"The nice thing is that the station is exactly right where it was, so people don't have to visualize it," said Adele Hobby, the director of the Yorktown Museum.
From the retirement of the steam engines when he was in grade school to the end of passenger service in his senior year of high school, Schiavone, now 67, filed away each touchstone moment.
Since he published "The Old Put" last year, he has given 79 public presentations on what he calls "my private railway line." He'll give his 80th in Yorktown on Sunday.
Train buff marks Old Put's anniversary 1 There was anger that last day, he said, but also optimism that the trains would return. He may just stir up similar sentiments.
"With $4-a-gallon gasoline now, wouldn't the Putnam be something to have instead of driving into the city?"
Reach Brian Howard at email@example.com or (914) 666-6177.