Last Sox-Dodgers series was good for the New Haven

Posted by Kevin Keefe
on Tuesday, October 23, 2018

New Haven 4-4-2 No. 1109 races with the Bankers Express near Milford, Conn., in 1912. Two years later, catenary would come to this part of the Shore Line, and two years after that, trains whisked fans, players, and others between Brooklyn and Boston during the 1916 World Series. H. C. R. Landau
Out here in Milwaukee, some of us are still nursing our wounds over the Brewers’ loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers last weekend in the National League Championship Series. To come within one game of going to the World Series in 36 years, is, well . . . painful.

Now it will be the Dodgers going up against the Red Sox starting tonight at Fenway Park. Certainly the powers that be at Major League Baseball like this matchup of major media markets. If you’re a baseball fan, you probably like it, too: Power vs. power, great pitching vs. great pitching, rabid fans vs. rabid fans, tradition vs. tradition.

I’m particularly struck by the latter. Anyone who’s checked back far enough knows this isn’t the first time these two teams faced each other for baseball’s crown. They met once before, in 1916, when the Dodgers were from Brooklyn and were known for a time as the Robins; the name Dodgers, derived from the “trolley dodgers” of Ebbetts Field, would become official a few years later. Brooklyn fell to the Red Sox that October, four games to one. 

The 1916 series is notable for a number of reasons. One was the appearance of two future Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth of Boston and Casey Stengel of Brooklyn. This was the early Babe, still a pitcher destined for a historic departure to the New York Yankees (and batting glory) in 1920. In 1916, he won game 2 by a score of 2-1, going 14 innings, still a complete-game pitching record for the World Series.

Fresh from Schenectady, New Haven I-4 Pacific 1353 basks in the sun outside the colossal South Station train shed at Boston in 1916, a World Series year for the Red Sox. C. E. Fischer
Stengel was an outfielder for Brooklyn and had a good Series as well, but he’d garner far more fame in the 1950s as the crusty manager who led the Yankees to five consecutive championships 1949–1953. He also vied with Yogi Berra as the all-time most quotable baseball guy. “Never make predictions, especially about the future” is one of my favorites. 

I’m drawn to the 1916 Series for another reason: it must have been a boon to the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. With a thick schedule of daily trains running between New York’s Grand Central Terminal and Boston’s South Station, it’s a certainty some NH trains were jammed with fans during that October 7–12 interval. 

The New Haven was at high tide in 1916. Already the railroad could boast of one of the world’s finest stretches of electrified railroad, installed between 1905 and 1914 over the 72.3 miles from New York to New Haven. Grand Central had opened in 1913, so its passengers were already used to arriving and departing from a transportation temple. South Station was no slouch either; built in 1899, it still boasted a magnificent arched trainshed. A year later NH’s through trains beyond New York would begin using Penn Station, thanks to the opening of Hell Gate Bridge in 1917.

Fans traveling between the two rival cities had plenty of trains to choose from, at least 30 each day, according to the December 1917 Official Guide, the one I found dated closest to the Series in the Classic Trains library.

Brand-new EP-1 No. 040, like all New Haven passenger electrics, sports pantographs for operation off NH catenary and pickup shoes for the third rail into New York Central's Grand Central Terminal. Baldwin Locomotive Works
In those days, New Haven fielded some of the best passenger trains in the Northeast, among them several with all-parlor consists, including the Knickerbocker Limited, the Gilt Edge, and perhaps most famous, the Merchants Limited. Imagine the scenes in the lounge cars, where the nattily dressed pooh-bahs of the Upper East Side and Brookline chomped on cigars and pored over the morning’s box scores from the night before.

For a little perspective on these trains, it never hurts to consult author Lucius Beebe, a regular on many of those trains: “Each was the flagship of a fleet of magnificent name trains that enjoyed at once the regard of their own management, the envy of the competition and the admiration of the great world which comprised their sailing lists.”

An interesting side note: fans of the Red Sox arriving at South Station would not have hopped the usual streetcar to Fenway Park over on Jersey Street. For the Series, the Sox opted for Braves Field out at the corner of Commonwealth and Babcock avenues, which offered far more seats than Fenway. Portions of old Braves Field survive today as part of Boston University’s sports complex. 

For Mileposts this week, finding photographs of NH passenger trains of that era in the Classic Trains library proved to be difficult; the bulk of the prints in the files don’t go back much further than the 1930s.

Cover of 1916 World's (sic) Series Score Book for games played at Braves Field in Boston.
Still, I found some worth passing along here. The best, to my mind, is H. C. R. Landau’s 1912 action shot of the Bankers Express racing through Milford, Conn., behind a high-wheeled Atlantic, with the hogger going the limit. With its all-parlor consist, it was a train for well-heeled sports fans.

Another delight is C. E. Fischer’s portrait of 4-6-2 No. 1353 posing in Boston, just 10 days after its delivery in 1916 from American’s Schenectady works. With its elegant arched-roof cab, the spotless new I-4 cuts a fine figure against the backdrop of South Station’s lofty trainshed, removed in 1930.  

A Baldwin Locomotive Works photo shows the power that would have done the honors between Grand Central and New Haven: boxy EP-1 electrics with a 1B-B1 wheel arrangement. The lanky 2-C+C-2s, box-cab and streamlined, were yet to come.

Today, fans of the Dodgers and Red Sox who plan to attend the Series in each other’s cities will be obligated to do what the teams themselves do: catch a jet at Logan or LAX. But there was a time when there was a better way to get to the game, thanks to the New York, New Haven & Hartford. 

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