May 10th 1892 and Number 999—Three Photos!

On May 10th 1892, New York Central & Hudson River 4-4-0 with engineer Charles Hogan at the throttle raced special section of the Empire State Express westward toward Buffalo. This was no ordinary train, but a publicity run dreamed up by the railroad’s propaganda mastermind George Daniels.

On a downgrade tangent near Corfu, New York, Hogan sped the engine to bone shaking speed; reporters on-board watched the telegraph poles along the line blurred by ‘like a picket fence’, while those timing the run using stop watches claimed that the train hit a ridiculous 112.5 mph! 

It was a great story and often repeated as ‘the fastest any engine had gone up until that time’. Papers around the nation reported the feat as fact bringing fame to New York Central and its locomotives. Daniels basked in the glory of his publicity stunt, which numerous railroads have sought to emulate and exceed. 

I made these photos of the famous locomotive on visit to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry in December 2018.

On the day of its fast run, 999 was equipped with much taller drive wheels than seen in these photos. Big wheels were key to fast running.

If 999 had been numbered 38, would anyone care?

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