The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Cornelius Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877), also known as “the Commordore” made his wealth in the railroads and shipping industries. He found his start in the ferry industry as a young boy with almost immediate success and a place as one of America’s great industrialists.

New York and Harlem Railroad
Through industry ties, he served on boards of railroad lines in the 1850s. In 1863, Vanderbilt took control of the Harlem Railroad and was elected its president. He later explained that his goal was to show that he could take the railroad, which was considered worthless, and make it valuable. It had a key advantage: it was the only railroad to enter the center of Manhattan. Vanderbilt recognized its value in transporting goods in and out of the city, and it was soon a very profitable line.

New York Central and Hudson River Railroad
Vanderbilt took control of the Hudson River Railroad in 1864, the New York Central Railroad in 1867, and the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway in 1869 after his success with the Harlem. In 1870, he consolidated two of his lines into the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, one of the first giant corporations in American history.

Grand Central Depot
In 1869, he directed the Harlem to begin construction of the Grand Central Depot in Manhattan. It was finished in 1871. The depot was replaced by Grand Central Terminal in 1913, and remains a icon of the city.