Historic 4-4-0 No. 999 of NYC predecessor New York Central & Hudson River Railroad was built for speed. Constructed in the railroad's West Albany Shops in 1893, it was lettered "Empire State Express" and was intended for display with other high-speed locomotives of the day at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. On May 9, 1893, engineer Charlie Hogan took No. 999 and its train from Rochester, New York to Buffalo, a distance of 69 miles, in 68 minutes. Thus No. 999 became the first wheeled vehicle to exceed 100 miles per hour. In a run a few days later, engineer Hogan and his fireman coaxed this American Standard type up to 112.5 miles per hour.

As built No. 999 had 86-inch drivers, a major factor in its ability to break speed records. Later, after the locomotive had become obsolete power for heavier main line passenger trains, it was relegated to more mundane service and the high driving wheels were replaced by 70-inch drivers. Eventually No. 999 became a museum piece, trotted out for special events such as the Chicago Railroad Fair of 1948-49. I posed in front of the historic engine on August 22, 1990 when it was displayed outside Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry next to the Burlington Route's Pioneer Zephyr.