Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sat Dec 14, 2013 3:54 pm

Below is a 1935 topo map of the Weehawken Terminal area (showing the ferry route to W. 42nd Street, too.) Free Maptech topo map downloads are available here. I was looking at Google Streetview but the area has changed so completely as to be virtually unrecognizable.
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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby RedbirdR33 » Sat Dec 14, 2013 6:08 pm

Thank you for the pictures. That staircase must have been one helluva climb. I took my first railroad (as opposed to subway) ride on a River Division train from Weehawken to Fort Montgomery . Its a shame that so much of that is gone but at least the Weehawken Tunnel is back in service and their is once again a ferry service between Weehawken and 42 street.

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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:35 pm

Here's some images of the seldom seen West Shore ferry terminal in Manhattan at W. 42nd Street.

About 1930:

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Here's some screen captures from an early 1930s video

This is not many years later but the terminal's facade has been remodeled. (The City of New York owned the building and pier, not the railroad.) I never knew that the NYO&W name was so prominently displayed. They did have a pretty good passenger business in New York City, especially to the Catskills.

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Here's a link to the video. The West Shore segment runs from about 2:49 to 5:30.

The terminal with the W. 42nd Street and 12th Avenue street signs visible:

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The crowds coming off a recently arrived ferry:

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A 1940 ferry ticket:

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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby charlie6017 » Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:19 pm

Great stuff and info.........thanks very much for adding this! ;-)

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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:23 pm

You're welcome Charlie. It's a lot of fun doing it.
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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby TCurtin » Mon Dec 16, 2013 1:07 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:I believe some of the RR Ferries were equipped with radar and with radar the problems were much less.

It's kind of inconceivable to me that those trans-Hudson passenger ferries operated by the Jersey Central, Lackawanna, and NYC (as well as the Erie and PRR Exchange Place as long as they were around) were not equipped with radar, fog horns, and whatever else might have been necessary to deal with visibility problems. The ferry in those cases was really an integral part of the train trip. When did radar come into common use for water navigation?

(Funny we should be discussing this matter right now. I'm sitting here at our living room window at Riverside Blvd & 68th Street looking out at the New York Waterways ferry coming and going from Weehawken, on more or less the same route as the NYC ferries ran. Right now it's sunny and clear but two days ago it was snowing and I could see about 1/4 of the way across the Hudson and that was it!!)
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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:44 pm

As I recall, the word radar (RAdio Direction And Ranging) came into the language when I was in grade school sometime during World War II (it was pointed out to us as a brand-new word). It was completely new at the time and probably would not have been available for civilian use until after the war.
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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby Tommy Meehan » Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:08 am

In Railroad Ferries of the Hudson, Ray Baxter wrote on page 57 that the CNJ boats got radar in the 1950s and Jersey Central was "the only railroad to put this equipment on its boats." In Brian Cudahy's book Over and Back, he also wrote (on page 105) that CNJ was "the only one of the trans-Hudson railroad ferries to equip its vessels with radar." Marine News reported in 1952 that the CNJ's Elizabeth was the first New York harbor railroad ferryboat newly equipped with radar.

However in doing some reading I have learned many if not most of the railroad tugs did have radar installed. But that's for another thread.

In The Hudson Through the Years Arthur Adams wrote briefly about commuting from Weehawken to Cortlandt Street in the 1950s. In his introduction on page XII he wrote that he had made many crossings in dense fog and the Central boats had neither radar nor radio. He described the West Shore's Cortlandt Street boats doing as Ray Baxter wrote, keeping close to the Jersey shore as they moved downriver. One morning in 1958 Adams was on the Albany departing Weehawken at 8 30 AM for Cortlandt Street. The boat collided with an incoming West Shore boat the Stony Point. The collision was not head-on and the "strong rounded bows absorbed the impact..." There was no real damage to either boat, nor any injuries, but Adams said it gave the passengers a real scare. It must have given the crew a scare too as Adams wrote that the Albany literally "crept the rest of the way down to our slip at Cortlandt Street."
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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby TCurtin » Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:28 am

Thanks to you guys for all this fascinating info!!!
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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby Tommy Meehan » Wed Dec 18, 2013 2:14 pm

There were two other West Shore fog anecdotes told in the books Railroad Ferries of the Hudson by Arthur Adams and Raymond Baxter and The Hudson Through the Years by Adams.

In The Hudson Through the Years, Arthur Adams described his commutes in the 1950s on the West Shore trains and the ferry to Cortlandt Street. Adams wrote that one foggy morning, as usual, the ferry crept cautiously south along the Jersey shore, swinging to port (east) when off the Erie terminal in Jersey City, using the terminal's fog horn as a navigational aid. Then the boat slowly made its way across the Hudson and to the Cortlandt Street slip. All went as planned except, when the boat entered the slip in Lower Manhattan there was a ferry already docked there and the two boats bumped. They had entered the wrong slip! Adams wrote that there wasn't any damage to either boat and that the crew quickly reversed engines and docked at the proper slip.

Raymond Baxter saw a similar incident while working as a deckhand on Erie's Jamestown. They departed Chambers Street for Jersey City at 5 20 PM with captain Tom Hogan. Hogan or the wheelman immediately swung the boat northwesterly at the end of the pier. When Baxter and another deckhand looked to the north, he said, all they could see was the West Shore ferry Catskill under Captain William Smith, "baking a heap (going maximum full-speed astern) and blowing backing whistles (three short blasts)."

The two experienced captains knew what to do and they reacted immediately. Smith swung the Catskill hard to port, taking a heading towards mid-river while Tom Hogan swung the Jamestown to starboard towards the pier line. Jamestown passed safely between the Catskill and the dock.

Baxter wrote that because the West Shore boats normally used the Erie's Jersey City terminal as the point where they turned east (inbound to Cortlandt Street) or north (towards Weehawken) this often put ferries of the two roads on a collision course. Baxter said as far as he knew there was never a collision between boats of the two roads but there were some close calls.
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Re: Weehawken Ferries in the Fog

Postby Tommy Meehan » Thu Dec 26, 2013 5:57 pm

I found this old New York Central advertising folder on line. It was issued in February 1938 and extolls the virtues of using the Weehawken ferry to go to/from Manhattan. The price per passenger auto is being reduced to just twenty-five cents effective March 7, 1938. It doesn't say what the previous fare was. More importantly, the flyer also does not mention that in late December 1937 the Port of New York Authority had just opened the Lincoln Tunnel between Weehawken and the West Side of Manhattan. The toll for private cars through the tunnel was fifty cents (the equivalent of almost nine dollars today).

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On the second page of the flyer the schedules are given. I was surprised to find that the 42nd Street boats ran every-ten-minutes twenty-four hours a day. Cortlandt Street service had already been reduced to a weekday rush-hour-only schedule, earlier than I would've guessed. I also got a kick out of the fact that, although the NYC oval is displayed, the railroad name used is "West Shore Railroad."

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